Friday, December 1, 2006
How bakery buff Angela Anderson rescued New Glarus’s delicious legacy
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In Brava magazine, December 2006
Column: Around the Table
Recipe: Original New Glarus Bakery pfeffernusse spice cookies
In 2004, re-opening the New Glarus Bakery was a dream come true for Angela Anderson, its new owner. But something was missing – something critical to restoring the true spirit of the old bakery.
It was the old notebook. Where was the New Glarus Bakery without it?
Filled with irreplaceable Old World recipes for breads and pastries, the book had passed down through the string of families who had owned the bakery since 1910. With its help, the sturdy ovens deep within the small-town storefront spent the twentieth century baking traditional Swiss and German staples and treats – pumpernickel rye loaves, potato bread, nut horns, springerli, honey stick cookies – for delighted townsfolk and tourists alike.
But during the brief tenure of the bakery’s most recent owner, the book had simply gathered dust in a desk drawer. Longtime recipes – and staff, too – were swept aside for a more modern, industrialized approach. That proved to be a losing strategy. Without dedicated artisans baking heritage goods from scratch, the small business sputtered and shut down.
Angela, an IT professional who had dreamt of one day owning the bakery ever since she’d worked there as a high school student in the early 1990s, now saw her chance to turn things around. Determined to revive the once-proud institution, she bought the business, then tracked down and rehired the previous crew. The shop was about to change hands; everything was coming together. But then the book disappeared.
What to do? The bakery had already failed once without its prized recipes. How could Angela succeed? The newly rehired bakers struggled to reconstruct the old recipes from memory. But the chance to completely restore the town’s beloved tradition – and it had seemed so certain – seemed to be lost forever.
Then came a call that changed everything. A computer whiz friend had deciphered the information on some old floppy diskettes Angela had found in the office.
It was the book! A previous owner, Harold Weber – with his wife, Nancy, he had run the shop for a quarter-century – had typed up every recipe. And a century of tradition narrowly escaped extinction.
Today Angela and the rest of the bakery’s skilled, enthusiastic staff supply the town, tourists and Internet shoppers from all over the nation with authentic, all-natural New Glarus Bakery goodies baked from scratch. “It’s my dream. I love it,” she says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Vesna Vuynovich Kovach: How did you get interested in baking, and in the New Glarus Bakery in particular?
Angela Anderson: When I was a child, I’d help my mother and grandmother bake. They would always make cookies, bars and cakes from scratch. I even remember rolling out cinnamon rolls one summer. My mother was always whipping up something in the kitchen.
During my junior year in high school, my sister-in-law, who had worked at the bakery, thought it would be a great idea for me to apply there. So I did. It was like becoming part of another family. We all worked very well together. Customers loved the New Glarus Bakery – for its products, service and cozy, warm feeling. People would drive miles, sometimes several states away to come here.
I realized early on that it was the made-from-scratch aspect as well as an image of high quality products served through many generations that made this bakery a strong, stable business as well as one of the focal points of New Glarus. Today, there are very few scratch bakeries. The ones I knew closed because the tradition in the family ran out.
VVK: The bakery went up for sale in 2001, after the Webers had owned it for some 25 years. Did you think about buying it then?
AA: I told my husband when we got married in 1997, “I have two goals in life: a house in the country, and to own the New Glarus Bakery.” He said, “Sure, whatever.” I knew someday the Webers would want to sell and the idea of having the bakery close just crushed me. But when it came up for sale in 2001, he didn’t want to move. We were living in Janesville and working in Beloit. He said it was either him or the bakery. I chose him. That time.
My mom bought me a little ceramic bakery. She said, “This is in remembrance of what your dream was.”
Then, in 2004, my mom brought me an article from the town paper. She told me, “I know your bakery dream is long gone. I don’t know if I should even show you this. But I thought you should know about it.” It said the New Glarus Bakery was going into foreclosure. I read it, and then I re-read it. I read that article for two days straight. I knew it was my one golden opportunity. I knew the next person to take it on wouldn't let it go. I couldn't bear the idea of non-traditional New Glarus Bakery products being made here, or worse, someone bringing in already-made products like at the grocery stores. It just wouldn't be right.
I wanted to see the bakery back to where it was when Howard and Nancy [Weber] had it. They continued to build an outstanding reputation for 25 years. I also saw what happened to the community when the bakery closed. It was a sad state.
Three weeks before the foreclosure sale, my husband told me to pick up divorce papers.
VVK: It sounds like you spent your adult life pining for the New Glarus Bakery. Why did you leave the area and go into a different field?
AA: I guess I went into information technology because at the time the IT field was a hot career. I also received my BS in business admin, and an Associate’s Degree in computer science. All my experience at the wheel plant, I call my boot camp for running a business. After about 5 years I had managed the systems that were the fundamentals of running the plant – production control, human resources systems, preventative maintenance systems, financial planning and accounting systems.
My closest friends knew I secretly wanted to have a business of my own – and that business was the bakery. I talked about it a lot. Business plans developed in my head over the years on how I would run it. I even planned out production schedules and devised sales figures based on the amount of items I remembered we would sell on a daily basis.
VVK: Tell me about your famous New Glarus Bakery stollen, your special holiday bread. It sounds just marvelous!
AA: We take light and dark raisins, and soak them in rum. There’s almonds and spices and a log of marzipan [almond paste] that runs down the center of the loaf. After they’re baked, we dip them in butter and roll them in powdered sugar. Then we shrink wrap them on a gold board and freeze them.
The freezing is an important part of the curing process It takes at least a month for the flavor to develop. We’ve eaten them right off the cooling shelves, but we just looked at each other and said, “This has no flavor!”
Last year we shipped 3,000 loaves all over the country, and Hawaii and Canada. This year we’re baking 960 – that’s 80 more than last year – for Byerly’s and Lunds, an upscale grocery chain in Minnesota.
VVK: Now that you’ve had the bakery for a while, what have you learned there?
AA: I have trained with mostly my bread maker in the traditions of making our hard-crusted breads, like you would find in Europe. I enjoy working with all my bakers and learning from them. Baking is definitely an art. You can throw somebody a recipe, but it’s the art, the skill, the creativity that you need to make a formula into something edible. It requires a sense of taste and above all, patience. It’s a work of art.
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In Brava Magazine, December 2006
Literally translated as “pepper nut,” these walnut-shaped treats are named after the Pfefferlanden – “Pepper Lands” – an old German nickname for the spice-rich Far East. “The dough is very thick and dark, and has a spicy taste of cloves, cinnamon and anise,” says bakery owner Angela Anderson, who generously shares here the bakery’s century-old recipe. “It’s difficult to compare the flavor to any other cookie. We only make these at Christmas time, and include them in our ethnic cookie sampler.”
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground anise (or more, depending on your taste)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 2/3 cups all purpose flour.
Melted butter and powdered sugar, for rolling
In large mixing bowl, cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs and spices. Combine corn syrup, molasses, water and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture. Using mixer, add 3 cups of the flour. Add the rest of the flour and mix by hand. The dough will be very stiff. Use your hands to shape round balls of dough into balls about the size of small walnuts. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 400° F for 6 to 8 minutes, until lightly brown. Dip cookies in melted butter and roll in powdered sugar. Yield: 300 cookies. These freeze well.
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Once an at-home mom, Kathy Hughes has become president of a thriving business – and one of Madison’s foremost fishwives
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In Brava Magazine (formerly ANEW), November 2006
Column: Around the Table
Recipe: Day-Boat Scallops with Citrus Beurre Blanc
When you’ve spent most of your adult life as an at-home mom, what do you do after your three children grow up and your husband retires? Do you (a) retire to the suburbs of Miami and learn to play canasta and shuffleboard, (b) weep over your better half’s lack of enthusiasm for all those household chores he now has time for or (c) co-found and preside over a bustling family enterprise that guarantees 12-hour workdays, incessant business phone calls during your off-hours — and all the halibut you care to eat?
For Kathy Hughes, president and co-owner of Hughes Seafood, the answer, to her surprise, was (c).
When her husband, Mike, retired as a lieutenant with the Madison Police Department, he took a job at a fish market because, says Kathy, “He couldn’t stand doing nothing.” Soon after, their son Josh became assistant manager at the Seafood Center located inside the Brennan’s Market on University Avenue. Then, came an unexpected offer that changed everything. When Seafood Center declined opening a new branch in the Brennan’s going up on Watts Road in early 2004, the Hugheses were invited to start their own seafood shop there.
Hughes Seafood was born, with Mike as vice-president and Josh as secretary of the new company. “We set it up that way at the beginning because our banker suggested it. That’s the joke in our family – they’re all working for me now,” says president Kathy, with her customary easygoing laugh. Business took off, and went to another level this summer with the opening of a second branch inside Brennan’s University Avenue location, the site of Josh’s old job. (The Seafood Center currently has locations in Brennan’s on Whitney Way and in Willy St. Coop.)
VVK: Did you ever see yourself in this sort of role?
KH: Never. I never thought I’d be doing this. We used to have a life. Now all we do is work. It’s a lot of hours. But most of it’s fun. The customers are my favorite part of it.
VVK: Have you always liked seafood?
KH: Yes. I love to smell like fish. I’m kidding! Cooking has always been my hobby, and I’ve cooked quite a bit of seafood in my life, so now it’s fun to be a little more creative with it. I love experimenting. I make all the spreads we sell: smoked salmon, crab, crabby cheddar. I come up with recipes to give out to customers. I want them to be happy with their purchases and come back for more. I do the book work and the ordering. I’m kind of always looking for new products to put on the shelf.
VVK: What’s the secret to your success?
KH: We never keep anything in our case over 72 hours, ever. We bring fish in six days a week, always in small quantities. We try to just bring in what we think we’ll need for that day. If our fish has any odor, it’s out the door. Our place never smells like fish. There’s no reason for that. You can tell when fish is fresh: you’ll never smell it. Fresh fish is all shiny — it doesn’t look tired, or separated and falling apart. Several people have told us they’ve gone back to eating seafood since we came along.
VVK: How do you know?
KH: You don’t. It’s a very difficult business, to be honest with you. The potential for waste is there. With the Badger games and the Packer games, you have to be very careful. We want to have something for people who are going to entertain. But once the Badgers play, there’s going to be no one in the store. None. If you figure 80,000 people go to a Badger game, that’s a lot of the people in the area.
We follow the weather reports closely and try to figure out what people are going to be doing. Will they be grilling? Using the oven? If it’s going to be cold on a game day, we do more business because no one will be at game. It’s exciting and challenging to try and guess what people are going to buy every day.
VVK: I suppose you encourage customers to use their purchases right away.
KH: Definitely. Why would you want to buy ahead? People will tell us on Wednesday, we’re planning to prepare this on Sunday. No, no, no, no, no! You might as well buy frozen fish from any grocery store. Although we do have a gentleman who comes in every week and buys $100 worth of fish to freeze and use throughout the week. All these different types — a little less than a pound of each, just for him and his wife.
VVK: A lot of people are concerned about mercury in fish these days.
KH: Yes, it is safe to eat fish. The USDA says 12 oz. per week is OK, even for pregnant women. It depends on the variety. Cod, halibut, salmon, they’re fine. The big game type fish – swordfish, tuna – those are the type that you don’t want to eat an overabundance of. We do have people who eat nothing but fish. They vary what they eat. We also carry freshwater fish that come out of the Great Lakes: walleye, lake perch, whitefish. It’s all in the size of the fish.
VVK: Another concern is the environmental impact that fishing is having worldwide.
KH: With new regulations going into place, I think prospects are good. Most of this is so well regulated, because the fishermen themselves don’t want to lose their livelihoods. For instance, there was a big deal about Chilean sea bass recently. That’s a certified fish that now is sustainable. We’ve found that it’s all tagged and run through the USDA. They’re taking bigger fish from deeper in the ocean, they caught the fellow who was doing most of the poaching, and it’s no longer on the nonsustainable list.
We try to buy wild as much as we can of everything. Many people think farm-raised is better for the environment, but in general, it’s the opposite. We do not carry farm-raised anything, except certain types of shrimp. We always get shrimp that has not been treated with chemicals, as far as we know. That gives it a mushy texture, and almost a chemical taste. They have to list it on there, but I’m not always sure that everyone complies. That’s why you have to know who you’re buying from.
VVK: The humanitarian issue of keeping live lobsters in tanks has been in the news recently.
KH: We’ve just never even considered doing that. It never made sense to me. As soon as they put those rubber bands on a lobster’s claws, they can’t eat. So a lobster in a store might have been sitting in that tank, shrinking, for a two to three weeks. The fill goes down – that’s the amount of meat in the shell. Most people buy frozen lobster from us. We do bring live lobster in if you order it the day before.
VVK: What do you do with product that can’t be used?
KH: We’re helping to sponsor a man from Monroe in the Iditarod [an annual dog sled race held in Alaska]. We felt terrible throwing this stuff away. Then we heard about this fellow, a 62-year-old man named Benny Stamm, and thought, Okay! We freeze all our trimmings, and he picks it up for his team of dogs every two weeks. And we take donations for him. We have pictures of him and his team on display.
VVK: What advice do you have for seafood novices, like me, who are intimidated by the idea of cooking fish? It’s not cheap, and I’m afraid I’ll just wreck it.
KH: A good way to start cooking any type of fish is baking. Just a very basic recipe: olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stick to the rule of 10 minutes per inch of thickness at 400°. Remember about carry-over cooking after you take it out of the oven. The biggest mistake people make with fish is to overcook it. It gets a stronger flavor and becomes dry.
You want it to be moist and tender. It should still be medium in the center when you take it out. That’s the trick. And it’ll be perfect.
VVK: Have you been surprised by what’s popular and what’s not?
KH: We used to think striped bass would be a big thing, but we hardly every sold any. Then I brought in baby octopus once, sort of as a joke. It sold out. Now we sell out of it every single week. People from Japan, China and Italy like it, and people who have traveled there. They sauté it in olive oil.
VVK: What’s your personal favorite?
KH: My absolute favorite of all time is halibut. I love the texture and mild flavor. I like it baked, grilled, every way. But my favorite way is to grill on an alder plank. It turns a gorgeous, gorgeous brown color on the top. Alder gives a much milder smoke flavor than other woods. A cedar plank is good for salmon, but alder is perfect for halibut. I just started doing it this way since we opened the store. Everything we bring in I try to cook at least once. I’ve tried a lot of new things. Not baby octopus – yet.
Recipe from Around the Table: Kathy Hughes of Hughes Seafood
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In Brava Magazine (formerly ANEW), November 2006
If you’ve ever had scallops that were mushy, chalky white and flavorless, chances are they spent up to 10 days on a board a fishing boat, soaking in phosphate preservative. Day-boat scallop fishers, by contrast, bring in the tasty bivalves daily, as their name suggests. Kathy recommends serving these fresh beauties with roasted asparagus and pine nut couscous.
Day-Boat Scallops with Citrus Beurre Blanc
One dozen day-boat sea scallops
salt and pepper
Season scallops with salt and pepper. Set a heavy-bottomed saute pan or a nonstick skillet over high heat. Heat a small amount of olive oil. Add scallops and sear for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve with Citrus Beurre Blanc, below.
Citrus Beurre Blanc
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup cream
Chopped chives for garnish
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic. Sauté briefly, but do not brown. Deglaze with white wine. Bring to a simmer and reduce by one-half. Add orange juice and thyme. Continue to simmer and again reduce by one-half. Add cream. Reduce until slightly thickened. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Spoon over scallops. Sprinkle with chopped chives.
Friday, October 6, 2006
This deceptively simple recipe is endlessly variable. That’s because local growers can supply you with scores of apple varieties to choose from, each with its own flavor profile and unique balance between tart and sweet. Some types are only available for a couple of weeks out of the year, so no matter how often you make it, it’s “great throughout the season. Easy and tasty,” says Vivian. “I often suggest combining two or three varieties of apples when making a pie or apple crisp,” she says, to get the fullest, most complex-tasting result.
4-6 cups (about 5 medium to large) apples, sliced and cored
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oatmeal (quick or old fashioned)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
Place apple slices in a buttered 8" x 8" glass baking dish. Mix together remaining ingredients and sprinkle over the apples. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. Enjoy. This recipe can easily be doubled in a larger baking pan.
Sunday, October 1, 2006
You’ll never run out of new tastes to try from Vivian Green’s orchard
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In ANEW Magazine, October 2006
Column: Around the Table
Recipe: Vivian’s Mom’s Apple Crisp
You can often find Vivian Green at the center of a crowd, enthralling eager shoppers with information about the wares that fill her farm market stall: apples. Lots and lots of kinds of apples, bins of fruit ranging from deep red to green to rosy pink. “We have more than 1700 trees with more than 65 varieties,” she says of Green’s Pleasant Springs Orchard, the farm she’s owned and operated with her husband, Dick, since 1977. And she can tell you what you want to know about every single kind.
“Gala is the most sweet,” she says, “Lodi is the most tart. It’s good for cooking. Braeburn is tart and sweet. Blushing is one of the Jonathan-Gold crosses. It’s hard and crisp, bitter tart, with a little sweetness. Mutsu is crisp and sweet.” Some, especially antique and heirloom varieties, taste better than they look. “Sheepnose is ugly, but it’s tasty and tart. Smokehouse is green with gray streaks – it looks terrible but it makes a great pie. Then there’s Spitzenburg, Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple,” with a flavor that’s been compared to pineapple and a cinnamon aroma, sensational for out-of-hand eating. But its homely appearance – “orange with gray spots,” says Vivian – is probably why it’s fallen out of favor over the centuries.
VVK: How do you find apple varieties? How do you decide what to grow?
VG: We attend conferences, trade shows and field days sponsored by Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan fruit and vegetable growers. At these programs new varieties of apples are introduced. We can learn about the problems they have found growing them and taste them as well. We select from those that interest us and give them a trial. Our orchard is constantly changing with us trying out new varieties and removing older or less productive varieties.
We tried Granny Smith, but they ripened so late, it didn’t work out. Pink Lady is definitely out for Wisconsin, but breeders have come up with early-ripening Fujis, and we are growing a variety called "September Wonder" Fuji which ripens at the end of September.
I don't know if it’s global warming or what, but for the last several years, we’ve still been picking apples into November. Ten years ago that was not possible. As a result, we’re ripening late varieties like Braeburn and Goldrush now.
VVK: What are some of your favorite apples?
VG:. We like a balance between sweet and tart with a great crunch. Some favorites that fit these characteristics are Ginger Gold, Golden Supreme, Honeycrisp, Swiss Gourmet, Sonata, Suncrisp and Keepsake, to name just a few. Many varieties are all-purpose apples, both good to eat and also great for pies and sauce.
VVK: How do you control pests?
Having a chemistry background, I don’t want to use any more chemicals than I have to. Dick’s masters degree is in environmental education. When we began our orchard we looked into how to grow apples in a way that was safe for the environment and also produce them economically. We use a program called Integrated Pest Management. We set pheromone traps, female sex hormones to attract the male insects. We then count the population and determine when the population is at a threshold and a spray is needed.
Insect scouting with a hand lens is ongoing from April to October. There are helpful insects. Lacewings eat aphids. Ladybugs – real ones! – are good. And some wasps are very helpful.
We also have a weather monitoring station. It measures degree days and wetness hours to help monitor fungus diseases. It’s the fungus that gets you. Insects are pretty controllable. But the fungus just doesn’t allow you to go chemical free.
VVK: You’ve been in the news lately for helping to found a new farmers’ market, the Westside Community Market, after you and some other longtime Hilldale Farmers’ Market vendors were turned away in 2005.
VG: Not returning to Hilldale after it had been our major market for 29 years was a shock. Our customers were disappointed and encouraged us to find an outlet for our apples on the West side of town. [The Greens, Madison Sourdough and JenEhr Family Farm] along with a community member began the Westside Community Market, Inc. It is a vendor-run market. Both vendors and the community came together to bring back the friendly, community gathering that the [Hilldale] market had once had. The Westside Community Market has easy, accessible parking and lots of friendly vendors with a wide variety of products. I am pleased to be the market manager this season.
VVK: You vend there and at the Dane County Farmers’ Market. Can people come straight to the farm?
VG: We have U-Pick of common varieties like McIntosh, Cortland, Gala, Jonathan and Macoun beginning mid-September. We give tours of our orchard beginning in early September through October. The walking tour includes education about growing apples and picking apples, seeing the varieties of apples in the orchard, and eating fresh, washed apples in addition to an indoor tour of washing/grading equipment and cider-making.
VVK: Can you tell me about your unpasteurized cider?
VG: We produce our unpasteurized cider in a state-of-the-art facility which we designed and installed in 2002. Each week we blend eight to 14 varieties of small, washed apples – it changes week to week as varieties change. I encourage persons concerned about pasteurization to simply heat the cider to boiling and then turn off the heat, chill and enjoy. You do lose some of the flavor, but only minimally.
VVK: Some farms that I’ve visited have no loose apples for sale – you can only buy a big sack of a single kind. I want to try them all, but I’m just not in the market for a truckload of apples!
VG: We allow our customers to select as few or as many as they want. We will not pre-bag apples.
VVK: With so many types of apples at the supermarket, why buy direct from the orchard?
VG: Our customers have found that apples purchased from apple growers are fresher, have greater variety, and have none of that wax [commercial apples are usually coated with shellac or a similar agent] to give the apples shine.
Out-of-state apples are picked too early – they have to withstand shipping and they don’t want them to be easily damaged. But they haven’t reached their full peak of flavor and moisture. You can’t let an apple be itself when it has to be shipped long distances and stored in walk-in coolers for months.
We pride ourselves in the quality of what we sell. We think an apple has to develop its complete flavor. If you really care about fruit, you’ll wait until the fruit is ready.
Green’s Pleasant Springs Orchard, located at 2722 Williams Drive near Stoughton, can be reached at 873-4096. The Westside Community Market is held Saturdays at the Hill Farms DoT parking lot on Sheboygan Avenue and Wednesdays at the Westgate Mall parking lot on Segoe Avenue. The Greens' e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, September 1, 2006
Renowned chef and cookbook author brings her vegetable love to Madison’s Food For Thought Festival
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In ANEW Magazine, September 2006
Column: Around the Table
Recipe: Apple-glazed Acorn Squash Rings
Recipe: A Sparkling Sweet Potato
Ah, food, glorious food. The flavor! The aroma! The justice!
Justice? What’s that got to do with food?
A lot, in a world teeming with side-by-side surplus and famine, where a few agribusinesses boom while thousands of family farms go under, where most of what we spend on food goes not to farmers but to middlemen and merchandisers, and the average morsel travels thousands of miles from farm to plate, even in this day of soaring petrol prices. How extreme can the situation be? Recently several Florida produce growers were convicted of forcing hundreds of workers into “involuntary servitude” – slavery.
So if you like to eat and care at least a whit about the thousands of humans (and other beings) who help you do it, the eighth annual Food For Thought Festival off the Capitol Square, held during the Farmers’ Market Saturday morning, Sept. 16 (plus panel discussion the night before – details at reapfoodgroup.org), is for you.
This year’s theme is “Just Cooking," with the double meaning intentional. “It’s a way of looking at food that considers the health and wholeness of all the people and systems who produce and consume it,” says Miriam Grunes, executive director of REAP, the group organizing the event. “It also means making healthy, local ingredients available so everyone has access to foods that are fresh, minimally processed, locally and/or sustainably produced, flavorful and nutritious.”
Of the two world-class keynoters slated to speak, give free cooking classes and sign books, one is Anna Lappé, whose most recent book, Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, encourages readers to “joyfully and deliciously embrace our responsibilities as world citizens,” says Grunes.
The other is veggie cookery superstar Mollie Katzen, one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time. Mollie’s first book was 1977’s instant classic Moosewood Cookbook, followed by The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and many more cookbooks. Her achievements include a long-running cooking show on public television, awards for illustration and design, a seat at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Nutrition Roundtable and a place in the Natural Health Hall of Fame.
In advance of her upcoming first trip to Wisconsin, Mollie spoke with us from the Berkeley, Calif. home where she’s lived for 21 years.
VVK: You helped put vegetarian cookery on the map. But you’re not a vegetarian yourself?
MK: If you go through my books, I never made an argument for vegetarianism. I said, if you want to eat less meat, here’s what you can cook.
I love low-on-the-food-chain food – nut butters, grains, beans, fruits, lots of vegetables. But being a vegetarian? To me it’s completely a nonissue. I don’t agree or disagree; it’s a very personal choice. But it’s irrelevant to your health. It doesn’t answer the question, what are you nourishing yourself with?
I think the early health foods movement was a lot about not eating this or that. People would say, “I’ve stopped eating meat.” And their friends would say, “Oh, good, you’re healthy now!” And that would be the end of the sentence. You’d wake up healthy the next day. It was a culture of denial. I don’t want to eat remorse food. I want fresh, delicious food. Food that’s about, “How can I make this as delicious as possible?” It doesn’t have to be fancy.
I’ve witnessed many vegetarians who are simply non-meat-eaters, without a single vegetable or fruit in their day – who subsist on high processed-carb diets with very little or no protein and very little or no fiber or fruit. And some meat-eaters are incredibly fit and healthy. It depends on what is actually eaten – not on what is not eaten.
VVK: What about the ethics: can meat to fit in with a just way of life? Can there ever be a regular place for bacon and burgers on the ethically aware table?
MK: Absolutely. There is sustainably raised meat. Humans have been omnivores all the way back in time.
VVK: Natural foods has become a big-money industry, but much of is in processed foods supporting the American lifestyle of prepackaged meals and quick-access snacks, not fresh ingredients that people take home to prepare lovingly.
MK: It's the result of people's perceived time-crunch issues. Nobody says, I don’t have time to watch my favorite TV shows, or surf the Internet. They just do it. Some people spend more time watching the Food Network than actually preparing food. I don’t know what that blockage is about. But a lot of that goes away when you fall in love with cooking.
VVK: Fall in love?
MK: I don’t want to make it sound like I’m talking about some mystical thing. I mean making a commitment, devoting time to your relationship with food. Love is manifest by making time for someone or something, make space for that in your life. That’s almost a working definition of love. When you love someone, what do you do? It’s the same as with any hobby, or a love for literature.
That’s really the key to dealing with a lot of our issues around food. Get closer to it, learn the craft. People who come to my classes, it’s the main barrier that keeps them from cooking more vegetables. They don’t have a comfortable relationship with a knife. I tell people, make friends with the knife. Keep it sharp. Practice.
Look on this as a craft, a really fun craft. Walk away from your kitchen. Then make it into a place that’s pleasant for you to be in and reconstitute that relationship in your life. Get a couple of really good tools. Find a knife that you really bond with – that you can have fun with.
Unfortunately, time to cook and focus on healthy and organic cooking has become a luxury. If you’re a harried mother, broke, with three children under age 5, and you pass McDonald’s with a chicken sandwich under a dollar, I’m not going to lecture that person. Although the irony is that for many people there’s a huge savings cooking at home.
VVK: Your cookbooks for children are so helpfully written and laid out, and the food is real eating, not kiddie novelty stuff. I think they’re ideal for anyone, any age, who wants to learn to cook. But if you’re an adult trying to cook with kids – how do you stay patient?
MK: Cook with children for fun, not for a meal or for a goal. "Process over product," is my motto for cooking with young kids. Children become more interested in fruits and vegetables when they get a chance to encounter them pre-plate, as in the garden – ideal! – or the farmers' market. Children also are attracted to things they get to prepare themselves, so let them make a tasty sauce to dip vegetables in, and you'll be amazed how their relationship to the vegetable will improve.
VVK: Do you have any words of encouragement or support or inspiration for moving to a more fully engaged relationship with food?
MK: Go to the farmer’s market and get things that look beautiful to you, whatever it is, and just bring it all home. Then put it all out. Get your tomatoes and strawberries and arrange it all in little bowls. Just stare at it. And just eat it. Plain. Cut up some tomatoes and maybe tear up some basil leaves on them. Do as little as possible. And that’s cooking.
Thirty years ago, when Mollie Katzen published her first, groundbreaking, cookbook, meatless meals tended towards “big, heavy entrees” with “thick sauces that would bury or mask” the veggies, she recalls. Today there’s “more flavor, less fuss, more subtlety.”
“The produce is better,” says Mollie. “Cooking knowledge is more sophisticated. People are into drizzling a little of this or that rather than concocting something. You can get high-quality toasted nut oils, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, Meyer lemons, fresh herbs.” Simple preparations can be dazzling and delicious, especially when they’re made with top quality ingredients: just choose a veg and roast, grill or braise it. Then finish simply – drizzle, glaze, make a reduction from the cooking liquid or sprinkle on some coarse salt.
How easy can it be to create a fresh and fabulous dish this way? Check out these recipes (edited for space) from Mollie’s latest, Eat, Drink and Weigh Less (Hyperion, 2006), co-written with Walter Willett, M.D. of the Harvard School of Public Health. Then get down to the farmers’ market on the Square on Sept. 16, and pick up these autumn ingredients in peak season on your way to the Food For Thought Festival. [See top of this article for links to the recipes.]
“Simple and sweet” – Mollie Katzen
1 acorn squash
3 Tablespoons (or more) apple juice or defrosted concentrate
Slice one (unpeeled) acorn squash into 1/2" rings. Remove seeds. Arrange on a foil-lined, lightly sprayed, baking sheet. Bake at 375° on oven center rack. After 15 minutes (or when squash is fork-tender), remove from oven and drizzle or brush with apple. Heat broiler to 500° and move oven rack to highest position. Broil just a minute or two, until squash tops begin to brown. (Watch carefully – they can burn quickly.) Remove from oven. If desired, glaze with a touch more apple. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
“Utterly divine” – Mollie Katzen
A Sparkling Sweet Potato
1 sweet potato (about 6 oz.)
1–2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (or to taste)
Microwave sweet potato 3 minutes on high. Turn over and repeat. Insert fork into center to check for doneness. Cook more if needed. (Or oven-roast at 375° until fork-tender, about 1 hour.) Remove and let cool. Peel. Transfer to a bowl and mash with a fork. Mash in 1 tablespoon of the lime juice and taste. Add more lime juice as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature – or reheat in microwave and serve hot.
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In Anew Magazine, September 2006
Whether you're building a home or remodeling, your choices of what to walk on are better than ever, and better for the Big Blue Marble, too. Today it's easier than ever to choose from a wide range of environmentally sound flooring materials that look great, feel good underfoot and are easy to clean – not to mention that they don't bring formaldehyde and other nasties into your household. Several flooring sources in the Madison area offer a wide selection of “green” flooring, and the trend is only going to increase, according to national industry sources. How to decide which material to use where? What's the right look and feel for you? Here's an overview.
Grind up the leavings from bottle stopper production, press them together into flooring tiles or planks, and you have the ultimate sustainable floor: a good-looking, durable surface made from the bark of the cork oak. That's right, bark: no trees were harmed in the production of the hippest flooring in kitchens today. It's soft and springy to walk on, watertight (it can be sealed with polyurethane or wax, or used “unfinished”), and a natural sound insulator. All this makes it a nice choice for living rooms, dining rooms, and basements too. It's friendly to folks with allergies, as well as insect-resistant, antimicrobial, and even fire-resistant. Not so practical in very wet areas, say a kid's bathroom. Cork can be stained dozens of shades ranging from blond to dark brown. Cost: about $2.75–5/square foot.
You want a traditional wood look, and also to be nice to Ma Nature? Do the math. It takes hardwood 40 years to mature for flooring harvest. Bamboo? Five. And then it grows back. Hey, it is grass, after all. Tougher than oak, more stable than maple, bamboo flooring comes in wide planks, ideal for glueless floating floors (less glue = less toxins). The most popular green choice these days, it's water-resistant, long-lasting, easy to keep clean and just plain lovely. Available in several colors and grain patterns, bamboo can play to an Asian decor style, a parquet look, or many other styles that favor clean lines. Cost: about $4–5/square foot.
One of the newest sustainable flooring options is made from the trunk of 80-year-old coconut palm trees that have stopped producing nuts in their Southeast Asia orchards. Though these were customarily thrown away, it turns out they make ideal flooring: the color is rich and dark like cherry, but with a dramatic, unusual grain pattern. It's as hard as maple and stands up to five sandings. Cost: about $10/square foot.
Say what? Doesn't getting teak involve ripping off the rainforest? Not if it's plantation-grown harvest from a reputable source. In good conscience, then, enjoy the beauty and benefits of this luxuriously dark, oil-rich wood, so resistant to water that sailing ships were once built with it, so durable that teak park benches 150 years old are still in use, and looking good. Cost: about $4–6/square foot.
Not that newfangled vinyl would-be stuff! Linoleum, in use since the 1800s, is a natural brew, made by mixing together linseed oil (hence the “lin”) with pine rosin, limestone, pigments and powdered wood and cork. This mixture forms granules that are then pressed into sheets against a webbing of jute yarn and hung to cure into a tough, flexible product that nowadays is available in a rainbow of dozens of bright colors and muted tones, too. Tougher than cork – or vinyl, for that matter – true lino stands up to stresses like chair wheels and is great for the hard use that a home office or rec room gets. Cost: about $5/square foot.
Natural stone tiles
You can't get much more back to nature than by bringing stone tiles into your living space. Each square reveals the history of millions of years through its unique patterns. Shadings range from subtle to spectacular, with fine grains or wild whorls of vanilla, gold, rose, charcoal, peach and more. Limestone, slate and and sandstone are fast gaining popularity in mudrooms, foyers and even bathrooms, where slip-resistant finishes make them more practical than you might guess – and no, they're not icy to the toesies! And with its heat-retaining properties, it's a natural choice for sub-floor radiant heat. Easy-cleaning and durable, slate is a growing trend in kitchen flooring. Another good stone site: around the hearth. Caution: some stones are tough to clean. Cost: about $6–7/square foot.
Follow the footsteps of history – install flooring once used in old Wisconsin barns and warehouses and re-milled into tounge-and-groove planks, available from Eco-Friendly Flooring on Madison's West side. Douglas fir, yellow-heart pine and maple are the most commonly available, but you never know what unique treasure might turn up. Cost: $4.50–15/square foot.
Recycled glass or aluminum tile
Glass tiles add shimmer and style to tile floors, as well as backsplashes, walls, bar fronts and more, and are available in over 100 patterns and colors. Cost: $22–100/square foot, but you can also purchase them by the piece. Aluminum's sheen is attractive and oh-so-moderne on fireplace surrounds and kitchen and bath fixtures and backsplashes. Lacquered aluminum tile makes a dramatic choice for a bathroom floor as well, coming in smooth and nubbly finishes. It's durable and low-maintenance, but lining the you-know-what with, well, old cans, is probably the priciest pun you'll ever play. Recycled brass, bronze and copper tiles are available, too. Cost: $25–60/square foot.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Mary Celley, the bee charmer of Brooklyn, explains the sweet nature of this misunderstood insect
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In ANEW Magazine, August 2006
Column: Around the Table
Scared of bees? Not Mary Celley. She’s got close to half a million of them, and she’s got the honey to prove it.
A full-time beekeeper who sells her wares at the Dane County Farmers Market, under her “Bee Charmer” label and runs a stinging-insect pest control business on the side, Celley, 50, is a lifelong booster of the gentle, widely misunderstood, and, unfortunately, increasingly threatened honeybee. She lovingly tends 100 hives on her farm in Brooklyn’s verdant countryside just east of Madison, where she lives with her life partner, Sue Williams – who, by the way, she says is “absolutely terrified of the bees.”
After earning a degree in entomology from the UW-Madison, Celley worked at the USDA Bee Research Unit on campus, then went into beekeeping when the program moved to Arizona in the mid 1980s. The university became pivotal in the development of the honey industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, after a revolutionary invention, the removable-comb hive, made it possible to harvest honey without destroying the hive and killing a lot of bees in the process. A new, nonviolent chapter in human honey consumption began; production soared; beekeeping as a hobby and a commercial enterprise flourished, not least in Wisconsin.
Today, environmental pollutants and hardy, pesticide-resistant mites and parasites are decimating bee populations across the nation. Most Wisconsin beekeepers must purchase bees from out of state each spring to replenish their stock.
Far more than just honey is at risk: commercial crops and wild flora alike depend on the honeybee for pollination. “The bee is fighting for survival,” says Celley. “We all need to help.”
VVK: What do you like about bees?
MC: I’m in awe over their level of organization. Their ability to commune with 80,000 other individuals in peace and harmony. Their instincts for survival.
What the bees have taught me is what life, death and rebirth are all about. How to commune with one another, how to live in a close-knit society. They work for the existence of the hive, to keep it healthy, strong, vibrant. Their sole being is for the queens’s life. They’re taking care of her children – they watch them, nurture them. I don’t think there would be too many wars if we were like that.
VVK: Tell us some common misperceptions about bees.
MC: People think everything that stings is a bee. This is one of my pet peeves. The honeybee gets a bad rap for the more aggressive type of hornets, or yellow jackets, as some people call them, in late summer and fall. Honeybees never go after your beer or brat. They are strictly nectar feeders – not scavengers.
Also, many people think honey is “bee poop.” But it comes strictly from their mouth parts and nowhere else. Honey is nectar that has been processed by the bees in an incredible fashion, and with precision.
VVK: How do your neighbors feel, living next door to a half a million bees?
MC: My bees have made their crops more productive, through pollination. My neighbors only seem to mind when, in the early spring, my bees visit their bird feeders. They mistake the millet for pollen. They pack it onto their legs and carry it away to the hive. They can carry away a lot of millet! But then they can’t do anything with it once they get it there.
VVK: What varieties of honey do your bees produce, and how do you – and the bees – keep from getting them mixed up?
MC: Certain flowers only bloom at certain times, so that is how you know what you are getting. Plus, honeys have different colors and flavors. Black Locust tree honey is a beautiful, white, sweet honey. I also get the different clovers: White, Yellow, Alsike, and White Dutch. I also get a fall honey that comes from the different wildflowers. Any specialty honey is popular. People are willing to try new things, especially if you have it packaged and displayed right. I also sell beeswax candles.
VVK: How much honey do bees make, and how long does it take them?
MC: Usually they bring in 15 to 20 pounds a day. If there is a good honey flow on, I’ve seen a hive fill with 50 pounds of honey in a day. Every hive is different. Some hives are lazy, just like some people. Or, you could have bad genetics going on, or the queen is getting old and not laying a good brood pattern.
When they run out of space, the hive might swarm [fly away en masse in search of a new home]. You lose half your hive and honey – it really sets a hive back.
VVK: What’s your favorite thing about beekeeping?
MC: My favorite thing to do is to just watch and listen to the bees. The hum they make during the honey flow is like music being played by no instrument you can name. The smell of sweet clover opens the senses to joy and happiness. It’s aromatherapy at its best.
It’s all about joy and how grateful I am to know what I am here to do and why. I couldn’t be more fortunate in my life.
The best ways to eat honey are “pretty plain and simple,” says Celley. For delicately flavored honeys, like the pale concoction made from her briefly flowering black locust trees, just drizzle over toast and enjoy. More robust honeys are perfect for basting chicken during broiling, or in barbecue and slow-roast sauces. “Honey seems to act as a tenderizer,” she says, thanks to its powerful enzymes that break down tough tissue.
The sauce that makes these spareribs so sweet and savory is also great for outdoor barbecue cookery, perfect for summer entertaining.
4 pounds spareribs
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups catsup
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Cut spareribs into serving-size portions. Simmer with salt in enough water to cover. In a saucepan, combine sauce ingredients and cook over low heat about 7 minutes. Drain ribs. Place in baking pan. Pour sauce over ribs. Bake at 400º F for 45 minutes or until tender, basting every 10 minutes with the sauce.
Saturday, July 1, 2006
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In ANEW Magazine, July 2006
Column: Around the Table
After 16 years at home raising five children, 43-year-old Watertown native Beth Mueller took on out-of-the-house work in a big way. Last October she plunged into the job of “manager and chief cook and bottle washer” (her words) at Cuda Café, an earthy haven for home cooking and live acoustic music off Deerfield’s Main Street and just a few feet from the scenic, easy-pedaling bike route that is the Glacial Drumlin State Trail.
Mueller’s husband, Randy, along with two partners, were finishing up a year-and-a-half renovation of a tobacco warehouse once used for storing local crops to load onto passing trains. Re-christened it “The T’Baccey Barn,” it’s home to tenants including e-Cove Market, featuring antiques and works by local artists, and a recording studio.
Mueller was drawn to the historic structure with its exposed woodwork and old farmland charm. “When Randy was working on the building and I would come in to say ‘Hi,’ the building even then had a great feel to it,” she recalls. “It’s not something I can actually put into words. It just felt comfortable. Then, when they came up with the café idea, I volunteered to take on the managing of it. I thought it was a great idea!”
VVK: Tell me about your culinary point of view.
BM: I choose fresh ingredients over pre-packaged items and try as much as possible to make things ourselves. We try to promote Wisconsin with our milk, meats, cheeses and homemade wieners from Kraemer’s Dairy and Glenn’s Meat Market in Watertown, Wisconsin microbrewery beers and wines, Ancora Coffee, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, and Wisconsin musicians.
My hope is that I’ve created a place where, when people walk in, they feel welcome and are able to relax for a little while. I’ve created a menu of healthy foods in satisfying serving sizes. Ninety percent of the food we serve we’ve made ourselves. So we know what’s in it and that it’s as fresh and wholesome as we can make it.
VVK: What are some of your favorite dishes?
BM: The Cuda Cheese Steak is very popular: Sourdough bread with mayo, sautéed onion, mozzarella cheese and top-round roast beef, all grilled. Heather DeHart, my food angel, created our grilled Turkey Cilantro Wrap, with a cilantro-mayo spread that we make, muenster cheese, oven-baked turkey breast, and sautéed onions, red peppers, and green peppers. Then there’s Garden Meets Grill, focaccia bread with provolone cheese. We sauté zucchini, mushrooms, red peppers and onions in olive oil. Then we put on our orange soy sauce spread and grill the whole thing!
VVK: What’s your background in cuisine?
BM: I first fell in love with dough watching Chef Brockett on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I also had a wonderful grandma who was very patient with me and taught me how to make sweet rolls, and a babysitter who made homemade bread and gave me dough to play with and make my own little loaves. I waitressed for about 15 years off and on in my life. I was the lunch director at my children’s elementary school for four years and fed 100 kids every lunch day. That was really fun!
VVK: What’s your favorite type of cooking?
BM: My favorite thing is baking! I make all of my cookies: chocolate chip, oatmeal raising, peanut butter, ginger crinkles, Cuda Chip – oatmeal, chocolate chip, and sweet ground chocolate. The muffins, coffee cake, apple pie, fudge brownies, dessert bars, biscotti. I get my breads from a supplier in Madison, Elegant Foods, that I really love – marble rye, sourdough, eight-grain – which are organic, and grill so nicely. I also get my croissants, cinnamon rolls, pastries, and Door County Cherry Pie, and Key Lime Pie from them.
VVK: What does “Cuda Café” mean?
BM: It’s short for “barracuda.” We have a barracuda mounted over the downstairs bar. He (or she) is biting our first dollar of profit! The fish was actually caught by [another partner] Dalton Schreiber’s mom. Go, Mom! Bob Griggas [the third partner] also owns a red Barracuda car.
I find it humorous that we’re named after a fish but don’t feature a fish fry on our menu. And that the building was originally a tobacco warehouse for loading tobacco on the railroad but we’re a nonsmoking establishment.
VVK: How do music and food interact at Cuda?
BM: On Friday and Saturday evenings you get all of your senses stimulated: taste and smell, sight and hearing. Add to that the company of others and the atmosphere of the building itself. It makes for a great experience. We maintain a wide variety of music. Original singer-songwriters, blues, jazz, bluegrass, rock, alternative country.
Old Dogs New Tricks is a band with roots in the Deerfield area. The dance floor is packed when they play. The Twang Dragons’ alternative country rock gets the dance floor humming, too. The Gomers have a songbook of over 2000 songs and you can be the singing star with them. Loads of fun. We’ve had [jazz guitarists] Kirk Tatnall and Jack Grassal, who are amazing musicians.
VVK: What do you like most about running the café?
BM: Making an apple pie from scratch, serving a warm piece to a customer and seeing how much they enjoy it. Moments like that. Success to me is a café full of contented customers, not the profit margin at the end of the day. This probably sounds idealistic and I know it drives my husband and the other two owners crazy – but that’s me!
“Oooo!” says Mueller, “I’m going to give you the recipe for my tomato soup. We had a HUGE garden this past summer and the whole thing was tomatoes. I made gallons and gallons.”
File under “happy accidents” this simple, scrumptious use for summer’s bounty. “One time I made a rather huge batch of spaghetti sauce for canning,” Mueller explains. “You have to let the mixture boil down, and it was getting late at night and I was getting impatient. So I started skimming off the top. Well, we tasted it, and it was so good I decided to can it.”
Beth’s Fresh Tomato Soup
3 medium onions, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup water
Half bunch celery(about 6 ribs) trimmed and chopped
6 pounds fresh tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon granulated garlic or 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
Place onions and water in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook 10 minutes. Add all other ingredients. Stir, raise heat to medium. Cook, covered until the tomatoes are tender (about 1 hour) . Add 1–2 tablespoons sugar to smooth out the flavor. Cook another five minutes. Cool and strain. Discard solids.
Yield: 1 gallon. Cream of tomato fans can add milk at the table, as Mueller’s son Steven does. Extra tip: Freeze in quart-size bags. “I lay them out on a cookie tray and put them in the freezer. Then when they’re frozen, I stack them up.”
Cuda Cafe, 12 S. Industrial Park Road, Deerfield. Phone: (608) 764-2736. Check www.cuda-cafe.com for music listings.
Thursday, June 1, 2006
in ANEW Magazine, June 2006
Column: Around the Table
“I love wedding cakes over any other type of cake because of its grandness and what it stands for,” says Betty Arp, proprietor of “I Do” Cakes by Betty, providing custom, cutting-edge cakes from scratch in her licensed home kitchen. “Maybe I'm a romantic, but I still think love can last forever.”
We’ve all experienced wedding cakes that were just tasteless towers of cloying confection – and that just is not acceptable to the 46-year-old Missouri native. “A cake not only needs to look beautiful but taste fantastic,” she insists. “Wedding cakes have had a bad reputation for years of being dry and flavorless. All too often clients say that not everyone eats cake at a reception. My response is that people will eat the cake if it’s a good one. Word spreads at the reception when it’s good.”
Along with traditional white cake, Arp’s varieties include raspberry mudslide, lemon poppy seed, hazelnut and turtle. Strawberry mousse is a favorite filling of late. Unconventional choices don’t scare her a bit. “Couples are going for all-chocolate wedding cakes,” she says. “Why not? Who doesn't love chocolate?”
A wife of 25 years and mother of three, Arp is passionate about flavor, and that includes her approach to what she calls the most exciting trend in wedding cakes: “Fondant, fondant, fondant! It’s the most creative medium for confectionery artists. Trends and tools are growing. Colors, textures, faux looks. It's endless,” she says. “Don't believe the things you read about it as far as taste. As with buttercreams, there are good recipes and there are bad recipes. Clients come to me saying that they love the look but not the taste. After a tasting with me, they’ve booked fondant cakes.”
So what is fondant? Imagine edible Play-doh made chiefly of boiled sugar syrup that can be rolled out like pie crust, draped over cakes and shaped, yielding a sophisticated, satiny finish. It’s a smooth, constructed look that you just can’t get with traditional buttercream frosting.
Also important is gum paste, which is a supremely workable medium and, despite its odd name, capable of great beauty. Dating from medieval times, this pliable, sturdy clay made from boiled sugar and natural plant gums is increasingly edging out the more fragile choices for sculpted flowers and other decorations.
VVK: How did your business get started?
BA: I made many birthday cakes and party cakes for family and friends over the years. The opportunity came to put a licensed kitchen in my home in 1993 and I jumped at it. My first wedding cake was done for someone in my church that I just called and said, “Would you give me a chance?” It was the best call I could have made. Within the next year this bride had two sisters get married. I have since done another brother and sister in the family. Now I’m doing cakes for their children's events.
VVK: How does a wedding cake order work?
BA: I usually receive either a call or e-mail from couples who want to set up an appointment for a tasting and get more information. I meet with clients at the dining table since my bakery kitchen is not that large, so the family just clears out for a while.
I don't freeze my cakes and I want to make sure the customer is tasting what they actually will be getting for their event. I appreciate the fact that people want to taste the product before purchasing, but I can't have too many different flavors to taste at one time without a lot of waste. It can be a challenge because I don't have a storefront to sell extra cake if someone doesn't show up for an appointment.
VVK: What’s your culinary background?
BA: I learned strictly at my grandmother’s and mother’s skirts. I started cooking around the age of 9. I come from a background of cooking with no recipe. A little of this and a pinch of that is how you make something. I do follow a recipe with the cakes so that I have a consistent product, but I’m not afraid to try new flavors.
That's how I developed my popular "Champagne Cake." This cake has a very distinct flavor that’s not at first noticeable, but then you get this little zing. [Once] I was describing it to a bride. She had not had a chance to taste it yet, but said that she had always found that champagne was dry and wouldn't that make the cake dry?
VVK: Tell me about your passion. Why cakes?
BA: I got interested in decorating cakes watching a very special aunt who did wedding cakes for family. I was so amazed at the frosting roses she would make. She told me someday she would teach me how to make them. She died suddenly before I got that opportunity.
Many years later, I received a beginner’s cake decorating kit and I was hooked. I took classes in a local store that sold supplies. Since that time I’ve taken many classes, even traveling to Toronto to take a rolled fondant class. I also attend conventions of years of the International Cake Exploration Societé (ICES) to stay updated on the new trends, techniques and tools. I was the state representative for ICES several years ago.
VVK: What was the most unusual wedding cake request you ever got?
BA: The bride wanted to surprise the groom with a three-dimensional deer with an arrow in it. The groom was an avid archery hunter. I made a red velvet cake deer with an arrow, but I refused [the bride’s request] to make the deer appear to be bleeding. The bride loved it, but the groom was afraid to cut it for fear of it exploding or something.
VVK: What was your favorite cake?
My daughter's wedding cake. It was an ecru fondant cake with white cutout lace pieces joined by fine string work. It gave the cake the appearance of being covered with a lace cloth. The top and bottom tiers had edible satin ribbon around them, with the bottom tier having a large bow with tails and the top tier ribbon overlapping and appearing to be secured by an antique brooch. We used fresh flowers from my own flower garden to accent. It was a joy to make.
VVK: What’s in and out of style in wedding cakes?
Stacked cakes with no pillars are in. Anything plastic is out. The bridges and fountains of the ’70s and ’80s have pretty much faded.
VVK: Any advice for our readers ?
Don't worry about what everyone else wants. This is your day. Get a cake style that reflects your taste. If you want whimsical, do it. If you like elegant, do it.
Oh, and white is white is white. The lighting at your reception is going to change whatever color white you have to another color white. It's okay.
When newly married, Arp made angel food cake from (gasp) a mix. “It just didn’t cut it with my husband,” she says. “It was not like his mom’s.” One mother-in-law’s cake recipe later, Arp had “the favorite of my entire family” and a popular birthday request.
So get out your sifters and mixers – air, air, air is the key to this feather-light treat, lovely either plain or topped with berries.
PEGGY’S ANGEL FOOD CAKE
1 2/3 cups (about 13) egg whites
1 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour, sifter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 additional cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extract
Sift flour and first sugar and set aside. Combine egg whites, cream of tarter, salt and extracts. Beat on high speed two minutes till whites hold a medium to stiff peak. Reduce speed to medium and slowly sprinkle in the cup of sugar.
Reduce speed to low and add flour-sugar mixture evenly and gently, over the course of about a minute and half.
Put batter in an ungreased angel food tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Invert pan onto a tall bottle to cool.
Monday, May 1, 2006
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
in ANEW Magazine, May 2006
Column: Around the Table
Related recipe: Red Sangria
Remember that 1976 cooking show, “In the Kitchen With Thea”? Of course you don’t. It was never televised.
“I would stand at the counter in our kitchen that overlooked our living room and host a show to an imaginary audience,” recalls 34-year-old Milwaukee native Thea Miller. “I have a few pictures, but this was before video cameras so I have no idea what I said – though I must have thought it was important. I have always loved food.”
Today, Miller is the product manager for Brennan’s Farm Markets, southern Wisconsin’s highly regarded purveyors of specialty produce, wines, cheeses and beers purchased directly from farmers and artisans around the world. Owner Skip Brennan does most of the globe-trotting and deal-making involved with acquiring new products, but it’s Miller who brings it all together. Some of her duties: doing the research that leads to new finds, helping small producers learn the intricacies of international export, handling PR and educating each employee about new products, so they can pass on the Brennan’s enthusiasm to the customer.
For someone whose passion for spreading the good word about good eats is literally lifelong, it’s the perfect occupation.
Miller started at Brennan’s while a history major at Mount Mary College. Her mother, a fan of the grocery with the old-timey feel and distinctive selection, talked her into taking a summer job at the nearby Brookfield store. “I planned to leave at the end of the summer,” says Miller. “Labor Day weekend came and went, and I’m still working at Brennan’s.”
VVK: What do you enjoy most about your job?
TM: I get to work with my favorite things: wine and food. I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world meeting with our winemakers and producers, learning firsthand what they do.
Last April, I traveled to New Zealand and worked at Daniel Schuster’s winery during harvest. He is the producer of Kiwi Gold [Brennan’s first private label wine], a fantastic wine. I got to pick Pinot Noir grapes and run them through the destemmer. And learn about winemaking from a pioneer of New Zealand wine and an international wine consultant.
It was fun and very educational, but a lot of hard work. I was covered in grapes by the end of each day and exhausted. I might have snuck a few to eat, too. I can’t wait to get that vintage in!
VVK: Tell me about your involvement with the private label wines.
We started the program about six years ago. For a number of years, Brennan’s has carried exclusive wines, meaning that if you can buy it at Brennan’s, you cannot buy it anywhere else. The private label program goes further. In 2005, we launched five new lines from all over the world, including New Zealand, Australia, Chile and California. Each line includes several varieties.
We like to work with small family-owned wineries. These little guys don’t have the production to supply big importers, so they normally wouldn’t make it to the U.S. Once a winery gets the stamp of approval from Skip, the task of getting the wine here goes to me. This involves building and maintaining a relationship with the supplier, making sure labels meet government requirements, educating our staff, making signs and tasting notes and coordinating visits from suppliers.
I brainstorm ideas for label names, work with our designer, write back labels, provide support materials for each lineup – like brochures and tasting notes – and work with staff at each store to launch and promote new wine. It’s a great feeling to know that words I wrote are on thousands of labels out there in people’s homes.
VVK: What’s been your biggest challenge?
TM: Keeping balance with all of our producers, projecting, promoting and selling to meet everyone’s needs. When you have things coming in from around the world, you can’t order and have something show up the next day.
VVK: What are some foods that Brennan’s has led the way in introducing?
TM: Skip found Island Grove Olives at a farmers’ market in Tasmania. Wendy, the owner, was selling her vacuum-packed olives there. Skip drove back to her grove and convinced her to sell her olives to us. Now she sells them all around the world.
VVK: Any flops that should have been a sure thing?
TM: We carried a sparkling juice called “Uva Uva” around 1998. The company was founded by gentleman and his daughters, and they bottled it champagne style. It was hands down the best product on the market. At that time, our exclusive grocery program was very small and the owner of the company was trying to compete with lower price rather than separating from the pack. He started selling to the big wholesale stores. Unfortunately, he went out business. Today, with the strength of our sampling program, I know it would be a great seller for us and wish we could find a product like it.
VVK: How do you compete with the mega-warehouse grocery stores?
TM: People are looking for great service and great food. The big key is having both and differentiating yourself from the pack. We sell products that the big guys don’t. We seek out the best from the little guys like us. We have a story behind every product we sell, whether it’s an orange, a pistachio or a bottle of wine.
“Just because I’m a wine buyer, don’t think that I sit around and drink expensive bottles of wine every night,” says Miller, who adapted this robust punch from a Food Network recipe for her thirtieth birthday celebration. “I like all different kinds of sangria, but this one in particular because it can be made with fruit that’s available year-round. Sometimes it’s fun to kick back with a big plate of paella or enchiladas and enjoy a glass.”
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 bottles dry red wine*
3/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
3/4 cup orange juice
2 oranges, sliced in thin rounds
2 green apples, cored and sliced thin
2 lemons, sliced in thin rounds
Boil water and pour over sugar to dissolve. Cool. Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and refrigerate covered for at least two hours and up to two days. Serve over ice.
*Miller suggests any of these Brennan’s private label picks: Bootleg Reserve Mixed Red, Riverland Merlot, Monterey Coast Cabernet Sauvignon. Or, try a single 1.5 liter bottle of Brennan’s Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.
Saturday, April 1, 2006
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In ANEW Magazine
Column: Around the Table
Related recipe: Orange's Roasted Veggies
In the mid-1970s a Jersey girl nicknamed "Orange" for her bright tresses, along with her husband, Dean, founded a foodie's paradise on Monroe Street. From cooking classes to gourmet cookware to exquisite serving accessories and gifts, Orange Tree Imports is one local treasure that just keeps getting better.
Though co-proprietor Carol “Orange” Schroeder has no formal business education, her shop has thrived for over 30 years, and her book, Specialty Shop Retailing: How to Run Your Own Store (John Wiley & Sons), has sold over 30,000 copies and been translated into Russian. Recently, I caught up with Orange to learn the story behind her success.
VVK: What attracted you to the Monroe Street neighborhood?
OS: I grew up in a very small town in New Jersey. When I first saw Monroe Street, it was like a village within the big city of Madison. Even today, it has its own bank, library, drug store, school and park - just like my hometown. We were lucky to buy a house a few blocks from the store when I was hired by Bord & Stol, so we feel very much part of the community.
VVK: What led to the unique configuration of your establishment?
OS: I had spent a year at the University of Copenhagen, with lots of free time to browse in Danish stores, and I wanted to bring some of their friendly feeling to Madison. I came in the early 1970s to get an M.A. in Danish literature, which was a wonderful experience but not necessarily a wise career move. A few months after receiving my degree, I was hired by a Madison-based Scandinavian furniture store called Bord & Stol to manage their new branch. I immediately fell in love with the antique bay window of the little shop.
When my husband Dean and I bought the branch six months later, we discontinued the furniture and concentrated on accessories. We changed the name of the store to Orange Tree Imports rather impetuously. It was a natural extension to expand into even more kitchenware when Dean joined the business full-time a year later.
VVK: How do you and your husband share the responsibilities at the store?
OS: Dean is in charge of merchandise relating to cooking and serving food, and I'm in charge of all the gift items. Orange Tree Imports is run as a participative democracy, with every one of our 30 staff members having real responsibility for some aspect of the store.
VVK: How about cooking duties at home?
OS: Dean is the creative cook. He’s known for his original version of Cape Breton oatcakes. But we split the daily cooking about evenly.
VVK: What’s your most popular kitchen item these days?
OS: The Santoku knife, which has been featured on several television cooking shows. It's a cross between a chef's knife and a cleaver. Dean gave me a ceramic one for Christmas. I was worried at first about it being breakable, I love using it -- it cuts incredibly well. We also sell lots of traditional forged metal ones. The other big trend is silicone, a flexible, functional material that comes in whimsical colors not previously associated with cooking. There are reusable pink silicone food loops for tying together large fish or roasts, frosted silicone multi-function lids that can go in the microwave or oven, and heat-proof silicone spatulas.
VVK: How about the most useless, outlandish kitchen item you’ve sold?
OS: The “square egger,” a mold that you could put a warm hard-boiled egg in so that it cooled in a cube shape.
VVK: What's your take on people's attitudes towards cookware?
OS: Customers, especially male shoppers, seem more willing to spend money on good knives than quality cookware. I think that is in part because men relate to knives as tools, and often want the best, even for kitchens where they aren't the primary cook. It's not quite as obvious why a high quality pan will enhance the cooking experience. Not everyone knows, for example, that food doesn't tend to stick in cookware that heats very evenly. Not everyone realizes that there are alternatives to traditional Teflon-like nonstick finishes, even though many customers express concern about the safety of nonstick cookware. As a specialty shop, it's our job to inform customers about the different options, and encourage them to try a piece or two to see what a difference a good pan can make.
VVK: When did the Cooking School begin? What role does it play?
OS: We started it back in 1980. Although we don't make money on it, we feel it helps establish our store as a reliable authority on cooking, and of course the instructors do demonstrate products that we sell. Students are offered a discount on the day of the class, and sometimes they are inspired to make rather extensive purchases.
VVK: What sort of impact have “big box” stores and Internet shopping had?
OS: We’re always looking for special products customers can't get at the big box stores. Fortunately for us, Madison has a strong interest in supporting locally owned businesses. We try to provide a pleasant shopping experience and competitive prices to reward that loyalty. The Internet has not proven to be a big competition in our type of merchandise, because customers like to examine what they are buying, and compare it to other items. There’s also the serendipity of finding things you love while just browsing. The added shipping costs and delayed gratification of shipping time have also been deterrents to Internet sales in our field, although we know that a few people come and talk to us and then make the purchase elsewhere. That is probably true in every type of retailing today.
VVK: What’s in Orange Tree Imports’ future?
OS: In the fall Monroe Street will again have a grocery store, which will help restore a part of our "town" that’s been missing for four years. We anticipate that the Trader Joe's customer will in many cases also be an Orange Tree Imports customer, and hope to introduce our shop to a whole new market as a result.
Forget boiling, steaming and sauteeing! Oven roasting concentrates veggies’ flavor, carmelizes their sugars, browns beautifully and retains their shape. These easy examples – a warm side and a chilled party snack – will prove the point: no fuss, no mush.
Preheat oven to 450° F. Clean a pound of fresh asparagus, trimming off the woody ends. Line a jelly-roll pan with a silicone liner or aluminum foil. Spray surface with olive oil or cooking spray. Spread asparagus in a single layer. Mist with olive oil (a Misto sprayer works great), turn and spray again. Sprinkle lightly with freshly ground salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring once. Garnish with lemon wedges.
Marinated Brussels Sprouts and Baby Carrots
Preheat oven to 400° F. Using the same method as above, roast a pound of Brussels sprouts and a half pound of baby carrots. Let cool. Combine with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar in a lidded container. Refrigerate at least two hours, occasionally shaking to mix.
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Column: Around the Table
Related recipe: Madison Club PBJ
For those of us who have enough trouble just mangling a supermarket pack of boneless, skinless chicken breast into stir-fry chunks, imagine the skill and nerves it would take to disassemble an entire bird – beautifully, to exacting standards of precision and cleanliness. Now add a gang of chefs scrutinizing your every move, just waiting for you to slip up by wiping your hand on your apron or leaving behind an unsightly knife mark.
That’s just a sliver of the practical exam portion of the American Culinary Federation’s grueling process of Chef de Cuisine Certification (CCC), a distinction recently earned by Catherine McKiernan. That makes her one of 726 CCCs in the nation, possibly the only one in the Madison area and certainly the only female one locally.
“It was a long process,” says McKiernan, 36, a native of Scotland who moved here in 1988 when she married her (now ex-)husband, a Madisonian. “I had to sit a lot of exams. But the hardest part for me was the practical.” Under five merciless pairs of eyes and a strict time limit McKiernan whipped up classic French sauces, crystal-clear consommé and intensive, artful platings that would make the Iron Chefs weep. “I must have washed my hands a thousand times,” she recalls.
One of a handful of women to make the difficult break into the rigidly male-dominated upper echelons of cuisine, McKiernan is executive chef at the Madison Club, a prestigious private venue located downtown on Wilson Street.
McKiernan graduated MATC’s culinary trades program, attending on a scholarship from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. Today she’s a scholarship mentor for the Association’s Education Foundation.
As a teen McKiernan worked a fruit and veg stand on the streets of Glasgow. Later she took jobs in professional kitchens while earning her degree in English literature at the University of Glasgow.
Stateside, McKiernan started out washing dishes at Camp Ojibwa in Eagle River, where she was quickly promoted to head cook. “The camp director, Denny Rosen, is the person who really encouraged me to pursue my culinary career. No other boss since has been so fair and encouraging,” she says. McKiernan spent 12 summers at the camp. After her first marriage ended, romance blossomed with Paul Williams, camp waterfront director, who’s now her fiancé.
Q: In this day and age, is it so different for a woman to make it in the professional kitchen?
A: Yes. Part of it is the hours. I work six days a week, usually 55 to 60 hours. It’s hard to have a life, a family. I don’t have children or anything. The men have a wife who will do that.
There is prejudice, especially as you go up through the levels. I went to a chef’s conference in West Virginia recently. Out of 300 chefs, only 4 were women, myself included, and one of the women was from Dubai!
[A local magazine] just came out with an article about the top chefs in Madison. Not one woman was mentioned. This happens a lot.
Q: How about in your kitchen?
Our situation is extremely unusual – I’m sure we’re the only place in town where both the executive chef and sous chef are female. Amy Shimank is my sous chef. She just had a baby. That’s really unusual for women in our profession. Her fiancé is home looking after the baby. She’s fantastic – 100% focused. Then there’s Corrine Richardson, She’s the lead sauté chef.
I can’t say enough about these wonderful, skilled women. The three of us have skills that the men in that article don’t even have! For example, we’re all accomplished in pastry work. That opens up more possibilities for what we can do. I can describe something, and they know exactly what I mean and how to create it. But because we’re a private club, it’s harder to get the word out about what we’re doing.
Q: Did you pursue the Chef de Cuisine Certification in order to prove yourself?
A: Definitely. Especially because I’m a woman. Even if you say you’re an executive chef, it could mean nothing in sense of professional certification to back you up. I’ve interviewed so many people who say they can cook, but put them in a kitchen and they can’t. I never want to be that person.
Q: What’s for lunch today at the club?
A: A group of Norwegians get together here every month. All men. They always have the same thing: cod with lots and lots of butter. And they drink lots of Aquavit.
Q: How about the regular menu?
Our menus are seasonal, and we get a lot from the Farmers’ Market right next door. When we serve lamb, it’s organic lamb from a farm nearby.
We just did the menu tasting for spring. Amy and I are very happy with it. I really like the genuine, wild, striped bass. It’s done in a Niçoise style, with haricots verts, Kalamata olives, baby red potatoes. We’re oven roasting the tomatoes. All the flavors just work so well with that.
We’re also serving a tangerine-glazed pork belly. It’s one of those cuts of meat you have to braise for hours on end. But it comes out so tender and flavorful.
Q: Are you going to call it “pork belly” on the menu?
A: No! We’re calling it “House-Cured Pork.” Pork belly? Nobody would order that.
This playfully layered treat features fruity preserves and fluffy mousse on that loveliest of French breads, a rich, buttery slice of brioche. Prepare the luscious components at your convenience for serving-time assembly. McKiernan assures me this is the easiest brioche recipe ever, and it freezes well, too. You can also slice up a purchased pound cake. If you can locate loaf-shaped brioche for sale in town, let me know!
One step easier? Use any of the excellent, locally made fruit spreads available at farmers’ markets and supermarkets.
To assemble, cut 1/2" slices of brioche or pound cake. Slather with PB mousse. Lay on some strawberry. Garnish with powdered sugar. Serve on pretty plates!
1/3 cup warm (105 F) water
1 packet active dry yeast
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 sticks butter, cut in cubes
Dissolve yeast in water. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt into mixer bowl fitted with dough hook. Add eggs and beat on low for 1 minute. While still beating, slowly add water-yeast mixture. Beat five minutes. Scrape down bowl and beat five minutes more. Add butter cubes, beating one minute after each addition. Beat 10-15 minutes more.
Let dough double, covered, in a bowl. Turn onto floured surface and gently work out air bubbles. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. Divide in half, shape, place in two generously buttered loaf pans and let rise to about 1/2" above the tops of the pans. Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes, until top is well-browned. Bottom should make a hollow sound when thumped. Turn out onto rack to cool.
Peanut Butter Mousse
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup whipping cream, whipped with 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Mix peanut butter and mascarpone. Add whipping cream and vanilla. Fold into whipped cream.
1 pint fresh, or 1 bag frozen, strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon each lemon and orange zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook berries (top and halve if fresh) over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they break down. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Increase heat and stir about 20 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon and orange zest and vanilla extract. Let cool.
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In Brava Magazine, March (?) 2006
In 2001 Melissa Clements began a business with a little bamboo. Today Eco-Friendly Flooring offers non-toxic, sustainable and recycled materials to customers throughout the U.S. and Canada (only a quarter of sales are local), works with several design subcontractors and employs a handful of fulltimers including Melissa’s husband, Robert. With his years of experience with floor installation, remodeling and customer service, he oversees logistics and installation contracting. We caught up with Clements to find what lies beneath.
VVK: What do you love most about your business?
MC: I love to open the door to clients. Many people think that environmentally friendly products are out of their reach financially, but I have lots of products that are actually quite competitive against their non-eco counterparts. Projects actually become doable for people.
VVK: How did you come to start Eco-Friendly Flooring?
MC: I have a background in international sales and marketing. Through my travels, I witnessed bamboo being used in a variety of applications and was fascinated by the possibilities of introducing it in our area. When I was laid off from my job at a local software company, I tested the market for bamboo with some pilot projects, and it really took off from there. My family are all builders, so I have always been in and around residential construction and design. This, coupled with my own chemical sensitivities, provided a solid background and understanding for the best way to market the products.
VVK: How has having your own showroom helped?
MC: I moved [from a home office] into the Madison Enterprise Center in September 2002. I think it is very helpful for local customers to see the product installed over a large area versus just seeing a small sample.
VVK: What has been your greatest challenge?
MC: Striking a balance between business and personal time. With a fast-growing business and a two-year-old, we have very little time to unwind. We’ll often work 80 hours a week to keep up with growth.
VVK: Who is your typical customer?
MC: Well-educated, discerning homeowners who are interested in finding a non-toxic, durable, beautiful and affordable floor.
VVK: What’s your most popular flooring, and where do people put it?
MC: For new construction, bamboo for main living areas like dining, living and kitchen areas. For remodels, cork. Our clients like to use it in kitchens because it’s comfortable to stand on, easy to install and can be put in directly over the existing floor without a messy tear-out.
VVK: What’s your favorite flooring?
MC: I like our floating linoleum flooring planks with an interlocking tongue and groove. They just float over top of the existing floor. You don’t need any glue or nails to put them in. I am drawn to the saturated color selection of this type of flooring, as it lends itself to funky, creative design.
VVK: What are the most exciting trends you see?
MC: More suppliers for cork. As the wine industry moves to using more plastic for bottle stoppers, cork farmers in Europe are looking for ways to expand their offerings, and are starting to make flooring. As supply increases, price typically drops, so this will make the market larger for us.
I am also seeing many more physician referrals for clients with chemical sensitivities, allergies, asthma, or intolerance to plastics and vinyls and the chemicals they emit. These consumers seek out healthier products that don’t make them sick.
VVK: What do you see in the future?
MC: I think that more and more big-name manufacturers of flooring will introduce a “green” offering in their lineups. This will increase consumer awareness of the products, and will lead to more competitive pricing and availability.