Sharpening Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s culinary edge.
Story by Karyn Wofford
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is best known as a place to experience nature and wildlife or hit the slopes or relish in all things winter.
It’s a place where you expect to indulge in hearty game, cozy coffee, and massive slices of berry pie. And you can.
But that’s not Jackson Hole’s only foodie story.
In a place that sees eight months of snow, chef-driven artisan dishes showcasing fresh ingredients may seem impossible if not unexpected. Yet this northwestern community offers lots of flavorful local food made with produce grown right in the heart of downtown. How?
The answer is Vertical Harvest, an eye-catching structure that’s freshened local menus.
A novel approach to farming, the three-story, 4,500-square-foot greenhouse can potentially produce 100,000 pounds of local veggies within a year and has changed the dining dynamic in the ski town. Employing workers with special abilities to do everything from planting and harvesting to working in the market, this place is truly a significant part of the area. “Vertical Harvest was inspired by very real needs of the community,” says Nona Yehia, co-founder of the project. “It’s empowering a population that lives here” and “serving the community wellness goals.”
How It Works
Impressive, towering carousels help sustainably grow an array of flavorful veggies via hydroponic farming (which uses water instead of soil in the growing process). Hydroponics used to get a bad rap, but new methods and cultivating precision can yield a more flavorful, complex product since elements like moisture and temperature can be tightly controlled.
Jackson Hole’s Vertical Harvest greenhouse cultivates an array of micro greens with nutty, sweet, spicy or garlicy flavors, which make an interesting addition to notable dishes at local restaurants. “Creating a local source of produce was one of the main pillars Vertical Harvest was built on,” says Yehia.
A rainbow of tomatoes rival summer-grown variations with perfectly sweet acidic balance, and salad blends present flavor depth with Oak Leaf, Rainbow Chard, Lollipop Rossa and other lettuce varieties.
Food Scene Impact
Vertical Harvest provides year-round produce, which is sold at the on-site market alongside other locally made goodies like pickles and jams. As part of an agreement dubbed Culinary Circle, local restaurants and grocery stores buy produce from Vertical Harvest. Thus even during the coldest winter months, local restaurants showcase the fresh-grown ingredients—which don’t have to travel long distances—in mouthwatering, nutritional dishes. Yehia explains, “We are able to get chef input on what they want to see grown.”
Vertical Harvest in Restaurants
Persephone Bakery & Café relies on Vertical Harvest for its fresh menu options. “Vertical Harvest lettuces and tomatoes are the stars of one of our most popular dishes: the VH Panzanella Salad,” says Ali Cohane, owner. “You can taste the freshness of the product, which is picked Monday, and on your plate on Wednesday—this is not something you can always find in remote Wyoming, especially in the winter.” The salad features bumblebee tomatoes and greens from the innovative farm, tossed with basil, pine nuts, currants, croutons, fennel, salty crisped prosciutto and a drizzle of smoky chile vinaigrette.
The Kitchen, like most Jackson Hole restaurants, is seasonally driven, and accents hearty dishes with vibrant produce. “We use Vertical Harvest micro wasabi in our Hamachi Crudo with lemon-salt yuzu, and their vibrant mix in our salmon entree with yuzu-whiskey sauce,” says Javier Dominguez Gutierrez, restaurant manager.
“Micro sorrel and micro rambo radish are being used on top of seared octopus with kale, blood orange and pepperoncini sauce,” says Executive Chef Luis Beristain, who helms the kitchens at two top local restaurants: Osteria and Bar Enoteca. At Osteria, he says, the “micro sorrel and micro rambo radish are being used on top of the Skuna Bay Salmon entrée with black rice, tomato, pickled green bean. The lettuce sweet mix is used in some of our salads.”
Bar Enoteca is a casual place to lounge and munch in Teton Village in Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. “Micro cilantro is being used in our fresh ceviche,” says Beristain.
Bin22’s signature attraction is its killer wine bar, where you’re likely to learn something new from well-versed bartenders. The modern rustic eatery crafts Italian and Spanish small plates as well. “We use Vertical Harvest chrysanthemum in our octopus dish served with Yukon potatoes, smoked chorizo, artichoke hearts, piquillo butter and mojo verde,” says Executive Chef Luis Hernandez. “Micro basil is in our tomato bruschetta.”
A Community Effort
Tours of the state-of-the-art facility are available to the public every Monday through Friday (tours are free with an optional donation). Be sure to swing by the market afterward. Alongside the Vertical Harvest bounty, the community comes together to offer local sausages, condiments, and some non-edible treats.
Yehia isn’t taking all the credit for Jackson Hole’s alluring array of tasty offerings and the overall success in delivering food that aligns with the area’s theme of wellness. “I think Vertical Harvest was born out of the change,” she says,referring to the overall movement for healthy food. “We are one of many local producers.” She does acknowledge that it’s pretty nice to indulge in a vine ripened tomato in the winter.
Plan A Trip
More than hydroponically-grown produce lures foodie travelers to Jackson Hole: Numerous cozy lodges await in the amazing winter playground. Plus, of course,there are other noteworthy foods—for starters, we just can’t overlook the free mimosas and orange juice at the quaint airport upon arrival!
Cream + Sugar Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich—These sprinkle-coated treats are little gems made with chef-cultivated ice creams. They started as a simple dessert item on Jackson Hole Fine Dining Group restaurant menus, but have become a craze foodies can now find in local stores like Pearl Street Market. Don’t miss the huckleberry flavor!
Brown Sugar Butter Waffles at Corbet’s Cabin—The journey is part of the experience when trekking to Corbet’s Cabin atop a frigid peak of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Ride the “Big Red” tram over some seriously stunning landscape, to reach a precious cabin that serves a simple menu of hot beverages and waffles.
Very Berry Pie at The Bunnery—While all the baked goods and regular menu items comfort souls, there’s nothing like this buttery, flakey crust overflowing with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. One slice is gigantic, and maintains an impeccable sweet balance.
Water and Wyoming Whiskey at Million Dollar Cowboy Bar—Sit on a saddle barstool while sipping an iconic flavor of the state.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort—This renowned ski resort boasts an extreme slope and breathtaking tram views.
Snow King Mountain—This Jackson Hole ski spot offers family-directed activities like snow tubing, a mountain coaster, and beginner slopes with easier, conveyer belt lifts.
National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides—In the winter, hop aboard a horse-drawn sled for incredible up-close views of protected elk.
Eco Tour Adventures—Board a van bright and early to explore local wildlife via binoculars and a rooftop hatch. You’ll also get to munch on local jerky, trail mix and muffins.
The Alpine House—This precious inn serves chef-prepared breakfast in the morning and home-baked scones and tea later in the day. An honor bar is stocked with wine and beer.
Rustic Inn at Jackson Hole—Taking rustic lodging to an upscale level, guests are treated to a luxurious spa, lovely pool, and fireside meals.
Karyn Wofford writes about everything from travel to diabetes. She enjoys exploring unusual destinations and loves spending time outdoors and tasting authentic dishes and regional culinary treasures. In addition to freelance writing, she blogs at paramourexplore.com.