by April Paffrath
This week is National Pollinator Week, where pollinators, from insects to birds, are celebrated and efforts are made to preserve them. The honeybee is facing a serious decline, and along with the bees will also decline the $14 billion worth of food crops they pollinate.
Miel, the Brasserie Provençale at Boston's Intercontinental Hotel, has a special $38 prix fixe menu ($18 to add wine) to support National Pollinator week. I told you a while ago that I would take one for the team and check it out. Well, it was a sweet assignment, and I went to meet with the chef and managers to find out about their menu (pdf), the food they make, and their love of honey. This week's special menu (pdf) has a yummy sounding Fourme d'Ambert with honey roasted seckle pears and candied fennel as well as a honey crème brulée. (I wonder if they can use honey for the crisp caramelized topping or if it requires sugar to go all glassy.)
The Intercontinental Hotel is right on Fort Point Channel and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The views from the rooms and the residences above the hotel are great—urban and coastal at the same time. I love the concave façades of the building that echo the swaying of boats...very clever. The architecture and design writer in me was going mad for the resonances and details.
Miel is a large restaurant set to the back of the hotel, facing the bright channel. The hotel has done a great job using the outdoor space and making it part of the experience—bringing the hotel and dining right up the the water's edge. I love that they have a dock, so boats can motor in, tie up, and the boaters can come in for dinner. You can also take the water taxi to and from the hotel. I really like how the hotel is using its water location, instead of turning away from it. The outdoor patios (shared with the hotel's sushi restaurant and the outdoor wine bar) are green and lush, with grass, plants, and plenty of patio paving for dining areas. The hotel has free sunrise yoga outside on the channel-facing grass every Saturday morning this summer from 7:30-8:30am—mats and blocks can be rented. You don't have to be a hotel guest to do yoga with them. Afterwards, you can go to Miel for a "power yoga breakfast."
The restaurant design is definitely Provençal. The side tables for serving are actually beehive boxes, a wonderful nod to their signature ingredient. The private dining room is all about olive oil—another famous element of Provençal cuisine. The chandelier is made from small olive oil bottles. The curlycues and accents are a thorough nod to the French region. And, in fact, a true bit of France is part of the restaurant thanks to French natives Sophie Lunardi, the GM, and Didier Montarou, the chef.
As you can imagine, the food features the restaurant's namesake ingredient, honey. Scallops in a honey glaze, île flottante dessert with a golden hue thanks to the honey used to sweeten it (instead of the traditional sugar). So, the menu tends toward the sweet, including honey salad dressings, glazes and more. Chef Didier Montarou says that honey is particularly suited to poultry, game, goat cheese and, of course, desserts.
There is a wall in the restaurant, filled with jars of honey for sale. They are from large manufacturers and small producers, but Montarou is quick to show his preference for the small, local farmers. Lunardi and Montarou did a little honey tasting with me during my visit, where we sampled the honeys they have for sale. They only have one mass-market brand from Europe, but they are trying to move away from it and replace it with smaller production honeys from around the world. We tasted a variety, including specific flower honeys, like acacia and chestnut. We also tasted local wildflower and provence wildflower. I think our favorite was from the Boston Honey Company, which Montarou lauded as excellent.
He creates his dishes based on the different sorts of honey. He noted that with the large brands, they never run out of stock....which is a little odd. Honey is a limited sort of thing and, when a brand never runs out, at best they're a huge operation, at worst, you're not getting what's on the label, he said. "When it's a small farmer, you know where it comes from," says Montarou about his desire to work with small operations and local providers. When they get more local honeys, that supports the local beekeepers, as well as the local agriculture that the bees pollinate.
After my honey tasting and a tour of the property, I met my friend, C, at the rum and champagne bar, RumBa, to taste their Queen Bee martini. The sugar-rimmed cocktail is made with pear, St. Germain, and honey. The stem of the glass got verrry sticky, which was perhaps the only drawback. They sent us their honey-glazed scallops, which I left to my friend (since I'm allergic). They looked beautiful and caramelized on a bed of rocket. They also gave us the goat cheese with chopped honeyed nuts. That was quite tasty.
The only thing I didn't have time to check out before meeting my friend is the spa. They have a honey treatment that sounds wonderful. It's called la peau au miel (honeyed skin) and it sounds delicious. It starts with an olive oil and sugar body scrub, followed by a layer of warm honey and a wrap. It's finished with an olive oil moisturizer. I can just imagine. You would just smell like lovely honey! OK, I know I'm a food writer, but I also love the spa. This treatment sounds pretty tasty. I may need to go back! Right now.
Scallop and Rocket Salad
Seared Scallops and Farm-Raised Mushrooms with Lemongrass Acacia Honey Vinaigrette
courtesy of Miel
Yields 4 portions
- 12 ea large U-10 Scallops
- 24 ea Button Mushrooms
- 1.5 cup Rocket Greens (arugula)
- 1 oz Acacia Honey
- 2 Tbsp. Lemongrass vinaigrette
- 1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
- Pan sear scallops in olive oil until brown on each side.
- Remove from pan and add mushrooms, sauté until softened then add honey, balsamic vinegar and lemongrass vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper.
- Mix rocket salad with olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Divide the rocket equally for four portions.
- Place the seared scallops on top of the greens. Garnish with the mushrooms.
makes about 1 cup
- 1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
- 2 Stalks Lemon Grass
- 1 ea. Lemons (juiced)
- 1/2 cup Oil Blend
- 1 cup Water
- salt & pepper to taste
- Zest of lemons
- Rough chop Lemongrass, then put in blender with water.
- Remove and put in pot and slowly cook for 10 min.
- Strain to mixing bowl let cool.
- Add mustard and slowly add oil to form an emulsion.
- Season with salt and pepper, lemon zest and juice