WORDS: KATE WEINER
IMAGE: MATILDA OSTOW
Faith Dionne of Bees & Beans makes the rare chocolate bar this is both delectable and nourishing (if you, like me, are the kind of person that considers cocoa a critical part of any healthy diet). But what makes Bees & Beans particularly interesting is Faith's passion for promoting both her local environment and economy through her thoughtful ingredient selection and passion for place-based living. So much of the chocolate we eat is unethically sourced and sweetened with corn syrup (a major byproduct of industrialized agriculture). Supporting small-batch chocolate, then, isn't just a vote for your taste buds; it can be a way to move toward a decentralized system of agriculture that fosters environmentally-sound practices and better labor conditions. What's in one honey-sweetened chocolate bar? A lot more than you think. Loam talked to Faith about her buzzy business (we all knew that pun was coming) and her commitment to providing affordable good food for modern families.
How does Bees & Beans bring together sustainability and creativity?
With Bees & Beans I use ingredients that are special to my region and are defined by it, like raw honey, hazelnuts, dairy, and sea salt. All of these are seen on a day's drive through Western Oregon. Modern language calls that sustainability, but I think of it as place-based living. Creativity is expressed by imagining and developing recipes that best showcase the ingredients, while making a product that will make almost anyone happy.
What experience gave you the idea to bring this venture to life?
I am a classically trained pastry chef turned mama of two. After leaving the world of high-end restaurants, I spent the next four years connecting to hard-working, intelligent, and amazing parents. I wanted to create a special product that they, or anyone, could enjoy anytime and feel good about. I began by reconstructing a classic candy bar. Candy coating was swapped for domestic dark chocolate. Corn syrup was swapped for local honey. Local hazelnuts, butter, cream, and sea salt were all featured. What I came up with was a line of luscious candy bars that you can feel good about eating.
Perks of the job?
Reconnecting to the food community on my own timeline was a huge perk as a new parent as I was creating Bees & Beans. I am involved in a great community of makers, producers, and shops here in Portland that is really supportive of each other. Also, constant access to treats for my family and gifts for friends.
How did the idea for your New American restaurant take root and what has been the community response?
Our restaurant, New American, is for modern families. It is a lifestyle restaurant that specializes in online ordering, take out, kid-friendly space, and flexibility, while helping people live the kind of good life they aspire to. We feature grass-fed meats, organic produce, local beer, wine, and spirits in a casual and family friendly setting. We are a neighborhood place, and much like Bees & Beans, we present great quality in a way that is unpretentious.