In the microgreens room of Kirkwood Community College’s 7,000 square foot greenhouse, horticulture students help grow herbs and salad greens all year-round. Nearby, in the aquaponics and hydroponics room, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers grow on vines wrapped around twine and suspended over irrigated buckets.
Even in the middle of winter, these efforts mean The Class Act, the student-run restaurant at the college’s Hotel at Kirkwood, can serve up fresh produce.
They’ll show off some of that produce during Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week. GO Cedar Rapids’ annual celebration of local eateries kicks off today and lasts through March 25, with more than 20 area restaurants offering special dishes and prices on everything from sirloin steaks to specialty cocktails.
The Class Act will serve up a dinner special of a pork chop with a tomato-corn salsa salad featuring mixed microgreens grown in the greenhouse. At lunch, the special is an rib-eye cheesesteak sandwich; the beef also is raised by students on campus.
The collaboration between culinary and horticulture students is a win-win for everyone, said greenhouse coordinator Hannah Dunlap. It means fresh, high quality ingredients for the culinary students to work with and a chance to learn real world skills for students raising the produce and meat.
“There is a lot of interest in growing more diverse crops, and there is a big demand for more locally produced food,” Dunlap said. “We want to expose our students to what is out there.”
Taylor McGurk, director of destination management for GO Cedar Rapids, said focusing on local food was one goal of this year’s Restaurant Week.
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“We really urged the restaurants to feature local collaborations and local producers,” he said. “When we talk about our culinary scene in Cedar Rapids, that’s what we talk about the most. Here many of the restaurants go out of their way and go above and beyond to not only use local produce, but to actually showcase those menu items.”
He said Iowans are lucky because they have access to so much locally grown food, often on farms just down the road from the restaurants who partner with them.
“When we go out this year and tell the story of our culinary scene, that’s kind of going to be the main talking point,” he said.
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What: Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week 2018
Where: 25+ participating restaurants
When: March 15 - 25, 2018
Special pricing applies: Most places are offering a lunch dish for $10 and dinner for up to $25, see full menus for details
More information: gocedarrapids.com/restaurant-week