Several days ago, I hopped on a train from Manhattan’s majestic Grand Central Station to Tarrytown, New York — Pocantico Hills to be exact. I love that ride as the train hugs the Hudson and within minutes has you believing that you are on vacation. In fact, I was. I was on my way to a honey tasting with my best friend, Dale Bellisfield, clinical herbalist and urban bee keeper, to the home of some guy who Dale met when she gave a lecture at Stone Barns some weeks before. Maurice, or Moe, was also a bee keeper, and kept 100 honeys in nooks and crannies all over his restored carriage house — jars and bottles of amber liquid of varying shapes, sizes, and hues could be found hugging the kitchen walls, stashed under his bed, and secreted in the basement (next to his Harley and collection of vintage leather jackets). Incongruous, to say the least, Moe was congenial and generous with his time, knowledge and…honey. He also kept a sophisticated cache of important teas which we brewed and drank all afternoon — both a libation and palate cleanser.
My magnum of blended Malbec-Bonarda from Argentina went unopened (although I do have more than a passing fancy as to the effects of honey on red wine.) Dale, also generous to a fault, brought three cheeses — Humboldt Fog goat cheese, Gorgonzola picante, and ricotta salata — perfect for partnering with honey — ultra-thin crackers, and several blue-ribbon award-winning honeys from New Jersey. Along with heritage pork, heirloom vegetables, and zip code organics, honey is one of the trends of the year. Connoisseurship of nature’s sweet elixir will soon rival the expertise of a great sommelier. As with any professional wine tasting, our honey tasting was scored on a scale of 1 to 20, with copious note taking and much discussion. What words does one use to describe honey? What characteristics are most important? How do you strip away the concept of sweetness and go deeper to the nuances of aroma, flavor and mouthfeel? Fascinating stuff, really.
We were giddy with pleasure and no doubt experiencing a sugar high. Hands down, the winner was (Moe was not voting at this moment) …the honey from Pocantico Hills! Moe had made it! Dale and I both ranked it first — with exclamations of “what finesse, elegant, notes of lychee, Bordeaux-like.” Moe’s honey came from the pollination of wildflowers, trees and shrubs. Other honeys we tried, and loved, included cotton honey from Georgia, yellow star thistle, purple star thistle, gallberry, black locust, tupelo, lavender honey from Spain, manuka, and the only honey made on Martha’s Vineyard, gathered from local wildflowers. Adjectives like musty, dusty, licorice, lemony, molasses-y, floral, leathery, guns & roses, peppered our speech. With many thank to Maurice (Moe) Curran, a super-tech executive, turned country gent on a Harley, for a very special day. Friends forever. Gather thy honey, while thee may and enjoy a tasting of your own.