Bees on a terrace

Bees on a terrace

Bees on a terrace If you hear a mysterious buzz around Gezi Park, do not wonder. It must be the bees of Ritz-Carlton wandering around in search of flowers. The hotel’s new restaurant Atelier Real Food, seating only 50, might be small, but their ambition to serve real food is big.

Their chef Andre Piednoir has biked around the country to explore the food scene in Turkey, and is still ready to hop on his motorbike to reach for the real food. In search for good honey, the hotel management decided to go truly original and decided to serve honey that is unique and cannot be found elsewhere. They started their own bee colony on the rooftop. That was the only way to ensure their honey would be the one and only special honey in town.

Atelier Real Food’s originality might be a new practice in Istanbul, but many hotels in big cities are taking steps to go for the thrill of making their own signature honey. Waldorf Astoria in New York was among the pioneers, setting up their hives, not long after the ban on urban beekeeping in NYC was lifted in 2010. Prior to the lift of the ban, though illegal, urban beekeeping was quite popular with many keen apiculturists already active. The legalization allowed only the non-hostile Apis Mellifera species, but with barely half of the bee colonies registered, who knows which bees are buzzing over Central Park. The colonies are multiplying in numbers, with a remarkable list of new apiculture-friendly establishments, such as the InterContinental Barclay Hotel, the Whitney Museum of Art and the Bank of America. The latter is now trying to keep Mason bees, which are the indigenous variety, native to the Americas.

There are, of course, also raising concerns that urban beekeeping might be dangerous for inhabitants of the city, with uncontrollable numbers of bee colonies swarming around, but it seems that the buzz will be on for a while. In Paris, Louis Vuitton produces its own urban honey line La Belle Jardinière, not for retail but to be given as gifts. In London, the concept “from roof to table” is the basis of the honey-themed afternoon tea at the Athenauem, enabling guests to have a direct taste of the Regent’s Park. Now the apiculture trend is everywhere, in London, in Paris, and thanks to Ritz Carlton, now in Istanbul. Their terrace not only hosts the beehives; Atelier Real Food also grows most of their herbs and salad greens on the premises. It is also ironic that the building itself, had been one of the first controversial structures in Istanbul’s booming construction madness, now the hotel in such an arguable location decides to go as green as possible.

The holiday season is in. It is time to take it slow and enjoy the moment, and wish for good things to happen in the coming year. With an increasing amount of discouraging news on environmental issues, at least such small attempts in urban agriculture practices raises hopes. Yesterday Terra Madre Day was celebrated in Yedikule urban orchards to support their sustainability, by a group of Slow Food activists. Sweeten your palate with some urban honey in a cozy brunch with the family. There is nothing like sweetness to soothe the soul.

Bite of the week

Meal of the Week: Sunday roast served for brunch at Atelier Real Food is a truly real roast, as it is slowly roasted in hand-made special French Rotisserie. The urban honey of the house can also be sampled in the brunch.

Ritz Carlton: Süzer Plaza Askerocağı Caddesi No. 15;

Fork of the Week: The most delicious honey comes from Şile-Ovacık. A town near Istanbul on the Black Sea Coast. Situated near the chestnut tree forests, the chestnut honey the villagers produce is amazingly deep in flavor, very complex and woody, not cloyingly sweet, with a bitter edge. That is my favorite type of honey, as I’m inclined to bitter flavors and do not have a particularly sweet tooth. The complexity and bitterness works well in cocktails and especially creates wonders with whiskey-based mixes. Order on-line from

Cork of the Week: Honey and whiskey based cocktails seems to have as many variations as the countless bees buzzing around.  I created my own milky version with a real kick and a holiday twist. I named it the Urban Bee; the smokiness is reminiscent of air pollution in urban areas, the honey gives the sweet hopes for urban agriculture, the spices and orange peel is the holiday twist.
Mix 2 parts of smoky malt whiskey, 1 bar spoon chestnut honey, 1 part full fat milk in a shaker full of ice. Grate a bit of nutmeg, crush a clove and add a pinch of cinnamon on top. You can loosen the honey in milk beforehand to make sure that the honey does not become stiff when it contacts the ice. Shake vigorously and strain to an old- fashioned glass. Swirl an orange peel on top and enjoy. My choice of whiskey is eight-year-old Scotch whisky Lagavulin, as it is smokier than older versions and costs less, or Laphroaig, or Aberlour; or for a milder version try, Johnnie Walker Black Label.