INTO THE WILD
Dine out on permaculture principles and gourmet meals in a Swedish forest at the new Stedsans in the Woods.
In a forest in southern Sweden, one of the least populated parts of Europe, you’ll find Stedsans in the Woods – a largely self-sufficient venture run by a Danish couple who firmly believe in the redemptive powers of nature. Dish chats to one half of the couple, Mette Halbaek, about their eco vision.
Seasonal, sustainable, organic, artisanal, waste-free, foraged… they may be buzz words in the food biz right now but this is one trend we hope lasts. Especially if it looks and tastes as good as Stedsans in the Woods. For, if you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise – of course, you’ll have to be in Sweden.
This is where you’ll find Danish couple Mette Halbaek and Flemming Hansen, chefs and restaurateurs, making a break from city living to “create a little slice of paradise on Earth”. You would think the couple’s previous venture would’ve qualified – a rooftop farm and restaurant in Copenhagen that drew much attention from media and Instagram lovers. But the pair were hankering for “real nature”. And so, the idea for an out-of-the-way dining and accommodation experience that sits between top luxury and simple living was born.
“Everything we have done in the last 10 years has been pointing in this direction,” says Mette. “It was a wish for us to give people a deeper sense of the healing powers of Mother Nature.”
Due to the off-the-beaten-path location (but still only two-and-a-half hours from Copenhagen) the plan was to build cabins for people to stay in but as the building process dragged on, Flemming came up with plan B. “We decided to use tents instead. We called in friends who are creative, skilled carpenters and they started designing and building our floating sauna and the toilets for the guests. They were crazy times but I will say the result is amazing. I have done the last little styling details myself, like going to fleamarkets to buy carpets, vases, and furniture for the tents and getting loads of light curtains for the restaurant and comfortable woollen blankets for the beds. Stedsans in the Woods, in its present version, is very much a product of a lot of creative people gathering around a dream of making something beautiful – and I think we succeeded,” says Mette. In mid-july this year Stedsans in the Woods opened for business.
Located in a seven-hectare forest, the venture aims to imitate nature as much as possible. Says Mette: “We try to apply permaculture principles to everything we do: we watch what nature does and do our best to ‘copy’ these processes in our work in the garden, in the kitchen and in the way we live. We make our own toiletries in order to reuse the water and we have designed comfortable, stylish compost toilets because we don’t want to use drinking water for flushing. We recycle as much as we can and have animals who eat all our food scraps. We are only just starting
out, but our aim is to become the world’s most sustainable restaurant.”
Wild blueberries, mushrooms, and edible wild herbs are all foraged from nature (at least one dish on every six-course meal uses only foraged ingredients) and the pair also have a hectare of gardens, including a medicinal plant garden with all kinds of herbs, an annual plot with carrots, beets, kale and lettuce, and several small permaculture gardens with perennials such as fruit trees, spinach, sea cabbage, berry bushes, edible flowers…
“We are so lucky our garden and the forest supply us with most of the plants we serve. I am crazy about having a lush beautiful garden to pick ingredients from,” says Mette. The majority of other ingredients haven’t travelled far either – meat comes from a local supplier; Nava the cow (a neighbour’s) produces their milk, used to make yoghurt; cheese comes from a little organic dairy nearby; a friend supplies eggs when the couple’s own chickens can’t keep up with the demand; the lake is a great source for fresh fish; and when the time comes the pair will slaughter their own pigs.
Flemming and Mette create the menu
“We recycle as much as we can and have animals who eat all our food scraps. We are only just starting out, but our aim is to become the world’s most sustainable restaurant.” – METTE HALBAEK
together – a new one every week – and guests don’t know what they’ll be getting before they arrive. Mette describes it as “casual, simple food”.
In keeping with their old-world methods, they cook everything without electricity, using only fire, dirt ovens and smokers. An example of what could end up on your plate? Medicinal plant salad with forest chanterelles; pea francaise with horsebeans and lemon thyme; season’s first potatoes with olive oil, parmesan and pea sprouts; brisket with onion, kale and redcurrant; blue cheese with walnuts in rhubarb syrup; finishing with an almond cake with berries, chocolate and cream.
What’s really exciting the chefs, too, is creating alcohol-free drinks out of herbs from the forest and gardens, and fermented drinks like kombuchas and kefirs – plantain cold brew; lemon thyme tea; spruce lemonade; aronia (a type of berry) and rhubarb juice; cacao infusion; and a woodruff shrub were all matched to the aforementioned menu.
Customers are coming from all over the world for the Stedsans experience and besides from walking away sated, Mette says she hopes their guests “will have a new understanding of why we need to take better care of nature – because it is precious and a part of us, and because it makes us feel very happy”.
THESE PAGES: At Stedsans in the Woods, Mette Halbaek (left) works as a chef and recipe developer, with PR and styling thrown in too. “I have so many things I love to do and here I can combine them.”
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT: Stedsans’ chefs have been having fun concocting new drinks using plants from the forest and gardens; Flemming Hansen has been running restaurants for nearly two decades; fire, dirt ovens and smokers are used to create incredible meals at Stedsans in the Woods.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT: Mette is passionate about using the natural produce that surrounds her to create interesting dishes; luxury tents have been erected in the forest to house overnight guests; Mette’s styling finesse ensures the Stedsans’ table is always inviting.
ABOVE: Breakfast at Stedsans will likely include homemade yoghurt, with milk provided by Nava, the neighbour’s cow.