best of 2018

Time for the novel that has become our annual best-of blog. Get yr tissues ready.

For best-of round ups from previous years, see

2017
2016
2015
2015 (more!)
2014
2013
2012

(Thanks for Ericka for taking our staff photo and setting up the selfie stand that produced all these gems at our holiday party!)

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A few highlights from me (Lagusta):

  • Um, I wrote a book. Sweet X Salty: The Art of Vegan Confections from Lagusta’s Luscious, forthcoming from Da Capo Press in Fall 2019.
  • We started ordering period supplies by the case because we employ so many bleeding humans. HIGHLIGHT!
  • Our chocolate supplier, Republica del Cacao, whisked me off to Ecuador and I spent a life-changing week learning about where these ingredients (chocolate, sugar) we interact with every day are born. (See the “Ecuador” story highlights on our Instagram for about a million stories from Ecuador)
  • My co-owner dropped out of the parts of the businesses we ran together (Commissary! plus the financial aspects of the other businesses)…and I assembled a team of crackerjack women and one man who picked me up off the floor and I got the finances under control and learned to do the things I didn’t know how to do and it’s all going great. Maresa’s still running Confectionery! with me, and she continues to be the best best friend and business partner I could have ever hoped for.
  • After three years of hard work, we launched a glorious new website.
  • We made a gigantic Tahini Meltaway for our 7thshop birthday party.
  • I got to photograph Chloe’s “heathen” tattoo next to Heathen Toffee.
  • toffee option two-1
  • We made an unbelievable PB&J Meltaway that looked like a big slab of raw meat but it’s too wonky to make an everyday piece, which is a true tragedy.
  • Rachel and G taking over #rammissary (my bi-weekly ramen night, the only time I get to cook ever, sigh) when I was too busy with Christmas craziness, and knocking it out of the park was a treat to see.
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  • I continue to learn and grow by interacting with the 35 amazing humans who work at LL Industries every day. They make coming to work exciting and fun. I love watching them learn latte art and marbling chocolates, customer service and doing inventory. All I want for 2019 is more of the same.

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COMMISSARY

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MAX!

Walking towards Commissary before dawn, the ice crunching beneath my feet, I watch as a lone blue heron lands on the historic brick chimney jutting out of the roof of a neighboring building.

We enjoy observing each other momentarily, peacefully, until I punch in my code to head inside.

But unlike every other job I’ve had, heading into work feels similarly to arriving at a close friend’s home. I carry that sense of peace from the heron through the door and into the kitchen.

Work is where I get to see the people I love every day. It’s where I get to pursue something I honestly enjoy, enough where I get home at the end of the day and the first thing I do is continue preparing food. It’s where the famous Potato Stud lived with her dinosaur friend for months until she started sprouting little eyes and had to be put to rest (RIP). Creativity is honored in this space.

It’s where I feel at home with myself, a trans man, fully accepted and gendered correctly by the surrounding community. It’s a safe space for people of all walks of life, and if you don’t feel safe then there’s an open and caring conversation waiting to be had about how things could be improved.

Commissary has been more than a job for me in 2018, and the family I’ve gained just by walking through the front door is a priceless reward for coming to work every day. Together, we get things done, we grow, we succeed, we create a space people want to go. It makes every day worth it.

And yes, curious custies, everything here is vegan.

 

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HALEIGH!
I had just gotten back from spending my summer in Ireland WWOOFing. I was getting ready to start my final year of undergrad and I had burned through my money on many a nights spent at the local pub. A few days after my return, eager to replenish my rent money,  my brother’s girlfriend and I were chatting about Commissary! and she asked if I thought I would ever want to work there. I thought about it for a moment, and then responded telling her that I’m sure it would  be a cool place to work, but at the end of the day work is work.  I enjoyed the place too much, as a sanctuary for macrons and zines, to risk ruining the little haven I thought of it. Two days later, I scrolled through Instagram and saw a post about Shave Ice and Lagusta’s search for a person to work Sundays at the market. It was perfect! I could still come to Comm in my free time, but it was something I could do during the semester. Well, Shave Ice ended and I quickly picked up other shifts  within the cafe. A few months later and Commissary was never ruined for me as a patron. If anything, it is even better: I no longer have to tell the cashier my name & I even get a complimentary chocolate on occasion! I look forward to the months to come, both as an employee and custie.

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RACHEL!

2018, wow, this is the third one of these I’ve written! I can’t imagine not spending time in that little turquoise room on Church St. We’ve almost had 100% turnover since last year (so glad you’re still here, Jasper!) and somehow Commissary manages to retain the same heart.  (a la Doctor Who, changing bodies over and over again but still being the same in their core.) I’m not behind the counter so much any more, now I look at numbers on a screen more than I look at 8g (is that the right amount?) of miso soup in a bowl.  I am so grateful to Lagusta for being open to my job evolving into something new, for both of us really! And I’m grateful to still be able to put on my apron and my velvet work clogs for special food occasions (yaki udon! GRRamen!) Looking forward to 2019!

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CONFECTIONERY

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JENNA!

This is my first year working at Confectionery (well, I think prior to being officially hired I was in the shop often enough to count as an unpaid employee, and speaking of which, I’d like to apologize to whomever was working on the day that I brought my bike INSIDE the shop because I forgot my bike lock — if a customer attempted that nonsense while I was working now, I would of course smile and politely allow them to do so, but inside I would be SO MAD about having to sweep up the bike grit afterwards! BUT I DIGRESS). Aside from my first weekend on the job being Easter weekend, which was so bonkers that I think it might actually qualify as hazing, working here has been such a lovely way to spend my off days. The staff are so warm and generous, which I have learned through text and email and notes in the journal because we never actually work with one another, and I’m grateful to everyone — including the folks up in New Paltz who let me crash the chocolate shop for a training day back in April! — who has helped me ease into this role. I’ve really come to love our little shoebox and all of its weird quirks and wacky customers. Even though I’ve lived in the city for the better part of the last ten years and I was born and raised in New York State, nothing has made me feel more like a New Yorker than being a shopgirl at an artisanal vegan bakery in the East Village. I’ve gotten nearly-full punch cards for nearby coffee shops as a tip, I’ve met a million adorable dogs wearing sweaters more fashionable than anything in my own closet, I’ve perfected the art of tucking every single strand of my hair up under a baseball cap, and I’ve learned more about tempering chocolate and caramelizing sugar than I ever could have hoped for. It’s been a dream.

 

VERONICA!

Just a few short & sweet words for the year, which sped by at an electric pace. A few of my highlights include:

You, dear customers. Grateful that this (tiny) space fosters real live human connections. Each year that we’ve been open, we get busier and busier and I’m ever grateful to all of our incredibly kind, sweet, and cool customers I get to interact with on a daily basis.

The delicious return of the hazelnut sugarplum bars/bonbons – if you stopped into the shop this holiday season chances are you heard me going on and on about these gems. People, I just can’t help myself. I wait all year for these flavorbabes.

Garden mint macarons garnished with edible flowers from Maresa’s garden & LL flower tablets with edible flowers grown outside the upstate choco shop. I mean, are you kidding me? I can’t grow a damn thing but I love love love flowers. I’m awed every time this form of poetry comes back in season. A true delight.

Butter – did you know in the wintertime we often have Maresa’s big blocks of butter available? I’ve been vegan half my life but still vividly remember and miss the sweet creamy taste of the dairy version. No more. This is it! Try it! I like it slathered on good semolina bread or — what I eat often when I get home from work– melted in a saucepan with some minced garlic, hot pepper flakes and good pasta.

Rainbow cookies! No words needed.

Licorice. Dude, I’m drooling typing this. It’s nothing like the weird stuff my mother used to get from the health food store which made me think I hated licorice. Maybe if we all annoy Lagusta enough she’ll decide to make it year-round and then I can stuff it in my face whenever I want a salty sweet bite.

AMANDA!

Although I began at confectionery mid year, it feels like ive been there longer. The lead up to this magical place was what made it so amazing. Spring of 18, I was on a splurge of volunteering for every city harvest, vegan festival I can get my hands on- between the 8,000 gems I had a pleasure serving in nyc, to the smaller scale at asbury park. One particular morning of 96 degrees weather and being the only volunteer to show up I helped many vendors set up at the asbury event- there I met Maresa! I know, so meant to be. Now that I look back, that day changed so much in my life. I reached out to her via dm when she posted that confectionery was looking for a newbie to join the team. And here I am. That tiny space has taught me so much. Like, how can I manage my space, the customers and the product with min room? Can I do it alone? Confidence, self discipline, communication, and believing in yourself is the real job at confectionery. And the sweets, my goodness. They are magical, they are the future and they are made by two amazing women with much history behind them. Plus they are free of harm. The long drives to the shop had me listening to podcast that helped my headspace. And superiority burgerrrrrrr ugh! The tiny book store around the block that I can’t help but run to on my 30 min break. The music and artist I was never exposed to on our playlist. The nightly journal I look forward to communicating with such amazing people that I unfortunately, never get to see also has some bittersweetness to it. But mostly the idea of being trusted to run their beautiful shop. The discovery of Confectionery and every ongoing delicious treat will continue to be my highlight for many times to come-

LAGUSTA’S LUSCIOUS HQ

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KARA!

the winter holidays only come once a year and I am so thankful that the shop has a need for people who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to spend time in a little brick building at the bottom of town where the bustle is always going and the air inside always smells like chocolate plus a little extra something sweet and once you leave it you still smell the chocolate on you, days later you are still rubbing chocolate out of black clothing to wear back to work…I spent most of my time doing dishes (gladly so!) and in doing so I saw the degree of production volume the shop handles so efficiently, making and packing and selling little delights to be enjoyed by people literally around the world—even though I only spent 3 hours a week in the shop I still feel like I am a part of things. there were holiday parties that felt like the family holidays we all deserve, I met good people making good things with care and precision who I am so proud to know, and I felt happy in the purest of ways for the simple fact that I was involved in even the smallest capacity for the 2018 holiday season.

ERIKA!

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“you grow through what you go through” was my mantra of 2018. inside and outside of the LL universe, i found myself expanding further and faster than i could keep up with. mental illness can be tough in that way, always feeling like you’re trying to catch up. but in our little chocolate world, there’s always a kind soul within a few steps to reassure you that you’re doing just fine.

my coworkers curate an endless stream of support, love, and so so so much knowledge. since i’ve moved into the world of recipe-making this year, i’ve had to utilize that knowledge approximately every 4 minutes to learn the ropes (and there are sooo many ropes twisted and intertwined throughout our little world: some tiny, some obscure, some hidden, some not available at the moment for your recipe that’s currently on the stove.) every LL employee possesses a vast knowledge of the tiniest details that keep us moving forward, and they’re always happy to pass it along to those still in training.

however, since we’re all forever still in training as humans on this chaotic planet, we often exchange questions beyond the scope of our work: what kind of eco-friendly cat litter do you use? what show should i watch next? if you were a donut, what kind would you be, and why? growing alongside such an amazing group of people has shaped me into an ever-changing mosaic, displaying bits of the knowledge, expertise, and love that i have been lucky enough to absorb.

you grow through what you go through, but it matters too what you grow around, and i feel infinitely lucky to have roots at LL.

KATE!

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i know enough to know that joy and pride are fleeting, shifting forces, but i have to look to those terms when i think about the year in my job and the people i work with and the things we all make together in a little new paltz sugarbox. i love the parts of the year where we can’t make things fast enough, caramels get cooked then enrobed and then bought and i never ever hear from them, and then the next day we make the same ones all over again. i love working with people who care about the things they’re making as much as they care about each other. (both: a lot.) in 2018 i learned new things and flexed some old muscles and my only hope is that i keep on doing that: building it all up, taking a step back to give it a look.

LYDIA!

As a small farmer, I so appreciate the willingness of LL’s to hire seasonal staff. It has been fun to learn the behind-the-scenes efforts of another small food business. It is great to work in a place that also cares about food, laborers, and community development through economy!

SAM!

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here at LL, I constantly get the feeling that I’m being initiated into a secret magical order.

traditionally, initiation rites were passed down in an invisible line. knowledge traveled from person to person, hands to heart. legacies built through community and sharing.

in the world of the chocolatier, I see no difference.

as goes any fool’s journey -I dove in without questions, just a feeling and a knowing that I wanted to trust it.

here, a whole new craft. no textbooks no studying.

here, sweet skills are passed on like a torch.

here, where we learn from each precious person another way to work in this weirdo world of sugar.

and yeah at first you burn yourself with 261 degree caramel, but then you get the hang of it.

It is empowering to be apart of this wizarding world, to know that my time has been alchemized into gold with the support of the LL community.

I am grateful and honored everyday by the magic revealed.

MIKE!

My home was once on the other coast yet I always managed a visit to the slice of heaven Lagusta created. Then the wind carried me East and I landed back in the area. That same wind lifted me to LL and now I am (primarily) the Shipperman. I marvel at the collective spirit of those around me, such an amazing gathering of people creating the highest grade sweets imaginable. Everyone works at such a mind-bending pace, and everything always gets done and there is always laughter and smiles and positivity.  I feel blessed to be included in this wonderful adventure of integrity and solidarity. Especially when there are scraps (Maresa, I see you too). The energy is infectious, the discourse is delightful, and the chocolates, well, you know about them already.

JENN!

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2018: Local chocolatier becomes manager, is surprisingly overwhelmed at how crazy hard it is! Learning the business side of the business has been eye-opening. I have so much respect for everyone that crosses over from maker to manager. While it’s a bit sad to lose time at Selmi, it’s worth it to be able to spend time passing on my skills I’ve learned here. It’s been a true honor mentally tracking everyone’s growth as a worker and a person since I came here in good ol’ 2016 (remember that dumpster fire of a year?). I feel like a real proud mama bird, and nothing has ever been more fulfilling. Huge thanks to Lagusta, Kate, and Alexis for believing in me and teaching me their ways. I truly love every single human at this shop so much, it makes all of the stress induced eczema well worth it. Cheers to 2019, hope it brings even more love and growth.

ERICKA!

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2018 was really wonderful and great and also the opposite in some ways. I moved to New Paltz in August with my partner and cried a lot and was stressed until I got a job at the chocolate shop and never cried again, ever.

Just kidding but like barely because at my ten shift check in when Kate and Lagusta asked me how I was feeling I was being 100% serious when I said I genuinely am not used to being treated so kindly and feeling so comfortable talking to my coworkers (read: friends). Ow it hurts. I love y’all. These businesses are actually magical little vortexes filled with the best energy. I’m not sure how so many good people ended up in one place but I’m so grateful and happy to witness it. I hope in 2019 I’ll finally be allowed to touch the caramel. Thanks for filling the second half of my 2018 with so much knowledge, fun, and obscure band names. I appreciate you all more than you know//more than I can express xo.

HOLLY!

The thing I love most about working at Lagusta’s Luscious is the community of amazing, supportive, hilarious, and compassionate individuals that work beside me. I feel so blessed to know all of them and I’d like these wonderful people to know that they have made the most incredible impact on my life. Their goodness is infinitely inspiring and empowering.

Some of my favorite moments include:

Our endless conversations about our pets and all of the ridiculous things they put us through.

Erika accidentally pouring a Cambro of whip into her shoes and being a total champ about it.

Finally acquiring ceramics from Alexis and picking her brain about everything from recipes to business management.

Ramen and city trekking with Maresa, Sam, and Kim.

Realizing that Jenn is the only person who loves Christmas music as much as me.

But really, every moment is fantastic ❤

KAREN!

As a recent Manhattan->Hudson Valley transplant I joined the seasonal crew at LL headquarters this fall.  Having been a devoted customer of Confectionary! for the past couple of years I thought it would be an easy job to help support a product I love so much.  Veronica’s smiling cheer and loveliness at the shop also made me think – if such a nice, warm person can thrive at a retail job (unheard of) then this place must be run right.  I’ve worked in elementary schools, on construction sites, in theaters, and in a prison.  If the principal, the foreman, the director or the wardens are nice people, it shows all the way to the very bottom of the crew.  This is what has been confirmed in my last two months of this job.  There is not a prickly person in the bunch, only the hardest working, kindest folx I have ever had the pleasure to work with, assembled and inspired, if not occasionally pushed in the right direction, by a very kind lead.  I never thought that fudge scraps would be my second favorite to ANYTHING, but my favorite thing about this job has been the people.  And the fudge scraps.  But definitely the people first… the fudge scraps are a close second.

BAKER SAM!
I’d been coveting a secret (not-so-secret, if you ask anyone who knows me) dream of working here for a long time, when I decided to just take the plunge and offer up services– and by “services” I meant “will to learn”, because I’m as inexperienced as they come, having never worked in kitchens or food service or the baking world, which is where I am now. The first highlight of my year was being warmly invited to dive right in. Mostly I work independently during late night hours, learning to ID all of the many variables, developing rhythms, pushing process times and generally trying to understand my tasks in a way that eventually becomes muscle memory. But first there were mornings training with G, which was also a highlight. G has a grace in working with dough that was a pleasure to witness and that instantly set forth a clear picture of what to aim for. G kept a warm and fast-paced work environment, always maintained a great soundtrack (thanks for helping me rediscover the beauty of Wham’s “Last Christmas”!), was never afraid to step in and show me what I was messing up, and made sure that I had a baked good in hand for my morning walk home (you have to taste your product to understand it!) Other highlights: learning that dough can heal itself in wild ways (also learning that I’m about as sappy-spiritual about baking as anyone would have guessed); discovering what 8 hours on your feet doing physical labor feels like (the first two weeks, phew! A new appreciation established for the toughness of everyone who works here); entering into the lovely and complete communication processes that keep this place operating smoothly. In this space, this place, it seems it’s second nature to be highly considerate, generous, kind. Ultimately, it boils down to why I was interested in working here in the first place: I hope that something will rub off on me, that maybe I’ll be shaped by the company I keep. In doing hard work in an environment that has integrity built into its core, maybe I’ll hammer myself into some finer metal. The other day I opened up my wallet and found an index card with some scrawl written on it, no date, but it was over a year ago for certain. “I want to be a baker / the perfect balance / scientific equation / fermentation / who can I apprentice with?” I believe in working to learn, and I’m glad to be in a community that creates that opportunity. When I first sat down with Lagusta, I told her I might surprise myself with what I DIDN’T know, and she quickly reminded me that the opposite might also be true. A place with heart for people with a lot to learn. What a dream. Maybe next year this time I’ll have baker’s muscles.

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