Atelier du Miel & The Art of Honey-Based Cooking
I’ve been following the growth of local organic honey producer L’Atelier du Miel with the same resolve of a bee pollinating a flower. And it’s blossoming.
Established by the trio of an engineer, architect, and consultant, The Honey Shop, as its name translates to in English, came about as a pet project to produce local artisanal honey free from pesticides and antibiotics. Nearly a thousand beehives are moved throughout the year in synchronization with the flower-blossoming seasons. As a result, a myriad of honeys abound, from Cedar and Orange to Thyme and Lavender, each wholly untampered by heat treatment or processing.
And the taste shows for it. I’ve become addicted to Caroubier, tinged with hints of carob molasses, as well as Fleur d’Oranger, aromatic of orange blossom. Each has found a place in my pantry to top granola, pancakes, peanut butter – virtually anything that could use a sweet little drizzle!
The incorporation of honey into our daily cuisine might seem like an amateur mission, but professedly it begs a culinary art all of its own. Founders Marc Antoine and Ralph Bou Nassif and Ralph Traboulsi saw it as a natural extension of their product, and after years of contemplation and months of kitchen experimentation, they set that dream into motion.
|Food and drink rejecting sugar for organic honey
L’Atelier du Miel’s Workshop & Garden Café was thus conceived, opening its doors just two weeks ago between the residential buildings of Mar Mikhael. Featuring three outdoor terraces, a honey boutique, and a vast kitchen where honey-based products are crafted, the new space is a tribute to healthy and nutritious fare elevated exclusively by honey in repudiation of sugar.
|The honey boutique at the Workshop & Garden Cafe
The marriage of savory and sweet might at first repel a number of diners, but the reality is the use of honey couldn’t be subtler or more seamless. Consulting chef Hady Saroufim, previously of Le Vendome Beirut, has constructed a collection of dishes so palatable, you’ll want to take your friends along to partake in the full menu. Or you could just exact several visits at your leisure and relish in a different dish each time.
A welcome tasting plate acquaints you with three different honeys paired with spiced bread (pain d’épices), fruit and cheese. With palate thus prepped, your meal starts its careful descent.
For starters, we sampled goat labneh balls with cubes of watermelon graced by a chunk of thyme honeycomb (11,000 LL). Up next, a traditional “green” goat cheese smothered in thyme honey and sided by a salad of cherry tomatoes in balsamic vinegar (16,000 LL). Pierce the tines of your fork through both fruit and cheese and drag across the pool of honey to truly appreciate the divine trifecta.
|Goat labneh balls with watermelon and honeycomb
|Goat cheese smothered in thyme honey
A cheese and cold cuts platter (1/2 persons, 28,000 LL/56,000 LL) serves a similar purpose but adds roasted mango, vine-ripe tomato, diced cantaloupe, asparagus, and sucrine lettuce among a bouquet of Parma ham, Brie, Parmesan, and two varieties of honey: thistles and summer flowers, and orange blossom and spring flowers.
|Cheese and charcuterie platter (spot the honeycomb!)
Salads are a great lair for honey, but again don’t expect to get a sugar rush, as the ingredients cache the liquid gold exquisitely. Lollo verde and burgul make a beautiful base for slices of green apple, halved hazelnuts, apple cider vinegar, lemon dressing, and spring blossom honey (14,000 LL). Similar to Lebanese fattouch, the sucrine salad merges mache, Manchego, walnuts, and cherry tomatoes in vinegar dressing fused with the honey of thistles and summer flowers (16,000 LL).
|Lollo verde and burgul salad
|Sucrine salad in the spirit of fattouch with quail's eggs
Open-face bagels in true tartine fashion take center stage, available in smoked turkey with thyme honey (14,000 LL); roast beef with thistles and summer flowers (15,000 LL); and smoked salmon with orange blossom and spring flowers (22,000 LL). Fresh bagels from La Boulangère Bio and premium salmon from Meat the Fish are indicative of L’Atelier du Miel’s insistence on the finest local ingredients for a superlatively fresh experience. That combined with a flourish of Chef Hady’s wand make for a solid savory offering.
|Smoked turkey on bagel
|Roast beef on bagel
|Smoked salmon on bagel
Desserts are designed by consulting chef Pierre Abi Haila, who masterfully substitutes sugar with honey in his avant garde renditions. Pineapple carpaccio marinated in a honey rosemary syrup hits high notes as a gourmet fruit salad (14,000 LL). Dark chocolate lovers will relish the forest of cocoa in log and fudge format, but beware – it’s bittersweet (14,000 LL). Pierre’s reinterpretation of mohalabiyeh straddles honey-soaked bread, crispy filo sheets, and zesty candied orange (14,000 LL).
|Pineapple carpaccio tinged with honey
|Cocoa Crisp: pack each bite of chocolate with pine nuts or the pistachio brittle on bottom
|Lebanese mohalabiyeh revisited
One can only imagine what an extensive menu encompassing hot dishes will conjure up: Honey-glazed ham. Baked yams with lime and honey. Grilled ahi tuna with honey, soy sauce, and wasabi. Honey-garlic beef stir-fry. Linguini with honey sauced prawns. Oh boy! The sky, er, the beehive, is the limit.
But for now, educating customers in the art of honey-based cooking is a huge step forward for both L’Atelier du Miel and Lebanon’s culinary scene. So make a beeline for the garden café while the weather permits!
|L'Atelier du Miel Workshop & Garden Cafe
Armenia Street, Mar Mikhael (across from Manar Gas Station)
Open 12 noon to 11 PM daily