A Farmer + Chef Conversation: High Hill Hydro + Terrain Cafe
In anticipation of our (now sold out!) Farmers’ Table Dinner at our Glen Mills, PA Cafe next week, we caught up with our Styer’s Chef Brian Lofink and his collaborators, brothers Greg and Jeff Gressel from the local microgreens farm High Hil Hydro. Read on to learn about the menu making process between farmer and chef, some insider tips on using microgreens at home, and why microgreens always beat their “adult” counterparts in the flavor department.
terrain: Hi Greg! Thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell us a little about how High Hill Hydro got started and your own journey with farming microgreens?
Greg: Jeff and I started High Hill Hydro with a desire to have an impact on food and how it moves across the country. We originally began looking at hydroponically growing leafy greens, fruits, and veggies in a large warehouse and did a lot of research in this area. Along the way, we came across an article of a couple growing microgreens in their home and supplying a large number of local restaurants in their city with them. We ended up connecting with them and within a few months we were following in their footsteps! We started off small, growing just a few trays, and slowly taking them out to local restaurants for feedback. People were immediately impressed and blown away by the flavor profiles. Three years later, we have an amazing team and each day still feels like a new adventure.
terrain: Thanks for joining us, Brian! How did this partnership with High Hill Hydro come about?
Brian: I’d just started with Terrain Cafe in July 2019 and Jeff and Greg would come to the restaurant quite often during my first month to educate me on their product. What attracted me to their microgreens was that I was able to get my hands on a living product that I could cut to order, allowing me to give our guests the highest quality, most nutritious product possible. Their farm is literally a mile and a half from the restaurant, so it works out pretty nice.
terrain: What was the menu making process like? Can you talk to us about how you came up with the dishes that are included?
Brian: The menu process was a lot of fun. Greg and Jeff invited me to their greenhouse and I sampled every single variety of microgreen they cultivate. From there, menu ideas started popping off in my head. I told the guys what I was thinking and they would have suggestions of pairings that they know match with their product. It ended up being a very collaborative, enjoyable process.
terrain: This dish looks delicious. Can you give some of your behind-the-scenes info for this one?
Brian: Sure! This is the Micro Nasturtium + Cress Salad with Whipped Burrata, Roasted Butternut Squash, Toasted Hazelnuts and Aged Balsamic. Here, I wanted to do a dish that had lots of different flavors and textures, while being fresh and bright. I think people will be surprised about how bright and peppery the cress and nasturtium leaves are and how well they play off the creaminess of the burrata, the nuttiness and crunch of the hazelnuts, the sweetness of the butternut squash and the acidity of the aged balsamic. It’s a dish with a lot of layers that will keep everyone’s palette excited with each bite.
terrain: What is your favorite part about growing microgreens and how do you think they’re important in everyday cooking?
Greg: I love the process, exploring how to make it better, and tinkering with new inventions to help us grow and expand. Jeff definitely enjoys the health benefits he feels eating them every day. We feel like they bring great flavors, nutrition, and exciting aspect to both preparation and presentation of food. In terms of cooking, they do an incredible job of layering flavors as well as giving pops to each and every bite similar to what herbs and spices do.
terrain: What are some of your favorite microgreens to eat on a regular basis? Can you give us a couple with their flavor profiles?
Greg: Jeff loves broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and arugula microgreens. The flavor profiles are just like their adult counterparts, but much more pronounced. I enjoy cilantro, red cabbage, mustards, carrot, leek, and celery microgreens. The mustards pack a nice, spicy punch.
terrain: Can you give us a few tips for how to work microgreens into a dish at home?
Greg: An easy starting place is a sandwich. They’re also great over an egg dish or bowl for breakfast. One of our favorite ways to eat them is blended in a smoothie! Celery, kale, carrot, cabbage, and cauliflower all work really well. The easiest way? Just add them to your favorite salad. Eating them in a simple salad helps get your palette familiar with the different tastes, which helps you understand their flavor profiles in various dishes.
Terrain: Greg, can you share some of the health benefits of cooking with microgreens?
Greg: Microgreens are high in nutrients. Typically, they contain 8-40 times more nutrients by weight compared to their adult counterparts. They contain wide varieties of polyphenols. Polyphenols prevent the build-up of harmful free radicals associated with reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Microgreens help boost your immune system. Veggies are anti-inflammatory by nature and affect immunity in a positive way. The micro versions pack a ton of these properties in an easy-to-eat format.
Enjoy this post? Be sure to check out our conversation with our Westport, CT Chef Jess Bengtson and Jeff Taibe from Holbrook Farm.