Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Carving is fun!

Little kids, sharp objects, lots of goo...what could be more fun than that?
I have to give myself the prize for best adult interpretation of a child's only took me 15 years to get that one down!

Now some folks really know how to scare people...check out Chris Cosentino's interpretations here (the god of all things offal, though I still want to know if he's ever cooked a placenta!) Thanks to Ruhlman for the link via twitter

Saturday, October 24, 2009

giving good weight and the art of being here now

Giving Good Weight is a short story by John McPhee originally published in The New Yorker in 1979. It is about a green market in NYC and focuses on the duality of the challenges faced by vendor and customer and how their lives collide amidst the produce. McPhee's colorful descriptions and careful prose transport you right to that moment in time.

In the story, 'giving good weight' means giving a little something extra. Here at the bakery the metaphor takes on a life of it's own. Giving good weight can mean a variety of things, whether going the extra mile for a customer, weighing (and therefore WORKING) accurately and speedily. It also, as I've recently realized, means giving proper attention to the moment at hand. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you are more likely to succeed if you give that moment, that task...good weight- ALL of your attention. One of the things I love about cooking and baking is that while, of course, there is a certain amount of planning and reflection, to execute a successful dish, it is completely necessary to stay present. Whether you are peeling 25 lbs of onions or rolling out 50 must take the time to smell and taste and feel. It's true, good cooking does require some waiting time, but it is an anxious, fully participatory wait. Your heart and soul are in the pan or in the bowl, watching over the sear, fretting over the rise. The reward is as much in the doing as in the end result.
It is that way with small children also, a matter that has challenged all 3 of us (Sharon and Kate and I) over the years, trying to be present in our jobs and in our families. At times the two worlds enmesh with alarmingly heartwarming results as the kids grow to become helpful and contributing members of the bakery team. It makes me proud and grateful and I hope that above all they learn the ablility to appreciate the moments they have to learn in such a warm and creative environment and with that, be capable to fully participate in the moment, because here, it makes no difference where you came from or where you are going, it's what you can contribute right now!
Isn't that right, Blaise?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The new deli case is here!

finally, two full months after we ordered it is! We took delivery on Tuesday and Sharon spent all day Wednesday filling it's everything we wanted. lots of shelves, sliding glass doors and that beautiful curved glass front. It matches up perfectly with our dry display case and will make the Holiday dessert crush a piece of cake! Because we occupy some strange equipment vortex, when the old one broke in the middle of August, we decided to bite the bullet and spend the money on a new case that was exactly what we wanted instead of making do. (which is how we normally roll) It helped that we had taken on an unusually involved cater gig in July that just happened to bring in enough revenue to cover the cost of the new case. We paid for it up front (goodbye $6000!) and the company we bought from said it would arrive in two weeks. After the third week and no deli case (it was September by this time, still busy, we couldn't stock any desserts, had to store the bars in the back and don't even get me started on the lack of chocolate mousse...very frustrating) We called and e-mailed and finally got word it was on it's way down from Anchorage. Then a few days later the driver calls, he's headed over. I wait patiently for him on the loading heart pounding as he almost backs into the ditch (!) eventually just stopping his truck in the middle of the road. He hopped down and before I could direct him, he looked up at me gloomily and said "You might want to take a look at this thing before we unload...I think it might be broken." My heart dropped right down to the gravely ground. I jumped on his lift and he silently raised the platform. The door opened and there it was, this beautiful, most perfect and looked forward to piece of equipment in Bakery history with the curved front glass completely shattered. Now it had been a hard summer already, so seeing this disaster, I started to cry right there in the back of the truck. The poor driver, led me back out and got his paperwork for us to refuse delivery. I pulled myself together (silly girl!) and called the company, starting a whole new slew of phone tag and e-mail updates. It took an entire month more, and much frustration on our part as we watched our revenue lower due to lack of dessert sales. I think in the end it was a good purchase and will be a good story to laugh about...someday.
Oh, and yes, Kathy, I'm incredibly pleased to report we DO have Boca Negra today!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

View from the baking table...

We are experiencing some lovely fall days that have been unsettlingly warm. This time last year we had already had two snowfalls! We will enjoy it while we can...but, honey, could you still put the studs on my car, please?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

it's all a blur...!

I returned from my travels this week to find the Bakery humming right along. Sharon pulled it out with the help of chef Ryan Lee, our new bakers Mel and Abbey kickin it in the early mornings and our most amazing barista staff- led by the lovely and delightful Brianna... Jill, Hayley, Rachel and Maggie. (a little redhead with your coffee, sir?) We are all enjoying the more relaxed pace that fall brings. A conversation overheard between old and new barista: "You'll love this time of year, it's mostly locals, and they know just what they want!"

Multigrain Bread is top on the list of local favorites...we're still working on getting it out earlier!
That and roasted vegetable focaccia sandwiches...nothing says fall like roasted sweet potatoes and smoked turkey on fresh whole grain bread. Get em while they're hot!

We are also conjuring up some pretty scary treats...
I may be a little overly obsessed with Halloween, but I think these cookies are watching me!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Field Trip...Cleveland!

photo above by Lou Muenz
Doesn't this look like a city in Europe? I have to say, when I told my Alaskan friends that I was taking my daughter on holiday to Cleveland, they looked at me a little strangely. Ultimately, I ended up saying that we were going to visit relatives. It's true that we were, in a way. Our adopted family Coyle had moved there for a year and after promising I would visit, it felt a little like a family obligation. (one we were so glad to live up to!) What we found when we got there was a beautiful, diverse and very cultural vacation destination!
Our first morning in town Jenny whisked us off to the West Side Market, where our small town alaska minds were blown by the array of meats, cheeses, vegetables...if it was edible, it was housed in that huge indoor marketplace. I bought a pomegranite the size of Jane's head.

We did as much as we could in our short time in C-town, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, hanging out for coffee in the university district, walking around Tremont. Even picking apples at Patterson's Farm. There wasn't enough time for everything and daughter Jane just kept saying "Mom, we are going to have to come back for longer next time!"

One of my favorite parts about traveling is to visit other bakeries and see their kitchens, perhaps even chat with the baker. My friend, food writer Micheal Ruhlman also lives in Cleveland and told me to check out On The Rise Bakery and talk to Adam. He and his 10,000 pound 4 deck steam injected oven produce the best baguette I have ever tasted! He handed me a fresh one after I had watched him pull them all out of that ginormous oven ( I felt a little like a groupie), I almost devoured it all at once in the car on the way back! Which would have been bad because that baguette was destined for a very special lunch.

We capped off the week with drinks at the Velvet Tango Room and Dinner at Lola's....both amazing! I'm ready to make my reservations for next year...