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:
- 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- Eggplant Bacon, originally made for these babies but now eaten regularly in my house all summer long.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!
Favorite thing I made: Well, I made a lot of boxes. I really like make boxes. Shipping boxes, caramel assortment boxes, truffle boxes, heathen toffee boxes…oh, the heathen toffee boxes… But there is really something beautiful about packing a Locavore truffle assortment into one of Maresa’s porcelain pints–pint, candy pad, truffles, candy pad, truffles, candy pad, cellophane, label, sticker, bow. What a lovely list of steps.
Favorite thing I ate: Staff salad breaks during the summer were pretty fantastic. And when you use a plant potter as a bowl you can make your staff salad deceivingly large. Lagusta made some yellow dressing, it was amazing. Actually that reminds me of the day she made onion rings. My heart grew three sizes that day.
Favorite moment: There was the time Brendan greeted someone who walked in and his voice cracked like he was 12. Lucy & I were out of sight from customers on the couch. She didn’t even need to hesitate, she immediately covered my mouth with her non-soup-holding hand to hide my hysterics while Brendan could see the whole thing happening. I laughed myself to tears for a good ten minutes. Little moments like that are my favorites. The night Jacob was jonesing for a vegan hot dog after Erin & I got some was pretty funny too.
I also really like whenever we get some new product or item in, or even if someone needs a recipe tasted, and we all get called in a circle to try it. When I first started at the shop I sort of kept quiet because I didn’t know anything, but now I feel confident expressing my ideas.
Favorite customers: There’s this dad that comes in with his young son every now and then. He’s got a Long Island accent and the kid runs around the shop reading all the labels on the products, talking a million miles an hour, and asks his dad if they can get it, and the dad always just screams “NO!”. Not in a mean way, more in a, “Someone please help me” way. It’s always pretty entertaining.
- the new benches [made by Jacob
- donuts [made by Tara
, vegan, delivered to the shop every saturday!]
- coffee trainings
- “the mangler”! [our new caramel cutter!]
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
The satisfaction of making the perfect size candy pad just by eyeballing it
Trying to make Gelt bags as fast as people were ordering them
the year was 2013 and the highlights were thick and if I could list absolutely everything on earth, I would. when the caramel thermometer broke and Lucy finished a batch of apple caramels perfectly just through the smell of it, alone. every time Erin managed to back off an impressive number of molds with almost no chocolate left in the tempering machine: complete perfect efficiency. when Maresa sprinted a package to the post office one minute before they closed. I told her “you’re insane” and I meant it & she just smiled, said her trademark “see ya” as she dashed out the door. when maresa and i would have “new wave wednesdays” and she knew what my favorite new order song was and joined in my constant elation. when jacob makes coffee when jacob talks about coffee when we get to drink coffee, side by side, when jacob became a selmi chocolatier, high standards, beautiful molds. when brendan talked about how much he loves tie dye, when brendan is unafraid of the robot coupe blade. when Marena and I got 67 packages shipped out in one day and the post office cried but we felt completely invincible, walking on air. when Lagusta talked about watermelons
for an hour straight when Lagusta made any sort of food when Lagusta could not tell the difference between a lion
and a tiger
, her endless pursuit of not wasting absolutely anything. when lucy and i worked late on halloween, spiderman
and a candy cane
cupping anatomical heart chocolates
, dancing to the monster mash, playing it over and over. when we would go outside to stare at the moon. when we all were so mice to each other. every macaron i ate, every macaron maresa made. every muppet babies parody, the shop iguana [i.e. the sugar work heat lamp]. when everyone indulged my snack seminar. when I started working, I didn’t know anything. i asked those questions that seem so silly now: “how do you know if chocolate is out of temper,” “how do you dip a truffle,” “how do you know if your caramel is exactly ready,” and the answer is usually: you look, you feel, it becomes instinct. I remember the day I just realized I was doing it all and not feeling nervous about it. the pride in the small things. it always feels like sugar magic and I do feel like a sugar wizard sometimes, my wand in my apron pocket, a line of us at the beginning of the day, gathered up, divvying up tasks, casting the spells, making all of the things. if I could list absolutely everything on earth, I would.