Friday, October 23, 2009

How Much Honey Has The White House Beehive Produced? 100 Pounds? 140 Pounds? 100 GALLONS?

Stories vary about how busy the White House bees have been...& a random photo of the newly slim chef Art Smith [Update below]
In the photo above, White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford holds up a jar of White House Honey at First Lady Michelle Obama's Healthy Kids Fair on the South Lawn, which was held on Wednesday afternoon. The honey was used in a recipe for White House Baked Apples, a sweet but nutritious breakfast dish made with oats, raisins and nuts (see the recipe in next post). The recipe was created by Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses (left, above; assistant chef David Luerson is in background). And yes, those are carrots stuck in Yosses's toque; he said they're his favorite veg. A close-up of the honey jar:

Charlie Brandts is the Official White House Beekeeper. Chef Comerford noted that this current batch of honey tastes different than the last batch from the White House Beehive.

"You could see the Salvia strands in the last batch," Comerford said. "Purple, you could see it."

Salvia is planted around the White House grounds, and is a favorite plant for bees to visit. At least for White House bees. (Photo: The purple flowers in this White House flower bed bordering the South Lawn are Salvia).

So how many pounds of honey have come from the White House Beehive?
"140 pounds--alot," Yosses said, and added that he's used it in many desserts, and that it's been in all kinds of other dishes, too. The chefs got numerous questions about the honey during the Healthy Kids Fair, thanks to the presence of the honey jar, and the most popular question was "how much?" On Monday, White House horticulturalist Dale Haney, who designed the Kitchen Garden, told NBC's Today show that "about 100 gallons" of honey had come from the White House hive. Beekeeper Brandts wasn't interviewed by NBC, and he wasn't at the Healthy Kids Fair, either, so the difference in opinion is a mystery. Haney has worked at the White House for almost four decades, and is also officially in charge of walking Bo. (Above: The numerically magical White House Beehive)

In June, while giving Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard a tour of the Kitchen Garden--on video--Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass called the beehive "probably the greatest acheivement of the garden." While showing Howard the hive, Kass added "we should get about 100 pounds of honey, because the thing is doing so well."

Beekeeper Brandts wasn't at the Healthy Kids Fair to clarify the honey quantity, but at least we know for certain that the honey is global. In September, Mrs. Obama included honey from the White House Beehive, in a specially designed glass pot, as part of the Official Gift for G20 spouses attending The 2009 Pittsburgh Summit (in photo). Random fact: "White House Honey" is one of the top ten search terms here at Ob Fo. See if you can guess what the #1 search term is...and no, it's not "Barack Obama eating."

Fun photo, above: Chef Art Smith (l) was at the Healthy Kids Fair, just checking things out, but not cooking. He' a Friend of The White House Kitchen; he's guest cheffed there a lot, and demo'd his own kids' dishes in the Kids Kitchen at the 2009 White House Easter Egg Roll. Mrs. Obama and President Obama also spent their first Presidential Valentine's Day at Smith's Chicago restaurant, Table 52. (Above, from l: Smith; Comerford; Luerson; assistant chef Adam Collick; assistant pastry chef Susie Morrison; Yosses). Luerson has worked in the White House kitchen for twenty-four years, and Collick has been there for eleven years.

"I'm going to be here twenty-four more," Luerson said.

Update: Honey, clarified: It's 134 POUNDS, or about 11 gallons, according to deputy press secretary Semonti Stephens, who cleared up the honey issue at the Fall Kitchen Garden Harvest on Oct. 30.

*Photos by Obama Foodorama