Our 2012 round-up seems almost laughably quaint compared to the wildness that was 2013. I guess that’s good, right?
We did a lot of amazing work this year. Here’s my rundown of highlights, and below are even better, more poetic, more personal ones from our crew:
- Constant technical improvements. in 2013 we really committed ourselves to upping our game, technique-wise. We invested in new equipment and braved the many learning curves associated with it in order to make our products better for everyone. It was tough at times but I’m proud that we did it. Always improving! Or, meliora, as they say in Latin which may or may not have been my college’s motto which may or may not be the only reason I know it.
- Packaging improvements! In 2013 we got custom thick cushiony pads to protect the chocolates snugly in their boxes, as well as custom shipping boxes. We’re working on transitioning all our packaging to earth-friendly chic kraft boxes, instead of standard white bakery boxes, bleached with dioxin and who knows what else. For a while our friendly local-ish box printing company didn’t offer a kraft box, and we basically pressured them until they did. Now we order thousands of them a year!
- Selmi and Enrobi: by far the biggest change in our work life came from buying a new tempering machine and an enrober. More about that in February!
- Those Hazelnut bars. They’ll be back, don’t worry.
- Donations. I’m so proud that as our business has grown we have been able to support even more amazing groups and causes through chocolate. Here’s a partial list:
- We donated to the animal shelter my mom volunteers for, CARE.
- Friends of Animals.
- We continue to give (huge! 15% on all purchases!) shop-discounts to members of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and Catskill Animal Sanctuary. We also do chocolate and cash donations to them whenever we can, and we donated to Woodstock’s wonderful ThanksLiving event.
- Family of New Paltz, our local food pantry.
- Ulster County SPCA
- 10% for Sanctuaries
- The NYC Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages (which, by the way, TOTALLY WORKED!)
- ATD Fourth World, to alleviate poverty around the globe.
- Cheetah Conservation Fund
- Bakesale for Baby Felix
- Fishkill Cares for Cats
- MARR, Mice and Rats Rights
- & more!
- Our October Month of Specials. A special a day for 31 days, definitely a tradition we’ll be continuing.
- Another new tradition, our November Chocolate of the Month, a box of chocolates picked by everyone on our staff.
- Our Brooklyn field trip to Stumptown and Cacao Prieto, with Ethiopian food and vegan milkshakes thrown in, too.
- I’m so proud of the Sour Sorrel Caramels.
- Lots of really sweet press, from a giant (& insanely personal) profile of yours truly to mentions in everywhere from Rachael Ray magazine to fox news.com (really!).
- I spent about 80% of the month of March working on the Pig Out Bars. I’m so proud of them, too. I can only make them in the summertime when I can use the smoker outside, so they’ll be back soon.
- Josh & Isaiah, two of our most loyal custies.
- Eggplant Bacon, originally made for these babies but now eaten regularly in my house all summer long.
- Francesco Mastalia taking my photo with his wet-plate old-timey setup, for his forthcoming book on chefs and farmers of the Hudson Valley.
- The Savory Dinner Series, which used up literally my entire summer, really literally every minute of it, but it was worth it.
- When we sent Wendy Davis chocolates and she sent us back the nicest thank you note!
- Our two-year anniversary party.
- Meeting Vandana Shiva.
- Maresa’s macarons becoming the darling of the vegan food world.
- When we learned that Lucy is a human thermometer, as described (twice) below.
- When Brendan wowed us with tales of blown sugar, poured sugar, and sugar work flowers he’d made in pastry school.
- When Samantha’s friends came in to visit her & she got all nervous (it was cute!).
- When Marena took over shipping & organized our days so well.
- When after nine years of helping me with logistics & not touching chocolates except to taste them, Jacob’s love for Selmi (read = reluctance to let anyone else use Selmi) turned him into the best mold-filler this shop has ever seen overnight (Selmi deserves a lot of that credit, though).
- Kate’s Snack Seminar.
- When Erin made all those candy cigarettes, which took over her life for a week since she was the only one who could make them so good.
- And of course, CHOCOLATE CALISTHENICS!
My favorite moments at the shop aren’t ones I can pick out or describe well. They aren’t the biggest moments, or even the most inspiring. I have those—being let into the creative crazy world of our monthly dinners and the sleepless exhilarating accomplishment of every course; our staff trip to Bloodroot; the time I smelt the caramel cooking and knew it was the right temperature even though the thermometer was broken. Those moments are special to me, and I have cut them out of my heart to look at when I feel lost. But they aren’t my favorites.
My favorites are a string of background moments, of elbows touching at the sink and quiet tappings of truffle dippers on tempering machines. Conversations held in between putting away turtles and grinding almonds, goofy voices and hands on shoulders. Times when I felt simple and purposeful. The laughing looks that reminded me to be grateful of the women around me, of Jacob’s coffee obsession/concentration and Brendan’s binder of recipes. This was a year of being around people who wanted to create perfect beautiful things, and of realizing that I was truly one of them. I wouldn’t know how to explain the little flashes of joy and satisfaction threaded through every day, or the wonder of being so exhausted, frustrated and hollowed out at the end of the night. Those moments between tempering cycles and caramel batches that found us all sitting together on the couch eating a hodge podge of leftovers, singing along to a certain song, laughing at some silly joke for too long…I hope these are cemented in my brain forever.
I have felt the kind of love that I think you can only feel for the people that work alongside you–the kind of pushing support of knowing you are all committed to something larger than yourself. Those passing winks, gentle teases, Monster Mash dance parties, little victories and group struggles held me strong while I learned who I wanted to become and what I wanted to feel towards the world. So I guess what I really want to say is Thank You. Thank you Lagusta, Jacob, Maresa, Kate, Erin, Marena, Brendan, Jayme, and Dawn for all the little kindnesses you have shown me while doing this work next to me. Thank you for giving me a place to soften into my own skin.
SAMANTHA, our lovely high-school intern-turned-actual part-timer!
Making drinking chocolates
Making millions of caramel assortment boxes