Did you hear that? That was the sound of all the champagne bottles I’m popping. Okay, maybe not, though it certainly feels like I should.
It’s been one year. One year! One year of stress and sleepless nights, of small celebrations and set backs. One year of new friends, new employees and new worries. In the past year, we’ve been a part of one dozen new pop-up markets around New York, been robbed once, had a (now past) employee try to rip off our recipes twice, have added two entirely new sections to our menu (braised meat mac & cheese or brown rice bowls anyone?), have partnered with one of our favorite dessert companies, have received a handful of bad reviews that helped us to do things better and have been shocked to receive a handful of glowing reviews that have made us realize we are capable of doing things way better than we ever thought we could. We’ve survived the dog days of summer, the doldrums of winter, and all the ups-and-downs in-between. Maybe I really should go open that bottle of champagne after all.
Right now, I feel riddled by clichés; however, they all feel true. Time flies. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. I really don’t know how our first 365 days of operation have unfolded so quickly. In some ways it feels like Jay and I both still have paint and caulking beneath our fingernails from last summer’s renovation. In other ways, it feels impossible to imagine our life together just one year back. What did our life look like before our brick and mortar shop existed? What did we do with our days? What did we possibly talk about other than our shop?
Back in 2011 when we sold our first sandwich at a small, weekends-only pop-up in downtown Brooklyn, we never thought we’d last through the first month. Then, when we spent the next fifteen months operating at pop-ups year-round, we felt we might never have the chance to do more than that. When we signed the lease on our first storefront on NYC’s Second Avenue last spring, we were terrified that we’d never be able to pull ourselves together enough to make the whole thing work out. And then, on August 16th of last year, the day of my 31st birthday, when we opened our doors for real, we were both plagued with anxiety about surviving our first full year.
Last year, the night before my birthday was probably the most unglamorous event of my life. Just short of twelve hours before we were scheduled to open, our dining area was littered with custom tables that still were not assembled; rented tools were spread all across our service bar which, as a result, needed a fresh coat of black paint; our menu sign still rest in the trunk of my mother’s car in New Jersey. I rang in the first few minutes of my 31st year by running a shop vac across our kitchen floor and eating the remains from a bag of gummy candy I left out the day before. Very fancy, I know.
This year, life looks pretty different. For the first time since our shop opened, Jay and I are heading out of town for a few nights (I think some people call this sort of getaway a va-ca-tion. Did I pronounce that right? I can’t be sure). It’s our first big road trip – a thirteen-hour drive south to Charleston – and, naturally, it revolves around food. We’ll be hitting up both of Sean Brock’s restaurants for dinner, and will basically spend the rest of our time searching for the perfect bourbon and taste-testing skillets of cornbread. We both plan to come back at least five pounds heavier.
I’m packing our cooler with all the basic road trip essentials. PB&Js. Stone fruit from a nearby farm. Raw nuts. Granola. And for a taste of something sweet, these little zucchini cakes with chocolate frosting. I know, I know. Chocolate frosting for a road trip? It’s like I’m just asking for a messy t-shirt and sticky hands. However, I figure it’ll be worth the risk to be able to pull over at some scenic southern rest stop, many hours from home, to stretch our legs and enjoy a few sweet bites of these mini end-of-summer cakes to celebrate the fact that together, just one year later, we’ve made it this far.
Good tidings for now friends. I’ll be back soon.
Sweet Little Zucchini Cakes w/ Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from I Am Baker
For the cake:
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 3 egg whites
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- 2/3 cup almond milk
- 1 cup shredded zucchini, patted dry
For the frosting:
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2-4 tablespoons almond milk
- a pinch of coarse salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.
Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg whites. Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, and then on high for about 2 minutes until the mixture becomes very light and fluffy.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add some of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture. Then add some of the almond milk to the sugar mixture. Continue to alternate until all ingredients are mixed. Mix on low until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the zucchini.
Pour the batter into the muffin tins until they are 2/3 full and bake for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, to make the frosting, add the butter to a clean bowl of an electric mixture and mix for 1 minute until the butter is creamed. Add in the cocoa, sugar, vanilla and salt and mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to a low speed and add in the milk, one tablespoon at a time.
Remove the muffin tin from the oven and allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.