By Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor Published Aug 12, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Walk into any serious restaurant today and talk to the chef or general manager. Within five minutes you will hear these catch phrases:

Fresh and local. Field to fork.

Everybody talks the talk. Chefs will tell you about knowing real farmers and hanging out with the hogs, but how do we really know?

Parkside 23 in Brookfield walks the walk. Check out the tall corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, onions, swiss chard, brussels sprouts and other veggies growing immediately north of the restaurant. Inspect the herbs growing in barrels on the patio.

Kitchen. Patio. Bar. Farm. That's Parkside 23's slogan, and while the farm part may be stretching the definition a bit, the restaurant has a very impressive quarter acre of produce on display adjacent to it. Two master gardeners tend the large plot.

Opened seven months ago, Parkside 23 is owned by the DeRosa Corp., the dining group that includes Eddie Martini's, two Jose's Blue Sombreros and the Chancery restaurants. The company had previously operated Sticks & Stones on the Parkside site.

"Local and sustainable is big in the dining industry, and this is the DeRosa Corporation's take on that," Parkside general manager George Flees recently explained. Executive chef Jonah Malmstadt, who was the sous chef at Eddie Martini's for four years, is a huge fan of the garden.

He tells the story of a line cook recently running out of swiss chard in the kitchen. "I grabbed a knife, ran out to the garden and cut some," Malmstadt says.

"It doesn't get any more field to fork than that. I don't know how many places can go 20 yards out the door and do that."

"The farm" isn't the only distinctive feature of Parkside 23. Its menu is divided into price groupings rather than the customary seafood, poultry, pasta, etc.

For example, the $6-$12 category includes creamed corn with leeks, roasted poblano pepper and bacon ($6), fresh vegetable risotto with parmesan cheese ($6), a Cubano sandwich with ham, pulled pork, swiss cheese and honey dijon aioli ($12), and braised short rib tacos featuring cabbage slaw, queso fresco, poblano aioli and cilantro lime rice ($11).

"Any item can be course one, two or three, and you can customize your order," general manager Flees explains. "Take the risotto. If you want some protein with that, you can add a scallop or one or two shrimp."

Among the $13-$17 dishes are cedar-planked salmon with citrus butter, russet parsnip hash, asparagus and a balsamic glaze ($16), Woodstone fired pork roast with sauteed swiss chard, bacon, snap peas and a natural pork reduction ($14), and pan-seared shrimp pasta with sauteed veggies, parmesan and herb butter ($17).

The $18 and over category includes pan-seared coriander and pepper crusted ahi tuna with mango corn relish, plantains and poblano aioli ($18), and paella with seafood, sausage, vegetables and saffron risotto ($24).

Desserts are $5. A banana split with brown sugar, caramel rum sauce and nuts, and vanilla cake with pastry cream and chocolate ganache are among the offerings.

Craft brews on tap are a Parkside 23 specialty, and there are 20 of them. The list includes Sand Creek Badger Porter from Black River Falls, Ulao Wit Ale from Milwaukee, and Central Waters Shine On from Amherst, Wis. Nine beer flights range in price from $7 to $10.

The Parkside bar makes its own syrups – green lime mint, apricot grapefruit, honey lemon rosy and cherry vanilla – for cocktails. Live music, mostly blues and soul, is offered after 7 every Tuesday.

Flees says Parkside 23 is planning a weeklong celebration of its "farm" next month by offering dining in it among the plants. Keep an eye on the restaurant's website for details.

Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor

Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.

During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.

Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.