“We are Ladies and Gentlemen, serving Ladies and Gentlemen, and Bees.”
OK … I know the Ritz Carlton motto doesn’t include a reference to bees, but now that the Crown Jewel of Sarasota’s hospitality scene decided to partner up with Mother Nature, bees were all the buzz at their newest venture on the links of Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Lakewood Ranch.
We were excited to be included in the media’s first-look at the Ritz’s apiculture program, where we learned more about the fostering of honeybees, and why their importance is so crucial to environmental sustainability.
“The absence of honeybees in our environment has serious ramifications for our food supply. We hope that by having these hives on our golf course, we can not only help our local flowers and plants, but also raise awareness about this issue locally,” said Sean O’Brien, Director of Golf grounds and certified beekeeper. If you’re interested in a primer, look no further than HERE. And if you’d like to read about the science-backed health benefits of honey, here’s another great link . . . http://www.well-beingsecrets.com/health-benefits-of-honey-ultimate-guide/ We’ll wait ’til you get back…
Pretty amazing, right?
In addition to being a great educational experience, the added (and totally unexpected) bonus was seeing how the Ritz Carlton used their harvested honey in cocktails, spa treatments, and – you guessed it – food.
After an up close and personal viewing of the hives (just not too up close and personal!) we returned to the Members Club House to savor honey inspired cocktails by Jack Dusty Bartender extraordinaire, Ingi Sigurdsson, which was honestly the Bee’s Knees. That’s not a pun; it’s the actual name of the cocktail – The Bee’s Knees.
While I enjoyed my cocktail, my own honey, Jill, was treated to some brief honey inspired spa treatments by Michelle Delladova, the Lead Therapist of the Resort Spa Team. They offered a number of treatments with honey as the primary ingredient, and Jill loved the scent of the moisturizer. Sweet!
In true Ritz-Carlton style, we were then fêted with tasting courses that show exactly why the words “Ritz-Carlton” are synonymous with the gold standard in luxury hospitality.
The first course appetizer, prepared by the Golf Grille’s Chef de Cuisine Jeff Sladky, was a Sweet Potato Gnocchi, served with roasted mushrooms, crispy pancetta, lemony arugula, parmesan fondue and a honey-brown butter syrup. Now if you think that sounds delicious, you’d be right – except for one thing – the word delicious doesn’t come anywhere near to describing this dish! If this was the only dish they’d served, everyone of us would have left feeling spoiled. It was beyond delicious.
Our small group of fellow foodies were in awe of the Sweet Potato Gnocchi, so it was sad to learn that (as yet) there are no plans to make this a featured item on any of the resort’s menus. I have a suggestion – perhaps we can initiate an “adopt-a-bee” program to fund the fight against whatever obstacle is keeping this amazing dish off the menu. If nothing else, give me the recipe! We have to have this again!
Our entrée tasting was prepared brilliantly as well by Jack Dusty’s Chef de Cuisine, Caleb Taylor. His fall inspired dish featured a Honey Braised Pork Shank with a blistered jalapeno creamed corn and crushed Yukon gold potatoes. This was simply a fork-tender sensation. Topped with a delicious piece of honeycomb, the combination of sweet/savory/creamy-dreaminess was impeccable. This was flavor spelled with a capital “B(ee!)”
Executive Pastry Chef Lyndsy McDonald humbly presented her dessert of Honey Orange Bread Pudding with a honey caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. I say “humbly presented” as she explained that “as a Southern girl, born and raised,” she was immediately drawn to her culinary roots when designing this dish. Well, take a bow Chef, there is absolutely nothing you could do to improve this dish! The look was simple, the taste sublime!
We ended the evening with a Fond Farewell from the pros at the Ritz Carlton. It truly was our pleasure to be a part of such an educational and delicious evening.
And to those remarkable bees, we say onward and upward!
We rate the Ritz bees an A+!