Gift Guide: Pure, Unadulterated Honey by Bee Raw

“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 (Photo from Bee Raw) 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. 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.

(Photo from Bee Raw) 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. 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!)

(Photo by Bee Raw) 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. Favorites:

Manhattan Rooftop Honey Flight

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.

Sweet Yellow Clover 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.

(Photo from Bee Raw)

(Photo from Bee Raw)

Gift Guide: Handmade Soap by DiPalermo Body

"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 or 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 could I know I will be giving this year. First up, Jessica Morelli from New York City."- Marcus  

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 1.40.55 PM What is the name of your company and what do you make?

Jessica Morelli: The name of my company is di Palermo Body.  I make artisan skin care made in small batches using only natural and organic ingredients. At a young age my Nona (grandmother) taught me how to garden, the importance of eating organic food and living a holistic lifestyle. ‘di Palermo’ means of Palermo, which is where she was from so di Palermo Body is in honor of her. How did you get started?

JM: Five years ago I bought a bar of natural soap at a small shop and fell in love.  I didn’t even know people still made soap from scratch.  I immediately was hooked and had to find out how I could make it myself.   Coming from a large Italian family I loved to cook.  I found that making soap was much like cooking, and creating a formula is just like creating a recipe, you just don’t eat the end product.

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 1.41.07 PM : Where do you produce and sell it?

JM: I currently make all the products out of my 5th floor walk-up Manhattan apartment; tight quarters but organization is the key.  Etsy is my main online platform and because of it I’ve been able to sell  all over the world.  I have retailers in LA and Chicago and am hoping to find a few in New York that are a good fit in the coming months. Of all your collection, what is the best for a holiday gift?


JM: Whether you give a bundle of 4 soaps for $25 for your sister, a sugar scrub for someone at the office for $12, or a single bar of soap as a stocking stuffer for only $7,  all of my products are within a price range that is perfect for gifts.  How do you see your audience changing over the past few years? Is there more an interest in artisan products and how do you see that growing?

JM: Over the five years I’ve been making natural products my market has always been people who understand the importance of using natural products for both their skin’s and the environment’s benefit. More and more people are finding the value in handcrafted goods, its nice to see people wanting so support small businesses. Favorites:

Ristretto Sugar Scrub and Soap

This scent, coffee and lemon, is a natural deodorizer and works great in the kitchen eliminating the scents of cooking like garlic, onion or fish.

Conjure Soap

This scent, vanilla and vetiver, has a more masculine appeal to it and a great label. Men like fancy soap too!


SMART University Educating Women Through Cooking Classes

  Photo courtesy of SMART University

SMART, an acronym for Sisterhood Mobilized for AID/HIV Research and Treatment, is a not-for-profit organization that works hard to create a safe haven where women living with HIV or AIDS in New York City can get support from their peers and gain education through hands-on classes. The organization’s SMART Body workshop couples nutrition education with hands-on cooking lessons. These tutorials provide the women of SMART a chance to try new foods and learn healthier cooking methods that can better the overall health of themselves and their families.

Photo courtesy of SMART University

SMART believes that health conscious, educated woman are the foundation to building thriving communities. Each nutrition class informs the participants of ways to stay healthy by eating proper foods, and ensuring that important health issues are addressed so that the women make educated decisions on what they eat and how they  cook in their kitchens. The entire group goes into the on-site industrial kitchen and prepares foods that exemplify the earlier lecture. Once all the recipes are prepared, the members and staff all come together to share the assembled meal. At the end of the class each woman receives a pantry bag that contains the ingredients used in each recipe so that they can repeat what they learned at home.

The difference this organization makes in people’s lives are staggering. A whopping 95% of all attendees have self-reported a decrease in eating fatty processed foods and an increase in healthier cooking methods. Recently, the women of the program constructed a delicious cookbook based on the recipes they assembled in class. This activity gave the women a chance to express their creativity and give back to the community what they acquired from SMART. You can download the compendium on the SMART website.

SMART is continuously looking towards the future, and was recently picked to receive city funding for a mobile cooking classroom. This sector of the organization will help broaden their vision and mission of improving the health outcomes for families in the New York City area by traveling from neighborhood to neighborhood bringing nutrition education and access to healthy foods to anyone who needs its.

“Our core mission,” says Susan Rodriquez, founder director, “has been to improve the quality of life for every woman we touch with our holistic health model. For some women," she says, "simply showing up has been a testament to resilience and courage." You can donate to SMART by visiting their website and clicking on the Donate to SMART button.

What's In Season? Fall Produce

Photo: Mrs. Magic As the weather gets chillier, the produce gets heartier. Autumn’s amazing fruits and vegetables are hitting their peak season right now and Marcus wants to make sure you experience fall’s bounty of super-foods available at your local farmers markets or grocery stores. 

Photo: art and lemons'

The aisle are full of apples, figs, pears, persimmons, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. There are a variety of ways to prepare fall's harvest; however, getting seeds out of persimmon or  getting squash soft and delectable can get confusing. In this season’s produce guide, here's a look at how to choose, store, and prepare this season’s crops. 

Apples. From sweet to tart, apples can be eaten raw or baked and added to sweet or savory dishes.  Add them to salads, eat with cheddar and blue cheese, or roast with cinnamon. Just be sure to eat the skin--it contains a healthy dose of flavonoids. Look for bright colored, hard, and blemish free outsides. Store on top of the counter, or if they start to get soft, put them in the refrigerator.

Butternut Squash. This bell shaped squash is the quintessential fall vegetable. It’s sweet when roasted and works great pureed in soups, mashed as a side, or cubed in au gratin. Look for blemish free, tan skins, and hard textures. Keep it on your window seal or on top of your counter until you are ready to roast or boil it.

Photo: SavvyChristine

Brussel Sprouts. These mini cabbages have a bad-rap, but don’t let their rumored taste keep you from enjoying them. Try brussel sprouts roasted with apples, cranberries, or bacon. The best way to prepare them is to roast for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. This will give these little guys a sweet caramelized flavor. Look for tightly wrapped green leaves, and store them in your crisper drawer.

Celeriac Root. This gnarly white root taste delicious mashed with boiled potatoes, butter, milk, salt and pepper. Look for a firm medium sized root. Celeriac root retains for about two weeks as long as you keep it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Cauliflower. A cousin to broccoli and cabbage, cauliflower can be found in green, orange, and purple. This slightly nutty flavored vegetable is delicious boiled with white wine, garlic, bay leaf, and all spice, roasted for 15 minutes, then served with a blue cheese cream. Look for uniformly colored florets with few blemishes. This versatile vegetable keeps well in the refrigerator.

Sweet Potatoes. Don’t reserve this root vegetable just for Thanksgiving, More nutritionally dense than its white counterparts it is delicious julienned then baked, mashed, or added to a variety of casserole dishes. Look for blemish free skins, and store on a counter top.

Pears. The sweet and juicy taste of a pear only gets better when cooked. Try them baked or poached for a quick dessert. For a savory recipe of this dish boil pears with potatoes and onions, add spices, then puree for into a smooth soup. Look for blemish free skins. Store pears on the counter until they become soft, then put them in the fridge.

How to Get Your Kids to Eat a Healthy Lunch

Photo: Lau Rey When it comes to children eating school lunches, parents worry, that’s why Marcus makes it a priority to educate kids on what kind of foods are out there, how to cook them, and even more importantly, how fun they are to eat. When youngsters munch in the school cafeteria, this may be the first time they have ever been able to make their own choices about what to put on their plate, and though they don’t want to admit it, they are usually a little confused on what tastes good and will keep them full all afternoon.

Photo: elana's pantry

The majority of parents think the only fool-proof way to ensure their child eat a nutritious lunch is to send a pre-packed meal; however, with cafeteria options, this does not ensure that your child will eat what is packed for them. The important thing is to help your little one make the right choices about what to eat and what not to eat. In this piece, I want to share with you some steps to get your youth to eat healthy even when you are not around.

Look over the cafeteria menu with your child and talk about what their likes and dislikes are.  Having an open dialogue with your youngster about food allows you to gain information on what your kid likes to eat, and lets them learn from your knowledge on what is good for them to consume. Looking at the menu lets you and your child speak your opinions on food and learn from them.

Include your kids in the grocery shopping. Talking to your kids about what you are buying, what’s on the table for dinner, and where those items appear on their cafeteria menu helps them be able to visualize the food that is served in their cafeteria.

Let them live a little. Kids like sweets, pizza, and cheese. To ban all of their favorite foods actually does more harm than good, because eventually they rebel, and sneak that particular food in as much as they can. Therefore, let them indulge a little, so that they build a more balanced diet.