Tamayo and Toro are premiering a bee-themed menu to raise awareness about the climate crisis facing our honey-making friends

The special menu and philanthropic campaign will be available through April 23.
4 min. read
Enchiladas Doradas, part of Tamayo’s Viva Abejas menu. March 14, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

You can thank the bees when you're taking a bite of enchiladas smothered in an orange honey bell pepper sauce or sipping foggy cocktails infused with the flavor of lavender honey at restaurants Tamayo (1400 Larimer St) and Toro (150 Clayton Lane).

The Denver restaurants owned by celebrity chef Richard Sandoval will feature Viva Abejas, a bee-themed menu and philanthropic campaign intended to bring awareness to the global crisis facing of our black-and-yellow friends, for the next month.

The menu specials, available through April 23, are plant-based and incorporate edible flowers, bee pollen, honey, avocado and other bee-centric products.

Both restaurants will serve a Charred Avocado & Pear Salad with a honey-chipotle vinaigrette as well as a Enchiladas Doradas which are stuffed with a Mexican calabacitas stew. Toro will exclusively offer a Honey Panna Cotta dessert featuring coconut crumble, white chocolate honeycomb and vanilla ice cream. Tamayo and Toro will also bring back a crowd favorite, the Honey Lavender Margarita, made with Patron Blanco, lime, honey lavender syrup, créme de violette and triple sec. You can find the full menu here.

Tamayo executive chef Antonio Sanchez cooks squash for the restaurant's Viva Abejas menu. March 14, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

"I like to say it's like a rollercoaster in your palate," said Sandoval. "You might get heat on the back of your tongue, but then the side of your cheeks will get a little bit of honey sweetener to contrast that. And then some citrus from the lime or tomatillo. The experience is layered."

Prices and offerings will vary between locations.

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For Sandoval, the bee-initiative first began when his team had the idea of building an herb garden on top of the JW Marriot hotel.

"We thought about the possibility of bringing honeybee hives to the property. That's when I realized the importance of bees," Sandoval said. "Every three bites of food that we take are pollinated by bees. I don't think there's enough awareness out there from people and for younger kids about that."

Bees and other pollinators are experiencing population declines due to climate change and other man-made causes, posing a threat to our food supply.

Tamayo bartender Toni Diaz mixes up a queen bee behind the bar. March 14, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

This year, Sandoval also published his first children's book, "Viva Abejas: Help Save the Bees." The book is meant to be an educational narrative highlighting the importance of pollination and conservation for early readers and bee enthusiasts alike.

All proceeds from the book and a portion of the proceeds from the Viva Abejas menu will be donated to the World Bee Project's World Hive Network and the Akumal Cultural Foundation, which provides a free after-school program and children's library in Akumal, Mexico.

"If we don't do something and get people's awareness about bees, we're going to be in trouble in a few years. Obviously I'm in the restaurant business around the world and we rely heavily on food and products. I wanted to participate in this and create some awareness. That's why we came up with this initiative," Sandoval said.

Bugs have been having their moment around the city as of late, most recently in the form of a bug festival at Denver's La Diabla.

Tamayo's queen bee cocktail, which is not part of their official Viva Abejas menu, but does include lavender honey and bee pollen. March 14, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Sandoval gave his own perspective on the role of bugs in cuisine:

"I think the challenge sometimes is for people to look beyond the ant. You look at a rabbit, right? Some people say, well, it's a rabbit. I think if you can block the bunny image out of your head, people would be more willing to taste these things."

"I think it's cool. It is part of [Mexican] culture. I just wish more people would be open to trying them. If people try them, then you're going to see it on more menus."

Although Viva Abejas isn't presenting noticeable insects on the menu, it does invite the eater to consider what the insect brings to the table. And the future of foods that rely on bee pollination.

"One restaurant at a time. One menu item at a time. Across the globe...can be pretty impactful," Sandoval said.

Tamayo at Larimer Square. March 14, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

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