Monday, April 28, 2008

Chicago, Chicago that toddling town

We just got back from a great, really productive trip to the Global Food & Style Expo in Chicago. I think I may have mentioned this before, but this is a trade show produced by the National Association for Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), Organic Trade Association (OTA) and the National Association for State Departments of Agriculture. The Spring Fancy Food Show was part of this event and since we are going to be exhibiting at the Summer Fancy Food Show in June in NY, we thought we should get a better idea of how the show is laid out, what the booths look like as well as the overall ambiance in the convention center.

My mom and I were talking on the 8 hour, toll-ridden drive back to Pittsburgh and we were both really happy that we made the trip. Now we know just how much we're going to have to step up our game in NY!

I kid you not when I say that the show floor is a foodie's paradise- thousands upon thousands of feet of artistically displayed foods & beverages and almost every booth enticing you to try a free sample. And it is really hard to to say no. Really, really hard to say no, especially when it's delicious stuff like pheasant pate, organic fair-trade chocolates and Italian blood orange juice.

There was so much to see, but I think we did a good job of covering ground. If you ever go to one of these types of events though, the term "pace yourself" really applies. As delicious as they were, I'm pretty sure I overkilled on
the samples.

Another highlight of the show was a keynote by Bobby Flay. Having eaten at Mesa Grill and Bolo (if you go, the dessert tapas are a must!) and being an avid Food Network viewer, it was interesting to hear him talk about his experiences as a chef, restaurant owner and entrepreneur. He was refreshingly honest and charming. To sum up his talk: do what you love, love what you do- not for the prospects of fame or fortune (i.e. to get your own television show), but because you are passionate about it and you really care.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It Looks Like.....

. . . . . a Peep!

. . . . . a frowny face.

If we collect enough these funny looking cookies,
I just may start a museum.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ushering in Spring and The Sewickley Farmers Market

Our stall at the Sewickely Farmers Market.

This past Saturday was the first day of the Sewickley Farmers Market. It was a beautiful day- sunny, blue skies and air that was cool, crisp and refreshing. Spring has definitely announced its arrival in Western Pennsylvania, and not a moment too soon! I was all but ready to throw out my long johns in protest of the frigid weather we've had for the past four months.

The Sewickley Farmers Market is located in the parking lot of St. James Parish, which is located very close to downtown Sewickley. If you've never been to Sewickley before, it is a charming, picturesque suburb of Pittsburgh that include some really beautiful Victorian homes, impressive mansions and a main street so cute you might think you were on a movie set or in Cape Cod. In fact, the 1995 film "Houseguest," starring Sinbad, was set in Sewickley and much of the film was shot on location. Sure, this seems a little obscure, but who doesn't love Sinbad?

Back to the market. Since it is early spring and we have been having pretty cold weather, many of the farmers that sell their fruits, vegetables and flowers at the market haven't been able to harvest their crops just yet, so there were only five other vendors there this past weekend. But we were pleasantly suprised by the good turnout, despite the fact that not all booths were present. There were lots of people walking their dogs, riding bikes and running errands, who stopped to try a sample or pick up a box of our cupola cookies or cupola clouds. The individuals we spoke with were also very supportive of our initiative to donate 10% of our sales proceeds to the anti-hunger non-profit organization Share Our Strength.

Over the next few weeks the Market will begin to fill out a bit and I'm sure we can expect to get even more visitors at our booth!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Farm to Table: A Recipe For A Healthy Pittsburgh

Last week, my mom, Theresa and I attended a conference held downtown called Farm To Table, which aims to bring together local farms, businesses and individuals that support sustainable agriculture and the local food movement in the Pittsburgh area. We had never been to this event before, but thought it would be interesting to attend, since we are part of the small business community here and also sell our baked goods at a local farmers market.

The conference was set up in a hall where attendees could visit the exhibitor booths. Exhibitors included local farms, food purveyors and organizations involved in nutrition, health and wellness. Since this is only the second year for the event, the number of exhibitors will probably grow in the coming years. It was nice that the hall was set up like an indoor farmers market, so you could mosey from booth to booth.

I think what we enjoyed most about the conference though, were the seminars that were held throughout the event. With the regular cost of admission, we were welcome to attend any of these talks, with topics that ranged from the importance of organic foods to sustainability and the consumer.

My favorite seminar was called "Steps Towards Developing a Sustainable Business,” and was given by the Director of Sourcing and Sustainability for Eat n’ Park Hospitality Group, which owns and operates a food service company as well as a large number of restaurants in the region.

Even though our company is technically not a foodservice business and we don’t operate in the restaurant industry at the moment, it was really informative to hear specifically how a large company working within the food industry is making strides to become more and more sustainable. And hopefully, once our company gets a bit bigger, we could apply similar initiatives to our day to day operations. Some steps, such as implementing energy efficient lighting, are things we can do right now. I also learned just how innovative those Europeans are when it comes to using resources as smartly and efficiently as possible. They have even come up with a way to harness methane from farms and use it to generate energy (fuel and electricity).

All in all, an environmentally enlightening experience.