The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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Page 82 of 119

{ }  83 AN EDUCATIONAL LOOK AT HONEY, FROM BEE TO BOTTLE, PROVES THAT HONEY IS IN THE F&B SWEET SPOT IN MORE WAYS THAN JUST COCKTAILS by Rachel Burkons / pho to s by Dustin Do wning As the cocktail community increasingly turns to honey in its quest to utilize alter- native sweeteners, mixologists across the country have been exploring the power of honey varietals, putting them to use in both classic and innovative cocktails. But while Buckwheat honey Manhattans and Orange Blossom honey Gimlets are stealing the spotlight, there's a whole lot more to love about honey's place in an F&B program beyond cocktails. Against the backdrop of the 2014 Honey Beverage Summit, sponsored by the National Honey Board and hosted by Kathy Casey's Liquid Kitchen Studios in Ballard, WA, The SOMM Journal— along with our sister publication THE TASTING PANEL—experienced first- hand how honey can transform cock - tails, but it was honey's impact on other F&B programs that really got us buzzing. Mad for Mead As you're putting together your prop- erty's wine list, the term "mead" may cause you to pause, sending you reeling toward thoughts of Chaucerian chal- ices and breaking bread with Beowulf. Although there's an incredibly rich history of honey wine, today's modern mead is much more than a history les- son, and is edging its way onto experi- mental and innovative wine lists. Considered the first human foray into fermentation, honey wine has been an integral part of countless cultures over the millennia. "Honey is likely how we discovered alcohol," explained Denice Ingalls, owner and Winemaker at Sky River Mead in Redmond, WA. "All it would've taken is getting rainwater into a honeypot, and natural yeasts would've taken it from there, with wild fermenta - tion resulting in honey wine," continues Ingalls, who traces honey's ancient trail through Africa, and as far east as India. Wherever people went, honey went, and wherever honey went, honey wine went. "Honey is tied to fermentation throughout modern human history," con - tinues Ingalls, "and today, honey wine is poised to make a comeback." In fact, the American Mead Maker Association reports a 130 percent growth rate from 2012 and 2013, based on its Mead Industry Survey tracking mead sales and production. An umbrella term that encompasses varying styles ranging from sweet to dry, from fruit-infused to barrel-aged, modern mead is incredibly versatile. Think of meads like Rieslings in terms of varying degrees of sweetness, with great food pairing abilities, proving that meads deserve a spot on contemporary wine lists. And meads are a great aperitif ingredient alternative for innova - tive mixologists looking to stay ahead of the curve. The Buzz about Apiaries While mead madness proves honey's increasing influence on beverage programs, restaurants across the country are leverag- ing "bee power" to elevate their dining programs by implement- ing rooftop apiaries that take the terms "local" and "housemade" to the next level. At contemporary French eatery Bastille in Ballard, WA., Executive Chef Jason Stoneburner led Honey Beverage Summit attendees on a tour of his rooftop garden. Here, Stoneburner grows everything from carrots and green onions to radishes and micro greens, all of which find their way onto Stoneburner's thoughtful, seasonally- driven plates. A faint buzz in the rooftop corner hints that there's more to the story than just fresh produce: Stoneburner har - vests honey from his bees several times a week, and when the bees aren't busy producing honey, they're pollinating his plants—and the surrounding neigh- borhood's—resulting in a hyper-local Ballard honey that's finding its way onto Stoneburner's dishes, like duck confit with honey-roasted figs and hazelnuts, or honey rillions with haricots verts and hominy croutons. On a national level, big-name players are entering the apiary arena: the Omni Hotels & Resorts chain has made a com - mitment at several of their outlets to provide a local farm-to-table program, with at least four properties managing their own apiaries. "Maintaining our own apiaries at Omni properties allows us to infuse uniquely different flavors and ingredients into dishes," explains Daven Wardynski, Executive Chef at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, one of the participating properties. So as restaurants across the country continue to seek new ways to offer guests something they can't get any - where else—from creative cocktails and innovative wine programs, to unique ways to "go local"—honey is definitely hitting the sweet spot. Denice Ingalls is the owner and Winemaker at Sky River Mead in Redmond, WA.

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