Sunday, December 6, 2009

Baby It's Cold Outside.....

I saw these lovely berries on a tree in my neighborhood and they reminded me of little ornaments. Festive, no?

Wow. Has it really been 4 months since my last post? How time flies!

I can't believe it's already December. It's officially winter here in Western Pennsylvania. We actually had some snow yesterday- the first we've had all year, I think. It didn't accumulate, so it was festive without being too much of a nuisance.

We've been so busy these past couple months. To give you an idea, I actually just threw out the pumpkin that was sitting in front of our house for the past two months. I have a feeling a Christmas tree purchase may still be weeks away.

In the meantime, enjoy this clip from one of my all-time favorite holiday movies:

One year when I was in college, my mom purchased a small artificial pine tree and trimmed a bunch of the branches off so there were only about 6 or 7 left. She decorated it with a bunch or really colorful ornaments. When I came home for the holiday break, it was waiting for me in my room! She told me it was my very own Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree. One of my fondest holiday memories!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Heating things up in the kitchen

Summer daisies are in full bloom here in PA.

It actually hit 90 degrees in Pittsburgh today! It's funny because everyone up here feels like today was sweltering, especially since we've had such a mild summer and virtually no humidity. (Sorry people down south- I'm not trying to make you jealous, I swear!)

But when I was growing up in Virginia, we thought we were incredibly lucky if we had 90 degree weather in August. I remember breaking a sweat just walking from the mall to the car. I also don't miss the mosquitos- lots and lots of mosquitos that yielded lots and lots of bug bites as a I recall.

When the weather outside is just a bit warmer and you're in a commercial kitchen with multiple ovens on at over 300 degrees, you can definitely feel the difference though. We started baking extra early this morning and luckily, we finished just before noon, which was great, since noon is one of the hottest times of the day.

I stumbled on a charming little piece on CHOW called "Julia Says: Wise words from the great sage of American cooking". It definitely made me smile.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Julie & Julia

I'm sure you've all seen or heard the hype surrounding the new film "Julie & Julia," starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. As a self-admitted Nora Ephron junkie (Who couldn't love the neuroticism of Meg Ryan's character in When Harry Met Sally or that precocious kid in Sleepless in Seattle?), I gravitated towards this movie when I first saw the trailer.

I've always admired Julia Child from afar but have not really had much of an experience with her recipes or her show. I know it sounds a little silly, but I think I'm going to hold off on watching the film until I have a more first hand experience of Julia Child in general. My reasoning is that I don't want my impression of who she is as a chef and person to be affected by the characterization of her in the film. Call me a purist, but this woman is a culinary legend and I feel like it would be a little unjust for my first real encounter with her and her cooking to be based on a movie. And on that note, as anyone out there seen the film yet? I'd be curious to hear what you thought of it.

What I do love about the film already is that it has brought Julia Child to an audience that perhaps would have been content with being entertained and educated about cooking by the celebrity chefs of today. Case in point- I was at Target yesterday and next to each other on a shelf were the books "Julie & Julia" by Julie Powell and "Mastering The Art of French Cooking," by Julia Child.

It has made those who have only heard the name Julia Child in passing, curious about the woman behind the name and has provoked discussion about the way we used to cook and eat and what has or has not changed. One example is this stirring (no pun intended!) article that Michael Pollan wrote for The Times Magazine, entitled "Out of Kitchen, Onto the Couch". It's a long one, but if you get a chance, check it out- I think you'll find it thought provoking. It will definitely give you something to chew on.

I did find some clips of Julia Child on YouTube though! See her make an omelette on her show, The French Chef, below.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer Fancy Food Show- Richard Avedon Style. . . .

... just kidding. No Richard Avedon photos here, but here are some shots we took while we were in New York for the Summer Fancy Food Show.


A side view of our booth

Long view of our booth- colorful and spacious, no?

Jean (one of my best friends from college) came up to help us work the show and staff our booth. Thanks Jeannie!

Staffin' our booth....

Speaking of photographers, did you hear that Annie Leibovitz is in financial trouble and is at risk of losing her homes and the rights to her work? I love her photography and saw a wonderful exhibit of her work at the Corcoran Gallery several years back. I hope she can work her finances out- she's worked so hard over the course of her career and I can't imagine what it must feel like as an artist, to be in jeopardy of losing it all.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Do what you love and love what you do

One thing I've missed a lot since I've started our business is the extra time I used to have to watch films and go to theatre, like I used to do when I was living in New York.

But every now and then, I think back to those lazy Saturdays and Sundays when I used to meet up with friends at the Loews Kips Bay or the Sunshine for a documentary. Then there was the time I camped out at the Public Theater box office in Astor Square for 10 hours- (starting at 3 a.m.!) to get free tickets to see Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline in Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children." Definitely one of the most memorable and thought provoking, that I've ever attended.

Even as busy as we are now, I still try to find ways to balance work and everything. I'm not married and don't have kids, so I try to spend time with my friends when I can. I might not be able to go out as much as I used to, but I've figured out other ways to continue my hobbies. I just watched a really inspiring movie called "Spirit of the Marathon" on Hulu. The documentary profiles 6 different runners who are participating in the Chicago marathon. I thought it was simultaneously inspiring, tragic and hopeful. To me, one of the most important points of the film was that the marathon can be seen as a metaphor for life and I think many marathon runners feel the same way. The idea that to challenge yourself to complete a 26 mile race is to challenge yourself in life and to continue to be determined, have optimism and faith (spiritual or otherwise), that at the end of the day, you're going to cross that finish line.

Yes, I know, you're saying right now that I should never go into reviewing films for a living and I agree with you, wholeheartedly.

But really guys, check out the film if you get a chance- at the very least you will feel like getting up and doing something when you're done!

Saturday, August 1, 2009



What, do you say, is lucuma? It was the one thing I left off of our top picks from the Fancy Food Show and probably my most favorite find of all. Silly me.

Lucuma can be described as a unique, delicately flavored tropical fruit native to South America and can primarily be found in Peru and Chile. It looks something like a cross between a mango and avocado. Round in shape, it is very verdant on the outside, with a flesh that has a beautiful golden yellow-orange color. While at the show, I tasted both lucuma ice cream and lucuma flour (basically dried ground lucuma, which you can add to baked goods, yogurt, smoothies or anything to which you would add a fruit topping). I'm enfatuated with the flavor- I really think it tastes like something of a cross between a mango and avocado with a little hint of vanilla thrown in.

Fresh lucuma has been a rareity in the U.S. up until now, but based on what we heard at the show, the U.S. is making a big push to import the fresh fruit, so maybe you'll be seeing these little guys at your local store soon!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Our Top Picks from the Summer Fancy Food Show

Our second year exhibiting at the Summer Fancy Food Show went just as well, if not better than the first! I still need to upload the photos of our booth, but I'll post these soon.

I was telling my mom the other day that something about attending events like these, where we have a booth, exhibit our products and talk to attendees about our company is so invigorating. My description makes the event sound like a shower or something, but I really do feel even more inspired and motivated after returning from the show. You really have to be there, at the Javits Center at noon on the first day of the show to really understand what I mean.

Last year, my mom and I manned our booth for basically 7 straight hours during each of the 3 days of the show. This year though, my good friend Jean was so kind, and offered to come up from Washington D.C. to help staff our booth, which meant we all could have a couple more breaks than last year and more time to explore what other exhibitors had to offer as well.

Here is a list of our favorite finds, in no particular order:

1) KIND bars- Delicious and healthy fruit and nut bars with unique combinations like Apricot Almond, Mango Macadamia and Almond Cashew.

2) Black garlic- Fermented under high heat for one month, this garlic has all the health benefits but without the strong smell or harsh after taste. Personally, I like regular garlic because of the smell and the after taste! But my mom could not stop talking about the black garlic the entire time we were at the show and we did bring home a couple cloves of it with us. Now we just have to figure out how to cook with them!

3) Tasmanian cheeese- I'm a bit upset that I don't remember the name of the cheese or the company that made this cheese, but it was by far, the best I tasted at the show. And believe me, there was a lot of cheese. What I do remember is that this cheese was handmade in Tasmania with whole milk and it resembled Brie, except it was so flavorful! Midway through tasting this cheese, I got this very distinctive peppery taste that gave the cheese a little kick.

4) Baconnaise- It really didn't sound appetizing to me at first, but there has been so much hype around bacon salt and baconnaise (both products are produced by the same company), that I had to try it. I kid you not when I say that I was so surpised- it has a great smoky flavor that I would definitely use for sandwiches, burgers or even add to a salad dressing. Try the Lite Baconnaise-it's only 30 calories per serving.

5) Rozendal Vinegars- These earthy and exotic wine vinegars are made in South Africa. My mom loved the Lavender vinegar, which is made with organic lavender grown right on the Rozendal farm.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer is the season for fancy food

I'm writing to you from the Big Apple. Actually, Clifton, New Jersey, which is where we've been staying for the past couple of days since we've been exhibiting at the 2009 Summer Fancy Food Show. Today was our last day at the show and it has been a great run!

I'm about to head to bed because it has been a pretty exciting, yet exhausting couple of days and we are driving back to Pittsburgh first thing tomorrow, but I'll be writing about our experiences at the show later this week.

This was our second year exhibiting at the show and it never ceases to amaze me, the amount innovation and creativity is out there in the food industry. It's so inspiring and it really makes my mom and I want to keep finding ways to improve our products and come up with new ones.

I'll be back to chat soon!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nostalgic Memories of My New York Kitchen

While I was living in New York, I got used to reading certain publications and even after I moved away, never really broke the habit. A couple of the pubs: The New York Times, New York Magazine and The New Yorker. Mostly, I peruse the websites of these pubs, rather than picking up a hard copy, although, given the state of the newspaper industry these days, I'm feeling a bit guilty about this and probably should purchase an issue every now and then.

Each of these pubs catered to a different facet of my life in New York- The New York Times has always been my source for the hard news- this is where I would turn to for any breaking events, like the time the entire city smelled like maple syrup and people worried that it might be some kind of subtle attack on Manhattan. (Not to worry- turns out that this smell wafted over from Jersey, from a company that manufactures fragrances.)

New York Magazine was where I turn to get my dose of the arts and pop culture, while still feeling like I'm educating myself. And their reviews of NY restaurants and bars are really reliable. I like that they try to cater to those on smaller budgets (i.e. me) in addition to the 5th Ave. crowd.

Opening the New Yorker and reading the table contents makes me feel well read. The stories are prolific and eloquent. Plus, their cartoons are hilarious.

Which brings me to a recent find I made in the Video section of the New York Times website. There is a short video series called kitchen 4B. In it, NY Times recipe tester and writer Jill Sanpietro shows how to make recipes in her apartment with an extremely tiny kitchen. Here's her latest video on how to make risotto:

I'm hooked on this video series- it's unpretentious, really entertaining and really reminds me of what it was like to cook and entertain in the smallest of spaces. One year, three of my good friends and I made a complete Thanksgiving dinner for 8 people in our tiny apartment. We were amazed at how we were able to pull this off in such a tight space, but in the end, I think the meal was that much more delicious because it was such a challenge.

Never again in my life will I take counter space or a dishwasher for granted.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Like A Food Network Star (almost)

Last Sunday, my mom and I participated in a Gluten-Free Day that was hosted by the brand new Whole Foods in Annapolis Maryland. We were on the store floor handing out samples of our Cupola Cookies & Clouds for a couple hours, and then, we did an hour-long cooking demonstration in the store's fantastic Culinary Center!

During our cooking demonstration, we made three short recipes (two appetizers and a dessert) that featured our products. The Culinary Center kitchen was state of the art- it was a lot fun to be able to use all these shiny new appliances- definitely a "kid in a candy store" kind of a moment for me. And on some very basic level, now I know what it would be like to have your own cooking show, like Paula, Giada or Martha.

Here's a list of the recipes we made:

1) Parmesan Endive Boats

2) Artichoke Canapes

3) Summer Fruit Trifle with Quinoa Custard

If you'd like a copy of any of the recipes above, feel free to send me an email here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lessons Learned From The Demise of Archway Cookies

Many of you are probably familiar with Archway cookies- they come in a signature red package that's hard to miss on grocery store shelves. Until I read the recent New York Times article "What Happened to Archway?", I had no idea that the company was in any kind of financial trouble.

It turns out that Archway had been having some major cash flow problems for months, and that in order to retain the financing they were receiving from Wachovia, the company cushioned its books with non-existent sales. In addition to what equates to accounting fraud, the company has been accused of providing defective or unsellable products to its distributors and retailers and then making it difficult for these business partners to receive credit on these orders.

What scares me is that, there must have been at least several executives who knew what was going on, yet turned a blind eye. By engaging in these kinds of activities, Archway let down its employees, its distributors and the retailers that carried its products. Archway's demise carries lessons that any small business can learn from, whether involved in the baked goods business or not. Despite being a 60-some year old company, it appears that all the high-quality and integrity associated with the Archway brand and its cookies disappeared in just a few short years or even months. Compromising the quality of your products and the relationships you have with your business partners is a sure fire way of decreasing the value and success of your company.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

100- Calorie Packs- RIP?

Mintel recently released a report stating that popularity and sales of 100-calorie pack snacks are declining. I'm sure you have also noticed that this type of packaging for cookies, crackers and other snacks have gradually been taking over store shelves, especially over the past year or so.

Have 100-calorie packs surpassed their high point in terms of popularity? I've occasionally purchased 100-calorie pack products, particularly when traveling, because I found this was a really neat and convenient way to have a snack. But I agree that price-wise, you do get more value from purchasing regular sized packages of these items and portioning them out yourself.

The report also examines something I found really interesting- the idea that these pre-portion snack packs actually facilitate overeating.

What are your thoughts on 100 calorie snack packs? Do you buy them? Why or why not?

Check out the Brandweek article about 100 calorie packs: 100-Calorie Packs Pack It In

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Barberries- An Interesting Find

We just got back from doing a round of product demos in the Maryland this weekend. After one of our product demos in Silver Spring, my mom and I were trying to figure out what to do for dinner and stumbled across a small strip mall that had a Persian supermarket. We love Middle Eastern cuisine, although neither of us have had the chance to really learn much about Persian food.

This particular market would be a delight for any curious foodie. Dried fruits and nuts of all kinds, from imported pistachios and almonds to figs and mulberries were neatly displayed in bins along the walls. The store had a wonderful selection of dried herbs, not to mention some really beautiful fresh produce. While we were there, we picked up a very unique item- dried barberries.

Barberries are a rich scarlet color even when they've been dried.

Has anyone heard of barberries before? My first encounter with barberries was at this Persian market. I was browsing the selection of dried fruits and picked up a package of what looked like a cross between sundried tomatoes and cranberries. When I asked the woman at the cash register what they were, she told me that they were barberries, a fruit that is native to the Middle East and is very similar to a cranberry, but a tad more tart.

There is actually a traditional Persian rice dish called Zereshk polow (yup, I had trouble trying to pronounce this too). The dish sounds delicious- it's also made with chicken, saffron and pistachios. If you're curious about the recipe, feel free to check it out here. I think I might try this recipe for dinner one night this week, if we have time.

Wish me luck on my first foray into Persian cuisine!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quickbooks: A Love-Hate Relationship

One stereotype that I know I defy is this one: "Hey, you went to business school? You must be great crunching those numbers and a whiz in finance!" It's true that a lot of business school students end up in careers in accounting or finance, but I focused more on the marketing and sales aspect of business, which led to my foray into advertising in New York.

But it goes without saying that you can't have a successful business without keeping a strong pulse on the financial side of a company. Which brings me to my love-hate relationship with Quickbooks. Does anyone else feel the same way about this accounting software as I do?

Quickbooks is definitely a great tool for us to keep track of our sales and expenses since we don't have a CFO or an accountant (soon, though, I hope!). I feel like Quickbooks has so many bells and whistles though, and I haven't had time to figure out how to use them. One thing I need to do is to take at least one or two of the Quickbooks classes that are offered by the Small Business Development Center here in Pittsburgh. I'm hoping the classes will give me a better grasp of the program.

One feature I do love about Quickbooks is that you can automatically import your credit card and bank statements into the program- GENIUS. I'll be honest and tell you that I didn't actually know this feature existed for quite some time (that's what I get for not reading the instruction manual at the beginning) and was manually entering each line item from my statements into Quickbooks- a long and arduous process that I'm fairly sure caused the current case of eye strain I'm suffering from.

Despite the issues I have with Quickbooks, it saves me an incredible amount of time and money and was I think it's an entrepreneur's best friend during tax season!

Monday, May 18, 2009

And The Winner Is . . . .

Annabel Oakes!

Congrats Annabel- You have just won yourself a free case of Cupola Cookies from our May Giveaway! If you could send me an email ( with the address where you'd like your prize to be sent, we'll get them right to you. We hope you enjoy them, especially since this is your first time giving our Cupola Cookies a try.

We are planning on doing at least on giveaway like this per month, so keep your eyes peeled for the next one, which will be coming up in June.

Thanks again to everyone who entered!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Investor Splits- Not as delicious as the banana kind, but certainly more important.

Trying to get co-founders to agree to certain equity splits can be painful. Poor Curly.

Yesterday evening we attended a really interesting seminar on entrepreneur and investor equity splits. What are investor splits, you ask?

Splits are the various percentages of equity that each owner or investor in a company owns. Say Moe, Larry and Curly decide to start a company making whoopee cushions. They would need to decide what percentage of ownership each person will have in terms of equity, which can be defined as the amount of ownership in terms of stock (common or preferred).

As we found out yesterday, establishing the right split between the co-founders of a company is very important because ideally, as a company starts to grow, it will require additional funding, which will most likely come from an outside source or sources. These outside sources (i.e. venture capital firms or strategic investors) will be looking to receive their own portion of equity in exchange for the funds. This means that as the company grows, Moe, Larry and Curly can expect their percentages of equity to get diluted, or decrease.

I always thought that dilution could only be a negative thing, until the panelists at the event explained that there are two kinds of dilution:

1) structural dilution- related to company ownership in terms of %
2) economic dilution- related to ownership in terms of $$

Even if you experience a decrease in structural dilution, the idea is that as the co-founder of your company, economic dilution could lead to an overall monetary gain for you. Why? If your percentage of equity is worth more later down the line than it was when you first started the business, then technically, your share of the company is worth more money.

As we continue to grow our company, we know that we will have to secure some source(s) of outside funding, eventually. The topics covered by this panel provided us some really insightful pieces of information about preparing for additional investment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This is the first giveaway we're hosting on our blog and we're really excited! To start off, we're going to keep things super simple.

Want to win 1 free case of Cupola Cookies? (that's 12 whole boxes- we'll give you a mix of Chocolate Cashew, Espresso Walnut and Chai Pistachio flavors)

To enter to win, all you have to do is answer the following question:

How do you like to enjoy your favorite flavor of Cupola Cookies? For example, I love to crumble some Chai Pistachio Cupola Cookies on top of some Greek yogurt. Or, if you've never tried our cookies, give us a great reason for why you should win this free case.

To submit your answer, leave a comment on this post. The contest will last until midnight this Sunday, May 17th. We'll randomly pick a winner using the handy random number generator on and I'll announce winner this Monday.

On your mark. . . get set . . . post!

Monday, May 11, 2009

WiFi Whenever

Even though I don't necessarily have the must current tech gadgets, I love to keep up to date on the most innovative items out there on the market. It looks like Verizon and Novatel have just teamed up to create the Novatel MiFi 2200, the first personal cellular modem that will allow you to access the Internet anywhere- in the car, in the air, in the middle of the ocean! I think this little guy would be really handy for business trips- no more having to keep my eyes peeled for the next coffee shop with free wireless.

You can read more about the Novatel MiFi in a New York Times article here. There's also a short video of David Pogue (tech columnist from the Times) discussing the pros and cons of this little gadget that you can watch.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mum's The Word

Today is Mother's Day. I know I shouldn't need a special day to remember just how lucky I am to have a mother that has always been there for me and that I have had a chance to work together with for the past year and a half. But with the hectic lives we lead these days, Mother's Day has been a great way for me to really think about what an amazing experience starting this business with my mom has been. There are very few people I think who truly know me, inside and out- my mom and dad being two of these people. Both of my parents have always been there for me no matter what. I know that without my mom's creativity, determination and enthusiasm, our little company would not be where it is today. In my family, we always joke that I am a "glass half full" person, but my mom is a "glass overflowing" person- the eternal optimist who can find good in everyone, everything and every situation.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Puffins, How I Love Thee

This is a story about a little girl who loved Cap'n Crunch. Those crunchy golden nuggets of sweetness were often the best thing about getting up for school in the morning. Fast forward 20 years and I still love Cap'n Crunch- the original, no peanut butter or crunch berries, please.

But, I have found an alternative to Cap'n Crunch that is healthier and makes me feel like a grown-up. Because honestly, sometimes I need to remind myself that I am not still in school. I present to you....Puffins!

For years I had seen Puffins on the shelves of grocery stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, but never had a desire to try them. Finally, about a month ago I was at a natural foods store and they were having a special deal on the cereal- the display was practically ripped apart and bare, leaving just a couple boxes left. This really made me wonder what all the fuss was about. That many people can't be wrong, right? So curiosity made me cave and I tried them.

I kid you not when I tell you these little crunchy pillows of whole grain are addictive. With milk, without milk- either way, they are delightful. What I love most about them is that they are not too sweet and are low in calories- just 90 calories per serving (3/4 cup). As I've gotten older, I've shyed away from really sweet breakfast foods, cereal included. The crunchiness and golden sweet taste that, to me is what is most memorable about Cap'n Crunch also exists in Puffins, but on a milder level. I like it this way- it seems a bit more- natural. As an added plus, the shape of Puffins are similar to Cap'n Crunch. I'll stop ranting and raving about my new favorite cereal now.

But I can't wait until tomorrow morning when I can have it for breakfast again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Positive Feedback Feeds the Soul

Espresso Walnut Cupola Cookies dipped in dark chocolate fondue. This photo has nothing to do with today's blog posting, but I really liked it. Boy, I could go for some chocolate right about now.

Today we received a wonderfully kind email from a customer who recently tried our Cupola Cookies at a product demo we had in Pittsburgh. It's things like this that remind me and my mom why we started our business and just how much we love what we're doing. Despite some of the obstacles and challenges that we face as a small business trying to create a niche for ourselves in the market, it is really rewarding to get positive feedback about our products.

I know this all sounds a little cliche, but it's true. When I was working at my previous job in New York, it was nice to receive a compliment from my supervisor about the accuracy of a report or the attention detail put into a presentation, but for some reason, I value the bits of positive feedback we receive about our company or products now, so much more. Both my mom and I really take them to heart. I think this has to do with how passionately all entrepreneurs feel about what they create. Their businesses are like their babies. Just like mothers love their children blindly and unconditionally, the same is true for entrepreneurs and what they produce, whether it's the artist who created a painting that will eventually be sold at a gallery auction, the technology sophisticate who came up with another online phenomenon a la Twitter (which by the way I have not yet succumbed to) or in our case, yummy, all-natural and gluten-free baked goods.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


One thing I have learned throughout the process of starting up our business is that if you want to follow the proper procedures, legal fees can be a pretty substantial part of your start-up costs. You may be asking yourself, why is she writing about legal fees over a year and a half into running the business?

The thing is, legal costs will continue to exist as long as you have a business. At the beginning, we had start up legal fees, such as the cost of filing the organizational documents required to officially form our business as a LLC (Limited Liability Company).

Other business-related legal fees that may be required later down the line include filing for trademarks, in order to protect and have exclusive use of names for new products. From my perspective, one thing is for sure- I think you can emphasize too much, the importance of researching the proper legal procedures required for your specific business. Certain legal procedures may be necessary for some businesses and not for others, depending on the nature of your work. It's true that there will be larger upfront costs associated with doing this, but taking these steps and following the proper legal precautions may help save you a large amount of trouble (or in some cases, even a law suit) in the future.

Here are some online legal resources I find helpful when it comes to business-related issues:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Product Development- Culinary Experiments

We use our trusty KitchenAid mixer for most of our culinary experiments.

This morning was one of those magic days in my life. I woke up in a good mood, so energized and focused that I was able to visualize some recipes that I just knew would be successful. I went to the kitchen and started working with fruits and vegetables, following the recipes that were distinctive in my mind, step by step. One recipe after another, today they were all great. Not to mention they were delicious too. Since this was all part of the new product development process for us, I can't tell you what I made, but in the meantime, you can take a guess. Because of the work, the day went by fast. I had a good weekend and I hope you had one too!

Things Cookie Monster Doesn't Know About The Cookie Market

One of the things I try to do on a weekly, if not daily basis, is cull the specialty food, natural food and grocery industry publications to keep up to date on the newest developments in the business. I think this is really important because when you own a small business, it's really easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of making product, filling orders and balancing the books (which, I should mention is the bane of my existence).

When we get really busy, I try to remind myself that we don't operate in a bubble and that we're part of a much larger industry. We have to understand the bigger picture, in order to to really know how our company fits into that picture and how we can continue to create a niche for ourselves.

The research highlight of this week was a great analysis of the The Cookie Market from the National Association for Specialty Food Trade, which you can check out here. I know, I know, trade publications sound boring, right? But not in our business! At least I don't think so. Here are some highlights from The Cookie Market research piece that I guarantee you will find interesting (not to mention delicious). For example, did you know the cookie and cookie bar market is currently valued at $5.2 billion? Now that's a lot of cookies.

The findings below are based on a study conducted by Mintel International.

  • Women are somewhat more likely than men to experiment with types, flavors and brands of cookies
  • Adults aged 18-44 are very interested in trying new cookie types and flavors, but interest fades after 45
  • 58% of respondents eat cookies less than once a week. Consumption is highest for over-65s
  • Based on households polled, sandwich, soft chocolate chip and vanilla wafers are the most popular types of cookies in the U.S. Cupola Cookies will supplant one of these types by next year.
I should note that the last point about the Cupola Cookies wasn't actually part of the research findings, but we're pretty sure this is true...

Friday, May 1, 2009 Fresh Find for Foodies

I just stumbled upon this new, edgy website for foodies called I think it's a spin-off from Food Network's website (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) and is geared towards 20 and 30 somethings, although I think anyone who enjoys eating, drinking, cooking or baking would have a great time perusing the different features on the site. My favorite aspect of the site so far- the videos by The Amateur Gourmet, food blogger Adam Roberts. Even with as many food personalities as I know and, embarrassingly enough fawn over, like others follow Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, my first introduction to The Amateur Gourmet was watching these little clips.

I think what I love about these videos is their home-movie feel, combined with the kitschy humor and the fact that if something goes wrong, like when the homemade pasta he makes ends up sticking together in one segment, The Amateur Gourmet doesn't cover it up. In fact, it's part of the charm of the segments and I think, makes attempting to make pasta from scratch much less intimidating!

If you're curious, below is the Amateur Gourmet's segment on making Homemade Pasta.

Note the stark resemblance of the talking pasta boxes to the Fandangos, whose commercials I am not ashamed to admit I laugh through every time I'm at the movie theater.

On another note, it is also Freebie Friday on! Click here to figure out how you can win a bunch of "swag & doodads," which roughly translates to a cornucopia of gifts for foodies.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

EastPack- Just Like Unwrapped and Mr. Rogers

Whenever I catch Food Network's show, Unwrapped, I am always fascinated by the behind-the-scenes clips they show of the manufacturing facilities that make everything from Peeps to cereal and chocolate. Similarly, anyone remember the episode of Mr. Rogers, where he visits the Crayola factory to see how crayons are made? I think this was where it all started for me. There is something so entertaining and utterly amazing about seeing large, sophisticated and robotic-like machines neatly and quickly produce items, whether edible or not. If you missed this episode of Mr. Rogers, you can watch a video clip of happy little crayons moving down a conveyor belt below. Boy, I miss that red button down cardigan.

In about a month or so, we'll be heading to EastPack, which is one of the nation's largest trade shows related to packaging and learning more about automating manufacturing processes for a variety of industries, including food products. The prospect of seeing these machines live and in person is thrilling (nerd alert, I know) and what's even more exciting is the thought that we will be able to check out some equipment that will help us produce and package our Cupola Cookies & Clouds more efficiently. Here's a little preview of what we'll be seeing at EastPack (click on image below to view video clip), if you're curious. My favorite part is the robotic arm that's stacking the Legos!

Product Review- Melinda's Fab Life!

Looks like we're on a blogging roll this week. Melinda, from Melinda's Fab Life posted a review of our Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds today. Her favorites were our Smoked Gouda Cupola Clouds. You can check out Melinda's review here.

We've been really happy about receiving interest from many foodie bloggers about our products. Since our products are available only at a limited number of retail locations (mostly on the East Coast), it's been great to be able to share our products with curious folks in other parts of the country too!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Product Review- Running with a Recipe

We've been blogged! Sammie, from Running with a Recipe posted a fantastic review of our Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds- if you're curious, check it out here.

Thanks Sammie- we're glad that you were able to try our products in a variety of ways, including in your yogurt and on your salad (which, by the way, looked delectable- I wanted to reach right through my computer screen to take a bite!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama's Plan for Small Businesses

About a month ago, President Obama announced a $15 billion plan to help small businesses secure the loans that many have needed to keep their companies up and running. The plan was met with mixed reviews- some people felt the plan would be put into action quickly and enable companies who had previously been held at an operational stand still to pick up where they left off, while others felt the plan was a positive gesture, but that small businesses would not necessarily benefit as much as the administration proposed.

In the months leading up to the announcement by President Obama, many small businesses have been having trouble securing loans from banks in this economic downturn. Even those with stellar credit have been unable to get the cash needed to stay afloat. We experienced this first hand, after trying to apply for a loan late last year, only to find that even though we have a very good credit history, we would only be able to receive funds if we put my parents' house up as additional collateral. This was really the only option we were given, so in the end, we decided to hold off and self-finance for as long as we could.

Among the benefits outlined in this new plan to help small businesses:
(from "Obama vows to help small businesses," March 16, 2009,
  • Currently, the government guarantees up to 85 percent of SBA loans below $150,000, and up to 75 percent of larger loans. Under the administration's plan, the government temporarily will increase the loan guarantee to 90 percent as an incentive to banks to lend.
  • The second SBA program, the "504 program," guarantees up to $4 million worth of economic development projects for small businesses. The administration temporarily will eliminate fees for lenders and borrowers on any new 504 applications.
  • The administration also temporarily will eliminate the upfront fees for 7(a) loans that banks charge borrowers. These fees go up to 3.75 percent for larger loans.
We have yet to revisit the idea of securing additional funds through a bank loan, but I do wonder, if we were to approach our bank now, if perhaps there might be more opportunities for us to obtain funding.

Any of you entrepreneurs out there have a recent credit or loan experience (good or bad)? We'd welcome any thoughts or comments you might have on whether you feel the program put in place by the Obama administration is really working.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Something to Chew On- Edible Reads

You know how there are always those books that you hear about and make a mental note to pick up and read when you have time? I always feel like I'm doing this and then never getting around to actually reading them. When I go into a Barnes & Noble or Borders, my brain goes into overload because there are way too many titles I want to read that I lose track.

Below are the top 5 food-related books I'm planning on checking out sometime in the near future:

1) The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - I initially started reading this book last year, but got so busy I never finished it. This New York Times bestseller is summarized best in the synopsis provided on the author's site:

"In this groundbreaking book, one of America’s most fascinating, original, and elegant writers turns his own omnivorous mind to the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. To find out, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating. "

2) Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl- A charming, touching and honest account about acclaimed food writer Ruth Reichl's experiences with food in many contexts- among them, eating, cooking and entertaining.

3) My Life In France by Julia Child- The classic memoir by one of the world's most most beloved and heralded chefs.

4) The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg- From Publishers Weekly:

"Dornenberg and Page's follow up to their award-winning What to Drink With What You Eat certainly compliments its predecessor (part of the intent), but works equally well as a standalone reference for cooks of all skill levels. An alphabetical index of flavors and ingredients, the book allows readers to search complimentary combinations for a particular ingredient (over 70 flavors go well with chickpeas; over 100 are listed for oranges), emphasizing the classics (chives with eggs, nutmeg with cream, sardines and olive oil, etc.). . . Regional tastes are well-represented in broad entries for classic German and English flavors, as well as the more fine-tuned flavors of, for example, northern France or West Africa."

5) Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads by Nancy Baggett- I haven't tackled bread making yet and figured this book would be a good place to start.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mad About Mushrooms

All day yesterday we spent in Cleveland, to introduce our Cupola Cookies, all three flavors, at the Whole Foods in Cedar Center. I bought a bowl of the hot white chicken chili there and loved it.

We did a lot of walking around Shaker Square and the University area (Case Western University) . It was a beautiful day for a farmer's market, and in Shaker Square, there was one, with fresh vegetables, including mushrooms.

I was fascinated by the Blue Oyster and Lion's Mane mushrooms- they looked very fresh (firm and dry). I have never tasted such fresh Oyster mushrooms. I have cooked with Oyster mushrooms before, but not ones this fresh looking. So I bought some of the Oyster and the Lion's Mane.

Are these cotton balls? Nope- they're Lion's Mane mushrooms. Fluffy and white, when cooked they take on a meaty texture and have a rich flavor.

Being curious, I cooked these mushrooms, plus some left over fresh Shiitake mushrooms and the Japanese asparagus last night. The easiest saute never disappoints me. Take some slices of onions with 1 tbsp of olive oil, add in the cuts of asparagus and saute for 3 minutes (Japanese asparagus has tougher stems than the regular green asparagus). Lastly, add the mushroom mix, along with 1 tbsp of Memmi (Japanese noodle soup base that is a less salty version of soy sauce). The result was delicious. These two mushrooms are precious. They taste like meat, but with a lighter, fresher flavor, especially the Lion's Mane.

What a day!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Demo Road Trip- Whole Foods Cleveland

Whole Foods in Cleveland (technically located in University Heights, OH)

Demo days can go two ways- really, really great, or really, really disappointing. Today was a really great day. On this warm and beautiful spring day, we loaded the car up with samples and drove out to Cleveland. It's only about a two hour drive to the Whole Foods there. When we arrived, I was so surprised to see that a table and display had already been set up for our demo- it was really lovely!

I have to tell you, that when I first started doing demos with our Cupola Cookies about a year ago, I had pretty thin skin. I say this because there were times when people who tried our products were very honest and didn't like them. At first, I was a little hurt, but I quickly came to realize that of course, taste is very subjective, and there is no way that everyone would like our products. Even if you're selling an incredibly mainstream product like chocolate chip cookies, there will always be some people that don't like chocolate or don't like your specific recipe. Similarly, there are certain foods that I don't necessarily care for, like olives (yes, I know, I must be crazy, because most people like olives), but I have friends who could eat a whole jar of them.

These days, I am more mentally prepared if someone remarks that they don't care for our products during a product demo. I keep a positive attitude, take it in stride and appreciate the honest feedback, whether it's positive or negative. I think it helps both my mom and I to remember that our Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds are very new and unique products to the market and it is always a challenge to introduce something to people that's different and maybe a little unfamiliar. After all, different can be a very good thing (channeling Martha Stewart here).

Overall, Clevelanders love our Cupola Cookies! They especially liked the Chai Pistachio, which was the top seller today, followed by Chocolate Cashew and Espresso Walnut. Thanks again to the Whole Foods team at the Cedar Center, especially Dave and Nadine, for being such wonderful hosts!

We had a little to explore a little before heading to the store, so below are some other interesting images of Cleveland.

Shaker Square is a charming neighborhood located in the eastern end of Cleveland. Lots of great little shops, restaurants and home to the North Union Farmers Market.

Dewey's Coffee House- fireplace inside, patio outside and great organic fair-trade coffee. What more could you ask for?

Beautiful brown oyster mushrooms at the North Union Farmers Market.

Japanese Asparagus- I had never seen this type of asparagus before, so we bought a bunch to try.

Look- a cupola! Stumbled upon this one on our drive out of Cleveland.