But did you know that there's another celebration bee-ing hosted on Saturday, Feb. 11? And that you and your honey are invited? It's an event often billed as "the" Valentine's Day present.
For the fourth consecutive year, the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center will host “The Feast: A Celebration with Mead and Honey," a five-course fundraiser set from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Sensory Building Foyer, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, Old Davis Road.
Ann Evans, co-author of the Davis Farmer Market Cookbook and former mayor of Davis, has created a seasonally inspired menu, to be served amid a candlelight and musical ambience. The evening begins at 6 with hors d'oeuvres and honey stingers, featuring ginger mead from Schramm's Mead, Michigan. Mead, a fermented blend of honey, water and often fruits, yeast, or spices, dates back to 7000 BCE.
Then comes The Feast! Each course will be paired with select wines, honey lemonade or sparkling mead. Guests will dine on a rich tomato aspic salad, followed by chicken with plumped dried figs and apricots. The main course? Roasted musquée de province squash with couscous. A cheese interlude will accompany a dessert mead flight led by legendary Darrell Corti. The dessert? Show me the honey? Yes. It's a dessert of pears with blue cheese, walnuts, and honey. What's a feast without honey?
Proceeds from the dinner will be used to support the outreach and education programs of the Honey and Pollination Center--its mission is “to make UC Davis a leading authority on bee health, pollination and honey quality," Harris said. Funds are earmarked for stipends for UC Davis graduate students, ongoing development of the Master Beekeeper Program at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, and sponsorship of the third annual UC Davis Bee Symposium, "Keeping Bees Healthy," set Sunday, May 7.
There's still time to register. Tickets are $150 per person and registration is underway at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/264. For more information, contact Amina Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One more thing: when you walk into RMI for The Feast, odds are that honey bees will be foraging and feasting in the newly renovated Good Life Garden, just outside the front door.
"Here's what I know about honeybees," she began. "They are more complicated to care for than chickens. Inside the hive, the characters are more complex than inside the coop. Four years into a dream come true, and I've still got to learn about the most important pollinators of plants: the bee."
A colleague and friend, Georgeanne Brennan, inspired her to keep bees. "Her large, year-round kitchen garden, as well as her fruit trees and the orchards surrounding the area where she lives, provide a diverse diet ofr the bees," Evans wrote.
Evans traces her initial interest in bees to the UC Davis bee biology program. While a student majoring in consumer food science, she learned of Professor Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., the widely acclaimed "father of honey bee genetics" working the bees at a facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Today the facility, operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, memorializes him: the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Still connected to her alma mater, Evans serves on the advisory board of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. Besides her bee veil, she wears many other hats: author, writer, illustrator, gardener, backyard chicken raiser, and consumer food advocate.
This is how it all began.
At a garage sale.
Evans says she bought her beekeeping essentials at a garage sale--well, all the essentials except for the hives and bees. That would come later. Her neighbor, Steve, a longtime beekeeper (and "chicken keeper") proposed they keep bees together.
"We started with one hive," she recalled. "Our queen, who at one point we thought we lost, was hard to spot--the drones easy. They are larger than workers and raised in the larger cells...The hive is about 90 percent female, with one queen..."
The first bee book she read was The Backyard Beekeeper, authored by Kim Flottum, editor of the Bee Culture magazine. More books followed and the book of one is now a library of many.
Evans marvels at the intricate societal structure of the 20,000 to 60,000 bees in any given hive, and the incredible distance the worker bees travel to gather pollen and nectar: up to five miles. The queen especially draws her interest.
"I take heart knowing that the queen, but for her maiden flight, lives her whole life inside the darkness of the hive," she wrote in Confessions of a Backyard Beekeeper. "I still feel I know so little of their ancient ways, their highly ordered, female-controlled society. Sometimes at night, I walk outside under the stars and put my head to the hive to hear the sound of wings at work, and a dream come true."
Keeping bees is definitely addictive as Evans confirms. "Do I keep bees," she asks, "or do they keep me?"
Evans' piece is one of 36 in the book. It's edited by Ipinion Syndicate founders Debra DeAngelo, editor of the Winters Express, and David Lacy, assistant professor of English at Folsom Lake College and a former Davis Enterprise reporter.
Most of the authors wrote about cats and dogs, drawing readers in with their heartfelt stories mixed with humor and pain. Others wrote about horses, pigs, hens, squirrels, hamsters and finches. (Yours truly wrote about Xena the Warrior Princess, a tuxedo cat with a "foot in the bug world": a leg with a mark resembling a butterfly.)
DeAngelo and Lacy describe the book on Amazon as "heart-warming anthology about pets — cats and dogs, hamsters and horses — and the humor, healing and heartbreak they bring into our lives. They make us laugh, cry, and sometimes swear, but we couldn't live without them... even though, sadly, sometimes we discover we must. Each story is written by an iPinion Syndicate columnist or blogger, each one with a unique voice and message about life with her or his beloved pet or animals in their lives."
DeAngelo, interviewed recently by reporter Tanya Perez of the Davis Enterprise, said that "IPinion doesn't make an income by advertising." The site, http://ipinionsyndicate.com, is an advertising-free website. "We're trying to figure out how to support our project in a more fun and positive way,” DeAngelo said, calling the book “a perfect holiday gift, a perfect stocking-stuffer.”
Plans are now underway for book reading/signing from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 3 at The Avid Reader, 617 Second St., Davis. The book can be purchased on Amazon and at the book store and signing.
(Note: Interested in learning beekeeping or advancing your apiculture skills? Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, has announced the 2017 list of beekeeping courses at the Laidlaw facility.)
"It is the middle of winter," writes Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. "Pink and white buds are just peeking out on the burnished branches of the almond trees all over central California. It is just the beginning of spring. Bees come out to bask in the warmth of the afternoon sun following the dark, cool winter days of December and January. They gather pollen and nectar to begin building their strength and their colony for the coming year. Each evening they return to the warmth of their hives."
That's the setting. Then comes the glow. The Honey and Pollination Center has just announced plans for its second annual "Mid-Winter Beekeepers' Feast: "A Taste of Mead and Honey." The event, open to the public, is scheduled Saturday night, Jan. 31 in the foyer of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, Old Davis Road, UC Davis campus.
The elegant green table event, sponsored by Les Dames d'Escoffier, San Francisco, will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Organic food consultant Ann Evans of Davis is planning the menu; the Buckhorn of Winters will cater. Preceding the event will be a honey and mead tasting at 5 p.m. Registration is now underway.
The Honey and Pollination Center aims to become "the world's leading authority on honey bee health, pollination, and honey quality" and is well on its way. More information is available on the website or by contacting Amina Harris at email@example.com.
How about “A Taste of Mead and Honey?”
That’s even better!
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is planning a "Mid-Winter Beekeepers Feast: A Taste of Mead and Honey" on Saturday, Feb. 8 in the foyer of the Sensory Building, Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.
The gala, one-of-a-kind event will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and will include appetizers, drinks, salad, main course, cheese course with honey comb, and dessert and mead flight.
Amina Harris, executive director of the UC Honey and Pollination Center, teases us with: “It is early February. Pink and white buds are peeking out on the burnished branches of the almond trees all over central California. Bees come out to bask in the warmth of the afternoon sun following the dark, cool days of winter. They gather pollen and nectar to begin building their strength and their colony for the coming year. Each evening they return to the warmth of the hive.”
Wait, there’s more.
“Our night will begin with sparkling mead cocktails and end with a mead flight, guided by Darrell Corti. Music, a silent auction, and great food will fill the evening.”
Great food? Indeed! Check out the menu, the kind you’d find at a five-star restaurant.
Cracked Dungeness crab on Belgian endive, and shitake mushroom soup shots.
Sparkling mead, sparkling water and wine pairings with each course
Navel and blood oranges over winter greens and tupelo honey vinaigrette
Roasted lamb shank with dried fruit and rosemary infused sage honey, polenta squares with tomato and mushroom ragout, and oven-roasted Brussels sprouts with thyme butter
Cheese Cream with Honey Comb:
Honey comb paired with Laura Chenel Orange Blossom Chevre, and Point Reyes Blue and Manchego cheeses
Dessert and Mead Flight:
Three select meads, Häagen-Dazs Honey Vanilla Ice Cream, and old-fashioned butter cookies with pistachios
Designing the menu: Ann Evans, nationally known consultant in consumer food and agricultural education and founder of Slow Food Yolo County, and chef Mani Niall of the Sweet Bar Bakery, Oakland, and author of “Covered in Honey” and “Sweet." The Buckhorn of Winters is catering the event.
Tickets will be available Ded. 2 at http://rmi.ucdavis.edu/events. Single tickets are $125, and table for eight, $1250. (Contact Amina Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tracy Disslin at email@example.com)
Is it February yet?