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.

  • Honey: Frances, San Francisco

    At her snug restaurant Frances, chef Melissa Perello gives her panna cotta a rich finish by incorporating raw, unfiltered honey from urban apiarist Robert MacKimmie of City Bees.

  • Honey: Arrows, Ogunquit, Maine

    At Arrows restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine, chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier source their honey just a half mile from the restaurant at Johnson Apiary and use it alongside burrata. But the house favorite for summer is the chefs' herbal honey-thyme ice cream, which also appears as a refreshing seasonal special at their Burlington, Massachusetts, restaurant, Summer Winter.

  • Honey: Comme Ca, Los Angeles

    Bartenders at David Myers's popular French bistro Comme Ça mix pure honey with black rum, lemon juice, cream and corn stock (a sweet golden broth made with fresh corn) to create the Cashmere Stalker cocktail.

  • Honey: Double Zero Napoletana, Atlanta

    Chef John Coley of new Atlanta restaurant Double Zero Napoletana uses honey spiked with lemon to offset the inherently bitter flavors of ingredients such as rapini and radicchio in pastas and salads. He also drizzles the honey over his lemon-saffron arancini to amplify their tart notes.

  • Honey: Paulie Gee's, Brooklyn

    At the Greenpoint pizza joint Paulie Gee's, pizza-apprentice-turned-pizzaiolo (and bartender) Mike Kurtz produces a chile-pepper-infused honey to serve atop the restaurant's sopressata picante, tomato and cheese Hellboy pie. Even more intriguing: Mike's Hot Honey also appears on a vanilla ice cream sundae. (Photo: Tom Callan)

  • Honey: The Bazaar, Los Angeles

    Honey adds a hint of sweetness to the aioli chef José Andrés serves alongside his codfish fritters at his Los Angeles restaurant The Bazaar.

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