Who would imagine? While I was eating at Cotogna in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, bees were making honey on the rooftop. That's the work of Terry Oxford and her partner Brian Linke of UrbanBee SF.
Linke didn't know a thing about bees until he started dating Oxford and helping her with the bees she'd been keeping on top of her San Francisco high-rise for several years. The two have a habit of walking the city at night, and one evening they found themselves staring in the window of Quince's open kitchen.
At that moment, chef Michael Tusk who owns both Quince and Cotogna next door, came out to say hello. They introduced themselves and mentioned they'd been wanting to put beehives on top of a restaurant for a while, says Linke. Funny thing, Tusk said he'd been thinking about the same thing just that week.
Done. A month and a half later, bees were in residence on the rooftop shared by Quince and Cotogna. The seven hives have been in place for about a year, producing the honey that goes into the roasted carrots with rooftop honey on Cotogna's menu, a dish I wish I'd tried when I was there.
Right now, just one other restaurant in San Francisco has them, Farm:Table on Post Street. UrbanBeeSF will soon be establishing honey programs at Nopa and Mission Beach Cafe, both in San Francisco. And next month, they'll be moving bees onto the roof at Blue Bottle Coffee's roasting facility in Oakland.
Because the bees forage around the city where there's lots of wild fennel growing, Oxford says the honey has an anise note and tends to lean more toward the savory than the sweet.
Later this year, they plan to start selling the honey. Stay tuned for an update.
[Corrected at 1:30 p.m. April 21: An earlier version of this post referred to the name of the organization as Urban Bees SF.]
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Photo: Chef Michael Tusk with Terry Oxford. Credit: UrbanBeeSF