Archive for February, 2008

A Reused Packaging Alternative – What do you think?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

For a multitude of reasons, packaging is one my biggest concerns having to do with my company.  For one thing, I know it’s necessary, but I just feel plain guilty that so much energy and resources have to go towards protecting boxes of chocolates, however delicious and happy they make people.  Currently, I use either starch-based biodegradable peanuts or recycled paper as filler in my shipping boxes, but I have an idea to try out reused packaging.  I found a site called freecycle.org that facilitates the reuse of things between people, and I can get styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap from other businesses in my area to reuse.    It’s not a steady source and it might not be able to suit my needs as I grow, so I could supplement it with the starch-based biodegradeable peanuts that I already use.  To me, though, it seems more sound to use what’s already out there than to introduce new materials.  And reused filler would be free, but it would take time and gas to collect it.

There might be a slight risk of some sort of cross-contamination, but the candies are all wrapped and boxed and don’t come into contact with the filler anyway.  And I’d probably include a little note in the box saying that the packaging is reused in consideration of the environment.

What do you think?  How would you feel about reused peanuts and bubble wrap around your candy?

Vanilla Orange Juice

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I’m feeling just a touch clever right now. Instead of going through the process of making Vanilla Orange Sorbet by juicing oranges, making a simple syrup infused with a vanilla bean, chilling it, spinning it, and freezing it, I realized that simply dropping a split vanilla bean into orange juice and letting it infuse for a little while is quite amazing and luxurious in its own right (and without any added sugar). I used a combination of juices from navel and cara cara oranges that I got at the Farmer’s Market whose peel are destined to be candied, but doing the same thing with even a carton of OJ could just be the highlight of a brunch party.

Vanilla beans are resilient things — it could be done with a scraped out bean and probably be reused again even, as long as it stays submerged. Of course, not everyone has vanilla beans lying around and waiting for some action, but if you do, make sure you have some citrus juice around, too.

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Weekly BonBonBar Photo: Cutting Passion Fruit Marshmallows

Monday, February 25th, 2008

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I thought that it would be fun to post a picture every week from my work in the kitchen over the weekend… On Sunday night, the marshmallows went from strips to cubes, 4 at a time, courtesy of my chef’s knife. I’d love to get a guitar to cut them quickly and neatly, but at least my knife skills are getting a work out… and there’s a certain zen to trying to make perfect cubes by hand.

Getting Perspective in Napa

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

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So, something big happened while I was preparing Valentine’s Day orders a couple weekends ago. I got overwhelmed. I had to make a lot of a new type of bar in addition to my more familiar bars and marshmallows… It was 80 degrees in LA that weekend (too hot for chocolate!)… I got maybe 3 hours of sleep the whole weekend… One seemingly simple recipe was being incredibly difficult and time-consuming… I managed to get everything out and I hope that everyone enjoyed their treats, but that weekend left me shell-shocked. I felt like a convalescent afterwards. I didn’t know what normal felt like anymore. I’d been generally tired for a while and even helpful suggestions from people just seemed like yet more work to do.

Plus, I’m leaving my current rented commercial kitchen at the end of this month. I’ve found a temperature-controlled kitchen that seems suited to my needs year-round, but it requires a hefty initial payment. So, it’s a relief, but a whole new, expensive ticket for commitment to continue…

Suddenly, this company of mine seemed at once like way too much and yet way too small. Chaos and uncertainty. I knew I had a choice to take a nap, plow through it, and hope to get over it by putting everything in order right away… or take a breather.

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I opted for the breather. Last Saturday morning, I booked the least expensive hotel room that I could find in Napa to arrive Monday night and leave Thursday. I just wanted to relax. Maybe sit overlooking a vineyard with some wine and read a book about something not-chocolate and not worry about the temperature. I’m naturally very comfortable being by myself, especially when I need to relax, so I was a little conflicted about even contacting friends up there. I did a little, but mostly left time free for myself to find my way in the wide open countryside.

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This post is kind of difficult to write now, but not because I’m still stressed out… I feel great now. Better than I’ve felt in a long time.

I went up to Napa to get perspective, and it just felt right. Not only do I always feel freer as a traveler, but I’m happy that I did reach out a bit… To visit with friends in a different location, and to see and hear what they’re up to. When you’re in such a sensitive state, it can be a simply amazing thing to be with friends you haven’t seen in a while to hear about what they’ve been doing… and what they plan on doing… and to learn new things about them. To witness how people’s lives are unfolding… and to wonder what they’ll get up to next… and be so proud of them and excited for them… and feel so lucky to know them and hear them speak so freely. And also to verbalize your own life… and to think about it, and what can make it better. Email and phone calls are nice, but there’s nothing like being with someone… or having a friend start running up the sidewalk at the sight of you.

I don’t plan on making huge changes. It’s really more like the end of City Slickers, when Billy Crystal’s character equanimously resolves to just do things better. My sales are good, and I’ve had excellent feedback from customers; I like the “Testimonials” page on the BonBonBar site — I think of it like yearbook signatures that never end and I find myself quoting lengthier passages each time.

I just need to make sure that I’m attending to the business’s needs so that it can grow well. I didn’t actually read any random books in Napa… only part of a business magazine. I did a lot of thinking and planning in a relaxed environment. I also drove around a lot, and walked a lot, and just considered whatever I came across. And well…. while in my hotel room one morning, I also got a call from a New Yorker who’d heard Anthony Dias Blue rave about BonBonBars on February 20th on WCBS Newsradio 880 that morning (my first radio mention–I just listened to it myself a few minutes ago) and did a phone interview with an AP business writer (hopefully more on that later).

I knew from the beginning that success depends a lot on organization. I didn’t know fully what to expect, though, so my systems of organizations weren’t equipped to deal with everything, and once things started to pick up it was easy to run with the flow without keeping organized or having a clear direction to go in. Now I know need to make a schedule so that constant tasks will be done at the same time each week — from entering accounting data to taking time off. I’ll have less of a feeling of needing to do everything all the time as I think it needs to get done, and more consistency so that everything can be tracked neatly. It’s all about quantifying, while adapting. And to make an effort to look for sources of inspirations. I went to the Bay Area because I like it and know it a bit, but Los Angeles is a fantastic city for food and I want to learn more from others here who have a passion for it. There are a lot of wonderful people here, too.

So, I’m re-organizing with a level head, and genuine enthusiasm. I should also mention that when I went into the kitchen the weekend after Valentine’s Day orders, I did start having fun again. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about what motivates me, and I don’t think I gave enough attention to the fun aspect. Of course… I have to have fun! Or else what’s the point? I think I knew everything was going to be ok once I started shimmying to my iPod again last Sunday night in my kitchen… but going to Napa completed the treatment.

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I wasn’t even planning on exploring all that much to do with food while I was up there so that I could have a true vacation… but like friends, I caught up with some old favorites, and also made some wonderful new discoveries. I had no appetite during my first 24 hours in Napa, but by the time I left, I was full and happy… with goodies stashed away in my car to share with Chad and friends in LA… and with my blog readers. 🙂

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I’m Back

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

I have a lot to blog about from the past couple of weeks — including a lot of contemplation and an invigorating trip to Napa that I returned from last night — but first I want to show off direct some attention to two endlessly entertaining write ups of BonBonBars.

When I make my confections on weekend nights, I always wonder about who they’re going to and how they’ll be perceived… What will people really think of them? Well, thank goodness for blogs! I’m happy that Lorelai in the Bay Area and Sku in Los Angeles enjoyed my products, but I’m also happy that they led to such wonderfully written, exuberant posts.   Please check them out!

Musings and MunchiesBonBonBars: love at first bite

Sku’s Recent EatsBonBonBar’s Scotch Bar: Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together