Peter started beekeeping a few years ago after being inspired by a beekeeping class; he began with one hive and it grew from there. He is now beekeeping at a scale that allows us to utilize it in the restaurant, which is where I and the rest of the kitchen staff come in. As a chef, there aren’t many things cooler than finding out you have access to a supply of wild honey.
Jay Stickney, the Atlantic Grill’s sous chef, joined me at Peter’s farm to understand the process from start to finish. It was fascinating, and they were EVERYWHERE. The swarm was so large it looks almost like a giant shadow moving around until you apply the smoke- that’s when they head to the bottom of the hive to protect the queen. We of course were all geared up so no one got stung, but being able to touch the hives and learn how to check the development to see whether they’ve capped it or not was amazing. Working with Peter, we got to see how his compassion and love for these creatures was in action. It was no different than him showing you a pet dog; he took great care to ensure they were all safe when returning the trays. His respect for his bees really translates into how the honey tastes. It is the smoothest honey I’ve tasted: buttery, floral, with a slight pepperiness – an explosion of flavor. It’s like the first time you have an heirloom tomato when you are in your 20’s and realize that’s what a real tomato tastes like, not those red round mealy things you find in a supermarket!
Peter has a honey extractor which is like a large centrifuge, and watching the honey come out fresh and eating the honeycomb was such a unique experience. Needless to say the whole staff was *freaking out* at how good the honey was. Path-of-life-alteringly-delicious. No plastic honeybears here.
Bringing the culinary team in has been my philosophy – immersing ourselves into the ingredients as much as we can. Bringing respect and care in the ingredients into the kitchen. The tomato didn’t just appear, we ordered it from the farmer, who had to grow it and order the seed, from the seed provider who respects the planet…and so on. We’re showing respect to how we cook, and in turn, sometimes all we have to do is just apply a little heat and add salt. It makes us look good.
Located on a seasonal seacoast, people want to experience real New Hampshire seacoast cuisine; it’s so easy to fall to commodity and purchase big and cheap – less work and more cost effective to feed the masses. But in taking the time to procure the right ingredients from start to finish, we are able to give our guests the authentic experience. Our fish comes from Rye Harbor. The fish monger lives between the harbor and us – we can see his truck from our window. That’s how far this stuff has to go.
How lucky are we as chefs to have ownership that is so involved and equally as passionate about our food? To have people that committed to the cuisine is not just about putting the name on it, it’s about ensuring an exceptional culinary experience while sourcing from and supporting our local economy. With this ethos in mind, I can’t wait to share our delicious recipes when Jimmy’s On Congress finally opens it’s doors – in the meantime, I’ll be sharing some ideas here on our blog, featuring delicious, seasonal ingredients that you can work with from your home! Enjoy.
Labrie Farm’s Honey Cucumber Vinaigrette