You may have heard about six-degrees of separation. About how we are all connected to everyone by just a few jumps from someone we know to someone they know to someone … You got it.
Suzen has a different theory and method for social connectivity. She just asks questions and very quickly establishes a direct link. I will say that she does “ask” but her questions are rapid fire and almost but not quite an interrogation:
- Where are you from?
- What do you do?
- Where do your kids live?
- Have you read our blog?
- Do you cook at home, what, why, why not?
And so it was eight days ago we were winding up two weeks in Yellowstone National Park. Our daughter from Seattle had been with us, cooked us huckleberry pancakes over a campfire [more on that to come], and was already headed home. We needed to pack for our return from Nature’s geysers to this New York City featuring broken water mains, but we wanted one more view of Old Faithful. We sat down an hour ahead of the next eruption. Front row seats.
More and more people came. A lovely couple eventually sat next to us. They had barely nestled down, when Suzen began: “Where are you from?”
Well, they are from Seattle, living just a few blocks from my daughter. The woman had been in the food business, the husband is a Ph.D. physicist studying deep ocean waves. They have kids across the country, including a son who works in New York City but, because of two small children, had moved from the city to the New Jersey suburbs.
And that son’s wife, aka Jennifer Snyder, grew up in Portland and then Seattle. Jennifer was a food PR person for great Chicago restaurants. Then, as a suburban mom in New Jersey, she began to bake, using those Portland recipes from her mom. People began buying. She began baking more. And at some point a couple of years ago, here loving husband suggested that the home kitchen was not feasible for her business. Jennifer need to get real space. Which Jennifer did. And then she hired 8 bakers and she ran out of room in that space. She expanded and her wonderful new space is just 4 doors down the street. We’ll just have to wait for the next expansion. Which is inevitable.
How could all these good things happen? Only if you are very, very special.
So, now, very special Jennifer has her Little Daisy Bake Shop at 622 Valley Road in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Spotlessly perfect, sunlight bright, filled with bakery aromas, and a visual treat. One look and you know this is going to be wonderful. Perfectly wonderful.
If you live within a hundred miles, you should go. For you it would be a hundred and twenty? Go anyway.
Why? Just take a look:
Click on the photos link. Look at those custom cakes, which have made her famous. Jennifer did the 80th birthday cake for Yoggi Berra, for Pete’s sake. She had one customer return recently and say the most marvelous thing: “Well, the cake looked grand, but you know it tasted good, too!” How many times have you tasted a “pretty” cake and felt just underwhelmed. That won’t happen here.
Everything at Jennifer’s Little Daisy looks good and tastes even better. That counter at the front door is filled with cupcakes and cookies. The cakes are in the back and, yes, there are pies, too. Everything is made by professionals with real ingredients: rich butter, fine chocolate, … How do I know?
I personally tested. In the picture above, in the upper right hand corner, is her version of the iconic Hostess Cupcake. Except, Jennifer’s is what that filled cupcake was meant to be. Soft, wondrous chocolate cake, thin but intense frosting, and the filling. Oh, that filling! I would buy it by the barrel, fill up a turkey baster, and just start ingesting. It is a taste I will never forget.
Well, how could I forget? Fortunately, Little Daisy is a modest excursion off the path Suzen and I take to our weekend house upstate. So, we’ll be making regular stops. It’s a bit like potato chips: you cannot just visit there once. Prepare for the addiction.
I have often written on this blog about my memories of old time, neighborhood bakeries. Establishments where care, and ingredients, and time were consumed crafting real food. Not the dreadful industrial junk that we see in our supermarkets. No, real bakery craft.
Little Daisy Bake Shop is both a through back to better times and, I’m sure, a harbinger of a better food future. If you believe that quality counts, then Little Daisy Bake Shop is the finest possible example.
Visit, taste, and smile.
This post is triggered by Monday’s recipe for chipotle cream. Chipotle has this reputation for being ungodly hot. But as the photo shows, just minutes out of the fridge, they are only in the 50s, so …
I may have the concept of heat confused here. I’ll need to recheck. I’m a little confused right now. I saw something that had my head spinning and it is only now that I can begin to sort it out and write about it.
When I was researching chipotle cream, one of the recipes I saw, but did not mention, used a new product: packaged chipotle paste, that is chipotle and adobe processed, amalgamated, and put into a tube so you can conveniently squeeze out flavor. And heat. One inch at a time.
I saw the product mentioned in the recipe and I went to the vendor’s website. I saw where I could purchase the product in New York City, and the price for it. Two or three times the price of a simple metal can of chipotle in adobo, one of those cans you may have in your pantry.
Should I? Shouldn’t I? Is it a good thing? A bad thing?
After an hour, I got testy. It’s too much. I don’t buy anchovy paste in tubes any more, or tomato paste. I take real anchovies, for example, and I get dirty and I make my own paste, which is different every time.
Ask a little kid where hamburger comes from, and he’ll say, “The store.” People don’t know where their food comes from or what is involved in transitioning molecules from the soil and air to fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
And now tubed chipotle. It’s too much. The cooking experience should involve all the senses. The pop of that lid as you open the can of chipotles. The assault on your nose as the fumes first rise up. The squishiness of the chili as you try to cut it. The smoothness of the adobo sauce that triggers all kinds of ideas: what happens if I put that sauce in mayonnaise. Magic happens. But that inspiration does not come out of a tube.
We need the full sensory experience when we cook or we lose touch with our heritage, ourselves, and our food. For those of us, most of us, who are not astronauts, cooking and eating does not have to be an exercise in squeezing something processed so much that all connection to its roots is lost in the plastic and metal packaging thingy that encloses it, strangles it. It’s strangling us, too.
If I want chipotle, I’m going to risk getting my shirt stained.