El Encanto Hotel by Orient-Express Becomes the First in the Portfolio to Boast a Futuristic Vertical Aeroponic Farm

Each week, I have the privilege of sharing a new urban growing adventure that revolves around a vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farm by Future Growing®. I am always amazed by where the adventure takes us and the new and exciting venues that will be home to one of our farms. This week is certainly no exception, as the world-renowned Orient-Express adds a Future Growing® farm to its El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara, California.

The Orient Express

The Orient Express

The Orient-Express story, in their words:

“There’s often more to a name than meets the eye. We’re fortunate that ours has symbolized the world’s most romantic railway journey for over a century. But today it stands for so much more.

“Since the acquisition of Venice’s Hotel Cipriani in 1976, new hotels, trains, and river cruisers worldwide have joined our collection. Many of these, such as The Ritz in Madrid, St. Petersburg’s Grand Hotel Europe, and Rio’s Copacabana Palace, are destinations in their own right.

“Beach resorts, safaris, restaurants, and luxury trains have joined the portfolio as it has expanded over the years. All have their own names and personalities and are managed by local teams who regard them as ‘their’ properties. The teams are encouraged to innovate and to contribute new ideas.”

The El Encanto Hotel truly embodies the Orient-Express vision of local management contributing new ideas and innovation at each location. In the news article below, Chef Patrice Martineau of El Encanto shares how “fresh”, “seasonal”, and “local” have become the undisputed culinary buzzwords at top temples of haute cuisine.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


Hotel Restaurants Get to Gardening, by http://www.departures.com

Over the last few years, some hotels around the world have turned to on-site kitchen gardens, growing herbs and maybe the occasional tomato, to stay abreast of the “fresh and local” trend. But these early efforts often felt like window dressing—initiatives that didn’t affect the food all that much. You might find some homegrown basil on a caprese salad or a few microgreens atop a sous-vide heritage-breed pork loin, but it seemed like hotels continued to procure most major produce by more conventional (read: “corporate”) means.

Patrice Martineau

Chef Patrice Martineau of El Encanto, who is holding a tray of seedlings at his Tower Garden® farm.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Not any more. A handful of hotels, both new and old, have begun building more serious chef’s gardens—quasi-farms that are leading to big-picture reevaluations of restaurant concepts and top-to-bottom menu overhauls.

One of the most recent arrivals is at iconic El Encanto in Santa Barbara, California (800 Alvarado Place; 805-845-5800; http://www.elencanto.com), which reopened this spring after a seven-year, $134 million renovation by Orient-Express. Here, chef Patrice Martineau planted not one but two gardens: A traditional plot for the likes of eggplant and peppers, and a vertical Tower Garden® farm started in partnership with Montecito Urban Farms.

The Tower Garden® farm was sourced from Future Growing LLC, and is used to grow a variety of lettuces, kale, arugula, herbs, and edible flowers. On the inside of each growing tower, plant roots are suspended roots in midair, letting them soak in a natural, nutrient-rich solution that allows them to mature faster than normal. The results have turned up in a dish of Provençal-style vegetables, chilled tomato soup and lemon-basil risotto, with more planned for autumn.

Spring also saw the addition of a large garden on the park-like acreage of Il Salviatino (21 Via del Salviatino; 39-055/904-1111; http://www.salviatino.com), a three-year-old villa hotel just outside of Florence, Italy. Chef Carmine Calò—who has worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants—designed a growing space for the necessities of Italian cooking. Already the 300 plants (eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers) are producing a quarter of the vegetables used in the restaurant, whose concept Calò will adapt as the vegetation develops and expands. Fall menus will feature dishes using yellow pumpkin, black and savoy cabbages and chard. By spring 2014, Calò says he expects nearly two thirds of the restaurant’s produce to come from the garden, with new plantings of celery, carrots, spring onions, garlic and zucchini.

In the English countryside, on the pastoral border between Dorset and Northampton, the country house hotel Chewton Glen (New Forest District, New Milton; 44-14/2527-5342; http://www.chewtonglen.com) debuted an expansive chef’s kitchen garden last year, plus a newly planted orchard of some 200 trees. Overseen by an in-house, full-time gardener, the plots provide the hotel with thousands of pieces of fruits and veggies every week, including radishes, beans, ruby chard, black kale, fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, herbs and edible flowers. Chef Andrew Du Bourg’s stuffed zucchini flowers were one of the most popular items on the menu this summer; this fall he’ll pair homegrown borlotti beans with a dish of braised lamb brisket and crispy sweetbreads.

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