New honey menu items create a buzz at WildFin

October 22, 2013

By David Hayes

Little did Attila Szabo know the opportunity awaiting when he opened a WildFin American Grill in Issaquah in 2011.

The restaurant’s location proved ideal to pursue a growing passion for WildFin’s president — naturally harvested honey.

“My partner is a novice beekeeper,” Szabo said. “It’s amazing how different honey you harvest is from store bought.”

The problem with most store-bought honey, he said, is that the bees used, mostly in China and South America, harvest a single source of pollen, say from an apple or cherry orchard. This tends to produce a one-dimensional flavor profile. In addition, Szabo learned in his research that all the honey from each hive is harvested and the bees are fed a sugar water mixture to sustain them through winter.

Szabo realized the many fruit trees that line Gilman Boulevard and the myriad flowered plants in the nearby state park provided ample raw material for bees to pollinate. The trick was figuring out how to harvest them for honey.

So, he acquired bees from Monroe beekeeper Paul Loots and installed two hives on the roof of WildFin, latter adding another three. Being that honey bees are not indigenous to North America, Szabo selected a species that originated in Austria, because of its success in the Pacific Northwest weather and its relatively docile personality.

Szabo said another way his hives are different from the mass-produced ones is how the bees are fed.

“Our bees have as many different sources of nectar as the land around them can provide,” he said. “During the harvest, we leave honey for the bees to sustain them through the winter. Altogether, this practice is more natural and healthier for the bees.”

The current number of bees sits at about 30,000. But at their height during the summer, when the honey is harvested once a year, there are as many as 60,000 bees.

The last harvest netted about a gallon of honey for executive chef Chris Bryant to use throughout the winter for four new dishes he created. Bryant said he was excited to use the new ingredient, which provided a depth of flavor and richness not found in store-bought honey.

“It’s as different as that regular salt with the lady with the umbrella on the side to sea salt, or a box of wine versus bottled wine,” Bryant said.

The restaurant will roll out Bryant’s creations Oct. 29:

  • Oven-roasted Snoqualmie Valley brussel sprouts with bacon and spicy WildFin Rooftop Honey lime glaze,
  • Jalapeno cornbread griddle cakes with sweet cream butter and WildFin Rooftop honey,
  • WildFin Rooftop Honey yogurt berry parfait,
  • WildFin Rooftop Honey Greek yogurt with Oregon berry jam and all natural granola.

Both Bryant and Szabo said they are confident they’ve got enough honey to take the new menu through the winter, depending upon how popular the items prove to be.

 

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