Saturday, November 20, 2010

Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe Receives New Business Award

I always thought it was an insult to be called a Cheechako. I guess I was wrong.

Suffice it so say, I was very surprised and honored to receive this year's Cheechako Award from the Mat Su CVB. Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce board member, Kathy Stoltz had hinted that I might want to try to come to the Annual Meeting held yesterday on Friday, December 19, and she stopped in the day after the meeting with the award and a copy of the humbling speech that was presented during the awards ceremony. I truly appreciate the recognition - especially at this challenging time of year for all Talkeetna businesses!

Although I have never seen the Flying Squirrel specifically as a tourist business, I am tickled every time a visitor to Talkeetna either stumbles upon our little cafe in the woods or is told not to miss it (literally and figuratively) by someone they've talked to in Talkeetna, Wasilla or Anchorage.

Taking the leap to open a small business in a small town, especially a food service business, involves so much risk and sacrifice. This award is, well, validating in it's formality and it's intent. Someone besides my sister actually stood up in front of a bunch of people and said, "Wow. Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe in Talkeetna. Great idea. Go there!" Thanks to Justin at Mat Su CVB for his persistent, friendly and personal salesmanship that persuaded me to become a member just a few months ago! I am sure there are many other new businesses in the Mat Su Borough that are equally deserving of this award for following their own dreams and taking the same leap my family and I did over a year ago. Today, it sure feels worth it. Let me also say simply that this award honors me as an individual, but more so the Squirrel as a business. It might have been my crazy idea to begin with, but I could not and would not be doing it without the unbelievable help and support of the staff and my family.

In my short ten years as an Alaska resident, in my even shorter year and a half as an Alaska business owner, and in my only days-old status as Cheechako Award winner, I can't help but wonder when the term cheechako will no longer be the moniker I wear (now with some pride). Most likely, it's one that melts away like winter snow with hopes for an "easy break-up."

Following is the very nice speech that was read at the awards ceremony, in case you're interested:


This year's Cheechako Award goes to one of our new members in Talkeetna. Nobody is arguing the fact that Talkeetna has it all. But about a year and a half ago somebody looked at our bustling community and found a unique way to fit in.

It's no secret that good cooking draws a crowd faster than a moose standing in the holiday line at the post office, and this person has culinary skill in abundance. Just see for yourself. As an ace of social media, she shares pictures on Facebook of her tantalizing gourmet masterpieces from her own wood fired oven. You can almost smell the flavor ... almost ...

To really get a nose-full you absolutely must stop by and experience the full effect in person. From the moment you step off of her hiking trails and into her bakery you are greeted by the warm aroma of fresh bread. The variety of delicious, healthy foods from her kitchen will keep you coming back again and again.

Besides, you have to come back to see which local artist is featured on her walls each month. And don't forget to bring the kids out to her Christmas Gingerbread House class! Clearly, this person's involvement in the community has made her a true asset to Talkeetna. She has done a fantastic job in her first year of business and we wish her continuing success into the future. It is my honor to present this award to the proprietor of the Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe, Anita Golton.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Sound of Silence


Eight Grain Boules

Good bread crust crackles. Now, finally, mine does too.
Pizza is fun and all, but baking hearty whole grains loaves, baguettes, pitas, even some muffins and cookies in the wood fired brick oven is a pleasure. It is a beautiful thing to see a warm glowing fire radiating it's heat, energy and positive vibrations out into our little world at Flying Squirrel. Even more so though, the hands-on process in its entirety seems drawn out in a good way - many steps, yet simple and somehow very old. Who knows if my Eastern European ancestors ever baked their bread this way, but it all seems familiar and already almost part of the normal routine...

Firewood is split, stacked and dried.
A big raging fire licks red flames over the oven dome eating up the wood - a bit scary how fast.
The coals are spread like a blanket of heat.
The insulated oven door is placed.
A night's rest.
The door is removed, ashes raked out, hearth mopped revealing the hot ready firebricks.
Proofed breads are slid onto the hearth from a wooden peel into the dark.
The sound of silence is the moment - no convection oven fan blowing, just quiet oven spring, brown crust forming, just the right mix of smells.
I check the breads, rotate them, tap the crust, wait.
Breads come out onto wooden racks.
The first slice takes a little effort, and though the outer shell is hard, it is crisp, slightly caramelized and not nearly as thick and tough as the electric convection oven results.
There is still a great deal to learn about the process, the innuendos of fire, brick, yeast, water and air.
But I must say...
I'm having fun!

Thanks to Hannah Silverstein who first introduced me to Alan Scott's book The Bread Builders when it was first published in 1999. It took 10 years of dreaming, but now I am finally living the whole dream.

Pita magic is now even more magical!

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

Work, of course...

More work.

And more work...mixed with a little fun.

OK. We didn't ONLY do work over the last two weeks....

First, there was a grand party giving thanks to my awesome employees and supportive family during which we all thoroughly enjoyed delicious hand-made wood-fired pizza!

Then, there was a lot of ogling at the incredible full, blue moon.
This was the moon-set on New Year's Day.

And, we even did a three day escape to Anchorage with movies, ice skating, swimming, and...well, shopping (which for me is work). Sorry, no photos from that adventure.

Now, it's back to work. Not surprisingly, I was tired by the end of the break and wouldn't mind another break from the break! But so it goes. There is bread to be baked, new desserts to test (I got three new baking cook books while in town), an oven to finish and spring to look forward to. Happy 2010!

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