Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Kelley Zeller is the designer behind Berenbaum's new logo, blog, website, and labels.  She recently graduated from the Art Institute of Durham and put some of our designs into her portfolio for the graduation show.  If you need to get in touch with her for freelance work, just email me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Week 39

So with a sentimental close, we put a wrap on the year on Saturday.  Our Holiday Party on Sunday was awesome.  Thanks to all who attended, and we look forward to making it even bigger and badder next year.

The product:  1) The Pain au Levain was very strong.  Good flavor, moisture content, generous soft crumb.  Hydration (water to flour ratio) was a little high.  Next time I would back it down from 76% to 70%.  2) I miscalculated the number of ginger cookies I needed to make (I made 300 when we really needed 500) so almost all the cookies went out on deliveries rather than to the stand.  To fill in, AR, AJ and I made a quick batch of 40 buttermilk biscuits and 40 chocolate chip scones.  The ginger cookies themselves (the 300 that we did make) came out delicious, and justified the time intensity of peeling, mincing, grating, and candying the ginger.  If I did them again, I would use even more candied ginger, I would candy the ginger a little harder, and I would reduce the cookies' bake time to twelve minutes at 350 (we pulled them at thirteen minutes).  You can find individual sized bags of the cookies sold for a limited time at Reliable Cheese.

The crew: Big up to AR, AJ, RML, SZ, and RG.  You guys, your style, as it's been said, is "unbreakable", "shatterproof".  A newbie to the forming table, AJ, aka Aaron Jones, runs Levain Micro-bakery out of the West End.  If you see him biking around your neighborhood any given Saturday with baskets full of bread, give him a shout (or a honk).

Customer Reviews: As expected, the Sweet Poppyseed Babka from last weekend let rain a torrent of praise.  I feel that everyone liked it, but the people that really like poppyseeds went crazy.  Our friend KG said that it was "the best bread that had ever touched her lips."  George from Lil' Farm also said it was his favorite bread of ours as yet.  Thanks guys, the support means a lot.  We look forward to perfecting the recipe in 2012.

Our favorite customers: Nat & Harris & Madeline, Mariya plus (little) one, Karen, Ed et al., Annie & Andy & Fam, Allie and Joey, Sarah & Monica & Kristin, Adam & Lindsay, Barbara, Alex K, Katie H.

Our lucky giveaway winner, Katie H.

Holiday Schedule: We will be out of commission for two weeks (the next two markets fall on Christmas Eve and NYE).  We hope everyone enjoys their Holiday.  This is a great time to do some experimentation in the kitchen.  I've been working on my bagels.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Week 38

The product: The potato bread was filled with flavor (we used roasted Yukon Gold potatoes).  AR developed a 3-day starter that resulted in a delightfully tangy bread with a moist crumb.

The babka was good, but the poppy filling caused problems.  The simple syrup that the poppies cooked in was too hydrated, resulting in a sticky bottom of the bread that clung the to the pan and turned into "babka brittle" (which was not bad in its own right).  All while the crew and I cleaned the 70 sticky loaf pans, I was thinking, "This is the price of glory;" meaning, if you try to make one of the most fabled Jewish desserts after only two rounds of experimentation, you are bound to be humbled.

The scene: We know we are hitting winter because market foot traffic is really thinning out.  Time to get ready for the three month freeze until spring.  The only market seller that was really busy was Fickle Creek Farm, and that was because they had freshly butchered meats (not the usual frozen).

Our awesome customers: Allie H, Alex K, Atrac and Suzy, Nat & Harris & Madeline, Linda and Walter, Jessica & Michelle, Jake, Zane, Meg, Shinyiing & Adam.

The crew: AR, AS, and I made it happen in the kitchen.  AS, after only two sessions, is now an expert babka roller and dough handler.  Big up also to RML and SZ also for holding down the stand -- once the pizza got delivered from Piepushers, the party really got going.  Thanks to RG for biking out all of our community deliveries.

Our weekly Facebook giveaway winner, Allie H.

Bartering: Elodie Farms (thanks Graham!); Piedmont Biofarm (thanks Adam!); Celebrity Dairy; Piepushers.  The salami, mushroom, and kale pie we bartered for with Mike and Becca was outstanding.

Double Standard?  We noticed that Onlyburger parked on Foster Street near the Market where ordinarily stands, trucks, and solicitors get shooed away by the Market po-po.  What's up with that?

Coming up: We are gearing up to apply to enter the DFM.  If you come to market next weekend and have not already signed our list of signatures asking for your support, please do so.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Week 37

The product: The babka sold well -- we ran out by 11:15AM.  

The multi-grain whole wheat was so loaded with good stuff (rye flour, whole wheat, oats, cornmeal, wheat bran, honey) that it came out like a toasting bread - a volkornbrot.

The scene: I was running the bike deliveries most of the morning so I missed the market (save for the 10-minute set-up period).  Weather was beautiful on the bike though -- I delivered to 30 homes in Watts-Hillandale and Old West.  I heard from the crew that things were busy at the market -- a four-hour market now compacted into two-hours makes for a flurry of activity.

The crew: A lot of first-time customers are mystified by our business model and surprised that high-quality breads could be found at a pop-up stand on a streetcorner.  One woman, who had an "are you kidding me?" reaction after tasting the babka, asked, "So are you all friends?", indicating AR, SZ, RML, and myself, to which I (comically) replied, "Sort of."  Relying on these guys throughout the year has made our team really deep.  January will mark our one-year anniversary and I would like to thank our crew, volunteers, customers, and friends by holding a Berenbaum's Holiday Party.  Email me at berenbaums at for a select invite.  The date is December 18th.  Also, big shout-out to AS who came through the kitchen (along with AR) in the morning to help with the bread-forming -- your contributions on the discussion subjects of Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and other Modernists is both recognized and appreciated!

Our giveaway winner Howard W. is a happy man, pictured here with AR.

The Weekend, Part Deux: Sunday, AS and I showed up at the new JCC on Cornwallis Rd. for their Chanukah Celebration.  We sold the 25 babkas I had reserved for the occasion and 12 volkornbrot.  The crowd reaction was positive, although we received a lot of requests for Sweet Poppy-filled Babka.

BUNS: I got word from George at BUNS that he used two dozen of our challah buns for a specialty burger: Patty, Fried Egg, Gruyere, Grilled mushrooms.

Yes, This is My Son


Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Jewish Deli in Raleigh

Flour Bakery, Boston, MA

via MJB

Week 36

The product/sales : We had a quick sellout on Saturday -- wrapped at 11:30AM.

The shoofly pie donut was a hit.  If I did it again, I would use a little more melted butter, a little more brown sugar and molasses, and I would add more spice: cloves, cinnamon, and ginger.  And I would rename the donut to a "Brown Sugar Donut" or "Molasses Donut" or "Spice Donut".  I like Shoofly Pie, but the donut really needs a molasses custard filling to qualify as a "pie" donut.

Our weekly giveaway winner: Anne G., pictured here with her merch and AR and SZ:

Big up to the crew:  I always thank our crew (AR, RML, and SZ) profusely, but this week they really came up big.  RML, in the kitchen for the first time, was quickly cutting donuts like a pro.  We were frying, glazing, bagging, and loading product at pace till just minutes before the open of the market.  Because there are any number of possible complications to the morning baking production, this phrase aptly characterizes the process (t-shirt by Parra):

Bartering: Piedmont Biofarm (Radishes, Lettuce, Green peppers), Rob and Mo from Monuts, Jeep's Kettle Corn.

Our Awesome Patrons:  Nat and Madeline (pictured), Sarah and Jessee, Miriam, Suzanne, Anne G., Horst, Karen et al., Marybeth.

Madeline with Shoofly Pie Donut


Note: Saturday was our last market day with Spring/Summer/Fall hours.   We will be switching to Winter hours (10AM-noon) on December 3rd.  The Farmer's Market, including Berenbaum's, will be closed next weekend.  We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving filled with food, pie, and drink.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Looks like Google is going to try to overtake Paypal, and take a bite out of VISA as well

 1. Use "Google Wallet" (terrible name) instead of Paypal or credit card online.  I think more people would be up for using this as Paypal is a terribly slow, clunky, confusing UI experience.

2. Wave your smartphone loaded with Google Wallet cash over a terminal to pay for goods and services.  Looks cool.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 35

The scene: Beautiful Fall weather (low 60's and sunny) made for a laid-back, pleasant day at the market.  After 9AM, the sun was at our backs and warmed us through.  Lonny over at Vega Metals provided the soundtrack (with a heavy rotation of cuts off The Blues Brother Soundtrack).

The product: Brioche Challah: killer.  Many compliments and was sold out by 10:40AM.  Dark Rye Bread: This bread came out more like a sourdough rye (we used a 3-day starter build).  I looked on the side of a Pepperidge Farm package of pumpernickel and found that they use "caramel coloring" for darkening.  We used homemade brown sugar syrup, but it did not really darken the bread as much as I would have liked.  More experimentation and tweaking is needed.

Customer comments/feedback: We met one customer who claimed that she was given a sourdough starter that traces its roots back to the Gold Rush and has traveled around the country.  Two Guglhupf employees came by the stand and called the rye bread, "very good" (I was humbled).  One customer on a bicycle in racing unitard purchased a loaf and proceeded to carbo-load half of it at a nearby bench.  Repeat customers for coffee remarked how consistently good the caffeine is every week (we are now serving Costa Rican Kind Coffee roasted in Carrboro).  One belated endorsement for our donuts was relayed to me last week: A supposed tai chi instructor attending the Occupy Durham Assembly said, "I want to punch whoever made these donuts in the face!" which I suppose is the greatest compliment one could receive from a tai chi instructor?!

Fam in the place: The Berenbaums were visiting and so we went five-strong this weekend at the stand.  They were super-helpful and even worked on this blog post!

Our awesome customers: Ian and family, Zane and the Market Run crew, Imani, Annie, the Marvelles, Franklin et al., Mark, the Schneider clan, Allie and Jeff, and Elana.

One of most loyal customers and friends, Annie, featured with rye bread, butternut squash, and baby bump.

Bartering: Daikon Radish and Sweet Potatoes from George and Dominique at Lil' Farm; Kettle Corn from Jeep; Monuts from Rob.

Crew: Thanks so much to our crew, AR, RML, and the immediate Berenbaum family.  AR worked on the rye starter build and learned Saturday morning how to make 2-strand challah braids; then, we talked French philosophy at 6AM while waiting for everything to come out of the oven -- fans of Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou stand up!

A good look: Food and drink connoisseur and owner of BUNS of Chapel Hill, George Ash, is featuring a Berenbaums' Brioche bun for a limited time tomorrow.  This is, in his own words: Skirt steak, sirloin, chuck. Gruyere, grilled mush, caramelized onion.

This week: Be prepared for a new donut coming next Saturday.  I'm not telling what it is.

Friday, November 11, 2011

25 Essential Food Tips

The Char of the Burger
- Use high heat so the interior of your burger cooks in its own rendered fat.

The Crumb of the Bread
- Generous hydration and a long rising time will result in a tender, open crumb.

The Spice of the Curry
- Add your spices directly to the hot oil at the beginning of your curry, not at the end.

The Savor of the Barbeque
- Low and slow with frequent basting will tenderize the meat.

The Consistency of the Custard
- Once the mixture starts to thicken, turn your heat down and whisk vigorously.

The Yellow of the Yolk
- Don't overboil your eggs and you'll get a properly yellow yolk.

The Chew of the Pasta
- Al dente, people.

The Salt of the Soup
- Homemade soups are notoriously undersalted.

The Fluffiness of the Biscuit
- Proper hydration and soft handling will let you steer clear of a dense hockey puck biscuit.

The Silkiness of the Challah
- Vegetable shortening is a highly refined and processed fat, but it will make your challah texture silky.

The Thickness of the Beans
- Boil down your beans to achieve a gelatinous texture that coats the back of a spoon.

The Bitterness of the Coffee
- If your grind size in the filter (or similarly in a French press) is too small, the water drips too slow and the coffee is exceedingly bitter.

The Lightness of the Cupcake
- Once you add the dry ingredients, mix lightly, not excessively, to achieve a tender crumb.

The Airiness of the Icing
- Room temperature butter, when creamed with sugar, allows air particles to suspend within the fat, giving the icing a light, not heavy and greasy, consistency.

The Saturation of the Fresh Toast
- Toast your pain perdu ("lost bread", or simply day-old bread) prior to frying so it will absorb more egg-milk mixture.

The Creaminess of the Scrambled Egg
- Low heat and frequent stirring.

The Juicyness of the Roasted Chicken
- Mark Bittman has this one right: high heat (425°) gets the interior juicy and the exterior crispy.

The Freshness of the Coffee Beans
- Limit the access of staling air to your beans by freezing in between grinds.

The Boredom of the Salad
- Fight against boredom in your salads by making fresh vinegarette or aioli dressings every mealtime.

The Richness of the Soup
- Carmelizing vegetables will improve the depth of flavor in your stock.

The Lightness of the Pancake
- Mix in this order: Fat, Sugar, Egg, Milk and Dry Ingredients simultaneouly.

The Flavor of the Cookie
- Bring out the intensity of your cookie's flavor by decreasing the amount of leavening agent (baking power and/or baking soda) and relying on your creaming skills combined with eggs for airiness.

The Size of the Matzoh Ball
- Get big matzo balls by soft-handling the dough.

The Depth of the Red Sauce
- Make your own flavor-rich tomato paste by slowly boiling down peeled whole tomatoes.

The Green of the Green
- Don't overwilt your greens; when you've gone from bright to dark forest green, you've gone too far.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 34

The product: This week we did two recipes that have been on the menu from the start of the stand: Irish Soda Bread and Choc Chip Mandel Bread.  One of our customers, Horst, asks literally every week, "Do you have the biscot?" meaning, do you have the mandel bread?  This week, we were able to hook him up:


Our awesome customers:  Imani, A&A, Morgan et al., Linda and Walter, John T., Zane, Kelli and Billy, Alex K., Horst, LDG and JD, and the Dave family.

Bartering: Peppers, Bok Choy, and Radishes from Piedmont Biofarm; "Mr. Heater" from Bob at Bull Durham Custom Trailers; Breakfast Slice and Sausage Gravy over Mixed Garlic Knots from Piepushers; Potatoes from Lil' Farm.

The crew: Thanks so much to SZ, AR, and RML.  AR helped me in the kitchen in the morning, turning out the 80 soda breads and 30 pounds of mandel bread.

Erratum: Our giveaway winner Jon H. could not find us and went home from the market empty-handed.  Let's all hope he returns next week!  We are at the corner of Hunt and Foster every Saturday.

This week: Working on a new rye recipe and some brioche...that's what's up.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Crescent Ridge

When I was young living in suburban Boston, our family had our milk delivered to us from Crescent Ridge Dairy.  Later they expanded into ice creams and other sundries, and I remember the wonderment of finding ice cream sitting inside an insulated box on our doorstep.  Perhaps part of the fun of the bike deliveries for Berenbaum's is repeating this childhood memory of finding something wholesome and delicious delivered to your front door.

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Salty, Warm, Brothy, Starchy, Fatty, Sweet"

I've been reading this food memoir by Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, from which the title of this post is excerpted.  A little overwritten (she's an MFA as well as a chef) and a little self-aggrandizing (what chef is not?), but Hamilton otherwise holds a steady eye (and nose) for significant detail (e.g. her description of the buckwheat flour galettes from provincial France, filled with jambon and Gruyere, then folded four times to make a square of a circle).

One theme of Hamilton's book is the dignity that we either give or take away from food via its preparation.  She chronicles years spent in catering kitchens with no natural light, shuttling out hundreds of bruschetta served on toasts that have been sitting under plastic in a garage for a week.  The oven can either be a place to raise food from the material to the ethereal, or a crematorium for badly conceived, poorly executed designs.  Whether you use a microwave or a solar oven, the choices we make in food preparation say a lot about us.  At Berenbaum's, every time we bake, we strive for deep flavor, careful production, good ingredients, proper presentation, and authentic recipes.

Week 33

Product:  The onion rye came out really well.  AR did a three-day starter build, which resulted in a tangy rye bread with a good crumb loaded with flavor.  It was "hearty done right".  We still have about half a sack of rye flour, so be on the lookout for a potato rye coming soon.  We sold/bartered/gifted all 50 of the onion rye and 40 bags of granola.

Weather: Hard rain continued until around 10AM.  We were looking for Bob from the trailer shop to see if we could perch under his awning (as we had previously on rainy days), but he was running late due to being locked out of his truck.  Later, we gifted him an onion rye, and he returned the favor with a propane space heater (see below).

Customers/Bartering:  Big shouts to our customers: Zane, Linda & Walter & Ben, and Amy & Mike.  Bartering: Biscuits and gravy from Piepushers (the gravy is really great); Daikon, Kale, and Sweet Potatoes from George of Lil' Farm; Romaine and Radishes from Piedmont Biofarm -- thanks guys!

Crew:  Thanks so much to AR, SZ, and RML.  You guys made the best of a rainy situation.  I will eternally be impressed with your fortitude and vitality.

Our lucky Facebook winners: Walter and Linda

Our savior:"Mr. Heater", from Bob of Bull Durham Custom Trailers.

Monuts: I finally got to meet Mo and eat me some Monuts (which had fantastically good flavor).  They set up behind us next to PiePushers.  Mo is wicked nice and we all wished them best of luck in their further triked-out adventures.

In the news: I opened the DFM weekly newsletter Friday to learn that Triangle Localista was accepting canning donations for what will be a sliding-scale jamming class taught by This and That Jam (check the blog for the bonus sonogram pic).  We are happy to see that more folks are using the sliding-scale model for business, and we wish them luck in this awesome endeavor.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

FYI: New blog address will still forward there.  Thanks!

Downtown Donut 10-25-11

Tuesday, we managed to sell ~120 donuts between the Courthouse and 5 Points.  We started at the Courthouse: it turns out that most of the foot traffic going to and from the Courthouse and the Durham County Government building are concentrated solely on completing their business.  Folks didn't have time or interest to buy (or even sample) a gourmet sliding-scale hand-cut donut.  We probably sold about 30 donuts in 1.5 hours.

Back at 5 Points, things picked up, but we still did not reach our goal of 200 donuts (which would indicate signals for sustained profitability and expansion).  I am not sure when we will try to continue this experiment.
Lessons Learned:

Non-event street selling is tough.  If you are selling hot dogs solo, you can sell 50 at $2.25 each and take home a decent daily wage (given that a hot dog costs 15-30 cents).  Selling a lower revenue, lower-margin item like a hand-cut donut is a different model/proposition.

Location and context are important for selling generally.  Toast does great because it has a great product, but also because it has a warm interior that comforts classy taste.  It also has 50 seats. People don't expect gourmet from a stand.  You need to connect the right audience to the right product in the right location.  This is part of the reason why we do so well at the Farmer's Market.

If you are there every day, you have a better shot a profitability.  Because SZ works another part-time job, Tuesday was his day to dedicate to donuts (I work a 9-5 during the week).  We thought that if we could sell 200 in one day, maybe we could expand the number of days we were out there (and he could cut back his hours at his other job).  SZ couldn't risk quitting his other job simply to try selling donuts full-time for a couple of weeks.

The product isn't everything.  New entrepreneurs generally assume that if that have a great product, the public will scoop it up in big handfuls no matter the distribution method.  Not so.  More thought and care is needed for the distribution, marketing, and context for the product.  I think the only service that can afford to sell bare bones well is Craigslist, and they are a holdover from the Web 1.0 era.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


If you do Twitter instead of (or in addition) to Facebook, a re-post of all our Facebook posts will start showing up there as of now:

New Website, Blog, Logo

As you can see, our blog and logo have been updated.  Also, soon you will be able to access this blog through our own domain,  The website there is live!  Many thanks to Kelley Zeller for the design/website work.  If you would like to contact her for work, I would be happy to put folks in touch.  Any constructive feedback is welcome on these changes in the form of comments.  Thanks!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 32

The product:  This week we did two new breads: a toasting/sandwich rye and a mult-grain semolina.  The semolina had millet, cornmeal, sesame seeds, semolina flour, and unbleached flour in it.  Both breads were popular, and we sold, bartered, or gifted all but two of the 115 breads.  I think the rye could have benefited from a long starter process which would have given it more depth.  I think the semolina also could have used a poolish, less hydration, and maybe some whole wheat flour for more flavor.  Next week, we will be trying an onion rye with a starter, so I'm hoping for some really good deep flavors from that bread.

Shout outs to our customers: Jeannine, Margaret, Beth P., Suzanne, the Marvelles, A&A.  You guys are great!

The crew: Big up, big up, big up to SZ, AR, and RML.  AR helped me with the mixing, shaping, and baking this week -- thanks so much!

This week: Look for us Tuesday morning near the Courthouse on Main selling donuts.  More details on FB coming soon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Downtown Donut 10-18-11

Thank you sir, you purchased the first donut of the day!

The first week we did the Downtown Donut, we sold about 80 donuts.  Tuesday, we sold about 150.  I think spreading the word via the Downtown listservs helped.  Also, we sold on into lunch hour, which was busy.  We need to sell about 200 to make it worthwhile.  We could probably get there with repeated showings, but I think next week, we may try the Courthouse on Main instead of 5-Points.  A lot of people said they thought we would clean up there.  Also, 5-Points gets kind of depressing quickly with all the cars zipping by from every direction going either to or from East Durham and City Hall.

Shouts to all our customers who came by, including NM.  We added a great deal of folks on FB, surpassing 300 fans; we love to know that the word is traveling.  Hope to see many of you at the Market on Saturday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Food Sins

From my rabbi's Yom Kippur sermon on food ethics:

"Do we want to live in a world where meat is eaten at every meal, and where ketchup is considered a vegetable? Most of all, do we want to live in world where everything is treated as if it is infinitely renewable, and thus, completely disposable?"
                                  -- Rabbi Leah Berkowitz, Judea Reform Congregation


Week 31

Shout-outs: Molly, Jon, Robin & Lindsay, the Marvelles, Suzanne, Larry, Jennifer & Mark, Karen, A & A, Janette, Sunny, Sarah, Margaret & Sean, Alex R., and Harriet.

The product: We used Swiss Chocolate procured from The Chocolate Door of Chapel Hill for our babka this week.  Thanks to MJ Rosensweet for making the connection.  The result was a more refined chocolate flavor (it was more like a chocolate bar than a chocolate filling).  As usual, everything sold (58 babka and ~200 donuts).

The crew: Big up to SZ, RML, EC, SG for making the sun-splashed morning light and fun.  It was EC and SG's first time out, and I think they really stepped in there like pros.  Thanks to RG and KG for handling the bike route.

Baking Video of the Week: Zach, up and coming star at 9th Street Bakery, stamping Kaiser Rolls:

The Weekend, Part Deux: We are trying to build out our donut production so SZ and I sold donuts yesterday at Motorco's Dtown Market (crafts and vintage items on 1st and 3rd Sundays).  I enjoyed the Motorco Bloody Mary, Carnitas Slider and music from KoKyu, and Foothills Torch Pils from Fullsteam.  SZ went on to sell at the Occupy Durham Assembly downtown, where our sliding-scale business model and calorie-rich product was received as kith and kin.

This week:  After a long hiatus, we will be back doing the Downtown Donut Tuesday morning at 9AM.  Look for us at the intersection of Main and Chapel Hill St. across from Toast.  BikeCoffee is scheduled to join.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oval Park Picnic

Many thanks to all who came out to the picnic last night.  There were many babies to behold, and many small cookie monsters (some of whom continued to filch change out of pockets and pocketbooks for another cookie...and another).

We sold 50 Irish Soda Breads and ~200 Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies.

We added 25 community members to our delivery email list.

We bartered Soda Bread for dumplings from Chirba and a pie from the Pusherman.  I have to say, Mike, that that Spinach, Salami, Roasted Garlic, and Mushroom pie was one of the best I've had (2nd place might be the Sausage, Hash Brown, Hot Pepper, Corn).

Big up to our customers: Barbara, Nina, the Elmores, Inga, A&A, the Marvelles, Jeff, Lauren, and Sam, Ryan, Katie, and Mary Claire, Emily, Meg, Sarah, and Syd.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week 30

The vibe: Gorgeous weather (64 and sunny) after several weeks of rain and a summer of sweltering heat combined for extra-good vibes Saturday at the market.  We had many returning customers who were glad to see us back at market after three weeks off (1 new baby + 2 Saturdays of rain = no stand), as well as some newbies who were happily surprised by both our quality offerings and seemingly implausible business model.

Sales: Sold it all save one babka.  We made 70 babka and 50 challah Saturday morning.

The crew:  RG on his fixed gear (no freewheel!) hauling a Burley Flatbed Cargo Trailer with 30 loaves of bread through Watts Hillandale and Old West:

SZ and RML were out of town, and BS called out sick, so AR and I held it down at the stand.  Big shout to AR for helping with all the mixing, bread forming, baking, and stand set-up and break-down as well on four hours of sleep and a busy week prior.

Giving it Away: Winners of our Weekly Free Giveaway: Kirsten, Lily, and Victoria (L to R below).  Alicia K. (Giveaway winner #2), we didn't see you to give you your free stuff, sorry we missed you!

Shoutouts to our awesome customers: Phil and Karen, Vatima, Jessica and family, Allie and Jeff, Aaron from Fickle Creek, Marybeth, Nate & Elizabeth, Natalie & Madeline, A&A, Imani.

Bartering: Pie from Mike and Becca of Piepushers; veggies from Piedmont Biofarm.

This week: We may be doing the Downtown Donut on Thursday morning, and possibly an appearance at the Oval Park Picnic Thursday evening.  Check FB on Wednesday for updates.  There will be no stand next Saturday due to Yom Kippur; I hope everyone that is fasting has an easy fast.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Downtown Donut 9-13-11

Last Tuesday, we rolled out mid-week Donut production.  At 8:15AM, we had old fashioned, chocolate glazed, and sugar glazed donuts on hand at the corner of Main and Chapel Hill St. across from Toast.

Donuts are probably our most popular and most highly sought-after item.  We use real butter, organic eggs, and buttermilk to give the donuts a cakelike richness.  We are still perfecting the recipe and production method.  I recently purchased a 40-quart brazier pot that will allow us to fry up to 15 at one time.  Previously, we had been using an ordinary stockpot which held a maximum of five or six.

Tuesday, sales were middling, especially during 8:15-9:00AM.  We made about 200, and sold 80.  The rest I gave to 9th Street Bakery to sell, some to Danny from Smash Hit Hot Dogs, some to Patrick from Reliable Cheese to sample, and the rest I brought to work at Duke as "Celebration Donuts" to celebrate the birth of my son four days earlier.

Because I work full time at Duke, this mid-week donut venture was meant to be my crew member SZ's thing.  To make it worthwhile for him and me, we need to sell about 200 donuts, which I don't think should be too hard once we make a few changes:

1) We will try to get our location posted to Downtown Durham Inc.'s FB and listserv.
2) We will try to publicize via the ABCD Downtown listserv.
3) If our location turns out not to have enough foot traffic, we may try in front of the post office or near the courthouse on Main.

I believe we will try again a week from tomorrow, and will update the Facebook the day prior.  If you have any suggestions to assist in the rollout, please holler.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Upgrading Food Storage

If you are looking for good home countertop food storage, I would recommend this series from OXO.  The "POP" technology plus high-grade BPA-free plastic creates an airtight seal that is easy (even fun?) to open and close.  It is a real step up from my last container set from Ikea.  They're more expensive than your average jar, but I think it's worth the money: after a recent mouse incident, the saltshaker was upended, the compost Tupperware had holes in the lid, but my OXO filled with brown sugar was completely unscathed.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Week 29

The product:  Our whole wheat bread came out fantastic.  It was terrifically tangy thanks to Alex's 3-day starter that was fed every 12 (?) hours or so.  The Irish soda breads were also a hit -- whole wheat quickbreads that have richness (from eggs, butter, buttermilk, and sugar in good proportion) is like a curveball classic.  Even kids whose mothers said, "He/She doesn't eat whole wheat breads," liked them.  Everything was sold or bartered, including 2 whole wheat loaves that I was going to take home but were purchased out of the back of SZ nearly-packed trunk.

Shouts to our customers and friends: Joanna and Michelle, Moria, Jill, Rachel, A&A, Renata, Franklin and fam, Bonnie, Lauren & Josh, Nate & Elizabeth (thanks guys for those bartered peppers!), Lindsay & Adam (thanks guys for the bartered tunes and movie (Babylon (1981)!), Marybeth, Zach & Molly, and Alex K.

Shouts to the crew: RML, SZ, AR, thanks fellas -- now that the weather is turning more temparate, I'm really looking forward to the rest of September.

Photos:  LDG took some great photos of the day.  Check them out on facebook.

The Biggest Loser: We never found our recipient of the weekly giveaway, Jojo.  Next time, mane.

Yesterday in the Lab: Sundays are usually a good "test" day for me, experimenting with new ideas.  Yesterday, I made red hot peppers pickled in vinegar and salt for kimchi; roasted sweet peppers (from the Marvelle family) pickling in salt and white wine vinegar; banana bread.

In the near future: We are looking to roll out more mid-week donut production.  Stay tuned.


Banana Bread Donut
Banana Bread with Toasted Pecans and Dark Chocolate

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No Such Thing as an Easy Biscuit

I've been stewing over this article by food critic Sam Sifton since it was published in July. In it, he claims that biscuits are easy to make, that one should let the dough rest for 30 minutes prior to forming rounds, and that there is no clear winner between Northern and Southern biscuits. Foolishness on all three counts. If Northern biscuits were so good, you would see them on a typical breakfast menu in that region. But having been reared in the North, I can tell you definitively that Northerners know fuckall about biscuits.

Biscuits are only easy on paper. Cutting fat into flour properly is hard. Finding the right hydration (e.g. % of buttermilk) is hard. Mixing is hard due to the delicate crumb (e.g. too much mixing, and you get a dense biscuit). These and a hundred other things can go wrong and result in a sub-optimal biscuit. I believe the late Bill Neal (of Crooks Corner) made biscuits at every occasion possible because he knew what a challenge it was to get right, and how just a small change in the method could result in total disappointment. A good biscuit smells like victory. Here's the proportions I use, because those linked from Sifton's article will get you nowhere:

Berenbaum's Cheddar Biscuits

Flour (c) 2.00
Baking Powder (tablespoons) 1.00
Salt (teaspoons) 0.50
Butter (tablespoons) 7.00
Buttermilk (c) 1.20
Cheese (pounds) 0.25

(for non-cheddar biscuits, you may need to decrease the buttermilk slightly)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week 28

Awesome customers of the week: Suzanne, Christine, A&A, Sue, Brendon, and Aiden, Lindsay, Adam, and Amber.

Bartering: Thank you thank you to Piedmont Biofarm for your kale, basil, and hot peppers. We also dropped a couple of slices of babka off to Drew at Farmhand (dude, that sausage, egg, and tomato sandwich is outstanding) and a whole babka to Kelly from Toast (which she graciously accepted...doesn't Kelly do everything graciously?).

The product: Thanks to Billy for helping with what I felt to be our best non-sweet bread thus far -- the Ciabatta. Billy fed a starter every 12 hours for 3 days straight, resulting in a starter of sweetness, tanginess, and acidity unrivaled in our prior product line. The Chocolate Babka also drew rave reviews, from "sinful" to "are you kidding me? this is real?". At the I Heart Chocolate event (the previous night), MJ Rosensweet from the Chocolate Door talked about maybe hooking us up with some specialty chocolate to further improve the product. I also want to try a babka with cinnamon, brown sugar, and honey.

Sales: We sold it all, no surprise there -- great weather plus more kiddies back in town meant heavy traffic at the FM.

The crew: SZ, RML, thanks fellas -- I think we were all working on about four hours of sleep or less, so hats off to your stamina.

This week: Thinking about whole wheat breads, and possibly some Irish Soda Bread for next week.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Week 27

The weather: We got rained on again (2nd week in a row), and once again Bob from Bull City Custom Trailers helped us out by providing shelter from the storm under his awning. The rain kept away a good number of customers, but we still managed to sell out our French bread and all but about 2 dozen cookies.

The product: Billy N. helped me out with the starter for the French Bread. It was developed over 3 days giving it a nice tart, sweet, milky flavor. I thought that for not being able to bake it off in a hearth oven (we did it in the bakery's large convection ovens; the hearth oven takes four hours to preheat), the product was great -- very good flavor. The whole wheat chocolate chip cookies were fun to eat, and marginally healthier than ordinary cookies, but nothing challenging culinarily speaking. I tried a new tea from Little India this week for our iced tea. Because this tea is brewed with grounds rather than leaves, the tea grounds are twice as potent as leaves per unit weight (as I learned). In the future, I would decrease the amount of grounds used so that the tea is less strong.

The customers
: Big up to the Marvelle clan, Jonathan, Alex R., MPT, BS, and Adam S. for gracing us with a visit.

The crew:
For two weeks in a row, SZ and RML have persisted in the rain. You guys really go beyond the proverbial call of duty, and I truly appreciate it!

Thanks to: Mike and Becca from Piepushers; Don from Don's Italian Ice; Piedmont Biofarm; Brian from Castlemaine Farm; Kyle and Kaitlin from Sunset Farm; George from Lil Farm. I've been making some amazing pasta sauce with the bartered tomatoes. The relative drought we had for 2+ weeks seemed to concentrate the sweet and acid flavors of the tomato into these tiny rubies of flavor -- definitely my favorite time of the tomato season.

Our deliveries have really ramped up ever since I was able to pitch our services at the Oval Park Picnic two weeks ago. I delivered to twenty-four homes in Watts-Hillandale and Old West on Saturday, with a total of 39 items (more than 1.5 items ordered per household).

This week:
Look for us this week at the Chocolate Festival at Casbah Friday night, and of course the Farmer's Market on Saturday.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

George Ash, Mixologist

In Chapel Hill where he resides, mixologist George Ash is constantly wowing friends with his drinks and burgeoning knowledge of spirits. It gives me great pleasure to know he found use for a pickled jalapeno chili puree I had created at home (née "Berenbaum's Sauce"). Recipe follows.


6 cherry tomatoes

6 basil leaves

1/4 oz heavy simple syrup

1/2 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce Dry Sack (medium-dry sherry)

2 ounces silver tequila

Pinch salt

1 Teaspoon Berenbaum's Sauce


Muddle tomato, basil, salt and simple syrup.

Add remaining ingredients. Shake and double strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week 26

So I think our weekly posts are getting repetitive enough that we can now do an abridged version of all the Saturday happenings.

1. The weather: Heavy rain, followed by sun and humidity. Bob from Grill-Me (next to the Piedmont) was kind enough to offer us the shelter of his awning. Thanks, Bob!
2. Bartering: Thanks to Greg and Josh from the lemonade stand, Don from Don's Italian Ice, the folks at Lil' Farm, and Matahitu from Piedmont Biofarm.
3. The product: One customer told us we had the best doughnuts she had ever tasted. And we're not done yet. I still tweak the recipe here and there. The shortbread cookies were pretty good -- I think they would work as cookies for a Chipwich (especially if Parlour ice cream was inside). I would like to experiment further with more wheat flour and more brown sugar.
4. Our customers: With the rain, the market was a little light, but we managed to sell all the donuts and all but a dozen of the cookies. Big up to the Marvelles and JW for coming through.
5. The crew: Thanks to RML and SZ. Guys, putting up that umbrella in the rain, your bake stand green beret cred just keeps on rising. SZ, thanks so much for frying all the donuts...120 donuts in 120're the man.

Food Service Labor Economics

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chocolate Festival

There is a chocolate festival going on at Casbah on the 19th. We will be there, with chocolate babkas in tow!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week 25

Week 25 was super-hot, but we made it through.

My family was in town, so we sold as the Berenbaum Family Singers, or something like that.

The Nutella babka came out pretty well. It was not quite as Nutella-y as I would have liked, but tasted good all the same. We sold out the 42 loaves I made by around 11:15AM.

The Bourbon Wheat sold well too, but with the heat, traffic was down and so we bartered several loaves and sold some as 2-for-1 at the tail-end of the market. Thanks to all the vendors that bartered with us -- Matahitu from Piedmont Biofarm, George from Lil' Farm, Hannah from the Pecan Stand (real name?), Don from Don's Italian Ice, Greg and Josh from the Lemonade Stand, and Mike and Becca from PiePushers. We even gave away a loaf to Noah at Fickle Creek because he was too busy to chat with us. Helga and Tim from Four Leaf Farm gave us some wonderful-looking red peppers for a loaf of our bread.

Thanks to all of our wonderful customers who braved the heat to be out there but especially Mike B., Marybeth, Shelly and Peter, Nate, Amanda, and Elizabeth, and Daniel, Katie, and Eli.

Thanks to our crew of Berenbaums, plus SZ, BS, and RML (who had to leave early to go on a weekend trip).

Here is the account of the day from my mom, DJB:

Working at Berenbaum's Bakery was the best! In spite of the 103 degree heat, we sold practically all the chocolate babka, Nutella babka, bourbon raisin bread and lots of granola and iced tea. Durham has some of the nicest people I've met anywhere. Love chatting with all of them. Looking forward to another visit soon!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pickled Okra Recipe

As per request of Danny Z.

1. Sanitize jars (e.g. dishwasher, boiling water bath, oven, etc.). Widemouth jars (if you can get them) are often handy for packing pickles.

2. Start a large pot of water boiling to process the pickle jars.

3. Drop 1-2 garlic cloves in the bottom of each sanitized pint jar. Depending on the heat level you like, drop in 1 or more dried chili peppers or a quarter or more of a fresh jalapeno or other hot pepper. If you have them, drop in some spice seeds, not to exceed 2-3 total (e.g. black peppercorn, coriander, etc.). Too many spice seeds result in the unfavorable domination of that taste in your pickle.

4. Clean and trim okra at the top and bottom (3 to 4-inch length is best, but if you want to go for big over-the-top okra that go bottom-to-top in your Bloody Mary, you can bump up to 5 to 6 inch length (if you can find them). You will need to double everything below if you go with the large size because you'll need to use quart jars instead of pint jars. If you want to make a quart of pickles instead of a pint, you will need to double everything here too.)

5. Pack okra into jars. You should be able to get about 8 to 10 of the small/medium ones in the pint jar. I recommend to hold the jar on its side and slide the okra in. About halfway through, you can easily pop smaller okra into the gaps at the bottom, then finish with the larger okra. If you pack all the large okra in first, it's impossible to squeeze the smaller ones through to the bottom gaps.

6. Make brine. Per pint jar okra, bring to a boil 0.5 cup water, 0.5 cup white vinegar, 1.5 teaspoon salt, 0.25 teaspoon spice or mixed spice (tumeric, chili pepper (if you like spicy), etc.). If you will need more brine, make more using those ratios. If after you try this recipe you find you like your pickles a little more sour or more salty, bump up the vinegar/water ratio or the amount of salt accordingly.

7. Using a mason jar funnel or an ordinary funnel, pour the hot brine over the packed okra, leaving 0.25 inch headspace. Tighten the jar lid. Give it a gratifying shake. I re-tighten my lids one more time before they go in the water bath for processing.

8. Process jars. Using a jar lifter (they're only about $10), place the jar in the boiling water such that it is covered by water. Cover with lid to save energy. Set your timer for 10 minutes once the water returns to a boil. Remove from pot. Allow jars to cool. Once cool, the popped top of the jar should remain the in the "down" position when pressed. Allow jars to rest in a cool non-bright place for about 2 weeks before opening. Once opened, refrigerate.

9. If you send me a picture of your pickled okra (double points if it's in your Bloody Mary), I will most certainly (and happily) post it to Facebook.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Toffee Caramels
Total Vitality Sauerkraut
Pecan Pie Brownie

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week 24

I was out of town this week, so SZ and RML held it down for me. Thanks, guys! Here's SZ's account of how the day went:

The heat came out in full force this week, reaching almost 100 degrees. Most shoppers seemed to want to get their shopping over quickly as a result. The iced coffee was a huge hit again, selling out at around 10:15 a.m. or so. Several people did mention however that they miss the Ceylon tea that we have had previously [Ed. - it will be back next Saturday]. A lot of the familiar faces were there this week. Don brought over a sample of his water ice, which is always a treat. We bartered with George from Lil' Farm for some tomatoes and potatoes. Pie Pushers also traded some of their pizza for some granola as well, along with the lemonade stand, which brought us some much-needed, refreshing lemonade. Big thanks to Rufus for saving our spot on the corner as usual, and for keeping everyone smiling.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Week 23

Everything sold well on Saturday. We sold or bartering everything but 1 bag of Mandel Bread. Patrick from Reliable Cheese bought 10 bags of Mandel Bread for his store. We bartered a bag of mandel bread and madeleines for a egg and cheese sandwich for LA (pictured below) from Drew at Farmhand, thanks buddy! I gave a small bag of Mandel Bread to Lonny (pictured below) who was playing guitar at Vega Metals -- loved his animatronic James Brown doll.

Big up to MG, who came through and bartered walnut cocoa cookies and gougeres for some specialty pickles. Several times, customers have told me, I started eating the ____, and I couldn't stop. Well after our day Sat, I broke into the bag of gougeres, and it was like that...thanks, man.

Thanks to the St. Nelson's for coming through, as well as tall Jerry and Horst.

Big up to the crew: RML, LA, SZ - thanks guys!



Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I'm reading a pretty good book on quality improvement in health care called "The Best Practice" by Charles Kenney (2008). He states some QI principles filtered down from an old Toyota QI guru, W. Edwards Deming. Here are some, abridged and revised:

  • Create a statement and sense of the purpose and aims of the company.
  • Build quality into the product through the production process.
  • Discount the value of price as the sole motivator; instead, enable long-term customer and vendor relationships based on loyalty and trust.
  • Work constantly to improve quality and productivity.
  • Value and reinforce on-the-job training.
  • Drive out fear; create trust.
  • Strive to reduce personnel conflicts.
  • Enable employees to claim pride of workmanship.
  • Include everyone in the company in every major transformation.

Monday, July 11, 2011

New Delivery Model

I've just switched up the delivery model for the bake stand.

We currently have 15 subscribers, and I would like to be making 25 deliveries per weekend.

Customers can now receive a weekly electronic order form, order what they like, and I will bill them at the end of the month. Hopefully this will make it easier than having to commit to a monthlong subscription with a monthly renewal process.

We are still testing this out only in Old West and Watts-Hillandale. If you (or someone you know) would like to be on the weekly email list, please email me at berenbaums at gmail dot com. Thanks!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Conversation From Yesterday

"Which beer tastes least like ratshit?"

- Budweiser?
- Miller Lite?
- Miller High Life?
- PBR?

You be the judge!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Week 22

We had a pleasant day on Saturday. RML was in an especially good mood, making everyone laugh and smile. We sold well; because bread is our highest-ticket product, margins, revenues, and net profits were higher.

Big up to our customers and friends who came by: Atrac and Suzy, Sara, Daniel, Katie, and Eli.

There was a new seller on the corner, Bramad (sp.?) from Raleigh, selling shawls. Not clear whether he was doing enough business to merit sticking around.

Also, there is a father and son duo selling lemonade now on the corner, Greg and Josh, respectively. Nice guys.

Big up to our awesome crew: RML, SZ, MPT, thanks guys!

News: Our Walnut Raisin Mandel Bread will be carried at Reliable Cheese as of next Saturday! I'm not sure how often we will be able to supply there or how fast it will sell out, but it sounds like a good thing. Patrick, the Reliable Cheese owner, is really doing some wonderful things. Highly recommended.

Hot Dogs

Enjoyed this article on Triangle hot dogs in the Indyweek. Maybe subconsciously inspired from the hot dog-eating contest on Coney Island on the 4th, I prepared a sublime dog last night. The superlative combination? Hebrew National dog charred well in skillet, served in toasted day-old baguette (from neighbor Billy), topped with whole grain mustard, full length pickle slice (house made), and house jalapeno salsa (pureed jalapeno, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic). yearrrrrrr.

Hot Dog ToDoList: Pimento Dog (Dog, pimento cheese cream, full-length pickle, chili paste).

Monday, July 4, 2011


The food at a given establishment is only so good as the palate of the most senior food-producer at said establishment.

Delivery Update

We are entering the fourth month of our deliveries to Old West and Watts-Hillandale. Despite more canvassing, I've found it difficult to maintain a steady number of subscribers for the delivery service. We have been as high as 18 and as low as 13, with the average purchase amount per week holding at about $4.25. I am thinking that to make the service more attractive, and to cast a wider net, we will change things up so that anyone can purchase (or not) in any given week and I will simply bill the customers on a monthly basis given what they order (similar to Bella Bean's business model). This would be akin to moving away from a monthly subscriber model and towards a per item per week purchase model. Anyone have have thoughts on this?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Week 21

Despite the sweltering heat, we sold very well on Saturday. Our madeleines were a big hit, with Marybeth purchasing a full two dozen of them -- thank you! The candied peach preserves went over well, and the mandel bread sold out as per usual.

Big up to our amazing customers: William and Friedrich, Mike, Maria, Blake, Greg, Josh, Greg & Danielle, Marybeth+1, EC, LDG, Midge and Sydney.

Many thanks also to our volunteer crew: RML, GP, BS -- GP, you went above and beyond the call of duty -- putting in the full four hours-plus for our cause -- hopefully, the next time you work, it will be a little cooler!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Random Question

Does anyone know why gasoline prices are always 20 cents higher per gallon in Durham than Chapel Hill?

Jam Economics 101

I've been attempting to make some jam the last couple of weeks. Here is the breakdown on what it costs to make jam (or in my case, syrup, or candied fruit).

Ingredient Cost: $25 (for 12 pounds of berries)
Jar Cost: $15
Labor: 3.5 hours
Yield: 28 jars
Potential Market Value: $112
Net profit: $72
Profit Per Hour Labor: $20.50

Ingredient Cost: $10 (for 25 pounds of peaches)
Jar Cost: $15
Labor: ~6 hours
Yield: 28 jars
Potential Market Value: $112
Net profit: $87
Profit Per Hour Labor: $14.50

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week 20

Week 20 went strong. We had a diverse product offering (6 different items, a high for us) and a lot of fun crowd reaction. We managed to sell, give away to friends, or barter everything produced except for some blueberry syrup which I can continue to sell in the coming weeks. It seems like many vendors at the market have canned goods, so we will have to work to differentiate our jams, syrups, sauces, and pickles. Anyone with a jar-marketing ideas, holler at me. Bread products in a basket are an easy sell. Once the item goes in a bag or a jar, it's like a whole different sales strategy; the food loses its message that says, "This is immediately perishable, this is special, buy me!"

Thanks to William and Friedrich, Maria, Nate and Elizabeth, Vanessa, Alicia, Lili, and Jalin, Amiri, and Jenny for coming through. You guys are the best.

Thanks to RML, SZ, and GP for working the stand - you guys brightened the day and held it down like the pros that you all are. GP, your bilingualism was put to good use yesterday and I thought that was dope. "How do you say cardamom in Spanish?" was the quote of the day.

I saw DD and Durham Farmer's Market got a shout recently in the Times. Go Dirty Durham! Peep the photo op of the charming NS and JS.

Friday, June 24, 2011


To all the newbies to the blog who were referred by Victoria Bouloubasis' article in the Now Serving section of the Indyweek: We have a weekly bike delivery CSB for residents of the Old West and Watts-Hillandale neighborhoods. We also set up a stand near the Durham Farmer's Market Saturdays 8AM to noon at the corner of Foster St. and Hunt St. (across the street from the Piedmont). We update our Facebook every Friday with our items for the following day at market. Hope to see you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Raleigh Farmer's Market

I went this morning to the Raleigh Farmer's Market to pick up some cheap fruit for canning. I got some SC peaches ~50 cents/lb and some NC blueberries ($2.00/pint). The wholesale market opens at 5AM (I got there at 5:15AM), and in those early pre-dawn hours, it feels like the closest thing we have to an area night-market or something like the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. Truckers were still unloading and organizing their crates on forklifts when I arrived. Later in the day, more consumer-friendly conventional stalls open and there is a country restaurant for those in search of an egg breakfast. I plan to go periodically through the summer to pick up inputs for pickling, saucing, and jam-making.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Culinary Apocalypse

I went traveling last week on an unfortunate death in the family. The funeral was in Alabama, but our travels brought us all around the Midwest and Appalachia (total milage: ~1,500 mi; total hours driving: ~26 hours). Here is the driving map:

Along the way, yoyo and I sampled some of the most authentic local spots available to us, chain or otherwise:

Amsterdam Cafe
, Auburn, AL
Barleys Taproom, Knoxville, TN
Montgomery Inn, Cincinnatti, OH
Graeters Ice Cream, Cincinnati, OH
Skyline Chili, Cincinnati, OH
La Rosas, Cincinnati, OH
Tudor's Biscuit World, Huntington, WV
Stuart's Hot Dogs, Huntington, WV
Jolly Pirate Donuts, Huntington, WV

I wish I had better things to say about food choices in Middle America. But unfortunately, it's not much better than any town on the interstate in North Carolina. McD's, Arby's, Wendy's, you know the drill. And in the midst of this culinary apocalypse are these languishing gems (like those listed above), hanging on (sometimes by a thread) next to their corporate competitors, relying on a devoted fan base built up over the decades to keep their underpaid workers on the books. The heartland ain't pretty. Knoxville, Cincinatti, Huntington, all had large swathes of destitute, delapidated structures either inside or surrounding a once-venerable downtown. this is how I imagine Downtown Durham of the 1990's. The hollowing out of America through the export of manufacturing and other medium-skilled, middle-class jobs in the 80's and 90's is the true face of trickle-down economics. By making our economy more lean, competitive, and productive, we've increased social stratification. The resurgence of Durham as a foodie outpost of the South has improved our fortunes overall, but have the gains been distributed equally?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gluttonface: Asheville, NC

I mentioned in this post that I deplore gluttony, but I should qualify that by saying that gluttony is entirely permissible while traveling. This weekend while in Asheville, NC for a wedding, yoyo and I dined at three of Asheville's finest eating establishments and quaffed beers at two local breweries.

Highlights: 1) yoyo and I had tried to get into Early Girl Eatery twice before and each time didn't have time to wait ~45 minutes for a table. EG has a great logo and a lot of nice touches (blackberry jam in a pot on the table, homemade banana bread served warm from the grill-top, freerunning Sugar in the Raw for your coffee), but the biscuits were subpar (dense, the result of a pasty dough), and the banana bread far outshone the trademark tomato gravy (which tasted like a bland puree (why are organic hothouse tomatoes usually watery and tasteless?)). 2) Wedge Brewery -- a cool little watering hole by the river -- possibly where the "real" people in Asheville drink. The beer was flowing freely from $11 pitchers and kept our whole post-wedding crew in a good mood. Recommended: Iron Rail IPA (7.0% alc.). 3) The Admiral. I'd read so many quotes on the internet attesting to the Admiral's "hipsterness" that a perverse sense of curiosity and boredom drove yoyo and I there latenight to sample General Tso's Veal Sweetbreads (unremarkable - the glaze was ketchup-y). The vibe was good though, the soundtrack excellent, and the quasi-hipsters of Asheville were balanced by thrill-seeking boomers and senior citizens....Williamsburg the Admiral is not. Yoyo adds that the brownie dessert we shared was deliciously underbaked and the blueberry cream topping was tres bien. 4) Sunny Point Cafe -- yoyo and I had tried to get in here three times, and always passed because of the 45min-1hr wait. Recommended by yoyo: Fruit and cream cheese-filled french toast. I'd go back for: The biscuit that looked like a gigantic popover.


Thai Iced Tea
Thai Iced Coffee
Nutella Babka
Banana Bread
Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies

Week 19

I had to skip out of town for a wedding so SZ and RML held it down at the stand for me. Thanks guys! Here is SZ's account of the day's action:

The chocolate chip Mandel Bread was a big hit this week. We sold out
of the 12oz bags fairly quickly, and nearly moved all of the
individual slices. The granola also got many compliments, although a
few people felt that it was too sweet. For whatever reason, none of
the usual coffee sellers were at the market today, so Berenbaum's had
a monopoly on coffee at the Market, which helped us to sell out
quickly. The weather was beautiful too, very sunny and hot, typical of
NC summers. Becca and Mike of Pie Pushers baked a fresh "Pace Car"
pizza (which was absolutely delicious) for the stand in return for
some baked goods. And as usual, every patron who stopped by
Berenbaum's left with a smile, thanks to Rufus' great customer

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Peak Oil

When I lived in Carrboro, I used to participate in a Meetup Group on Peak Oil.

Peak Oil predicts a future where transportation is more difficult, more costly, and the energy supply chain is more often disrupted than it is today.

Peak Oil does not have any prescriptions, or any immediate solutions. It's difficult to prepare for a future which has many unknowns.

Possible plans of action that I have brainstormed:
  • Network with people to create a broad base of skills and interests.
  • Make a bunch of money.
  • Lead an organization.
  • Get into politics.
Can the bake stand help me do any of these things?

Week 18

Big up to Hilary S. on the new blog banner. Contact me if you would like to contract her for graphic design/logo work.

Sales were good this week. We sold everything save for 4 breads that we bartered with other vendors. The weather was amazing. About 75 degrees and sunny at 10AM.

Thanks to Billy for contributing his sourdough recipe to Berenbaum's. We started a 2-day starter-feeding process on Thursday night that ended with a delicious white bread with an awesomely fresh tang with a little bit of sweet in it. It was really fun to go through the process with you man. Next up, let's work on some French bread together.

Thanks to SZ for frying donuts for 2.5 hours in the wee hours of Sat. morning.

Thanks to Nate, the Marvelles, RG, EC, SG, and yoyo for coming through.

Thanks to RML and SZ for working the stand. You guys are always so good with the customers, answering their questions about why we do what we do; you always amaze me with your patience and hospitality.

Thanks to Becca and Mike of Piepushers for bartering baked goods for slices. We love what you do.


Thai Orange Juice

To each cup of orange juice, add .5 teaspoon sugar (large pinch) and 1/16-1/8 teapspoon salt (small pinch). Stir well to dissolve.

Billy's Englewood Sourdough (Adapted Version)

Start with 3 cups of active liquid starter.

In the evening, add 8 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and .5 cup of sugar. Mix.

First thing the next morning, add 16 cups of flour, 11 cups of water, and .5 cup of sugar. Mix.

By that evening, the starter should be foamy, bubbling, and active. Add to the accumulated starter 20.5 pounds of flour, 4 ounces of instant yeast, 14 cups of water, 4.5 cups of sugar, 4.5 cups oil, and 14 T salt. Mix and knead. Allow 3 hours to rise, then divide into loaves, proof, score, and bake (for 1-lb loaves, bake at 380 for 29 minutes, using steam to aid the oven rise).

Billy with Sourdough in oven