One of our family’s favorite Houston restaurants is Coltivare. It always feels special when we go there. I even have a vivid and happy memory of Pace picking it for his 11th birthday dinner. While it’s been forever since we’ve actually eaten there, we have enjoyed their take out during Covid a few times. Their cauliflower with pine nuts and raisins is a family favorite. And our kiddos love their pasta and pizza, desserts and mocktails. Our youngest once asked our server if he could make a non-alcoholic drink for him similar to a Pina Colada. He did, and the next time we went to eat there, we saw the ‘Nada Colada’ on the menu, so we are pretty convinced that Brae totally invented it. Winky wink.

The chef and co-owner is Ryan Pera, who has received many well-deserved awards like the James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef in 2018. But what my kids care about most is that he greets them personally from the open kitchen when we walk in. He is just the nicest person. Needless to say, when Ryan asked me to create a coloring book for their restaurants, I thought it was so rad. He left it pretty open for me to do whatever I like, which is also rad when working with clients. His only huge requests were that it portray their care and intent in the farm-to-table journey of their food, and that it could be printed and/or copied easily on regular sized recycled paper. For me, I wanted to create something that could hold younger and a bit older kids’ attention. I wanted it to be both educational and witty. And I wanted to deliver an end product that was easy for the restaurant to integrate.

I love that they care enough to make coloring books for the many families that dine there. I also love how the design turned out and happily have received positive responses from the Coltivare team as well as actual customers. I hid all our family names in the word search on the back so it’s especially fun and funny when our friends are out to eat and send me photos of their kids finding our names unexpectedly and coloring in the ideas that started out as ideas floating around my head.

I’ve included photos here of the rough sketches because I think it’s neat to see how a job like this starts…a stack of plain paper, pencil sketches and ideas. Lots of time is spent in the beginning of a project just thinking and sketching. The creative process, whether it’s designing a coloring book or creating a new menu item with local veggies, starts with inspiration and many times develops with communal support.

Test your coloring skills out at Coltivare and the other Agricole restaurants.
Photography by Kennon Evett who I’ve luckily known for a million years.
Final illustrations by my sweet brother and talented artist, Brady Smith.