Gathered by bees and packed on their hind legs to feed their young, bee pollen is touted for its high protein content. It adds a floral crunch or earthy touch to yogurt, salad dressings and soups – find it in health-food stores and at farmers’ markets.
The Waffle Iron
Blue, purple, green, yellow and orange granules top the raspberry- and coriander-infused cream waffle at The Waffle Iron, which holds monthly pop ups in Lawrence, Kansas. Owner Sam Donnell wanted to evoke the whimsical nostalgia of sprinkles without actually using them. His solution? Multicolored, wildflower bee-pollen granules sourced from Kansas-based Snow’s Honey & Produce. Donnell likens the crunchy garnish to “a really good macadamia nut – so buttery and nutty,” and also tops the waffle with Fruity Pebbles. “I love the juxtaposition of natural and artificial,” he says. The Waffle Iron’s “secret-recipe” buttermilk waffles topped with whipped lemon curd and a blueberry sauce often get a sprinkling of bee pollen, too. Donnell was introduced to the ingredient to combat allergies five years ago while working on a California farm, but he doesn’t see it used anywhere else in Lawrence. “There are people who come in because they hear the wheat we use comes from 1½ miles away, which appeals to them,” he says. “For them, bee pollen isn’t a trend. But it’s one of the most asked about things on the menu; many people have no concept of what it’s going to taste like before they try our waffle.”
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The Waffle Iron, instagram.com/thewaffleiron
A few years ago, a health-junkie cook working with Celebrations Restaurant executive chef DeWayne Schaaf ordered bee pollen online to combat allergies. Schaaf wondered what it tasted like and decided to play around with it on the tasting menu at the dinner-only restaurant in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. “It’s so mild, so I tend to do it with lighter dishes that are fairly simple and only four, five bites to really get the most out of it,” he says. His favorite past applications include a salad with bee-pollen vinaigrette, tempura-fried dandelion blooms, wilted greens, chèvre, tarragon and a drizzle of local honey, and in a peach panna cotta with elderflower anglaise and bee-pollen tuile. “I almost exclusively use it with pairings because its earthiness pairs well with wines with a brisk acidity or a hefeweizen,” he adds. Schaaf’s been able to source bee pollen locally from the area farmers’ market, but it’s hit or miss whether beekeepers will have it from week to week. This summer, he’s considering pairing it with the fruity funkiness of ripe apricot in a dessert, adding crunch to a carrot-cake muffin and even using it as a bittering agent in a dandelion-bee pollen beer.
Celebrations Restaurant, 615 Bellevue St., Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 573.334.8330, celebrations-restaurant.com
“Honestly, bee pollen was trendy 20 years ago,” says Frida’s co-owner Natasha Kwan. It makes sense then that the University City, Missouri, vegetarian café, known for its friendliness toward all diets, has included the ingredient in its Immune Booster smoothie since opening in 2012. “People are obsessed,” Kwan says of bee pollen. “There’s a spike in the spring; we’ll sell that drink three times over the other ones when allergy season hits – which is basically all spring and summer.” In the deep purple-blue smoothie, bee-pollen powder is blended with strawberries, blueberries, coconut water, Brazil nuts and raw honey from a local beekeeper for a double-whammy punch against allergy symptoms. “The combination of bee pollen and Brazil nuts is amazing for your immune system,” Kwan says. “Then you have blueberries and strawberries for antioxidants, and the coconut water is very hydrating and has a ton of potassium. One drink isn’t going to solve everything, but it’s great for giving you energy to get you through.”
Frida’s, 622 North and South Road, University City, Missouri, 314.727.6500, eatatfridas.com