Archives For chocolate

Looking at the schedule of amazing festivals happening this week, we thought we’d return to this RhonniRocks about the Clearwater Festival Food Court in 2010 …

The weather for The Great Hudson River Revival, also known as Clearwater Festival was perfect, if a little hot for folks who live all year in this area. We’d staffed our shop with Texans, all of whom were thankful to be anywhere where evening temperatures might get below 85. Heck, here in NY, it got below 70 every evening … what could be wrong with that?

Our street show gig is basically a fresh dessert shop. We dip Fresh Strawberries, Frozen Bananas, and Frozen Cheesecake in molten Ghirardelli chocolate right in front of the customer. We also make a 100% Fruit Sorbet out of ripe bananas and mixed berries. It seems that the dessert button gets pushed later in the day. We won’t have a noon rush, but about 2pm it can really start hopping. If the weather is hot, it’s a banana show; if it’s cold they seem to want the richness of the frozen cheesecake. The strawberries are … well … there are just so many things right about strawberries dipped in good chocolate … they are a steady item.

The Clearwater Festival has one of the best food line-ups of any show we do. The “Real Falafel” shop is there, roasting his eggplant on Friday for his handmade Babaghanoush, and grinding chickpeas for his Falafel and Hummus.

Vegetarian Oasis serves one of the most beautiful Jamaican Curries I’ve ever enjoyed. It was sweet potato, butternut squash, kale, and cabbage in a coconut milk curry, served over brown rice. Exquisite. There were a couple of stir-fry shops, and a shop serving standard hamburgers and hot dogs for the non-adventurous diners.

Breezy Hill Orchard had a shop there too. Festivals aren’t normally Elizabeth Ryan’s venue, but she believes in the purpose of the Clearwater Festival, and she can translate her Farmer’s Market experience into a festival booth fairly easily. She had her beautiful giant Ginger Snap Cookies, Chocolate Chip (of course), several pies, and Vegan Carrot Cake Cookies as big as my face. Her savory menu was a variety of tamales both meat and veggie. All of this could be washed down with her trademark cider.

For dinner Saturday we traded with Traveler’s Kitchen, aka The Potatoheads. They do fresh potato pancakes, as well as designer quesadillas, and a beautiful Tempeh Reuben on marbled rye bread.

This show is a great example of what festival food can be when everyone involved thinks of the audience as connoisseurs of food as well as entertainment. The food vendor coordinator does a great job of keeping the duplication of items to a minimum, while encouraging vendors to be creative with their offerings. The clientele at the festival has come to expect healthier, gourmet options, and happily spends money on food, knowing they’re getting excellent products. I’m not trying to imply that there were not lines for french fries, but those lines were not any longer than the lines for handmade healthier foods.

My recollections of this show involved me having a lot of extra time. The past two years we’ve experienced terrible weather on that weekend, so I really expected to get more pictures this year. However, the crowds this year were epic, so I was busy doing the chocolate thing. I’m really not complaining so much as explaining … a girl’s gotta pay the mortgage somehow.

Compostables

Rhonni —  May 15, 2013 — 2 Comments

I’ve been in conversations recently about zero-waste goals for outdoor events. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, and there are multiple benefits … but there is a learning curve. This article first appeared in my personal blog. I’m bringing it out here, as it will have a greater probabilility of reaching those who need it.

The Hubby and I do two music festivals in NY, mostly selling Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Frozen Bananas, and Cheesecake. The festivals are Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival and the Fingerlakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance. Both have well-organized composting programs. As a vendor,  I’m required to distribute only compostable disposables. This means that everything I give away has to be able to break down in a compost pile. Plates are paper, paper pulp, or bamboo. Cups are sometimes made of paper. Sometimes they are made of corn or sugar cane. The latter two options still look like clear poly cups. There are a few differences in handling. The cups are designed to start breaking down at compost temperatures, so the corn cups start mis-shaping at about 100 degrees. This can be a problem. One errant sunbeam on a hot day, and an entire sleeve of cups has become a useless lump. Costs are much higher than foam, but I believe that if one took into account the costs of an event’s garbage fees, the costs might align more closely. It’s hard to say, because those costs are dealt with by different groups of people. Festival Management pays for disposal costs, and Festival Vendors pay for their disposables.

Grassroots Festival provides these signs for all of the food vendors.

These composting programs look like this: a volunteer provides my food shop with a 5-gallon bucket, half-full of straw. All of my waste goes into this, unless it is utter trash, for example, a plastic sleeve from a stack of paper plates. Hourly, a volunteer comes around with a wheelbarrow, dumps my 5 gallon bucket into said vessel, and provides me with another bucket half full of straw. On my end, as a vendor, I am charged with assuring my customers that their disposables are in fact compostable, and should go into the designated containers at the refuse stations. The festival management has accepted a lot of the educational responsibility as well. They’ve staffed refuse stations with educators, who explain the three categories at each station: Compost / Recycling / Utter Trash. The compost from these stations, as well as from the vendors, goes into large roll-off dumpsters, which will be sent or sold to a local municipality that has an industrial composting program. Compost educators maintain an education center, which also functions as the headquarters for all of the volunteers involved in the composting process at the festivals. It always seems to me that much of what they’re doing is teaching people that there’s no such place as “away” when it comes to garbage. Amazingly, children seem to “get it” faster than adults. Maybe it’s because they are not having to relearn it after years of apathy in regards to our waste-full ways.

Awhile back, I was in Anaheim for the Healthy Baking Seminar and the Natural Products Expo West. During a breakout session entitled “Greening Your Bakery”, disposables were a subject of our discussion. Interestingly enough for an event being held in California, I was the only person in the group that had had any experience actually composting compostable servicewear. A representative of a California bread bakery asked the question: “Are we deluding ourselves about being greener when we pay so much more for compostables over foam, yet our customers are taking these products home and throwing them into their standard garbage cans?” I offered for consideration that there is value in beginning the conversation on compostables and landfills with our guests. Also, as the comparison had been made with styrofoam, I presented my paper cup of tea for study (Starbucks had provided tea and coffee for all of us at the seminar.) I said “Let’s talk about perceived value. I believe that the perceived value of whatever is in this 12oz cup is easily 50% greater than the same fluid in a 12oz foam cup. That is without the logo. A plain paper cup with a neutral sleeve would still have that much more perceived value.” Nods around the table, although some disagreement that I was underestimating at 50%. If combined with a Fair-Trade, Organic label or product, the value doubled.

Which brought us to education as a green strategy. A baker out of northern Arizona gets twice as much as any neighboring shops for her coffee, but she saw that her role in greening her community had to include becoming as much an educator as a baker. She uses organics whenever available, Fair Trade, Organic coffees, and all compostable servicewear. The servicewear has a separate trash receptacle in her retail space. It is composted within her community, by individuals rather than by any municipal organization.

In the end, both the Arizona baker and I told the Californian that he might consider by-passing his garbage service, and looking to local Master Gardener’s organizations as well as his county extension agents or nearby universities for someone doing composting on an industrial scale. It would be a lot of work, but the PR benefits were certainly something to consider, especially when he’d admitted to wanting to do a cleaner and greener job at his bakery.

In my experience, taking a holistic approach to greening your operation allows you to optimize benefits on all levels – ecological, community building, and bottom line/branding. Whether done as a comprehensive program, or initialized with baby-steps … it’s all forward movement.