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November 3, 2009

Four Seasons Hotel Adds New Rooftop Vegetable Garden as a Source for Hyper-Local Ingredients for the Fountain Restaurant

(Top and bottom left by M. Edlow; bottom right by R. Kennedy)

The Four Seasons Hotel added a rooftop garden to further embrace the local food movement. (Top and bottom left by M. Edlow; bottom right by R. Kennedy)

A BRAND NEW ROOFTOP VEGETABLE AND HERB GARDEN

The Four Seasons Philadelphia Hotel has upped the green factor of their hotel — they recently built a brand new vegetable and herb garden on the hotel’s roof.

Just one of several green initiatives at the hotel, the garden is being utilized to grow herbs and vegetables that the hotel can then use in its kitchen for dishes to be served in its restaurants, including the estimable Fountain Restaurant, Swann Lounge and Swann Cafe.

The rooftop garden is overseen by Chef Ralph Costobile, Chef de Restaurant for Fountain AM, with assistance from the hotel’s Gardening Consultant, Grace Wicks of Graceful Gardens.

THE BEGINNING

After wanting to do a garden on the roof for a few years now, Chef Costobile finally got the go-ahead to plant the garden this summer.

After some thorough planning, the garden was built and planted quickly — it was up and running in a little more than a week in August. And within a few short weeks, they were picking their first herbs.

INITIAL OUTPUT

Over the past two months, they’ve grown a variety of things, ranging from basil and beets to peppers and peas.

This fall has primarily served as a test period for the garden — the garden’s first official season will began when it’s planted in spring 2010.

Likewise, it’s served as a test period for the kitchen as well — they’re still learning how to best take advantage of their new asset and, accordingly, the best ways to showcase ingredients from the garden in restaurant dishes.

(Photos by M. Edlow)

Chef Ralph Costobile prepares a salad with greens from the rooftop garden. (Photos by M. Edlow)

USING COMPOST FROM THE HOTEL

The rooftop garden consists of 9 individual beds, each 5′ x 7′, totaling 315 square feet of growing space.

Each bed is filled with soil made from compost from the hotel itself.

The Four Seasons Philadelphia has been composting its food waste since 2007, contracting with Two Particular Acres Farm in Royersford.

The farm collects food waste from the hotel, takes it back to the farm where it is turned it into compost, and then delivers it back to the Four Seasons as a custom blend of nutrient-rich compost. (For example, when the rooftop garden beds were initially filled in August, it was with a custom compost blend made from the hotel’s 2007 compost blend.)

The rooftop garden (top left) and the hotel courtyard (bottom right) are both planted with compost henerated from the hotel's food waste.

The rooftop garden (top left) and the hotel courtyard (bottom right) are both planted with compost henerated from the hotel's food waste.

WHAT THEY’RE GROWING

The Four Seasons already uses local ingredients from nearby farms in their restaurants — they’re using the rooftop garden to complement that effort.

Chef Ralph Costobile visits the garden every day to pick a few fresh ingredients to use in the kitchen that day.

So far, they’re growing a lot of herbs as well as greens that are used as garnishes.

Among the things they’ve already grown or are currently growing:

– Four different types of oregano
– Four different types of sage
– Four different types of thyme
– Four different types of rosemary
– Thai basil
– Beets
– Radishes
– Kale
– Swiss Chard
– Red Cabbage
– Baby Leeks
– Lettuce
– Snap Peas
– Peppers

NEXT SPRING

The garden only has a few more weeks left this fall before the first frost hits, so Chef Costobile is already super excited about the hotel’s plans for the garden next spring.

In addition to growing bigger vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, zucchini, etc., the hotel also wants to encourage more of their staffers with green thumbs to get involved and help with maintaining the garden. That way, the garden can grow both in size and variety.

Fountain Restaurant (Photos courtesy of the Four Seasons Hotel)

Garnishes from the rooftop garden are used for dishes at Fountain Restaurant. (Photos courtesy of the Four Seasons Hotel)

Overall, a very exciting development from one of Philadelphia’s most distinguished hotels. We know we’re already looking forward to next spring.

Also, make sure you follow the Four Seasons Philadelphia on Twitter so you can stay up to date on the hotel’s green efforts and other news.

Four Seasons Philadelphia Hotel [Gophila.com]

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