The folks behind the new Apis Restaurant and Apiary have been busy bees. When delays pushed back the eatery’s opening, they launched a series of pop-up supper clubs as an outlet for their pent-up food and service energy.
Meanwhile, actual bees have been busy since April in 20 hives on the restaurant’s six acres overlooking the Pedernales River. Those bees just produced their first harvest of honey, which will be featured on the menu along with locally sourced, fresh ingredients. The restaurant’s name, Apis, comes from the taxonomy of the western honeybee, Apis mellifera.
Apis culminates a lifelong dream for owner and executive chef Taylor Hall and his wife, Casie Hall. Head chef for Supper Underground since 2009 (and thus no stranger to off-site events), native Texan Taylor started cooking as a young man in his family's kitchen. He graduated from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee in 2001 and in 2005, completed the culinary arts program at California Culinary Academy of San Francisco. He gained experience at some of San Francisco's top gourmet restaurants — Wolfgang Puck's Postrio, the Rosenthal Brothers' Town Hall and Salt House, and Nancy Oakes' James Beard Award-winning Boulevard — before returning to Texas to do his own thing in 2007.
The restaurant combines his passion for food and his fascination with honeybees. “Our inspiration was not only the honey but also what the bee represents,” says Taylor. “It’s a natural part of the food cycle, and bees are busy and hardworking, just like a restaurant.”
A recent pop-up dinner at the Oasis complex gave a taste of what diners can expect at the restaurant. The five-course, prix fixe menu included Dungeness crab and mozzarella in mushroom broth dusted with nori, a feral hog ragu over handmade pasta seasoned with juniper, and a Columbia River steelhead trout with sunchokes, fennel, meyer lemon and gaeta olive. The highlight of the meal was an Apis honey-glazed duck breast with beets, faro, rose and hazelnut. An artfully presented dessert combined a Valrhonna chocolate cremeux and popcorn ice cream.
The Halls have had a bee hive at their home since 2010, inspired by Colony Collapse Disorder, a serious threat to the country’s honeybees. Bees from the restaurant’s hives will pollinate future gardens on the campus that will provide some fresh produce for the menu in addition to producing honey for craft cocktails and culinary creations.
No need to worry about bee stings with dinner; the hives are on the back of the six-acre property, a distance from the restaurant with a feeding barrier between them and guests. The breed of honeybee used also is known for being docile.
Taylor hopes to be working hard in the Apis kitchen in early 2015.