A honey of a deal for local food vendors

PORTLAND, Ore. - Damian Magista has suddenly found himself as busy as the thousands of bees that provide his living.

A year after founding Bee Local Honey, Magista is doing some pretty sweet business, thanks in part to a pretty nifty trick - turning some of his best customers into some of his best advertisers.

As Magista and other local food vendors have found out, allying with restaurants who feature their products can be quite an effective way to get Portland-based products in front of consumers.

"I'll get emails or phone calls from people saying 'Where can we get it? We had it at Lincoln or Sunshine Tavern,'" Magista said.

Bee Local Honey isn't the only business cashing in on the trend. At one local restaurant, servers all wear hats with Jacobsen Salt's logo. Marshall's Haute Sauce collaborated with two area chefs to concoct unique sauces. Even more uniquely, Salt and Straw ice cream was the main ingredient in a four-course dinner at another local eatery.

Better still, chefs might bring the products along when they travel around the country.

"(They) take my honey to different events like Miami and other food events they go to," Magista said. "It has significantly helped to grow my business."

Bee Local Honey is fiercely local. The honey Magista harvests in the Laurelhurst neighborhood varies wildly from what he gathers on Mount Tabor.

Restaurants love the chance to use locally sourced food. It also provides an opportunity for a fun challenge said Lincoln Restaurant chef Jenn Louis, who is doing a multi-course dinner based on Magista's honey later this month.

"Taking something that is produced locally, that isn't something we all think of as spreading out through an entire meal," Louis said.

The extra boost has been enough to turn Magista's hobby into his livelihood.

"I had no idea I'd be here," he said.

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