Man in front of bee hives
(Photo: John Grossmann)

Sweet Stays

At a growing number of big-city hotels, the buzz about locally produced food is now more literal: resident bees circling back to rooftop apiaries. Chefs who don protective suits and gloves tend the hives, whose honey has become a popular menu ingredient in restaurants merely floors below.
At the Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown, pastry chef Elizabeth Teuwen helps manage three rooftop honeybee hives and reserves some of the sweet, gooey output for a killer honey-wheat-walnut bread. Much of the rest goes into the hotel’s signature BeeTini cocktail.
Atop Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria, six hives host some 360,000 bees. Thursdays and Saturdays, guests can tour the apiary; daily, they can experience its output, not only in the hotel’s three restaurants but also in several spa treatments.
Blocks away, at the InterContinental Times Square Hotel, executive chef Andrew Rubin manages two rooftop hives. “We’re a green restaurant, and I try to take care of the Earth,” he says. “The bees are disappearing and we need them.” Year-round, Rubin includes his in-house 44th Street Honey with every cheese platter; and, ­during National Pollinator’s Week (mid-June) and National Honey Month (September), he serves dishes like grilled pork cheeks with an Espelette-pepper-infused honey.
Some of the honey that executive chef Gavin Stephenson collects from the nine hives he tends atop the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle goes to a local craft brewery to make a private-label Honeymoon Suite Olympic Light Honey Ale that pairs well with such menu offerings as honey-cured house-smoked salmon topped with a tempura-style morel mushroom stuffed with a camembert/honey mixture.  
“When I started beekeeping, I knew nothing,” says Stevenson. “Every year I learn something. See that bee there? In her whole lifetime, she’ll gather only an eighth of a teaspoon of honey. My record hive produced over 100 pounds. Think how many bees it took to get that.”