It’s been about a month since my last post, and while business has been kind of slow, a lot has transpired in that time period. From a broad bakery standpoint, August-into-September was very quiet. Having never been in Antigua during this time of year, I didn’t know in advance that September is the deadest month of the year. From the boom of July, to a moderate pace in August, as I approached September, I could see what people were talking about.
So while the volume of sales wasn’t what I’d seen before, the relative quiet of the time of year allowed for us to innovate in the bakery and look ahead at expanding our menu and variety of offerings.
Close-up of the chorizo and mozzarella scone.
My first full week in Antigua, as a resident, kicked off bright and early Monday morning with a trip to El Mástil, to get an EcoFiltro. Without water I can drink, and Internet I can use, I wasn’t going to move into my place. Mindy and Carlos had been very accommodating and I didn’t want to take advantage of their hospitality. Hopefully I could solve both of these problems quickly.
Maybe my next faucet.
This time, having received some guidance from Mindy, I was able to find the store located behind the mercado. I selected an EcoFiltro quickly, but decided to look around before moving on. Unlike most hardware stores, where you can wander the aisles, everything is on display behind cases when you walk in. You have to go up to the counter and place your order. Then, you bring a receipt to the cashier and pay for it. After that, you bring it to a different counter where they either hand you the item(s), or they direct you to the back, to pick up the larger stuff, where a fourth person has now been involved with your purchase.
Once the decision was made in early February that I would, in fact, take my baking to Guatemala, I tried to make the most of my final month in Los Angeles. It was going to be hard to leave, with my family and friends (both old and new) there. I never expected upon returning that I’d only be there a year, but it was an extra year I never expected to spend so close to all these wonderful people, so I look at it as a bonus from that point of view.
Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung.
I first discovered the magic of XLB (“soup dumplings”) while on the Curiosity Crawl during pastry school (first post here, final ranking here). Din Tai Fung is famous for their XLB, among other things, and started in Hong Kong before opening some places in the US. These were smaller (some pork, some pork and crab) but still very good. But I don’t think anything beats Shanghai Dumpling King.
Upon returning from my scouting adventures, I was busy wrapping up the final Smorgasburg of 2016, fulfilling an enormous holiday order I’d received, and then getting ready for the annual cousins’ Christmas – which happened to be a Chrismukkah celebration this year with the first night of Chanukah falling on Christmas Eve. It was without doubt a fantastic and tasty few weeks.
Final Smorgasburg featured the debut of the cinnamon babka. I really love this variety. And the streusel topping doesn’t hurt either!
When I accepted my current job, over the phone from San Francisco, my schedule was supposed to be Sunday to Wednesday. Truly an awesome schedule, especially when you considered that my shift starts at noon. It gave me most of the standard weekend, which is pretty rare in the bakery/restaurant biz. Alas, I got to LA and after my training ended, that schedule didn’t fit the bakery’s needs. We agreed on a new one, Wednesday to Saturday. Still a good schedule, leaving me Saturday mornings free and giving me all of Sunday. (Why four days a week? It both fit their needs, and also mine. I wanted to dedicate a day of the week to my own work, at trying to get a bakery launched.)
Close-up of the chocolate babka’s inner swirls.
This past week, I marked three months of living in Los Angeles (again). Hard to believe that that much time has already passed by on my second round of LA living! If you pay attention to this blog, you likely noticed that it’s been dormant lately. Not a single post in all of April, and now here we are, halfway through May and finally I’m back at it. Unlike my travels to Europe or Guatemala, unlike pastry school, unlike living in the SF life, there hasn’t been as much to report on while in LA. Or, there hadn’t been. But now that I’m settled into more of a routine and accustomed to being here, I’m starting to use my time in more interesting manners.
Sidecar visit #1: K and I got a little breakfast before our field trip.
Since arriving in LA nearly three weeks ago, it feels like I’ve been going absolutely non-stop. Except, of course, for the 48 hours I was down for the count with a fever and no desire to move my body. It’s been quite a whirlwind so far and while I still want to recap the end of San Francisco – which was both fantastic and feeling like months ago – I felt my first blog post in a few weeks should be this one.
Here we go!