Tag Archives: Little Branch

Foodportunity PDX

8 Mar

Last night I was fortunate enough to accompany my neighbor and friend Faith Dionne of Bees & Beans at Foodportunity, a local networking event for food journalists, Public relation professionals, restaurateurs, farmers, companies and all food passionate people. The event was held at The Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland and featured bites and sips from some of the area’s best, including: Accanto, Beaker and Flask, Koi Fusion, Lincoln Restaurant, Sassafras Southern Kitchen, St. Jack and Vino Paradiso to name (more than) a few. Faith was passing out her addicitive Honey Bar, the flagship flavor in her artisan line of candy bars, and as a representative of Little Branch, I was able to sneak in a couple jars of Strawberry-Rose jam. I served this jam on black pepper crackers with Tillamook’s Vintage Cheddar and Niman Ranch’s Jambon Royal and got some great feedback and exposure. It was fantastic having the opportunity to meet so many people face-to-face in the industry, such as food photographer David Reamer , pastry chef Jeff McCarthy and the women from Republic of Jam, especially after following/admiring them on the internet for so long. The event was a smashing success and it was great connecting with the thriving local food community here, who are as equally passionate about food as I am. It is times like these when I am reminded of how grateful I am to live in the Pacific Northwest and to be a contributing member of this vibrant culture. Many thanks to Faith and the other sponsors and organizers of Foodportunity for making this delicious evening possible. I look forward to seeing other people’s reports from the night (ahem, Byron and Allison, this means you).

Photo by David L. Reamer

A Shelf of One’s Own

7 Mar

Little Branch has moved…to a new commissary kitchen, that is. Beginning in March, all of our jams and granola will now be made in the off-hours at Besaw’s Restaurant in NW Portland.

What you see pictured above is the most prized possession in our cooking arsenal, our Mauviel copper preserving pan. Made in France, every single one of these copper pans are hammered by hand. We’ve all heard why copper is the best for cooking, given the even heat distribution, but I cannot stress what a difference this pan makes when it comes to cooking jam. The wide shape lends itself to quick moisture evaporation and prevents the fruit mixture from boiling over during the cooking process. This pan has (gratefully) found a home on the top shelf in the storage room of Besaw’s, alongside all of our spare jars and granola bags.

When the lovely.in.all.ways Cana Flug, owner of Besaw’s, contacted me regarding a possible collaboration between the restaurant and Little Branch I was quick to accept the invitation. Over the next couple of months we’ll be working on switching over all of Besaw’s current jam selection to Little Branch product, highlighting seasonal ingredients and unique flavor combinations. First up will be an Aged  Balsamic Strawberry Rhubarb jam, featuring Italian vinegar and locally grown strawberries and rhubarb (perfect for slathering on toast). This spring, you’ll also be able to find our jam available for retail at Besaw’s, perfect for gifting or your own cooking pleasure.

I’d like to take a minute to thank Cana for taking the initiative and for being so supportive, and to the entire Besaw’s crew for being so welcoming. We can’t wait to get started in our new home.

Fit for a Potluck

6 Mar

Today I’m going to a potluck brunch to celebrate my friend Lauren’s return from Israel. Here’s what I’m bringing:

Salted Blueberry Lime Jam

for swirling into Greek Yogurt

Little Branch Olive Oil Granola

with nuts, seeds and blueberries

Slow-Baked Banana Cake

with coconut cream cheese frosting

What’s your favorite thing to brunch on?

Tomato Confit

21 Feb


Recently, Little Branch received a plug in an article written by Tony Perez, food columnist for the Portland Mercury. Out of the many reviews we’ve received throughout the years, this one was one of the most well-written and best researched articles we’ve come across or had the pleasure of receiving. I’d like to take a minute to thank Mr. Perez for taking the time to review our food truck, Lucy’s Original, and for diligently doing his homework. In honor of this occasion I’d like to give the recipe out for the “fantastic tomato confit” we make. We like keeping a jar of this stuff in our fridge at all times. It’s the perfect topper for burgers but also on sandwiches, goat cheese tarts, and it makes an excellent alternative to the tablespoon of tomato paste needed in your favorite pasta sauce or soup recipe.

Tomato Confit

(or just another fancy way to say slow-roasted tomatoes)

Traditionally, confit is  a French word used to describe salting and cooking something in fat for flavor and preservation. Because tomatoes lack  the fat to be rendered, we use olive oil here.

  • 20 large plum or roma tomatoes (6 pounds), peeled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Use a sharp paring knife to remove the core and stem end of each tomato, scoring the end with an x. Place tomatoes in a large bowl.

Pour boiling water over tomatoes; let sit until skin is easily peeled, about 15-20 seconds. Drain tomatoes, and cover with ice.

When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skin from each tomato,  and cut in half. Gently toss tomatoes in a large bowl with olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tomatoes on the baking sheet. Top with the springs of rosemary.

Roast slowly until tomatoes are dried halfway through, about 5 to 6 hours. Use a pastry brush throughout the process to baste the tomatoes in the olive oil and juices from the pan.

Once the tomatoes have cooled, remove the springs of rosemary and transfer the tomatoes into an airtight container, adding more olive oil (if needed) to cover. We actually like to smash them to make a nice spread for our burgers but I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

Mockups

11 Feb

After many months of hard work and editing, I’m proud to present you with the first lineup of Little Branch products. While these are just mockups, I could not be happier with the results. Rachel did a great job.

Fingers crossed, I spent yesterday dropping samples off around NW Portland. My stomach was in knots the whole day, but in a good way.

These butterflies are the first indication of just how close we are to launching this latest project. I can hardly wait. I hope you feel the same way.

Compliments to the Chef: Lucy’s Original

7 Feb

Meet Lucy. She’s the other woman. She’s a smooth talking, show-stopping beauty that first introduced herself to my husband back in the fall of 2010. She came across as a reliable and trustworthy (albeit old-fashioned) kind of gal, beaming with a heart of stainless steel. Since that fateful meeting, my husband has devoted the past 21 weeks to her.

I miss my husband. I miss the softness of his hands. I miss our evening chats on the couch, legs draped across his, slurping whiskey and dreaming about the future. These days, we’re lying somewhere in between “what needs to be done” and “what’s gone missing from the fridge.” These days are all about Lucy. Whatever Lucy wants, Lucy gets. They/we could practically rename the song. I can’t blame him. Looking back on it now, I’d say we were equally foolish to think we could allow this woman into our home without disrupting the equilibrium in our relationship. Besides, even I can admit to falling for her beauty and to being intoxicated by her charm. She’s a few years younger than me. Usually, my husband and I have the same taste in women but I’ll have you know better; I am not the kind of gal who says one thing and does the other. On the contrary, I may be shy, but I am upfront and honest (sometimes a little too honest). Lucy is different. She’s flashy, and smells delicious and gives the impression of being wise with her sturdy and gorgeous, vintage exterior. And oh, how she tugs at your heart-strings with her charming family history, her seemingly innocent remarks and passive mannerisms. Most of the time, she’s got you convinced she’s the one doing you the favor. Not knowing any better, she had us believing we were taking advantage of her. As you very well know, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and let me tell you, on the inside, Lucy is no gem.

Huh. Funny how we can look back on life and can pick the exact moment when we wished we would would’ve chosen differently–how we can pin point the exact second when our lives are destined to become irrevocably changed. For us, it was the moment my husband ever laid eyes on Lucy. He came home that day and said to me, “I’m going to buy that food truck.”

If I haven’t been clear enough, Lucy is our food truck. Or to be more concise, Lucy is my husband’s 1986 Chevy Step-Van converted into a food truck, out of which he sells cheeseburgers. And to be even more concise, out of which he sells inside-out cheeseburgers, like the Jucy Lucy cheeseburger out of South Minneapolis, MN, which is how the truck got her name. How we came to this point is debated. I can recall a road trip in which the existence of such a cheeseburger was discussed, though the destination of this particular road trip has yet to be confirmed. The facts we do know are as follows:

  1. We purchased the vehicle back in September of 2010 under the assumption it would be a perfect distraction from the closing of our cafe in June 2010
  2. It was known from the beginning (and from past experience) that this operation would be best operated by Evan
  3. It was known from the beginning (and from past experience) that this operation would be heavily meddled in by myself
  4. It was important to us to own the real estate that houses our business (even if that business is mobile)
  5. He wanted to serve burgers

As I mentioned before, I’m a meddler. My euphemism for this plaguing addiction is: I cannot contain myself. Despite my skepticism for Evan’s latest obsession, that is, the launching of a food truck serving burgers in the unforgiving freezing cold, over saturated economy, I insisted on being part of the process. I was admittedly nervous about spending our entire savings (and then some) on a food truck, and attempting to join the ranks and earn the respect of Portland’s so called “Food Cart Mafia.” Fortunately for me, I married a patient and loyal partner who is open, patient and kind and loving, and have mentioned patient? Throughout our years together, he calmly puts up with my antics, and our (ad)venture of Lucy’s Original stands testament to his strength and devotion.

Lord knows, we have both struggled with our decisions when it comes to our dealings with Lucy (like the time I bought a busted/over-sized soft serve machine off the internet we couldn’t squeeze through Lucy’s door). Mechanically there have also been issues. So far, we’ve replaced the alternator, battery (+external batteries), electrical wiring, fan belt, gas line, interior lighting, soft plug, starter and a window. That’s just the beginning of the amount of work that has gone into turning this 1986 Chevy Step-Van into a woman named Lucy. My early skepticism did not originate from questioning my husband’s integrity towards the project. Everyone who knows him agrees you cannot doubt his ability, determination, creativity or passion. Therefore, it came as no surprise that he would insist upon seeing this project through and with his own flair. From the beginning, he insisted upon coming up with a special blend of beef that he would grind fresh, himself, and hand-form into patties to grill (on a flat-top, “has to be a flat-top”) to eventually combine with his own condiments on a (soft) toasted potato bun. He owes this passion to few places and people (namely, Chef Frank Castronovo who turned us on to Burger Bar in Amsterdam, Portland’s Little Big Burger, Chef John Gorham and dear friends Lynn, Ben and Liam Russell,) Evan would also attempt to make Portland’s headiest vegan burger, packed full of sunflower seeds and topped with locally grown sprouts, inspired by our favorite all-vegan fast food chain and our favorite vegan band. Oh, yes. We do have a favorite vegan fast food chain. #OnlyinLosAngeles. And hell yes we have a favorite vegan band. #OnlyinPortland

Finally, once December hit, he got the truck mobile enough to move in to a super supportive farmer’s lot in our neighborhood, and was able to gain some experience behind the grill and say hello to a lot of (familiar) friendly faces. At the close of the month, he even hit up a couple of Blazer games outside of the Leftbank Building. He still talks about those (cold) adrenaline-filled nights. He loved loves every minute of it. The month of January granted us another opportune move to a popular North Portland avenue known as Mississippi. Parked in the lot of a friendly and locally owned gallery and gift shop, our neighbors at Land have taken good care of us.

The menu is good and simple. Perhaps it’s so good because it’s so simple, this ensures that we literally have our hand in every item. Currently we have eight (cheese)burgers, Tim’s (lightly salted) potato chips and Mexican coke. That’s it. We make our own pickles, jams, sauces and confit. Er, or if you really want to be specific, Little Branch makes all the pickles, jams, sauces and confit. Evan grinds the (locally raised and ethically responsible) meat, stuffs all the patties and does all the grunt work. Together, we’ve found a way to make this dream of ours work.

As difficult as it’s been to adjust to a life walking the dogs without Evan and his silly dog voices, mad scientist-like coffee-making skills and shared Blazer fanaticism, I’m proud of him. My heart exceedingly gushes pride (and joy!) at his successes both internally and externally. Trust me, this is a man you want to know. At the very least, it’s a guy worth buying a burger from.

Beginning February 10th and through the end of the month he’ll be parked at:

3925 North Mississippi Ave
Portland, Oregon 97227
MAP

For the latest news and updates, find him on Twitter at twitter.com/LucysOriginal. Tell him his wife sent you.

The Perfect Package

31 Jan

Things with Little Branch are progressing, even if it’s at a slower pace than what I had originally hoped for. My sister, who also acts as my business mentor, recently sent me this article in an email with the subject line: READ THIS. For those of you who don’t care to follow links, here’s the gist of the article, or the Eleven Harsh Realities Of Being An Entrepreneur:

  1. Your First Iteration of an Idea Will Be Wrong
  2. Your Friends And Family Won’t Understand What You Do
  3. You Will Make Less Than Normal Wages For A While
  4. Everything Takes Twice As Long…If It Even Happens
  5. Titles Mean Nothing. You Will Be a Janitor
  6. There Is No Silver Bullet
  7. Customers Will Frustrate You
  8. You Can’t Do It All Yourself
  9. There Is No Such Thing As An Overnight Success
  10. Building A Team Is Hard
  11. There Are Forces Outside Your Control

I know many entrepreneurs, including myself, who can identify with every single one of these items. At the moment, I can really associate with #4: “Everything takes twice as long…if it even happens.” I had originally thought that my product would be on the shelves by now, but when I realize that it took me over three months of admittedly frazzled, obsessive behavior to pick a jar for my jam, I understand where the time went. At the cafe I sold jam in 8 oz. and 16 oz. Ball Mason canning jars. However, in this new venture I’m inclined to utilize another option because I’ve grown tired of dealing with lids and rings. It was with this thought in mind when I began to spiral down the rabbit hole that is wholesale jar and container supply. For months my thoughts were bombarded with questions asking the benefits of hexagonal vs. straight-sided jars and the appeal of black button lids vs. silver plastisol lids. Fortunately for me, I’m working with a talented group of ladies to help me make my dream packaging a reality. In addition to working with my friend Bryn of Paperfinger, I’ve hired on Rachel Tourville, the visionary behind Graphic Lime. Both of these lovely ladies are deep in the throes of the package and design process for Little Branch. We’re going over everything from business cards and labels, to custom tissue paper and return address stamps for shipping. Rest assured that when my company makes its debut in the Spring of 2011, every aspect of the design will have been deliberated to the umpteenth degree. My goal is that the outside of the package conveys a hint of the delicious details awaiting inside.