Did you know there are more than 300 unique varieties of honey available in the United States? This is a lytro picture, click along the honey drizzling spoon to play with the focus…
I attended a Test Kitchen Seminar that explored the versatility of cooking with honey at the Ketchum kitchen in San Francisco last month (thanks Amy). The seminar was led by celebrity chef David Guas who is a spokesperson for the National Honey Board. He is a collector and impassioned ambassador of honey (and a sweetie to boot!) and led us through a blind tasting of six different varieties, explaining the differences and flavor profiles of each. It was a very approachable display compared to the other Honey Board event I attended (here). The color and flavor of honey differs depending on the nectar source (the blossom) visited by the honey bees. I just can’t imagine how bee keepers can keep all their bees corralled and limited to buzzing around a single type of blossom.
Chef Guas is the owner of the Bayou Bakery, a coffee bar and casual eatery in Arlington, VA, which is a rustic, funkified, New Orleans-style hangout featuring Southern comfort savory fare and his signature desserts. The Louisiana native spends time riding his Harley-Davidson through the Northern Virginia countryside in search of new honeys at local farm markets. He said using different varietals of honey can accent any dish, making it floral and light or rich and smooth. He classifies honeys into two broad categories: cooking honeys and finishing honeys, (similar to salt or olive oil) and has more than 25 selections from across the country in his kitchen! He supplied tips for cooking with honey and demonstrated a few dishes which he accomplished with the aid of the test kitchen chef in the background.
We sampled blue cheese spread over sourdough walnut bread drizzled with rich caramel-y buckwheat honey
The Crunchy Honey Toasted Almond Spread is almond butter topped with Honey Almond Crunch, which is made with honey, sliced almonds and corn flakes. We enjoyed it spread on celery sticks, he said it’s great on muffins, toast and other fruits and vegetables too.
This is a refreshing Grape and Almond Salad with Honey Yogurt Dressing, click here for the recipe. Chef Guas’s Louisiana twang was apparent when he described the flavors of the dish as a balance between sweet slap yo mama honey with acidity from a tart pucker up yogurt. He suggests that you serve as-is for a sweet treat for kids, or place over a bed of baby arugula to make a grown-up salad. To pack in a school lunch box, layer grapes and dressing in a plastic cup, parfait style, and sprinkle with almonds.
Honey and Whole Grain Mustard-Glazed Pork Chop. A mild honey works best in the brine but he suggested using a stronger flavored honey for the honey-mustard pan sauce. We loved the caviar-esque pop from the mustard seeds and sweet unique flavor from the honey, which was fabulous on the tender succulent slices of pork.
I pulled the bacon out of the HBL (Honey-candied Bacon and lettuce) Sandwich which I thought needed to be enjoyed on its own. Chef Guas adds creole seasoning, a pinch of cayenne or smoked paprika to the bacon which adds a kick, the sweetness from the honey allows the other flavors to linger longer.
My favorite dish of the event was the Honey-Lemon Cheesecake Pop, it was at once tart sweet rich and just the right amount of softened meltiness. He said that honey acts as an anti-freeze which results in a smooth texture that is free of crystallization. The graham cracker crumb topping added a lovely crunchy texture with a rich buttery finish.
We were given some very cool honey swag, the best being a signed copy of Chef Guas’s cookbook, “DamGoodSweet — Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth New Orleans Style,” which was named one of Food & Wine‘s top new dessert books of the year in 2009. He was also nominated for a James Beard Award in the baking and dessert cookbook category. It looks to be a fun read, part memoir, part travelogue and all cookbook; hello fried apple pie!
I didn’t realize my nametag said Food Whore until I noticed a woman squinting at my nametag and visibly recoiling. They misread my moniker and apologized to me later, but it still cracks me up. Heehee… oh beehive!
The National Honey Board has an online honey locator, a valuable search tool that will help you find suppliers and includes ways to search for other forms of honey (like comb honey or whipped honey).