Honey: Liquid Gold

Chefs explore the riches of local honey

We've considered honey a superior sweetener for quite some time.

Still, even as local options have flourished, we admit we've fallen into a rut with our stash.

Thankfully, chefs across the country are schooling us in ways to use the sticky nectar to bolster dishes both savory and sweet. They're drizzling honey over wood-fired pizzas and risotto croquettes, swirling it into aioli and ice cream and using it to give desserts and cocktails a pronounced sweetness (see a slide show).

In turn, we'd like to pass on the favor, helping you rethink honey in your home kitchen with two original recipes. First, try panna cotta from Frances in San Francisco (see the recipe), in which honey partners with cream and buttermilk to create a smooth, slightly tangy coda to a weeknight meal. Then, for a weekend supper, honey works overtime in our Test Kitchen's original recipe for pulled-pork sandwiches with nectarines (see the recipe). The honey adds complexity to the pork's braising liquid and serves as a condiment for sandwiches, which are certain to be the star of your next picnic.

Common clover honey works in these recipes, but using a more distinct honey varietal is ideal. Check your farmers' market for honeys that run from floral to fruity to robust. These are the honeys to reserve for your kitchen experiments; leave the other to teatime.