A celebration of the world’s oldest fermented beverage will take place Saturday, January 31 at the Robert Mondavi Institute on the UC Davis campus. For the second year, the Honey and Pollination Center at the Institute is hosting its annual Mid-Winter Beekeeper’s Feast: A Taste of Mead and Honey. Each element of the dinner is paired with a unique mead, a fermented blend of honey, water and often fruits, yeast, or spices. As more and more craft meaderies open, consumers are learning about this wonderful beverage. Not always sweet, often sparkling and very versatile!
Imagine starting your evening with Sparkling Madras Carrot Mead from Heidrun Meadery in Point Reyes, served with shitake soup shots and cracked Dungeness crab on Belgian endive. What an elegant start to a glorious dinner! Along the way enjoy music by the Jonny Gold Trio or purchase raffle tickets for an assortment of sensory adventures from honey beer making at Sudwerk to a holiday dinner made in your home. Darrell Corti, local wine expert and owner of Corti Bros. Grocery in Sacramento, will lead a mead tasting at the close of the evening.
A taste of the menu:
Select Chardonnay from Matchbook Cellars in Zamora or Orange Blossom Mead from Golden Coast Meadery in San Diego to complement your salad of winter greens and sliced navel oranges.
Elderberry Mead from Hidden Legend winery in Montana and Tempranillo from Berryessa Gap winery in Winters, CA are paired with the main course of roasted spring lamb shanks and a tasty polenta vegetarian option.
Elegant and simple - Cheeses from Laura Chenel, Point Reyes Farmstead and Beemster are complemented by Wildflower Honeycomb donated by Z Specialty Food of Woodland, CA.
Want even more? 30 dinner participants will experience a honey and mead tasting before dinner begins at 5pm in the Sensory Theatre at the Robert Mondavi Institute. Amina Harris, Director of the Center and Mike Faul, proprietor of award winning Rabbit’s Foot Meadery in Sunnyvale will lead this very special program. Participants will taste a selection of honeys and learn about mead from start to finish.
The Mid-Winter Beekeeper’s Feast has been designed by Ann Evans, author of the Davis Farmers Market Cookbook. Chrissie Zaerpoor, proprietor of the Mead Superstore in Yamhill, Oregon served as a consultant on the pairings for the dinner. Zaerpoor is an organic farmer, mead maker and is writing a new book about the paring of meads and various food options.
The Honey and Pollination Center has been in existence for two and a half years, says Amina Harris. In that short time we have worked to help make UC Davis a leading authority on bee health, pollination and honey quality. Our interest in Mead happened almost by accident, she explains. “While at a meeting in southern California I met a mead maker who insisted UC Davis was THE place to do research and help promote a most misunderstood beverage.”
“I came home from that brief experience and within two months, working with the Department of Viticulture and Enology, we had developed the country’s – maybe the world’s – first mead conference!” Mead has been dated to about 7000 BCE where ceramic shards found in Jiahu, Henan Province, China held a mead-like residue according to Dr. Patrick McGovern, the leading authority on ancient alcoholic beverages.
In addition to work with mead, the Center is developing the Bee Symposium with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and with funding from the Kaiser Foundation. Marla Spivak the McKnight Professor at the University of Minnesota and recipient of a MacArthur Fellow Award will keynote this one-day program, “Keeping Bees Healthy”. A full complement of speakers will address a variety of issues relating to bee health. Up to 400 attendees from students to beekeepers at all levels are expected to attend the program.
Harris explains, the Center has also developed a Honey Aroma and Flavor Wheel designed to help people understand the nuanced flavors of varietal honeys. Profits from the sale of the wheel, UC Davis honey and pollinator notecards are put into a travel fund for entomology graduate students. “It’s very exciting to be a part of helping students present their research, papers and to learn from others,” says Harris.
To join in the fun and support the Center, plan to attend this unusual and tasty dinner. Tickets are $125 and are available online at: http://honey.ucdavis.edu/ For more information contact Amina Harris; firstname.lastname@example.org.