Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit the world-renowned Faviken restaurant in Sweden, on a beautiful estate set in the Jamtland mountains.
It really was a special occasion for me as a food lover, but also as an organic grower and someone passionate about sustainability. It’s not just the fact that Faviken is currently ranked #41 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and so an extraordinary taste experience, but also their application of the concept of sustainability in everything they do.
Because all the food at Faviken is—with very few exceptions—entirely grown, gathered, hunted and farmed within the local community. In fact, they recently took down their polytunnels because they felt it was ‘forcing’ Nature, pushing growth beyond the natural seasons. Quite a radical concept, I’m sure you’ll agree!
During the summer and autumn months the team at Faviken harvest, gather and buy all manner of foods from the nearby area. They then dry, pickle, salt, juice, freeze, jelly and bottle everything they can, before storing it all in a truly incredible cellar (above) built deep under the earth. This literal cornucopia provides up to 24 guests with at least as many delicious courses every single night, all through the long, dark Nordic winter, until summer and autumn return. Just when the cellar is bare, so the cycle begins again.
It was a magical experience and one I will never forget. Guests are involved in the whole experience and we were able to visit the garden (albeit it covered in snow and ice!) and the amazing cellar, as well as the kitchen. As you might expect, the food was extraordinary. I am truly happy to say there was more flavour in the tiny fermented carrot, the very first thing I ate at Faviken, than any winter grown courgette or airfreighted iceberg lettuce.
My favourite dish was the very last of the cabbage, served with very good cream and Finnish fish eggs. One dish starred tiny singed Brussel sprout leaves—the same leaves that usually find themselves in the plug hole then on the compost, if they are lucky!—on a set broth with toasted oats.
In fact, seasonal vegetables featured in every part of the meal. Raw Jerusalem artichoke with dark roasted cereals, potato dream, a sweet chewy macaroon, and pickled, semi dried root vegetables that we nibbled with our coffee.
Every element on the plate was valued and respected, and it was wonderful to see such humble, often ignored vegetables–and even parts of vegetables–playing such important roles in this incredible production. Who needs the Hollywood stars when the parts can be equally filled by such talented local players? The only irony was that we had travelled over 1,000 miles to eat it. Still, it was inspirational and I intend to adopt their approaches in the future here at Coleshill.
Give me a Winter’s Tale of true flavours, cherished leaves and long awaited pickles than California Dreams of air-freighted lettuces any day!