I love photography, I’m very lucky to love what I do for a living. And, if you know me personally or follow my personal life on social media, you know I also love food! I love everything about it: cooking, eating out, trying new things…and I especially like food photography. There’s something very satisfying to me to make food that tastes good look delicious, too. And when my passions collide, like they did on this Asheville Bee Charmer Cookbook project – it’s a win-win!
So, how did I get so lucky?! I met Chef Carrie Schloss while doing food photography on another cookbook (The Essential Dehydrator) with Chef Jill Houk (who I also worked with on these delectables!). Carrie helped test the recipes and do the styling, and the three of us worked some fun, long hours putting together those yummy food shots. When Carrie told me about her new cookbook concept, I couldn’t wait to jump in! Check out more, below, on what inspired her journey.
The first thing I did was head on over to meet Jillian and Kim, the owners at The Asheville Bee Charmer store in downtown Asheville, North Carolina (if you’ve never been to Asheville, put it on your list! It’s charming and chock full of amazing food + drink). What an adorable store! And they couldn’t be more delightful, their love for all things bees and honey shining through.
I’ve chosen just a few of my favorites from the 130 recipes (and 28 honey varietals and blends!) to highlight here, along with a couple of fun anecdotes about the process and the people behind it. Working with Agate Publishing was an absolute joy, too. Their design is beautiful. I hope it’s a tasty treat for your senses!
If you’re interested in getting your very own signed copy, drop me a line! And, you can meet me, Carrie and Jillian and Kim at one of our upcoming book launch events. If you’re in Chicago, we’re having a Book Launch party at Bang Bang Pie on August 12th (RSVP here!) and if you’re in Asheville, we’ll be at Malaprops Bookstore on Saturday, August 19th for a book talk, discussion and signing. Both events are FREE, but you must RSVP!
This is author/Chef Carrie Schloss in her kitchen – and the setting for most of our food photography work together. I asked Carrie what her inspiration was for the honey-centric cookbook, and here’s what she had to say:
“I was in Asheville visiting Jill and Kim and as I was tasting honeys, all these great recipe ideas started flowing. At around the same time, they had a food tour come in and I mentioned to people some dishes that would work with the different honeys. And also that weekend, I helped them with a honey demo they were doing for an event. Jill and Kim also mentioned that although they sold a couple of people’s honey cookbooks, their customers also asked them when they were going to produce a cookbook. They didn’t think they had the time or cooking skills to create one. But during that weekend, they asked me if I would be interested and I jumped at the chance!”
This is the dynamic duo behind The Asheville Bee Charmer store, Jillian and Kim. Learn more about their journey from a beginners’ beekeeping class at Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory to diving into a retail store and becoming beekeepers themselves.
This is probably my favorite part of the store – the honey tasting bar! I love the honeycomb design. You’d be amazed at the range of varietals and flavors that honeys have. There is a terroir to them, much like wine. I particularly loved the Hot Honey and the most interesting to me was the French Honey from Corsica that tasted like blue cheese…so good! So many delicious honeys to sample!!
(pssst…that’s my lovely Mom there, tasting some Tupelo Honey…)
Before we left Asheville, Jillian and Kim recommended Skybar and their rooftop for the best place to grab a cocktail and the sunset over the Smoky Mountains…they were right, it was PERFECT!
So…the recipes! There are 4 kinds of muffins in the cookbook, and we wanted to show how beautiful a bountiful basket could be with a little bit of all of them. I love how the textures of the ingredients – carrots, oranges, zucchini, apples – photographed. And, that apple lavender one on the left…you’ve got to try it!
Another favorite breakfast item for me – the Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes. Yes, ricotta! It gives such a yummy creamy texture to the pancakes, which also have acacia honey in them…and a drizzle of blueberry honey to top it all off, of course! That drizzle…we had a lot of fun perfecting that one! 🙂
I’m particularly proud of this one, especially the name! I was posting photos on Instagram during the shoot, I dubbed this one “Piña-prese” and…it stuck! And, let me tell ya, pineapples roasted with Tupelo Honey? Crazy good.
Remember that Smokin’ Hot Honey I mentioned earlier? Yeah, add that to the marinade for this Chipotle Honey Marinated Skirt Steak and WOW! And, as long as we’re talkin’ spicy…the Asian Turkey Wraps uses both the Bee Charmer’s Firecracker Hot Honey as well as a ginger-infused honey… *drool*
I asked Carrie what her favorite honey varietal was, and here’s what she said:
“I can’t really say I have a favorite varietal, because I truly love so many kinds. One of my favorites though has to be the Smokin’-hot honey that is an Asheville Bee Charmer blend. It is a smoky chipotle honey and brings back many childhood flavor memories for me. My mother was born and raised in Mexico and I spent a lot of time there growing up and also worked there for a year. I absolutely adore it in the Chipotle Honey Marinated Skirt Steak recipe from the book. The meat has a wonderful smoky flavor with some heat. Yum!”
Honey and empanadas?! Yep! Dandelion honey, to be exact. Coupled with Cabbage, Gorgonzola and Candied Walnuts…I ate a LOT of these. Well, you know, to be sure they tasted good….
This Bee Pollen Nut Brittle is probably my favorite recipe for snacking and gifting – it is soooo delicious. From a food photography standpoint, I couldn’t get enough of it, so many textures and details – and different from every angle!
Carrie also singled this one out when I asked her what her favorite recipe was and why:
“I don’t really have a favorite, but one that I really like to make and eat is the Bee Pollen Nut Brittle. It uses fir honey, which has strong caramelized sugar and pine notes. And it is chock full of nuts and seeds — 6 kinds! Plus you add the bee pollen which adds a really wonderful flavor dimension and also makes it one of the most visually beautiful brittles you will see.” (she’s definitely right about THAT! Isn’t it gorgeous?!)
This one is up there with the Bee Pollen Brittle as a fave from a food photography perspective…Sweet Potato Napoleon. Yes, you read that right! The colors from the sweet potato, beets, Swiss chard and getting just the right amount of drizzle-y shine from that carrot honey and orange sauce…a delicious challenge, for sure! But what a lovely dish that tasted even better than it looks.
I’ve had polenta cakes before, but this Rosemary Polenta Cake blew me away. The double whammy of fresh rosemary and the Asheville Bee Charmer’s Rosemary-infused honey balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the cake. And my husband couldn’t get enough of the bars – there are several kinds in the book. He especially liked the Chocolate Honey Almond No-Bake Granola bars (on the bottom, below the Amaranth, Nut and Seed bar and the Lentil Energy bars). And, bars are surprisingly tricky for food photography…they like to crumble and break a lot. Best to just gobble ’em up 🙂
One last Asheville sunset from atop Skybar, overlooking the Smoky Mountains. It’s just so beautiful!
I hope you enjoyed my little sampling of the cookbook. Let me know if you’d like to get your own, signed copy to make some of these scrumptious recipes (along with the other 130 recipes!). And I’d love to hear about anything you try!