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Plant nursery’s kitchen adds quirkiness to delicious vegetarian lunches

A plant nursery seems an odd place for lunch, but you can indeed lunch amid the greenery at Plants of the Southwest’s Santa Fe location. And an excellent lunch it’s likely to be, too, but make sure you phone ahead for reservations.

This quirky little vegetarian spot, a one-woman operation, produces only a certain number of meals a day and, as its Tumblr site says, it’s open 11:30 a.m. to “1:30 ish” or “until the food is gone.”

On our visit one Friday during the noon hour, with reservations, only one of the day’s three entrees was still available. That was scrumptious enough that the paucity of choice didn’t matter. When we returned on a subsequent Friday, sans reservations, we were told there was no food available.

Lentil soup with pecorino cheese and an enchilada casserole were the sold-out choices on offer the day we were able to dine. What we got, as the leftover, was nonetheless very nice: warm flatbread strewn with fresh tomato and hot pepper slices, laced with chunky roasted garlic and goat cheese. A sprinkle of fresh sage sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil rounded things out ($14).

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The offering included a very generous salad with fresh mixed greens, more tomatoes and the season’s green beans. The dressing was one of the best we’ve tasted, a mixture of lemon, yogurt and olive oil reminiscent of vinaigrette, but nicely tamed. There was plenty of that salad, enough for two generous servings apiece for each of us. We ate it while we waited for our flatbreads to emerge from the oven.

They arrived properly hot, a celebration of the height of this tomato season. The Kitchen buys its ingredients locally and we were told the tomatoes came from a neighbor up the road. They were a riot of colors and sizes, from orange and yellow to deep red and even a curiously pear-shaped green variety that tasted ripe, despite its color.

As we all know, there is nothing like ripe tomatoes fresh from the vine. The oven had brought out their sweetness, which contrasted perfectly with the nutty garlic and the warm oil. Sage is evidently not too strong an herb for peak-season tomatoes and the goat cheese, strewn again with a generous hand, provided a nicely tangy contrast.

This is the simplest of dishes, depending completely on fresh ingredients at the zenith of flavor for perfection. By emphasizing the locally raised, The Kitchen, appropriately open only in the summer months, achieved it.

Lunch is served in a sort of oversize garden shed, big enough for a handful of chairs and tables, and a serviceable kitchen. Offerings include herbal teas and we enjoyed a glass each of the day’s iced offerings, hibiscus and mint ($2.50 each). The vegetarian menu changes daily but, right now, judging by the plentitude stacked on the counters in containers of every description, tomato something-or-other seems a guaranteed choice.

But wait! The Kitchen also serves dessert! We opted for a dish of coconut-lime ice cream and a wedge of rum cake ($5 each).

The cake was good, but standard: a buttery Bundt cake with just a hint of rum. The star of the show was the ice cream, made mostly with coconut milk and only a little cream. Not vegan, the waitress noted, but light and sorbet-like enough for the height of a very hot day

It was delicious and wonderfully laced with a fresh ginger zing. Perfect! Should we have been wishing for some sort of pastry richness alongside, The Kitchen had provided that, too, in the form of apricot shortbread cookies, again showcasing local fruit. They were big, buttery rounds, nicely crunchy and filled with a not-too-sweet apricot purée.

Serious goodies, in other words.

Just be ready to take The Kitchen on its own terms. You can check some of its dishes at instagram.com/thepswkitchen.

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