Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One little happy...

Slowly, but surely, we are growing. 
A few weeks ago, we officially hired our first intern!!  Woo Hoo!!

I would like to warmly welcome Marita to the Brooklyn Treat Shoppe family.

Marita is amazing.  She is, not only, willing to selflessly give her time to us on her days off from her "real job" but, in the short time she's been working with us, she's taught me so much about Indian culture, foods, spices and positivity.

Fascinatingly enough, Marita grew up on a coconut farm in India. She can build a hut out of banana leaves, make her own rope, start a fire with a rock and make kick-ass chai! 

If ever stranded on a dessert island, I hope to have Marita with me. ;P

Her stories of India are incredible and bring a whole new perspective into the kitchen. She makes me realize that when things go wrong, I can just smile through it.  I like that.

Best of all, Marita has been helping our production line move sooooooooo much faster!

Thank you, Marita, for everything you give to me and Brooklyn Treat Shoppe and WELCOME to our family!

Me, Marita and Chris @ Mr. Cyclone Contest in Coney Island 8/7/10

While Brooklyn Treat Shoppe continues to grow, I want to take a moment to thank all of my friends - new and old alike. Each and every one of you have given so much - with only BTS's success in mind.

There are a few of you who hang out in the wings just to listen to me vent about all the things that frustrate me about doing most of this alone and there are those of you who gussy up in your BTS shirts to sell my product as if it were your own.

To each and every one of you, I send out a gigantic THANK YOU.

All of your help and support has made me realize that I am NOT doing this alone and this isn't MY product. It's ours.

This is exactly why I say this is a "family owned and operated" business.

While my blood relatives do a great deal to make the gears of BTS move smoothly (and I am beyond grateful to have their help!), you really don't have to be my blood in order to be my family.

It makes me beam to hear all of you push and promote Brooklyn Treat Shoppe as a product you seriously believe in.

Your support is what keeps me going when quitting isn't an option.  Each of you hold a special place in my heart.


Monday, June 21, 2010

"Why a Mason Jar??"

Ahhh - I've been asked this so many times. Everyone wants to know why we package our cookies in mason jars - Here's a little history....

Growing up, I never really believed I had a huge sense of where I came from - culturally.

It was only when I reached high school or even college that I realized just how much Italian culture was infused into my personality through out my life. And, of course, being an Italian American, many signs of my culture are expressed through food.

It's only in the last 10 years of my life that I've realized - not everyone has a room in the basement called "the wine cellar" and most people don't have capacola curing somewhere in the house. I've also learned that most wine bottles have labels on them and weren't made in someones backyard. However, in my family (and most Brooklyn Italian families) all of this is completely normal.

So, back in the day, we used to have traditional Sunday dinner as a family. If you're not familiar with the term, this is when every person in the family gets together - usually at Grandma's house and eats crazy amounts of pasta and meat while speaking as loudly as they possibly can.

As everyone's gotten older and busier, this tradition has drifted out of our weekly schedule but, the one thing that stays every time we do get together is the sauce...Tomato Sauce - some call it gravy or red gravy but as far as I can remember, we called it sauce.

The stuff is like liquid gold. I could eat a whole loaf of bread before dinner's served just standing over the pot as it cooks - dipping small pieces of bread in for "just a taste" - Grandma usually smacks me, shouting "get outta hea" before I can eat more than 2 pieces....sigh.

Before that liquid gold makes it to the pot and all of those bright red tomatoes have a chance to carmalize, they would always come from a mason jar.

Most people buy their tomotoes for sauce from the grocery store in a can. Not us. We make our own.

When I was a kid, we would all gather at my grandparent's house for a day or two in August/September - tomato season. We'd go to the basement where there would be a sparkling red sea of tomatos. 

Bushels and bushels of 'em already cleaned and set out on tables to dry. We would all grab a knife and a cutting board and get to canning, or "jarring", our tomatoes for the year.

It was a long, messy and hot process - usually involving a whole lot of boiling water - but, it was totally worth it when it came time to make that sauce. 

This annual ritual is something I will never forget.

As I look back, it's not just the tomatoes that were in those mason jars. Each member of my grandfather's family seems to have one or two things they specialize in when it comes to preserved food. One of my Great Aunts makes preserved peaches that are to die for while another makes preserved eggplant salad and so on.

There were seven children in my grandfather's family - back in "the old country". They grew up on a farm and ran the local grocery. They were poor and had to make due with what they were given.

Today, those acts of necessity have turned into honored traditions that I pay homage to with my cookie packaging.

But, it doesn't end with our cookies. Looking at these mason jars everyday inspired me to go back to my roots with Brooklyn Treat Shoppe as an outlet.

So, needless to say, I'm crazy excited and super proud to bring you the first of many preserved items now available on our menu!

....and, our "Fresh Strawberry Jam" is just the beginning! 

With the summer officially here and local farms overflowing with super fresh fruits, we're hustling to get these old family recipes on our market tables. 

NEW Brooklyn Treat Shoppe Jam is made with local fruit and is slow cooked in small batches.
We watch very closely as the fruit slowly thickens over a low flame.  You'll never find additional pectin or preservatives in these products.
This time consuming process is totally worth it - just like the tomatos.

Jam Flavors currently available are:

Fresh Strawberry Jam
Blueberry Citrus Spread
Olde Time Apple Butter

NEW Brooklyn Treat Shoppe Artisanal Fruit Concentrates are excellent to have on hand when you're having a BBQ or get together.
Add water, to taste, and in seconds, you have a refreshing summer beverage.  Everyone will think it took you hours to make it. 
Get creative - add seltzer for a spritzer or some booze to make things even more interesting!

Artisanal Fruit Concentrates currently available:

Hand Squeezed Lemon-Limeade
Strawberry Mint Lemonade

Our concentrates are made with local fruit when possible and are never ever frozen. All the citrus is hand squeezed with just a touch of sugar added to sweeten the deal.

In the next week or so, we will be updating our website to include these new items on our menu. 

However, readers of this blog can get a sneak peek this week!! 
We're stocked with cases of preserves and heading to the markets.

Find our table June 24th through June 27th at St. Bernadette's Spring Festival - 13th Ave & 82nd st. Brooklyn, NY 11228


Be sure to visit us Sunday, 6/27 at the Kings County General Store at Southpaw in Park Slope, Brooklyn - 125 Fifth Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11217. 

Kings County General Store is a monthly market with Brooklyn based designers, artists, food companies and shops. 

We want to add this to our regular market schedule so, please stop by and show us your support!

I hope you enjoyed this bit of family history. 
We have a lot planned for Summer 2010,  so stay in touch!

Ciao for now,

Friday, June 4, 2010

A day in the life of small business...

As business picks up, things tend to get crazier. This is a good thing......this is a good thing. I have to keep reminding myself.

I'm exhausted. But, it's the good kind of tired that puts me in a good mood and makes me smile when I think of all I've accomplished through out the day.

My day usually begins with a messenger bag full of cookie jars on my back and a cases of mason jars dangling from each of the handle bars of my bike as I make cookie deliveries around the neighborhood. From there, I'll head straight to the baking supply shop (luckily there's one right in my neck of the woods!) or, I'll hit the grocery store for some last minute odds and ends.

My favorite days are when I get to head to the local farmer's markets.
Since I was a kid, I've always loved the amazing colors and smells of the farmer's market. Picking out fruits and veggies for the week's confections is more like a vacation for me.

Next, I'm off to bake - which has actually become the easier part of my days. My youngest brother, Chris, has been in town so, it's nice to have him and Michael in the kitchen together - cracking jokes and being jerks. Not only do they make super stressfull days more fun to deal with, they work really hard to get cookies packaged, dishes washed and cheesecakes cut. (Thanks again guys!)

That's it, right?? The day's over. Uh, no silly, guess again.

This is when it feels like the day has only just begun. I suit up in my BTS t-shirt to events.
Sometimes we make the delivery and that's it but, usually, there is more to it than that. We love our customers and many have become friends. Lots of times, we are invited to stay for the festivities or, we're asked to "work the table". Lately, we've been doing lots of concession work and local markets so, that means, me, mom or someone else has to "man (or woman) the table" for sales, questions and conversations.

This is really my favorite part of the day. When I see someone smile - or giggle - because of something I created, it makes me smile and, smiling is seriously contagious. That is the biggest reward anyone can get from a day's work.

I've learned the hard way that this is kind of how it works when your business is starting from the ground up - You have to find a way to be everywhere at one time. I tend to feel like a one woman show that has a run time of 24 hours but, the helping hands and hearts of friends and family is a very welcomed reminder that I'm not in this alone.

Rarely do I sleep. So, the state of delirium has become a natural one for me. However, I often think of where Brooklyn Treat Shoppe was a year ago.
I was working out of the tiny kitchen in my shoebox apartment making sculpted cakes - now we call it CakeArt. Never did I imagine just of how different things would be only a year later.

I look forward to the day when I can tell someone who is willing to listen about how "I walked through snow and ice with two cases of mason jars on each arm just to make a dollar"....Betcha they won't believe me anyway.

Ahhhh - one day....

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Recipe Block??

Sometimes, I find myself in a bit of a freeze. I wonder if I've exhausted my imagination and am no longer able to create new and exciting flavors.
This is part of the challenge of running a kitchen alone. I rarely have someone to bounce ideas off of and so I begin to feel that I've hit a block...a recipe block.

This week was one of those times. I have been trying to dream up new flavors for the menu and add some more spunk to what Brooklyn Treat Shoppe already offers. But, I kept tripping over the same cliché "classic" flavors. Nothing new was coming to mind and I was starting to get really frustrated.

I had a meeting scheduled with the players of Theatre Askew's Youth Performance Experience (TAYPE). While I was excited about the meeting, I was (honestly) a little apprehensive about what I could offer them since I was smack in the middle of this "recipe block".

The production they're currently working on is titled "Home/Away". Where they explore the question - "When you think of home, what feelings, associations, and memories arise for you?" 
When I saw the video trailer and read more about the play, I decided, Brooklyn Treat Shoppe HAS to be involved.

I work so closely with the concept of home in my day to day. The concept of “home” is important to me – personally and to my business. In dreaming up the flavor concepts for our menu, I always have to realize that “home” is different for everyone. So, naturally, not only am I a fan of this production’s message, I wanted to give to their community and help them spread their message.

With the support of the directors and playwright, Brooklyn Treat Shoppe will be selling at the concession during their performance dates (May 26th through the 30th)**.
I wanted to make this a sensory interactive experience for their audience.  The flavors for sale on our table to be a nod to their characters lifestyle and/or culture.

When I explained my idea to them their eyes lit up as they imagined what flavors bring them back to what they considered home.  These kids blew me away!

Since I come from an Italian/American household, it's tough for me to think outside of that cultural box when it comes to flavors of home. These young people brought me into their homes and into their lives for just a short period of time and allowed me to see what flavors make them the happiest.

Some of them responded with an over the top and highly intense memory of flavors their mom's used to put together and others really had to dig hard to find the food that brings them back to a special place. This was just a small glimpse into how very different home is for each of us.  I walked out of my meeting with them totally inspired. They completely changed my outlook on flavors in a matter of moments.

I'm absolutely looking forward to working with everyone who is involved with TAYPE! I look forward to seeing the production and getting a complete look into these character’s homes.

A special thanks goes out to Lambie, Eleet, Luis, Andrea, MariaIsabel and Titi for getting me out of the block and allowing me to face full frontal flavors! You are all really amazing people.  Thank you.

Keep your eyes peeled for our newest flavors inspired by what each of them feels is a taste of home.
Tickets for these performances are FREE.  So, get on it!
See you at the theater!

**Brooklyn Treat Shoppe will be donating a portion of our profits from these events to the future of TAYPE.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Coney Island USA Fundraising Gala & Brooklyn Exposed Event

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of promotional events and market boosting but, as tiring as it's been, it's all turning out to be worth it. 

We have a great deal of new and exciting things on the horizon but, it is still a little premature for us to go shouting things off the, in the meantime, we will keep you on the edge of your seats and fill you in on some pretty cool stuff that has taken place in Brooklyn Treat Shoppe's world over the last few weeks.

On March 25th, we sponsored the Coney Island USA's Spring Fundraising Gala where all proceeds went directly towards funding CIUSA’s many unique programs as well as the fight to preserve Coney Island’s historic amusement district.

Coney Island has a great deal of spirit.  My mother and her family lived there when she was a child right above the famous Totonno's Pizzaria on Neptune Ave. My Father's parents were winners of Dance Contests in the late 1930's/early 1940's and many of my grandmother's famous stories took place either on the beaches of Coney or on her trolley rides from Sunset Park to the Boardwalk.

As a magical place that welcomed our family so many years ago, we felt the need to step up to the plate and help make this event as fabulous as it possibly could be.  Our intent was to do everything we could to help keep the magic alive.  With that, this was the debut appearance of the Brooklyn Treat Shoppe Girls - and they are officially here to stay! 

You can now hire the Brooklyn Treat Shoppe Girls to pass our treats out at YOUR next event!

We maintained a pin-up vibe while we schmoozed and passed out bitesized cupcakes and cheesecakes to the VIP's - including Queen Mermaid Laurie Anderson & King Neptune Lou Reed (!!!) - and the general admission crowd alike.  We were delighted with the way the crowd took to us - making us feel like Coney Island celebrity!

You can see more pictures of the Coney Island USA's 2010 Spring Fundraising Gala - including images of all  the performers at CIUSA's Flickr page.

We had such a blast working with Coney Island USA and hope to be working with them again in the near future...keep your eyes peeled...we're just sayin' ;)

As if working with Coney Island USA wasn't enough, we also sponsored Brooklyn Exposed's Website Launch event on April 7th at Littlefield in Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood.

Brooklyn Exposed is your guide to everything Brooklyn!  Think of a Yelp or CitySearch for Brooklyn - and Brooklyn alone! 
We were so happy to meet so many Brooklyn foodies and share our bite sized cheesecakes with them.  (OK, OK, we were even happy to meet the foodies from other boroughs too!)

Please take a moment to check out Brooklyn Treat Shoppe's review page at Brooklyn Exposed and write a little review about us. We would totally appreciate it!

We also took this opportunity to introduce Brooklyn to our brand new flavor..........

Strawberry Banana Cheesecake
A creamy banana cheesecake over a crunchy graham cracker crust topped with our homemade strawberry jam. 

This is the first in our new line of cheesecakes featuring our homemade jams, jellies and preserves.

As you can  see, we've got lots of wheels turning.  So, stay in touch with us as we continue to bring you the best Brooklyn's got to dessert form!

Ciao for now,

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Family Owned and Operated Since 2009

What's it like to run a family owned and operated businees, you ask?  HA!  You couldn't even imagine.

Grandma helps wash the dishes, brother's scoop cookies - and then some - mom is learning to drive "like she has a cake in the car", dad is the official/unofficial "Regional Sales Driector".

And me?  Well...I bake, take care of the marketing, create new recipes, test said recipes and am becoming an all around pro at being just like Bugs Bunny in that episode where he plays baseball..."Bugs Bunny at the plate, Bugs Bunny pitches the ball...he swings...Bugs is in right field" eh - you get the drift.

Are you sorry you asked what a family business is like?  Don't be. 

With all of it's intense family drama (uh - did I mention we are all hot blooded Italians?!) at the end of the day, it brings us all closer and is teaching us how to communicate with each other on a totally different, EVERY 20 minutes! 

I always appreciate the days when my brother Michael comes to the kitchen to help out.  Someone that never baked before in his life - other than a store bought mix - is now learning a brand new skill set...and he's damn good at it too! 

We blast the music - sing and dance and seriously have a really awesome the end of the day we step back and see just how much more we accomplished than planned while having so much fun...most importantly, together. 

This awesome bonding experience has taught me just how much the members of my family share.  Personality traits, similar laughs or even the way we all say certain words the same...gotta love that Brooklyn accent! 

It all reminds me of why I started this buisness to begin with.  Home.  As cliche as it sounds, it all goes back to home.

So...this blog thing is new to me but, join me and Brooklyn Treat Shoppe on this journey. 
Laugh with us, cry with us and most of all - eat with us!
Ciao for now,