Our deep admiration for the honeybee and sympathy for its mysterious plight gave us an idea for a great spring brunch. In the spirit of spring fever, we recommend a kitchen challenge: guests create dishes using the secret ingredient of local honey. Now — just in time for Valentine's Day — is when healthy bees are busy foraging new wildflowers and budding blossoms to make the sweetest, spiciest honey of the year. As part of the growing urban farming movement, it's possible to find honey crafted from the flowers in your very own town or neighborhood. With each guest as chef, taster and community supporter, brunch becomes a culinary arena. But finally the proof is in the honey itself. A symbolic tribute to the very essence of spring will call forth the Iron Chef in every cook.
Medicinal, mythical and an elixir of immortality, honey has been the food of legend through the ages. It's no wonder that worshipful honey lovers often become sacred keepers of bees themselves. San Francisco beekeeper Cameo Wood, Sonoma County's Beekind Honey Store and even San Francisco's Bi–Rite organic market have turned their passion into liquid gold — and shared their recipes with you. It's remarkably simple for regular folks to raise bees in small urban environments as our partners have — in city yards, on rooftops, as well as traditional farmland. Beyond raw honey, a hive can also produce beeswax candles, soaps and lotions, as well as edible royal jelly, propolis and pollen.
Set a context of significance for guests by communicating that the goal is to seek out local honey, rather than simply buying from a grocery store. Encourage guests to learn a little apiculture history and maybe even meet the beekeeper who can talk about foraging areas (up to three miles in any direction) and the makeup of their particular honey. Naturally everyone must do some investigative tasting on their own! Learning about this art and tasting history in every drop, it's hard not to grieve for the millions of bees lost to Colony Collapse Disorder since 2006. But that is even more reason to celebrate the efforts of your neighborhood bee farmer with an honorary brunch.
Connecting your brunch to Valentine's Day is a natural way to introduce the honey theme. We provide two free, downloadable invitations, one with a Valentine's Day slant. As the host, you must first decide if you want to cook or be cooked for as you create the perfect springtime atmosphere in your home.
Decide also how structured you'd like it to be. In both the Japanese and American Iron Chef television show, dishes are prepped on the spot in Kitchen Stadium and formally presented with a few words on background. Tasters offer comments and decide a favorite — in this case, a favorite honey — after every dish is tasted.
As guests prepare in the kitchen, you can be setting the stage on the dining table. It's delightful to extend the honey theme to spring's birds and bees. Plates embossed with hummingbirds, napkin rings of sculpted butterflies that complement dragonfly serving spoons, and illustrated dipping plates for honey create a playful set design. We like the simplicity of white ceramic dishes and runners of white cloth (or even more casually, butcher paper — it sets off the effusions of spring color in multicolored embroidered napkins, a wildflower bouquet and the vibrant images on the dipping plates. Little more than pretty goblets and an ice bucket filled with bottles of juice and wine are needed on this stage where honey is the real star.