Friday, August 16, 2013

The White House Beehive Is Featured In Special Edition Of 'West Wing Week'

Video: Beekeeper in Chief Charlie Brandts reveals that President Obama gives honey jars as gifts to Oval Office visitors...
Washington, DC -- With President Barack Obama on summer vacation in Martha's Vineyard, the White House on Friday devoted this week's edition of the video series West Wing Week to responding to questions submitted by social media users.  Beekeeper in Chief Charlie Brandts answered a query about the Presidential beehive, the first in history to be on the eighteen-acre White House campus.  (Above, a screengrab from the video with Brandts and the hive) 

"What will the Obamas do with the honey produced by their hives on the South Lawn?" asked Twitter user @AaronMartinson.

The video then cuts to the hive by First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden, where Brandts responds.

"What I've been told is the Obamas do with the honey is Michelle Obama, the First Lady, disperses it amongst the Executive Chef, Cris Comerford, and Bill and Susie in the Pastry Shop, of course," Brandts said. "They use it in their recipes, they've used it for State Dinners at times."

That's Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and Assistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison, the masterminds in the sugar situation room. 

The honey is "also given as gifts to foreign dignitaries," Brandts said, and offered a new piece of information about President Barack Obama and the honey.

"The President has given it out also to children in the Oval Office, from what I understand," Brandts said.  "So that's pretty cool."  

It's also a change from the red, white and blue White House M&Ms the President and First Lady typically dole out to visiting kids, in a box that is decorated with Mr. Obama's autograph and the Presidential seal.  The White House has created tiny gift jars of the honey that feature a graphic illustration of the mansion on the lids.  The inscription reads "White House Honey from The South Lawn."  (Above, a gift jar from the Obama Foodorama archive, with a penny to show scale)

"It's a great use for this honey...and that's pretty much it," Brandts concluded.

One thing Brandts didn't mention: The honey is a crucial ingredient in the White House homebrewed beers created by the chefs, who are the first Presidential beermakers in the history of 1600 Penn.  The recipes for the special brews, White House Honey Ale and White House Honey Porter, call for a pound each of the South Lawn honey.

Check out Yosses' recipe for White House Holiday Honey Cupcakes; more honey-happy recipes are on the sidebar.

The beehive question comes in at the 4:13 mark in the video:

Some of the White House honey harvest in past years has also been donated to Miriam's Kitchen, a social services agency that offers fresh healthy meals for DC's homeless citizens; Miriam's also receives about a third of the produce harvested from the garden, according to the East Wing.

Brandts, by title officially a carpenter at the White House before he retired last year after three decades at his post, built and installed the hive when Mrs. Obama first created her garden in 2009.  He still oversees the very productive operation, which has offered hundreds of pounds of honey.  Yosses and Morrison also work with the hive. 

Above, a photo of the beehive taken on August 10th by Obama Foodorama.  Bees are visible at the bottom.

*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama