Food + Dining Main

Grow-House Dining

At the eco- and health-focused Florida Microgreens indoor vertical farm, doors open once a month for a guest chef pop-up amid trays of the tiny nutritional powerhouses.

BY May 22, 2018


Farm-to-table dining has become one of the most sought-after experiences in recent years. But how often do you hear of bringing the table to the farm—minus the hot, sticky Florida weather?

In a production studio and warehouse-turned-greenhouse in Cape Coral, two environmentally and health-conscious next-wave vertical farmers—whose medium is stacked trays and hemp-woven growing mats—have begun opening the doors to their verdant oasis once a month for a guest chef dinner series.

In just two short years, fiancés Rachel Shemenski and Rob Epple have built a micro empire, selling a potpourri of about 30 diminutive yet intensely flavorful varieties of basil, cilantro, leek, lettuce, sunflower and mustard to more than 55 restaurants, private clubs and caterers—and those relationships are the pool from which the visiting chefs are being selected.

The grow house is normally closed to the public, but during the dinners, curious gourmands can sit in an island carved out among the towers of tufts with every shade of green imaginable for a four-course feast, each plate featuring the night’s stars. (Place settings include not only forks and knives, but also little scissors with which to snip at the carefully selected centerpieces or any of the varieties of greens sprouting in the aisles around the table.) 

The first dinner on May 11, 2018, was with chef Kristina San Filippo of Purple Spoon Culinary, and highlights included an appetizer of purple carrots and quinoa with curlicues of cilantro and cabbage and an imaginative end note of citrus olive oil cake with a pea shoot elixir.

Up next on Thursday, June 14, chef Amber Phillips of Sage Events is going to make four courses in addition to a cocktail or two (who says microgreens are limited to salads?).

As the summer progresses, chefs from Cape Coral’s Tasty Cultures and Naples’ Sails Restaurant have signed on for dinners. Shemenski and Epple envision having these events continue year-round, too, possibly adding more during season (and keeping the average price around $55 per seat, depending on the night’s menu).

They say the farming of the future will grow up, not out. For a seat at the table to witness it first-hand, you’re not going to want to miss this unique experience.

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