“Honey, honey…”

This past week Boulder has been abuzz. The Colorado State Beekeepers Association held their conference in our buzy, buzzing town. So much talk about our pollinators.

Well fellow food lovers, chefs, food lovers, our pollinators are our friends. They keep our fragile ecosystem in balance and we owe them our lives. Now, I have been accused of exaggerating to make a point on occasion, but this is not one of those times. I promise. Pollinators are quite literally our life lines and they need our help. They need us to tend our gardens, to be conscious of their needs for clean organically grown food sources, and to be good stewards of our collective environment. In exchange, we get the long end of the stick. We get flowers and food in abundance, we get healthy animals, heck, we even get the cotton to make the clothes we wear. Those industrious little critters drive so much of the good in our world. Take a moment to bee (get it, “bee”, ha ha) thankful for those bees and the beekeepers who are helping them fro dying out. I mean let’s face it, we’re kind of in trouble when it comes to the bee population. It’s crashing. The bees need all the help they can get and that’s where the beekeepers come in. They work tirelessly, selflessly to make certain the bees have a fighting chance.. Well Yay for them.

That’s why, when Elyse Wood from the Boulder Farmer’s Market  asked me to participate in a Farm to Table Bee honey dinner for the last night of the conference, I enthusiastically jumped on board. Who wouldn’t love the chance to celebrate bees and their honey. Kelly Whitaker from Basta and Cart Driver was the featured chef for appetizers and dinner and mali b would follow with dessert – all things honey based – YAY! Kelly outdid himself with monroe organic farm melon, clover honey, togorashi chicken liver mousse, orange blossom honey foccacia, roasted pork shoulder w/ wildflower honey & polenta isabelle farm fall squash lasagna, cure organic farm heirloom tomato carpaccio w/ housemade ricotta honey, and sous vide munson farms sticky corn w/ pickled sea beans. Take a moment. You know you want to; no, need to. You need to imagine the deliciousness and while you are at it, go get a napkin and wipe that drool from the corner of your mouth. But for me the question is/was, how to follow that?

I had this image of apples and honey dancing through my brain, but was feeling a bit dejected because my searches for apples recently had not been going well. Moving to Colorado was difficult on my food lust for several reasons, (Sorry Boulder, but love you as I do, you’ve got nothing on the farms of the East End!) and apples are way at the top of my “must have” list. Must have, crunchy but light outer skin, must have firm interior, must have juicy but not too juicy, must have just an edge of sweet to match the tart, must have perfect apples! Colorado’s apples might not have the same place in my heart as New York apples, but darned if I’m not going to try to find the right one anyway. Unfortunately…this year is not an apple year folks. A couple of factors, rainy May, warm winter, dry summer, etc. led to a less than stellar harvest year and I had been butting my head up against Mother Nature in my search for apples. And then…slowly and surely apples started cropping up at the Farmer’s Market. Not abundant mind you, but there nonetheless. I approached the stand with a bit of wariness and tried Masonville Orchard’s honey crisp. It wasn’t good. It was great! Delicious! Happily I purchased all I needed for the dinner and a bit of extra for my family (even though the dinner was not for a week, the folks at market told me the honeycrisp could be gone and I better get while the getting was good!)

So, apples, check. Elyse gave me a beautiful bottle of bee squared rose honey! and I picked up a bottle of Highland Honey Bees’ Osha honey. One sweet and one savory – you know I love a good mix of the sweet and savory. So, honey, check. Good start, but you can’t just have apples and honey to follow a complex creation from Kelly Whitaker…

What’s a chefess to do? I thought about mini apple pies right away – but because the subject of the dinner was to be pollinators and I love me some flowers, I thought I had to add some floral sweet and savory notes. Turning the pies into tartlets that resembled roses seemed like a no brainer. Instead of soaking the apple slices in a lemon juice water mixture to soften them and prevent oxidation, I decided to poach them lightly in the rose honey. That made them pliable enough to work with and gave them a balance of the honey note. To go with the tartlets, I wanted to use flowers from one of the local schoolyard gardens. I had just done a dinner at Dawson School and knew their garden had sunflowers, marigolds, and calendula which all together would make a great caramel. I mean who doesn’t love a little caramel with their apple pie  tartlet after all. So…caramel, check.

Still in flower mode I thought an herb might be nice, specifically an herb flower. Looking around I found oregano flowers in abundance and remembered a trick I had learned from my friend Claudia Fleming. She makes these herb syrups that are just that perfect blend of sweet and savory and put a little rare green color on the dessert plate. Tasty. And…pretty! And we all know I like to eat pretty. So, oregano syrup, check.

You know what else goes swimmingly with pie? Whipped cream. Well, ice cream, but you try doing a plated dessert for 100 and have your little cannelle of ice cream stay frozen long enough to make it to the table. SO, back to the whipped cream. Whipped cream seemed a little, well, not to disparage whipped cream, but wimpy. Nope, I needed something with a little more backbone. I settled on a mascarpone whipped cream infused with that yummy rose honey. That would stand up nicely and balance the flavors. So, delicious cream accompaniment, check.

But something was nagging at me. I had that Osha honey with its strong flavor and wanted to use it. I also had a texture issue to solve. There was crispy delicate pie crust, soft yielding apples with a hint of firm behind them, oozy caramel, drippy syrup, and soft cream. There needed to be a definite crunch. OOOOOOH! What about roasting some nuts in the Osha honey and turning them into a crumble. Yes brain, that’s just what this dish needed!  Thank you brain.

And thank you pollinators, beekeepers, and Farmer’s Market for giving me inspiration. What resulted from this long story was a Masonville Farms rose honey apple tartlet with Dawson garden flower caramel, oregano flower syrup, rose honey mascarpone whipped cream and Osha honey roasted nut crumble. A mouthful. A delicious, delicious mouthful!



Wily Wabbits

So its just that kind of day. You know the kind. The kind where you look down at your calendar and there is so much on it that the spaces overlap and you couldn’t possible fit one more item on your “to do” list. The kind where it’ll be long after you say “just going to do this one last thing before going to bed,” and three hours later find yourself up to your neck in laundry or dishes or one last “swiff” (or seven more emails to answer). Well, ladies and gents, it was just that kind of day. I was to be running from one side of town to another, from errand to errand, client to client, appointment to appointment. But, before that was to begin, a tranquil walk of the dogs. After all, if not for their morning walk, they would be sitting, legs paws crossed, waiting for their afternoon constitutional.

I happily invited the anxious pups into the car to get to the off leash trail because, shoulder and arm hurting, thought with a busy day, I had no time for my own ailments so I would take a short-cut on the off leash trail. Well, good idea genius. Key in the ignition and we’re off – or not……..

Seriously, nothing! Nope, that is not the sound of the engine starting, just the sound of the indignation and impatience of two dogs in a car having been promised “car” and “walk”.

I am new to this town, but not so new that my spirit didn’t sink as I mentally crossed almost every item off my day’s “to do” list. That my friends was the sound of bunny rabbits having chewed through a wire in the engine of my car. Quick calculation: cute little bunny rabbits + car wires = total and complete havoc. I used to love bunnies. Used to be so happy to see them hopping around. Felt lucky if I glimpsed one in a quiet moment. How did I go from that to googling “how to keep varmits from chewing car wires”? How did I become the type of person that sees a rabbit and gets an immediate haze over her vision; one that entails a vicious rabid rabbit like creature with green ooze dripping from it’s fangs, matted hair caked with car oil, paws with long scissor like claws, red eyes boring into me, taunting me. ACK!

After calling the tow truck and the mechanic and realigning my calendar, I was ready to roll up my sleeves and do battle. The internet is thankfully rife with information and advice about how to keep the wire eating critters at bay. From a little Irish Spring chalk drawing around the car, to peppermint oil on cotton balls under the wheel wells, to taping the undercarriage with “critter tape” laced with capsicum…whoa there, now hang on, I know capsicum, hot pepper. And hang on again, I just made a Mexican red sauce. A delicious and spicy sauce made with dried ancho chiles. Hmm. Delicious to me, maybe not to the rabbits. Could it be possible to proverbially kill two birds with one stone? Could I make enchiladas with red sauce for supper that my family could love and the bunnies would love to avoid?  Oh my! The excitement! The possibility.

Well friends, I took that sauce and watered it down with some oil and some water and sprayed it under the car. I’ll keep you posted, but I have a feeling those bunnies don’t like what’s cooking for dinner…

In the meantime – try this red sauce on your family. I’ll get you an enchilada recipe to use it with, but step one, make the sauce…


Red Sauce

8-10 dried ancho chiles

1 T vegetable oil

1/2 white onion, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons lime juice

salt to taste


Warm the chilis on a griddle or cast iron pan until they are soft and fragrant, They will become pliable and puff up. While the chilis are warming, prepare a bowl of very hot (almost boiling water) that will hold the chilis as they come off the heat. Soak the pliable, warmed chilis for about ten minutes.


Strain the chilis, but reserve the soaking water. Remove the seeds for a more “mild” hot sauce (Note that mild here is a degree, the sauce is pretty smoky and spicy even without seeds!) Put the chilis in a blender and add 2 cups of the soaking water. Strain the resulting mixture through a fine mesh strainer.IMG_0576

Saute the onions and garlic in two Tablespoons vegetable oil until they are transluscent. Add the pureed chilis and cook for five to ten minutes. Add lime juice and salt to taste.


Now you are done with the sauce – use it as is, dilute it with enough water and vegetable oil to shoot up into your undercarriage, or pop it into a freezer safe container and store it away until I teach you how to turn it into enchiladas – either way, it’s a half our well spent!



Wait a minute…

This is the day I learned we’ve been hacked. Hacked, little us, imagine…SO…though our expertise in food making and styling is well known, our incompetence in computer technology is our achilles heal. We try to fake it, but most times hire experts to do the work for us. There are just times that fails, like a big giant belly flop into a tiny kiddie pool from the second story roof – that kind of fail. Or the kind of fail that is a broken caramel; that kind is probably a better metaphor. Regardless, please stay tuned, we’re working our burned fingertips off to solve this problem and we’ll be back to eating pretty quite soon!