If you follow me on Twitter or are a friend of mine on Facebook, you’ll probably notice a trend in my posts… I talk about how much fun I have at my job – a lot! I get to do a lot of fun things as the social media lady of NAIT and that includes attending and taking photos at cool events like the one I’m going to talk about today!
Last month I had the opportunity to check out how NAIT is growing and harvesting their own locally-grown herbs and microgreens in the middle of winter. It’s all a part of NAIT’s Culinary Arts program. The organic greens – basil, cilantro, kale, and more – are grown from seed using a commercial-grade hydroponic garden called the Urban Cultivator.
The herbs and microgreens are harvested and used in dishes served at Ernest’s, NAIT’s fine-dining restaurant. The herbs are packed with flavour, and I can vouch for this because along with learning more about the Urban Cultivator program, I also got to sit in on a delicious three-course lunch featuring those home-grown herbs!
Hong Chew, the NAIT Culinary Arts instructor in charge of the Urban Cultivator program at the school, says the indoor garden contributes to the eat local, zero-mile diet movement. There are no transportation costs associated with growing and harvesting herbs on campus, which also leads to a smaller carbon footprint.
The first dish in our three-course meal highlighting homegrown herbs was Canadian goat cheese, roasted and pickled carrots, beets (Bull’s Blood) gerhbs and horseradish emulsion.
The second dish / entree was pan-fried wild sockeye salmon with caramelized trio of carrots and pearl onions with pureed northern beans and pea shoot salad.
And the dessert was pumpkin and sage panna cotta, petite radish and kale greens, with sorbet.
We were also treated to a fantastic glass of chocolate almond milk with amaranth!
The meal was fantastic. Rich flavours, bright, great presentations. I’ve only eaten at Ernest’s a few times now but every time has been top-notch. It’s so unique and fun to know that this fabulous fine-dining spot is run by students. I really can’t say enough good things about Ernest’s! It’s definitely a hidden gem and more people need to know about it. I plan on bringing Mike to try Ernest’s for dinner in the next little while. :)
The Urban Cultivator was featured on Dragon’s Den in 2012. What a great gadget! I hear the B.C.-based company is currently in talks with Martha Stewart and the Food Network to get the indoor garden used/featured. (Think ‘pantry and fridge’ in Chopped being replaced with ‘pantry, fridge and Urban Cultivator’ lol) That would be a huge boost for them.
NAIT is always trying to be innovative and it’s great to see how the Culinary program is taking steps to to improve sustainability, cost, and embrace local food. If you get a chance to try NAIT Ernest’s (which I recommend you do!) – keep your eye out for the herbs & microgreens being used in the dishes!!