The Buzz: Honey That Tastes Like Your Neighborhood and Stuff You Didn’t Know About The Bees

21 Aug

Honey that tastes like your neighborhood

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By Molly Norton

“We lived for honey. We swallowed a spoonful in the morning to wake us up and one at night to put us to sleep. We took it with every meal to calm the mind, give us stamina, and prevent fatal disease. We swabbed ourselves in it to disinfect cuts or heal chapped lips. It went in our baths, our skin cream, our raspberry tea and biscuits. Nothing was safe from honey. In one week my skinny arms and legs began to plump out and the frizz in my hair turned to silken waves. August said honey was the ambrosia of the gods and the shampoo of the goddesses.” ~Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees.

Saving the bees, one hive at a time…

Meet Damian Magista, the man who opened the eyes of James Beard award-winning / Iron Chef Vitaly Paley to a “brave new world” of honey and who is putting artisan honey that “tastes like your neighborhood” on the national map. Paley recently tapped his company, Bee Local, to be the official “Spokeshoney” for his new ventures Imperial and Portland Penny Diner in the Hotel Lucia.

We sat down with Bee Local recently for an afternoon of honey tasting to find out more about Damian, the habits of bees, and that certain je ne sais quoi which makes this honey taste so un-bee-lievably delicious.

Fascinating Facts About Damian 

1) He’s currently shooting an episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern for the Travel Channel to be aired in February 2013.

2) He’s been a Delegate to China.

3) He’s been packing parachutes since the tender age of 8 – his father was a skydiving Jumpmaster,

4) He’s moved furniture throughout Zurich and Madrid.

5) Next stop on his global tour is Cambodia to check out the Apis Dorsata – giant bees that nest in trees in the open. They grow to 2 inches in the “honey mecca.”

6) He still appreciates a good bee pun, after all these years.

Suited up

Fascinating Facts About Bees and Honey 

1) Just like wine, honey has a distinct flavor profile: it manifests the water, weather, soil, flowers, foilage, etc. where the hive is located (terroir, if you will).

2) Unlike mono-crop honey, urban gardens directly influence the taste profile of the honey to produce very complex and unique honey – honey that is quite different from typical store-bought honey.

3) Honey has been used in Ayurvedic medicine in India for at least 4000 years and is used to treat primitive material imbalances of the body.

4) Honey has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and contains powerful antioxidants (please heed warnings about feeding honey to children under the age of one).

5) Bees have wanderlust and usually will forage 2-4 miles outside the hive, so if you have a hive in your yard, your flowers will be hosting bees from surrounding communities.

6) No need to refrigerate: honey is shelf-stable, will last for thousands of years and was even discovered in tombs of ancient Egypt.

7) Keeping a hive in your yard helps replenish the bee population and thereby provides a beneficial service to both intricate ecosystems and humans alike.

8) Not much beats a bowl of yogurt or a slice of banana bread with a drizzle of this honey for breakfast. Also a treat drizzled over the top of vanilla bean ice cream with a bit of sea salt.

Tasting Notes

1) Sellwood / Westmoreland – Wonderful scent and flavor. Think Moroccan: rosewater and cardamom spice. Affectionately known as “Reedie” (Reed College) honey.

2) Clos Electrique – Quixotically named honey is Vitaly Paley’s honey of choice. It’s extracted from hives managed at the award-winning Cameron Winery in Dundee, OR. Creamy, buttery, classic — yet more complex than any plastic honey bear honey you’ve ever tasted. Hints of blackberry. The Audrey Hepburn / Rolls Royce of honeys.

3) Beaumont Village – Floral, long, bittersweet, creamy – think orange water Crème brûlée with lingering flavors of burnt brown sugar.

4) Mt. Tabor – Intensely tropical flavors and aromas. Big, floral with a hint of sandalwood and exotic fruit.

5) Montavilla – Aromatic sandalwood meets your favorite fruit trees. Pollen-packed and redolent of apples and pears.

Don’t try this style of honey tasting at home
Photo by Mercy McNab

Where to find

The heart of Bee Local’s honey extraction is Portland, Oregon but he’s been expanding in a responsible manner. Bee Local currently sponsors hives in Eugene and San Francisco with more planned for Seattle, Olympia, Corvallis, Sacramento, Austin, and eventually, the East Coast. Look for it in a backyard or on a rooftop near you.

Get your artisan neighborhood honey on at these fine establishments:

1) Salt and Straw – Lavender Honey ice cream (coming soon: Bee Local Honey Ice Cream).

2) Imperial and Portland Penny Diner Soon-to-be-on-the-dining-scene establishments by Iron Chef Vitaly Paley. (Bee Local menu currently in stealth mode)

3) Pastaworks – Lovely European-styled markets with multiple locations in PDX.

4) Woodsman Market

5) Matchbox Lounge – on the menu and has a Bee Local hive on the roof.

6) Mr. Greenbeans – DIY Coffee Roastery.

7) Alder and Co

8) Bee Local website – Of course! For all your honey tasting and gift-giving needs.


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