“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Don’t they though, Truman? And we couldn’t agree more, Ms. Montgomery. At the bakery, fall is a resounding favorite as far as seasons go. Crisp October air begets knit gloves and jackets in hues echoing the vivid leaves shivering, breaking away from their summer address. Walking into the bakery on those crisp-not-yet-cold days is hard to rival; a wisp of warm air as you open the door, laden with scents cinnamon, apple, pumpkin. As we look forward to celebrating the upcoming holidays with you, here’s a look at what to expect for the first and by far most eerie, Halloween.
October 31st falls on a Wednesday this year, which means you have double the chance to find our treats. Halloween marks the last Wednesday farmers market so don’t forget to bid adieu to us all in Shemanski Park. You have just enough reason to visit the bakery, though, as all tarts present that day will be in costume. Already there’s been talk of an old-timey criminal and a piping bag making an appearance. This one day only regalia feast will best be enjoyed with one of our Halloween-shaped shortbreads. So far pumpkins and ghosts have added spook to the case, and there’s no telling what kind of ghoulish shapes will lurk as the date draws nearer.
In the case: October
Speaking of October-themed treats, we’ll soon be integrating pumpkin into the mix. Those orange orbs will be cooked down, pureed and piped into pumpkin whoopie pies filled with caramel buttercream. Pumpkin tassies will also be making an appearance soon along with ginger molasses chews and apple thumbprints. And for those of you who’ve been waiting patiently for s’mores to make their yearly return, we have good news. November, only a few weeks away, heralds not only their return but that of chocolate starbursts, too (I can already hear the resounding cheer of thankful marshmallow gourmands).
This Saturday, October 13th, at the Portland Farmer’s Market is the perfect opportunity to taste the first of this season’s pumpkin whoopie pies with caramel buttercream filling. Not only will your taste buds be thanking you, 100% of the proceeds from whoopie pie sales will go to support Food|Waves, a local non-profit promoting sustainable agriculture. Find out more at their website, listed below.
It’s too early to think seriously about pies with a candy-filled holiday on the horizon, but stay tuned for an announcement in early November regarding Thanksgiving pie orders.
Interview with a Producer
It all starts with the basics. Butter, flour, sugar, eggs. Vanilla beans or ground almonds, a sprinkling of hazelnuts perhaps, or berries cooked to jewel-toned molten gold. At the bakery we are proud of the farmers and growers we work with, just as proud as we are to fill the case with fruits of the sweetly collaborative effort. To kick off this series of interviews, I spoke with one of Two Tart’s longest collaborators and even longer time friend, Barb Foulke from Freddy Guys Hazelnuts. We chatted for a few minutes over the phone while she took a break from roasting hazelnuts. Barb put it best when she said “people who use good quality, primary ingredients always end up with a good quality end product.” We wholeheartedly agree. Herewith, a few questions answered in Barb’s warm, ebullient voice.
So I caught you in the middle of harvest! How is it going this year?
Oh really smooth. We have very good equipment, lots of really good help and we’re just knockin’ it out.
Is it always a smooth harvest? It looks like you are on the go constantly this time of year.
We get better every year. Some of the people who come to help us have been here for five to ten harvests. You don’t have to explain to them what to do. Everybody knows what everybody else can do, everybody knows what they like to do, which part they like best. Everything seems to just mesh together very well, turning it into a big family reunion. It has its stress. I was up at four thirty this morning. I mean its not like we’re at the pool. But it’s very satisfying.
What inspires you about growing hazelnuts and bringing them to talented chefs and adoring public? What keeps you going?
Definitely the chefs. I have customers at the market that I really, really love. I love to see them and I know they appreciate (our work). That definitely is motivating but I also really, really like my favorite chefs. They are just fun and interesting and they are sort of their own world. It’s not a world that I belong to at all but I get to watch from the back door. I get to go in the back door of a lot of pretty fun places (here, Barb’s voice reaches an octave higher, mounting with excitement). And I don’t just walk in the back door. When I walk in the back door people start whootin’ and hollerin’ and cheerin’ and it’s just fun; it’s just a kick and I think that definitely keeps me going.
Tell us about a time you were “let in the back door.”
When I first started producing the (hazelnut) oil it was definitely unchartered territory, nobody else (was doing) it. I was kind of out on my own and had to figure out each step for myself. It’s a complicated process to press oil. It took me months before I finally had a sample of oil that I thought was good. I was like ‘I don’t know exactly, but I think this is good?.’ So I called up Vitaly Paley who has become a very good friend of mine and I said ‘would you check this hazelnut oil for me because I just don’t know, you know? I’m feeling really insecure and I don’t want to be selling garbage and I don’t know if it’s any good. Will you do me a favor and look at it and test it and tell me if you think its Ok?’ And he said ‘oh ya you bring it on up here.’ So I brought it up to his restaurant and we were at the bar and he said lets have a taste test. I have some hazelnut oil from France and I have some from Turkey, and he said lets put yours right in there and if it measures up it measures up and if it doesn’t Barb, it doesn’t. And I said (deeeep breath) OK. Here we go! (laughing) So he had a spoon for each container and he took a small taste out of the French oil, and it was fine, it was OK. He took a small taste out of the oil from Turkey and it was actually much weaker. I didn’t think it was as good (as the French). And then he took a small spoon and took a taste of my oil. And he literally didn’t say a word. He stood straight up, put the lids on the French oil and the Turkish oil, he threw them in the garbage can and he looked back at me, and he said, I won’t be using those again. (laughs) And I was feeling really insecure about it, you know? After that I thought oh, ok, (laughing) I guess its ok!
What is an average day for you, Barb?
My average day starts at five-thirty am. I like to get up and, when I’m having coffee, I do all my emails from the east coast because nobody here is awake. I have quite a few restaurants (on the east coast). Houston, Chicago, New England and New York. I actually have as strong a customer base in Manhattan and Brooklyn as I do in Oregon.
The people who work for me come in at seven am and we start the shipping and we work on the shipping until about nine o’clock. By then the day is awake enough that (we have to make) this decision whether to concentrate on fieldwork for the day or if its blustery, crummy weather to work inside the warehouse. (In the warehouse) I might start shelling or I’ll grade.
And then by about two o’clock in the afternoon I get back on the Internet and I’m trying to deal with whatever orders and questions have come in through the morning. I usually come back out, try to wind things up around five, try to be done around six.
What is your favorite part of the day? Where do you find moments to relax/ find moments to yourself?
My favorite time of day is five thirty in the morning. I really like drinking coffee and just sitting there and responding to what’s going on on the east coast. The way I relax is I have a glass of wine in bed, with a book at nine o’clock at night period. Every night. (laughs).
Where should people who have never had hazelnuts begin?
Definitely just the dry roast or the roasted diced, and just something so simple as to put them on salads or in granola. You can add protein to a breakfast by putting them in pancakes or hot cereal or hazelnut butter on toast. They are an easy way to eat healthier so for starters, for people who don’t know what to do, that’s what I suggest. Then when they get the flavor of the hazelnuts, they tend to go off on their own with their own ideas.
What’s your favorite way to use hazelnuts?
I absolutely love the oil on roasted vegetables. I probably have the oil literally five times a night on some roasted vegetable. It’s fabulous on pumpkin, Brussels sprouts or green beans, all of which have been cooked. You put the on oil at the end. Occasionally I make popcorn and I even put (hazelnut oil) on popcorn instead of butter.
What is your favorite Two Tarts cookie?
Well it doesn’t have anything to do with hazelnuts unfortunately, but I love the lemon bars. They are my downfall. Just ask Emily.
Anything else you want readers to know?
I think people who use good quality, primary ingredients always end up with a good quality end product and so what I appreciate (about Elizabeth, owner of Two Tarts) is her recognition. And she has never faltered on that. She looks for good quality primaries. And I think that’s why she’s so popular and so successful and I just think that’s the basis of it. Some people understand that and some people don’t. She does.