You're in luck.
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is hosting an educational honey tasting on Wednesday night, Jan. 27 in the Sensory Theater of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road. If you'd like to enroll, you need to register today (Monday, Jan. 20), To register, access this site.
The event, conducted by Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will feature California honeys. Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will talk about bees, honey and beekeeping.
Harris calls the event "a unique tasting experience, complemented with a short lecture delving into related beekeeping practices and issues." The cost is $30 (general), $25 (UC Davis affiliates), $12.50 (students).
The Honey Flavor Wheel production involved six months of research and development. “We brought together a group of 20 people--trained tasters, beekeepers and food enthusiasts--who worked together with a sensory scientist to come up with almost 100 descriptors,” Harris recently said. “This wheel will prove invaluable to those who love honey and want to celebrate its nuances.”
"Honey is honey, it's just that simple," according to the National Honey Board. "A bottle of pure honey contains the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants or secretions of living parts of plants. Nothing else." The 60,000 or so bees in a hive may "collectively travel as much as 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just a pound of honey!"
The United States is home to more than 300 unique kinds of honey, according to the National Honey Board. Among the most popular? Clover and orange blossom.
Soon the honey bees will be buzzing all over them.
And soon will be the third annual "The Feast: A Celebration with Mead and Honey," formerly known as the "Mid-Winter Beekeepers' Feast."
Sponsored by the Honey and Pollination Center of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, "The Feast" will take place Friday night, Friday, Feb. 6 in the Sensory Building of the Robert Mondavi Institute, Old Davis Road, UC Davis campus.
"A Mediterranean-inspired menu is being created by Ann Evans, author of the Davis Farmer's Cookbook, and Kathi Riley, caterer and former chef at Zuni Cafe, San Francisco," said Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center.
The event begins at 6 with mead cocktails, softened by candlelight and music by the UC Davis Jazz Trio. Next a four-course meal, and the night will end with the "after dinner mead flight" led by legendary Darrell Corti.
What's mead? Basically, honey wine, an ancient alcoholic beverage.
"It's a fermented blend of honey, water and often fruits, yeast, or spices," Harris says. It dates back to at least 7000 BCE or Before the Common (Current) Era. Ceramic shards found in Jiahu, Henan Province, China held a mead-like residue, according to Patrick McGovern, leading authority on ancient alcoholic beverages.
Meaderies are rising in popularity. According to the BBC the number of meaderies in the United States within the last 10 years has spiked from 30-40 meaderies to more than 250.
To attend The Feast, the cost is $125 per person or $1250 for an eight-table sponsorship. If you want to learn more about the specific honeys served in the four-course meal, you can sign up for an "early bird"--er, "early bee"--tasting activity. Harris will lead a honey tasting of the menu's varietal honeys. The "Early Bee" activity, limited to 35 sign-ups, is free with dinner purchase.
Bon Appétit! (Or would that be Bee Appétit?)
Like to learn how to make mead? You know, transform honey into honey wine?
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute and the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology are offering a beginners' introduction to mead making on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14 at the Mondavi Institute on Old Davis Road.
"Explore the rich history of this fascinating fermented beverage from its ancient origins to its recent rebirth in America," teases Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center. "Taste and learn styles, ingredient selection and steps to making good mead."
Mead is known as the ancestor of all fermented drinks.
This is a hands-on learning experience. "We have about 35 seats left and we would like to fill every one," Harris said. "So far, folks have enrolled from all over the United States and from Canada and India."
Here's a link to the Honey and Pollination Center's website and registration: http://honey.ucdavis.edu/events/introduction-to-mead-making
Or, if you want to chat with Harris and learn how delicious mead is--it's called "the drink of the gods"--contact her at (530) 754-9301 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honey, will you pour me some mead?
Make way for the Good Food Awards competition, opening July 6.
This year is the second consecutive year for the honey category. Last year more than 50 beekeepers from throughout the United States entered their honey.
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, is chairing the committee. She's joined by fellow members Emily Brown, owner of AZ Queen Bee and winner of a 2014 Good Food Award in Honey; Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine; Marina Marchese, founder of the American Honey Tasting Society and co-author (with Kim Flottum) of The Honey Connoisseur; and Mea McNeil, writer, beekeeper and organic farmer.
Here's what Harris advises:
- Put July 6, 2015 (sometime in the afternoon) on your calendar
- Go to the website: http://www.goodfoodawards.org/
- Click on the ‘Honey' link to read the NEW criteria (also listed below)
- Click on Entrant Information to download a form.
So, what are the rules? Among them:
- All honey must be the bona fide produce of the entrant's own bees.
- It must be harvested between August 2014 – August 2015.
- It must be extracted with minimal heat (100°) and after extraction, not exposed to heat greater than 120°.
- It must be strained and/or filtered to leave in pollen.
- It can be made with inclusions (such as fruit, alcohol and herbs):
- That grow domestically, inclusions are locally sourced wherever possible; traceable; and grown without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or fertilizers.
- That are not grown domestically on a commercial scale; they are farm-direct, certified organic, or Fair Trade certified.
- It must be produced in the United States
There are other rules as well, including being responsibly reproduced.
Is honey the nectar of the gods? Or the soul of a field of flowers? Both. How many flowers must honey bees tap to make one pound of honey? Two million, according to the National Honey Board. The average worker honey bee makes only 1/12 of a teaspoon in her lifetime. How long have bees been producing honey from flowering plants? 10-20 million years. How many flowers does a honey bee visit during one collection trip? 50-100. See more questions here.
The Good Food Awards, according to its website, is all about celebrating "tasty, authentic and responsibly produced foods." The organization presents the awards at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. This year, the sixth annual, will include 13 categories: beer, cider, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, honey, pickles, preserves, spirits, oil and the newest category, pantry. Awards will be given to producers and their food communities from each of five regions of the U.S.
Meanwhile, Amina Harris says we're tasting honey all wrong! Read the interview in Civil Eats.
The Department of Entomology and Nematology will offer honey tasting from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Briggs Hall courtyard. Last year's event drew some 3000 people. The process is easy: take a toothpick, dip it into the honey container (no double-dipping) and savor.
This year visitors can sample six different varietals of honey: coffee blossom, meadowfoam blossom, buckwheat, creamed clover, cotton and chestnut, according to Extension apiculturist Elina Niño. Across the hallway, in Room 122, folks can check out the bee observation hive from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Niño and staff research associate Billy Synk will answer questions about bees.
Several blocks away, the Honey and Pollination Center, located at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (RMI), will offer honey tasting: avocado, orange blossom, sage, sweet pea, meadowfoam and UC Davis wildflower. Visitors can purchase the UC Davis wildflower honey, said Honey and Pollination Center executive director Amina Harris. And yes, there will be a bee observation hive at RMI, too. How fast can you find the queen bee?
Meanwhile, the "Wings of Life" will be playing continuously in the RMI's Sensory Theatre. It doesn't get any better than this!
Harris encourages visitors to "bee all you can bee" by wearing bee or honey costumes or "come dressed as your favorite pollinator." Arts and crafts activities for children are also planned. Think bees. Thank them, too. You'll see bees foraging in the Good Life Garden that fronts RMI. Vegetables, fruits, herbs...they're all there.
Saturday is a also a good time to visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Planted in 2009, the half-acre bee friendly garden is operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. It is open from dawn to dusk every day for self-guided tours. There you'll see honey bees from the nearby Laidlaw facility doing what they do best--pollinating. Keep a watch out for other pollinators, too. They include sweat bees, digger bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees and butterflies. Then mark your calendar for May 2 to return to the haven from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the fifth anniversary celebration, coordinated by manager Chris Casey.
Yes, Saturday April 18 promises to be a "honey of a day" and a "honey of a picnic."