Chef Alejandra Peña nibbles a small green leaf and the spark in her eyes is unmistakable. Her customers at Persephone Westbank will soon find a similar tiny stalk in their morning granola bowl. “They’ll be surprised at the pop of citrus with their oats and yogurt,” she says with a smile. “ Tangerine cress is something people haven’t experienced as a taste before and it is really exciting to use microgreens like these in unexpected ways.”
It’s a fun day at the farm when a chef stops by our greenhouse. Geeking out over a microgreen’s flavor profile rings deeply sincere coming from the person who places it precisely on the plate. “Seeing the colors, tastes and textures helps me brainstorm my menus with something that is very tangible,” says Peña. “This is such a different experience than looking at a product list because being in the greenhouse and talking through the flavors with the growers helps the dish in my head come to life.”
Since our inception, Vertical Harvest Farms has had a special relationship with the chefs of Jackson, WY. The farm works closely with chefs to grow micro and petite greens specifically curated to each restaurant’s menus. Chefs are welcome to book time to come and “shop” the greens with the Vertical Harvest grow and sales teams.
“It’s satisfying to see the look in chefs eyes when we sample a new green with them. We always do a deep dive into how the flavors and textures can make other ingredients come alive,” says Hannah Bouline, Product Manager.
On her recent greenhouse visit, Peña was preparing for Persephone Westbank’s new 5-9 pm dinner service, which just started on June 17, 2021. She tasted radish microgreens, mustard frills, rock chive, and red veined sorrel. While the sorrel and tangerine cress are already breakfast and lunch menu staples, she’s excited to play with the mustard frills for the dinner menu.
According to Peña, It’s important to have microgreens and petite greens that she can use for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but still have very different flavors and textures throughout the day. “Our goal is to avoid waste and use the freshest product possible.”
The overall vibe of the new dinner menu is fresh, floral, and citrus like a French bistro, she says. “We’ll offer vegan dinner options and provide an experience that is casual and kid-friendly with a specific kid’s menu. I don’t want anything to be too heavy, but instead have the entire family leave feeling like they could really enjoy the dishes and not be too full.”
Peña’s plan is to pair Vertical Harvest’s red veined sorrel with dishes such as salmon tartine and use the tangerine cress across many dishes on the menu. She also hopes to make Vertical Harvest edible flowers a key part of the restaurant’s cocktail program.
She is most excited about the ½ roasted chicken with seasonal vegetables. “It’s so juicy and has a light yet flavorful cardamom glaze,” she says. “I’m so excited for everyone to try it!”
A group of Vertical Harvest team members visited opening night and were impressed with the atmosphere and the food. “It was so lovely to enjoy the light, yet flavorful, food on a warm afternoon,” said Emily Peterson, Sales Director. “The cocktails were spot on and I loved the salmon tartine with its pop of citrus supplied by the red veined sorrel. The menu perfectly balances rich dimensions of flavor without being too heavy. Even the usually deep and earthy ratatouille had a fresh essence.”
Try the chicken, salmon tartine, and other wonderful new dinner menu items yourself this season. Dine at Persephone Westbank at 3445 N Pines Way in the Aspens, Wilson WY. Learn more about our produce right here on our website!
Photo of Chef Alejandra Peña by Lindley Rust