Happy Pie Day

The Wednesday market before Thanksgiving has become one of our favorite days at The Ann Arbor Farmers Market.   It’s come to represent a final adieu to the fall, and a pleasant welcome to the winter.

Heather and I agree that it’s hard not to smile after working there– It was an unusually beautiful November day, everybody who stopped by was super positive, and there was a sense of community among the vendors.

I’ve dedicated this post to sharing scenes from my day, as I walked around collecting some last minute treats for holiday entertaining.  I’m especially excited to share with you some of our favorite friends at The Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market.

We chose to bring a few six-inch cakes in pumpkin and chocolate praline, a variety of fall cookies, and a whole lot of our Tantre pumpkin pies.

This is the view of our booth, with our favorite Michigan Radio producer, Zoe Clark.  We were lucky enough be hired to bake her wedding cake last summer, and Heather and I share a moment whenever we hear her on the radio.  We’re quite proud.

We also love her mom, Lisa, who, together with her husband, Jeff, is responsible for keeping Selma Cafe an ongoing community project.  If you haven’t been to this pop up cafe at their home, it’s worth going at least once.  We’ll certainly bug you about it again before February 3 when the ladies (and gent) of Sweet Heather Anne are scheduled to cook.

First on my shopping list was a 1/2 peck of apples.  I decided a couple fruit pies would be nice to supplement the staple pumpkin and pecan.  I’ve never had as good of luck as when I get a mixed bag.  That way, I’m able to get a variety of apples with delicious flavor and ones that will hold up a better in the oven.

Just after paying for my apples, I walked by Lizzie from Wasem Fruit Farm.  They have our absolute favorite snacking apples, Green Russet, so I had to get some more!  I’ve never seen them from any other farm.  They are very firm, sweet, and tart, with a wonderfully complex flavor.  It’s a good thing I brought two large shopping bags!

It’s been a while since I’ve been up early enough to get to the Market before work on Wednesday, so It’s been a while since I’ve had kimchee from The Brinery… I just can’t seem to keep it around very long.  I eat it with everything, and sometimes on it’s own.  It’s definitely my favorite flavorful booster for my staple fried egg and toast.

Plus, David is a joy to run into.  His enthusiasm is simply contagious.

This is a shot of the greens from Seeley Farm.. Their spicy mix is delicious and beautiful..  In the summer they even include small, edible flowers.

A trip to the Market wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Durham’s Tracklements, just around the corner.  They have limited hours, so making it downtown while they’re open is a real treat.  Taylor, fish smoker and patee chef extraordinaire, worked with us until just recently (and hopefully she’ll make a guest appearance or two).

She served T.R.’s smoked trout at at a dinner party recently, and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.  And since the smoked salmon isn’t available anymore at Beezy’s, I REALLY needed to stop in.

Before heading home, I made sure to let Heather have a break for an eat sandwich..  While I was manning the booth, Nicole of Nicole Ladonne Photography, who’s been volunteering with us, stopped in, and Rachel, our business manager, with her mother and grandmother!

We all left for Thanksgiving with a big smile… I hope you had as joyful a holiday as we did!

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Sweet!

As a warning, there are studio nudes in this post. While they are quite different from other types of nudes, this post may not be safe for work.

Besides working my booty off with Heather at the studio, I also work in the evenings slinging drinks at the Old Town Tavern in Ann Arbor. While my mother may worry about me, this non-traditional work schedule affords me the flexibility to do really cool things like take college painting courses on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. (I got an A on my first oil painting ever, thank you, thank you) For Painting I this semester have this super cool professor (Maybe I’m sucking up, but the semester’s not over, after all), and he recommended I check out the work of Will Cotton. The stuff is so cool that I have to share it with you all. I chose a few examples that were especially cake related.

I have to say, as a student of traditional piping techniques, and I almost shed a tear when I saw his sculptures. I had a harder time lifting those images from his website, so you need to go there to see them. It will be totally worth it.

The next woman is wearing a croquembouche hat. For those of you not familiar, it’s a (ridiculously fabulous) French wedding pastry tower. Yes, rather than wedding cakes, the French choose to construct giant towers of puff pastry, chocolate, caramel, macarons, spun sugar, almonds, ribbon, or whatever else they choose. In that light, it’s not a huge leap to put the thing on a beautiful woman’s head. I understand, Will Cotton, I understand.

While I’m on the fine art tilt, I’d like to give a shout out to one of our favorite (cake) artists, Kate Sullivan of Cake Power. Last summer, she created this beautiful cake installation to mimic Wayne Thiebaud’s iconic Cakes. We love her.

Food Imitating Art

Besides being a great teacher, I recently found out my professor makes really cool art. Through November 26, you can see his paintings in the U of M Residential College gallery. It’s totally free (date night?). While the intensity of the pieces may not totally translate on the computer screen, because 1) many were constructed from computer-generated images in the first place and 2) they are really big, here are a couple of examples anyway. I took them from his blog.

A Nightmare Before Christmas (Birthday)

Thank you to Erin Werner of Erin Werner Photography: She sent us these lovely pictures, and she is also Gabby (the birthday girls)’s mom!  When Erin contacted us about this order, we were so excited.  As a child Heather dreamed of working as a sculptor for Pixar, because of movies like this one!

Each of these characters was a labor of love.  This cake was small, but Heather and I each spent a whole day sculpting!  Heather excels at making organic shapes… she made Oogie Boogie, Zero, and Jack and Sally’s faces!

There is a finite amount of time that we are able to work on each cake.  We don’t like to work on a surface of the cake more than a day before they go to the client, so all of the decorating takes place in that time.  Some of the details could be made ahead of time, as the pure sugar sculptures have an indefinite shelf life, but we don’t realistically have free time like that.  Plus, it’s nice to have some freedom to change things in the moment of cake creation.

Gabby arrived at the studio looking cute as a button, toting her Jack and Sally dolls, and immediately our hard work was totally worth it.  She didn’t know she was going to be on the cake with Jack and Sally, and all she could do was smile!  Thank you again to her mom, Erin, for the super fun order and for taking these beautiful pictures.

Food For Thought

Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project

So, in the studio, we listen to a lot of NPR.  Like, a lot a lot.  Like, every day…  And we can only listen for so long before were are talking amongst ourselves.  Again and again, we talk about is Americans’ general relationships to food, and how much attitudes could change for people to be more healthy and systems be more sustainable.

Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery ProjectIn the brainstorming process, we kept coming back to distorted food costs as a reflection of all the hard work that goes into getting food to the consumer.  As Americans, we certainly expect food to be affordable, but we are also far enough removed from the supply chain that it can be difficult to understand why food should sometimes cost more.   This is not a very rosy subject.  But we DO have a rosy outlook!  We are hopeful!  We know that information is power!Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project

What we really wanted to do was to make a cake (or series of cakes) honored one person who touched each ingredient on it’s way to becoming our cake.  We knew we wanted to make the pumpkin cake… The recipe is relatively straightforward, and it highlights beautiful seasonal fruit from Tantre Farm.   We hadn’t quite solved the design problem though, as it needed to be done in a matter of weeks, not months.  Hm.  We simplified our idea, and translated it to what we do best… building one GIANT cake.  Heather chose to make it a contemporary version of the cake on our business card (love it!) and to use one large tier to diagram it’s ingredient history.  We love the final product, and we hope you do too… It’s on display at the Gallery Project through December 11.Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project

Not only did we get to make a beautiful cake, but the three of us had an evening off to hang out together!  Most importantly, being around other artists, not just bakers, allows us to continue to be inspired.  We had a lovely evening of conversation, bumping into old friends, and making new ones.  The exhibit spilled out into the street with our friends Phillis and Joel at The Lunch Room. (mmmm slaw!)  Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery ProjectThe three of us took advantage of the beautiful night and ended the night with a cocktail and some pickled tomatoes at our favorite new evening spot, Mani Osteria.  It was a lovely break after a very busy week.

Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project I have to admit, it felt a little productive, too.  We bumped into some potential holiday cookie clients!  We were able to have a little toast to the future of the business..  All in all, how sweet.

Sweet Heather Anne Cake Ann Arbor Gallery Project