Pickled butternut squash salad with walnuts.

In celebration of Meatless Monday, there are plenty of things on the menu at Coltivare to turn to, as you'd expect in a restaurant with an abundant garden attached. You could get the black pepper spaghetti recently picked by Garden & Gun's John T. Edge as one of his 10 favorite dishes of 2014. You could get the flash-fried cauliflower dish dressed with agrodolce, which rivals the famous cauliflower at Roost in terms of sheer flavor coaxed out of the otherwise staid cruciferous vegetable. Or you could shake things up with a salad—but not just any old salad.

Coltivare
3320 White Oak Dr.
713-637-4095
coltivarehouston.com

One of my favorite things about Coltivare is chef Ryan Pera's flexibility when it comes to using produce in innovative applications. Take his butternut squash salad, the base of which isn't lettuce but the squash itself, cut into saffron-colored ribbons and pickled until sweet, tart, and crunchy. Adding another layer of crunch into the salad are walnuts and tiny croutons, both of which soak up the shallot-laced balsamic vinegar dressing. Fresh herbs from the adjacent garden are woven throughout. Who needs a boring lettuce base when you've got all these gorgeous greenery? And if you're still hungry, try one of Coltivare's vegetarian pizzas; my favorite comes with mushrooms, parsley, red onions, and a creamy walnut puree. (This pizza isn't always on the menu, but you're in luck when it is.)

Mushroom, parsley, red onion, and walnut pizza.

Coltivare is one of the city's few fine dining restaurants that's open on Monday evenings, meaning tonight is the perfect time—and should be perfect weather—to take advantage of what is typically a much slower restaurant night. Grab a seat on the patio and dine al fresco or pull up a barstool and try one of co-owner Morgan Weber's new cocktails. The Paul Whitten, with two kinds of rum, lemon, bitters, and barrel-aged maple syrup, pairs well with that autumnal salad but is also equally excellent enjoyed on its own.

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