Honey is a lot like wine, observes chef and author Carrie Schloss in the introduction to her new book, The Asheville Bee Charmer Cookbook: Sweet and Savory Recipes Inspired by 28 Honey Varietals and Blends. “Each varietal has a unique color, aroma, taste and mouthfeel,” she writes. “Additionally, like wine, each varietal is influenced by terroir, the set of environmental factors, such as soil conditions, weather and temperature, which affect a plant during its growth cycle and contribute to differences in flavor and aroma.”
On Saturday, Aug. 19, Schloss will launch the cookbook — the first one she’s penned — at Malaprop’s Bookstore and will be joined by Jillian Kelly and Kim Allen, owners of the popular downtown Asheville Bee Charmer honey shop. Although Schloss is based in Chicago, she has been friends with “Queen Bees” Kelly and Allen for decades.
The foreword to the book explains how the trio were inspired to tackle the cookbook project after Schloss visited the shop’s honey bar last year and sampled its 40-50 varietals. “You could already see the wheels turning as to how she would use the different honeys in various dishes,” Kelly and Allen write.
“Since we opened our store,” they continue, “we have often been asked when we would write a honey cookbook. We didn’t think we could write one ourselves, but after seeing Carrie in action at the honey bar, we thought she could bring the project to fruition.”
Contrary to what one might assume about a cookbook that’s obsessed with honey, the recipes are about much more than dessert. Of the eight chapters, only one focuses on sweets, with a good range of recipes including cookies, bars, pies and cakes as well as lighter fare such as chocolate avocado mousse (which is vegan, gluten-free and only requires five ingredients) and roasted pineapple chai sorbet.
The rest of the book focuses on savory dishes, with chapters devoted to breakfast foods (“Bee Awake”), small plates and snacks (“Bee Appetizing”), soups and salads (“Bee Warm and Bee Green”), sandwiches and mains (“Bee Full”) and sides (“Bee Complementary”). Chapters on sauces and cocktails (“Bee Saucy” and “Bee Buzzed,” respectively) wrap it all up.
Each recipe incorporates a specific varietal or blend of honey, all of which are listed and described early in the book by color, aroma, taste and possible food pairings. Seven of the featured honeys are proprietary infusions created by Asheville Bee Charmer — with flavors such as chai, ghost pepper, cocoa and rosemary — and are available only at the downtown shop or via its online store. The other honeys can be found both at Asheville Bee Charmer and elsewhere.
A recipe for hearty greens slaw, for example, harnesses the woody, spicy, floral flavor of Tasmanian leatherwood honey in a dressing to complement a varied mixture of fresh greens, carrot and onions. In eggplant Parmesan stacks, the vanilla and chamomile notes of dandelion honey are blended with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to season eggplant before baking and combining with slices of ripe tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil.
Honey isn’t the only bee product that shows up in the book. For example, a recipe for nut brittle, which the author notes is one of her favorites, gets a unique flavor boost from a topping of bee pollen.
One handy appendix lists recipes by varietal, so if you pick up a jar of orange blossom honey, you know exactly which recipes you can use it in. A second one clearly notes whether each recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free or vegan, and those designations are also indicated with the individual recipes.
The handsome, embossed hardback book is priced at $21.95. Copies will be for sale at the book-signing event at Malaprop’s on Saturday, Aug. 19.
The book launch happens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe, 55 Haywood St. There is no charge to attend.