happy girl kitchen

Join us on New Year's Eve

What better way to usher in the New Year than making pickles with friends, eating great food, donating money to a great cause AND celebrating at 9pm with NYC!!!  Sound too good to be true?  Well, that is Happy Girl for you.  We like to make events that feel good, are fun and meaningful.  This New Year's Eve we are throwing a party from 6-9pm that is fun for everyone.  We will be serving our famous Lasagne, garlic bread and salad that is so deliciously homemade you will think grandma cooked dinner.  We encourage you to bring games for the family to play at the tables.  You will also have a chance to make pickles and "pickle your resolutions"!  You can put all of your great intentions for the New Year into a jar of pickles and capture those thoughts to be enjoyed later.  You can write a poem other words or a drawing on the side of the jar to remind you of your thoughts.  You can write a unique label too if you like.  The jars of pickles are going to be a fundraiser for the Big Sur Fire Relief fund with 100% of money collected for pickles going directly to those affected by the Big Sur Fire (see more in an update below).  That is a great start on your resolutions of being more giving and caring!!!

We will also be serving a variety of Mocktails from my newly inspired creations with syrups and shrubs!  You are sure to get inspired.

Please come and be a part of the fun.  We are taking reservations for dinner if you are planning to dine with us and we are also taking reservations for the pickle making to give those of you a chance who REALLY WANT TO DO IT to make sure there is space for you.  We are expecting quite a crowd!!!

Please start practicing the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne now!!!  We have vintage noise makers and confetti for that magic moment - 3 hours ahead of time!

The joy of giving gifts!

 

This past weekend we did the holiday craft show in Big Sur.  I was reminded of the JOY of shopping for holiday gifts.  The energy that is exchanged when you buy from a local person in your community who made something by hand is far greater than anything you can buy that is made in a far away country.  I started to think about giving gifts that are a true joy to give and that they must be a joy to make, buy or trade for.  How sweet to give your daughter a pair of home made slippers from your friend, rather than a pair bought at a box store or on line.  To be able to think of those crafters as you give the gift and to think of them every time you see it worn or used.  This is community.  This is what keeping your dollars local is about.  I have started to think of all the local people that I want to support this holiday season and then I just have to think of people to match up with those producers!  You will have such a chance this SUNDAY, December 8th from 10-4pm in Pacific Grove.  We have CAREFULLY CURATED a group of local artists to delight you in your holiday shopping.  Local talents include and are not limited to:  glasswork, ceramics and pottery, knitting and crocheting,  baking, preserving, air plants, candles and cordials, kids corner, printmaking, paintings and MORE!!!  We are really going to pack it in to the cafe.  Please come and enjoy the live music and cozy atmosphere.  It is going to be fun and you will have a chance to connect with your community in a new way! 
You can also do all of your holiday shopping on our website if you can not make it this Sunday!

A favor so generously given

Luis is my hero!



On Friday night, my kids and I were loaded in our old diesel wagon and driving up the 101 to go teach workshops in the city for the weekend.  I was proud that we got an early start and were due to arrive in Oakland, because no matter how hard I try, I usually can not arrive before 11pm.  The car was packed full with everything necessary for the workshop, personal items including my daughters collection of dollies and such and 3 bikes on the external bike rack for the ultimate combo of work and play!  On one of the turns just South of San Juan Bautista, my steering slipped and we jolted a little out of control.  We were still going forward at about 65 MPH and everything seemed OK.  I wasn't sure if I was just going too fast around the corner or if there was something wrong with the steering.  I kept going and got off at the next exit.  It was very apparent that the steering had slipped dramatically when I pulled over and I did not know what to do.

It is these moments we rely on our community.  Our friends and family.  Our neighbors and farmers.  I know some people will criticize me for this decision, but I ended up driving 25 MPH about 4 miles to the packing shed of Happy Boy Farms.  I am usually such a brave and independent woman, but I was so scared!  My kids could sense it and were singing sweet little bhajanas to calm me as we drove.  We made it safely that was familiar to us and a place I knew I could find some friends.  I hadn't seen Pedro and his wife, Antonia, in 5 years and I felt welcomed the minute they saw me.  They made me some tea and we told stories of our visit to their village in Puebla, Mexico.  We reminisced.  I finally got ahold of a friend who seemed completely willing and happy to help me in my predicament.  I realized that in these situations we just run down a list of possible solutions.  We call friends and family and rely on our network.  It is problem solving at its best!

In enters Luis and the real reason I am writing this tale.  It really struck me how generously Luis gave me the favor of helping me out.  I wasn't really sure what I was asking of my friends that I called.  I called to get help troubleshooting my situation.  I was upset and could not figure out what to do.  I didn't want to cancel my workshop!!!  Luis said "no problem Mama, I will be there in about a half an hour and help you out.  We have worked together for 6 years and Luis affectionately calls me Mama.  His voice was sweet and calming.  I sat with my old friends and we all drank cup after cup of lemon balm tea.  The kids started to play together despite the language and age difference.  We took photos and reminisced and caught up.  Ry even took out his violin and played a few songs for them.

Luis came an hour later.  He pulled up in his low riding charger and his wife was in her car with their 7 month old and 6 year old daughters.  They were all smiling and happy.  Luis said "It's OK Mama, we are here to help you.  You can just take my car for the weekend.  Have fun and do not worry about it."  I thanked his wife and daughter and apologized and they were all so warm and happy.  It was 9pm on a Friday night and there was no air of inconvenience at all.  Luis helped me transfer everything over from my car to his.  He even insisted that we take our bikes with us and helped me move the bike rack over.  He wasn't concerned at all that we would scratch or overload his car.  He so sweetly helped me until everything was finished and his wife in kids just happily waited.  Their spirit was so kind and generous.  As we were about to part Luis said "Have fun you guys!  I filled up the tank for you and will see you on Monday".

My kids were elated!!!  We had just spent some time reconnecting with old friends and now we had a MAJOR UPGRADE in cars.  The charger is pretty much a bat mobile.  It has 20 inch rims, tinted windows and a booming system.  We parted with all of our friends and had a most elated drive up the the city.  I know that it felt so good, because it was a favor so generously given.  It was a great reminder for me during this time of year leading up to THANKSgiving and the gift giving season.  Whatever you give or do should be given generously and graciously so that it can be enjoyed all the more!  Luis is my hero. No matter how tough he tries to look, you can see the sweetness in his eyes.  It is a real talent to give so generously, and it is a quality which should be actively cultivated by all of us.  

Sincerely,
Jordan Champagne
   

PHOTO by Michelle Magdalena

Written by Happy Girl — November 12, 2013

Happy Girl's home turns 3 years old!

This Sunday, October 27th from noon to 5pm come party with us!
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3 year anniversary party!

It is always nice to celebrate an anniversary.  We opened our brick and mortar space in Pacific Grove 3 years ago in the Autumn.  I know realize that it was a brave move.  At the time, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves, our friends and family into!  Last night our VW Bus mechanic turned vintage La San Marco espresso machine mechanic said "It takes a village to keep Happy Girl going".  This statement is really true.  This is the true meaning of community and small business.  It is not only the baristas, production crew, chef, baker and general manager that keep it going.  It is the mechanic willing to learn a new type of engine to keep the espresso machine going.  It is the carpenter who became the friend and married the baker.  It is the plumber and handy man who became the friend.  It is the designer who keeps it fluid and in his words "I keep this place from looking like a laundry mat".  It is the farmers who deliver thousands of pounds every week.  It is the good work of blue bottle roasting amazing coffee.  It is the community who comes out on Friday nights and help us in our open kitchen for community nights.  It is the people who are interested in learning food preservation and take our workshops.  It is the people who come to the cafe to eat, drink and meet.  It is the kids who come and help us press cider and feel the worth of real hard work.  It is the people who decide to shop local for the holidays and send gifts from Happy Girl all over the country.  It is the couple who decides to have their wedding rehearsal dinner here.  It is the aquarium employees who come everyday since we first opened our doors (even before).  It is the people all over the country following us on Facebook and in our blog.  It is everyone who has ever had a good thought about Happy Girl Kitchen Co.  It is a network.  This is community.  We support you, you support us and we will all keep it going together.  This is passion.  This is life.  Real food.  Real people.  Real life.

You are our community.  It is for you and with you that we celebrate our anniversary being in this space.  It is you who we invite to come and press apples and drink cider to celebrate another great year!  We hope you will join us!

Dinner, New workshops, 3rd year anniversary and food preservationists take a break!

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Dinner this Thursday, September 26th!


The real star of dinner this week are going to be the tomatoes!  The equinox always is a sign for me that we have one last chance to showcase these jewels of summer center stage.  There will be GREAT classic Italian music by international legends David Dally on the violin and Mike Morrattas on the accordian.  The chef will be our very own Jordan Champagne, displaying her rustic style of cooking with a menu that is heavy on featuring the local harvest!  Sign up now as there are only a few seats left!  REGISTER HERE!

Proposed menu here...


STARTS

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes, shaved gruyere & Fennel 

Arugula, avocado & olives

Gazpacho

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MAINS

 Polenta, cherry tomatoes, brocollini & parseley

Heirloom tomato, buffalo Mozzerella & Basil

Dry Farmed tomatoes & cannellini beans, 

with Blackened zucchini

Butter lettuce & radishes

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blue bottle coffee

Dry Farmed Tomato Jam Tarts

MUSIC  

Live traditional Italian music with David Dally on the violin and Mike Marottas on the accordion!

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New workshop Series! 
We have posted a new Tuesday night workshop series at our location in Pacific Grove.  We have also added a lot of workshops to our event spaces in San Francisco and Oakland.  Please check it out and register soon!  They sell out fast.


2013 Workshops and Events

September

September 24 - Cheese in Pacific Grove, 5-8pm $95
October
October 1 - Preserved Tomatoes in Pacific Grove, 5-8pm, $90
October 8 - Pickles and Ferments in Pacific Grove, 5-8pm $90
October 12 - Pickles and Ferments in Oakland, 10-2pm, $135
October 13 - Apples, Pears and Quince in Oakland 10-2pm, $135
October 19 - Cozy Fall TIme Baking in Pacific Grove, 10-3pm $110
November
November 9 - Gluten Free Baking in Pacific Grove, 10-3pm $110
November 16th - candied citrus peels, honeyed oranges and Morrocan Lemons in Oakland,10-2pm, $135

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Community Nights

This past Friday, Community nights rescued my week!  I am not sure how your friday went, but for us it felt like we couldn't get anything done and everything was going wrong UNTIL community night.  We got so much done and had so much fun at the same time.  Community nights are really a bright and shining star in my week.  Thank you all for coming out and having fun in the kitchen with me.  It is always something to look forward to.  We will host community nights every Friday night through October from 4-8pm.  

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3rd Anniversary Party
Save the date for Happy Girl Kitchen Co's 3rd anniversary party!  Although we have been in business for over a decade, we are celebrating our 3rd year of having our very own Brick and Mortar building!!!  There will be apple cider pressing, live music, pumpkin carving a recipe exchange and MORE!!!
It will be on Saturday, October 26th from noon to 6pm.  More info soon.

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Food Preservationists

Everyone is asking about the food preservationists and when they can get tomatoes.....we decided that we needed to focus on our own production and so we needed to take a break from the food preservationists until we put up enough of our own salsa, dilly beans and pickles to get us through the long winter.  You can always call in and pick up produce at our brick and mortar in Pacific Grove.  Just call 373.GIRL

This week we are going to be pressing my absolute favorite CONCORD GRAPE JUICE and making Grape Shrub and Real Grape Juice.  (I love this juice so much that I actually pressed it while in labor with my daughter just so that the grapes would not go bad.  If I did not get it done then, it would never have been done!)

 

We love WORKSHOPS!
 

Article by CUESA about the field to jar trip!

This week’s article was written by CUESA volunteer Stacy Ladenburger.

On a recent CUESA farm tour, an eager group of strawberry enthusiasts embarked on an adventure to Dirty Girl Produce and Happy Girl Kitchen Co. to learn about growing, picking, and preserving strawberries.

Dirty Girl Produce owner Joe Schirmer cultivates strawberries along with more than 20 varieties of vegetables on 34 acres spread across three sites. We visited the Watsonville location, kept warm by the Santa Cruz Mountains to the northeast.

Joe led us around the organic farm, pointing out the beans (six varieties, planted in waves to keep the market stalls stocked), basil, and green coriander, a crop unfamiliar to many on the tour. These small, round pods, which appear on cilantro plants after they have flowered, encase the coriander seeds. Tasting them, we discovered that they snap delightfully in the mouth and boast a bright flavor.

The dry, hot climate is perfect for Dirty Girl’s famous dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes, which crop up in the late summer, but it is a challenge for strawberries, a fruit less fond of heat. Still, Joe has found a rhythm, and he is now in the middle of his 14th year of strawberry farming.

Berry Organic

Most conventional strawberry farming begins with fumigation and sterilization of the soil, often using methyl bromide and other toxic pesticides that have been criticized and even restricted but nonetheless remain in use.

Dirty Girl Produce has held organic certification since it was founded in 1995, and despite the challenges, the farm maintains its commitment to sustainability in the berry patch. Joe rotates his crops to improve soil fertility and control insects and disease. Instead of chemical fertilizers, he uses kelp meal, and this year, he also experimented with mustard seed meal, a natural fumigant alternative, with positive results. Hedgerows elderflower, coyote bush, and other shrubs sit at the edge of the farm, attracting beneficial insects that help keep pest populations in check.

Though the plants sometimes struggle due to heat, pests, and other challenges of nature, Joe doesn’t worry; his foremost concern, unlike most growers, is not yield. “I’m after flavor,” he explains. “I want good yield, but I really want a good-tasting berry.”

Dirty Girl Produce grows two strawberry varieties, Seascape and Albion. This year, the farm planted 60,000 Seascape and 11,000 Albion plants. Both varieties begin producing in the spring and continue well into autumn. The Seascapes, however, are sensitive to day length, becoming dormant in June and bouncing back as the days begin to shorten.

The berries differ only slightly in appearance. Seascapes are round, with the achenes (the small nodules that contain the fruit’s seeds) resting on the surface of the berry. Albion strawberries are more conical, with their achenes slightly recessed. Some people harbor strong opinions about which variety is best, but Joe says that in blind taste tests, preferences are usually split 50/50.

A Delicate Crop

“People ask, ‘Why are your strawberries so good?’ It’s because we pick them when they’re ripe,” Joe remarked. The white shoulders and tips found on many grocery store berries indicate underripe berries, which are easier to transport and last longer on the shelf but are severely lacking in flavor.

Ripeness is not the only important factor during harvest. Picking strawberries is a difficult task, one that requires precision and care. It is best to pick in the morning, when the stems are firm after the plants have been drinking water all night. Joe calls these berries “snappers,” because their stems are easier to break. Later in the day, the stems will become fibrous. The farm crew tackles the harvest together; though the work is demanding, it takes them only two hours to complete it.

As we approached the plants to pick a few berries ourselves, Joe told us to look for completely red strawberries boasting full, rich color and a bit of shine. He instructed us to turn a strawberry’s stem at 90 degrees and snap it, leaving the green calyx (or hull) attached to the berry.

We made our way down the rows slowly, searching for fully ripe berries and gently bending the stems to pick them. Though the work demanded careful attention, we enjoyed the task of harvesting our own food. With our ruby-red bounty in hand, we bid a grateful goodbye to Joe and his beautiful farm.

From Field to Jar

After our strawberry harvest, we made our way to Happy Girl Kitchen Co. in Pacific Grove. Owner Todd Champagne led us through a jamming lesson using Dirty Girl strawberries, explaining in detail how to make top-notch, low-sugar preserves and letting us get our hands dirty in the process.

Happy Girl is in the business of selling jams, pickles, juices, and other freshly canned goods at the café and other locations, including the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Todd and his wife, Jordan, also teach classes to help people get more comfortable with pickling and preserving food themselves. “We’re kind of like canning missionaries,” Todd says. “We want you guys to do it!”

With a delicious meal of vegetarian chili, cornbread, and salad in our bellies and small jars of strawberry-lavender jam in our hands, we made our way back up the coast. The day’s adventure had left us all the more enthusiastic about these small, red fruits that enchant us each summer.

Visit Dirty Girl Produce at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Thursdays and Saturdays, and Happy Girl Kitchen Co. on Saturdays.

Eat Real is having a preserving contest for amateur producers! GO FOR IT!!!

DIY Contests

photo by Phillip Yip

 

Put your skills to the test in our food craft competitions! To celebrate Year 5 of Eat Real, the 2013 DIY Contests are featuring our 5 all-time most popular categories: home-brewed beer, jam, pickles, infusions, and fixin's!



 

Guidelines
· This contest is open to all amateur producers – those who craft for fun, but not for a living

· You cannot submit the same products for multiple categories.


· All items must be canned, bottled, and harvested during 2013.


· All submissions MUST include: name of producer, name of submitted product, ingredients, contact info, processing time/method (if a shelf-stabilized good). Information MUST be attached on product submitted for judging.


· All sealed goods must be shelf stable, meet USDA sterilization guidelines, and be in good condition – free from dust, rust, dents, or other defects.


·Items must be handed in for judging between September 4-7th, 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Eat Real Festival Office in Jack London Square at 65 Webster Ave, Oakland.

Email gail[at]eatrealfest[dot]com with any questions. Winners will be announced on the Food Craft Stage on Saturday, September 28th.

 

Last day to enter! I would love to taste your preserves....

Entry Period Ends Tomorrow at Midnight

Last call for beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, oil, pickles, preserves and spirits crafters to enter before tomorrow, July 31, at midnight! Be part of the first national initiative to recognize excellence in taste and sustainability. Judges including Nell Newman, Paul Bertolli, Bruce Aidells, Food52.com Co-Founder Merrill Stubbs, and Bi-Rite Market Owner Sam Mogannam stand at the ready to taste your Good Food. Winners proudly display the Good Food Awards seal for the coming year and will be honored at a gala ceremony with Alice Waters and showcased at a 30,000 person marketplace. Entry fee is $60 per entry to cover storing, sorting and processing, and don't forget, members of the Good Food Merchants Guild get one free entry, so join today!


photo credt: Marc Fiorito

 


 

 
 

True Story.....

True story...

One day a friend and I and my two kids took off in our 1966 VW bus to go pick up a load of limes at a farm in a most beautiful tucked away valley.  The drive was a delight and the day turned out to be be epic.  A nice jaunt around a gorgeous farm with good friends.  I have a tendency to get distracted in my journeys and if you take off on a trip with me we are likely to take a few extra stops on the way there or on the way back.  It was one such trip when I suggested that we go visit my friend Jim on the way back.  I promised he was just a little out of the way...We pulled into his driveway and honked the horn and as he greeted us he said in his most wonderful NYC sarcasm "I thought it was the UPS truck pulling up. Who else would come unannounced and honk the horn?".  He always throws in a few unmentionable words in there and you should keep that in mind when reading any quotes from him in this article.  Yes, he is one of those!   
We went into his house and I noticed some of his ferments on the counter.  He had taken a workshop with Sandor Katz (my hero) at Happy Girl Kitchen a few weeks before.  I asked him how the ferments were going as I saw a lid was slightly bulging and he said "I don't know, I just leave them out on the counter".  Then he showed me some of the other jars that he had put into the refrigerator and confessed that his wife who was at the workshop with him had tended to all of her jars and put them in the fridge. At this point he was not interested in me or my ferment questions and had engaged in more interesting conversation with my friend and kids outside.  I decided to check the ferment situation and without thinking I opened the jar in the middle of the kitchen.  Of course gasses had been building up (thus the bulging lid) and pickled beet brine began shooting all over the kitchen along with my shouts and uproarious laughter.  You can only imagine the words coming out of Jim's mouth as he came into the kitchen to see me running across with a spurting jar.  I held it over the sink and laughed and then began to try the beets.  Actually they were very good and although he thought I was crazy, I convinced him to try them too.
This made me realize that we should do home visits after our workshops to see how things are going.  Because of the sugars in these golden beets, the air should have been vented more frequently.  It seemed Jim was not completely paying attention in that part of the instructions.  It can be hard to take it all in at a single workshop.  I also know that no one has ever reportedly gotten sick from eating a fermented vegetable.  That makes them some of the safest food on the planet (even safer than fresh produce) and so I did not hesitate in trying the carbonated beets.  I wish that I could do home visits to each and every one of the peoples in my workshops and see their pantries and hear their stories.  Is this what Facebook is for?  Please let us know how it has been going for you after your workshops!  We hope you have been having great success at preserving the local harvest.  NOTE:  Jim forgave me for making such a mess in his kitchen and I was grateful that he had hardwood floors which made the golden beet juice much easier to clean up.  I wonder if he ate all those golden beets yet?

Written by Happy Girl — June 11, 2013

happy girl kitchen co. is proud to offer the very best in artisan preserves, workshops and events in the bay area. we work closely with area farmers, as all products are all made with organic farm fresh produce.
contact sales@happygirl kitchen.com for more information, shipping inquiries or to send love notes.