Beehives are swarming at trendy hotspots around the country.
Talk about buzzworthy.
Hotels and restaurants are joining a colony of other hotspots that are now swarming with on-site beehives they use for food and entertainment and to help the environment.
The Hilton in Midtown Manhattan debuted six beehives housing 450,000 bees on its fifth floor rooftop recently. The insects will harvest approximately 300 pounds of honey each year to be used in the hotel’s seasonal cuisine like honey-dipped fried chicken; whipped ricotta cheese crostini with honeycomb; bourbon-based honey peach cobbler milkshakes and tequila-honey cured salmon. And for an added “glam” factor, mixologists will be on site serving honey infused sips; those who attended the launch party this week were given honey lotion manicures and massages.
The Hilton is hardly the first to hype up the hive. A slew of other luxury hotels, like the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, have had beehives on their rooftops for years, as has the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan’s meatpacking district. And since 2008, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has had actual “bee hotels,” or wooden structures on more than 20 of its rooftop properties designed to attract bees.
Other notable beehive-friendly spots include the White House — in 2009, the White House garden got its first on-site beehive thanks to former FLOTUS Michelle Obama’s organic food efforts — and The Stinger, a cocktail bar and restaurant from celebrity chef Todd English. It has thousands of bees swarming over its roof at the Intercontinental Hotel in Times Square and nearly every menu item has honey in it. What’s more, a portion of the proceeds for sips — like the “Bee Good” cocktail, made with gin, honey and house-made mead (wine made from fermented honey and water) — go to Urban Beekeeping Laboratory and Bee Sanctuary, Inc., which fund research for bee health and education programs.
“It’s been the buzz for a while,” Marina Marchese, a Weston, Connecticut-based beekeeper and honey sommelier whose consulted for big named eateries like Murray’s cheese in the West Village, tells Moneyish. “Our culture tells us to be afraid of bees, but honey bees are really docile and they really only care about pollination. Saving bees is like saving food,” she adds.
Part of this buzzworthy trend is that in an age of everything “farm-to-table,” chefs prefer cooking with local honeys. Like wine, honey tastes like where it came from. Honey from the city typically has a granular texture, while other honeys harvested in more rural areas have more floral and fruit forward flavors.
The trend is also flying high for environmental reasons.The honey bee population adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States, but over the years, there’s been a significant decrease in pollinators such as honey bees and native bees due to parasites, diseases and habitat loss. In 2014, president Obama instructed the heads of federal agencies, including his National Security Council, to create a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators.
In addition to producing the sweet viscous substance you put in tea or slather over a breakfast scone, honey bees are crucial to food production. They help pollinate crops, home gardens and wildlife habitats. The production of most beef and dairy products consumed in the US is dependent on clovers, alfalfa and other legumes pollinated by the sweet creatures.
“This disappearing bee syndrome led to more people wanting to save them. Now you have restaurants and chefs finally keeping bees. Chefs are going to the farms speaking to their farmer, now they’re engaging with the beekeepers and producing their own honey, it is a trend, we’re seeing this all across the US,” says Marchese.
And maybe the biggest reason businesses are sweetening to the bee trend: honey can be a moneymaker. Take manuka, a pricy honey produced in Australia and New Zealand from the nectar of the manuka tree. It costs around $50 a jar — that’s 10 times the cost of regular honey. It’s commonly used topically to help treat acne, and sold as an alternative medicine known for its antibacterial properties attracting celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson.
What’s more, as consumers shun sweeteners, many are using honey instead, which contains some small amounts of antioxidants, magnesium and potassium. “It’s a more natural sweetener, and it does have some minerals which is good, and it’s sweeter so you could use less, but no more than t-spoon,” says nutritionist, Dr. Lisa Young.
“The one caveat is it’s a healthy aversion so people think they can use twice as much. You still have to watch out,” she advises.
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