Wild About Herbs
Established hotel has a rooftop herb garden
Richter’s Tips on Fall Herb Growing
WILD ABOUT HERBS: If I weren’t already wild about herbs before inhaling the fragrant plants growing in the Fairmont Royal York’s rooftop herb garden, I would certainly be wild about them after the visit. The location is sensational a rooftop high above the street, on one side Toronto harbour dotted with sail boats, while on the opposite side, shiny towers look down on raised beds of tarragon, garlic chives, rosemary, mint and more. A airy spot of domestic paradise cupped in the city’s financial centre.
A few days ago, chef de cuisine Jean-Charles Dupoire hosted herb enthusiasts, first for an explanation of how important this herb garden is to the dishes he serves at the hotel, and later, inside, for a how-to session for making herbed salts, sugars, vinegars and oils. Leading Canadian and international herb grower Conrad Richter of Richters Herbs joined Chef Dupoire and Food and Beverage Manager John Cordeaux in the herb garden, and while assembled enthusiasts sipped on mint lemonade, shared his secrets for bringing herbs in for the winter (see sidebar).
Next July, the Fairmont Royal York will be offering a special Wild About Herb package to guests and the public. If the Lemon Balm Tarts and the Chocolate Mint Mousse we "experienced" are any indication of the treats Chef Dupoire has in store for Wild About Herb guests, stay tuned for details.
Rosemary Salt: Flavoured sea salt is all the rage these days, but you can take advantage of your fall herb harvest, rosemary, mint, thyme, oregano and sage are ideal, and save yourself a bundle by making your own herbal salts according to the Fairmont Royal York’s method. This chop, whizz and dry method also works for herbed sugars, and if you pick lavender leaves or mint, for example, you can use the sugar to top creme brulee, charm fruit or glaze cookies or tea loaves.
In a blender, combine 3 oz. kosher or sea salt with leaves from 1 bunch rosemary, chopped. Whizz until rosemary is fine and salt is decidedly green. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a low oven, 225F, until dry, about 15 minutes. Break up with hands, and store in covered jars out of the light. Sprinkle over forcaccia, rub into steaks and roasts, mix a little into ground beef for patties or season a lamb stew, chops or kabobs.