Thursday, September 24, 2009

Form and Function

I am ecstatic to see progress being made on our wood fired brick oven. People who come in to Flying Squirrel ask about it all the time - with very frequent questions about pizza (the answer is a qualified yes - we will do pizza in the oven sometimes just for fun because we can and it will be awesome, but we won't become a pizza place - Talkeetna already has one of those...).

Anyway, Brian made the plywood forms a few days ago and got two arches completed on the oven's roof or dome. I always knew this part would impress me.

It's hard not to be impressed with an arch. I grew up in Pennsylvania where arches with a keystone (PA is the "Keystone State") were common over the windows and doorways of many old brick and stone homes. It strikes me as some kind of great magic trick. Like when the magician pulls the tablecloth away and his lovely assistant appears to be floating in mid air.

I also like how bricks depend on one another. That is what makes the whole thing work. Each brick in the arch must have the brick next to it and the brick next to that one and so on in order to be able to support it's own weight and any other weight on top of the whole arch. Symbiosis is what it's called I think. Like a family. Like a community. Brother and sister brick.

Today is one of those days where I worry because things are slow here. It's inevitable I know. We have all this beautiful food and bread and yummy yummy pastries. People who do come in are very happy with the choices, the variety, the atmosphere. And yesterday was a fine day. It's just part of the roller coaster of owning a business, of wintertime in Alaska, of needing to do more marketing, of learning what works and what doesn't.

Generally though, I feel like I and Flying Squirrel are one brick in the arch - especially in the small town of Talkeetna. We all lean on each other, help hold each other up, support the next brick over, but also support the brick way down at the other end. It kind of makes me feel like everything is going to be ok.

Especially when that first crusty bread comes out of the brick oven!

Although there are LOTS of individuals and businesses I wish to thank for their help and support, there are two in particular I am thinking about today in terms of symbiotic relationships... Whole Wheat Radio and the potential future very fun musical endeavors we are talking about trying out here at Flying Squirrel as well as Sunshine Transit, our local free shuttle bus that will hopefully soon make Flying Squirrel a scheduled stop on their route up and down the Spur Road and who has offered to help with deliveries of bread and pastries to sell out at our local grocery store!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Golden Moment

I have the best commute in the world. I walk about 800 feet from the door of my home to the door of the bakery down a curved gravel driveway that is lined with Alaska's natural beauty: birch and spruce trees, high bush cranberry, slimy now-inedible bolete mushrooms. It's just far enough that I feel like I got outside a tiny bit - enough to see the stars or the moon or the fog. Enough to feel the cold in my lungs or a spot of sunshine on my skin. Enough to see the golden autumn leaves falling from the trees as a bit of wind blows from the south.

At 5:00am, I get to feel the darkness. At 8pm when I go home, it's still light at least for another month or so. We're having an excruciatingly gorgeous autumn this year. I often bemoan how little I get outside when I'm mixing bread dough in the 60 quart Hobart mixer around 8am and I look out the window to see the sun peeking over the treetops. Although I expected to work these long, hard hours, I still miss being outside more. Fortunately my walk down the driveway is just long enough, but also not too long - my feet are as tired if not more-so than my brain at the end of my long day.

Last night, I had a moment. One of those moments that takes your breath away, makes tears well up inside you, is incredibly memorable, and yet is just a short, small moment, gone in a flash. I started my walk home and for some reason I turned around. I saw the sun going down behind the incredible yellow-orange autumn birch treetops. In a way, nothing special. But just glimmering enough, just crisp and clear enough, just the right combination of golden sun and golden leaves and golden air to make me stop and sigh and say to myself - wow. I did it. I achieved my dream. And this place is beautiful. My life is good. Exhausting, but good.

I turned back toward home. A few tears found their way down my cheeks - maybe from total exhaustion, maybe from being overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings, maybe from actually allowing myself to acknowledge the accomplishment. I went to look for a camera and couldn't find one. The golden moment passed.

I fell into bed. Woke up to the alarm. Stumbled down the driveway in the dark thinking about that movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray wakes up to the same day over and over again.

Today, the wind is blowing. All the leaves are falling down. People are coming and going...eating their fritatas and donut muffins and cream of greens soup, taking home a ruggelach, a black brownie, a loaf of pumpernickel, picking up some caffeine for the road.

Does this weather, this season, the music, the smells...does life make any of them cry like me? Or is this golden moment mine alone?
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

On Scones

Ms. Jenny Birdsall is back at college now after being incredibly chipper at the front counter even at 7:30 in the morning for the very first month of Flying Squirrel's existence. It was a great relief to me to be able to hire a young Talkeetnan who is not only smart, friendly AND responsible, but who also already had several years of barista experience under her belt.

And one more thing about Jenny. She had something to say about scones.

Lucky for me, everything she had to say about MY scones was RIGHT ON! Biggest 20-year-old compliment I have ever gotten: "Your scones remind me of the ones I had when I was in England..." I made her favorite flavor for her departure and she flew back to Oregon with two apricot scones in a little brown bag. Well, I can't say that I know if the scones made it all the way from Talkeetna the whole 120 miles to the airport.

You have to be in the mood for a scone. I think Jen and I agree that they should be not too sweet, not too wet, almost dry but not quite, not a biscuit and not a muffin, but somewhere in between. And they should have just a little touch of smartness from a bit of fruit or nuts or ginger. Perfect with hot tea or chai.

All of us at Flying Squirrel look forward to Jenny's return (I think she'll be filling in during her winter break) and wish her well at college. Personally, I have been trying to drop all the hints that I can toward next year's senior project being a solo photography show at the Flying Squirrel! Thanks again, Jen.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Grain for the Brain - a schedule of breads

A little easier for me and a lot better for you. There have already been requests for a bread schedule at Flying Squirrel so you can be sure to come in for your favorites. It certainly will evolve since I have been really wanting to make a whole wheat cinnamon raisin swirl bread and I can't figure out where to fit it in.I am posting this bread schedule on the Flying Squirrel website (along with descriptions and ingredients), on the side bar of this blog and at the cafe. Don't forget to pick up a business card the next time you come in because there is a bread punch card on the back. No one has filled one up yet, but I think there are a few regulars who are getting close! Brian has started working on the wood fired brick oven construction again, so hopefully we are only a month away from bread with MUCH better crust.

Whole Wheat Baguettes
Whole Wheat Pita

Monday Closed

Tuesday (until October, then closed on Tuesdays)
Whole Wheat Baguettes
Whole Wheat Pita
Molasses Multigrain Sandwich Loaf

Light Wheat Ciabatta
Eight Grain Boule

Italian Baguettes
Sunshine Sourdough Sandwich Loaf

Whole Wheat Baguettes
Whole Wheat Pita
Light Wheat Challah

Spent Grain Boule

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I am not a very foofy person. I don't wear make up. I shave my legs and underarms maybe twice a year. I don't mind wearing shirts with stains on them. And I am ok with some amount of dirt and bacteria in my life and in the life of my three year fact, I think most American's are lacking in bacteria these days. We have a big mess outside around our house - broken bicycles, sopping wet cardboard boxes full of glass bottles that can't be recycled in Anchorage anymore, blue tarps over uncut firewood piles, last year's dead hanging baskets. I'm OK with all of that. I can live without running water if I need to and sometimes wish for the days when I occupied a cabin instead of a house.

However, evidently, I have a foofy side as well.

I find myself caring more than I ever thought I would about everything in the cafe being put away in it's place. About the floor being mopped the right way. About the color of the grout between the bricks on the facade of the under-construction wood fired oven.

And, given the right motivation, (such as customers who are willing to pay), I can do foofy with the best of them. Not that I am trying to advertise my services, but here are a few photos of the foofy things I can do! Special occasion cakes, pastries and party platters are available at Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe with advanced notice. Stop in, give us a call, or e-mail to find out more.

Vanilla sponge cake soaked in raspberry liqueur with white chocolate cream cheese frosting, a bittersweet ganache border and autumn leaves and berries. For Alice at Talkeetna B&B's grandson's wedding.

We closed the place two hours early on Saturday for K2 Aviation's end of the year staff party (so sorry to those that didn't know and tried to come for dinner that evening - I don't think this will be a regular thing). I made mini cupcakes with fresh berries on top of the chocolate ones. My talented cook Tasja pulled together wonderful Mediterranean entrees including Moussaka which will be appearing in the cold case in the future. I wish I had photographed the antipasto appetizer platter filled with colorful roasted veggies.

Sometimes being foofy is kind of fun.

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