When you sit down to enjoy a cheese board with Ted Dennard, the founder of Savannah Bee Company, be prepared to become fascinated by bees.
Ted is a lifelong beekeeper and bee champion, and his passion for the bees is contagious. He started beekeeping as a boy and continued working with bees through college. After college, he joined the Peace Corps and taught beekeeping in Jamacia. When he returned home he continued working with bees, and friends and family asked to buy his honey so he started selling it in 1998.
After selling “Hopeful Honey” from his backyard for a few years, he made it official in 2002 and changed the company name to the city where he was living. From the beginning, the Savannah Bee Company was a mission-based business with the goal “to teach people about the wonder of honeybees.”
Today, Ted is akin to a “Honey Sommelier” as he curates the best honey from all over the world. Along the way, he has created a delicious and prolific product line of edible honey as well as honey wellness and beauty products that have a very loyal following. You can find Savannah Bee Company products in gift stores, some grocery stores and Ace Hardware but if you want to shop the whole line in one place, you need to visit one of the 15 experiential retail stores that sell all their products. The stores provide a full honey immersion complete with honey tasting bars. Depending on state laws, some of the stores also offer a mead—honey wine—bar and have a honey café complete with honey and biscuits.
As the honey pot has grown, Ted has not let the ‘business’ get in the way of his initial goal. The most important thing to Ted continues to be to “educate the consumer on the wonder of bees,” and to drive home the point, “if you save the bees, you save the planet.”
This need for education and for protecting bees inspired him to create “The Bee Cause Project” in 2014 with Tami Enright. The Bee Cause Project places beehives in schools in the US, Canada and the Bahamas to teach school kids how bees work, and how they make honey. Every product that is sold by the company contributes to this cause and to date, they have placed hives in 630 schools with a goal of 1,500 schools.
All of this is reason enough to buy Savannah Bee Company products, but the proof is in the tasting and all of the Savannah Bee Honey that I have tasted is best-in-class. There is a product and a style for everyone, from the basic to the rare Gold Reserve honeys. The varieties include black sage, wildflower, acacia, lavender, tupelo and orange blossom honey as well as the less known sourwood and saw palmetto. Honey for specific occasions include Honey for Cheese, Honey for Grilling, and Honey For Your Tea. Other favorites of mine are Whipped Honey from Montana available in natural or flavored with cinnamon, lemon or chocolate, and the new Tupelo Honey Hot Sauce.
But the most special, purest form of honey is the honeycomb. I love cutting a piece of the honeycomb and eating it alone, letting it melt in my mouth. Or, topping a piece of cheese or charcuterie with it. As you take a bite, the sweet balances the sharp salty cheese—or meat—and the chewy honeycomb adds a nice toothsome texture that slowly melts away.
The last couple of years, the cheese board has firmly pushed ‘cheese and crackers’ to a whole new level. If you’ve looked at any of the photos or videos on social media, you see that honey is a common addition to cheese boards, but it’s usually a drizzle of honey. There is nothing wrong with that, but making a fat slice of honeycomb the center of your cheese (and charcuterie) board is the best way I know to elevate it and make it really special. Once the honeycomb is in place, add your favorite cheese, cured meats, nuts, olives, dried fruit, fresh fruit, mustards, pickles, etc. As long as you like it, add it.
The nice thing about the Savannah Bee Company honeycomb—besides the pristine quality—is that it comes in a clear shallow container. I leave the honeycomb in the container and place the rest of the food around it. That way, I keep it clean and can preserve any of the honeycomb that is left over. My favorite product is the Cordial Honeycomb Gift box that comes with a cherrywood honeycomb knife that is made in the mountains of North Carolina.
Start with a large wooden cutting board or tray—any shape is fine. I am partial to my old bread board, and many people favor circular boards but use whatever speaks to you. I find that it is easiest to build my cheese board from the center outwards.
I place the honeycomb in it’s box slightly off center and build from there. If you need some guidance for putting together a board, I’ve put together these tips, but I encourage you to make it your own by adding your favorite nibbles and condiments.
- Cheeses such as Goat cheese, soft ripe Brie, an Aged Cheddar, Manchego, Parmesan Reggiano, Favorite blue cheese
- Other soft cheese such as ricotta, Boursin, burrata, etc in a small ramekin
- Salami and Prosciutto
- Salted crackers, seeded crackers, sliced Baguette, bread sticks
- Fresh Seasonal Fruit such as cherries, berries, apple, pears, figs
- Dried Fruit such as figs, dates, apricots, pears, etc
- Jams, tapenade, mustards—I use a small bowl for condiments
- Pickled veggies, olives, cornichon—I like to use a ramekin for these as well
- Toasted walnuts, pistachios, almonds, cashews, pecans or other favorite nuts such as Marcona almonds
- A sprig of fresh herbs and/or edible flowers
- Your favorite nibble
Enjoy and let your imagination and your appetite be your guide!