best of 2017

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

2016
2015
2015 (more!)
2014
2013
2012

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LAGUSTA’S LUSCIOUS:

LAGUSTA (me!)
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.

SHELLY:
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!

JENN:
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!

JILL
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.)

KARA
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!

CHLOE
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!

KATE
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. ❤

COMMISSARY!

JASPER
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.

xo,
Jasper
p.s. follow @CommissaryOoC on twitter for funny “Commissary Out of Context" quotes/pics from this year.

RACHEL
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!

JACOB
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.

CONFECTIONERY!

VERONICA
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 highlights:
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:

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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. ❤

CAITLIN
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!

GENNA
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.

❤ ❤

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