Alegria Fresh owner Erik Cutter, left, and
Bluewater Grill co-founder Jimmy Ulcickas
made the Healing Foods Dinner possible.
|Bluewater Grill at The District in Tustin recently hosted a Healing Foods Dinner, offering attendees a chance to eat various greens that were harvested mere hours before being served.
The vegetables served at the dinner were provided by Alegria Fresh, a cutting edge hydroponic vertical farm.
Hydroponic farms grow their greens using a soilless farming method, which allows for perfect regulation of the vegetable's growth.
The dinner was hosted through the cooperation of the co-founder of Bluewater Grill, Jimmy Ulcickas, and the founder of Alegria Fresh, Erik Cutter. The menu was prepared jointly by Alegria chefs Jessica McLeish and Yolande Smith, as well as Bluewater Executive Chef Brian Hirsty.
ON THE MENU
The Healing Foods Dinner featured a five-course meal, with most dishes featuring both the greens from Alegria as well as the seafood that Bluewater is known for – beginning with raw vegan collard greens along with smoked salmon.
The soup was made from sweet potatoes and coconut milk, and served with black mussels.
The salad was prepared by Alegria along with a creamy pimento live and cashew dressing, and featured Baja Bay scallops as "croutons."
For the main course, wild halibut was served atop a Portobello pesto stack.
Finally, for dessert, a raw vegan apple cheesecake was prepared, using coconut oil and macadamia nuts.
Ulcickas is a proponent of sustainability, the notion that one should interact with the ecosystem in a way that will allow it to endure, a belief that is reflected in the food served at Bluewater.
"We have a growing population in this world, we have to figure out ways to do things smarter, better, and more efficiently," said Ulcickas. "That doesn't always mean turning everything into a factory."
Ulcickas pointed out that fish are a finite resource, and need to be managed properly. For example, Bluewater owns a swordfish harpoon boat, which is considered to be the most humane way of catching swordfish, due to the fact it allows targeted fishing with no bycatch.
Cutter set up the farm that provided the greens for the dinner about six months ago. The farm uses coir, a kind of coconut fiber, instead of soil, along with a mixture of nutrients that can be perfectly controlled to account for the plant's needs.
"I know exactly what nutrients are in the soil at any one time. That's the advantage, I can actually modify the nutrient content depending on what phase the plant is in," said Cutter. "For example, tomatoes, when it starts fruiting, I'll punch the calcium nitrate a little bit, which helps the plant develop more sugar."
Cutter said that what's important is how fast you can eat the greens after they're picked, because oxidation starts to kill the greens as soon as they're harvested.
Hirsty, the executive chef for all Bluewater locations, felt that the Healing Foods Dinner was a great collaboration that allowed for a very positive food experience.
"We were able to collaborate and create this wonderful night together," said Hirsty. "So often we spend weeks coming up with and tweaking items, today was really more of an inspirational thing, and sometimes that's the best cooking I do."