The Public Space
April 15, 2015
lunch and leed
By Ken Mayer
I’m a believer in karma when it comes to my tummy. Karma holds that we are the architects of our own fate. It’s why I garden organically and play the Blues over the smoker when I barbeque.
The best foods come out of kitchens where there is harmony. After all, Mom and Grandma didn’t yell or turn the air blue with curse words (like some TV chefs) as they taught us to cook.
Recently, I’ve noticed some of my favorite dining experiences have come out of sustainably built kitchens. Maybe there’s a link between good food and green architecture, particularly when the kitchen is in a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified facility.
LEED is a rating system for “green” buildings. Supported by the United States Green Building Council, LEED Certification recognizes sustainably built and maintained buildings.
While Midtown Crossing is LEED Certified, The Grey Plume has taken it a step further by earning a 4 Star SustainaBuild Certified Green Restaurant rating from the Green Restaurant Association. The Wall Street Journal recently noted, “Beneath its easygoing chic lies a fierce commitment to green operations and to doing everything from baking the bread to roasting the coffee on-site.”
For another LEED and lunch experience, check out The Dining Room at Union Pacific Headquarters. It’s open to the public. Guckenheimer, who runs the dining room, is also Green Restaurant Association certified and uses local and organic produce and organic meat and seafood. Besides the clean air in the building, you can enjoy a healthy meal because they make the nutritional analysis of all their dishes easily available to diners.
For a high-end LEED experience, stop by 67th and Pine on UNO’s Pacific Campus. Mammel Hall was the first LEED Gold designated building in Nebraska and is worth a visit for the architecture alone. Maybe I’m a little biased because I teach there, but it’s an impressive structure featuring interactive, touch-screen historical and informational digital displays, a 190-seat auditorium, bridges and skywalks linking areas of the building, glass-walled classrooms outfitted with computer hookups, plus laboratories for investment science, innovation, entrepreneurship, and lounge areas to study and relax. If that were not enough, the café in the building’s ground floor serves meals supplied by none other than Omaha’s own Wohlner’s Grocery.
As a long time gastronaut, home cook and sometime restaurant critic, I think my favorite dining experience is the Sage Bistro on Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha campus. The dining room and kitchens have a flow and airiness created by an abundance of windows. Like all new construction on Metro campuses and consistent with the college’s sustainability goals, the culinary arts, hospitality and horticulture departments are housed in a LEED building.
The Sage Bistro sources much of its produce from about as local as it gets, the Bistro’s own year-round garden. They call it their “in-the-dirt laboratory” for culinary students to foster respect for their ingredients.
I can say without fear of contradiction that the Sage Bistro is one of the finest dining experiences and best values in the city. Great care is evident in even the simplest of preparations, and the students’ Prix Fixe 5-course evening menus are full of delightful lagniappes, palate cleansers and amuse bouche right along with dishes good enough to strike fear in the heart of any high-end chef, not to mention the $30 price.
On a recent lunch visit to the Sage Bistro, I enjoyed a Rueben sandwich with house-brined brisket. I noticed that my cheerful server had the words “Miss Sunshine” embroidered on her tunic. I asked if it was a nickname or a joke. She smiled and said it was her nickname because everybody says she always brings the sunshine.
Now, that’s good karma.
The Public Space
Ken Mayer is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant and adjunct faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He has served on the boards of The Nebraska Choral Arts Society, Downtown Omaha Inc. and Landmark’s Inc. Mr. Mayer has been a consultant and volunteer for Omaha by Design since 2002.