Tuesday, July 16, 2013


You may have noticed the lack of output from Picnic Bakery over the past few months.  Let me tell you why:

1.  Our new house looks like this:
(If you didn't already know, the house is a fixer that we are doing mostly by ourselves. Also, when I say "ourselves," I really mean "Ralph" because everyone knows I shouldn't be allowed to touch power tools unless the aim is to destroy something).

The temporary shower.  A la Dexter's kill-room

We are still waiting for electric updates.  The gas cook top works, but no oven yet.  Notice the orange cable that I move around the room to plug in appliances as I need them.  Ralph built the temporary shelving and worktops so we can have some function until he has time to build proper ones.

You can't miss the gaping holes in the walls.  There are parts of the house where you can see the outside from the inside where one normally shouldn't be able to.  It doesn't make me think about spiders at all.  
When we first moved in, we lived for two weeks without electricity, a bathroom, or a kitchen.  Fortunately, we managed to get by with a temporary sink Ralph made out of the taps for the washing machine and a bucket.  We made use of some battery-operated lanterns, borrowed showers at friend's houses, and did a lot of restaurant dining.  It wasn't so bad.  It was a lot like camping.  We got to act out my life-long dream of becoming a squatter in Berkeley.  I am totally the girlfriend you want to have during the zombie apocalypse.  Seriously, Ralph should marry me because we all know it's coming.

2.  On week two without electricity, we adopted Lillie:

Lillie, our Portuguese Water puppy

She may be cute, but she's hell on wheels.  She skipped childhood (except the bed-wetting part) and went straight into behaving like a teenager.  She even talks back when I tell her "no."  I have lost a lot of sleep and a lot of knickers to this little fur monster.  She's lucky she's so cute when she's sleepy.

3.  This stuff has been getting to me:

Lately, my sensitivity to gluten has caused me a lot of grief on baking days.  My reactions to gluten are thankfully a lot less severe than many people experience, but I was still getting mildly to moderately sick every single time I worked with flour.

4.  As a result of all of the above mentioned items, I have had a little bit of a melt-down in the motivation department.  My business has been going through an identity crisis.  Of course I want to keep making the recipes I worked so hard to develop, but they make me sick!  And it's hard to feed something to other people when it makes you feel unwell.  Something just feels intrinsically wrong with feeding people what your body tells you is poison.  Plus, there are so many people out there who suffer like I do.  I know how exciting it can be when you go someplace and discover they offer a gluten-free option.  An option.  Usually only one.  And it absolutely makes your day that someone was thinking about you.  You feel like you were just presented with a feast when you're handed a single gluten-free cookie.  And it's always so exciting to know there is one more dining facility where you can meet a friend and not "just have a drink, or something."

SO...after a lot of deliberation, I've finally arrived at a decision.  I'm shutting the imaginary doors of Picnic Bakery for a few months while I work from my (soon to be more complete) home test kitchen.  I'm going to get back to one of my favourite things:  recipe development.  Oh, look out you rock and rollers!  Picnic Bakery will be re-opening this fall as a gluten-free bakery.  I will keep you posted on my progress, share my successes and failures, and maybe even slip you a recipe or two.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Shop Worth Visiting

Please forgive me for sounding like an advertisement in this post.  Sometimes I get bored with talking about my life; and, today I'm feeling inspired to promote another local business that I'm affiliated with and love ever so much.

As I was making my delivery to Tea Here Now this morning, I decided to stop and enjoy a cup of tea.  I usually order a lady grey to go, but today I wanted something more exotic to sit down and "escape" with.  The woman in line ahead of me ordered a chai tea.  I watched as Andrea filled a cup for her from a big urn on the counter.  The room filled with the faint spicy aroma of cinnamon and clove, and I couldn't resist asking for the same.  Andrea explained that she makes her chai with soy milk, honey, and maple syrup.  It was the best chai I've ever tasted.  Andrea doesn't make the tea blend herself- she orders it from a company called Morning Glory which is based out of Seattle.  She also sells the tea blend at her shop, so you all now know where to go for my housewarming gift ;)

1721 1/2 Webster Street, Oakland*

If you haven't made your way into Tea Here Now yet, I really have to encourage you to do so as soon as you're able.  If you are anything like me, you will appreciate that there is easy metered street parking just outside of the shop.  While Andrea's dear little shop is not entirely vegan, nearly everything is, or has a vegan option.  She keeps both almond milk and soy milk for cooling your tea, and has agave nectar, maple syrup, and raw sugar for sweetening.  In addition to vegan baked goods from Oakland-based Fat Bottom Bakery and my own Picnic Bakery, there are also some darling non-vegan French macaroons and fruit galettes from Indie Cakes & Pastries.  Indie Cakes & Pastries also makes gluten-free scones and macaroons.   Stop in on a Friday for the Angel Cakes cupcake Pop-Up which also has vegan and gluten-free options.  Sweet treats aside, Andrea also serves up wholesome lunchtime meals in the form of beautiful salads, and seasonal vegan veggie pot pies (pot pies provided by yours truly).

Picnic Bakery's seasonal veggie pot pie being served up at Tea Here Now*

A selection of items on display at Tea Here Now*
It's not just the amazing teas and delicious locally-crafted  treats that keep Andrea's customers returning several times a day.  She has such a wonderful and cheerful demeanor that brings a little bit of sunshine to even the foggiest of bay-area days.  I'm sure her customers look forward to chatting with her every bit as much as I do every Monday morning.  She delivers a smile with every cup, and that is something I'm sure we all need more of in our lives.

The shop is open during the day on weekdays, and is occasionally open on Sundays when it could also transform into a pop-up location for such interesting things as tarot readings and shoulder massages.  To stay up-to-date on happenings (of which there are many) and menus, you can follow Tea Here Now on facebook.  I hope all of my local readers will take the time to sit, sip, and savor sometime soon.  And of course, be sure to order a Picnic Bakery peppermint panda and veggie pot-pie while you're there. Also, Andrea has informed me that due to popular demand, some of her customers are now ordering arctic pandas (peppermint pandas that have been chilled in the icebox creating a cool mint-chocolate cookie reminiscent of mint chocolate chip ice cream).  Go try one and let me know what you think!

*All photos in this post were taken from the Tea Here Now facebook page.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pot Pies and Post-It Notes

Do you ever go off on a "first week of school" tangent?  You know, that week when you buy all kinds of new gear and Lisa Frank folders and line up your neon purple and pink pens in straight little rows across the top corner of your desk?  You spend that entire first week taking notes in full sentences with careful, deliberate penmanship, marking pages with post-it notes as you go.  For an entire week, everything you do is neatly filed away behind tidy little tabs in binders.

I need that week in my life right now.

Business has been picking up, and all too soon my desk has been swallowed by a swamp monster of paperwork, receipts, clean laundry, and fancy dishes.  There is only one thing I can do at this point.  I have to go shopping.  I need a calendar with big boxes I can write in, new colorful pens, and paper clips shaped like rabbits.  How else can I possibly get anything organized?

No, seriously, come tell me to my face that I don't need bunny paper clips in order to clean my desk.  I'm all ears!

How did our house get to be such a mess?  I think what happened is we got to that point where we know we will be moving into our new house soon, so we've given up on tidying this one.  Okay, I'm definitely airing dirty laundry online and apparently also making bad puns.  Heh.  Dad jokes.  Gah, I'm such a dork!

One thing that's going well is business.  Picnic Bakery has been expanding with leaps and bounds over the past year.  And now, for the first time ever, my baked goods are available for purchase at a tea shop in Oakland.  I had the pleasure of meeting Andrea, the owner of Tea Here Now during a recent event at Kitchener Oakland.  She loved my winter vegetable pot pies and peppermint pandas and is now serving them up for lunch in her super adorable, teeny, tiny tea shop.  I'm so pleased to finally have a place to send people when they are craving a Picnic treat.   Not to mention tea.  I've already tried three of her blends and been blown away each time.  So, so good.  I hope all of my bay area readers will stop in to taste one of my pot pies:

Paula Wirth / Eat Drink Oakland
Winter Vegetable Pot Pies & Peppermint Pandas

They feature organic locally grown produce in a rich gravy wrapped up in a buttery flaky crust.  They've been VERY well-received by both vegan and non-vegan customers thus far, which means they will definitely not disappoint.  Hop to it!

What else is new?  Oh, Valentine's Day is coming and I have designed some special treats for your Valentine.  From now until February 14th, I am making every body's favorite peppermint panda cookie in heart shape.  They will come in pairs wrapped up in red and white paper liners and tied with bows.  They are $5 a bag and will make a great Valentine's day gift for your friends, coworkers, neighbors, mother, daughter, dog walker, and lover.  Email me to order yours!

Peppermint Panda Hearts

Valentine's Day Peppermint Panda Gift Bags

Oh, and if you decide not to order pandas (or even if you do), you should come out to the SF vegan bake sale this Sunday.  In addition to two dozen peppermint pandas, it promises to have lots of other yummy goodies for sale and the proceeds go to Animal Place.  Animal Place provides refuge to hundreds of neglected farmed animals.  Animal Place's Rescue Ranch is a 60-acre adoption center, placing needy farmed animals into permanent homes.  I think that's as close as you can get to guilt-free dessert.  If you're free on Sunday, I encourage you to come eat your hearts (out)!

Thanks for reading!  XOXO

*Potpie photo courtesy of Paula Wirth / Eat Drink Oakland