“Every year around this time, I get asked by fans, friends, restaurant-goers and publications what my go-to gifts are. This year, my team and I have decided to feature a few artisans who are making great products that are perfect for the holidays. Whether it is fancy soap for my mother, a really rad apron for one of my colleagues, or the flight of roof-top honey for the person who is impossible to shop for, here are some essentials that I know I will be giving this year. Second in this installation is Zeke Freeman, honey enthusiast, bee activist, and owner of Bee Raw.”- Marcus
MS.com: Tell us about your company.
Zeke Freeman: The name of the company is Bee Raw. It is a descriptive and active name. We sell untreated, single-varietal honeys that taste like single floral sources, which is amazing! Honey from a honey bear is blended from light, medium, and dark honeys, and heated to over 250 degrees only for aesthetic reasons. This hides the individual characters of all the honeys, and strips them of character and depth, texture, flavor, and amino acids. The lack of treatment in Bee Raw honeys is a testament to how we feel food and lifestyle should be—loving raw ingredients and loving the purity of them.
MS.com: What's your background?
ZF: I'm a chef by trade. I worked for Daniel Boulud and Alaine Ducasse, then became a food buyer for Dean and Deluca. At the time, D&D was importing a lot of amazing honeys, but didn't have very many domestic honeys. I wanted to focus on the story of American agriculture and to find the best practices for beekeeping to produce better products.
MS.com: You have a large array of products at Bee Raw. Can you tell us about them?
ZF: We produce pure single-varietal honey, which allows us to taste that same concept that exists in wine: terroir. When you taste single-varietal honey, you can really taste the pollen and the nectar of that flower. For the most part, our honeys are sourced within the continental United States. We have 15 small apiaries that we partner with very closely. Our honeys come from either wildflower sources or organic agriculture sources. This protects bees and humans alike. The bees are prevented from contact with pesticides, and those pesticides never reach humans, either.
I'd also like to say that Bee Raw donates 1% of its profits to the Save the Bees Fund. The money donated is used to fund research and produce bee colonies, where bees are safe from pesticides and malnutrition, which are responsible for killing the bees that pollinate human food resources.
Besides honey, we also sell fair trade and organic teas, a small line of coffees from South American and Southeast Asian microlots, and nut and dried fruit conserves. Our products are as raw, pure, unadulterated, fairly traded, and sustainably produced as possible.
MS.com: What are some of your favorite products?
ZF: There's a rare meadowfoam honey that makes unbelievable flavors of creme brulee, custard, even cotton candy. I also really like sourwood honey, which grows at a high elevation in Appalachia. It has notes of macerated roses and begonias, and has buttery notes. I think it tastes just like the South. And there's buckwheat honey, which is like the Guinness of honey. It has a big, bold taste, almost like molasses and barnyard, and people either love it or hate it. I love it with fresh goat cheese or ricotta, with maybe a sprig of thyme on top. And I also like to make this great miso salmon dish with the buckwheat honey, too. (See the end of this interview for the recipe!)
MS.com: Which of your products do you think make for the best gifts?
ZF: The honey flights are great because they come in gift packaging and with directions. We've also started offering combos of conserves. We have one that's a wildflower honey from Lancaster Valley that is infused with rosemary and has dried figs, and a second one that's the same wildflower honey with walnuts and lemon zest. These are amazing to pair with cheese, and are great as breakfast treats.
This neat package makes for an easy gift for New Yorkers or foodies or both. Each neighborhood has its own distinct character—who would have known New York has so much flora!—with flavors like wildflowers in the High Line honey and tree and floral notes in the Harlem honey.
You'll never go back to the squeeze bear after trying out this clover honey. It's unprocessed, smooth, and perfect for cheese platters. If you want the most honest and elevated expression of a childhood favorite, this is the way to go.