|Bees fly to the hive on the hotel rooftop. Photo: The Fairmont Washington, D.C.|
As "chief beekeepers," executive sous chef Ian Bens and executive pastry chef Aron Weber share the responsibilities of maintaining the three colonies -- Casa Bianca, Casa Bella and Casa Blanca.
So why bees? Weber tells Slashfood he got the idea when he visited the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and saw their rooftop hives flourishing in an urban setting. The D.C. Fairmont already had an interior courtyard garden that produced fresh herbs and edible flowers like lavender, peppermint and rosemary, so the bees seemed like a logical step to further extend the chefs' ideology in keeping products as fresh and local as possible.
"I think it's just another idea of doing something really good for the environment, something beyond the herb garden," Weber says.
The first inhabitants of the Fairmont's bee colony came from Larry and David Reece of Germantown, Md., and were brought to the rooftop via the hotel's service elevator. Since then, Weber admits that the beekeeping has been a lot easier than he thought.
"The hardest thing is constantly researching and getting a feel for the bees," Weber says. "It's been really fascinating because it's just been a lot of observation."
So are beehives the newest trend in the locavore movement? Perhaps. Even the White House is getting in on the action, as they brought a beehive to the South Lawn earlier this year.
Bens and Weber hope to begin using the honey in their dishes this fall. Right now, their focus is to keep the colonies healthy so that they will be able to showcase their artisanal product at its full potential without rushing the process.
Once the honey does make its long-awaited debut at Juniper, don't expect to find it hidden in a dish somewhere.
"We really want a unique product -- keep it on its own," Weber says. "Let the real flavor shine through so you can taste what a local product tastes like."
Weber plans to serve the honey drizzled over the restaurant's cheese course and lemon sorbets. The hotel's lobby lounge also plans to feature the honey in a "beetini" cocktail.
Sarah LeTrent is an intern at AOL Food.