Dish - - Contents - Story — NIKKI BIRRELL Pho­tog­ra­phy — MANJA WACHSMUTH

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...

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...

ABOVE: Break­fast at St­ed­sans will likely in­clude homemade yoghurt, with milk pro­vided by Nava, the neigh­bour’s cow.

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