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Archive for October, 2010

Trial Run 3

While helping out at the Brinery, David inspired me with enthusiasm and ideas of Spokenspoon successes. We explored a lot of different aspects of the project while I re-cooped with a cup of Zingerman’s coffee. These are some of the most helpful/productive hours spent “working” on my project. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to document them in a way that describes their benefits!

Last night, I met with Helen and Blake outside the chaos of the Wed. markets. This was the first time we really spoke about what we were doing and what our goals were. I got to watch some food preparation over conversation, which was wonderful, and we were able to get a more clear idea of what we all had in mind in terms of working together including near and far future goals! I also got to see them in action. Blake was like a machine-only not at all. He was talking, listening, and cooking all at once but with remarkable ease. And Helen was baking cookies while we spoke. I wish I could have been more helpful-although I am less talented at talking, thinking, and working at the same time-so this was probably a good decision for all of us.

This week, things would function slightly different than the previous weeks. First of all, lunch would not simply be a sandwich, it would be a meal. Secondly, I would limit the trial to two offices-which will now be the standard. I will be delivering to Hook each week, as the running prototype, and there will be one rotating slot for offices who are interested in participating, as well.

In preparation for today’s delivery, I purchased a bike helmet (finally-really over due). I also invested in an insulated bag which could hold the lunches (about 8) so as to help keep things warm. I would be biking to Morgan&Yorks today, which, although it is only a 2.3 mile ride from Kerrytown, would be the furthest location of these trials thus far. I was more than a bit concerned about delivering luke warm sandwiches. I bought clothes pins for closing my lunch bags (an idea from Monique at Al Dente pasta), and fixed up the menu slightly.

This week I would be delivering lunches again. I would be running out of class a bit early and heading to the Ann Arbor farmer’s market to help pack up the lunches which would be heading out to local offices. I enjoy doing the deliveries myself for a few reasons.  First of all, I enjoy it. Today was a beautiful (extremely windy) day, and being outside was a great treat. Secondly, I want to experience the deliver piece of the system, understand what is hard about it, what is great about it, and have a very clear idea of what the bikers are going through when it comes to these deliveries. Lastly, without a decent profit margin, it is impossible to pay for the bikers to deliver the lunches, and I would prefer to deliver myself than not pay a biker to do so (even though Ed has been extremely understanding and helpful!)

I was very lucky, for today was about as dreamy a fall day as one could imagine. I made two trips.

Trip one, I met Blake and Helen at the market. Blake was on the grill and passed the delicious, hot sandwiches to Helen. She wrapped and packed them up in butcher paper and handed them off to me. I placed them in their individual bags and gathered the rest of the lunches (REAL potato chips, apples I had purchased from the market, and cookies). I closed the bags with the clothes pin and an individual tag before placing them in the crate on my bike. While we functioned smoothly as an assembly line, the powerful winds attempted destruction. They blew the bags, the clothes pins, even the food all around. Luckily, we were victorious, got things under control, and within no time I had a FULL crate of lunches on the go. I even biked in the road today (which is something I tend to avoid), and got lucky while entering the building, hands full of warm lunches, for the door was held open, making my job slightly easier. The lunches were delivered directly to the desks o those working at Hook, and payment took place on the spot.

Trip two, I returned to the market and finished packing up four lunches for Morgan&York. This would be the furthest trip thus far in the trials, and I felt the pressure of the clock. I rode in the road and had some minor bike issues (my bike needs some love), and made it at 12:31. I delivered these lunches bundled together, hoping that would help keep the sandwiches warm. I met Tommy and Matt before heading home. I felt really good about the day.

Unlike last week, where I found myself extremely stressed out and concerned about each bit of the process, this week went much more smoothly for me. I will be getting feedback from Morgan&York, which will be a big help.

Thanks to Eat, Hook, and Morgan&York this week for their participation in the trial runs!

Today’s Hiccups:

1- I need to have more change upon delivery!

2- I need a better carrying system from bike to the office.

Feedback:

1- Everyone loves the cookies. If you haven’t tried the sesame cookies from Eat than you are really missing out!

2-Discussion over costs

3-Discussion over packaging/ too wasteful!

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My goal?

My goal: Mumbai’s Dabawalas + Godspeed in Ann Arbor. With our incredible local food scene, a large crowd of avid bikers, and thousands of hungry working individuals during the lunch hour… this is an idea I truly believe in. If you have comments- PLEASE share!!

 

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Trial Run 2

Fall break actually happened this week? Says who?

Trial two took place today at the Farmers Market. Again, I feel extremely lucky to be working with Eat. This makes my job much easier, for the food is not only “taken care of” but it’s of an impressive quality and taste. Helen and Blake, also happen to be extremely friendly and flexible, which has made the work a lot of fun. This week’s trial run is actually still in motion. Three different offices are participating, two of which had their lunches today, and a larger order, which will take place tomorrow.

Last night, with significant help from a friend, I fixed my bike! Hooray. I also put a crate on the back of my bike, which prepared me for delivery! Now, I wouldn’t say my set up is pretty, for I ropped a blue crate to the back of my bike using all sorts of unsightly knots (actually just one knot repeated many times over), but it works! I also spent the whole night creating cards for the lunches which would be packaged individually. I wanted each to be unique, and to be thoughtful in a way that thanked the customers for their support and participation in the trial run. They were all made out of scrap paper, black ink, and small brads I had found beneath my art supplies. Each card had the individual’s name, his or her order, the amount due, and a “thank you”.

This morning I left my class on North campus a few minutes early (thanks to my professors) and ran to pick up my bike and get to the market. While on the bus, I got a phone call from David at the Brinery, telling me that a friend in another office had placed an order for three more sandwiches! This was great news, however, I can tell you it increased the speed of my gait when I jumped off the bus and headed towards Kerrytown. I ran to the market where I helped package up some of the food. Helen had everything organized, stickers, butcher paper, and bags, set up and ready to go. Blake was mechanical in his sandwich production, and the organization of the whole system was really impressive. Today was the first time I had sold the cookies and chips-which I was very excited for because they offer a sesame cookies (which were a HUGE hit).

Thanks to Helen, we got one frazzled looking photo of me ready to embark on the delivery. I missed Ed today, he is a much better delivery person than I am, but I had to make myself of use- and while I work on the details of the system, it will be handy to bike around town with my blue cart full of delicious, local food.

Unfortunately… or fortunately… by the time I got my camera out and around to the first office, the lunches had been demolished. Note to self: take photos of food-immediately.

Thanks again for everyone who participated in this Wednesday’s trial run.

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Al Dente Pasta Party

Last night I met up with Monique Deschaine.  We ate at Silvios, and spoke about my project. She also introduced to me to Silvio, himself, who offered us incredible samples of his pumpkin ravioli. I had never had anything like it!

We had Al Dente pasta and I got really good advice from a woman who knows a lot about business. We brainstormed and spoke for nearly three hours, before heading home. She sent me with some incredible pastas- an egg fettuccine, a squid ink (black-perfect for Halloween), a whole wheat and flax pasta, and a garlic and herb papparedelle.

Check out that pasta!

Part of our meeting was to discuss a potential event every Thursday after Penny Stamps. Monique and Silvio have made arrangements for a Pasta party starting at 6:30 this coming Thursday open to Art and Design students. Click here for more information!

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Brainstorm Session

I have NEVER had a brainstorming session like the one I had today. Monique has incredible friends, and has introduced me to some intriguing, extremely intelligent women. Lori, Jen, Monique and I met for a while this afternoon to discuss a name for my project/company, and we really had success.

In the early stages, we discussed the desired “feel” of the product/service. Then Monique began reading out words from my notebook which we thought could spark some interesting ideas. Conversation and ideas began flowing and before we knew it, “Spoke-n-Spoon” had been born. It took less than an hour for the domain to be purchased, and designing to begin!

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This Thursday evening I spent volunteering at Selma Cafe. Last week was the first time I volunteered, and I participated in the 6am-8am shift Friday morning before interning from 9-5 at Q LTD. This week, fearing the pain that would result from the sound of my 5 am alarm, AND the fact that Penny Stamps was not taking place, I went for the 6pm-9pm preparation shift. This was great because there was time to talk and meet people while we worked. The system was organized, there were lists and pictures of how things should look and be set up. The energy was positive and alive. Apple pies, grits, salsa, greens, waffles, everyone was working. Around 7:30 we stopped to eat dinner together. Everyone had brought a dish, and Lisa had made incredible sweet potato ice cream. We ate together and took a break from work before finishing up.

Although disappointed that I wont make breakfast tomorrow, I was happy to participate. I met Karl, Cara, and Lindsay from Real Time Farms, who will be going Oprah style at tomorrow’s breakfast with free give aways. They also happened to be the chefs.

I am so inspired by Selma Cafe. Lisa and Jeff have an incredible thing going. People are dedicating their time and money to come together to cook and eat local food. The environment is warm, and the food is incredible. The people you meet while at Selma are wonderful, and I hope to go back as long as I can make it through the snow (and/or can find a friend to carpool with!)

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Last Thursday, Marije Vogelzang came to Penny Stamps. Having looked ahead at the schedule, I frantically emailed Christina (a few months ago) to ask if I could go out to eat with the group after the lecture. This meant a big Thursday night for me!

A young woman from the Netherlands, Marije began designing food experiences. She has traveled and done these events all over the world. Each event is extremely unique, and creates a very different interaction between guests and other guests as well as guests and the food. She also designs a number of products such as cloud marshmallows made with real rain, and a lollipop in the shape of a gun (it looks like one has a gun in his or her mouth).

She works with different situations that arise in her own life, like when her daughter doesn’t want to eat her veggies. In this example, she gathered her daughter’s friends, and veggies and had a jewelry making party. The materials: vegetables, the tools: the children’s teeth.

For the first time, I listened to a woman speak of the convergence of design and food. She realized that this did not exist in the way she needed it to, and created her own niche. Her fun, imaginative style was refreshing, and her sense of humor, uplifting.

She gave me a book in dutch about lunch for kids. The images are so fun, and I carry the book around with me all the time for it’s positivity and creativity. Check out her website!

A glimpse of some of her work:

 

Cuddly sausage

White Funeral

Products

She also has a book called Eat Love, I would highly recommend to anyone interested in related topics!

 

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Lots of talk and planning has gone into my project thus far, and I found myself stressed out and frantic by the fact that I had not yet produced much (other than wild mind maps, incredible numbers of lists, notes, and contact lists).  It’s not that I hadn’t been doing much, I had been attending all sorts of local food events, meeting with a wide array of people, volunteering, reading, researching, having phone conversations with the Institute of Social Research, and reading business and marketing books. I had been keeping myself busy while continuing my own food ventures, as well.

This week’s food ventures: This past week I brewed five different flavors of Kombucha. I made my own cashew cream and sunflower milk, while lovingly watched my sauerkraut ferment over the side of it’s jar and all over my kitchen table .

As it turns out,  all I needed to get the ball rolling was a glass of pickle brine washed down with a bit of bourbon (Check out the “Pickleback” at the Alley Bar). I decided to have a trial run by Wed, October 13. I would not be doing this alone, however, I would need to assemble a mightily team of talented individuals, and the Brinery guided me in their direction.

Eat, a local catering company offers a unique array of dishes carefully designed from local and seasonal ingredients. These foods are often sculpted and prepared for catered events, however, Helen and Blake have started a mobile kitchen which they now use to further brighten an already illuminate Wednesday farmers market in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown.

Showing up this morning at the farmers market, I met Helen for the first time, and spoke a bit more with the two of them about their food cart and catering business. I wandered the market and bought my vegetables, before I ran into Ed fromArborcycle ( a bike delivery business owned and operated by Ed himself. Often delivering CSA shares, he works to “bring downtown to you” in a sustainable fashion). Ed agreed to deliver the lunches today, and he headed to the office.

Hot, made with love and local ingredients, lunch was served at Hook studios.

Everyone in the office loved the food and were wonderful about being a part of the test runs. My hope is that this particular office can be a running prototype while adding more clients each week. I will be doing a trial run of some sort weekly. I need to work on the actual transaction, the ordering mechanism, the menu-graphically, and the packaging of the food.

Thanks to Eat, Arborcycle, and Hook!

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Wed morning Farmers Market, Ann Arbor Michigan.

Observation notes:

Very few people walked through the farmers market on cell phones. Many, however, were tuned into ipods or other music devices. There was a clear majority of women compared to men. Women strolled the farmer’s market either with other girls, strollers, or a male friend. In observing the men who attended the market, at least half were with a female friend. An incredible amount of women pushed strollers through the market. An incredible amount of individuals carried their own canvas bags, and a decent number of (what I assumed were) students walked through with backpacks on. A number of women who attended the market would walk up and down the isles before making a single purchase, and there was a large crowd of elementary aged students apparently on a field trip. Overall, the group in attendance was an older crowd, middle aged and up with a few students. Lots of strolling took place, and many vendors wandered to other stands to chat and or buy from one another. There were three stands selling ready made food, Pilars, The Flint Crepe Company, and Eat (as well as Roos Roast coffee).

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Since my first wwoofing experience this previous summer, I have been making a lot of food. I have gotten very interested in fermentation specifically fermenting tea. Bob, a fellow wwoofer had won a Kombucha mushroom at the library raffle in Marquette and got really in to producing his own, which he gladly shared. He sent me home with enough to begin my own, which is exactly what I did.

I have been experimenting a lot with different flavors and quantities of ingredients. I have what looks like a science lab in my kitchen and taking up most of my refrigerator. From Kombucha, I have delved into fermenting vegetables (thanks to David from the Brinery), and honey wine. My next venture: tempeh…

I attended the DIY fest at Black Elk coop last weekend, where David taught everyone how to make sauerkraut and other fermented combinations.

Food cart culture of Ann Arbor…

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