Archive for August, 2008

BonBonBar at the Brentwood Farmers Market

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Starting this Sunday, August 31, I’ll be selling my BonBonBar confections at the Brentwood Farmers Market in the morning at Gretna Green, off of San Vicente.  I’m really excited — Brentwood is a great, bustling farmers market and I’m looking forward to meeting new customers… and being a customer of quite a few stalls myself.

On the other hand, since I need to do production during one weekend morning, I will no longer be at the Century Park East market on Saturday mornings.  I may try to get into one more mid-week market, and then I think I’ll have my market situation set.

ThinKrisps – Los Angeles

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

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One of the best parts of selling BonBonBars at farmers markets is getting to know my fellow vendors. At the Thursday Century City Farmers Market at 1800 Avenue of the Stars, I’m next to Jim — owner, maker, and purveyor of ThinKrisps.

ThinKrisps are baked discs of either parmesan or cheddar cheeses, in flavors ranging from Original to Lemon Pepper to Savory Sage to many others besides. There’s no flour, no sugar, no gluten. They’re 1 point in Weight Watchers, and have a 1/2g of carbs each… (And I know their sales pitch almost as well as mine. :)) Each disc is made from a 1/4c of cheese.

I have to admit that when I first considered ThinKrisps, I was a little ambivalent because I figured I could make them myself. I’ve made parmesan cheese crisps as part of Thomas Keller’s Goat Cheese Mousse and then for part of his Caesar Salad — and I’d simply baked grated cheese in the oven. They only took a few minutes, and were lacy, delicate, delicious, and in the case of the mousses, molded into egg carton indentations.

But ThinKrisps take the crisply baked cheese idea to a different — and dare I say it — more delectable level. In addition their great flavor, the key for me is that they’re thicker, and that textural change makes a world of difference. By being more substantial, they’re almost like crackers — except that they’re made completely of cheese (and on occasion, seasonings), and so have a zillion times more flavor. Sure, I sometimes like to dip them in hummus and Jim tells me that the Savory Sage ThinKrisps dipped into salsa tastes like pepperoni pizza, but they’re quite delicious all on their own. The potato chip freak in me thinks of them as the ultimate non-potato potato chip — the crunch… the burst of flavor… the saltiness… the way that they quickly disappear. I buy them nearly every week, and they’ve yet to see the end of the weekend. I think my favorite is the Red Pepper Parmesan because I like spicy food (with cheese!), but I eat them all… And fast.

Jim has been in business for 5 years, and he sells at 3 LA farmers markets (Century City on Thursdays, Larchmont Village on Sundays, and Downtown LA at the Bank of America Plaza on Fridays) and through 19 retail outlets in the LA area. He almost always arrives at Century City after I’m set up, and I’m always a little relieved when he shows up — because I know that for the next few hours, customers may come and go (and buy or not buy), but Jim will be there, with groovy music subtly playing on his iPod, to chat with and to commiserate with — and perhaps to discuss sales strategies (inc display, pitch, specials), or the adorable things that customers say, or Disney (of which he is an evangalist), or any interesting, slightly random, thing (which, I guess, is my evangelism — have I mentioned the time that I called Chad in a flurry from the kitchen a few moths ago because I realized that Axl Rose is in Guns & Roses? And Chad found out that the original guitarist was named Guns! Slash replaced him. Were we the last to know?).

Or perhaps we’ll chime in on customer reactions or overhear them — my favorite so far being when I overheard “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT!” followed by “YEAH!” and I later confirmed that that had indeed been two friends’ reactions to ThinKrisps samples. Well said.

ThinKrisps

spring_river_farm@hotmail.com

323-481-9859

“But I’m Not Dead Yet!”

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

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No, not until UPS arrives with the replacement whisk for my mixer and not while I still have pliers handy.

Godspeed.

Red Wine-Grape Pie

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

The alternate title of this post: Please Allow Me To Complicate Your Recipe…

I’ve seen tv shows and recipes about Grape Pie here and there over the past few years, and I’d been dying to find a rare place that makes it until I realized that it’s just like any pie that can be made with access to the right ingredients.

The most recent recipe I’d glanced at was in the Sept issue of Bon Appetit, from a bakery in Brooklyn, and with a vague memory or what it actually called for, I bought a few pounds of grapes when I was at the market on Wednesday. They say that they prefer Concord grapes, but since they’re hard to find, to use red grapes instead and add in 2 Tbs of concord grape concentrate. This partially applied to me. The Santa Monica Farmers Market has Concord grapes, but they’re $5/lb. I also saw Minukka Grapes (often used for raisins) this week for much less and they had a nice flavor, so I bought mostly Minukkas.

The recipe tells you to chop them in a food processor a little, drain them, and discard the 1.5 cups of grape juice. But my momma didn’t raise that kind of fool (hi, mom!). Who could discard fresh grape juice? It was completely delicious to drink — almost light, not as sour or sweet as commercial juice — but I had something much craftier in mind. Since I knew the recipe called for 2 Tbs of strongly flavored liquid, I poured a cup of red wine (syrah) and the grape juice into a pot and boiled to reduce it down to probably about 3 Tbs. Yes, I am the type of fool who reduces 2.5 cups of liquid to 3 Tbs to mix into a fruit pie.

The red wine added an intriguing depth to the pie, and of course, I felt all clever about the subtle play on grape-hood. Port would be a great choice, as well, if you want that flavor instead. A sauce, sorbet, or ice cream would also be an excellent form of wine/port to match with the pie, too, in lieu of the reduction.

Chopped grapes release a lot of liquid, so in this recipe, it’s bound up with quite a lot of cornstarch. Without the wine, I think that the cornstarch would have muted the pie’s flavor a bit much. As it is, there’s something elusive about a good grape flavor. For me, it’s really in the afteraste — after you crunch through the sweetness, that smoldering earthiness of the grape comes through. I’d been a little concerned about the possibly squishy texture of grapes in a pie, so I liked that this one chopped up the grapes. It was similar to a cherry pie.

I so wish that Concords could be more widely available to the public. They’re the grapiest grape that I know of, and are purely delightful.

And you’ll notice in the linked recipe that the pie is matched with Lemon Verbena Ice Cream. I happened to have some leftover in my freezer, and eating cold lemon verbena ice cream melting on a warm slice of pie was one of my defining culinary moments of this summer.

Salted Chocolate Caramel Lollipops

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008
Salted Chocolate Caramel Lollipops by BonBonBar

Salted Chocolate Caramel Lollipops by BonBonBar

Lollipops were never on my BonBonBar agenda. In fact, I resisted them. When a customer at the farmers market asked if I would make them, I immediately thought of artificially flavored and colored hard candy shaped like a disc on a stick. I said no, that’s not what I do. But every week, the customer persisted, and I gave some real thought to how I could do it — and make it unique.

So, I converted my chocolate caramel recipe to lollipop spec’s (aka boiled it to a higher temp; I once spooned out samples every 5F to gauge the increasing firmness) and figured out how to make them without buying new molds or equipment (just some packaging). In the Sugar Daddy tradition, they’re firm, but eventually yield to the slightly chewy texture of caramel. They’re pretty fussy to make and I can’t make many at a time, but they’re some tasty lollipops.

And as with my s’mores, the special ingredient is none other than salt — in this case, crushed Maldon sprinkled on one side of the pop. Why not blur the line between lollipops and salt licks… 🙂

For now, this will be a special order — I’m not sure if I’ll offer them for wider sale. They might be good for party favors, though…