Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Holiday Train has left the station!

view from the baking table- Thanks Hilary!

These candy colored sunrises are the best part of winter mornings...besides being in a warm, happy bakery! 
The holidays are bearing down on us like a loud freight train, but, never fear, we are ready to climb aboard! We'll be packing lots of holiday cookies in our bags and eating hearty and delicious soup and sandwiches along the way...I think we'll also bring along a couple of these:

The first Yule Log rolled of the line last week where it was sliced and scarfed during the evening dinner service. Want one of your very own? Give us a call! (907)235-2280.
We are open throughout the holiday season, closing only Christmas Day. Dinners will be Thursday through Saturday that week, too. Come down and celebrate with us!
Another exciting note: 
Brianna Bryngelson's paintings are up and brightening our must come and see them for yourself...they are the perfect tonic for the winter blues!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The art of gratitude

Counting your blessings is a talent. It's not something that comes naturally to us as humans. We are hardwired to anticipate the next danger, our ears pricked, hairs raised, waiting to slay the dragon. We let down our guard and that's when the bad things happen. It is an important part of our nature, this vigilance, but it must not be all consuming. It is equally important to be able to pull back and live the present, not the one as monitored by social media or the news, but the moment as we experience it in real time, in real life. I have a trick I've recently learned for when I get overwhelmed by all the noise from outside and my own inability to affect a positive change over things beyond my control: I stop and try to think how life would be without all the gadgets that make my knowledge of these affairs possible. And how without them I would be attending to the matters at hand. At my hand. Worrying about those people I can help, feeding people I can see. This Thanksgiving for me will be spent being grateful for the love and support of my family, the unwavering loyalty from my friends and the bounty that which the earth has bestowed upon us. Tomorrow, I will get back to slaying dragons, er, sandwiches. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Specials!

Time to order some tasty additions to your
Thanksgiving Dinner!

Breads & Rolls:
Pesto Garlic Ciabatta
Lavender Honey Wheat
$5 loaves
Sourdough Baguettes
White Trash

$5.00 loaves/$6 dozen rolls
  Jewelled Challah
$7 dozen rolls

Croutons: $6/pound
Cranberry-orange relish:

  • Apple
  • Apple Cranberry
  • Sweet Potato Pecan
  • Pumpkin....$12

        Pumpkin or Cranberry Swirl

              8” $25…10” $35

Wishing Everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! 
We have much to be thankful for, especially all of YOU!

Love from all of us here at Two Sisters Bakery

Please Note: For best selection, place orders by 6 pm Tuesday, November 20th

Field Trip: Grrls Meat Camp 2012

Maya and her pig?
This fall I had an amazing opportunity to attend a camp on butchery with all women. It may seem strange, as we're a bakery and all, but now that we are serving dinners it has become very important to source our proteins responsibly. The fish is easy here, relatively speaking. But the meat is another story. And once you get that meat, how do you cut it to extract maximum in both flavor and value? Who knew this could even be an issue?! After a year and a half of running the dinner service, I know it is indeed a concern and one I needed to learn more about. So, meat camp it was. Best of all, my daughter Maya elected to join me. She flew in from college and we met in Chicago, a perfect mother-daughter get a way, don't you think? 
Which is how we get to the photo of her holding a pigs head... 
Enter Grrls Meat Camp: A celebration of women and the tradition of putting food by. Over the 3 days together we learned the importance of caring for our animals while they are alive and especially how to care for them after the slaughter. The best part of this process for me was the intent with which we all worked. Every person there was focused on the tasks at hand, and with dispatching a 250 lb pig, there are many, many tasks. But before we got to the camp and the pig, we met in downtown Chicago at Kari Underly's meat studio 'Range'. Kari was one of the hosts of the weekend, her book, The Art of Beef Cutting is the new bible of meat cutters everywhere. Kari is truly an icon for a new generation of women in the field of butchery. 

Kari and Ruth

We were also led by the energetic and eloquent Kate Hill, who's Kitchen at Camont  in Gascony has lured many to the altar of fine cured meats. Kate is the fairy godmother of the group, having hosted the first meat camp at her cooking school in France. 

Kate and Cathy
I was excited to meet Cathy Barrow, better known as Mrs. Wheelbarrow who's entertaining and informative blog has helped to inspire a whole revolution in home preservation. She is currently working on her new book, which I expect will become the new bible for preservationists everywhere! 

Maya with Elaine 
The soul of the group was Elaine Tin Nyo an artist from NYC who works with food and people and their ever changing relationship. She truly brought out the avant garde in our weekend!

Erika Checks out the smoker
At the camp on Friday, we reconvened with gals like Erika Nakamura of the duo Lindy and Grundy Meats in LA. Their 'face bacon' had Andrew Zimmern taste and we were right there with him! 

Friday night we carried the pig into the walk-in...we were quite sure this place had never seen anything like this before!

strong grrls
Erika, Andrea Diebler (the talented butcher of City Provisions), Melody Nye (pig whisperer at Melo Farms) and Kate Yelvington, (roaming farmer girl currently working at Cure Organic Farms), all pull out the muscle to get this old girl bedded down for the night. 

We toasted to a beautiful sunset and tucked into a wonderfully prepared 'Camont' Cassoulet from Kate.
Then it was early to bed, the next day was a big one!

An 18 month old Duroc lady pig awaited us. Luckily the weather turned cold and crisp, we were able to work outside, the deck almost acting like a stage. A stage for educating, sharing and creating as we all lent our enthusiasm for learning how to make the most of such a precious resource, respecting the life of the pig and the traditions that brought us there in the first place.

Erika led the initial separation process, giving solid info colored with many anecdotes from her work.

Maya jumped right in, I never thought it could be emotional watching my girl saw through a piece of meat. 

Kari was a thorough and patient teacher, encouraging everyone to join in!

I became mistress of the grinder. The white fat on top is from the jowls which Kate used to make pate. It was amazing.

Molly Kearns cuts a piece of rind for the cassoulet, our dinner on friday, Thanks to the talented Kate Hill! 

A beautiful table greeted us every night!

Melody's delicious chickens were the center piece of dinner Saturday. 
Which was good, because the rest of the weekend was truly was all about the pork and the beef!

For breakfast, Erika shared one of her specialties: Face Bacon.
Should be called crack bacon. So Good.

All that lovely ground pork was processed on Sunday. We made 7 different kinds of sausage! 

Here is Dani from Butcher and Larder showing she has got this down!

We sampled them all before dinner sunday...delicious fun!

Hurricane Sandy reared her ugly head and took away 4 of our group early, (Maya included, boo!), as they needed to get home before the storm closed down the airports. So sausage day Sunday was particularly intense with fewer hands. We all dove in and had a grand time pairing flavors and sharing the details of this process. I learned so much! 
It was an incredible weekend, the best part being the women, and as you can tell from the roster above it was a strong group! We were joined as well by Kathy Skutecky, who acted as our personal pastry chef (Thanks for the treats, Kathy!) and writes her Stresscake posts with humor and heart. The knowledgeable Rachel Narins of the duo Chicks with Knives in Santa Monica, Rachel Miller the creative sous chef at Bondir in Cambridge, Ally Kirkpatrick, Mrs. Wheelbarrows's girl friday and an accomplished cook in her own right. And last but not least, the delightful Lily Baker who signed on last minute and gave her all to the weekend! 
We were chronicled by Jennifer Marx, photographer to the meat stars. Nina Barrett did a radio piece for WBEZ in Chicago, which garnered such vitriolic comments, I hesitated to share it here. In the end, I decided it was an interesting study in human nature. It is an important conversation to have: should we eat meat? Vegetarianism isn't for everyone, If we do eat meat, shouldn't it be raised responsibly and prepared well? It is a full on movement who's time has come. To know that these women are leading the way is something we should all be grateful for. I can't wait until Meat Camp 2014 in LA!
Interested in Grrls Meat Camp? Join their Facebook page
Thanks to everyone at the camp for such a wonderful weekend, The folks at Camp Duncan were great. Gratitude goes out as well to molly's mom who provided much of the bedding for us out of towners and to Kari's partner Ruth for caring so well for the whole group. 
And to the bakery folks, I really appreciate the opportunity to get away for things like this. I'd love to bring you all with me...Now THAT would be a 'Meat Up'!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

'Chili' to the bone

View from the baking table wednesday, 9/26/12
The winds have been blowing mightily all month bringing with them torrential rains and flooding all over the peninsula. Seward, Talkeetna and the Kenai River Basin have all been declared emergency areas. Homer has been somewhat spared the high water, but we have had our share of the wind and rain. It's made it a little difficult to enjoy what we love most about fall, the colors and the crisp air have been replaced with gray days and not being able to get to your car without being drenched. Definitely makes us a little jealous of our friends who have closed up shop for the season and flown south. The Homer Spit, while a thriving, bustling place in the summer, all but shuts down in the winter. One of our favorite places to enjoy the spit on those long days is Finn's Pizza. Finn's makes one of the best neapolitan style wood fired pizza's in the state and perhaps even the west coast. Honestly, if you are lucky enough to be sitting in their solarium on a lovely summer evening you might say it was the best pizza in the world! The lovely, hardworking family that owns Finn's lives near the bakery in the summer in a yurt close to the beach. In the winter they head for jobs in the lower 48. Lucky for us they had a little of their fine Nyman Ranch chorizo left over...we were happy to take it off their hands. Yesterday, I used it to spice up a hearty sausage chili.

With the smokey flavors of the chorizo and richly spiced with cumin and coriander, this chili is the perfect antidote to the winds of September. We'll be serving it today (while it lasts!).
You can find the recipe for this soup and other bakery delights over at the recipe blog.

If that doesn't do it, perhaps a german chocolate cupcake will!

photo courtesy of NOAA
This a photo of the latest storm via the National Weather Service...looks like one of our cinnamon rolls!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Laboring on Labor Day

Being in the restaurant business almost my whole life I've always thought of Labor Day as an ironical joke. Quite a few of the people who really labor for a living are rarely off that day. In fact, for us, it's one of the busiest days of the year. Once again we are reminded that to be in this business is to be working when everyone else is playing.

Thankfully we have an awesome group of people who crank right through it all with smiles on their faces.

We are so grateful to our crew who make it all look so easy...and delicious!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Foraging For A Conscience

I originally wrote this and submitted it to McSweeneys Internet Tendency's column contest. I didn't win, but I still thought it was worth sharing...

Grass island 

Foraging is in. Actually, as long as we have been eating, it’s always been in. We just never really called it that. Anytime we go to the store for a quart of soy milk or dial up for a pizza to go, we are foraging. Only now, in this world of the culinary hyper-aware, the word and all it implies has taken on a whole new meaning. Restaurants don’t just have procurement managers, they have FORAGERS. Some, like Noma in Denmark or Faviken in Sweden take it to the extreme by actually foraging in the wild for what goes on the plates in their restaurants. There is no olive oil in their kitchens. The subject takes on a whole new tone with the heightened interest people have in the food they eat. The other a day at work I had my head deep into a sink full of dishes when I overheard a customer ask if the figs in the tarts were local. I unleashed my best sarcastic comment about the fact that if figs could grow here in southcentral Alaska, this area would have a lot more people in it. I then I realized she was asking if they had been purchased locally, if so, she was going to go get some. She was, in a word, foraging. I sheepishly turned back to my dirty sheet pans, snarking to myself over how people have trained me to be defensive about the provenance of the food I serve. In a busy professional kitchen, foraging is an almost constant concern. What, where, when, how much...the decisions are never ending. In civilian life we make the same choices on a small scale every day without even really being conscious of it. Scientists say that the foraging behavior of animals changes according to the environment in which the animal lives. The more food available, the pickier they become. People around here tell stories of fishing on the rivers and seeing the bears pull a fish from the water and just bite out the belly, throw it aside and go catch another. Strewn all around them are fish with just the middles gone. Of course, that is when the fish are plentiful. If they were scarce, that bear would be dissecting the fish, leaving very little behind. So it goes with our current state of food affairs. Never before has food been so plentiful and so cheap, we can afford to buy the best and let the rest go to waste while the poor inner city communities struggle to provide the raw materials for nutritious food that is cheaper to buy than a bucket of commercially fried chicken.  
I thought about all this as I struck out on my first foraging adventure of the season which found me in my yard harvesting the pesky and very hardy Stinging Nettle. My boots, moist with early summer rain, sink into the soggy, spongy ground. The smell of wet earth and ocean breathe hope in the air that winter is indeed over. Unlike the rest of the US, winter in Alaska did not want to let up its icy grip. The spring here was chilly and because of that, things are just starting to green up. My husband says that he always comes home from that first halibut fishing trip of the spring to find a whole new landscape in bloom. This year that did not happen until the second or third trip. Finally, though, the nettles came in and I headed down to the bottom of the yard where the patch grows best and I cut away, harvesting the top few sets of leaves. Every once in a while the stingers find a chink in my armor, leaving me with little itchy welts on the part of my wrist where my gloves and jacket fail to overlap. I persevere and pretty soon the laundry basket is full.Inside to the waiting pot of boiling water to blanch the sting out them so they can be ground into pesto and put into jars for the winter pantry. When I wrote a short piece to share about the pesto making process, my friend and editor Jenny suggested I leave out the part about foraging, her assumption being most people would just buy them at the farmers market. Oh, you are mistaken I told her...people want to know everything these days. Especially if it involves food  and where it come from. Now, my nettle pesto has a noble intent, but it is in no way completely local. The parmesan comes from italy and the nuts are from california (seriously). The olive oil I used to think comes from italy could, in fact be from anywhere and probably isn’t even olive oil, according to an article I just read. Local foraging has its limitations in the land of the midnight sun. Which reminds me of a story that the native elders tell about a couple of warring eskimo tribes living long ago in our area. There is a small island off the coast called Grass Island. It is just what its name implies, an island of grass and rock. When one tribe was under siege from a neighboring power they set their women and children on the island to protect them. They had to survive by lowering themselves down to pick the mussels off the rocks at low tide and eating the wild plants that grew there. These days foraging here is a little less difficult, but with the pressures of locally driven dining we have had to dig deep to find those precious mussels on the rocks of the current supply chain in the form of locally grown tomatoes. This is not a problem unique to the wilds of Alaska. The wilds of NYC serve up just as much of a challenge to find a ripe tomato with pedigree, or a tomato at all that hasn’t been turned into ketchup for all those french fries. Like the eskimo women on the island, the people who live there are forced to eat what is available, their ‘rocks’ a rickety fire escape with a few vegetables in pots, their grass a meager rooftop garden. If only we thought as much about what they are eating as we do about what we are. Then the tides truly would turn.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The summer of crazy....

"If you would like to order, the line forms in front of the case and goes out that way. If you want to pay, stand over here in this line. Thank You!" This was the mantra heard over and over this summer as we tried our best to manage the clammering hoards of hungry people that queued up hoping for a hot coffee, a hot ham danish and a the momentary attention of a hot barista. It has been, in a word, epic. You would think that we are standing back reveling in our successes, but mostly Sharon and I look at each other and think, surely there is somewhere else these people can go? When we give voice to those thoughts the reaction is generally, no...not if you want fast good food in a place that makes you want to pull up a seat and hang around a while. We've also been lucky to ride on the coattails of some good press Homer has gotten lately with TWO articles in the Washington Post, this one on finding a man in Alaska had us rolling on the floor with their mention of the bakery as a lesbian hangout and this one on traveling with kids and also this great piece by Doug Brown in the Denver Post. It made us realize there is a lot of love out there for what we do, which sort of helps when we get emails like the one we got the other day. It was from someone who told us that they had a lovely sticky bun but that their mocha was cold and though they were disappointed they would not sue (what?!). It's true what they say, when you put yourself out there you are opening up the path for good and for, well, Crazy!  

Sometimes you just have to grab a cup of soup and a sandwich and go sit out on the porch...that is if you can find room.

Friday, May 25, 2012

(Not) just for the halibut

my fisherman in his 'office' 
When I moved to Homer (Halibut Capital of the World!) 27 years ago, I had never heard of halibut before. People come here from all over to fish for this coveted flat bottom fish. I was clueless to this, growing up in Michigan we ate lake fish, the only alaskan thing that came close to my plate was the king crab we splurged on for special occasions. Hanging out here that first summer, I quickly learned more about this than I ever could have imagined. Back in those days, halibut was harvested in a series of derby-style openings in spring and fall. The dates were set the season before according to the best tides with no adjustments for weather, so when the day came it was a free for all. Whoever could make the best of all the variables would prevail and those that didn't lost gear, their chance for needed spring income and sometimes their lives. All the gory, stinky details would be hashed out at the Salty Dawg for days afterward. Working at the end of the spit at Lands End Resort, I had a front row seat to every opening, it was so exciting to stand on the porch watching the boats race out of the harbor and to see who came back first with a full hold. If the boat was riding low, you could guess they'd gotten their fish. My romance with a deckhand only heightened the sense of excitement for me. Watching for the boat he fished on, I could tell if it was the F/V Anna Lane by the sound of the engines. When I spotted them I would run down to the beach as they motored by, it was all very romantical. These days, the fishery has been rationalized and halibut has it's own season, the boats can fish their quota when the weather and the tides are favorable. It is a better system for the fisherman and the fish, though with quite a bit less drama. As it happened, I married my fisherman and while I no longer run to the beach when the boat rounds the corner, it's still exciting when he comes home with the spoils of his efforts. Usually their catch is bought by a processor who offloads the fish to one big buyer, so there is no chance for me to score a bit for the bakery, but this trip they sold to one of our favorite fish purveyors (Thank You, Heather and Angelina the The Auction Block) and they were able to save me a fish! So, for the first time ever I am serving the fish my husband caught.
It's locavore dining at it's very best:

Halibut pinwheels with herb stuffing, wrapped with proscuitto and served over isreali cous cous
with lemon ginger buerre blanc and basil caviar

For more locavore love, the Homer Farmers Market starts this week!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spherifyingly Delicious

tonight's amuse bouche...cucumber around coconut rice
with miso sauce, fresh coriander and ginger spheres

This week's Dinner Special: White King Salmon fire roasted with a ginger and red miso glaze
served on a bed of orange braised chard and topped with ginger caviar

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stop Pebble Mine!

A compelling argument, but will the people who have the power really listen? 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Anticipating an explosion of color...

Right now Homer feels a little black and white highlighted with shades of gray. The snow lying in some places still untouched glows white and sparkly on these sunny days. Then there is the ice that has been sprayed with black sand lining the road ways with 4 feet high walls that become studies of abstract sculpture as they melt giving relief to the gray of the sky. Our black and white world bleeds over into our moods as the political and social spectrum shows but two shades, continuing to divide us. The walls of the chasm growing an ever thickening skin that common sense can no longer penetrate. As long as we can blame others for our troubles we do not have to face our own shortcomings. But there is hope, like the spring sun shining in the windows showing us how dirty they are making us want to wash them, looking into ourselves to see clearly the truth behind our feelings is like spring cleaning for the soul. Once we are cleansed and our eyes are truly opened, suddenly we can see all the colors, the nuance of differences is so varied we must be conscious of how alike we all are, because for certain we contain more similarities that differences. We all must breathe and sleep and eat...and love.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Out of hibernation!

Things are starting to sprout up around here! The new spring dinner menu is out and we are cooking away Wednesday thru Saturdays 6-9 pm. Even though is isn't very springlike outside, the enclosed porch is extremely inviting on these long evenings where the sun doesn't set until 8 pm.

The snow still continues to fall, but not nearly as much as we had at the beginning of the new year. We all but lost track of the garden furniture in what is close to being the snowiest winter in recorded history for this area.

I know, snow in Alaska...what's the big deal? You would think we'd be used to it. 
You would think, but still the storms shut us down a few times. The whole town was on blizzard alert.  People were stuck everywhere. Things got a little crazy between the dark and the cold and the winter storm warnings. Thankfully we had our warm bakery, lots of good company and as always some awesome tunes to carry us through...which brings me to:

 A little musical interlude!

The first time I saw Haven Multz Mathews play drums was at a middle school talent show. He was in 8th grade and I remember thinking that his mom (my good friend Kari) must be glad he found something like that to put all of his crazy energy into. When he came asking for a job a year later, I thought perhaps we could benefit from some of that energy, too. Over the years he worked for us, we enjoyed drum solos on stainless and sprayer harmonies. It was like cooking in the middle of a production of stomp. In fact one year, we had four other drummers working for us, not to mention a couple of guitarists and singer/songwriters disguised as bakers. THAT was a very musical summer. Sadly, Haven had to go and grow up on us and like most teens from a small town, he had to break away. Turns out you can take the boy out of Alaska, but you'll have a hard time taking Alaska out of the boy. Lucky for us, a few more of our Homer musicians all ended up in the same place. And their band, Animal Eyes is taking the Portland area by storm with their funky mix of rock, folk and punk and a little glockenspiel thrown in for good measure. They have an infectious energy at their live shows, as you can see from the video below. (shot and mixed by the talented photog, Joshua Veldstra...also from!) 

Their first Cd came out this past fall and they have been touring the west side of the U.S. all winter to promote it. Looks like these hardworking boys are headed for the big time and we couldn't be happier for them. Word is they'll be in Alaska this June and we are excited to welcome them home, even if only for a minute!

Buy their Cd "Found in the Forest" at Bandcamp

Another bakery music phenom: Ben Gerhards aka Berta will be releasing his long awaited CD in two weeks online. Check out his blend of french pop and rock right now on Sound CLoud and at Reverbnation...give a listen and be amazed!

this dude also makes one hell of a sandwich!

And last but not least, if you're in Homer this weekend and looking for entertainment. Homer High will be performing Steven Sondheim's musical "Into the Woods". (Look for my daughter, the cute tree on stage left.) Check out the show times on the poster below. 

Have a great weekend everyone!