It's hard not to sound snobbish when you talk about "terroir." First of all, it's French-y sounding, and second of all, a lot of people don't know what it means. "Terroir" is a bit like "je ne sais quoi:"
I love this cheese, it has a certain je ne sais quoi.
Get a load of this honey, what is that I am tasting? A little...je ne sais quoi?
That sort of thing. Only, in truth, terroir is a way of discovering what exactly that "I don't know what" is. Terroir is the geography of a food, its location and environment that gets expressed through its taste. The je ne sais quoi in that cheese, is in fact the diet of the goat/sheep/cow that produced the milk for it. The je ne sais quoi in that honey are the flowers that the bees pollinated before going back to the hive. How cool is that?
Last Monday I attended a honey tasting at Jimmy's, an adorable basement bar on 7th street, that was hosted by Cecily and Amy. I had the pleasure of tasting an assortment of local honeys--the most interesting to me was to taste three batches of Roger Repohl's honey, harvested in a community garden in the South Bronx. Now you might think that the je ne sais quoi in South Bronx honey would be guns and grime, but noooooo, it's elder flowers and linden and all kinds of things, depending on what month it is. I tasted a honey from October 2006, from July 2007 and August 2007 and they were three distinctly different colors and three distinctly different tastes. Same bees, same location, diferent flowers. Terroir!