The enjoyable summer of 2023, let’s do it all again.
It’s always come down to details. And when it comes to culinary delights, a little sprinkling of a herb or two often makes all the difference. That’s why, especially in the hotel industry, more and more chefs are growing their own herb gardens.
Let’s just call them «natural miracles.» Herbs have held a special fascination for us for centuries. We use them in many different ways. No matter whether for medicines, cosmetics or as a culinary product. However, we often forget their history.How did they come about? What was their original task? Essentially, they are our connection to nature and everything that existed before we did. But do we really know them? They often defy adverse circumstances and are not very demanding when it comes to their care. Quite impressive, isn’t it?
A long way from where it all began, we should therefore ask ourselves what these forces of nature are doing for us today. Where can they enrich our lives even more? Making it better, more enjoyable, more eventful? An answer that is particularly appropriate, definitely in the culinary field. Because herbs are experiencing a real coming out or rather a coming back. Famous chefs are increasingly deciding to plan, create and manage their own herb garden. And with success. On the rooftop, in the backyard, or even right where people dine. Here are three successful examples from Switzerland.
The Dolder Grand
The word «Lamiaceae» has something sensual about it – doesn’t it? In any case, thyme belongs to this genus and it also has a unique aroma. It is often described as earthy, but also spicy. The fact is, it is unmistakable and very popular in medicine, cosmetics and even more so in (domestic) cuisine. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties sound a little unromantic, a unique aromatic dimension sounds more like desire and passion. But both are wonderful.
And that’s exactly why «thymus vulgaris» had to be part of the new garden at the «The Dolder Grande». For the first time this summer season, the establishment towering above Zürich’s rooftops opened «blooms». A small yet sophisticated restaurant in the middle of vegetable beds, fruit bushes and herb plants. Chef Fine Dining Heiko Nieder was both the initiator and the beneficiary, because he and his team were able to go poaching within their own ranks for many weeks this summer and surprise the guests with combinations they had cultivated themselves. There was space for 36 people each evening.
The Dolder Grand has already taken its traditions one step further with the omakase restaurant «Mikuriya». The 5-star hotel on Adlisberg now has four restaurants and 64 Gault Millau points. The gastronomic variety was completed with «blooms» restaurant. An outdoor dining experience where sophisticated and, above all, vegan/vegetarian and light cuisine proves that you won’t be going home hungry. They only come back because it was simply great. Not from hunger, but from appetite.
And that’s exactly why «blooms» blossomed for the first time, but certainly not for the last. The garden restaurant is expected to reopen for the summer season in May 2024.
The Grand Hotel Kronenhof
An unmistakable scent, unique appearance and simply delicious – rosemary is an integral part of kitchens worldwide and is practically a mandatory spice in the Mediterranean region. It is used either fresh or dried and its two best friends are called thyme and oregano. «Rosmarinus officinalis» is also said to stimulate our cognitive abilities and, thanks to its use in aromatherapy, can alleviate exhaustion. What more could we want?
In keeping with the 175th anniversary of The Kronenhof in Pontresina, chef Fabrizio Piantanida and F&B manager Alexander Waschl – who is also a trained chef and was the «Best Malaysian Chef» in 2013 – became gardeners. Right next to the historic pavilion in the garden of this traditional establishment, rosemary and exotic plants such as Thai basil and lemongrass are now thriving. But it is above all the alpine herbs that have been refining the dishes in the «Grand Restaurant» or «Kronenstübli» since this summer. A fried slice of mountain pikeperch with herb sauce or a fresh salad with edible flowers, which can also be found in the garden in all their colourful splendour – the herbs and plants grown can be found in almost all dishes.
In addition, the new housemates have also found their way into the Kronenhof bar. The «Bündner Heu» liqueur will be on the menu here for the first time this winter. The grass on the slope of the hotel was mowed and dried in the summer. The same goes for a handful of rosemary and thyme. And at tea time, our own herbal tea is served.
Winter can do its worst!
The Chedi Andermatt
Finely pinnate leaves, combined with white or pink flowers – when you hear the name ‘yarrow’ you usually imagine something more «robust». But the alpine plant is rather delicate with its countless small flowers and also exudes an aromatic scent reminiscent of chamomile. In culinary terms, it harmonises perfectly with vegetables and as an addition to salads. However, it is important to be economical, otherwise it could become bitter.
Carsten Alexander Kypke is someone who knows how to deal with the «achillea millefolium» and uses it skilfully and enjoyably. This summer, the head chef at «The Restaurant» at The Chedi Andermatt, which has been awarded with 15 GaultMillau-Points, planted his own herb garden. And «The Botanicum» has impressively proven how tasty the Alpine regions can be as an extra ingredient on the plate. His partner-in-crime is bar manager Elmir. Together they were supported by regional gardeners.
This year, 35 different herbs have been grown in «The Botanicum». Due to its altitude of 1,447 metres above sea level, a particularly large number of essential oils were synthesised and were therefore particularly intensive. They tempted both the team around the master chef and the bar manager to indulge in various creations and gave the guests real herbal evenings. First of all in the afternoon, a real, organic detox in the form of an Alpine herbal tea. Camomile, mint, lavender, thyme or sage and of course sheep’s gift – how beautiful it is to choose. Then a guided herb tour – the «Herbal Hike» – with the Andermatt original Bänz Simmen. Who knows more than just the Latin names of the individual plants. But nothing more is revealed.
Then take a brief rest. Enjoy the amenities of the 5-star deluxe hotel. Afterwards, in the evening you can marvel at the appearance of the trout tartare and caviar with a herb vinaigrette and then experience it in culinary terms. Complemented with homemade lemonade. Of course, a wine also goes perfectly. And because the day isn’t over yet, there is still time for a «Garden Breeze» in the bar.
You can hardly use more herbs, right? So, repeat next year.