That’s right folks! We’re going to be offering classes once our new space opens!
Yep, you got it. I’m one of those tattooed food workers. Despite my having been initially inked over 20 years ago, the fact that I have turned parts of my body into artists’ canvases and work in a commercial kitchen has shoved me into a category of “stereotypes.” I hate stereotypes, don’t you? Yeah, yeah, they all stem from some semblance of reality, but really, are they any more than a way to label someone without really getting to know them?
But I digress…
Folks often ask what happens to the treats I make while experimenting and creating. Well, if the results are edible (believe me…some are not), the treats often go to friends, neighbors and my laundry lady who thankfully keeps me in clean clothes. But, there are those rare times that I am inspired to really stretch my wings and do something special, and I always have a recipient in mind.
I so wish our fabulous Blog Editor, Linda Roy, were writing this as my brain works in crazy spirals and tangents. Please forgive the following crazy mess of a blog entry as I hope you will agree it was worth it.
Some months back I decided to take a few condensed courses in sugar paste flowers. The craft combined many worlds about which I’m quite passionate so I took naturally to the techniques taught. However, due to my full work schedule and limited personal funds, I decided to invest in some basic supplies and continue my education on my own. Through much success and failure, I learned what worked best for me.
Returning home exhausted after long, hot days in the Alecia Bakery NYC kitchen, I would have normally collapsed onto my bed with my pug, Lenny, and the tv remote. But learning something new, that I had admired since I was a teen, gave me a second wind every night. With Lenny laying at my feet, I molded and painted a field of flowers. Roses, orchids, lilies, peonies and hydrangeas, filled and brightened my apartment. Another perk of my new found creative outlet was that my brain felt less “fuzzy.” Stresses of the day dissolved into the background as I made stamens and petals.
It was inevitable, of course, that I would feel the need to challenge myself further and create a miniature pug. The perfect size to top a very special cupcake or peeking out from a bouquet of flowers on a much larger dessert, the little fella proved more challenging than one would think. But, my determination trumped my need for photorealism. Soon, I had an ever-growing grumble of cartoon-like sugar paste pugs.
It was one of those little pugs that pushed me in the direction of edible lace. My bridal pug needed a veil and therefore, I needed to learn a new technique. Not one to just dip my toes into the shallow end of the pool, I jumped into the deep end with no intention of drowning. I made sheets of beautiful lace in all manner of patterns and delicateness. Amidst the ocean of white, stood one tray of midnight black. That tray was destined for a group of very special friends.
You see, as I was learning to model these amazing pieces meant to adorn cakes destined for momentous occasions such as weddings, anniversaries and notable birthdays, it struck me how similar my new creations were to the beautiful ink that adorned my body. Both tattoo and special event cake artists regularly face the same challenges and questions from clients:
- “How much do you charge?”
- “Why are you so expensive?”
- “I want a tattoo/cake exactly like this one!” (Just don’t do this. Just. Don’t.)
- “Why does it take so long?” (aka “If I order my cake today, why can’t I pick it up tomorrow?”)
The list goes on and on, but I believe the #1 question asked is “How much does it cost?” If you are one of the millions of people who have asked a tattoo and/or cake artist that question, you know there is no simple answer. There are a myriad of things that must be taken into consideration and it was that myriad that brought me to the realization of how two seemingly different industries are actually incredibly similar.
You know the old adage, “You get what you pay for?” Well, it is supremely true when it comes to tattoos and special event cakes. Both can initially seem pricey until you really consider for what you’re paying. There is a world of difference between a $20 tattoo from a flash sheet and a $2000 tattoo that is an original piece of art drawn specifically for you. Just as the vast differences are obvious between a $20 sheet cake that serves 50 from the local supermarket and a $2000 tiered special event cake that includes multiple fillings and handmade sugar flowers painted to match your bridal bouquet that also serves 50.
Now don’t go jumping to conclusions that I am some sort of snob. I am not, by any means. You can ask my friends! Yes, I did nearly give my mum a heart attack when I told her my exquisite Sylvia Weinstock wedding cake (served 125) was going to cost nearly $4000 (in 1999). But, I can also get down with a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with the best of ‘em and have a handful of 20 year old flash tattoos! What I am is a person who carefully takes into consideration what truly goes into creating something and thus its perceived value.
All of that crazy, tangential thinking brings us to today. I could have taken anything to my friends at Sacred Tattoo NYC. They never ask. They never expect. They are always appreciative. They are the kind of friends for whom you want to do things. But my brain wouldn’t turn off (it never does) and I had to create something that utilized my recently honed creative outlet as well as aspects specific to my friends and the tattooing industry.
For two weeks, I kept my secret. As my friend and website designer tweeted last week, “I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I get too excited when I [buy] something for someone! It’s like I’m 5, and I just can’t resist spilling the beans!” Let’s just say that it has taken every ounce of self control for me not to tell anyone about my plan.
So, I present you with my latest special event cake. Comprised of four layers of vanilla bean cake covered in honey buttercream; the strawberry buttercream filling was specifically chosen for the one Sacred Tattoo family member who is somewhat fussy about flavors and has a love affair with strawberry Poptarts. Handmade roses and sugar skull elements are classic images which are regularly paired in tattoos and flowed perfectly in my mind and on this cake.
Oh and hey! If you’re in the market for some extraordinary, original body art, my friends may be perceived as “expensive,” but they’re worth it! Be sure to check them out and if you’d rather your art adorn your walls rather than your body, you won’t want to miss Sacred Gallery NYC which is adjacent to the studio.
This is the breakdown of today’s cake. What is the perceived value to you?
Size: 8” round
Weight: 7 lbs. 10 oz.
Cake: vanilla bean
Filling: strawberry mousseline buttercream (contains house made roasted strawberry puree)
Icing: honey buttercream (contains local honey from the Union Square Greenmarket)
Decoration: edible black sugar skull elements, 35 red gumpaste roses, 24 gumpaste leaves
Time investment: 7 days to complete
Beyond our love of sweet treats and all good things to eat, Alecia Bakery NYC was created so that we could help our community. We were honored to be able to provide Harlem RBI with our artisan caramels for “A League of Our Own” which celebrates the girls and women within their organization. The following is a quick note of thanks from Special Events Associate, Idalia Soto.
Hello Everyone!I wanted to take a moment and say how thankful we are for the support you have given Harlem RBI. You helped make A League of Our Own so special and delicious! Our guest could not stop raving about how delicious the treats and wine were. We included your contact information in our gift bags that went to all our 300 guests.Below are some photos highlighting the event and some of donations (I will send more once we get them from our photographer). I could not have worked with a better group to make this all possible. We were able to raise almost $80,000 dollars which was a new record for this event. That would not have been possible without you!
Thank you for allowing our youth to Play, Learn and Grow!All the best,Idalia Soto
IDALIA SOTOSpecial Events AssociateHarlem RBI | DREAM Charter SchoolPLAY. LEARN. GROW.
So, here’s the thing. I’ve been in the food industry for 17 years. Retail. Wholesale. Corporate. Private labeling. Specialty buying. You name it, I’ve probably had a hand in it directly or indirectly at one time or another. In fact, if you include all the years I worked in a grocery store deli, bakery, waited tables and managed an espresso bar (before there was a “coffee culture”), I’ve been in the industry for almost 25 years now.
Two weeks ago, was the opening day of my absolute favorite trade show — the Summer Fancy Food Show. It would have been my 17th consecutive year attending, but I missed the 2011 show due to the event temporarily relocating to D.C. while the Javits Center was being remodeled as well as personal scheduling conflicts. I hauled my tuchus down to D.C. the following year, however!
This year was my 16th show. Sixteen years attending the Fancy Food Show and I was as excited on opening day (June 30) as I was back in ’97 when I first walked into the Javits for my very first show.
The Summer Fancy Food Show is North America’s Largest Specialty Food & Beverage Event. Over 24,000 buyers from across the U.S. and around the world are prime to discover 180,000 products including confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more, from 2,400 exhibitors spanning 80+ countries. The trade only event (not open to the general public) is hosted by the Specialty Food Association.
The Specialty Food Association is the preeminent not-for-profit business trade association established in 1952 to foster trade, commerce and interest in the $86 billion specialty food industry. The Association is an international organization composed of more than 3,000 member companies including domestic and foreign manufacturers, importers, distributors, brokers, retailers, restaurateurs, caterers and other specialty food businesses.
You probably think I would be tired of it all by now, but I still love it! I find new and exciting things every year. Quite honestly, anyone who is faced with over 350,000 sq. ft. of specialty food exhibitors and walks away with
no new ideas and nothing to be excited about should hang up their hat. They don’t belong in the industry anymore.
Yes, there are people like this. To them, this show is drudgery and they dread walking the aisles and expect to not find anything new. They return to their shops and continue to fill their shelves with the same lines, the same products, week after week, year after year. And, sadly, their customers end up with the short end of the stick. Their customers never have the opportunity to see or taste all of the amazing things available. Someone else made that decision for them. The shop owners chose not to take a risk, to think outside of their proverbial box. They chose to remain safe and staid. But, we must all remember that with great risk comes the opportunity for greater reward.
This year I was doubly excited because I had the unique opportunity of having a virgin Fancy Food Show crew. My team members had never before heard of, let alone been part of such an experience. We six food lovers, covered the gamut from vegan, vegetarian, dairy sensitive, gluten sensitive, alcohol allergic, diabetic to “if-it’s-on-my-plate-i’ll-eat-it”! Just as the title to this blog entry states, we went, we saw, we ate, we were inspired and at the end of the day we returned to our homes and passed out…happily.
WE CAN’T WAIT FOR NEXT YEAR!
Our team divided itself into Instagrammers and bloggers during and post-show. Here is a bit about our experience…
Well I walked my first Fancy Food Show Marathon and after much anticipation must say I had a blast!
Weaving through the crowded aisles of serious foodies from all over the world was a breeze. Chatting with whoever in our own group of 6 was nearby, I felt like a kid at summer camp. And booth after booth of delicious samples…hard to put into words. WOW! Luckily for us our General (as we called Lin) prepared us with veteran tips on pacing ourselves. Lobster pizza, East Indian cuisine, barbecue, dumplings, tacos, spreads, dips, chips, juices, coffees, and more varieties of cheeses, olives, cookies, and crackers than I could have imagined.
Our joke….. this must have been what a party at Caligula’s house was like.
Looking back at the Summer Fancy Food Show over a week later, I still mostly picture the cheeses and olives. I guess it’s because they’re my dietary Achilles heels. Other foods, I can eat in moderation … or with some reasonable semblance of same. Offered a taco (there were some great samples), pastries (check) or cold desserts like ice cream or gelato (check again) I can form the words, “No thanks” after tasting a few samples. I can exert some self-control. Not so with the cheeses, or those olives—and honest to God, I’d never seen so many, and so many varieties, and in many cases varieties I’d never known about of before, in one place.
It was one thing to hear about the billion miles and gazillion aisles of food at this event, another to be there and experience it for myself. I can only compare it to the World’s Fair or something like that. It’s kind of indescribable, which is one reason I waited awhile—way too long— to take a stab these few paragraphs. I don’t remember all the stuff I ate. I just remember eating stuff constantly for hours and hours. Delicious stuff, gourmet stuff, real fancy food.
So I’m keeping it short, sweet and simple, sticking to those central images: The trays of cheeses. The cases of multihued olives. And also the distributors and buyers from around the world haggling at the international booths, sizing each other up across tables, looking at each other eye-to-eye, exchanging business cards, taking notes and making calculations with pads and pencils along with, or instead of, laptops and tablets …
There was, I guess, an element of the Old World bazaar to this incredible event that added another layer of fascination for me as I roamed the place with Team Alecia Bakery NYC, snatching olives and cheese from anyplace within reach … and gobbling down a whole lot of other food too.
NEXT TIME, Lin … I repeat, NEXT TIME, I’ll try to remember everything I ate so I can write about it here.
(Photos by our Instagrammers: Liz, Kevin & Dan)
To the victor goes the spoils (aka some of the samples our crew snagged)…
Even our precious pugs got treats from the show when we returned home…
And a very special family of 7 children ranging in ages from 1 month to 11 years received a very generous gift from the ladies at the Happy Family booth!
WE’LL BE BACK NEXT YEAR!
SEE EVERYONE JUNE 29-JULY 1, 2014!
One week ago as Lenny and I were out for our evening walk, a toddler no more than 18 months old ran towards us on the sidewalk with his parents closely following. The child, his cheeks puffed from his giant smile, had one end of a ribbon tied around his wrist attaching a large round mylar balloon to him like a bouncing tail as he toddled towards us as fast as his chubbly little legs seemed to allow. I couldn’t help but smile and think to myslf, “We should all experience life with such joyful abandonment!” However, for many, this is sadly not the case.
“The number of New Yorkers without homes has reached an all-time high. Tonight, more than 50,000 of our neighbors — including 21,000 children — will sleep in emergency shelters. The Coalition provides hot meals, crisis services, job training, permanent housing and special youth programs to 3,500 men, women and children each day while fighting for long-term solutions.”
Okay, okay! You’ve heard the numbers. You’re tired of being shown sad faces and despicable living conditions. Let me, instead, tell you about a magical night in Central Park where children and families were able to play until their cheeks hurt from smiling and bellies ached from laughter. A night that kids were free to be kids with one another — no matter what their socioeconomic status — and how that single evening helped set the stage for more smiles, more laughter and more happy memories.
According to Accuweather, “New York City has its seventh-wettest June on record.” Considering I’ve worn my wellies and dressed Lenny in his raincoat more times than not this month, I believe it. I would be a liar if I said I hadn’t been nervous tracking the weather forecast in the days preceding the Coalition for the Homeless’ Carnival Night for Kids. Mother Nature, however, sandwiched one perfect evening between two full of drenching rain. I’ve learned to be thankful for small miracles and this was definitely one.
My guests for the evening were New York Times bestselling author, Jerome Preisler, and his lovely wife (& Alecia Bakery NYC assistant), Suzanne. We were joined by the Director of First Step Job Training Program, my friend Liz Henderson, who introduced us to her co-workers and engaged us in thought-provoking discussions about our society while answering questions about the evening’s event and the Coalition.
“Camp Homeward Bound — The nation’s first summer sleep-away camp for homeless children. Located in beautiful Harriman State Park CHB provides hundres of boys and girls with a fun and safe summer.”
“Bound for Success — Gives homeless students the educational support they need to succeed in school through afterschool and summer day camp programs.”
Little could have pulled me away from meeting such hard-working and dedicated people, but the gleeful squeals and children’s chatter that swirled around us captured my attention.
Cheering wildly as they took turns soaking the camp counselors in the dunk tank…
Skipping gleefully through random puddles with their faces brightly painted…
Giddily wearing balloon corsages…
Eating chicken fingers and cotton candy until their tummies were full…
Singing camp songs with a stage full of counselors…
Nothing I could say or write could fully express the joy that filled Victorian Gardens last night, but I believe these pictures captured some of the magic…
(*click on the thumbnail to view the photo in its entirety)
“Every summer since 1984, Camp Homeward Bound has given homeless youngsters the chance to escape crowded shelters and sweltering city streets to enjoy swimming, music, arts + crafts and learn cooking and computer skills. It’s a rare chance to forget the stress and insecurity of shelter life and just be a kid. Camp fosters self-esteem and confidence to build upon when summer ends. You can give a homeless boy or girl and opportunity to enjoy a summer he or she won’t forget by sponsoring a camper today!”
“That’s right. I’m the social do-gooder yer mama warned you about!”
A couple weeks ago, with my 41st birthday quickly approaching, I began considering how to mark the day I was born. Birthdays bring to mind memories of pool parties with neighborhood friends, the cacophony of Chuck E. Cheese’s, getting your driver’s license when you turned 16 (for those of us who grew up in Michigan), slamming shots on your 21st culminating in your swearing you’d never drink again (ummm…no mum, I didn’t do this), and the years following when celebrations became smaller and more intimate yet more meaningful.
I’m not much for being the center of attention and with such a high percentage of my social circle spread out across the country a traditional celebratory gathering wasn’t in the cards. I found myself reflecting on my 30th birthday. My husband had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away just weeks prior and my co-workers didn’t want me to be alone so they took me out to dinner after the shop closed that evening. While at dinner, calls and texts poured in from family and friends across the country. It had secretly been planned that everyone would participate in my birthday celebration remotely. It was a wonderful night and a birthday I will always remember for the love sent over the airwaves. So in that same vein, while speaking with my dear friend, Jerome, I came up with “The Peanut Butter Cookie Project” which would allow me to celebrate with friends and family no matter their location while helping an all-volunteer, non-profit, no-kill rescue organization that was near and dear to my heart — Curly Tail Pug Rescue.
WHO COULD PARTICIPATE? Anyone who was my personal Facebook friend. Yes, sometimes it’s beneficial to be friends with a baker who owns a company 🙂
WHAT WAS REQUIRED?
* Donate a minimum of $20 to Curly Tail Pug Rescue. (Many of my friends donated more because, well, they’re awesome!)
* When participants received their cookie, they took a digital picture of themselves, their family, etc., enjoying their treat in honor of my birthday and posted it on my Facebook page with the hashtag #ThePeanutButterCookieProject.
ABOUT THE COOKIE: The Alecia Bakery NYC Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie weighs in at a WHOPPING 7 oz. MINIMUM! This is the total weight of an ENTIRE box of Girl Scout Do-Si-Dos, which is the inspiration for this treat! This monster of a cookie consists of two nearly 5″ Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies sandwiched together with deliciously creamy Peanut Butter Buttercream. Of course, we couldn’t let it go there. We had to add something extra to gild the lily — a swirl of house made caramel! Salted Caramel adds a touch of sweetness while Habanero Caramel adds heat and sweet! And since these mammoth treats are too big for any of our pre-made bags, we hand cut cellophane and hand wrap each one.
Five steps to peanut butter sandwich cookie heaven…
$710 donated to Curly Tail Pug Rescue! That’s right! $710 smack-a-roos, baby!
HAPPY 41ST BIRTHDAY TO ME!
* Would you like to raise money for an organization? Contact us for #ThePeanutButterCookieProject program details!