by Mary Reid Barrow
All you butterflies, bees, wasps and other insects out there, fly round to Tranquility restaurant in Cypress Point and give a nectar toast to Chef Joe Bouchard and Pollinator Week.
The aroma of milkweeds and other blooms wafts far and wide from this Lake Smith pollinator bistro. Tranquility is open for business 365 days a year and offers seasonal specials, from its menu of close to 200 native plants.
Operated by chief chef and bottle washer Bouchard, Tranquility is a five-star restaurant with the coveted designations of not only Lynnhaven River Now Pearl Home, but also Norfolk Lake Star Home and Monarch Way Station.
Tranquility is suitable for all-occasion dining. The view down the hillside with bog garden and Lake Smith beyond is beautiful and the atmosphere, romantic, under the dappled shade of large hickory, maple, tulip poplar, sweet gums and other trees.
Children are welcome too. The children’s menu features such delicacies as golden Alexander, the native plant answer to parsley and fennel for your black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. And variegated fritillary babes will be happy munching on the leaves of passionflower vine that tumbles from the archway at the restaurant entrance.
Now on the 24-hour nectar buffet in addition to four kinds of milkweed, Chef Bouchard features the likes of beautiful passionflower blooms, scarlet beebalm and pink Carolina roses. Before too long the seasonal menu will highlight delicacies such as nectar from cutleaf coneflowers, obedience plants and New York ironweed.
Chef Bouchard has even added a few specials for humans. A small bistro table and chairs where morning coffee is served are on the sloping hillside down to the lake. Across the way is a “happy hour bench.” Special entertainment takes place on summer evenings.
“In the evening after sunset I go down to the garden path in Tranquility to admire the fireflies,” the chef said. “Down there you are surrounded by them. It’s really a magical experience.”
Bouchard’s dream of a pollinator restaurant began in the vines, brambles, and brush in the backyard of the Cypress Point home he purchased in 2003 when retired as a Navy Captain and Commander of Norfolk Naval Base.
“It took me three years to get all the brambles off,” Bouchard said. “I dug up all the roots, so they wouldn’t come back.”
Bouchard has no sous chef. From the beginning, he’s been hands on, doing all the chopping and cutting and planting himself.
After the land was cleared , the restaurant began taking shape down near the lake. He began to plant natives close to the water and wetlands not only for pollinators but also to help absorb runoff the from the hill to protect the lake’s water quality. Wood poppies, Lynnhaven carpet daisies and dwarf crested iris are among the plants down low.
Then Bouchard continued his restaurant/ water management by planting and terracing the hillside to prevent erosion and to create hillside dining. Wax myrtle, button bush. pawpaw tree, Joe Pye weed and native hydrangea are among the restaurant offerings for hillside dining. The top of the hill is where sun lovers like blue mist flower, black-eyed Susan, false blue indigo and many more bloomers grow.
He has even laid underground drainpipes to take rainwater runoff from the roof of his home directly to the lake to avoid any runoff from the land.
“I have a 360-365 garden strategy,” Chef Bouchard said, “360 because the garden is all around the house and 365 because there is something blooming 365 days a year.“
That means when you monarchs and other migrators are on the road and when a sleepy bee awakes on a warm winter day, you will always find Tranquility restaurant open for business.