Surdyks, "we're getting calls for the 'Foshay Tower dessert'"

Counter intelligence: The W's latest buzz

That sound you hear downtown? It's rooftop beekeepers.
There's a swarm of new guests at the W Minneapolis-The Foshay hotel. About 120,000 bees have checked into a pair of exclusive suites on the second-floor roof, just above the hotel's lobby at 9th Street and Marquette Avenue S.
Yes, the downtown rooftop trend now extends to apiaries. The two wooden hives debuted in May, and they're not there to give hotel guests something to gaze at from their windows, although that's a nice byproduct.Nope. St. Paul beekeeper and chocolatier Susan Brown is going to use the hives' honey in bonbons, for the hotel to offer as a locally made amenity."We wanted to provide a special, personalized touch that you can't get anywhere else," said Susan Mabry, the W's general manager. "As far as we know, we're the only hotel in Minnesota doing this, and only one of a few hotels in the country."Brown has been in the honey business since 2006. "Bees are so inspirational," she said. "The more research that I did, the more fascinated I became."At the W, Brown has dubbed her two queens -- one for each hive -- Wilhelmina and Wendy. Their hives were built by Brown's husband, Robert Brown, a Walker Art Center carpenter, using a design inspired by the hives in the Luxembourg Gardens of Paris. The inspiration for urban rooftop apiaries also originates in Paris: The Palais Garnier opera house has been home to hives for nearly 30 years.Brown visits once a week to check on the bees' honeymaking progress, and to replenish their water supply. The journey requires a careful walk through a maze of massive air conditioning units, a trip up a slightly vertigo-inducing ladder and a costume change into protective gear.Brown graciously gave me a tour last week. After cautiously pulling a frame from one of the hives and gently brushing away a small swarm of bees, she pressed a spoon into the soft, geometrically precise honeycomb. The spoon quickly filled with a golden, warmed-by-the-sun honey. I took a taste, and the mellow flavor blossomed on my tongue. It was exquisite."There's nothing more pure than this," she said.Brown estimates that she will be able to extract 100 pounds of honey from the W's apiary this year. She added that downtowners won't notice their industrious new neighbors, but their impact will soon be readily apparent."Everything they pollinate will become more beautiful and more vibrant," she said. Two other fun facts: Bees can travel up to 3 miles in their intrepid search for nectar, and they have to visit 2 million flowers to produce a pound of honey.For those who don't want to book a room at the W, Brown's distinctively gorgeous honey bonbons -- made from honey harvested from other hives she maintains and sold under the Mademoiselle Miel label -- are available at Surdyk's and Sugar Sugar in Minneapolis, and the Golden Fig in St. Paul.

A Wedding in May

We packed up 150 boxes as lovely favors for a wedding in Utah. A sweet, unique gift and a fun wedding!

California Sunshine

Mademoiselle Miel is NOW selling honey bon-bons in Oakland, California at the fantastic new shop Oakland Dry Goods. The shop is located in the Temescal neighborhood, down an alley off of 49th Street between Telegraph and Clarke. The alley used to be old stables and has since been turned into little retail spaces. There is a cool and old school barber shop, a shop full of curiosities and horticultural delicacies like air plants and succulents, a dressmaker, jewelry maker, a music teacher and soon to be a vintage clothing store. There's also a very popular gourmet doughnut shop. It is a super fun and funky area that has a semi-old Americana feel to it.  For you California fans, or if you're visiting . . . check them out! The address: 470 49th Street, Oakland CA 94609.

Chocolate Science

A wonderful article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about chocolate . . . it's value in body, mind and spirit.

Star Tribune

Nice article about Golden Fig in St. Paul which carries honey bon-bons. Now also carrying salted honey bon-bons!

Demo at Surdyk's

Stop by Surdyk's on Saturday, Feb 11 between 11 and 1 to hear more about Mademoiselle Miel and honey bon-bons. You can also try samples of the NEW salted honey bon-bons!

New Honey Varieties Now Available

Nodding Thistle honey, a perfumed floral bouquet with an intensely sweet flavor is a perfect combination with pure black chocolate for honey bon-bons. Not so favored by gardeners, the plant is considered a weed. Try new Sumac honey bon-bons as well . . . the honey variety is indicated on the Honey ID label located on the box bottom.

What To Do With the Empty Box?

Hard to throw away these beautiful boxes. What can be done? Send ideas to

top: business card holder
bottom: spare change collector (save for honey bon-bons!)