This past December at the Grey Plume in Omaha, chef-owner Clayton Chapman set his mise en place in front of me. It was a thing to behold. Diverse and vibrant with all sorts of Midwest fruits and vegetables, it contained the building blocks for the dishes I would eat for dinner: delicate buttermilk gnocchi topped with caramelized Bartlett pears, preserved lemon peel, micro basil, and tart tomato powder; a pizzette chockablock with shiitake mushrooms, cold-smoked cauliflower, pickled ramps, persimmons, and local honey; and a colorful salad of finely shaved beets, watermelon radishes, turnips, and carrot and celery curls. Fantastic. The best part? The Grey Plume, elegantly dressed in recycled barn wood and wine bottles, is ardently sustainable and locavore through and through, with 90 percent of its ingredients hailing from nearby. How, then, did the chef procure such lustrous produce in midwinter, I wondered. Imbued with a Nebraskan’s work ethic and aversion to waste, Chapman, 27, preserves some 3,000 jars of peak produce in his tiny kitchen each year. He and his staff raise microgreens under grow lamps, churn butter, and whip ricotta with the buttermilk, and they make the most of each season. In summer, meaty steelhead trout from an aqua farm housed in former hog barns is lacquered with a fish jus glaze and served with tangy cherry tomatoes, barely cooked carrots, and compressed cucumber; come cooler weather, those tomatoes are oven-dried, the carrots pureed, and foraged oyster mushrooms and winter spinach swapped in for the cukes. Both versions are wonderful. In 2010, the Green Restaurant Association named the Grey Plume the greenest dining establishment in the country. That may be true, but it’s also just damned good.
The Grey Plume
220 S. 31st Avenue, Suite 3101