Not a lot of people know this, but I’m actually a little bit of a bee nerd. This may come out a wee bit when you look at the recipes I develop as I tend to cover everything in honey. Whether I’m making a pasta with honey fried ham or drenching figs in the stuff, I’ve always been inspired and fascinated by a product that thousands of little insects make for us to enjoy.
So when I found out that Toronto’s very own iconic Fairmont Royal York Hotel was the first hotel in the world to manage a roof top apiary I knew I just had to visit. I coordinated a weekend stay with the hotel’s PR pro (and bee keeper) with an interest in reviewing a few of the hotel’s dining options as well as a tour of the roof top garden and hives.
I checked in on a Friday at 2pm but before leaving my apartment pulled out my textbook. I actually studied Bee Biology at the University of Guelph way back when (mega bee nerd, see?) and had my final paper “Culinary Tourism and the Honey Bee,” published in Bee Culture Magazine. After a quick refresher I bolted down to Union Station.
I checked into an Executive Suite which featured a kitchen, two master bedrooms, living room, dining room and offered brilliant views of the CN Tower. I was also greeted by a bottle of sparkling wine, cheese plate and a jar of Fairmont Royal York Honey! I would be enjoying the weekend with my friend Mike G Moore who has a love for white robes, fine dining and queen bees.
After dropping off my bags I took a wee tour of the lobby which offered up some great photo opportunities and then spent the late afternoon sipping on cocktails at Library Bar. The honey which is harvested twice a year on the hotel’s roof top makes it onto menus throughout the hotel. I became rather tipsy after slurping several of the well crafted cocktails in the Library. Several of which included Royal York Honey which paired well with their addictive spicy bar mix.
Shortly after 6pm Mike and I met for dinner at Epic. We spent the next few hours sipping on cocktails, sampling wine and devouring the restaurants local and sustainable menu offerings. After dinner we hopped out onto the street where I experienced my first Bixie Bike ride. We peddled north on Yonge Street through the heart of the downtown and past the colours and chaos of Dundas Square.
The following morning we enjoyed a Room Service breakfast which arrived shortly after 7am. Our table was wheeled into the family room and set up so we could both enjoy a leisurely bite in our bath robes. We sampled freshly squeezed juice, smoothie, Famous Royal York banana bread, french toast, eggs benedict, sausage and bacon.
Once finished breakfast I quickly showered and then headed to the lobby with Mike to meet the Chef at Epic for a Saturday St Lawrence Market tour. The tour featured a great walk through some of the markets most famous vendors including a visit to Carousel Bakery for a peameal sandwich, Kozlik’s mustard, a few seafood experts, cheese mongers, coffee roasters and organic farming lovers.
Once finished our tour of the Market we marched back to the hotel and popped into The Library Bar for their Afternoon Tea service. We sipped from antique tea cups while nibbling on savory sandwiches and sweet pastries. I was ever so pleased we were served a hot crumpet drizzled with Fairmont Royal York honey which was adorned with fresh Ontario berries.
Our last stop of the day was a fantastic Chef tour of the hotel’s roof top garden and apiary. The rooftop garden features beds of fresh lettuce, a plethora of herbs, strawberries and rhubarb. These “roof top local” products are then used in the hotel’s various restaurant concepts such as The Library Bar (mint for your mojito) and Epic kitchen (thyme for your pork). Our final stop on the roof was a peak at six bee hives (from a safe distance). The experience really was unforgettable. It was a beautiful sunny summer day with views overlooking Lake Ontario. I snapped a few photos (being sure to use my zoom lens and not step too close to the buzzing worker bees) and couldn’t help but laugh. Thousands of little bee’s were diligently collecting pollen from across the downtown core of Canada’s largest city. All to be used, with great care, in creating a unique culinary experiences for those who dine at Toronto’s iconic Royal York.