The buzz about New York’s homegrown sweetener, local honey. TONY finds the best artisanal jars in town.
1/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Blue Hill Farm Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Farm supplies his Blue Hill restaurants in Manhattan and in Westchester’s Stone Barns, but his honey hookup comes courtesy of produce distributor Upstate Farms, which works with beekeeper Ray Tousey. Based in Germantown, New York, Tousey produces Blue Hill’s wildflower honey, which has a subtle, spicy aroma and a deep, round flavor reminiscent of plums. Available at bluehillfarm.com. 5.4oz $8.50.
2/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Brooklyn Grange Bees Brooklyn Grange expanded its working farm this spring from Long Island City to the rooftop of Building 3 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, installing the city’s biggest commercial apiary—nearly 40 hives that produce about 1,000 pounds of honey per year. The wildflower honey extracted by chief beekeeper Chase Emmons—who also organizes the New York City Honey Festival (see sidebar) and runs free apprenticeship programs—has a woody scent and an herbal taste, with a pronounced sarsaparilla flavor. Available at the Brooklyn Grange farm stand, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Building 3; or Smorgasburg, 27 North 6th St at Kent Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 5.6oz $8.
3/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: La Cacica The name comes from the Taino word for a female tribal chief, and it suits Lucia Hernandez, who cleaned up and restored the Bryant Hill Community Garden in Hunts Point. She grows vegetables and keeps bees in this South Bronx plot, producing a honey that’s thick, mildly sweet and herbal, with flavors of mint, parsley and rosewater. Available at Greene Grape Provisions, 753 Fulton St at South Portland Ave, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-233-2700). 8oz $12.49.
4/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Mohawk Valley Trading Co. The Utica, New York–based company offers a wide range of monofloral honeys, as well as wildflower blends. The Tulip Poplar–Black Locust comes from the eponymous trees that flower together in spring. It is very dark, with aromas of warm spice, such as nutmeg, and a sharp orange flavor up front and lingering strong floral finish. Available at the Brooklyn Kitchen, 100 Frost St at Meeker Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-389-2982). 16oz $15.99.
5/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Bronx Bees Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx and host of the public radio show The Promised Land, started Bronx Bees in Hunts Point, on the borough’s first residential green roof. Instead of tar, the building is topped with a garden, which insulates the roof (reducing heating and cooling costs), helps deal with storm-water management, and attracts butterflies, birds and bees. The honey from Bronx Bees’ nine hives varies dramatically over the year; the early-summer variety, available now, is unusually dark and intensely sweet, with a maple syrup aroma. Available at bronxbees.com. 12oz $13.
6/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Tremblay Apiaries Alan Tremblay’s hives are located in Chemung County near the Finger Lakes, and are surrounded by locust trees, wild raspberry, sumac, knapweed and Japanese knotweed, among other diverse flora. He harvests to capture the unique nectar from each of these and also combines them, yielding prizes like the fall wildflower honey: a delicate, smooth and buttery syrup, with a tangy lime note. Available at Murray’s Cheese Shop, 254 Bleecker St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-243-3289), and at the Union Square Greenmarket, Fridays and Saturdays. 8oz $7.99.
7/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Catskill Provisions Claire Marin’s hives are located at high altitude in the Catskills, near the Delaware River. She harvests four times a year, her honey getting darker and more crystalline as the temperature cools. The Fall/Dark wildflower variety has an up-front smack of citrus, followed by molasses, malt and burnt caramel. Available at catskillprovisions.com. 12oz $15.
8/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Ballard Honey The hives of this Delaware County apiary produce buckwheat honey, one of New York State’s best-known varieties, as well as wildflower and clover—the latter a mellow, molasses-scented syrup with hints of caramel and citrus. Available at the Columbia Greenmarket on Thursdays. 16oz $7.
9/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Berkshire Berries David Graves started keeping bees on Manhattan rooftops in 1996. Placing the hives up high was a trick he used in the Berkshires to put them out of reach of black bears, and he realized it would also work to keep them away from curious New Yorkers. Graves continues to be a tireless crusader for bees and their essential role in NYC’s ecosystem, maintaining eight hives on the Upper East and West Sides, in lower Manhattan and in the West Village. His NYC Rooftop honey has a lush, floral scent and a smooth consistency, and tastes of orange, maple and caramel. Available at the Union Square Greenmarket, Mondays and Wednesdays. 8oz $20.
10/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Davis Honey These third-generation beekeepers in western New York produce a range of raw, single-bloom honeys. The Summer Blossom is light, bright and tangy with hints of lime, rounded off with caramel. Try it with almonds or walnuts on a blue cheese with bite, such as Roquefort or Cabrales. Available at the Brooklyn Kitchen, 100 Frost St at Meeker Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-389-2982). 8oz $6.99.
11/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Mike’s Hot Honey Michael Kurtz first came upon chili-infused honey at a pizzeria in the mountains of Brazil, and was so taken with it that when he returned to the States, he set out to make his own. He gets his honey from an apiary in Pennsylvania and infuses it with chilis from Minas Gerais, Brazil, along with a little distilled white vinegar, to create a fiery yet subtly sweet condiment perfect for buttered corn bread or fried chicken. All of his Hot Honey is made in the kitchen at Paulie Gee’s, the Greenpoint pizzeria where Kurtz was formerly a bartender and pizzaiolo (and where he still fills in on occasion making pies). Available at mikeshothoney.com. 12oz $8.
12/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Hamptons Honey Sourcing from a network of beekeepers on Long Island, Hamptons Honey produces a mild, grassy clover and darker, full-flavored wildflower, bottled in those lovable and user-friendly bear-shaped vessels. Both are great for cooking or sweetening tea and baked goods. Available at Whole Foods Columbus Circle, 10 Columbus Circle at Broadway (212-823-9600). 12oz $6.99.
13/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: 11216 Honey Ryan McCullough has been keeping bees for four years, and maintains seven hives in Bed-Stuy, whose zip code he adopted as the name of his operation. Taking a cue from single-malt Scotch bottlers, McCullough fills each jar of honey from one hive. The latest bottling is slightly astringent, with a distinct cucumber note. Available at Court Street Grocers, 485 Court St between Huntington and Nelson Sts, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-722-7229). 8oz $14.
14/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: The Brooklyn Kitchen Co-owners Taylor Erkkinen and Harry Rosenblum believe in learning by doing. They can, pickle and preserve, cure meat, make vinegar and encourage the same among their customers. It was just a matter of time before they took on beekeeping. In 2011, Rosenblum started with one hive on the roof of the store and added a second this year—both are visible from the BQE. The smooth and mild honey, with tropical notes of vanilla and pineapple, is sold with its edible, pleasantly chewy comb. Available at the Brooklyn Kitchen, 100 Frost St at Meeker Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-389-2982). 4oz $5.99.
15/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Spy Coast Bee Farm Wayne Vitale keeps 30 hives on the North Fork of Long Island, where his bees feed on nectar from oak, maple, linden and an abundance of wildflowers. He harvests once in early spring and again in late summer, producing gems like the Setauket Gold: a bright and tangy honey with grassy alfalfa and hay flavors. Available at spycoastbeefarm.com. 8oz $12.
16/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Andrew’s Local Honey Andrew Coté, founder of the NYC Beekeepers Association and Bees Without Borders, is a fourth-generation beekeeper, with several dozen hives on rooftops and balconies, in backyards and gardens throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. He bottles his honey according to hive location, with varieties hailing from Union Square, Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper East Side and elsewhere. We particularly like the High Line edition: light and astringent, with a subtle minty flavor. Available at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays and Wednesdays, Tucker Square on Thursdays, City Hall on Tuesdays. 8oz $20.
17/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Nature’s Way Farm Joel and Brian Klose distribute their hives among fields, forests and orchards in the Finger Lakes region. The father-and-son team pays close attention to which flowers are in bloom over the course of a season, in order to bottle specific floral varieties, including buckwheat, clover, Orchard Flower and Forest Flower. The Basswood, which also goes by the name Linden, is robustly flavored and pleasantly bitter, with a little musk and menthol to balance the sweetness. Available at the Inwood Hill and Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket on Saturdays, West 175th Street on Thursdays. 8oz $3.25.
18/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Highland Valley Apiaries This Pennsylvania company keeps its hives in the Hudson Valley. The wildflower variety is crystalline and grainy, tangy and deeply floral, with cinnamon and caramel notes. Try it on buttered toast or biscuits, or in a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Available at Court Street Grocers, 485 Court St between Huntington and Nelson Sts, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-722-7229). 16oz $13.
19/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Let It Bee In 2004, Charles Branch and Christine Lehner got their start with a few hives at their home in Hastings-on-Hudson, just 20 minutes north of the city. They have since expanded to locations in nearby Rye and Tarrytown, as well as to Manhattan rooftops. Their urban bees currently reside on the Upper East Side and the Bowery, as well as on the roofs of the National Resources Defense Council and the Whitney Museum. Light and herbaceous, their honey has a subtle lemon note, and would make an excellent sweetener for lemonade. Available at Murray’s Cheese Shop, 254 Bleecker St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-243-3289). 12oz $12.99.
20/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Queens County Farm Museum The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation’s educational farm in Floral Park, Queens, sits on land that has been cultivated since 1697. Besides vegetables, eggs, meat, wool and wine, the farm also produces honey, tended to by Wally Blohm, who has been the beekeeper for more than 30 years. Each of his ten hives produces 60 to 100 pounds of honey each year. The wildflower is bright, with notes of hay and citrus. Available at the Union Square Greenmarket on Fridays or at the farm gift shop, 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy between Grand Central Pkwy and Union Tpke, Floral Park, Queens (718-347-3276). 16oz $9.
21/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Wave Hill The public garden and cultural center in the Bronx has its own apiary, and holds honey tastings and extraction demonstrations for the public. The gold stuff, with pronounced flavors of honeysuckle, jasmine and violet, is available for purchase, too. The hives produce only a small amount of honey, but the Wave Hill shop also sells a number of local varieties from around New York and New Jersey. Available at Wave Hill, W 249th St at Independence Ave, Bronx (718-549-3200). 8oz $12.
22/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Red Bee Marina Marchese’s Connecticut-based company, Red Bee, sells its own estate-bottled honey, but she also produces monofloral varieties from other states. Her New York buckwheat honey is very dark and intensely flavored: grassy, musky and resinous, with notes of molasses, burnt caramel and soy sauce. Her lighter New York offerings include apple blossom and alfalfa. Available at redbee.com. 11oz $14.
23/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Twin Spruce Apiaries Located at the northern end of the Catskills and near the Hudson River, Walter Bauer’s hives produce monofloral honeys such as buckwheat, as well as wildflower, which tastes of pine, moss and mesquite. Add it to homemade barbecue sauce, or use it to glaze ham and pork chops. Available at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays. 8oz $4.
24/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Bees Needs Mary Woltz has been keeping bees on Long Island for nine years, with about 80 hives in 15 different locations, all on the east side of the Shinnecock Canal. As the name of her company suggests, the bees come first—she says she started selling honey “to support her bee habit.” Her late-summer varietal has an herbaceous aroma and is slightly tart, with warm caramel notes and a smooth finish. Available at newyorkmouth.com. 8oz $14.
25/25Photograph: Jessica LinLocal honey: Ford’s Honey Farm Former dairy farmers Terry and Gary Ford keep more than 1,000 hives on their own central New York farm and others within a 50-mile radius. Their solid, spreadable raw honey, which comes from wildflowers in the summer and goldenrods and asters in the fall, is luxuriously creamy and rich, subtly sweet, with an almondlike flavor. Available at fordshoneyfarm.com (315-891-3339). 16oz $3.
By Winnie Yang|
Whether you’re looking for something sweet to swirl into your tea, in need of a natural alternative to antihistamines or celebrating the Jewish New Year, there’s a lot to love about local honey. Rivers of the stuff flow down from the Catskills, the Finger Lakes and beyond, and—after the 1999 beekeeping ban in New York City was lifted in 2010—hives abound in all five boroughs, too. But why buy local? For starters, the conventional grocery-store stuff goes through a heat and filtration process that strips it of beneficial nutrients, enzymes and much of its flavor. Conversely, most local honey is raw: minimally filtered, unheated and unprocessed. And while the concrete jungle of New York City isn’t the friendliest place for agribusiness, Gotham does boast numerous flowering trees and lush parks, treated with fewer pesticides than in rural areas. It all adds up to a surprisingly welcoming environment for honeybees that, in kind, help maintain the health of the city’s ecosystem and provide us with a sweet reward. Here’s a sugary sampling of the best local honeys, from made-in-NYC paragons to syrups that originate (slightly) farther afield.