Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Chef Grows Hair In Brooklyn

About 14 years ago I went to the wedding of Erica (aka Wild Girl) and Rich in Iowa. At the time my hair was the longest it ever was and I had a full beard as well. One of their friends had a completely shaved head and I wondered how I would look with a shaved head. I had had buzz cuts in the past but never went that far. I also swore if I lost my hair I wouldn't be one of those guys with a do-wrap or bad hair piece.

When we got back I cut my own hair and then shaved my head and face. I liked the way it looked and being a drummer in a couple of bands it gave me a look or style (especially as a conga player for Voodoo Martini a pop rock latin lounge band). Needless to say I have shaved my head ever day or so since. There are lots of people who have never seen me with hair, including my son.

Well I am about 2 weeks into growing it back, again out of curiosity to see how much hair do I have left. Maybe my son will now stop calling me egghead. If you are curious it yourself come into Little Buddy and request the removal of my chef's hat, with a purchase of course.

Friday, November 13, 2009

MIxed Tapes are BACK BABY!!!

In keeping with the music theme at the bakery I thought I'd let my readers know that a few weeks back I brought in my Nakamichi cassette deck. I bought that tape deck right before I bought into buying cd's and way before the birth of mp3's. It was a very expensive piece of equipment at the time (purchased at Harvey's) and mixed tapes was were it was at.

I had made countless number of compilations, including a series called Crazy Covers, The Good Bad and the Cheesy. As an owner of a 99 Dodge Caravan I actually have a tape deck in the car. I guess the original owner hadn't made the medium move to cd's as yet or was a cheapskate.

When I took my first day off on Columbus Day weekend Jill, Jack and I went upstate to go pumpkin picking and other fall related upstate activities. I grabbed a bunch of my tapes and we spent the almost 2 days driving around listening to music that I have mostly on vinyl, which was converted to C-90 Maxwell's. It was fun to listen to music I don't get to hear much since not only are most of those tunes not on my i-pod but many of them aren't on cd's either.

So if you come into Little Buddy Biscuit Company you might be listenting to a mixed tape, circa 1991 or so. Now how many bakeries in Brooklyn can proudly state that?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

THE GONG OF APPROVAL

What is the GONG OF APPROVAL might you ask? Well it's quite simple...my favorite Chinese cymbal from my drumming days is in the back of the store with a soft mallet next to it. Whenever something cool or special happens in the store we turn off the music and strike the gong in approval. Customers seem to like being the impetus for the rich and complex overtones of one of my favorite percussion instruments. I admit to being very fond of the whole production as I like both ceremony and bringing a small part of my musical past into the store.

What are some of the reasons the GONG OF APPROVAL was in action? Here is a short list:
  1. First sale of a new product or one of our specials.
  2. Ordering an ice cream cone at 10:00 am on a Saturday morning.
  3. Telling the counter salesperson that you do not share one of your cheddar biscuits with your new bride, doing so was not listed in the vows you shared.
  4. Recognition of the Chinese cymbal and admitting you are a drummer too.
  5. Coming back for a second order of Daddy Mac (mac n cheese) in the same day.
  6. Telling us we are the best bakery in NYC!!!
The gong of approval is not to be taken lightly or under appreciated and is not done willy nilly. We hope you come to Little Buddy Biscuit Company real soon and give us a reason to give it to you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

Sometimes in business you can plan every detail and have it washed away by things not under your control, like a rainy Tuesday morning. Today is the debut of our lunch menu (see www.littlebuddybiscuitcompany.com for menu) and I am both nervous and excited at the same time. We prepared a beautiful blackboard with our menu on it yesterday but of course the rain is preventing us from putting it outside. Tuesday's can be a tad slow to begin with and I'm hoping the rain doesn't scare away the rushing commuters and parents dropping off their kids at school. Maybe I'll stand outside and encourage people to come on in (not). I kind of feel like I did when I was in bands and getting ready to perform on stage. I hope we get a packed house today.

As a chef that is comfortable in both savory cooking and baking as well (not that common) I am happy to see more savory options for our customers that they can bring to work or home as a meal. Last weekend we did great with our lunch specials, potato caramelized onion and gruyere galettes (free form pies), whole wheat personal size pizzas with roasted portobello mushrooms, pesto and smoked mozzarella, zucchini and provolone frittata and Daddy Mac (mac n cheese). This week I hope the response will be equally as good for the sandwich and soup choices. We are also featuring Balthazar's bread and croissants for sale and they look great in the showcase. We've had lot's of requests for bread and Balthazar is one of the best artisan bread makers in NYC.

Anyway I am happy with the way we are continously growing and diversefying our menu and making it fun for customers to come in each day to see what is new. We've made our dessert menu full of delicious choices and now strive to do the same with savory.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sometimes Cold Pineapple Cake Should Be Good Enough

When it comes to the bakery I have the tendency to be a perfectionist. I literally want everything we make to be fantastic, an experience of pure pleasure mind you. But this business will teach you that sometimes the reality is good should be good enough.

Last week we had a special request for our pineapple upside down cake the raspberries and pecans for Sunday. I made an extra one for the store to sell and one for the customer. When it was getting late I asked my employee to call and as it turns out the order was for the following Sunday. So now we have an extra cake, one that tastes best the first couple of days after it's made.

I like to make good out of mistakes like this so I offered the cake to Jack's old school PS 295. They were having a pta meeting the next day and were happy to have a cake with their breakfast. The school is just a bit more than a block away so the families and teachers that go there are certainly potential customers so this was a good chance to do some outreach for the business too. We are starting lunches next week so Ruth, the pta president invited me to speak about Little Buddy before the meeting and bring menus for the parents to take.

In my haste to get the bakery open and be at the school by 8:30 am I forgot to take the cake out of the refrigerator to get it to room temperature. For most people it was probably no big deal but I was thinking most of the morning how it would have tasted better if it had been not so cold. I hope that all the obsessing I do over my baked goods translates to great product because from a mental health point of view it's probably not such a good idea.

Luckily many customers have noticed the quality and have been very complimentary of our baked goods, so I guess being a perfectionist can pay off. It's a great feeling when someone comes to the store and sends an email later that day or the next day to say how much they enjoyed their treat land that happened twice today. It makes it feel like the hard work we do is worth it and that we are already enjoying success.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Daddy Mac Arrives, Lunch to Follow

If you have read past blogs you will remember that Jack, aka Little Buddy himself, was craving my own Daddy Mac (gooey cheesy mac n cheese). Well I thought it would make sense as I was planning our soon to be lunch menu to add Daddy Mac as a special at the very least. Yesterday was the debut and we nearly sold out the first day. Needless to say it will come back again soon and I got to take home some for Jack, Jill and myself to enjoy (win win situation).

We are kicking off lunch at Little Buddy starting on Tuesday, October 27. We will be buying bread and croissants from Balthazaar to sell retail and using the bread to make sandwiches. I am posting the proposed menu below, which will include soups from City Chef and sandwiches we make. On weekends we will have specials like chili and corn bread, personal gourmet pizzas, savory galettes and more. The menu below will be posted on the Little Buddy web site shortly as will our new menu of baked goods.




Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Lately people have been asking me if I'm having fun at the bakery. It's kind of a funny question. On one hand I am really proud of the bakery and I'm doing what I'm passionate about. But after over 3 months without a day off and working 90 hour weeks (without pay I should add) it's kind of hard to say it's fun. I can't begin to tell you all the stressful situations I've had to deal with building up to signing the lease for the store, the renovation and the first few months of operation.

I will say that I feel lucky that my staff really hung in there during the chaotic, somewhat unorganized first 2 months of business. We had to come together as a group and figure a lot of stuff out together. So far all my employees just kind of happened, no ads on Craig's list they just kind of showed up when I needed them. They all bring different talents and knowledge to the store and I am fortunate to have a really great group of people that I feel that I can trust and learn from. It was one of my biggest concerns going into this that I can have great ideas and be a good chef but if I don't have good support in sales and kitchen help it's for nothing. But luckily that is not the case. The teamwork that has grown organically is really cool.

So you know what maybe I can say I am having fun now. My ideas are starting to be realized and we are kicking out some great new baked goods. My concept of big cookies and small cakes are finally happening the way I envisioned. You should know by now that I already had a great line of cookies developed. Now I have a line of individual size cakes that are awesome: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Pecans, Devil's Food Cake with Espresso Butter Cream Filling and Ganache, Lemon Cloud Cakes with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Raspberry Preserves, Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jelly Cakes, Cinnamon Cake with Chocolate Chile Buttercream, Chocolate Butter Bundts with Ganache and Whipped Cream. Our specials are popular enough to become regular fare (um, crumb buns, brioche baked with almond cream, spanish omelettes, and this weekend gallettes with potatoes, gruyere and caramelized onions). And biscuits, don't forget the biscuits. A new biscuit will debut tomorrow, scallion cream cheese with poppy seeds. Next on deck in a few weeks will be a regular lunch menu with soup, sandwiches, and Balthazaar's breads. The news ideas being implemented recently makes me happy.

What also makes me happy is I've been able to find pockets of time to spend with Jill and Jack. I've been able to "leave early" (8 hour days are starting to feel like half days) to go to a movie, street festival or other fun things. Today I left at 3:00 pm to go food shopping. A full fridge at home makes me feel content. We even have plans for an overnight stay upstate this weekend so we can go pumpkin picking and fall foliage viewing, maybe a picnic at Storm King (great sculpture park), and a stop at my favorite old time fast food joint in Brewster "The Red Rooster" for a real no frills burger, fries and coffee shake. Ah, life is good.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Little Buddy

It was Jack's birthday yesterday, the little buddy himself. The last few years we had big parties for him but with the new business at hand we couldn't do that this year. So yesterday I had Kris, a Little Buddy employee, go out and get orange balloons (his favorite color), orange flowers and candy to make the store festive. In honor of Jack we featured specials all about chocolate including our new regular Saturday special devil's food cake with espresso buttercream, chocolate flourless cake (Jack's choice), chocolate butter bundt cakes with ganache and whipped cream, plain and cherry butter cookies dipped in ganache and killer chocolate ice cream. Chocolate lovers paradise, we might want to do that on Valentines day.

I took a few hours away from the store and Jill and I took Jack to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. We ran into a friend of his at the theater so it was extra special for him. We let him pick the restaurant and his choice was The Chip Shop for his favorite Mac N Cheese (after Daddy Mac). When the waitress found out Jack picked the restaurant she gave him candy and a Chip Shop tea shirt so he was ecstatic.

Today he is going to his friend Oliver's birthday party and afterwards we are going to his favorite restaurant Bar Toto. I hope to continue the festivities tomorrow by bringing him and a friend to Chucky Cheese, which he has been begging me to do for months. He also has gotten many of his favorite toys so even though he didn't get a full birthday bash I'd say it's been a pretty good birthday weekend.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Blog, About A Blog On A List Of SpongeBob Best Day Ever Blogs

I was googling Little Buddy (no jokes please) and I came across a link to a list of blogs that are about SpongeBob's "It's The Best Day Ever Song" and of course my blog with the same title came up (see a previous post down below). I think that might be my favorite link that we have gotten to date.

Of course it was only a matter of time before the little buddy himself would wind up on a blog. Jack is in no way shy in front of the customers and for the most part they think he is adorable and charming. One mixed review of my one of a kind son can be found on a blog by a local mom who came in recently with her two children and was "entertained" by Jack. The blog is called Mom Amok and talks about how her husband talked her into an early morning walk for coffee and biscuits. Luckily she liked the biscuits and was also talked into our crumbuns by the man himself and she loved them too. You should read her blog to find out her total opinion of our little Harpo himself, not sure if it was flattering or not, but she ended her story by saying she's never quite had and adventure in a biscuit store quite like that.

I do remember this encounter taking place as I recall yelling from the back and finally had to go up front to have Jack change his ways a bit. When I told Jack last night about the blog and what the mom said he asked me to make the blog disappear. It was hard to explain to him how I can't do that and that he'd have to be more careful how he interacts with kids in the store in the future. Of course that little talk won't go far.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Daily Candy and other press

We were in yesterday's edition of Daily Candy, a e-newsletter and web mag. It is a well respected site for those in the know, including my wife Jill. It must be well read as I got numerous phone calls, emails and twitter followers from the article. That's the good news. The not so good news is the article kind of misrepresented our product. It made it sound like we have gluten free products, which we don't yet. Plus it it gave the impression we are a nut free kitchen, which we are not. Most of the correspondence we received were from people for whom those products are important. I apologize to anyone who got the wrong impression.

We were also in two local papers this past weekend, The Park Slope Courier and The Brooklyn Paper. Add that to Brownstoner, Brooklynian, Gothamist, Creative Times, Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, Eat It and a bunch of other well read blogs and things are moving along. I was interviewed New York Magazine and will hopefully get a good mention there. I'll keep you posted on other such news worthy tidbits.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I'm kind of getting used to the long hours at the bakery physically but mentally is another story. The intense clip Jill and I have been working at for the past year or so is starting to take its toll on my mental state, but since Jill is smarter than me it's not so noticeable on her. Or maybe I was always like this, you know finding it hard to focus, forgetting conversations minutes after they have occurred, having trouble getting my thoughts out in a clear intelligible manner. I am over 50 so maybe it's the start of dementia or my past abuses coming back to haunt me.

Anyway the thing that really makes my brain spin like gears that need oil grinding and slowly wearing out, fizzling and sparking is having lots of decisions hanging over my head. For example the store hours have been a work in progress. We didn't really know when the traffic flow would be at its peak and what my production schedule would be like so it was hard to figure if we should take a day off or when we should open or close. Plus in the first month there were so many things to do not related to actually baking so I was always behind. Anyway we have arrived at what we think will be good for our customers and good for my sanity. Remember at this point I am basically the only one who knows how to make everything we bake though that is starting to change slowly.

We opened this past Sunday for the first time and it was a pretty good day. But now I have no days off and no day to run errands personal or business, go to suppliers, get ahead on production or other life needs. Meanwhile Monday's have been slower than molasses so it makes sense to close on Monday's. I will still be working in the kitchen restocking from the weekend and getting ready for the week coming and I can now got to Jetro for ingredients and supplies (and save money rather than paying the higher prices for vendors that deliver), or restaurant suppliers. Plus I can end my day early and pick Jack up from school and make Monday's playground day or play-date day or just hang with him.

We are also going to stay open later the other week days to accommodate those that get home a bit later. Hopefully these changes will work out for the time being. We will probably add some time for the holiday season but for now hear it is:

Tuesday-Friday: 7AM-7:00 PM
Saturday: 8:00AM-6:00PM
Sunday: 9:30-5:00PM

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's the Best Day Ever

It's the Best Day Ever is one of Jack's favorite SpongeBob songs, it's also what happened yesterday at Little Buddy Biscuit Company. Not only did we have a ribbon cutting with Marty Markowitz and the debut of the Little Buddy Biscuit Company Theme Song (hopefully soon to be recorded and posted on my blog) by Dan Killian with your truly on the snare but the cash register was humming all day long. We sold out of all our specials, plus our regular offering too. The highlight of the day was out Buddy Devil Cakes, invidiual devils food cakes filled with esspresso buttercream and topped with ganache. I was hoping one would be leftover so I could eat it.

While rolling in the dough (pun intended) is great so is having customers tell you that your product is the best they've ever had and we've been hearing that a lot. From our cup cakes, chocolate chunk cookies to our ice coffee, crumbuns, and today our zucchini and provolone frittata.

We are starting to get media hits, Gothamist, Brownstoner, coming soon Daily Candy, New York Magazine, Brookyn Paper, Park Slope Courier and who knows where else (Rachel Ray perhaps?). I hope to update the Buddy Facebook site soon to include photos, I've been tweeting (in private of course) at LittleBuddyBisc and of course blogging. It does get confusing though as far as where I should be writing personal, where business or if I can do both.

My last post originally included a story about Jack and then I got cold feet thinking I was mixing personal and business too much. I'd like to retell the story though because it's a positive thing for me. One day last week I was in the middle of my usual madness and walking up 5th avenue heading to the post office. I was thinking about how much I miss spending time with Jack. Since he was born I've been with him everyday, but lately I see him just at dinner time and the few minutes before I crash into bed. With the new school year in session I know that I won't be as involved with his school as I was last year. Hopefully I can skip out if the store a few days week to take Jack to the playground or on play-dates.

Anyway right after having these thoughts I looked across the street and saw Jack with his after-school group. I called across the street to him and he got real excited and waved to me and yelled Daddy real loud. We got to hug each other and I met his counselor who also seemed pleased with the chance meeting. It made me proud to be his dad and happy to have a brief unexpected moment with my son.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'll Tweet You Later

We are finally getting our media/marketing materials together. The Little Buddy web site (www.littlebuddybiscuitcompany.com) has been updated and will be updated more in the coming month, we have a facebook page ( Little-Buddy-Biscuit-Company) and I am on twitter (littlebuddybisc) and we have a new email address (info@littlebuddybiscuitcompany.com). I plan on tweeting about our specials of the day or cool things that are happening at the bakery. I just hope I can find the time to take advantage of the technology that allows you to market yourself in an instant. I have to remember to have a camera ready to document some of the specials we are doing. Thanks to Tony Limuaco of Yarn Monkey for helping me get this all together and I look forward to implementing some new ideas.

My publicist Josie Diels has been working hard to get the word out about Little Buddy so stayed tuned for links to some cool press we are expecting. We are doing a grand opening at the store (yes we are already open after a soft opening now it's official) on Saturday, Septmember 12th from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Borough President Marty Markowitz and Carl Hum President of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce will be there to cut a ribbon and speak. Singer/Songwriter, Rocker Supreme Mr. Funky Dan Killian (klogtheblog.wordpress.com/, www.myspace.com/theksband) will debut his hit single the Little Buddy Theme Song. We will be giving out Mr. Bisky buttons and stickers and sampling some treats and we will have specials available all day.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Daddy Mac and Jarred Tomato Sauce

I knew when I was looking for a retail space and writing my business plan that when I opened my bakery there would be sacrifices. One would be taking a risk and investing our life savings, two would be working long hours and three would be the toll it would take on family life at least in the beginning.

Risking our money obviously still makes me nervous but I'm too focused on being successful to give it too much thought. The long hour are grueling but I love cooking/baking so much that I can handle 90 hour work weeks (hopefully not for too much longer). The strain comes from the little time I have with my wife Jill and especially with my son Jack, the original Little Buddy.

I've been with Jack every day since he was born. I took him to all of his doctor visits, on play dates and birthday parties (I think I missed 2 out of 20 plus), picked him up from school and summer camps, and every other important early childhood step. The reason I wound up in this business was because I was a new chef and stay at home dad that wanted to spend time with his toddler son, yet wanted something to do while spending time with him. I never could have imagined I would someday own a bakery.

There is no doubt that this has been a tough summer on all of us. Jill and I haven't had a day off in so long I can't remember what we did when we had one. But the impact has been great on Jack, or at least I think it has. He was used to certain routines, like me picking him up from either school or camp, going to the playground together, going home and he'd watch tv while I made dinner (I miss my own dinners as now I have no time to cook or even go food shopping).

His world changing has come out in odd ways. Last Friday night I got home at 7:00 pm and Jill had spent a couple of hours with Jack and our neighbor Carmen doing art projects with Bendaroos. So neither of had time to make dinner or energy left to do so. So I suggested we go out to SideCar which is around the corner and a restaurant we all like. They have great cocktails, burgers, veggie tacos, club sandwiches and for Jack grill cheese and fries. Jack seemed disappointed and asked if I would make Daddy Mac, mac and cheese from a NY Times recipe. It takes a long time to make/bake and rest Daddy Mac, so I told him that it would have to be another night. He started to cry about it and I realized that it wasn't the mac and cheese he was upset about but the fact that we haven't been spending enough time together and our routines were gone. It made me feel sad too.

Funny thing about this is I've been reading blogs and hearing comments about the store and reading people's complaints about the fact we aren't open late enough or on Sunday's. What people don't realize is that at this point in the business I have to be there every hour the store is open because number 1. I'm the only one at the moment that has a NYC food handling license (soon one of my employees Tim will have one) and number 2. I'm the only one who can make all the food that we sell. That will change at some point but it might take a while.

Even though we are closed on Sunday's I've been working every Sunday running errand for the store I can't do during the week, fixing things that are broken, getting recipes ready for the week, and a long list of other things.

Anyway my original plan for our store hours were that we could always add hours or change them as we add employees, as the need dictates, and to match the season (think fall holidays). It's easier to add hours to make people happy then it is to take them away if you think you can't fulfill the schedule.

Bottom line is I can't wait for school to start because I think Jack is going to be happy to be back at PS 10 and maybe we can find a new routine that suits us both and the business too.

Epilogue: The Sunday after Jack cried about Daddy Mac, after spending the day going to Jetro (for ingredients and supplies), Ikea (for assorted things for the store) and working 4 hours at the store I managed to make dinner that night for us and I made Daddy Mac for Monday night's dinner too. Jack (and me and Jill too) really enjoyed his Daddy Mac. But what is up with the jarred tomato sauce you might ask? Well the first thing I learned to cook when I first lived on my own at the age of 19 was "all day sauce" (with meatballs, sausage and neck bones). I also can make a great marinara too. Jill recently told me that with our current schedule I should relent and buy jarred sauce. I shuddered at the suggestion so she went ahead and bought 2 jars. Guess what? I made dinner on Thursday with the sauce she bought and added fake veggie sausage (another great concession), realizing it wasn't the worst thing in the world, considering I had been on my feet for 14 straight hours baking for the neighborhood and it was better than nothing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

No Rainy Day Blues

When I got into work today at 5:00 am it was raining and looked as though it would do so all day. I was bummed because I had lots of special baked goods to sell and we needed a good day to balance the slow hot dog days of August we suffered through all week.

I was excited because I finally was caught up enough to put out food that I had been thinking of doing for a long time. I prepped the morning breakfast pastries and couldn't wait to see how my special weekend breakfast treat would come out. It's a French pastry called Bostock which was invented to use day old brioche loaves. You slice the loaf and put almond cream on it with sliced almonds and bake it in the oven. It's kind of like a cross between almond croissant and french toast. I had made brioche earlier in the week and sliced it hot out of the oven and put plum preserves on it and was hoping to save a loaf for Bostock but a neighbor of mine bought the whole loaf to bring to Boston so I had to make a new batch. Well it turned out to be a big hit as we sold through two loaves real quickly. One customer came back after buying it just to tell us how much he liked it.

We also had out a tray of crumb buns, a childhood favorite of mine. It's a rich yeasted bun with a crunchy sweet streusel topping. We sold the whole tray of that too. All of our muffins sold out before 11 am so I guess on Saturdays I'll have to up the quantity, a good problem to have. Thankfully the weather was just nice enough to afford us foot traffic all day long so we had our best day to date. My cousin Anne surprised me and stopped buy early and bought boxes of goodies to take to work with her on Monday. She gave us an early morning boost and thankfully things heated up from there.

Here is what our menu was for the day:

Breakfast Pastries:

Muffins: Blueberry, Raspberry Ginger, Lemon Poppy, and Pumpkin Spice (vegan)
Scones: Oatmeal Scone with Currants and Cherry and Almond Scones
Savory: Cheddar Biscuits with Chives and Roasted Pepper and Feta Muffins
Brioche baked with Almond Cream and Almond Slices
Crumb Buns
Banana Bread

Desserts
Big Buddy Cookies (big chewy cookies): Chocolate Chunk, Maple Cranberry Oat with Pecan, Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter with Chocolate Chunks, Orange Coconut with Cardamom, Currants and Macadamia, Deep Chocolate with Ground Chile and Spice, Double Chocolate Almond Cherry, Almond Oat with Banana, Coconut and Dates (vegan) and Chewy Oatmeal with Currants

Buddy Bites (butter cookies); Molasses, Cherry, Chocolate Ginger, Chocolate and Cherry Pinwheel plus 2 sandwich cookies (one customer bought almost all of them at once): Vanilla with Ganache (chocolate) center, and Molasses with Lemon Cream center.

Bars: Classic Chocolate Brownies, Lemon Bars and Pecan Bars

Cakes: Cinnamon Layer cake with Chocolate Chile Buttercream, Flourless Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries and Mini Cocoa Spice Bundt Cakes with Nutella Glaze (great suggestion by my staff member Kris)

Cupcakes: Double Chocolate with Ganache or with Vanilla Frosting and Yellow Cakes with Vanilla or Chocolate Frosting

And of course Jane's (spectacular) Ice Cream from the Hudson Valley and don't forget our great coffee and tea selections. Great day that is a glimpse of what we hope for in September.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chef Pete's 10 Day Weight Loss Plan

How do you lose about 8 pounds in 10 day? Open a bakery and work 90 hours a week. Good thing too since I have no time to get to the gym, I need to freeze my Harbor Fitness membership. With all the new product I'm making which means taste testing, I move around enough to work it all off. I admit I like the taste testing part, pecan bars, cheddar cheese and chive biscuits, and today hopefully pineapple upside down cake. But my favorite might be the experiment with extra brownie batter. I put the extra batter in two small cake molds, swirled in globs of peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips. Me and the staff scarfed down one of them and reluctantly sold the other to the first customer who saw it in the showcase. It's a keeper in the rotation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Okay, So I Can Make Biscuits (not the cookie kind)

We at Little Buddy Biscuit Company have made it through our first week and we are off to a great start. The feedback has been awesome as everyone seems to like the way the store looks (thanks to Jill, Paul and Vinny and myself) the food of course and my terrific staff. Lot's of my friends and neighbors have supported the store (thanks to all of you who've have made a visit ) and plenty of people just walking past. It seems that the neighborhood was ready for a Little Buddy store.

I've been making cookies for over 4 years and rarely did anyone question the name. Every since we've had the storefront people have been popping in and asking if we do biscuits, you know like the southern variety not meaning cookies in the European sense. So last Thursday I tested a recipe for Cheddar and Black Pepper Biscuits and the first customer to buy one called me ten minutes later to ask me to set aside 2 more for her way home. It turns out that Park Slope was also craving a good savory biscuit. The has been chatter on yelp and chowhound about the search for a good biscuit. I hope we fill the need.

As I am currently the only baker and running the show it's been a made rush to get out all the product but I'm slowly adding new things to the menu. Today I got out a Orange and Cardamom Bundt Cake with White Chocolate Coconut Rum Glaze. Tomorrow all be selling my first crumb bun and I can't hardly wait as I think this will be something people will go out of there way for. Thursday I hope to get out a Devil's Food Layer Cake with Nutetlla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I'm Little Buddy, I'm Little Buddy

I think Jack is going to take to being the son of a bakery owner real well. The last few days of getting the store ready people would pop in to ask us when we were going to open. Jack would proudly yell out "I'm Little Buddy, I'm Little Buddy". For those people walking buy looking in the window he'd do a little dance on the bench in the front window and yell through the glass the same. It made me laugh and made me real happy to hear him say that with so much gusto.

Of course it hasn't been all great for him. Jill and I have been working around the clock the past few months, which sometimes has left him to have to find things to do on his own. We haven't had a day off since the summer started which means no family vacation either. I think he has handled it pretty well and I can't wait for things to settle down enough for us to grab some more time together.

We all have sacrificed to take the business to a new level. Jack was a year and half old when I started the business so he's been there every step of the way. Even back then there were days when I had to work and take care of him at the same time and it wasn't always pretty. We'd both lose our cool in our own way at times. It is a tough decision when both parents either decide to work or have no choice. I didn't anticipate how much work this would take from the very beginning, thinking it would be easier than it was being a stay at home dad and building a business.

But Jack is learning a powerful life lesson, that if you pursue a passion in life and put your all into it in the end you will succeed. I don't just mean financially, I certainly hope we make lots of money at the store. I mean that just the act of working hard and putting your time and energy into what you like to do is success in it's own right. He has witnessed Jill and I take a concept and find ways to make it special and work together to accomplish our goal. I think it's working as he already has decided he has his own jobs in the store like putting the Izze sparkling fruit juice in the show case and spraying Windex on the front windows or enthusiastically greeting customers as they come in. Maybe some day he'll manage his own Little Buddy Biscuit Company store.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Big Week Finally Here: Store Opens On Wednesday 8/5/09

Well it looks like we have finally made the home stretch. We will open the doors to the new Little Buddy Biscuit Company retail bakery at 635 5th Avenue in Brooklyn (between 17th and 18th) on Wednesday, August 5th at 7:00 am. For now the hours will be from 7:00 am-5:30ish pm Monday-Friday and 8:00am-6:00pm on Saturday. We will add more hours during the busy seasons or as needed, but for now that's our starting point.

The store looks great, we are really excited and judging from all the people who have popped in to inquire about what we are doing it seems the neighborhood is eager for us to open too. Of course we will have our popular Big Buddy cookies, brownies, and cupcakes but now I'll have the chance to bake more treats like butter cookies, lemon or pecan bars, layer cakes, muffins and scones, coffee cakes and other surprises. In addition we'll have fair trade organic coffee (Equal Exchange) and organic fair trade teas (Serendipitea) plus other beverages. Plus, Jane's Ice Cream, a small batch ice cream from the Hudson Valley that uses local dairy, high quality ingredients (organic when possible) and just awesome flavors. Amy and Bob gave us a lesson on how to scoop yesterday and of course we had to eat our practice scoops. Boy is it great ice cream, I think I might gain a pound or two.

Many thanks to V & G Custom Builders. Owner Vinny Sallustro is a great contractor and made the renovation smooth sailing. He is professional, reliable, knowledgeable, conscientious, and great to work with. If you need a good contractor I would recommend Vincent in a blink. My friend Paul Marotta made beatiful cabinets for the store and I'll be grateful to look at his work every day.

Thanks also to Vincent (a longtime successful baker in his own right) and his son Nat our landlord's who are really fair guys and behind what we are doing and helped us through the process to make things go smooth and easy. I think we will carry the bakery tradition Vincent established at 635 many years ago in style. We had lot's of help and support from so many people, it was truly a community undertaking and Jill Jack and I are really appreciate it. I can't wait to open the doors. Please stop by and buy a cookie, coffee or other treat and meet Joy, Kris, Tim, Mr. Bisky and the Little Buddy family.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Tale of Two Weekends

Got up on Saturday expecting great things. It was just about a week or two to go before the opening and we had a yard of things to get finished. It seemed like we were on our way when our friend Bo offered to have Jack come over to play with his son Paolo. He would let them play on the computer, go to the playground for outside fun, have lunch (mac and cheese) and maybe watch a movie. Sounds like a great plan and that would allow Jill and I to go buy shelf brackets that we needed and maybe go to J & R for a printer.

Well our luck must have stayed home as we started at Home Depot, wound up going to two other places in Brooklyn before heading to mid-town Manhattan to go to Vercisi Hardware, a store I worked at during and after college. We liked a bracket at our second spot but they didn't have enough and the third we thought we could do better. Vercesi had a smaller selection than I remembered or they were out. We then went to Simon's on 3rd and 30, nice stuff, really nice stuff but expensive and you have to special order. We wound up 4 hours later at Ikea and setttled for brakets that were okay.

Next day I went to Home Depot with Paul, my friend who is building the cabinets and found brackets I really liked. Did Jill and I miss them or did someone put them out that night? Short story long is that it seemed like such a waste of a day, with time ticking and I didn't appreciate that.

Weird thing is the next day was the complete opposite. I couldn't sleep but didn't feel tired so at 4:00 I took a shower, drank coffee and cleaned the first 2 flours of our house. I then went to the Coop to do our grocery shopping. After putting the groceries away I made a pot of Marinara for that night, ordered a piece of equipment on line (infrared burner) answered emails and went to J & R. We bought a printer for the store, a vacuum cleaner and a new portable dvd player for Jack when he is in the store. All of this by noon that day. Wow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

5 Year Old Foodie, Well Maybe

I've spent almost all of my waking time the last 6 or so years with my focus on food. I've learned a lot. I'm opening a bakery. With that said I'd really like to be able to say I'm the dad of a 5 year old foodie. Sometimes when I hear Jack talk in a really expressive, excited and knowledgeable way about how great the Grilled Cheese Panini and Fries at Bar Toto is (who wouldn't), I think my son is on his way. Or how he savors a good dark chocolate, like the Jacques Torres Easter Bunny we bought him. Jill and I had to fight him for some as he gobbled down the ears. Or the way he savors one of my desserts or daddy mac.

At the same time he can talk obsessively about Sour Punch, Mike and Ike, Airheads, Coco Puffs, Bubbilcious gum, Capri Sun (they have one of his favorite websites with much cooler games than the health food product websites, must be the budget), and Kraft Mac an Cheese Spirals. After his performance with the Jumpin Tomatoes at BAX he felt like the deserved a special snack. His choice...Doritos. The first place we went into didn't have nacho flavor. The next one had a bag big enough for family of 4 or one really big nacho eating pig. He cried when I didn't let him have that one, forgetting that we agreed on a single serving size bag. We comprised on the bag that I think is 4 ounces. He got his in a bowl, I took a few for good measure and it was put away for another day. No rush though as it has enough chemicals in it to last at least until the next lunar eclipse.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meet Mr. Bisky at Little Buddy

Meet Jill's alter ego Mr. Bisky or is he just a misunderstood cookie character? Come to Little Buddy Biscuit Company's new bakery slated to open Wednesday, July 29th (stay tuned for the real date) and take home your own Mr. Bisky. Great menu of baked goods in store (soon to be revealed)... we've ordered the ice cream and tea leaves, tomorrow the coffee. The store renovation looks unbelievable! I will be writing an article about the renovation and highlighting the great contractors I hired in an upcoming blog (with photos). I have my opening day staff which you will hear more about and Jill has taken her vacation to allow her to be there the first week. Come join us!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kevin Ryan Update

Photographer Kevin Ryan has updated his portfolio of food photography
www.kevinryanfoodphotography.com

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Avocado Cream Sauce

I once had a pasta dish in an Italian restaurant that had an avocado sauce on it that was delicious and surprising. After a couple of attempts I finally came up with my own version that was quite impressive. I made it up on the spot and did not write it down so the recipe below is from memory and might need a tweak. The sauce is a guilty and fatty pleasure as it has heavy cream, extra-virgin olive oil and goat's cheese in addition to the avocado so enjoy but go for a walk after dinner. When I made it I had sauce leftover that used to make a great dressing for a crab meat salad sandwich (on a brioche roll with chopped escarole and red onion slice).

The avocado and the butternut squash ravioli was a great combination, I would guess a ravioli with mushroom filling could be good, lobster would be nice, maybe a mozzarella and sun-dried tomato too. I served the ravioli with steamed baby zucchini to highlight both winter and summer squash together.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Avocado Cream Sauce

Ingredients
2 or so tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
8 ounces of heavy cream
2 ripe avocados
Fresh lemon juice
4 ounces of goat cheese, broken up or mashed with a fork
2 tomatoes, seeded, peeled and coarsely chopped

Procedure
  1. Heat olive oil in sauce pan on medium heat. Add minced garlic, stir and cook until garlic is fragant and golden brown about 30 seconds.
  2. Add heavy cream, stir and simmer for a few minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cut avocados, scoop out of shell and place in a bowl. Mash avocados and sprinkle with lemon juice to keep avocado from turning brown.
  4. Stir in goat cheese and tomato and simmer for a few minutes longer.
  5. Cook raviolis as per manufacturers direction. Place raviolis in pasta dish and pour sauce over and serve.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coffee, tea and ice cream

We're getting really excited as our store is shaping up and is looking fantastic and we still hope to be open before August. I am about to order our tea and coffee selection and was wondering if anyone would like to make suggestions about their preferences (comment below or email groovalicious@verizon.net). Our vendors are Serendipitea and Equal Exchange, both organic and free trade. For teas we will have 2-3 selections of black tea, 2-3 selections of green and white tea, chai and tisane's (herbal) so if you have a fave let me know. Coffee we'll have house blend's of a dark roast and a medium roast, esspresso and de-caf.

Here are the winning selections of ice cream and sorbet that will be the opening day menu. This is based on feedback, Little Buddy staff choices and input from Jane's icecream.

Ice Cream
Killer Chocolate
Vanilla
Strawberry
Cappuccino Kahlua Calypso
Peanut Butter Fudge
Cookies and Creme
Mint Chip
Coconut Almond Joy

Sorbet
Lemon
Raspberry

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Little Buddy Store Update

Well it's hard to believe but our new retail store should be open by August as things are progressing quickly. Our contractor is doing his part by working steadily (more on his work soon), we have our utilities in process including a great phone number (which I can't publish yet), our awning and sign is being produced, our vendors are being lined up, I have hired a publicist (future details to come) and a host of actions being taken. I even have a part of my staff chosen (more on that too soon). There's a lot to keep track of and I hope to sit down today and tomorrow to organize everything.

One thing for sure is how amazing my wife Jill has been through this whole experience. I'm lucky to be married to someone who is so supportive. She has been behind this venture since it's inception and has contributed greatly to it as well, even as she works hard at her career and as a Mom. She has been invaluable taking on a multitude of tasks as if she was 3 or 4 people. Of course she has done all the graphics for Little Buddy and most of the marketing since day one. In addition she has talent at drawing a floor plan, interior design, writing a business plan, making product suggestions, researching vendors and equipment and so many other things that has made this endeavor a bit less stressful for me.

Keep posted for more news and for the date when we open our doors.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Everyone is Talking About Quinoa

It might be a bit of an exaggeration to stay that everyone is talking about quinoa but it is easy to say it's more commonly known today than ever before. At my shift at C.H.I.P.S. soup kitchen on Saturday we served some leftover quinoa salad. My shift mates were not very familiar with quinoa so I decided to post some recipes today to help them and you my reader. This morning on NPR there was a segment about people who are on gluten free diets and how they can benefit from adding quinoa to their diets to replace wheat. You can find it at any supermarket or health food store that carries a good selection of whole foods.

Quinoa is technically a relative of leafy vegetables not a cereal grain that was once considered gold of the Inca's. You can serve it as a substitute for rice or other grains. I like to steam quinoa add cilantro and scallions and use as a filling for burritos. It's also great in stuffed vegetables, the recipe below for saffron quinoa would be really good stuffed in red bell pepper with a morrocan style tomato sauce (think harissa). It comes in flake or as a flour and can be added to muffins or cakes . It is a complete protein and rich in magnesium, fiber and anti-oxidants. For more information on quionoa's health benefits go to the world's healthiest foods web site.

I am including two different uses and cooking teqhniques for quionoa. The first is a side dish where the quinoa is steamed the second is a salad and the quiona is cooked like pasta. Once you get the hang of quinoa you'll probably want to use it as a regular staple in your diet.

Saffron Quinoa with Peas

Serves 4-6

Saffron threads are highly prized pistils harvested by hand from the purple crocus grown in Iran, Kashmir and Spain. It is often used in North African cooking to give a fragrant, flavorful and colorful quality in stews and grain dishes. This recipe substitutes rice with quinoa resulting in a nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture. Quinoa is also a nutritious whole grain that is a complete protein.
Quinoa Salad with Green Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, and Corn tossed with Mixed Herbed Vinaigrette

Ingredients
1 Cup Quinoa
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
Half of red onion, minced
2 Cups of Water
3-4 threads of Saffron
Salt to taste
1/3-1/2 cup of frozen peas
Procedure
1. Wash quinoa thoroughly in a bowl of cold water. Briskly rub the grains in the bowl of water and then drain in a strainer. Repeat procedure.
2. Place quinoa in a medium pot, about 3 quarts. Heat pot and stir grains till they dry out. Add olive oil, garlic and onion and cook a few minutes more, stirring frequently.
3. Add water, salt and saffron and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 11 minutes till there is still some water left, but almost cooked.
4. Add peas and simmer about 3 minutes more, until the water is cooked out and the quinoa has opened. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Quinoa Salad with Green Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, and Corn tossed with Mixed Herbed Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6

In this recipe the quinoa is cooked like pasta in 4 quarts of boiling water instead of steamed in 2 quarts of water. This way the quinoa kernels remain separate and the texture is chewier, perfect for a salad. The addition of fresh green beans, cherry tomatoes and fresh corn and lots of fresh herbs, makes the salad perfect for summer parties and picnics. Feel free to use other vegetables and herbs from the garden.

Salad Ingredients
1 cup quinoa,
4 cups of water
¼ pound fresh green beans
3 small ears of corn
8 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
Mixed herb vinaigrette (see recipe to follow)
Procedure
1. Wash quinoa thoroughly by filling a large bowl with cold water, rub the grains, drain and repeat 2 more times, or until the water runs clean. Meanwhile bring the 4 quarts of water to boil, add a pinch of salt and the quinoa. Bowl for about 12 minutes or until the quinoa is translucent. Drain well and spread out the quinoa on a sheet pan to allow it to cool and to stop it from cooking further.
2. Meanwhile steam the green beans for about 4 or 5 minutes or until cooked, drain and shock in ice water. Steam or boil the corn for 2-3 minutes depending on how fresh the corn is.
3. Cut the green beans into small pieces, about 1 inch or so, set aside. Remove the corn kernels from the cobs, set aside.
4. Place quinoa in a bowl and add half the vinaigrette, stir to blend. Add the green beans, corn and cherry tomatoes, and mix well. Add the rest of the vinaigrette or as much as is needed and mix again. Serve slightly chilled or room temperature.

Mixed Herb Vinaigrette
¼ cup red wine vinegar
4 sprigs of marjoram, stems removed
2 sprigs of thyme, stems removed
1 sprig of tarragon, stem removed
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 ounces of extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces of walnut or hazelnut oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Procedure
1. Place the vinegar in a blender with the herbs and Dijon mustard and blend for a minute or two. If you don’t have a blender, mince the herbs and whisk with the vinegar and mustard. With the blender motor running, slowly add the oils, or use a whisk while adding the oils.
2. Season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

mmm Ice Cream & Sorbet, What's your Favorite?

As you may know Little Buddy Biscuit Company will soon be opening it's first retail bakery (sometime in July/August, stay tuned). After 4 years doing wholesale and about 16 months looking for a space, and doing what it takes to open a space we are soon getting the keys to a bakery formerly Regina at 635 5th Avenue in Brooklyn.

As a sole business owner I have had to do many things recently that are very challenging to me and that I would prefer not to have to do. It's just part of being a business owner without a partner, not counting my wife who gets stuck helping me from time to time.

But the fun part is doing things like testing recipes for product I hope to carry (my friends like that part to as they get to eat the samples). In addition to having Little Buddy baked goods, cookies, cakes, muffins, scones, brownies, cupcakes etc we will be scooping ice cream and sorbet. It most likely that we will be carrying Jane's Ice Cream, a great small brand from Kingston, New York. Being able to decide which flavors we will carry certainly is a part of my job that I love. I'd like to share the pleasure by having my readers and hopefully soon to be customers a chance to pick their favorite flavors that Jane's carry. Here are some of the flavors I am thinking of trying first, trying to narrow down the possibilities. You can click on the link to Jane's to see their full selection.

After choosing your 8 favorite picks of ice cream and 3 favorite sorbet just click on the comments section below this blog post and place your bets.

Here are the flavors I am thinking about as my first offering:
Ice Cream
Killer Chocolate
Milk Chocolate Fudge
Vanilla
French Vanilla
Vanilla Chocolate Chip
Cookies & Cream
Coffee
Cappucino Kahlua Caylpso
Maple Walnut
Strawberry
Black Raspberry
Peanut Butter Fudge
Creamcicle
Ginger
Pumpkin (Seasonal)
Mint Chip
Dulce de Leche

Sorbets
Grapefruit
Chocolate
Orange
Lemon
Watermelon
Raspberry
Mango

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Commercials on TV and Your Child

Last year when Jack first went to kindergarten he graduated to commercial TV. Somehow he decided he no longer could watch Noggin and Nick was his new viewing choice, which means seeing commercials on regular basis. After a long love affair with Fairly Odd Parents (wacky cartoon), he wound up gravitating towards shows that were really meant for pre-teens like Drake and Josh and iCarly.

Lately I've threatened to take away his TV privilege if he didn't stop asking me to buy everything he saw advertised. I was getting weary of explaining why we don't buy breakfast cereals with marshmallows in them or every junk toy that would wind up in his pile of not-played with toys.

But yesterday he said something that made me laugh really hard and proved that even he had a limit on what he coveted from viewing TV. We were watching iCarly together, okay so I sort of got hooked on it too, and there was a commercial for PedEgg. It's an egg shaped device, for ergonomic design, that is a file for your foot callouses. It even captures the filed skin for easy disposal, which is sort of gross to see on TV. I'm not sure why it was being advertised on a show like iCarly, unless I'm not the only old person watching with their child.

So Jack is watching this commercial and he looks at me and he says "What is that? We don't really need that do we?" It made me laugh because it might have been the first commercial for a product that he knew enough to reject. I was wondering how many times he viewed that commercial before coming to that conclusion.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Best Lunch In Brooklyn

How's this for a lunch menu:

Fresh Roasted Turkey with Avocado Dressing, Bell Pepper, Red Onion and Tomato
Oven Seared Soy Skirt Steak
Oven Roasted Ratatouille with Eggplant, Onion, Bell Pepper, Zucchini, and Fresh Basil
Roasted Yukon Potatoes
Mixed Greens Salad with Cucumber, Tomato and Mustard Cider Vinaigrette
Fruit Salad with Cantaloupe, Apples, Pears, Strawberries and Grapes

Where was the lunch served and how much was it you might ask? It was at the C.H.I.P.S. Soup kitchen in Park Slope Brooklyn and it was free and hopefully was enough to feed over one hundred people. It was largely made with donated food mostly from the Park Slope Food Coop and labor supplied by volunteers or Coop members doing there shift. The fruit and produce that the Coop donated was produce that a regular supermarket might have thrown out. It was edible and usable but not really sell-able, maybe because an apple or tomato was bruised, or the lettuce was starting to rot, but the inner leaves were still good. It makes you wonder what would happen if all our food distributors, supermarkets and restaurants took part in programs like this. Would there be any hungry people in this country? Especially in today's economic climate this should be how we use our food system. But I guess fear of legal issues or the labor/time costs of picking through the produce is a factor of why it doesn't happen. Just the same.....

Today also took a whole lot of cooperation by some really cool people, which is part of the coop's name and mission. When I got to the kitchen Serita Lewis, volunteer project leader (not a coop member) was there and were bemoaning the fact that there wasn't enough vegetables. So I called the coop and coordinator for the CHIPS shift, Camille Scuria happened to be there and got the receiving coordinator, Miriam Eusebio on the phone. Miriam went to our produce cooler and had two member, Janet Curley and Becca Schleifer bring 8 boxes of produce to the kitchen. Becca and Janet stayed to help me pick through the boxes and they even stayed to make a fruit salad and along with Seritat, Yasko and Jorge, plus the second shift of Coop members we banged out a great meal.

I'm proud to be associated with a venture like this and would encourage other people to take the initative to do likewise. It's great training for a new chef to develop thinking skills, improvisation skills and how to use ingredients. If you can make a good meal like this using random leftover and half usable food imagine what is possible with no limits?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chef Pete Interviewed for nydailynews.com

Chef Pete (that's me) of Little Buddy Biscuit Company is featured in an article about vegan baking on the nydailynews.com website:
www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/food/2009/05/12/2009-05-12_whats_really_in_a_vegan_dessert_.html

Also a mention for his vegan product on nycgo website:
http://nycgo.com/?event=view.slideshow&sid=163660&slide=5

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Help Your School and Get Healthy: Volunteer!

If you are a parent with a child (or two) in public school you should know the importance of being involved with your child's school. Since our son has been in pre-k (now kindergarten) my wife and I have helped out in many ways. We like to use our interests, skills and knowledge in art, music and food to help out. As a parent there are so many ways to use your own expertise to help out. Or perhaps start something that you have been interested in doing but have never had the opportunity. Everyone wins that way. If every parent in a school gave just a little time throughout the school year the school would be that much more enriched. Especially in these tough economic times.

A good example of getting active with your child's school in a way that uses a skill and interest that one has is the subject of an interview I conducted with Stacey Bucovy, whom I met at my son's school PS 10. Stacey Bucovy was owner/chef of Fresh Dish Catering Company for 12 years up until her son Marc was 1 year old. He's 6 now and has a 3 year old sister, Jacqueline. Now she is self-described personal chef to the Bucovy family plus chauffeur, house cleaner, personal assistant and active PTA member. Stacey discusses Healthy Steps Committee that she has co-founded. Among the events that this committee organized is coming next week and open to the public, celebrity Chef Dan Barber who will talk about sustainable seafood.

1. Tell me a little bit about Healthy Steps Committee and what inspired you to help start it at PS 10?
The Healthy Steps committee was started as a way to add to the dialogue on the issues of children's health and nutrition. I believe that there is an actual mandate to have a committee like this in every school and we chose to do it here to fill the void.
2. What are the short term and long term goals of the committee?

In terms of short and long term goals I think we did things a little backwards. We started off with a bang with the Health expo and the lecture series but we probably should have built up a little more familiarity with a newsletter and a couple of school time events. One idea we have is to do a lunchroom project where students interview each other about what they like to eat, what they are having for lunch, etc. and then to post this information up on a big bulletin board so that they can read their responses. Our long term goal is to involve students, teachers and parents in fun and informative activities about health and nutrition.
3. Jane Brody, personal health columnist for the NY Times and best selling author recently spoke at PS 10 how did you book her to speak and what did she discuss?
Jane Brody is an acquaintance from the YMCA. She lives in Brooklyn so I asked her if she would speak. Her topic that evening was how to feed your kids healthfully in this fast-food, take-out world. She did a great job. She told the audience how she raised her children. Her advice was simple, which is easy to forget how to be these days. Make food in batches and eat it over 2 or 3 days or freeze it; don't buy packaged cakes, cookies or chips or you will eat them; decrease a child's high fat diet gradually, for example blend whole milk with 1% milk and when your child becomes accustomed to the new taste decrease the fat content again until you arrive at complete skim; if possible serve dinner after school if that's the time you can get him/her to eat most nutritiously; keep a bowl of fruit salad in the fridge to snack on. She had loads of good advice and she advised us to buy her cookbook for healthy recipes for quick breads.
4. The next speaker you have coming to the school is Dan Barber on Tuesday, May 12 at 6:00 pm. Tell me a little bit about Dan and what he will be discussing?
Dan Barber is a celebrity chef who co-owns the Blue Hill restaurant in NYC and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate NY. He is the east coasts answer to Alice Waters. At his farm upstate he grows all the produce and raises all the animals that are served in the restaurant. He will be speaking at P.S.10 about seafood. His lecture is entitled "Fishing...for the birds?" or the story of how one sustainable fishery changed Dan's view of seafood. Tell everyone you know to come.
5. Healthy Steps held it's first health expo in March (was it March?), were you pleased with the results and what was accomplished?
I was very pleased with the results of the Health Expo. We had it in March to celebrate National Nutrition Month. It completely confirmed the idea that you can mix education with pleasure. From the gardening table where children planted sprouts that they could take home, to the fitness demos where they learned exercises, and at the food stations where children sampled exotic fruits and learned fun facts about them. We also had nurses there to answer any health question you might have or to take your blood pressure. The Green committee participated with a wonderful exhibit and we also served dinner. I think we should have one every year.
6. Any advice for parents at other schools who may want to start a similar committee at their school?
I think that if you are concerned about the current obesity crisis and how huge food companies now have us addicted to sugar, salt and fat the school system is the best place to create a movement. You have the exact audience you need to reach out to and make positive change. You just have to approach the PTA with a plan.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another Accidental Recipe

Cauliflower. I can hear the groans already. First kale and now he's trying to get us to like cauliflower? What's next brussel sprouts (well, maybe). Lately I've really been enjoying a very simple and tasty preparation of cauliflower, by roasting it. Just wash the head, take out the core and cut into small pieces. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Put the cauliflower into a pan, cover the pan with aluminum foil (steams the cauliflower to start with keeping it moist) and place into a preheated oven at 400 degrees. Roast covered for about 15 minutes, take off the cover and roast for about 10 minutes more. Turn the cauliflower over and roast a bit more until the cauliflower is browned to your likeness (nice and caramelized). Now you can serve warm or cool it and make a salad with pine nuts, raisins and balsamic vinaigrette.

The other night I was making a Korean Garlic Tamari Soft Tofu dish with a side of brown rice. The vegetable bin was low with choices of vegetables except a head of cauliflower. I wanted a change from roasting and I thought a crisp salad would go nicely with the warm tofu and rice. Here's what I came up with.

Steamed Cauliflower with Carrot, Onion and 5 Spice Lime Vinaigrette
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1 small head of cauliflower, washed, core removed and cut in small pieces
1 carrot, washed and peeled
1/4 medium onion
juice of one lime
2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon 5 Spice powder
2 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Procedure
  1. Steam cauliflower for 4-5 minutes, until still slightly firm, but cooked. Remove cauliflower from steamer and place in an ice bath to stop it from cooking anymore. Drain well and set aside in a medium bowl.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler cut carrot into thin strips and add to cauliflower.
  3. Cut onion into thin strip against the grain (salad cut) and add to vegetables in bowl.
  4. Meanwhile blend lime juice, rice vinegar and 5 spice powder in a small bowl with a whisk. Add both oils and whisk again. Pour over vegetables stir well and refrigerate for an hour or two or until the vegetables take on the flavor of the vinaigrette, shaking or stirring the vegetables every once in awhile. Serve chilled.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spare Parts Make a Great Salad

There is nothing more rewarding or satisfying than creating a meal or part of a meal from random ingredients, non-planned and with no recipe in front of you. The other night I made a vegetarian chile served on a bed of toasted millet and wanted to make a vegetable side dish to go with it. I came up with a salad that was bursting with flavor and really complimentary to the spicy main entree. It reminded me of salads that I've seen on menus or at least should be on one.

I had a number of ingredients that needed to be used sooner than later. They were: half a small head of frisee (curly lettuce), small piece of red bell pepper, blood orange, avocados and leftover lemon dressing. The result was in a beautiful delicious and nutritious salad. Since it was improvised and I didn't write down what I was doing while composing the salad the below recipe is estimated.

Frisee, Red Bell Pepper and Avocado Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients
Small head of Frisee, leaves pulled apart and cleaned (about 4 big handfuls)
Half of red bell pepper, cut into small dice
1 blood orange, peeled and cut into sections
Lemon Dressing (1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste)
note: You could also add some sliced red onion and radish if you like more flavor. I would have if I had it on hand.

Procedure
  1. Place the frisee and bell pepper in a bowl, pour some dressing (about half) over the leaves and toss to coat.
  2. Arrange the frisee and bell pepper evenly on four plates, top with the blood orange sections.
  3. Meanwhile cut open the avocados, remove the pit. Cut each half into slices and remove from with a spoon. Layer each half on on salad.
  4. Sprinkle each salad with a bit more dressing if needed and some salt and pepper.
    Ready to serve.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Really Big Little Buddy Biscuit Company News!

After a 15 month search, Little Buddy Biscuit Company has finally signed a lease for a commercial space that was formerly Regina Bakery on 635 5th Avenue at 18th Street in Brooklyn. We will be opening a retail bakery in a few months (stay tuned for more details on the opening date). We will continue to make our popular cookies, brownies and cupcakes and will also bake muffins, scones, various coffee and layer cakes and other desserts. In addition we will offer coffee and tea drinks, other beverages and premium ice cream. We will post our menu on the Little Buddy Biscuit Company website before the grand opening.

I have so many people to thank for helping us get to this point and hopefully will be able to do so in the coming months. I would like to give a few shout outs in this blog.
First and foremost of course is my wife Jill who has done so much to help me get through the ups and downs of finding a space. Despite having her own stressful career and being the excellent mother of our son, she somehow found time to do a myriad of important things to help the expansion of our business.

Ulas Neftci from the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College helped me throughout the process of setting up a budget, marketing ideas, advice regarding looking for a commercial space and more. Anyone looking to start a small business should take advantage of the expert help available at Baruch.

Murat Uyaroglu and Ori Zigindere owners of
Prospect Perk on Sterling and Flatbush in Brooklyn and wholesale customers of LBBC have been really supportive and full of good advice. Hearing their words of encouragement on my twice weekly deliveries to their establishment kept me going.

I also appreciate the advice that Emily Isaacs of Trois Pommes gave me in regards to setting up my bakery. When I first approached Emily she didn't know me and yet was free with advice, which not everyone in business would be so generous with.

And final shout outs to my web designer and all around adviser Tony Limuaco and to my social networking consultant Eleanor Traubman and finally to Rocco Rella for his contracting expertise. As I continue to prepare for the opening of the store you will hear more details about the process and the people that help me. Stay tuned!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What's Your Favorite Memory of Food From Childhood?

I recently had a revelation about my business, after nearly 4 years that was a bit surprising to me. All along I had been thinking that as a chef my identity is completely my own. Some of what I cooked had roots in the foods I ate as a child, but mostly I thought it was my own interest in food as a grown up that was steering the ship. Growing up my mother made lots of good homemade food everyday for 9 people, including desserts. That is quite impressive no matter how you slice it. Just the same the availability of so many more ingredients today from different parts of the world, including more variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, opens up more culinary possibilities and choices.

When I first started my business I chose recipes for bakes goods that I knew would be great, that would fill a need in the neighborhood and that I would be able to consistently produce. My early selections were a combination of traditional cookies using the best recipe I could find, such as chocolate chunk cookies and oatmeal cookies but also some of my own ideas about ingredients made their way into the selections. The past year and half or so I have been testing recipes for products that I will sell when I open my bakery. Some of what I chose were items that I thought a good bakery in this part of Brooklyn should have and I was also trying to come up with things that would set me apart a bit from my competition.

I was thinking about some of the baked goods that I had been trying out and it occurred to me that some of them were typical of what my mother and her sisters would serve at their weekly coffee klatch. What is a coffee klatch you might ask? Why it's a casual social gathering for coffee and conversation. I haven’t thought about the whole concept of a coffee klatch in a long time but it gave me a good feeling that I was in some small way carrying on a tradition that I enjoyed as a child. I wonder if anyone today would grasp the concept of getting together every week with your siblings, but growing up in the late 50’s and 60’s it worked for my family.

Every week, usually on Thursday’s, my mother and her two sisters (and sometimes their brother’s wife) and their children would get together in the afternoon. Since they lived less than a mile apart in the same town (or the one next to) Rockville Centre their whole lives it was fairly easy to do. My siblings and cousins and I would play outside games if it was nice, like kickball, tag or monkey in the middle, or board games if it was raining. We would occasionally put on shows if the mood hit us right. I remember doing impressions of LBJ, Nixon, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, white fang from The Soupy Sales Show (I did a mean Soupy Shuffle) and the old man played by Artie Johnson, from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in. Sometimes I would play Last Train to Clarksville by the Monkees on the guitar. I’m sure the shows were pretty lame, but our mom’s clapped as though we were the Marx Brothers.

Of course coffee (iced tea or lemonade for the kids) and dessert was always served and was the highlight of the day as far as I was concerned. I know my mother almost always made the dessert when it was her turn but I guess sometimes she went to Front Street the local bakery when she did not have time to bake. At least 45 years later Front Street still does a booming business across the street from the LIRR station in RVC.

I remember having cookies, brownies, kruellers (donut), coffee cakes, crumb buns, rum cake, sometime pies or layer cakes, all of it good and tasty in my book. My mother recently lost her last remaining sibling, Anna Federico who passed away last year. Although the “coffee klatch” had lost steam when Mom’s sister Josephine passed away years ago and the kids had all grown up, Mom and Anna got together at least once a week to go to a movie or lunch together until Anna's health declined. She passed away last year.

I can only hope that what I bake might play even a small part in building traditions and memories that my customers might have with their families.

Note: I want to thank my mother for letting me use the photo you see above. She is on the standing on the right, to the left of her is Josephine and Anna, her parents Elvira and Robert seated with her brother Robert.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Grilled Ginger-Spiced Seitan with Red Peppers, Scallions, Pea Shoots and Sesame Seeds Stuffed in Lettuce Leaves

I got this idea from a Chinese pork dish I saw in a culinary magazine and used the recipe for a Vegetarian Picnic class I taught at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health. Seitan is a good source of protein especially for vegetarians who are trying to have something that has chew to it. It is made by making a simple dough and extracting the protein from it by running the dough under water. The protein strands that are left are formed into a ball then simmered in a flavored broth.

The seitan works really well on the grill but if you are cooking indoors and have no stove top or electric grill pan you can broil the seitan. I am not a huge sprouts person but I do love pea shoots. They are also delicous gently sauteed either with extra-virgin olive oil and garlic or you could use fresh ginger and sesame oil. Using the lettuce leaves as the wrap makes it a light entree. You could substitute a tortilla, naan or wrap for more heft.

Grilled Ginger-Spiced Seitan with Red Peppers, Scallions, Pea Shoots and Sesame Seeds Stuffed in Lettuce Leaves

Makes 6 Stuffed Lettuce Rolls

Ingredients
1 pound Seitan, large chunks
1 tablespoon minced ginger
¼ cup tamari
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon thai toasted chili paste
1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces
8 scallions, washed and trimmed
6 large, crisp romaine lettuce leaves, washed
½ ounce (approximately) pea shoots, cut into thirds
¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted
hot sauce, optional

Procedure
1. Place seitan in a medium bowl. In a small bowl blend the ginger, tamari, rice wine vinegar, oils and chili paste. Pour marinade over the seitan, stir and set aside.
2. Meanwhile light grill to medium heat. Grill the peppers and scallions until cooked well and nicely charred. Let cool, chop the scallions, and cut peppers into strips and set aside.
3. Meanwhile remove seitan from marinade and place on the grill. Strain and reserve the marinade. Turn seitan every once in a while until all sides are crisp and have nice char marks. When seitan is just about cooked, baste the seitan with the reserved marinade. Take seitan off the grill, allow the seitan to cool a bit, slice and set aside.
4. Take the lettuce leaves, place some pea shoots on each, divide the seitan and place on each leaf, top with bell peppers and scallions. Garnish with sesame seeds and a few drops of hot sauce if using. Roll up and enjoy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

9 Tips for Starting Your Food Business, from A Non-Billionaire

Gordon Ramsey I’m not, but I have managed to run my own business for almost 4 years without incurring debt and I have managed to even make a bit of money in the process. In a few years, after my baking empire is secure, my suggestions might command a bit of notice. So listen up!

1. Start with a business plan. I am in the process of preparing a formal plan which would have been helpful to have done from the beginning. The fact that I kind of started the business by accident it was an afterthought. I have spent many a day wishing that I did. You can get free help from The Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College and the New York City Business Solutions in each borough. I have used both developing a budget, marketing ideas, business resources, planning and legal advice.
2. Know your market and your product.
3. Know your costs including ingredients and labor.
4. Start small and expand in increments that you can handle with comfort and confidence.
5. Buy or steal some luck and karma.
6. Make sure you really like doing what you are setting out to do, even the mundane tasks, and be prepared to have to do many things that don’t include making your product.
7. Build a good solid network of people you can go to for advice and support. Friends, family, neighbors, other owners of small businesses.
8. Don’t listen to everything that the people in your support network tell you.
9. Learn how to sleep good at night, eat your fruit and vegetables and take your vitamins.
10. Be an heir to a small fortune (I know I said 9 but being an heir would have been very helpful) or find revenue streams that will sustain you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Day Roy Orbison Died

I went out to dinner the other night with friends that I knew from when we all worked together at GreenWorld Records, a California based company, in the mid-eighties. I've kept in touch over the years with Paul Marotta , I consider him to be one of my greatest friends, but for some reason or other lost touch with Steve Bromlee after GreenWorld and Holly Lane since 1995 (she told me at dinner that she came to see my band that year, better memory than I) . We were all re-united when my wife Jill put up a Facebook page and found out that former employees of GreenWorld/Enigma had a group page. I've been on the page and funny enough found out that someone I knew from LIFEbeat, The Music Industry Fights AIDS (I worked there for about 9 years) also worked at Enigma.

In 1984 Paul talked GreenWorld into opening a NYC office and shortly after hired me. We only worked together for a few months but I learned so much about the record business from Paul. To this day I still learn something interesting every time I see Paul. When Paul left I wound up becoming the manager of the office, with practically no experience under my belt. I subsequently hired Don Brody to do sales and Holly Lane to do everything else that Don and I didn't have the time to do. The three of us worked together in a small cramped office on Lafeyette Street for about 14 months, but had the time of our lives. Who could argue with bad Heavy Metal indie groups, calzones from Sal's and cheap beer from the local bodegas? But the good times faded and I left right before the ship sunk. I got tired of selling the few crappy records we had left after being cut off for past due bills by all the indie labels we carried, and the pressing plant that made the discs for our own label, and the long distance trucking company to boot.

We had camaraderie that only exists when you like the people you work with and when you all really care about the music, not just making money. Catching up with people that your respect and also had good times with is special. After a few margarita's I brought up Don's name and regrettably changed the subject. Don died suddenly on December 27, 1997 and I guess I still have trouble dealing with losing friends too soon. I tend to get sentimental bordering on maudlin if I have too much tequila and I wanted to keep the night festive. When I think back about Don I can remember every time I'd see him he'd say "so what's on your turntable today" (cd's weren't quite prevalent yet)? He loved hearing what mattered about the music his friends listened to, he wanted to soak it all in. I also remember the great songs he wrote being a terrific singer/songwriter and the honesty he performed them with. He was in a band from Columbus, Ohio called Cryin Out Loud when I met him and then later he had a duo called the Marys above all he just was a really good guy and funny as hell to be with.

For the Marys he wrote a song called "The Day Roy Orbison Died", which still gives me chills. You can listen to the song without leaving this blog, just click on Roy's youtube clip in the upper right corner of my blog or you go to youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC4KyWBt3B8 you'll hear the song with photo's of Roy Orbison. I always liked Roy Orbison, but a few years back I downloaded an anthology in ITunes of his music. I had Roy on vinyl but needed some songs for a wedding I was doing the music for the father of the groom. I downloaded a compilation of Roy's music from iTunes.

Now when I shuffle my ipod Roy's music comes up frequently and of course the hits are familiar (Pretty Woman, Crying, Blue Bayou, Love Hurts to name a few) but I didn't realize how prolific, ahead of his time and talented he was. Of course he had a voice unlike anyone else, with an unbelievable range and tone. Now when I hear Roy's music I also think of my friend Don and how much I miss him. At Don's memorial there were so many people, mostly musicians, that came to the Elks lodge in Hoboken that the crowd spilled outside.

Thanks to the internet you can find people that you haven't seen in awhile, music you care about, meaningless facts about anything plus important stuff too and luckily in this case the memory of a good friend and talented musician will remain alive in so many ways. You can see a clip of Don with Cryin' Out Loud: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJpl7MdvYks. You can also find out about Don at www.davidcogswell.com/Essays/DonBrody.html. Of course while checking into Don's life and music why don't you stop by and check out Roy Orbison's too, Don would be "pleased as punch" if you did.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Veneration Spread Update: Gig tonight

Dusting off the old leather stick bag (about 28 years old to be exact) and back in Rock N Roll for at least one more night with Veneration Spread

@ Uncle Mike's

57 Murray Street, NYC 10007

Cost: $10

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