Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why Yes, We Do Cater

It’s a question we often hear while interacting with customers at the farmer’s markets, as well as inquiries by phone or email. Very few things are more gratifying than direct customer feedback which happens along the lines of “ I love your tarts, do you think you could put together a platter for our (insert event here) and also provide a few other dishes?”

Why would you say no?

For a couple of years, I held on to the idea that we should maintain catering menus, with items varied seasonally. Lunch, dinner, cocktail appetizers – I’ll email them right over to you, thanks for asking.

Then the great recession hit. Customers and corporations started (rightly so) and continue to measure their dollars.

This led us to the concept of creating custom menus, which we continue to do today. While it takes a bit more time to think through the menus, our sales success is greater because we’ve gotten the budget discussions out of the way and it can be all about the food going forward.

Catering also offers myself & my team a chance to think outside of LPPCo.’s weekly (mostly well managed) tart production cycle. For the time being, as we’re growing, it is still feasible for us to manage catering jobs with-in our week, and besides putting out some good food, offers some additional bonuses.

The process of pulling together a catering event have some similarities to how we produce our tarts. It also allows us to look at how we create other types of food and experiment with flavor profiles. If we notice an item seems popular (some menu items do get repurposed), it gets me thinking about “productizing” it. Could it stand on it’s own? (Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This will be an upcoming separate post in the near future).

These days, when I walk into LPPCo.’s kitchen and utter “hey, we have a catering job coming up” to my team, with-in moments someone’s grabbed a carrot out of the walk-in and is making carrot tulips, radish roses bloom profusely (except for the day we accidentally froze them in ice water) and platters are being sorted through.

A little diversity, for the moment, is a good thing at LPPCo.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Getting Ready for the Farmer’s Market Season

Getting ready for the farmer’s market season is like planning for a trip (ah, yes, vacations… remember those?). Much like you sorting through bathing suits and hiking shorts of seasons past (do they fit? Are they too tatty to be shown in public to people I don’t know and will never see again?), I spend time rummaging through our storage area assessing our gear the same way. Tablecloths not stained or torn - great we’ll get those in the wash. Whiteboard looks like it was the puck in an air-hockey tournament. Perhaps a new one and while we’re thinking about it would a chalkboard look nicer?

In reality, the planning starts long before now, back in late January/early February when the market applications start to be announced. I don’t know how well you like to plan your lives, but sitting down in January and committing to show up every week somewhere in the (hopefully) coming nicer weather can be a little daunting. This also tends to prompt a few sometimes not-so-tactful emails out to family & friends saying things such as “Congratulations on your engagement, do you think you’ll be getting married this year? And if so… any idea which weekend that might be?”

Once the applications have been submitted, and we’ve heard back from which of the markets we’ve been accepted at (which is generally a 6-week process), it’s all over but for the tart baking and keeping our fingers crossed for good weather and loyal customers. And maybe the chance of a quick get-away before it all begins, shorts and bathing suit willing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Riffing is a Good Thing

Fairly frequently, I get asked why I chose to call our products tarts instead of hand-pies (or pasties (pah-sties)).
Traditional pasties (pah-sties) regardless of if their fillings are vegetarian or meat contain onions and potatoes as a base ingredient. The fillings tend to be a bit “heavier” as in closer to what you would find in a pot pie*. The fact that I feel I need to explain their annunciation in every mention brought us to realize we’d spend more time teaching audiences about the derivative of the word vs. our products.
In truth, our tarts are closer to hand-pies than pasties (pah-sties). When I think of hand-pies, fruit fillings come to mind (like apple turnovers which we use to devour at our local orchard in the fall). The crust we use is very similar, though we incorporate an extra few steps to create the irresistible flake you see on them.
Our tart fillings are derived from a mixture of family recipes and eating experiences across globe with the goal of taking our customers to new places with all of our varieties (even if it is through a few short bites). With that in mind the idea of a “hand-pie” seemed a little too traditional while “tart” added a little extra character in embodying our products.
Besides, who wouldn’t rather be “Queen of Tarts” over “Queen of the Hand-Pies”?
What comes down to being most important, is however, that our customers enjoy them!
* This is not a dis on the pot-pie, we’re big fans of them!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It All Started with a Tart

About 4 and half years ago I brought our first samples warm tart samples into a potential client. It was tart love at first site. Since then we've been working to explore and expand our reach of tart lovers through out the Portland OR area and beyond.

Expect to see posts about our adventures in working with farmers for ingredients, farmer's markets and tarts on the road. I might even convince one of our employees to contribute from time to time.

Until then, sit back, relax and enjoy!