Not long after turning off U.S. 290 east of Brenham, I followed a narrow gravel road around a low hill, across a shaded creek and onto the 313-acre Inn at Dos Brisas property. I skirted a pond and resisted the temptation offered by inviting clusters of chairs on its shore. Just beyond, a couple of handsome horses watched me pass.
I could have gone home refreshed by the pastoral setting right then. But I didn’t want to miss dinner at the only Forbes-rated five-star restaurant in Texas.
First, the inn’s head farmer, Lisa Roese, treated me to a tour of the 42-acre organic farming operation that includes a berry patch, orchards and a 7,000-square-foot greenhouse. We zipped via golf cart from garden to greenhouse as she explained that the farm specializes in heirloom varietals of fruits and vegetables and was certified organic in 2004. Owners Doug and Jennifer Bosch made organic fine dining a focus for the inn’s restaurant, and Chef Cory Untch meets with farm staff regularly to discuss current crops and then designs his menus around them. Overnight guests can take tours of the gardens, with tasting and picking encouraged year-round.
I began to understand why this is such a popular place to celebrate special occasions, and the restaurant staff knows how to handle them. I was enchanted by a description of a wintry scene made to romanticize a marriage proposal. The staff created “snow” on the patio to complete the effect. And I had to admit a sense of envy when told that farm staff once planted vegetables six weeks before Thanksgiving so a family spending the holiday at the inn could see their requested vegetables growing in the field and then enjoy watching them harvested and prepared for their meals.
I had no special requests and was pleased with the tasting menu for lunch, which included crab, bass, chicken and duck entrées accompanied by asparagus, carrots, mushrooms, field onions, English peas and edible flowers. Nightly dinner features an eight-course tasting menu with or without wine pairings, including a vegetarian option, and Sunday serves up a special brunch menu.
Signature cocktails served at the restaurant’s mahogany bar incorporate herbs and other field-fresh items, part of a larger “garden-to-glass” movement that mixologists say creates unique tastes. At the inn, the Brisas Garden Savory is a gin cocktail featuring muddled purple bell pepper and cilantro, and a martini is made with a truffle-infused vodka. Wine by the glass and a carefully chosen list of beers are available at the bar or with meals in addition to the extensive list of wines by the bottle.
The restaurant earned its five-star rating in February. Anonymous inspectors who visit each facility determine Forbes Travel Guide star ratings. A five-star restaurant offers a “unique and distinctive dining experience” and “consistently provides exceptional food, superlative service and elegant décor,” with an emphasis on originality and personalized, attentive and discreet service, according to Forbes.
This property previously served as a cattle ranch and cotton farm, and briefly housed Union soldiers held prisoner during the Civil War. Doug Bosch purchased it in 2000 as a family retreat, but shortly after, he and Jennifer began transforming it into a resort.
Today, nine spacious, Spanish-style haciendas and casitas are scattered around the property; each comes with the use of a golf cart and meals, either in-room or at the restaurant. The grounds feature pools and tennis courts, and guests have privileges at nearby golf courses. Activities include horseback riding, carriage rides, fishing in the ponds, clay shooting, picnicking and bicycling, as well as cooking, wine tasting, gardening classes and tours of the farm—picking encouraged.
Melissa Gaskill is an Austin writer who specializes in nature topics.