A Tree Grows in Vegas

Strip restaurants go hyper-local, sourcing healthful, nutritious produce from within arm’s reach

Las Vegas prides itself on indulging every whim and desire, but meeting the demands of an eco-conscious diner can sometimes be more challenging than catering to a high-roller. How does one reconcile a green lifestyle with a penchant for fine food? While the recent explosion of farmers markets suggests that we’re moving in the right direction, some restaurants are going a step further. Edible gardens—either on-site or within 60 miles of the city—reduce waste, minimize carbon footprints and keep the local farming community alive.

Politics aside, there’s one good reason for supporting these latest projects: The food tastes better. Like fresh-caught fish or bread just out of the oven, ingredients plucked straight from a nearby garden have more flavor and nutritional benefits than the fruits and vegetables that are stored in crates and flown halfway across the world. Never before have we had easier access to fresh flavors.

Here are three restaurants serving up a taste of our very own terroir:

• New York landmark Serendipity 3 first made a name for itself with its signature frozen hot chocolate. Now its Las Vegas location is making news for playing host to the Strip’s first edible garden. Crops change with the seasons, but the current bounty includes eggplant, sunflowers and globe artichokes that are almost too pretty to eat. Try a mid-rare steak flavored with fresh rosemary, or seek relief from the heat with an icy mojito made with muddled garden mint. In front of Caesars Palace, 731-7373.

• As the executive pastry chef of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s local outposts (B&B Ristorante, Carnevino, Otto), Doug Taylor sources seasonal items from a North Las Vegas orchard run by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Now is the time to see what kind of magic he can work on just-picked stone fruit. May we recommend a freshly churned scoop of his smooth, Vegas-grown peach sorbetto at Otto? After a bite of the pungent pesto pizza, it’s a sweet and refreshing palate cleanser. In the Venetian, 677-3390.

• Leave it to Nove Italiano executive chef Geno Bernardo to take the humble Caprese salad and elevate it with slices of ripe, locally farmed heirloom tomatoes. Each season, the chef works with Grow Smart Farm in Pahrump to cultivate a handpicked selection of vegetables and herbs for his menu. In addition to the salad, look for dishes with eggplant and squash, which were likely to have been picked on the same day they land on your plate. In the Palms, 942-6800.