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Park City • You've likely heard the term "farm-to-table," where chefs skip the middleman and buy tomatoes, corn, kale and other fresh-produce directly from nearby farmers.
Utah chef Ryker Brown follows that timely and delicious culinary trend, but takes it one step further by also serving items directly from "hive-to-plate."
When Brown a self-taught beekeeper became the executive chef at Waldorf Astoria Park City, he placed several hives in an undeveloped area of the resort. In the fall, he harvests the honey to be used at Powder, the resort's signature restaurant.
Throughout the year, guests will see the liquid gold in several incarnations: Lately it's been used as a glaze on a pork belly appetizer and a sweetener for a gin cocktail. (See recipe below.)
But the best way to sample the honey is on Powder's signature charcuterie plate. A generous dollop of raw honey still containing a bit of the honeycomb is scraped onto the center of a wood serving board and surrounded by sliced meats, Utah cheeses, dried fruits and pickled mustard seeds.
Brown describes the raw, unprocessed honey as "simple, elegant and understated," the same characteristics he strives for when preparing food at Powder or at home. "I really enjoy it because of its simplicity," he said, noting that while he loves to experiment with honey recipes, his favorite way to eat it is straight off the honey frame. "The raw honeycomb really showcases what it's all about."
When he's not at work, Brown cares for several beehives as well as a large garden at his home in Heber City, which he shares with his wife and four children.
It's no surprise that the chef gets excited to talk about the honeymaking process and the industrious work ethic of bees and their importance for food production and the environment. "It's all connected to what I do," said Brown, a native of Southern California who moved to Utah in 2008. Before taking the job at Powder, he worked as executive chef at Promontory Ranch Club and Sundance Mountain Resort, which also has hives.
His interest in bees was helped along by a nearly century-old book about beekeeping, written by his wife's great-grandfather an Idaho farmer who was one of the largest beekeepers west of the Mississippi. Brown called the distant relative "a bee whisperer" who kept a meticulous daily diary of how to start and keep a thriving bee colony. "I don't think it was ever published," Brown said of the booklet, "but copies were passed down to the family."
He is lucky enough to have one and refers to it regularly.
At Sundance, Stephen Bell, the fleet and grounds manager, sets up 18 to 20 hives each spring in the mountains surrounding the resort. Bell keeps some of what is produced for his family, but sells the bulk of the light wildflower honey to the resort restaurants.
'It's been a nice fit," said the beekeeper, "because Sundance uses so many products that are local and involved the mountain."
Sundance food and beverage director Steve Solomon said the resort uses the honey for a variety of sweet and savory items, but chefs like to use the honeycomb on a charcuterie plate during its Bearclaw Supper Club. During these summer events, guests ride a lift to the Bearclaw Cabin Sundance's mountaintop eatery and enjoy a multicourse dinner prepared by chef Dave McMullin and his staff.
"We talk about the honey and where the bees are at different points during the summer," said Solomon. "It's such a great story to tell our guests."
Rhubarb Bee's Knees Cocktail
1 1/2 ounces Beehive Jack Rabbit Gin
1/2 ounce honey water*
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3 dashes Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
In a cocktail glass, combine gin, honey water, lemon juice and bitters with ice. Stir.
*To make honey water, combine 1 cup honey and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature and transfer to a clean glass jar. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Servings • 1
Source: Waldorf Astoria Park City
Ryker's Seared Scallops with honey-lime dressing and Utah corn ragu
6 diver scallops, fresh
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons local raw honey
2 limes, juice and zest
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh corn, cut off cob
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 jalapeño pepper, shaved for garnish
Cilantro, leaves only, for garnish
Place the scallops on a clean paper towel. You want them very dry before cooking. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a 10-inch sauté pan to high and add canola oil. Add scallops to the pan and sear 1 to 2 minutes or until scallops have reached a deep golden brown. Turn and remove from heat. Add butter to the pan and baste 2 minutes. Let rest.
For the dressing, combine honey, lime juice, lime zest and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Drizzle over cooked scallops and let rest.
For ragu, place corn and cream in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Let mixture reduce until creamy.
Divide corn between two plates, top with seared scallops. Garnish with shaved jalapeño pieces and cilantro leaves.
Servings • 2
Source: Ryker Brown, executive chef at Powder Restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria, Park City