An Introduction to Diary of a Work-in-Progress Restaurant Guest
One thing I’ve learned in the last few years is though I have always loved to dine out, I’ve been a horrible restaurant guest.
Maybe I’ve watched too much of The Bear. But really, I’ve seen and heard the way this community can treat their local establishments. We need to discuss. We can do better. And I’d like to facilitate that discussion.
Tune in as I chat with Executive Chefs, GMs, bartenders and purveyors around the city of Pittsburgh, providing a forum to uncover some of the top things they wish guests understood.
And we’re going to start at the top, the literal top: garnish.
Episode 1: Should you eat the garnish?
Brought to you by Pittsburgh Microgreens
If I’m being honest, I’ve never understood garnish. Cilantro tastes like soap, I have certain allergies, and quite frankly I aways just thought it was decorative.
(Chefs, please stick with me. I’m a work-in-progress reforming my blasphemous ways)
Step one of this reformation: go straight to the source and ask questions. Sean and Jennifer, local purveyors and the growers behind Pittsburgh MIcrogreens, were gracious enough with their time.
Let’s start at the beginning: What is a Microgreen?
Microgreens are young seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs. Unlike larger veggies and herbs that can take months to grow, microgreens can harvest in 10 days or less. They’re an extension of the flavor of your dish.
Should I pick off a garnish, or does it actually provide flavor?
Microgreens aren’t just used at garnish, but when used properly in a dish they pack a ton of punch. Rainbow radish is a great example. It may take a second for the flavor to hit, but that plant spice can totally transform the flavor of a single bite.
How do restaurants in Pittsburgh use microgreens?
It depends. The default may be as a garnish. Then there are places like Mediterra Cafe that use them as a base for a sandwich. Pino’s over in Point Breeze incorporates them into salads. We’ve worked with Parlor Dim Sum on edible flowers. Other customers even incorporate into slaws or dressings. A garnish is not always a microgreen, and a microgreen is not always a garnish.
What does the harvest process look like?
Seeds are laid on the top of soil and weighed down with cement blocks when germinating so that the root becomes stronger, as does the green. Every Thursday, we harvest and refrigerate each custom order. Every Friday we deliver so that restaurants have fresh greens heading into the weekend rush.
You say your quality is elite. Tell me more.
All seeds we grow are organic or non GMO. The soil is organic. All of the water used is filtered out. We take the excess dirt to a small farm in Portersville – it becomes chicken feed. Our packaging is fully recyclable and the larger packaging is compostable. Everything grown to order – we’re not growing anything extra, and anything that is extra we use ourselves.
This feels niche. Why’d you get into it?
Jennifer loves plants, our whole house is full of them. We thought we’d try it out. Now it’s a family business my wife, son and I are all able to watch grow. It’s something special.
And that’s a wrap! Cilantro still tastes like soap, but for the first time ever I went to a taqueria and ordered the al pastor tacos as they were intended to be eaten. The salsa I would have asked for on the side and not touched. The raw onion. I committed and it was one of the best bites I’ve had in a long time.
If you get where I’m coming from and feel like you too are a work-in-progress restaurant guest, we’re in it together. Let me know what you want to see.
Want to see the microgreen harvest process up close?? Don’t miss that over on my Instagram.