September 8, 2023 —Food is not just about filling bellies; it is about nourishing the mind and body and caring for the planet. Sharing a meal helps friends (longtime and new) form strong social connections, experience joy, and awaken the senses. At Enso Village, America’s first Zen-inspired Life Plan Community, the power of food will help connect residents with each other and the earth. Dining venues (such as the Tierra Cucina Bistro by Greens Restaurant), an on-site farm, and a teaching kitchen are designed to encourage residents to become more present with their food and develop a deeper appreciation for its role in their lives.
“It is the restaurant that brought vegetarian cuisine out from sprout-infested health food stores and established it as a cuisine in America.” – The New York Times, 2007
There is no denying that the restaurant industry has seen a dramatic shift in recent years toward plant-based diets and healthier eating. But did you know there was one restaurant in San Francisco that pioneered the trend of celebrating vegetables like no other? That restaurant was Greens, and it has become an iconic destination for anyone looking to enjoy delicious and mindful plant-based cuisine.
The story of Greens Restaurant begins with the San Francisco Zen Center, a community founded in the late 1960s focused on Zen Buddhist meditation and mindfulness practice. In 1972, the Zen Center established Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a retreat center in the Santa Lucia Mountains, where guests could immerse themselves in nature and participate in various Zen activities during the summer months, including cooking, and Zen students could do immersive meditation training during the winter season. At Tassajara, a group of Zen students discovered the joys of cooking with fresh local produce and herbs and developed a unique vegetarian cuisine inspired by Japanese and Chinese monastic traditions.
In 1979, the Zen Center opened Greens Restaurant to extend its Zen practice and support the local farming community. The restaurant is in a beautiful spot overlooking San Francisco Bay, with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. The interior is designed to reflect the simplicity and elegance of Zen aesthetics, with natural wood, stone, and earth tones.
“Much of the restaurant was built by the hands of Zen students themselves, under the supervision of Paul Discoe. We cherish the simplicity and intention of the space, which allows one to turn their attention to not only the view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows, but also the food, the atmosphere, and each other,” expresses Susan O’Connell, Spiritual Director of Zen Inspired Enso Village Senior Living and Chair of the Board of Greens.
Another distinct feature of Greens is the use of organic and sustainable ingredients. Long before it became a trend, the restaurant was committed to sourcing the freshest and most wholesome produce from nearby farms and gardens. Instead of treating vegetables as mere side dishes, Annie Somerville, the longtime chef at Greens, celebrated each vegetable as a star ingredient and crafted dishes that showcased their flavors, textures, and colors. From roasted cauliflower with romesco sauce to fava bean risotto with mint and lemon basil, every dish was a work of art that delighted the palate and the senses.
They also make their own bread, pasta, and desserts from scratch, using whole grains, nuts, and fruits. The drinks and wines are carefully chosen to complement the food’s flavors and support small-scale producers.
“There are values held by Greens Restaurant that we will replicate at Enso Village – including how the culinary team is trained. We cannot reproduce the exact look of Greens – because of that exquisite Bay view – but we will be using the same artist who did the giant cloud paintings and all the others on the walls, Willard Dixon,- to do nine “sky paintings” for the main dining room. Michale Hofmann, a Japanese-trained Sumi-e master, will do a mural in the Tierra Cucina Bistro,” adds Susan.
The Tierra Cucina Bistro by Greens Restaurant will feature seasonal menus and daily specials of locally sourced ingredients dedicated to sustainable practices. The dining plan is designed to be flexible, providing each resident with monthly credits at all dining venues. On-site catering for special events will also help community residents share delicious food with their loved ones.(Other dining venues will offer a full range of choices, including meat and fish products, providing something for everyone.)
Sustainable dining is vital in the commitment to healthy living at Kendal communities. At Enso Village, Zen roots and Quaker values guide the community in promoting health and wellness for residents and the planet.
Studies have shown that plant-based diets can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. It also promotes overall health and wellness. At Kendal communities, you’ll find various vegetarian options for every meal. Chefs are always experimenting with new recipes to include seasonal and local produce in dishes, making them both healthy and delicious. However, the commitment to sustainable dining continues beyond the food served.
Sustainable dining also means reducing food waste. In Kendal communities, culinary teams strive for “precise order,” meaning there is an effort only to purchase the exact amount of ingredients required to reduce the amount of excess food thrown away. Composting food waste also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enrich garden soil. Residents and staff are also encouraged to bring their reusable containers and avoid using disposable plates and cutlery.