Every year I ask everyone in the LL-verse to send me some florid (or not) prose (or not) about their year at work. This year we were 26 strong, across all three businesses, every single person a dang beacon of joy and singularity. Here are words from some of us about 2017 in a small chocolate company, a bustling café, and a tiny retail sweets shop.
For best-of round ups from previous years, see
I rush to work every day because I work with wonderful weirdos who are always up to help me implement all kinds of schemes and projects. The highlight of my year was the totality of this job, the stresses and the ludicrously saccharine joys, just completely all of it—all its million grabby tentacles that always need everything all the time, the hundreds of 1.5 minute walks between LL and Comm (if I don’t have too much to carry I make myself sprint it, always arriving out of breath here or there), the customers and friends I get to hang out with every day, the ramen bowls I get to make, the people I share this job with. My personal life mostly sucked in 2017 and the wider world was so scary every day, so work was a real (um, fairly literal) lifesaver.
The other highlight of my year was, like everyone’s, Tahini Meltaways. Thanks, Alexis! Here’s to more meltaway things and tahini things in 2018.
Plans for 2018:
As usual, we’ve got lots of overly ambitious and guaranteed-stress-making plans for the year ahead. We’re always looking to improve the beauty and flavor of our chocolates, food, and drink, always working to welcome our customers more warmly, to treat each other with true gentleness and respect, always trying to soften up while sharpening up, getting better, kinder, smarter.
Specifically, I want to make our viennoisserie program (croissants!) a bit fluffier and flakier, want to get tickets out in a speedier fashion at Commissary!, want to run out of everything from cashew milk to Rosemary Caramels less by improving communication and efficiency and tightening up our systems. I’ve got plans to build some beautiful new shop shelves from LL HQ, to do some fancy dinners at Commissary!, got some advent calendar ideas for LL percolating away in my noodle. I want to learn how to be a better boss, always.
Oh, and I have a book to write. Mark your calendars for Fall 2019 when my book Sweet X Salty: The Art of Vegan Confections from Lagusta’s Luscious comes out. I have 6 more months to write it and it’s already almost at the promised word count but not even ¼ finished. It’s already super on-brand LL, ah.
Working at LL has been a crazy all encompassing job that I couldn’t love more! I came into the shop at a really crazy time in my life and I am so glad to have found this lil coven of the greatest people on earth. I feel really privileged to have been let into this world, and I am grateful to have grown with my co-workers and friends so tremendously in the past few months. I have so much love for what we do and what we stand for and I can’t wait to see the LL brand grow into the new year!
2017 was a year of many changes for ol’ Jenn! In February I began my New Years Resolution of being vegan (better late than never), and I’m so happy to report I’m still vegan! Having so many seasoned vegans all around me while I was starting out was just so helpful and I’m forever thankful for all of the encouragement, recipes, and love. This year I also took on more making duties, which has been both challenging and rewarding. It’s such a great feeling seeing something on Instagram that I made! Personally, this year has been quite the shake-up. My life got flipped, turned upside-down and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there, and I’ll tell you how literally everyone in the shop has been so empowering and uplifting. I can’t thank everyone at the shop enough for their support. Looking forward to 2018 being a year of continued positive change and growth!
Boxes! I moved to the Hudson Valley at the very end of August and quickly found a job at Lagusta’s Luscious. It was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. Tobi said, “Get a job doing mail order”. Boxes! I used to mail records, now I mail chocolate. Both are fragile and can melt, but only chocolate gets mailed with ice. Last Wednesday, we mailed 117 packages. Boxes! Everything is made so carefully. It’s very meticulous. It tastes delicious! I run from the back of the shop to the front – to grab more chocolate, for orders. I pass by the scrap table – to look for snacks, for me. There are always snacks. There are always orders. Energy! Chocolate! Boxes!
–Maresa says, “I can’t believe you’re sitting down and not packing boxes”.
–“I am writing about boxes right now!”
Holiday shipping! USPS! We need more packing peanuts! I never met the mail carrier.
The best night of 2017 was when I saw the Raincoats perform in NYC. Lagusta brought them chocolate. They played “Lola” twice. Gina ate one of our caramel bars on stage; she stretched the caramel as far as it could go. (I wonder if she shared with Ana.) When Gina looked inside the bag, she proclaimed, “Furious Vulvas. That will be my dinner.” [Three-quarters of] Bikini Kill played a song they haven’t sung in twenty-three years. It was the first time I saw them. It was amazing! (Don’t tell Bill.)
putting small sweet things inside of small colored things putting those things inside bigger sturdy things which in turn are put into even bigger things then sent out into that part of the world that exists contingently with the little utopia flourishing inside the shop, how could something so painstakingly pure continue to live if there were no dichotomous relationship with the thing it actively seeks to defy, i guess i am thankful that the strange discordant part of the world is a thing so that i can ride into my eleventh hour of a work day knowing that the place in which i serve my duty is one marked by upheaval of all that seeks to limit our freedom of selfhood in society. thank you lagusta and every single person involved for being warriors through chocolate and sweets, for creating and sustaining a THRIVING hub of positivity, power, and safety, and for allowing me to be a part of the busy winter season!
2017 was the year that Lagusta’s Luscious HQ became my home away from home, not my “workplace.”
So many things went wrong in 2017 and it ended up creating a giant gap ready to be filled with wonderful experiences. All the chocolatiers made their own recipes. So daunting and so rewarding! Tinsley the tinsel cat got a tinsel friend and they both have an extensive wardrobe made by Jenn! We had a Halloween party instead of a birthday party when I turned 23 this year. Enrobing became my main gig and in that I got to listen to endless podcasts and lectures including a 12 hour lecture series on The Black Death so if you need any morbid medieval fun facts let me know. Alexis made soup so warm and comforting that when I curled up on the couch during my lunch break I accused her of sabotage by making us all too happy and sleepy to work. We learned to decorate our chocolates so beautifully that that I’d carry a piece around the shop like “Maresa look how pretty this bark is!” “Kate! have you seen how damn shiny these are?!”
I could not be more proud to be a part of the LL family. Thanks for letting me be a total weirdo!
the years just keep passing through and taking me with them and if i had my shit together i would have kept tally of how many times we made each recipe this year, how many turtle bar batches, how many maple pecan caramels and peanut butter cup fillings, how many batches of cane syrup (the mother recipe inside all the other recipes). i wish i kept track of how many times i screamed about the sunset outside and how many bad jokes i made in general, how many times “sk8r boi” crept out of the playlist depths and wide-eyed set us ablaze back into the 90’s for a passing minute. i wish i kept track of the number of times i felt genuine pride of product and love of people and camraderie of mission and belonging of place in this teal palace made of sugar. i bet the numbers are high. i bet they would surprise me. ❤
Lagusta told us to write a few sappy words reflecting on our year at work, so here are mine.
I started out as a customer, coming to Comms with my partner every once in a while to read zines and roll my eyes at the $6.50 matcha latte with cashew milk (I didn’t appreciate the price tag as a customer, but now I see that everything we serve is 200% worth it). Wow, times have changed since then!
Lagusta has this thing she says at the beginning of every training, how everyone that’s here was "brought" here because they needed it. Something about this place drew people in, like a sanctuary. That was very much the case for me. I was closing a chapter in my life and looking for a new one to sink my teeth into. Found it!
I hopped behind the counter in April, up to my elbows in dishes on ramen night (#rammissary) while learning the very basics of working in a kitchen. I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned and excited at how much there is still left to learn.
It was in this kitchen that I learned what it’s like to be a part of a true team— a coordinated effort toward at the common goal of great food, sound politics, and warm community. My coworkers, employers, and customers are the best people I know.
I am so grateful for the team I am a part of, in all of its iterations over the past year. I’m grateful for every blobby latte heart (still working on it!), every perfect croissant, every broken dish, every dog in a sweater, and every redeemed Mitzvah.
Thanks Commissary! for being my sanctuary and my rock this year. I’m so excited to see what this year brings.
p.s. follow @CommissaryOoC on twitter for funny “Commissary Out of Context" quotes/pics from this year.
I think a lot about a thing Lagusta said about how every time you chop a carrot you try to do it better. It’s like that at Commissary. Constantly improving, even repetition is not repetitive because there are tiny minute details to be improved upon.
Theres also things, like tofu pockets, that you revisit and get acquainted with again after a years absence. You remember who you were the last time you cut one. I feel grateful to remember that person, cutting tofu pockets in 2016, and even more grateful to be the person I am now, cutting tofu pockets in 2017. Same task, but so much growth! I love this job and I love the people I work with and I love the challenge of constantly striving to make positive changes. Excited for what's next!
2017 was about trying to take steady, deep breaths. I bought a subscription to Headspace to help, it needed that much deep breathing! The idea was to find a groove, the beat at which everything just “runs”, and by running I mean taking off in a sprint and not slowing down. We saw an almost total staff change up at Commissary! this year (thankfully not a total one because who wants to run Commissary! without Rachel and Chrissy?!) We’d actually done amazingly well with staff retention, over a year for almost everyone but a new wave of excited and passionate folks changes the dynamic and it’s dynamic for sure! Even with new people we still have the return of old favorite food and drinks with a rotating menu and from that comes the excitement from customers of returning favorites like an old friend. Many customers have now become old friends as Commissary! becomes a community beyond just the food and drink and the space becomes worn and grooved itself. We went from dainty thin glass cups to thicker cups (everything breaks!) and new beautiful custom ceramics from Alexis. Everyone goes to “Advanced Milks Training” at Stumptown training central to perfect that heart, fern, or tulip. Sarah Jane helped us finally update the counter and table tops, trying to recreate our youth of 1.5 years ago when there were groove-free wood surfaces to eat and drink from (it’s our “everything should always be clean like new!” mantra.) We try and fill the space with more tasty beauty (hello Tuesday Ramen!) and fine tune every movement and detail. The challenge now is to look and grow inward.
The year seemed to pass so fast — a whirlwind which felt sped up, no doubt, by my immense intake of sugar. It was worth all the ~probable~ cavities.
The almond croissants every Wednesday (#veganviennoiserie). Maresa’s springtime ramp biscuits with butter (I’m already making room in my freezer so I can buy every single one to store long-term; heads up, customers. We’re, uh, sold out. They’re all mine). Lagusta’s red satin ribbon heart decoration enveloping the window for Valentine’s day, the perfect backdrop for playing Mazzy Star on repeat. The tahini meltaways, the tahini caramel ice cream bars, the tahini mousse cups (I have a thing for tahini, especially done in the LL fashion). Those chocolate cherry big macs (M, can you make those again soon?!). The polenta caramel bars. The smoky corn on the cob bars, an old favorite I always return to. The triumphant return of the corn macarons this Autumn. Corn corn corn, more more more. All of the holiday cookies, but especially the pignoli ones which made the stressful holiday season infinitely better and which I can’t stop thinking about. Every single cake decoration Maresa made that I had the pleasure of gazing upon. Damn!
Getting up to Commissary finally and having it be everything I knew it would be – and much, much more. What a beautiful place you have up there now, Mew Paltzians — it feels like it was part of your town all along. Have some beans and greens & mac and cheese for me, please.
The Dogs of Confectionery, the regular cu(s)ties who know to come around the cash wrap for a little cheezit-looking treat and who make me want to explode from their sweetness: Yetta, Junior, Amelia Peppercorn, Elle, and also all the neighborhood dogs whose names I don’t know but who let me pet them and who drink from our water bowl. This summer we had a cat on a leash drinking from our water bowl, too, and now that is a goddang highlight if there ever was one.
Also, our visit from Queen Lydia (Maresa’s dog). Also, our visit from Ponyo Georges during pumpkin picking season:
The highlight recap wouldn’t and couldn’t be complete without mentioning the Confectionery customers, who are just the best. Often in our Google Doc work journal we have notes that say: “Our customers are so nice!” and it’s the truth. I love meeting all of the people I get to meet at the shop, who make my job more than a job. ❤
For me 2017 was a pretty awesome year. Whereas 2016 was full of change and a little crazy, this year I got settled and grew into the shop, getting to know more wonderful custies and my co-workers a little better, including the addition of wonderful Timberly.
One of my highlights was seeing how our Mitzvah Wall grew and so did its followers, it felt really good in these scary uncertain times to have a safe space and to see people come in and write notes of compassion and solidarity for each other.
Also getting our lovely sleek new counter, which meant more people hung out in the shop and I got to witness the joy of two long lost friends that live in different parts of the U.S. and bumped into each other in our little shop, it's great to leave work with that warm fuzzy feeling that life is wonderful!
Also CROISSANTS! Also Maresa's chocolate tarts and the rare savory treat including the dreamy ramp biscuits!
Also getting treated to a staff trip to Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary and getting to meet the wonderful LL and Commissary crew!
Also having Brooks form Superiority Burger pop in with foccaccia worth living for!
Confectionery was my rock this year. It provided me a space to share with lovely people, and get to escape from the rest of the world.
My best of the year was getting to celebrate one year with this unbeatable crew, and eat too many sesame chocolate treats.
It’s the night before my annual vacation, I’m drinking my tea with lotsa whiskey, I’m listening to Miley Cyrus even though I am thirty and eight years old. Let’s go.
2016 in the LL-verse. Will I ever write one of these where I don’t say
IT WAS OUR BIGGEST AND BUSIEST YEAR YET WOW
WHAT A RUSH
The answer is yes! In like 3 years when I pay off some business debt and can afford to keep the business smallllllll (is beautiful) and pay everyone so so so much better (thru magic/efficiency). (Or: When our incoming president blows us all up with his Twitter account & chocolate isn’t a thing ever again.) Just you wait, Henry Higgins! We’re going to annoy everyone by being that pretentious business always shouting about how we’ve won capitalism and are staying true to our anarchist ideals by turning down business and doing something called “days off.” YOU KNOW THAT GENRE, RIGHT? It’s a thing, right?
But first: baby’s gotta pay off a coupla Selmis.
IT WAS OUR BIGGEST AND BUSIEST YEAR YET WOW
WHAT A RUSH
I love picking out staff gifts and wrapping them all twee with little handwritten cards and things. (Hey, I’m never gonna have kids, so I’ll take my present-giving pleasures where I can get em.) Usually I spend a nice night in my home office writing the letters and wrapping, a little respite from the December craziness. This year I had to take three full nights off from work to get it all done. Last year I wrapped about ten presents, this year I wrapped over twenty.
The truth of 2016 is I didn’t want to think about my mom having died, so I created a new reality for myself in which I wasn’t given any time to think about it. I wouldn’t exactly recommend it as a strategy for grieving, but as a business-running tactic it’s hella perf.
Within two weeks in May I opened up an NYC sweets shop with my BFF, Maresa, and a coffeeshop with my partner, Jacob. I didn’t sleep at all in May, it was great! I definitely didn’t spend most of June falling apart, nope! Why do you ask?
Highlights @ random:
- Um I mean opening Confectionery! and Commissary! was a highlight, yeah. Put exclamation points after your businesses, people. It’s good to do. There’s a highlight for ya. Exclamation points. !
- I have this friend I met through the internet, Liz, as one does these days. Liz used to do things like work undercover in factory farms taking videos of animal abuses that are still used today to influence legislation and stuff, and now Liz has become a huge coffee nerd/roaster/coffeeshop owner. I could explain all about how this journey parallels my own in ways but I’m always on about that junk so let’s just say I love Liz. So Liz came out to do a two week-long skill-share. God, it was great! Living with another rabid food weirdo for two weeks! Working around the clock! Liz is good at everything! Highlight.
- Liz is also a huger food snob than me, which I didn’t think possible, and tasting my way through a few weeks with her strengthened my commitment to using my practice of veganism as clear-eyed needle-nosed activism through making the best well-fed-not-an-animal-dead food and drinks known to humanity. It’s good perfection motivation (my therapist would tell you I don’t need any more of that) to keep up yr standards when not just making money (boringest goal) but the elevation of the progressive movement you most care about is at stake, too.
- On one of our training days for Commissary!, I stared at the 6 people staring at me waiting to teach them how to run a coffeeshop when I didn’t yet know how to run a coffeeshop (do this, people, it is good for you, to be dumb at things you very quickly have to learn to be great at) and I got a for-real chill down my spine, thinking, “These guys don’t know it yet, but they’re about to become best friends.” Six strangers. That’s abnormal in lil incestuous New Paltz, but I’d brought in ringers: three of our crew were hauled in via social media from cities around the country. Bonkers, eh? Nerve-wracking, eh? And now three of them live together and everyone hangs out after work and the team of six is so tight and runs the place by themselves ridiculously well.
- (No fancy dinners to report about this year. Oh, but just you wait, 2017.)
- Weirdly, or not, the New Paltz chocolate shop, heretofore referred to by its given name, Lagusta’s Luscious, continued to up its game. Everyone seemed to, plainly put, get a lot better at their jobs this year. And they were very good at their jobs last year. Everyone new we hired fit into this higher level, or rose to it quickly. The managers run the place so efficiently that now I find myself asking them questions all the time, knowing that since I last made Peppermint Bark or shipped a UPS Ground to California (don’t do it!) they’ve developed better systems than the janky ones I originally instituted.
- Kate’s been organizing little shows at Commissary! They’re so perfect. Softhearted, warm, friendly. A sweet community of bands, a constellation of loveliness. We got an offer to have a Big Name play, but word on the street is that he’s not a cool dude. No room for uncool dude vibes in our space. Kate turned him down and he was madddddd. Ha!
- I just like these guys. I just like them, these women and gender nonconforming individuals and Alan & Jacob. They’re interesting. If I were to write a novel about them (don’t worry that’s definitely not a thing I’ve already started on) it would be impossible because they’re all so themselves in all their interestingnesses and weirdnesses that fictionalizing wouldn’t work. Not one but two of them went to Salem around Halloween because they wanted to get even witchier. Which isn’t really even possible. I mean come on. Jenn knit a santa hat for Tinsley, the gaudy tinsel Halloween cat Kate and I bought at the supermarket (yes she adorably rode the conveyor belt into my arms) which, for reasons I can’t really parse, has to live on the front counter, propping up the Drinking Chocolate menu, or else everyone is mad at me. Veronica (my first employee, hired when she was 17, now grown and running our NYC shop for us, along with Caitlin & Genna) politely asked if we can plan her days off from Confectionery! around Film Forum’s cheap days. Genna’s taking six days off this winter to finish a huge tattoo. Caitlin, of pink hair and vintage dresses, speaks a hundred languages and is getting a PhD in things I can’t explain at Yeshiva University and moonlights making baked goods for her roller derby team. Alexandra spent the semester in Africa preparing for a career of working with elephants and came back not missing a beat, gently teaching the newbies how best to scrub the sink. Alan has become the Commissary! mascot, so lovingly perplexed are all of us about his weird brain, tattoo of his dog’s logo (I know) and obsession with reading Infinite Jest. Adrienne and Kate sent a lot of chocolates to a podcast they like about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the podcasters came to the shop kvelling like crazy and everyone took a lot of photos of themselves jumping very high in the air. Once Kate asked Adrienne what she was going to do that night and she said, “I might put the rats in the bathtub. Not with water, just to hang out together.” I can’t even start in on Alexis’s far-reaching genius, or Taylor’s enrobing prowess, how she’s perfect at everything she touches, even (esp!) when that thing is scraping the floor free of stuck on chocolate. Sarah Jo comes to us as the World’s First Openly Lesbian Navy Chaplin, blowing all of our minds with stories of the military and organized religion on the reg. Ilianna’s wild energy belies a deep understanding of far-left politics that will blow your mind, Kathleen’s effortless competence and humility blow my mind every day, I bow to her strength. Rachel’s one of those people who seems sweet and normie until you learn she’s full-on making puppets at night. Kate, queen of sweet queerdos, presides over choco town appreciating these nuts as much as me, never raises an eyebrow when I ask her to do things like see if the totebag people can provide us with written proof the people sewing the totebags are paid a living wage. Chrissy’s soft heart—a ripe persimmon, sweetness lingering. Cam busting in after high school to tear through a mountain of dishes. Vivian’s quiet, all-seeing eyes. Jacob there to catch anything that could fall through the cracks, efficiency expert, perfection personified.
- Um, I also like my drive home from Confectionery!, every other Wednesday night. I dawdle until it’s really late, who knows why. Close up shop, get an ice cream at Superiority Burger, read The New Yorker. Right before they close I usually have my favorite seat under the Divine poster (bow down) all to myself. The car’s all packed, I put the padlocks on the grate (Brooks says “gate,” I’m sure I’m right) at 440 and I love that drive, westward along 9th Street, snaking through favorite neighborhoods, a side towel spread out on my lap and messy Superiority Burger (sandwich equivalent of my heart) in one hand, a good long day in our tiny sugar shoebox done, my mind unspooling lazily past where St. Mark’s Bookshop used to be, past Stonewall, easing onto the West Side Highway, up past the new Whitney (I’ll get there eventually), stupid Trump world, Fairway (best). The highlight of my year is midnight Manhattan driving? Yup.
ENOUGH ABOUT MY CRAP! Let’s get to everyone else.
Are you ready to tear up?
VIVIAN The shop became a warm, cozy haven in 2016. Though my time at Lagusta’s Luscious has been short and sweet (a few months,) I have learned so much and can only imagine the plethora of information I have yet to soak up. 2016 was a year full of chaos, political and social turmoil, weirdness, and mental fuzziness that makes you want to believe that the stars and planets were just not aligned even though you don’t entirely believe in that kind of stuff but really want to, but the shop provided an agreeable comfort.
As a newbie, I have much more to experience. Lagusta’s Luscious has provided me with a platform to do so. There is always a new task to complete, a different technique to apply, an unfamiliar recipe to create.
However, my short time at LL has taught me some invaluable information;
- Work, work, work
- Efficiency+quality= success
- One CAN get tired of eating too much chocolate
- Take care of your feet with clogs like Lagusta, Kate, and Alexis [Lagusta note: wipes hands on apron; hangs it up; work here done]
- Keep watch of the water in the double boiler so it doesn’t all evaporate (yikes)
- Farmers are incredible employees
- Smiling, laughing, and silly jokes are the remedy to making it through a tough day
- If one has passion, drive, and a vision, anything can be done (cheesy but true)
Both the LL and Commissary! crew restores my hope in humanity. All intelligent, all beautiful, all compassionate, all talented, all creative, all hardworking. So refreshing. I look up to those I work with and am more than grateful to have been given this opportunity. Lagusta fosters a beautiful little compassionate, unique, thoughtful community of like-minded individuals in little New Paltz that gives veganism a beautiful, decadent, remarkable name and has made my year interesting and exciting
Grateful and Thankful
HOLLY Moving off of Long Island to begin working at Lagusta’s Luscious was the best possible ending to my 2016. Although I’ve only been a part of the incredible crew there for about a month, I’ve never felt more at home at my place of work. Everyone that I have met has impressed me with their talents, inspired me with their kindness and compassion, and have made me proud to be a part of something so unique and purposeful. I am beyond excited for my future at this wonderful company and I am extremely thankful to have the opportunity to learn from such lovely people. Every day is a great day and one to be appreciated when you love what you do.
JENN I’ve been working here for a short time, since this past August, and I am so fortunate to be here with all of these amazing people making amazing things. Everyone who works here is the coolest ever! Seriously! Not only has everyone here been so good at teaching me new things, but they’ve also just been so great to talk to. I’ve learned so much about everyone here and it’s a true honor to spend so much time with everyone, I’ve really never felt so comfortable in a work environment. I’ve also met so many locals as well as visitors. This is a unique little town that I’ve lived in for the past five years, and I now feel like a true part of it all. It’s so rewarding seeing custies at the shop or in town telling me how delicious the chocolates are and how much Lagusta’s Lucious means to them. My favorite thing is when people walk into the store and ask “is *everything* vegan?” and I get to say yes and make their day! The past several months have meant so much to me, especially considering how turbulent of a year 2016 has been. Having this safe space to spend most of my time in makes all the difference. It’s sincerely one of the most special things I’ve ever been a part of. All of that sappiness being said, my favorite time in the shop is whenever there are chocolate/caramel/macaron/anything scraps available for my consumption. I’m a real scrap vulture.
CHLOE A year ago, just off the plane from Sydney Australia, I never would have believed that I would be making vegan chocolates in “upstate” New York. I certainly would have never believed that I would make caramels that include onions, chipotle and miso! Such wonderful creative things are born here because this shop is full to the brim with the most interesting, kind people willing to challenge that ordinary. I’ve learned so much in my 8 months here about dipping turtles, rolling truffles, making Furious Vulvas. Every day here is different. Whether I’m stabbing away at an impossible block of coco butter or gently picking rose petals there is always something new to learn. In fact, I’m still trying to learn how to go an entire day without getting chocolate on my sleeves. The hard work is truly worth the effort as I get to be around such inspiring loving people and end up creating the most delicious chocolates at the end of the day.
So many high points this year, it’s hard to choose a favorite. I think it’s impossible to beat a surprise Twin Peaks birthday party complete with a log cake made by Adrienne. And when times were tough this year I’ve felt most comforted at the shop with an inflatable tube man dancing outside when I need him most and walls covered in endless comics and quotes that remind me that this is where I belong. I can’t wait to see what next year will hold. Thanks to everyone for letting me be a part of this wonderful vegan chocolate world.
ALEXANDRA This past year I had the privilege of traveling to volunteer in Guatemala & study/intern/live in Kenya. In Kenya I had the opportunity to live out my life’s dream: seeing elephants live wild and free. What brought me much comfort while I was away was knowing I had more than one family to come home to- home family & shop family. Last year Alexis said our staff was made of people she felt like she waited her whole life to meet, and I could not agree with her more. You are all so special to me.
2016 in the shop was composed of freaking amazing ice cream all summer (including leftovers of Maresa’s macaron ice cream sandwiches oh god), talking about eyebrows, dancing as I sometimes do, an epic caramel burn, birthdays & potlucks, custies & recipes galore, the excitement of Commissary! and the incredible lattes that come with such, and jumping back in during the thick of holiday craziness (the time I actually love most). I get super emotional when I really sit and think about the beautiful bubble that is the shop. I’m so deeply thankful to be part of it and work amongst the best peeps I could ever imagine. When the world is so very dark it is truly amazing to be part of the softness and magic of LL.
KATE it was a good year, despite. coming to work the day after the election and being in a shared puddle of grief: a gift, an oddity. everyone putting down their umbrellas and getting to throw sugar at the colossal loss we all felt, getting to get down to business and make sweet things on a day we felt completely, utterly, disgustingly useless. & immediately: we made lots of skulls, but everyone knows about that. the rest of the year: i said “damn” in a shop instagram post and this one lady got real mad. adrienne nailed the chipotle onion caramel on her first try i almost fell over. i ate many scraps of the peanut butter caramel bar. the shop got covered in spiderwebs again. jenn found our halloween tinsel cat in the closet and she came to my birthday party. i got to work alongside of people i love and respect, every single day, no exceptions. fringe: getting to book and host shows at commissary, bringing sammus and adult mom and mary lattimore and long beard and and and and… to town to play beautiful shows. also, at the shop we got the whiteboard. we got a new metroshelf by the couch. lagusta is ordering more vulva molds. it’s the small things, too.
ALEXIS It’s hard to reflect on my year at the shop without reflecting on my year as a human being. It’s been another year of incredible growth and change and yet after reading my recap of 2015, things are still so much the same. Comfortable and safe. An amazing group of strong-willed, intelligent, valuable women (and a couple good men!) working hard together.
We invented new recipes, grew to meet the demand of two new businesses, ate so many tacos, celebrated all the birthdays, endlessly discussed cult television, laughed a lot. We added amazing new members to our team and made it through the holiday season with grace and relative ease, constantly testing the limits and never settling for less.
In 2016 the shop opened doors for me to be an artist again in all my most favorite ways. This summer Lagusta, Jacob and Maresa gave me my first big commission to make all of the mugs for Commissary! and the display case plates for Confectionary, I cooked a weekly soup this winter for some of our staff and customers, Kate and I designed a shop tote bag together.
And just like this time last year I walked through the shop during our busiest days exclaiming to whoever was within earshot and sometimes just to myself, we’re so good at this! This is so great! Everyone is working so hard and so well! I need some coffee!
I think the greatest lesson I took from this year is that you’ll only grow as much as you allow yourself to in any facet of your life. You have to do the work to meet your own demands and rally around likeminded people to push upward. There’s so much brilliance under this one small roof, between our four brick walls, sometimes it’s all too good to be true.
SARAH JO My greatest hits on my Lagusta’s Luscious playlist is
- Starting work at Lagusta’s. As a grad school student I am so grateful for my days of placing academic papers aside and interacting with our wonderful customers.
- Working the front. I am blessed and honored to hear so many incredible stories from our patrons. There almost always seems to be a story associated with our chocolates.
- The Lagusta’s team. Seriously, these women are amazing! Everyday I am excited to get to know more about them, their passions, and their world views.
Thank you all for collectively creating an incredible adventure which I get to be part of. Here’s to a new adventure for a new year.
CAM First job! Senior year! Lots of stress, lots of accomplishments and growth! Working at the chocolate shop has been an invaluable experience and I am so grateful that I have been exposed to this magical, very busy world, full of making and packaging lots and lots of chocolate! It is so amazing to me that I can say that I love everyone I work with. Looking back at when I started in September, I am proud to say that I have learned so much over these past few months and that my speed at packaging chocolate (especially spheres) has increased exponentially.
TAYLOR This year I found myself calling my identity and concept of “home” into question quite often. In February when I made the move back to my hometown area, (a decision I made in order to reignite my signature ~zest for life~), I felt confusion and loneliness on a greater scale than ever before. I was riddled with crippling anxiety where I once felt endless inspiration; the creative spirit of the Hudson Valley I was so desperate to rediscover, now lost to me. The fog of self-doubt that had settled over my typical headstrong confidence finally began to lift once I was hired at the shop. At Lagusta’s, I discovered a tribe of women I never knew I was missing, yet cannot imagine my current life without; I found a place of work where my excessive energy, skill for multi-tasking, love of getting my hands dirty, and passion for both veganism and cooking come together. When I feel lost in the place I grew up and despair thinking about the state of the world in 2016, I can find comfort in my work and home at the shop.
ADRIENNE This year there was so much change; the business expanded and new people were added to the LL family. The best part of the year was the way we all grew together to become a team and a family. This is a place where activists and artists can come together to create beautiful things, and I feel so lucky to be surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do.
ANNIE So 2016 was a pretty shit year for the world, but a rather nice one for me, generally. I decided to take a step back from working when I noticed my son was sometimes referring to his grandmother (and primary babysitter) as “mama”. That wasn’t going to fly. So, with a heavy heart I resigned from LL. We had a lovely farewell potluck party and I was sad. Naturally. Felt like I’d only just gotten started, only just started to get the hang of things. But then, a month later, a note from Lagusta: Would I consider working very part time, on my own time/terms to help with the croissant and bialy baking for the brand-spanking-new Commissary?? Hmmm, took all of 10 minutes to say yes. And with that I began sneaking away after the wee lad falls asleep at night to laminate dough and shape bialys for an hour or two at a time. So my year at LL feels mostly like this odd silent version of my previous life working there. Puttering around after hours like a little elf. I get to peek at what the truly busy elves get up to all day and wonder at unfamiliar-looking objects (Is that a special order or just a use-up of some failed experiment? Hmmm.) and try to search out ingredients that occasionally migrate to new locations in the shop or just disappear into the ether. (Where the hell did the extra-gluten flour go?!) It’s been great except that I almost never see anyone which makes me sad because most of the joy of working at LL are the folks that work alongside you. And there are all these new folks that I don’t even know. Ah, the endless marching forward of time. But, I’ll sometimes manufacture a reason to go in during the day and say hello and catch up on gossip and admire new equipment (non-broken rulers!) and hear about different protocols (writing on the white board!) and maybe even find out what some of those new mystery items are. Everyone continues to be awesome and interesting and talented and supportive and I can’t imagine that’s ever going to change but that’s always going to be part of my annual wrap-up. The people rock. They work hard and they have fun. I’m thrilled to be a part of it, even a tiny, secret, little part. And I hope that I get to stay a part of it for a nice long time. Happy end of the year, hope we all survive the next one relatively unscathed…
ALAN In their simplest form the things that top my best of 2016 goes as 🐛🐡🎤👻🐜🤖👽 . These little emojis represent the collective that is Commissary! Total strangers went from sitting at a long table sniffing teas and sampling chocolates to besties slinging dranks and having Robyn dance parties while closing.
KATHLEEN Getting to know this bunch of kind, strange, generous, hilarious, hardworking people has been far and away the brightest spot in an otherwise prickly 2016.
RACHEL I started this year with absolutely no idea where I’d end up. I’m so glad it was here!
ILIANNA I can finally be proud of my job! Commissary! is the ONLY physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy and supportive work environment that I have been in. Seriously, its amazing to be a part of. Lagusta, from the get-go, has been and continues to be so hands on, patient, and understanding with me as I become more aquatinted and comfortable in the work environment. I was mostly vegan when I started and since working there I’ve been inspired to fully commit to being vegan by my fellow co-workers as well as Lagusta and Jacob! I know that I work at a place that cares for me and my wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of our customers and our environment. I am always talking on and on about my job with friends and family I think it gets annoying! Commissary! is a very engaging environment and I’m excited every time I come to work. I love learning new recipes and it’s kind of the best thing in the world that we serve (and I get to eat) gluten free vegan mac and cheese!!!!
Commissary! was the only place I was able to concentrate and feel calm while I did my homework this past semester. I’d have food, usually greens & beans or a mac and cheese, some tea or coffee and then I’d get to work on the mountain of reading that I had to do. When I finished the semester Kathleen and Chrissy congratulated me and told me they saw how hard I worked they were so sincere and kind it made me want to cry.
One of the best things about my time at Commissary! is being able to work with my co-workers. Alan, Rachel, Chrissy, Sam, and Kathleen are amazing and I’m so lucky to have them in my life!! I have so much love for them and I’ve never felt so welcome and included at my place of work. I see us cultivating a real sense of family and community. It’s an awesome feeling to get through a rush of customers successfully because we worked together so well. I remember the first shift that I worked with Sam and Kathleen, one of the tasks we had was to start de-stemming about a pound of thyme (which took over a week to complete). While we spent a few hours working on the thyme we had an unexpectedly great conversation about our lives and about life in general. I think since our hands were busy/on autopilot it allowed our brains to get into a deeper state of consciousness where we were able to talk at a level that was beyond a simple get to know you conversation and even though we’d just met, we talked like we had known each other for a while. Fine tuning the espresso with Jacob is always a good time and I walk away feeling more knowledgeable and confident that I am serving quality drinks. One of my favorite highlights of my time at Commissary! is Saturday taco nights with Alan after we close! I look forward to it every week!!
I know all of this probably sounds very corny but I mean it, I am so humbled and blown away that I have the privilege of working at Commissary! I feel like I’m where I am supposed to be and I don’t know what I did to get so lucky! I’m excited and really looking forward to what 2017 has to offer us (even though we’ll have a bigoted nacho cheese dorito for a president)!
SAM Every moment has felt important, every shift too short, it’s so hard to concisely reflect on so much good, ahhhhh. But I’ll start at the beginning and see where it goes. I joined the team the week after Commissary! opened this May. I could have never prepared myself for how hard I would fall for this place. Joining the LL team, and specifically the comparatively small ranks of Comm, has been a highlight of my year, and probably my life tbh. Working alongside Rachel, Kathleen, Chrissy, Alan, Ilianna, and of course Jacob and Lagusta, inspired me to become the best, most authentic version of myself that I’ve ever been (even though sometimes I still get intimidated by how lovely and brilliant and wonderful everyone is — how are they real people???)
A few weeks after joining the team I heard back about an advocacy job I’d applied to prior – a position at a victim services agency working with kids (what I thought was my dream job). The team was totally supportive and understood that it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse, so I took the job and cut down to working one weekend shift at Comm. I learned quickly that I had left my totally amazing badass radical safe life-changing job for a difficult uncomfortable hostile life-sucking one. I’ve chosen to stick it out (for now — check back in 2017), but every Saturday Rachel and Lagusta listen to me complain and validate me while I brew coffee and froth nut milk and chop mountains of garlic.
Calm-issary has been my place of solace at the end of every long and draining week and a space for personal growth and healing. The community I’ve found in the LL team is what finally drove me to cut out the last few animal products I’d been using and GO VEGAN! I’ve learned so many new recipes, techniques, and tricks that I don’t even remember how I prepared food before working here.
Okay okay I’m so off track, let’s talk highlights ummmm -I thought I was a coffee-snob before I started here, but I’ve learned so much more about roasting and ~notes~ and how to tell whether the face I’m making is bc a shot is too sour or too bitter/what to do about it and timing a shot and perfecting the pour over and ~dialing in~
-OMG THE MAC AND CHEESE CASSEROLE. C’MON.
-I truly don’t know how I would have gotten through the Hellpocalypse that was November 9th if not for the tea and chocolate and skulls and “not my presidents” and sense of physical safety. Lagusta opened the space up for community grieving and conversation and honestly is that not the most perfect thing you can imagine on the Worst Day Ever? -Oh oh and our lovely secret santa potluck holiday party where I laughed more in three hours than I had all year? When Alan bought me the Most Perfect And Thoughtful Gift? And Lagusta gave us all the sweetest present packages? I can’t believe all these people are real.
-Reading Kate’s zine of the week (and then one or two more) every week.
-The Sammus show — eternal heart eyes (another hat tip to Kate for making that happen)
This year I discovered my boundless love for matcha lattes w/ homemade cashew milk, re-connected with my old flames the pignoli and rainbow cookies (my tiny Italian heart thanks you, Maresa!), and met some of the raddest people I’ll ever know.
I am so thankful that this business exists and am eternally grateful to share my time on this spinning space rock with the people who make all this magic happen. Thank you for teaching me that I don’t have to compromise – I can have my values and live by them and work for them and be supported and encouraged. I’m so looking forward to all of the incr(edible) things 2017 will bring.
kind of crying a little bit thinking about how lucky i am to get to be a part of this magical chocolatey coffeebeaned world. all of it is great. all of it. my coworkers who dance to robyn as we mop the floors at night. the shows, the shows, the shows. thanks for those, kate. crying at Adult Mom and receiving a hug from lagusta, crying at Sammus, crying at Swanning and Mary Lattimore and Guilt Mountain and Long Beard. the magical afterglow feeling you get when you leave a show at commissary and you know there is good in the world and it exists right where you are. every single time a customer brought in their dog. once a bird. never a cat but we did have a couple meows at the glass door sometimes. getting to be around the most incredible people i’ve ever met. having your coworkers be your friends but also your heroes. the zine library! latte art improvement. getting better at cooking by learning from, observing, and be inspired by one of the best vegan chefs in the bizz! how lucky! figuring out that mac and cheese can be vegan and delicious and getting to eat it on my lunch breaks. the beauty that occurs at commissary after hours around candles and tables of lovely humans. being a part of something i believe in. being a part of something that does good things for the world. the morning of november 9th when a woman hugged me over the counter, both of us sobbing. acquiring a home in new paltz and feeling at home in that home. hearing a loud noise and looking out of my bedroom window to see gary the inflatable tube man. getting snuggly in my bed and knowing that lagusta is downstairs making something wild and delicious in the depths of night. hazelnut sugar plum bars. lemon poppyseed macarons. flavor notes, flavor notes, strengthening that damn palette. ~*~*coffee shop crushes*~*~, pizza day, pickles, when lagusta learned to make memes, fresh local produce weekly! all of its been so good and i am so grateful.
JACOB 2016 started as a dream on a walk on the beach: what could our future hold? what should we plan for and how do we make sure we’re ready to take that step? Less than a week later those non-existent plans would have to be formulated as we saw what 2016 would bring: Confectionery! and Commissary! Lagusta’s Luscious didn’t just happen, there were no plans, it was as organic and slow and deliberate as can be and allowed us years to find the best path. Confectionery! and Commissary! both went from concept to opening in 4 months…from nothing. To say it was a new (exhausting / exhilarating / terrifying / taxing) experience is beyond an understatement and to see these businesses and spaces become a reality was incredible. I was traveling most every day before we opened the two and was drawing plans, ordering equipment, securing permits, designing logos, creating menus the entire time (while also doing my traveling job.). I’m so grateful to Lagusta, Maresa, Liz (who consulted and trained for Commissary!) and John (our amazing contractor who has built everything we’ve built) for bringing these two businesses to life. For me 2016 was about the month of May when we met, trained, and welcomed into the LL world our new staff, new businesses, and new challenges.
CAITLIN 2016 has been one intense year for me,and probably everybody!. Personally, there was a lot change, but good! I moved to Brooklyn, starting training roller derby, and landed the best job I’ve ever had.
Joining the LL team and getting to witness Confectionery come to life has been amazing.
Being the chocolate lover and sugar addict that I am, I knew I was going to be in a happy place surrounded by cookies, turtles & truffles. What I didn’t know was all the love and commitment that was poured in to this business to deliver a top quality product without compromising ethics. It’s been incredibly inspiring to see how much care and respect everyone has for each other, the earth and environment. Since working here I’m learning to be more conscientious with the choices I make and where I spend my money.
I’m incredibly grateful to be part of this amazing team and can’t wait to see what 2017 will have in store for us ( 😉 bad joke!)
GENNA It’s a crazy and special thing to get to be a part of this family after fan girling it from a distance for so many years.
My highlight is getting to help be a part of the crew that has made this little ol’ space on east 9th street a haven for me, my friends, and this family. Having a space to heal, have unfiltered conversations, and eat lots of sugar has been a really wonderful and necessary thing.
Oh, and my favorites of the year have to be the pignoli cookies, that damn churro ice cream mac, croissant caramels, and my lovely “kill your local misogynists” mug from Kate.
KATIE LEE 2016 was rough in so many ways, but being part of the LL crew (NYC, yeah!) made it a lot softer. Here are a few standout moments for me:
VERONICA *The* highlight is Confectionery opening! It still feels like a dream that I get to work in the sweetest sugar-stocked shop in my favorite neighborhood.
I love my walk from the train station every day, up Broadway a block to Wanamaker Place and then down, east, as it turns into 9th street, down past the man from Veselka unloading their produce delivery, down past Superiority Burger, down to the shop. Meditations in the rhythms of daily life.
I love the vintage wallpaper and the Mitzvah Wall. I love the hazelnut sugarplum bars and the corn macarons especially. I love seeing the excitement people have when they discover every single thing in the shop is vegan.
I love our customers so much!!! They are seriously the best and that is not something I say lightly at all. They really are. I love getting to know our regulars and their flavor preferences, and I also love talking to the people who are only passing through.
I just really fucking love food, the experiences we collect in relation to things eaten, the power of food to inspire and enrich our being as we go through our lives. I absolutely love being able to be a part of that here.
Coupla things, blog friends:
Did you know we have a cafe now? If you don’t you’re forgiven, because I haven’t written anything on this blog for six months, so. (Pal around with us on FB or IG or Twitter where we bug you with beautiful food pix every day, ok?). Um also did you know we (with our BFF Maresa, who also co-invented this recipe) have an NYC chocolate-macaron shop now? We still have our OG New Paltz choco-shop, it’s mostly a production space for shipping & the NYC shop & life is great & I work 24 hours a day and you should come visit our lil empire in NP, blah blah.
OK now that I’ve done my capitalist-promotion for the day, let’s talk eggs.
At Commissary! (aforementioned cafe) we serve ye olde Vegan Deviled Eggs every day (on our cheese plates obvi), so I’ve learned the ins & outs of ’em more, and that old post is such a mess that I figured I owed it to you to streamline it a bit.
Some updated notes:
- The original recipe calls for unsweetened almond or soy milk. Almonds are naturally sweet and that sweetness can be off-putting, so I like a mix of 1/2 almond milk and 1/2 soy milk to cut the sweetness without that telltale thick beany soymilky flavor. But if you don’t want to buy a container of each, use either. I’ve also tried this recipe with homemade almond milk—in my opinion it’s too sweet. Don’t get too precious.
- If it’s your first time making these babes, read the original post for good tips for using agar and black salt for the first time and where to buy an egg mold.
- You might want to halve the whites recipe and make it twice unless you have a lot of egg molds, because it’ll set up fairly fast. Agar is thermoreversible (ooh la la), however, so if it sets up you can gently reheat it & it’ll melt back down. In my opinion it always gets too frothy when you do this, though.
- Speaking of frothiness—it’s really your enemy. It doesn’t give you a good texture, and it’s a dead giveaway that you’re eating a fake egg. To cut down on froth, barely whisk or stir the mixture as it’s coming to a boil, and tap it hard on a wooden cutting board before you pour the whites into the egg molds, and scoop off any froth and throw it away. If you still have bubbles when you’ve poured the mixture into the molds, poke them with a knife blade.
- If you’re too lazy to do the whole eggs thing or don’t want to buy an egg mold just for this recipe, just chop up the whites (spread them on a sheet pan or something instead of pouring into the eggs molds) and mix em with the yolks and make egg salad.
- Be sure your black salt is the sulfurous, eggy kind, kala namak. We use a black lava sea salt on a chocolate and always have to be careful not to mess em up. The egginess of kala namak varies widely, so buy a small jar. It also loses its potency quickly, so buy a small jar. We taste our eggs every day and typically have to give them a small sprinkle of salt every morning to top up the egg flavor.
- The big difference between this recipe and the first version is that Rachel, who works at Commissary! had the brilliant idea to blend the scooped-out insides of the whites into the yolks mixture—it helps the mixture hold its shape and gives it a little more flavor. The original recipe had vegan mayo, but with the scooped out whites you don’t need it—I upped the vinegar & mustard quantities slightly, too.
- I just bought these egg molds, they’re nice, though slightly bigger than regular chicken eggs.
- If you’re wondering why two hardcore vegans (Maresa & I have been vegan combined literally 40 years or more) would make these, here’s what Reesey had to say about it way back when we created em: “I usually hate stuff like this. We did it for a few reasons: 1. the fun challenge of nailing a taste and texture that are decidedly Not Vegan. 2. Deviled eggs, to me, taste good. I’m not vegan because meat and dairy and eggs taste bad- I’m vegan because those industries are too effed up to support. 3. Nostalgia. My grandma used to make deviled eggs and now she can’t, so someone’s gotta do it, and I’m not going to touch a chicken’s period. That said, Enjoy!”
OK let’s get going.
900 grams milk (about 4 cups): unsweetened soy or almond or, preferably, a mix of both. Be sure your milk is unsweetened or your eggs will be disgusting!
4 teaspoons agar powder (11 grams if you’re like that)
1/2 teaspoon black salt
- Bring all just to a boil. Barely stir. Pour into egg molds.
- Let set up 15 minutes or so, in the fridge or not, then scoop out the center cavity with a melon baller, grapefruit spoon, or whatever. The beauty of making your own egg whites is that in addition to not supporting the machine of institutionalized death and heartbreaking pain that is the egg industry, you also get to make your cavities as big as you want (make them big), so you can put in as much filling as you want (put in a lot). As with non-vegan deviled eggs, the filling is the tasty part.
1 lb firm or extra firm tofu
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or whatever vinegar you want)
1 1/4 teaspoon black salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric
scooped out innards from the whites
- Blend all together in food processor or blender. Taste and keep messing around until it tastes good.
- Using a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip, pipe the yolks into the whites in a circular motion.
- Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika, chives, basil in the garden gone to flower—whatever suits your fancy.
Here’s the second part of our annual year-end roundup. Part one, with a lot of words from me, is here.
New recipes were mastered, delicious ice cream was made, potlucks were shared, people stepped up when others had to prioritize time with loved ones, early mornings and late nights were enjoyed in each other’s company, and delicious chocolates were devoured by all. We couldn’t ask for a better place to spend our days.
Becoming designated custie person and getting to know all the lovely regular customers a little better, taking one of the hardest course loads I have ever taken and ultimately being so proud of how I did and how much I learned, going to the museum of natural history for the first time with my wonderful boyfriend, seeing both Seal and Madonna in concert, lavender lemonade, toffee, hot cider, maple pecan caramel, Lagusta’s pizza, celebrating the shops 4 year anniversary along with my relationship’s 4 year anniversary, being surrounded by the most amazing people every day at work and learning so much about both them and myself, feeling more and more grateful every day that the shop exists, knowing the incredible person that is Lagusta, meeting brilliant Pauline.
Alexis: 2015 was the year where going to work didn’t feel like going to work anymore. It was the year I truly felt at home in the shop.
2015 was a year of change, loss and growth. And we rallied around one another, everyone so soft and so strong. The staff I belong to – I’d say they’re people that I’ve been waiting to meet my whole life. They’re not co-workers and bosses, they’re friends. I’m thankful for them all every day.
Some quick highlights:
-Had my last “waitressing” job this summer during Lagusta’s beautiful dinner series.
-Got my first real oven burn. Hurt like hell.
-Grew to enjoy the world of solitary enrobing, which was previously my least favorite and most often fucked-up task
-Discovered the beauty of listening to podcasts while working (especially while enrobing)
-Shipped a hell of a lot of boxes in December
-Ate so many scraps
-Learned a whole lot about veganism and made some pretty tasty work lunches
-Witnessed Maresa toss/chuck/heave so many cupcakes/macs/flax eggs into the ditch and it was never not funny
-Had some great Gilmore Girls chats. I’m looking at you two, Adrienne and Alexandra.
This past month I kept catching myself smiling as I walked through the shop, watching everyone work so seamlessly and flawlessly together through our busiest time. I’m so damn grateful to be a part of this. It’s been quite a year.
I am a relative newcomer to the LL family, having arrived in June to this lovely, tight-knit, happy crew. I’m a food business veteran and the oldest member of the bunch so I wondered how my way of looking at things would fit in with the tone already set in the place. Thankfully, it has been a smooth, easy ride. I’m happy to put forward my ‘wisdom’ (ha!) on food safety and baking equipment and proper footwear – it makes me feel useful and, frankly, like less of a newbie amidst all these people who really know their stuff despite not having decades of experience. Impressive and humbling as that is, I am super pleased that I’m starting to learn all the exacting, attention-requiring arts of chocolatier-ing from such patient, cool, fun people.
So, on to the highlights of the year… One of the real perks of the job for me is that I’m able to visit with and feed my son every working day – that is an amazing opportunity for a new, working mom. I so appreciate everyone accommodating me and him, even during the busiest of times, and it has made the whole experience just perfect.
I’ve really enjoyed acquiring a few titles along the way: Food Service Professional (natch), Spider Catch (and release)-er, and Peppermint Patty Princess (by far my favorite, but I’m wondering, when do I get my tiara??).
It has been enlightening to see how even the ‘mistakes’ (Thank god, since I made plenty) get used and made into something amazing and delicious – the most truly efficient and waste-free kitchen that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot!
And even though I espouse to be a principled person, it wasn’t until I saw just how much Lagusta lives by her principles and has made a successful business that supports and benefits her community, that I started to ‘put my money where my mouth was’ and tried to do the same. Joined a CSA, stopped supporting businesses that have dodgy practices, ate better and encouraged others to do the same, the whole shebang. I owe her a big thanks for that inspiration and kick in the pants.
But the best highlight for me was making a bunch of friends who make going to work the highlight of my week!! Thank you, one and all.
In 2014 I was focused entirely on improvements inside the shop but this past year we started looking outside. We always have a list of wants, needs, and dreams for projects at the shop (if only you knew of some of the grander dreams that have come and gone over the last few years!) and this year we decided to just start crossing some of them off. The biggest one that you’ll see if the patio in the front of the shop. That started with a plan to redo our perpetually potholed filled driveway with porous pavers. We went though many design ideas and in the process realized that redoing the front area and setting the parking area back away from the building would be the best best for now. We had our farmer friend Ian Taliaferro design and do the work and we revealed it at our 4-year anniversary party. We’re so happy with how it turned it that we had our only dinner series of the year out on the patio this summer. We also added an awning on the side entrance of the shop (no more shoveling snow in order to get into the shop!), a huge deck in the back, and the ornamental holiday front awning for the winter. In addition, one of my favorite new items (a years long project!) was the custom bike rack on the side of the patio, that really finished it off for me.
Inside the shop we were finally able to tackle the nearly decade old Bluestocking Bonbons packaging when we realized we’d be running out of Furious Vulva boxes. This was a huge opportunity for us to bring it up to date but also a lot of pressure to work with one of our oldest, and most recognized, products. After eliciting outside help (thanks Scott!) and numerous revisions (thanks JP & Hemlock!) we finally settled on the new Vulva box and I think it’s the best of both worlds. I can’t wait to update all the rest of them.
Of course there’s chocolate too! My favorites for the year:
– The Blood Orange Heart: I was proud of our new creation! It’s often hard to create new meaningful chocolates (that taste great) for holidays and this one was splendid.
– Peanut Butter Ice Cream Caramel Bar: This one was a dream, literally, we’ve been dreaming of such a thing! I used to eat Snickers Ice Cream bars as a kid and there was always the want, the need, for one. Lo and behold, we have it!
– Slushies and ice cream: for a chocolate shop we do really great on the non-chocolate side. I was lucky enough to taste-test so many great ice creams and slushy flavors this summer.
– Daylily bialys with foraged daylily flour: I could eat these with Miyoko’s or Treeline cheese every day of my life. In fact, I think I did as long as I could until they ran out. I even helped forage for these so I think I earned it!
my year’s memories include birthday party potlucks & scaling recipes up-up-up, wondering why we didn’t do it sooner. working harder and better than last year: being unsurprised, being proud. we got new thermometers and an extra selmi (no big deal) (very big deal) and on halloween lagusta covered the shop in spiderwebs with me, which honestly felt like the thing I was born to do. trying to come up with specific and standout memories of the year proves difficult: when you love your work so much, when you are in awe of your co-workers. every day is standout & I am aware of how rosy I am painting all of this & it is my day job, yes & punks aren’t supposed to like their jobs or something & yeah right & some jobs are worth loving & rose rose rose rose rose
Having just started working at the shop two months ago, its hard to call attention to specific moments of importance when every moment so far feels invaluable in creating my general sense of love for Lagusta’s Luscious world and all of the incredible people who make it such an incredible place to be.
Every day spent at the shop is full of new feats, new chocolates to taste, endless laughter–work for me is dipping turtles, making the always-crucial whipped cream, spoonfuls of peanut butter filling, celebrating birthdays with the best potlucks and party hats, memorizing the ever-growing collection of quotes suspended throughout the shop while wrapping bars in gold, the olfactory satisfaction of Maresa’s Macarons, and toasted pecans, and Walk in the Woods bars. The list goes on.
It’s 11 pm on New Years Eve, and although my general attitude towards this holiday is that the sentiment of excitement for renewal can be replicated any day of the year, tonight I’m relishing in this holiday’s tendency towards hyperbole and feeling extremely grateful for the last two months of this year, and the year to come. I feel so lucky to be a part of such a strong community of talented people who provide me with infinite opportunity for growth- and to be able to feel that about a workplace is something rare and unforgettable.
(crazy work times didn’t allow time for me to take photos of some of our newest LL team members, eeek!)
The highlight for me this winter was definitely getting to work with so many unique, fun, quirky, entertaining, kind, helpful, amazing people. Everybody was willing to teach and answer questions and to share their love of this delicious, creative work. Birthdays were always highlights as well- whether we had potlucks or pizza parties it was so great to set aside time during the busy day to celebrate and enjoy food and good company!
One 2015 LL time that I will always remember is working on Halloween. We had spent the day before packaging pieces of bark that looked like spider webs for the trick or treaters. After putting all of the bark pieces into the bags, we thought we had way too much chocolate, and that we’d have a massive amount left over. Come Halloween and the herds of trick or treaters, we ran out of spider web bark within 2 hours, and had to frantically package random pieces for the masses of children that were coming into the shop. As frantic as it was, it felt strangely fun to be that insanely busy for the day.
well, 2015 came and went faster than a peanut butter lover such as myself can devour a peanut butter cup. Things have been tough on an emotional & friendship level, but I truly have never felt stronger teamwork than I did during the past 2 months. Filling hundreds of orders with just a few of us, and without Lagusta being around because she was busy being the best daughter/caretaker/friend on this planet, was hard – but it felt good. it also feels incredible to be creatively fulfilled by your job because working late or going in early doesn’t matter. Working with people who are hilarious and talented barely gets tiring when you are proud of what do you. Now, as I do every year, I’m attending another chunk of Phish concerts to say goodbye to the year. So, I’m sitting here in NYC listening to people talk about working in crappy offices, and their long commute on the subway everyday to get to work. And how Phish NYE is their only outlet for happiness. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here laughing and eating my hazelnut sugarplum caramel bar.
It’s a tradition at LL to reflect on our best moments of the year past as we make preparations for the year to come. The next post will be notes from most of our staff, but first a few thoughts of my own.
2015 was the strangest year of my life. I barely worked—which is a string of words not appropriate to describe me since I was fourteen. I cared for my mother as she battled cancer, and came into the shop in bits and pieces. It was the hardest and worst year of my life—slowly watching a disgusting disease kill your best friend is pretty much the definition of “hard times”—but professionally it was filled with astonishments and joys. One of the (many) gifts that care-taking gave me was that I was forced to let go of so many more responsibilities at work than I’d ever dreamed was possible—and the LL team picked them right up.
Now, on the other side of everything and trying to slowly process and heal, one of the excitements of the future for me is the knowledge that I can take time for other projects without the chocolate business collapsing. I have some great plans for 2016 both personally and professionally. Some I’m keeping under wraps, but here are a few:
We’re going to:
- Dip our toes into the (vegan) white chocolate sea. We’ve been making our own butter-to-bar white chocolate for a while, and I never quite trust that it’s as good as it is. But it is. It’s good! It’s a lot more expensive to make then dark chocolate, so we’ll have to see how it sells…
- Revamp our website! Our indefatigable web manager, Erin, has patiently been building us a shiny new site which will be so much more elegant and user-friendly. Can’t wait to show it to you.
- Buy a better ice cream maker! So we can churn out so much more.
- Revamp our Chocolate of the Month Club. The club is really hard to run! But people really like it! So we’re making it easier on ourselves by making collections of new chocolates paired old favorites for each month, instead of an all-new huge assortment of sweets, which sort of took over our lives in a wild way. Running a sustainable business means it has to be sustainable for us, too, as I periodically remind myself.
- Take care of our staff. I intend to keep finding ways to take better care of our staff while still making enough of a profit to stay in business. At the end of 2016 most of our staff will be paid at or near $15/hour, which is above the industry norm but still isn’t enough to, say, buy a house in New Paltz, where property values are bonkers. I can’t pay for health care for everyone, but I want to look into a group plan which would make it more affordable for everyone to pay for it themselves. And I’ll be instituting a system of a few paid days off every quarter and paying everyone’s regular wages when they need to take off for health reasons. I was deeply inspired this year by reading Judy Wicks’ Good Morning, Beautiful Business. It lit a fire under me to figure out innovative ways to run a business that’s sustainable in the most deep sense of the word.
- I have an all-new 16-piece beautifully crafted box of chocolates I never got a chance to show you or sell last year. I spent pretty much all my free time developing it, and I’m hoping it becomes a core product.
- We’re probably going to need to raise the price of truffles in our display case. We have to. Just truffles though. They just take so much time to make when compared with everything else. Caramels, ganache bonbons (i.e. square truffles), creams—everything else will stay at $2 a piece, but truffles have to be $2.25 if we want to continue to make them.
- I’ll continue working toward turning the business into a B Corp., which is a kind of corporation in which things other than dollars are taken into account in the charter of one’s business. However we’re still a little tiny bit small for that. So right now we’re just an LLC, and I’m the sole owner of it which is great. If I had a Board of Directors, and we were not a B Corp but a traditional corporation, the board would be legally required to act in ways that put profit above all. It’s the way the corporations are legally structured. But with an LLC the power is mine, I can do whatever I want, and since I haven’t run the business into the ground yet I figure I’ll just keep on keeping on in my obstinate silly fun way.
- Croissants! And bringing back Croissant Caramels. Annie, a relative newbie to our team, has a baking background, and I can’t wait to exploit her skills to the max by putting her on the most dreadful recipe of all time: vegan laminated pastry. Woo!
I have some more goals but man this is getting long.
Back to 2015.
I’m always really proud to donate to all the places we do. Mostly we can only do little gift certificates and things, but slowly we do more and more, which feels good.
Here’s a partial list of groups we donated to in 2015:
- We continue to give shop discounts to members of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and Catskill Animal Sanctuary, in addition to donating gift certificates to their events and cash donations when possible.
- The Rosendale Theatre Collective
- Elting Memorial Library
- High Meadow School
- Family of New Paltz
- Mohonk Preserve
- Skylands Animal Sanctuary
- Historic Huguenot Street
- PS 267
- ALIVE Rescue and One Tail at a Time
- Brown Paper Bag Movement
- Born Free USA
- Sunflower Art Festival
- Abolitionist Vegan Society
- Animal Welfare League
- Vida Vegan Con
- TMI Project
- SASHA Farm
- The Vagina Monologues
- The Humane League
- New York State Speech Language Hearing Association
- Unison New Paltz
- Sing Out International
Finally, my own 2015 highlight reel:
When we bought a new Selmi (fancy chocolate machine that keeps 50 lbs of chocolate in perfect temper all the time!) and barely blinked an eye even though buying the first took years of agony and scraping.
Maresa & Kate’s April Fool’s joke on me, which is too long and injokey to explain but which perked me up when my mom was in the hospital and starting to slide downward and I desperately needed perking.
When Kate took over making ice cream from me and was almost instantly better at it than me (humbling; wonderful).
Except when I made that Ants on a Log ice cream which was RIDICULOUSLY TASTY.
(thank you Neysha for this photo)
Watching Annie’s infant son Conor get bigger by the second when he comes in to get some Annie-food.
Jacob and Jared instantly building a gigantic Sukkot-style living awning after I offhandedly mentioned that we should do “something like this,” this being the 5th Avenue Lord & Taylor holiday decorations.
The Peanut Butter Caramel Ice Cream Bar, which was a 2015 goal realized through much kicking and screaming by our staff, who thought it wasn’t possible until they realized just how possible it is and love it like I knew they would (OK, yes, making it is a hell, but that’s why it’s $10!).
Our four year anniversary party was magical.
The royally strange chocolatier that is Shana Napoli sustained me so often in 2015 with her weirdnesses and wild energy.
Alexis & Adrienne inventing Pagan Bark was so special and wonderful–taking a random idea I had and running with it, watching it transform from this:
I loved the one Savory Dinner Series we did. Maybe in 2016 we’ll do two.
Listening to Meredith and Alexandra and my mom talk about animal rights in the shop: a memory I keep coming back to. My mom loved hanging out at the shop so much.
Keeping the little garden out front and growing the flowers we use in the Flower Tablets is always a highlight of my year.
We did SO MANY improvements to our little LL compound in 2015, but I bet Jacob will mention them in his roundup, so I won’t say anything except this: our new patio entrance wasn’t something we could really afford, but we did it anyway, and the beauty of it sustained me so deeply every minute afterward. Our pal Ian Taliaferro did such a magnificent job.
Alexis carving us pumpkins.
Let me know what you’d like to see us make and do this year, OK?
Next up! Staff favorites.
I wrote up these little babes & took photos of them for this Guardian article but they got cut (society isn’t ready for five paragraphs on gravy! Or maybe it was the mega-fluorescent photos I took of it.). Not to worry, everything lives forever on the internet. Enjoy!
Also–often people sign up to get posts on this blog in their email. I’m thankful for this but I seem to never really post on this blog, sadly. Much more informative are our various social media pages—be sure to check out Instagram & Facebook & Twitter, too, for the full Lagusta’s Luscious scoop.
OK let’s cook.
Oh—both of these recipes are adapted from Bloodroot.
Colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes with cabbage and kale)
If you secretly wish mashed potatoes could be pretty much the entirety of what you eat on Thanksgiving, Colcannon is the answer to the question you hadn’t dared ask. Mashed potatoes are fortified with just enough other sustenance to qualify as a main dish in this Irish wintertime staple. It’s also ridiculously fast and easy, and is adaptable to whatever looks good at the market: the kale can be substituted for other greens, though the heartiness of kale is a nice foil to the creaminess of the potatoes.
Makes 4-6 servings.
2 pounds floury potatoes (russets work perfectly), about 7 potatoes
vegetable stock, optional
2-4 tablespoons olive oil, or to taste
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
Sea salt to taste
Fresh pepper to taste
2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
2 cups kale, finely shredded
- Peel any blemishes from potatoes but otherwise don’t worry about peeling. Boil in salted water (or vegetable stock) just to cover until a thin-bladed knife inserted into the center of a potato meets no resistance, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving potato water.
- Mash potatoes with a potato masher, adding olive oil, coconut milk, ½ cup of the reserved potato water, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Barely cover cabbage and kale with remaining reserved potato water (adding more water if necessary) and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Turn drained cabbage and kale into a frying pan and fry with a little olive oil until lightly browned. Stir into mashed potatoes.
- Leftover Colcannon can be reheated in a 350°F oven.
Instead of a strict gravy recipe, here are some guidelines for how to conceptualize and improvise a vegetarian gravy almost completely with ingredients already in your refrigerator. These guidelines make a lot of gravy—about five cups, which freezes well.
Begin with a strong vegetable base. Two onions, chopped, a pound or so of shiitake or cremini mushrooms (a mix is nice too), diced, works well. Anything in the onion family contributes to a hearty base: leeks, scallions, or shallots are great too. Fry them well in just a bit more good-quality extra virgin olive oil than you think you should use (about half a cup). When they’re just about ready toss in a lot of finely chopped garlic, 8 cloves or so? More is more in my book when it comes to garlic, but if you disagree then add less. Or, for an even warmer, richer flavor, roast a few heads of garlic and stir them in at the end of cooking.
Back to the pot: add just a little heat, to offset all that richness: stir in a shake or two of red pepper flakes, or purée a few dried, seeded, reconstituted mild chilies like ancho or guajillo, or add a little chipotle powder or even chili powder. Crush a tablespoon or so of dried herbs like basil, thyme, and/or oregano between your palms and add them. Let everything cook for a minute or two over low-medium heat, stirring often. Whisk in some flour to thicken and add body to the gravy: about half of a cup of all-purpose flour, or a gluten-free all purpose flour blend for a gluten-free gravy. Or, use a few tablespoons of cornstarch whisked with equal parts water then added to the gravy.
Now come the weird ingredients. They’re fairly optional, but the combination of all (or most) of them elevates an every day gravy to something you want to eat out of a bowl. Here we go: beer, miso, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, and soy sauce. Add a bottle of dark beer (make sure it’s vegetarian by checking lists online) to the pot and turn the heat to low. Fill up the beer bottle with water and add it too, then fill it up halfway again with water and toss that in. Add a few tablespoons of miso—a darker kind makes a more intense gravy, and a lighter kind makes a more smooth-tasting gravy. Your choice. If you have a little tomato paste hanging around, two tablespoons or so, stir that in too.
A small shower (two tablespoons or so) of nutritional yeast gives the whole thing a meatiness, and some good dashes of shoyu soy sauce (gluten-free tamari if you’re going the gf route) rounds everything out. Now, just bring everything to a boil (slowly, and stir often to make sure nothing’s burning), turn to a simmer, and cook for about a half hour. Taste and keep adding salt or water or nutritional yeast or soy sauce or whatever else your heart desires until it’s at absolutely perfect. If your gravy seems too chunky, purée a cup or so of it until it’s at the desired texture.
Sitting here in the cozy shop on the last day of the year, I feel so warm. This sweet year of my little made-up business is enveloping me, a cocoon of all the work we put in and all the chocolates we put out, everything we learned and threw ourselves into.
We didn’t get any huge press this year, like other years.
We didn’t move into a bigger facility or take on any giant-leap-forward loans, like other years.
We just put one foot in front of another.
It felt so good.
Before I get to the highlights from our crew, here are my own little triumphs and victories: