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.