Chef Josh Sutcliff prepares salad surrounded by lettuces growing in the greenhouse at Profound Microfarms in Lucas.

Chef Josh Sutcliff prepares salad surrounded by lettuces growing in the greenhouse at Profound Microfarms in Lucas.

Jason Janik/Special Contributor

Last month, chef Josh Sutcliff took a break from running the kitchen at Beverley's, the tony new bistro in Knox Henderson, to cook in slightly more rustic conditions: A four-course Dinner in the Greenhouse at Profound Microfarms in Lucas, where the kitchen consisted of three burners and a sous-vide machine set up amid bushy flowering mint and towering stalks of rainbow chard.

Forget farm to table, this was literally table to farm. As Sutcliff dressed a salad made with lettuces growing inches away from the plates, lights twinkled over a single long table built by Jeff Bednar, Profound's owner. And the 34 diners gathered around it included some of the North Texas farmers responsible for what would be served that night: brisket from Texas Craft Wagyu, smoked mushrooms from Texas Fungus, chicken from Cartermere Farms.

Dinner in the Greenhouse, the first popup event at Profound Microfarms in Lucas

Dinner in the Greenhouse, the first popup event at Profound Microfarms in Lucas

Jason Janik/Special Contributor

For Sutcliff and his business partner Seth Brammer, the evening was a kind of position paper for the restaurant they hope to open in Dallas next year - one that will be attached to a greenhouse run by Bednar and that will put local farms front and center. 

"All amazing cities have a sense of their food culture, and we're missing that in Dallas," Sutcliff says. "And it's not because it's not there. We're just not looking at it. We want to bring it to the forefront of what we do."

Over the coming months, as he and Brammer search for a location, they plan a series of statement-making events featuring local farmers, such as last month's natural wine pop-up in Bishop Arts, called Skin Contact. "It's a very 2019 way to open a restaurant," Brammer says. "It's a way to influence food culture by using the spectacle of a restaurant."

It is also very of-the-moment thinking for the Dallas dining scene. With a few notable exceptions, such as Bolsa, Celebration, Petra and the Beast, and now-closed FT33, the city has lagged on spotlighting what is farmed and foraged in its backyard. There were fits and starts over the years, of course: Graham Dodds more or less introduced Dallas to the farm-to-table idea with Bolsa back in 2008. Then it was picked up with varying degrees of commitment. In too many cases, it was more of a buzzword than a reality.

Over the last year or so, that has begun to change, and along with it, the dining scene has begun to grow into one that's more textured and compelling.

Bednar, for example, says the greenhouse dinner marks "a new phase at Profound" that will include more creative pop-ups with local chefs, as well as the recent formation of Profound Foods, Bednar's distribution company that aims to get more locally raised goods onto D-FW plates.

Next, Bednar is working with Junior Borges and Justin Box on summer projects including a "creek dinner," where diners will literally eat with their toes in the water. "It's about 6 inches deep in the summer and it's covered by tree canopy," Bednar says of the creek that runs near his greenhouses. "You'll get a cocktail, walk down to creek, take off your shoes, and dinner will be served on tables set up in the creek."

They are aiming for early summer, and incidentally, the Profound events are officially farm tours that cost $100, with dinner and wine thrown in at no charge. It's a permitting thing, Bednar says.

Before the dinner, the tour.

Before the dinner, the tour.

Jason Janik/Special Contributor

Profound is such a fixture on sustainability-minded menus around town, it's startling to think it didn't even exist a couple of years ago. When it opened in 2017, Bednar says, Profound had just two clients (the pivotal one was Matt McCallister, then the chef at FT33). 

Today Profound supplies 67 restaurants, including some of Dallas' most progressive: McCallister's buzzy new Homewood, Misti Norris' nationally lauded Petra and the Beast, Peja Krstic's Mot Hai Ba, and David and Jennifer Uygur's Lucia and Macellaio. Greenhouse sales have gone from $20,000 a year to $12,000 a week, Bednar says. That's a lot of local lettuce.

And there are innumerable smaller signs that the connection between Dallas chefs and farmers is deepening. Some chefs, such as Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman of José, are making field trips to local farms with their kitchen crews. ("It's so important for me to show them where food comes from and why we choose seasonal and local produce," she posted on Instagram last week.) 

Others, including Donny Sirisavath at Khao Noodle Shop, are sourcing fresh herbs and produce from community gardens and backyards. One cook, Chih-Ming "Petey" Feng, took a break from the kitchen at Izkina to work with farmers, so the idea of "farm to table" will resonate in a more meaningful way.  

McCallister has returned to the dining scene, after nearly a year's absence, with a restaurant that is intensely about local, sustainable cooking. Dodds will be back this summer with a new restaurant, the Mayor's House in Oak Cliff, that will again focus on local ingredients and grow some of its own in raised beds on the restaurant's grounds. And of course, Norris' Petra and the Beast has collected a shelffull of national awards celebrating this style of cooking. Most of these chefs also participate in the fall event Chefs for Farmers, founded by McCallister and Iris Midler, which has grown in eight years from a dinner for 125 to a three-day food and wine festival for more than 3,500.

At Profound's greenhouse dinner last month, as we sipped cocktails made with farm-grown herbs and flowers, surrounded by microgreens sprouting under grow lights, one of the diners looked around and asked me, "Does this even feel like Dallas?" 

And my answer was yes, everything about this feels like Dallas. 

For information on Profound Microfarms events, profoundmicrofarms.com. For Sutcliff and Brammer events, sutbram.com. Or follow both on social media.

Herbed focaccia served during the Dinner in the Greenhouse at Profound Microfarms 

Herbed focaccia served during the Dinner in the Greenhouse at Profound Microfarms 

Jason Janik/Special Contributor

Herbed Focaccia

1 cup warm water

1 1/4 ounces active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup finely chopped herb leaves, including tarragon, thyme and oregano

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use

1 tablespoon Maldon salt

In a large bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Allow to bloom for 5 minutes. Add flour, salt, and fresh herbs, and combine until dough comes together. Transfer dough to a floured board and knead for 5 minutes, by hand, until dough is smooth. Coat dough in 1 tablespoon olive oil and transfer to a large bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise for 2 hours, until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Transfer dough to prepared half sheet pan (18 x 13), stretching to cover pan. Dimple dough with fingertips and brush with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Allow dough to rest for additional 20 minutes, dimple again, and finish with Maldon salt.

Place pan in oven and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Remove pan from oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut into 1- by 3-inch pieces.

Makes 1 18x13-inch pan.

SOURCE: Adapted from Josh Sutcliff

Ricotta and Peas

1 cup frozen petite peas

2 scallions, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

2 lemons, zested and juiced

1 bunch parsley, stemmed and chopped fine

8 large mint leaves, chopped

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Place peas in food processor and pulse for 3 seconds.

In a large bowl, add processed peas, scallions, zest and juice of lemons, parsley, mint and olive oil. Fold until combined. Carefully fold in ricotta cheese and season with salt and pepper. Chill for 1 hour.

Makes about 3 cups.

SOURCE: Adapted from Josh Sutcliff

Spring Succotash

3 medium golden beets

1 cup white wine vinegar

6 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided use

1/2 cup olive oil, divided use

2 pounds medium asparagus, tops sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

8 scallions, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

1 cup frozen fava beans

6 small carrots, roasted, cooled, and cut into 1/2-inch rounds

6 medium green tomatoes, diced small

1/2 cup sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch dill, stemmed and chopped

1 bunch tarragon, stemmed and chopped

1 bunch basil, stemmed and chopped

Place beets in a medium pot of cold water. Add white wine vinegar, sugar and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes, until beets are fork tender. Allow to cool in cooking liquid for 1 hour. Peel beets and cut into 1/4-inch dice.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, over medium heat, add 1/4 cup olive oil. Saute asparagus tops and scallions for 2 minutes. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine asparagus, scallions, fava beans, carrots and tomatoes. Fold in sherry vinegar, remaining olive oil, remaining salt and pepper. Fold in cooled diced beets. Chill for 1 hour.

Fold in chopped herbs and adjust seasoning to taste.

SOURCE: Adapted from Josh Sutcliff

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