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Honey lets cooks play with floral-to-robust flavors

Chicago RestaurantsDining and DrinkingRestaurantsMagnificent MileGeorge Washington University

How hot is honey? Well, hives nudge the edges of fruit orchards and flower-filled fields and in backyards across the country, as a story in the Tribune's Good Eating section reports. And you'll find them perched atop restaurants, high rises and civic buildings, especially around Chicago, at Uncommon Ground and the Marriott Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile, atop several of the city's buildings in the Loop to those set up by Sweet Beginnings at the edge ofO'Hare International Airport.

All thesebees and their hives are giving cooks honeys with flavors that range from delicate florals to the anise aroma of sourwood honey to the rich, intense buckwheat honey that plays well with dried cherries and barbecue sauces.

In fact, sustainably focused Founding Farmers restaurant in Washington, D.C., was so interested in honey flavors that they recently announced they would team with nearby George Washington University to set six hives atop a campus building. The plan was not just to gather honey but also to track the source of the honey's flavor. “One of the research projects they're doing is to analyze the pollen to track the exact flowers that the bees visit,” says Founding Farmers' Valerie Zweig.

So what do you do with all these honey varieties? Here are a few more tips from culinary pros featured in Good Eating:

“Taste the way you would taste wine or olive oil. Put a little bit of honey on your tongue. Let it roll over every aspect of your mouth exactly as if you were tasting wine and really look for these different characterisitics.... Some might be a little bit strong, some might be a little bit too floral.” — Scotty Schwartz, chef-owner of 29 South Restaurant in Fernandina Beach, Fla.

“Add a few drops of honey over cheese. It’s sweet balancing saltiness…. Try a creamy goat and hard sheep cheese and compare and contrast to see what the sweetness does to each.” — Polly Lappetito, The Culinary Institute of America, Napa

“If it’s a salad of beautiful butter lettuce, go with a milder honey. You should be able to taste the flavor. With arugula or rocket or dandelion greens or chickory or endive, greens that are aggressive and strong, you can go with a darker honey that has a lot more flavor.” — Scotty Schwartz

“Drizzle darker honey on banana bread or goat cheese so you can really take advantage of the color.” — Valerie Zweig

Adds Bruce Boynton at the National Honey Board, “If buying it in the store, check the label on the jar just to make sure it’s just honey. There are products out there with the word ‘honey’ in large letters on the label that may not be pure honey.”

To find specific types of honey, check the Honey Board’s honey locator.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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