Honey has long been recognized for both its culinary virtues and wellness benefits, including health-boosting antioxidants and immune-supporting properties. Here in Arizona, its master producers—the bees—impart the personality of our diverse flora into each batch, from forest wildflowers to orchard blooms. Using flavor profiles ranging from aromatic orange blossom to robust mesquite, Scottsdale chefs are tapping into nature’s gift to enhance their culinary creations.
In the heart of Old Town Scottsdale lies Merkin Vineyards' (MerkinOldTownScottsdale.com) tasting room and its award-winning Arizona wines. Alongside is a local-centric menu showcasing harvests from the winery’s Verde Valley orchards and gardens supplemented with local artisans such as Rango Honey and Honey Hive Farms. As part of curating a uniquely Arizona experience, executive chef Steven Zimmerman incorporates the flavors of mesquite, clover, and orange blossom honey in dishes and desserts.
“Clover is a delicious, sweet, neutral honey,” he notes. “Orange blossom is more floral and especially nice in desserts, and mesquite is rich and molasses-y, which gives great flavor to barbecue and meat dishes.”
Order the bread service and you’ll want to slather slices of rustic bread with the accompanying honey-roasted garlic-coffee butter and wedge of honeycomb. Your salad course might bring creamy goat cheese fondue topped with farm-fresh greens and Merkin white peaches, crumbles of Crow’s Dairy goat cheese, and honey-glazed pecans, all dressed in a roasted garlic and honey vinaigrette. The globally accented menu brings appetizers like kofta featuring tender lamb meatballs glazed with harissa-spiced honey and garnished with zhug, a zesty herb blend, toum, a creamy garlic sauce, and ezme, tomato salad spiked with Urfa biber pepper. Zimmerman’s deft use of honey is further demonstrated in a seasonal honey chicken entree. He first whips the honey before folding it into ricotta perfumed with cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon. On top of that, he stacks honey-glazed carrots and pan-seared chicken marinated in honey and mustard marinade before gilding all with an herbaceous honey gremolata. For a sweet finale, satiate your sweet tooth with caramelized mesquite honey budino with honeycomb brittle and Chantilly cream or honey-blackberry cobbler with a scoop of lavender-honey gelato sprinkled with bee pollen.
Nearby, Cala (CalaScottsdale.com) at Senna House hotel similarly incorporates local honey into its culinary repertoire. Visit for brunch for a colorful plate featuring local fruit macerated with vanilla beans on a fluffy bed of ricotta whipped with lemon zest that is then sprinkled with candied Marcona almonds and drizzled with Sun Valley Bees honey infused with black pepper. Or, for something heartier, opt for Wild Isles salmon shellacked with a Moroccan-spiced honey glaze served alongside a creamy corn puree, roasted potatoes, and sauteed spinach.
“It’s one of our most popular dishes,” says executive chef Peter McQuaid. “It's really simple, but everybody just loves it.”
Arboleda (ArboledaAZ.com), renowned for its Mediterranean cuisine, leverages local honey as a natural sweetener in dishes such as baba ghanoush (a smoky eggplant dip), sourdough toast spread with Italian ‘nduja cured sausage and ricotta and decorated with wildflower honey, or decadent clementine Earl Grey tea cake with strawberries nestled in a puddle of passionfruit puree.
Meanwhile, Sweet Republic's (SweetRepublic.com) ice cream creations highlight honey's potential as a dessert enhancer. McClendon's Select desert blossom honey takes the lead in flavors that range from sweet (honey-lavender) to savory (honey and blue cheese). Crème brûlée, a standout favorite, features rich vanilla and caramel custard ice cream studded with homemade honeycomb toffee candy.
“We used to have it as a rotational flavor, but it was so popular that now it’s one of our core signatures,” says co-owner Helen Yung.
ZuZu (HotelValleyHo.com) at Hotel Valley Ho brings a bold twist to traditional chicken and waffles. First, Mary's free-range chicken encased in a batter seasoned with mustard, cayenne, paprika, garlic, and onion is fried to crispy perfection. It's then piled atop a fluffy waffle with a slab of savory pork belly and garnished with roasted corn tossed with Taijin, pickled Fresno chiles, and scallions. Finally, a generous drizzle of its signature hot honey—mesquite honey infused with guajillo, morita, and pasilla chiles—adds a touch of sweet heat.
Renowned for its artful tasting menus, Café Monarch (CafeMonarch.com) in Old Town Scottsdale exudes refined elegance with honey-kissed compositions. A luxurious creation by Chef de Cuisine Ben Wald features a silky mesquite honey egg custard crowned with a seared medallion of melt-in-your-mouth Hudson Valley foie gras, orange segments, and cherry gelee. The finishing touch? An accompanying pour of lemongrass-scented honey tea.
Honey does more than sweeten dishes. It adds depth, complexity, and texture to food. Its versatility spans savory and sweet dishes with a diverse flavor profile that can range from delicate floral notes to rich molasses undertones. Since honey is sweeter than sugar, you can use fewer amounts when substituting it in recipes. Baking benefits from honey's moisture-retaining properties, resulting in tender and moist breads, cakes, and cookies. Honey aids in caramelization, lending richness and color to dishes like roasted meats and vegetables. Its emulsifying qualities also make honey an excellent addition to dressings and sauces, ensuring smooth, well-balanced blends.
“Clover is a delicious, sweet, neutral honey, orange blossom is more floral and especially nice with cheese and desserts, and mesquite is rich and molasses-y, which I like to use with barbecue and meat dishes.”