Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Early morning Santa Monica farmer's market confessions

It's Wednesday, which for everyone in downtown Santa Monica means the joy of the Santa Monica farmer's market (or for some, perhaps just a little more traffic, pedestrians with rickety vegetable carts, and crowded parking structures.) Since I belong to the first group, I couldn't resist the urge to take a quick stroll through the hustle and bustle of the awakening market when I arrived to work very early this morning. Are there others out there that enjoy walking through an empty farmer's market? Walking past the early-rising vendors, you'll see entire lives strategically and carefully packed into vans and trucks. Long metal poles clank and clack to transform into the lively culinary tent cities that bring Arizona street to life. The environment feels familial as people call "good morning" to one another, yawn with their mouths open wide, and get ready for their consumers. English and Spanish words dance throughout the market, around an otherwise still third street Promenade. As everyone arrives to this Los Angeles destination, it's quite possible you could hear any language uttered. At the height of the market, it's a certainty you'll observe wide-eyed stroller-riding children marvel at seriously giant artichokes and drool over orange slice samples. It's a constant that people will chat about the recipes they're planning to make with their families. You'll probably brush shoulders with some great chefs. However, there's something about observing an empty market that really reaffirms the respect I have for the hard-working individuals who run it. As it starts to warm up and the sun comes out, the unpacking continues-- lettuce heads, apple turnovers, cash boxes, calculators, scales, and more morning greetings. In Santa Monica, Wednesday is meaningful. Forget your middle of the week humdrum, because the market is today.

On the road...

The Great American Bakery Hunt is going to Seattle. Please drop a line to us to share any must-eat must-see baked good destinations!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saving dough on baked goods

Sweet Blessings Bakery in Albuquerque offers its customers "recession busting" half priced baked goods every day. Anything in their case that is not sold by mid afternoon is sold at the sizable discount, with the theory that happy customers will keep coming back for more. The Great American Bakery Hunt has seen other bakeries out there with special "Bake Sale" sections, non-advertised corners of the case that hold discounted tarts and pies with imperfections. At the farmer's market, one can often get a good deal towards closing time, as vendors rush to sell off their inventory. But these deals mostly fall upon the regular customers on the scene, and are not as openly advertised as the daily offerings of the Sweet Blessings Bakery. Local note: The roll out of bed farmer's market strategy will not work if you happen to love the "alligators" the Bread Man sells at the Santa Monica farmer's market. These pecan-icing creations seem to be sold out mid-market all the time!)

The Great American Bakery Hunt is interested in other strategies bakers are utilizing to lure consumers wary of spending. Write us and tell us how your bakery is doing and what customers should know about supporting baked goods.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Catering to the community

The Great American Bakery Hunt always appreciates a good story about nonprofit organizations and baked goods coming together for a cause.

Fast-casual restaurant chain Corner Bakery recently issued a press release detailing charitable organizations selected to receive free catering in honor of National Volunteer Week.

According to the release, Corner Bakery sees this as an opportunity to acknowledge the work of volunteers who are giving back to their communities. During these rough times, Corner Bakery's actions are particularly relevant for members of the nonprofit community. The economic downturn impacts the extent that organizations are able to acknowledge volunteers through appreciation efforts such as a simple "thank you" meal or treat. Because many community programs rely hugely (if not entirely) on the help of volunteers, Corner Bakery provides important support in this area.

Cheers for the "catering to the community" movement-- hopefully other bakeries and restaurants will follow suit.

Follow that cupcake!

Bakery hunting sources in Connecticut recently tipped us off to The Cupcake Truck, a mobile cupcakery that updates cake-seekers on their daily location. If you're in the Connecticut area, navigate to the Cupcake Truck using Twitter updates or their blog Food-Driven. One can't help but feel enticed by the descriptions on their site: For $2, you can purchase a "chocolate ruin" cupcake. The good people at the Cupcake Truck suggest that the deep, dark chocolate buttermilk cake "may be your downfall."

You have to appreciate the philosophy of these Cupcake Truckers, who write: "We're just two people who love good food. We also love making people smile. And we've learned that nothing makes people smile like good food. That's why we do what we do. Because this complicated, challenging world could use more smiles."

Keep on truckin' Cupcake Truck! The Great American Bakery hunt salutes you!