Scarlet’s Bakery provides hope, second chances and bomb cinnamon rolls

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Inspiration for blog posts reaches me at the oddest moments, like a couple of weeks ago when I was trapped in the hell that is the Shelbyville Road Plaza parking lot on a Saturday afternoon. There was a segment on NPR about the memorial service for the anti-war activist Father Daniel Berrigan. A friend once asked Berrigan what the meaning of life was. His response: “If you want to be hopeful, you have to do hopeful things.”

That’s a pretty heavy observation on a Saturday in the suburbs.

Berrigan’s instruction about hope made me think about a local business I had just visited the day before: Scarlet’s Bakery in Shelby Park. This new sweet shop and café blends baked goods and business acumen to give women an opportunity to improve their lives and, in turn, build hope for a better future.

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Scarlet’s Bakery is a brick-and-mortar culmination of “Scarlet Hope,” a non-profit organization/ministry that began eight years ago that “helps women in Louisville who have been victims of trafficking and exploitation,” WDRB reported. Women from that program work at Scarlet’s Bakery to learn work skills that will help them build new careers. 

I can’t speak to the business savvy these women learn at the bakery. But I can comment on the area I know best, aka the end results of their labor: baked goods.

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On my first visit to Scarlet’s, about a dozen different kinds of pastries covered the gleaming white countertops. There was a little something for everyone, from the bite-sized doughnut holes that would fit perfectly into the hands of Scarlet’s youngest customers to the more grown-up, savory combinations like the spinach-feta turnover or bacon-cheddar-chive muffins. Though I was there in the morning, selections such as bourbon-ball macarons and horseshoe-shaped iced sugar cookies made me think ahead to afternoon snacking opportunities.

I thank the pastry gods for leading me to the cinnamon roll that day. I could barely see the cinnamon swirl of the roll through the hearty schmear of cream cheese frosting. Each bite was as smooth as velvet as my teeth sank into the airy dough. It was a rich pastry, but managed not to be too sweet. This cinnamon roll was the perfect sort of decadent to get a good day started.

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Everyone who is a part of Scarlet’s Bakery should be proud of the work they do. It turns out that hope is a dish best served sweet (or savory, if that’s what you’re into).


Scarlet’s Bakery

741 E. Oak St., Louisville

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

For more information, visit the Scarlet’s Bakery website or Facebook page

Want to learn about food writing? Join me for a workshop tomorrow at Butchertown Grocery

I’ve been writing about food for six years and counting. Now, it’s time to pay it forward.

I’m co-leading a food-writing workshop sponsored by Louisville Literary Arts (I’m on the board of this great non-profit) from 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow, May 14 at the restaurant Butchertown Grocery. Author David Domine and I will teach participants about what makes good food writing and how to improve your own skills. There’s also some hands-on (read: EDIBLE) writing activities.

There are a few spots left, but hurry because we’re keeping the workshop small and intimate. I’d love to see you there.


A Writeable Feast: A Food-Writing Workshop

When: 5-7 p.m. Saturday, May 14

Where: Butchertown Grocery, 1076 E. Washington St., Louisville

Cost: $40 (includes appetizers and jokes from me!)

For more info and to sign up: Louisville Literary Arts website

Four ways to improve your grocery shopping

 

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An oldie but goodie: My haul during one grocery trip in which Cherry Coke Zero was on sale.

I take grocery shopping seriously. I’d often join my mom when I was a kid, following her around Kroger, grabbing things on lower shelves, checking out the latest Little Critter book in the magazine aisle.

Then, I became a grown up. I had to buy my own food. I learned a valuable lesson during my first trip to Kroger on my own during my first summer internship away from home: Food is expensive. I lived on chicken and potatoes that summer, mainly because they were filling and relatively inexpensive.

It’s been *gulp* 12 years since my first solo grocery shopping trip, and I’ve honed my habits like an athlete. By doing so, I’ve been able to save a lot of money for the Thompson Wolf Pack (aka me, Rob and Roscoe).

And the truth is, I love to shop for groceries. I like surveying the selection of food, imagining all the things I will cook and how we won’t have to eat out and, therefore, will save money. And for someone who loves food as much as I do, being in a store full of it is heaven. And I think I’ve turned it into a personal challenge in which I have to figure out which items to get at which stores for the best value.

Sift through your cookbooks and Pinterest boards

Before you get your grocery list together, you need to decide exactly what you want to cook. Yep, I’m talking meal planning. DON’T PANIC. It’s really not as hard as you think.

Take some time the day before your grocery trip to sift through your favorite recipes or look on the internet for something new. Don’t forget to take your own schedule into account when you’re planning your meals for the week. If you have plans most nights of the week, forgo tedious recipes for simple ones that you can make ahead of time and/or quickly. Hint: breakfast for dinner aka brinner aka some bacon and fried eggs is always a good option.

Bring a list or GTFO

Forgetting my grocery list is amongst the worst things in life, right up there with making a sandwich with the end pieces of bread or your DVR clipping off the end of your show. A list keeps you on task. It’s like a set of rules when you go to the grocery store. True story: I’ve been known to turn around and go home if I pull into a grocery store parking lot and realize that I’ve forgotten my list.

I picked up this little tip from The Kitchn blog: I created a template of the basic groceries I get (not name brands just types of products). I organized the items on the list by where they are in the store (yes, I know the layout that well). But I also leave some blank spaces.

A list centers me. It’s easy to get distracted by everything going on in a grocery store, especially as they keep getting bigger and bigger to load in more merchandise that has nothing to do with eating.

Order of operation is key

Remember when you had to learn which order to solve math equations – everything in the parenthesis first, exponents, etc.? Well, there’s a rigid order I follow when it comes to which stores I visit first. I always start with the basics, so Aldi is my first stop. I tend to do the bulk of my shopping there (my love for this store runs deep, y’all), but it’s a good first stop because it’s the cheapest place to get staples like flour, sugar and canned goods. But as much as I love Aldi, I know I can’t get everything there, especially personal hygiene stuff I like, certain cleaning supplies and good coffee (no offense, Aldi). That’s when I head to other grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s, Lucky’s, Paul’s Fruit Market and Kroger to fill in the blanks. And we’re also dipping our toes into farmers’ market season, so keep that in mind, too.

Over time, you’ll eventually learn what you like from particular stores and whether or not you’re willing to make a special trip to get it. For example, the Italian sausage from Lucky’s is HEAVENLY, but I only stop there if I have other items to make the best use of my time and gas money.

(Blogger’s Note: For those who follow me on Twitter, you know a post about grocery shopping across Louisville is coming. I just needed to crank this one out first.)

Decide what’s important to you

Some of you might be giving me some mean side-eye right now. Lists? Planning? Multiple stores? I get it, y’all. Time is a limited resource. We’re all super busy. Take a moment and decide what matters to you and your household when it comes to groceries. Is saving money the priority? Buying local? Organic only? A combination of all three? None of the above? Once you have your grocery priorities in check, it will be easier for you to develop your own game plan.

 

Event alert: Celebrate great black women of Kentucky tonight at the Clifton Center

It’s way past my bedtime, but I wanted to get something up quick about an event from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a social justice organization that’s doing good work for folks in the state.

Tonight is the third annual We Are Kentuckians: Celebrating Our Common Heritage, a bash that brings together art, music and food in celebration of the people of the Commonwealth. This year’s gathering specifically focuses on lifting up black women in Kentucky (*clears throat* YAAAAAAS).

Here’s a blurb from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth:

We Are Kentuckians honors Black women in Kentucky through music, dance, spoken word, and storytelling. The evening lineup includes: musicians Committed, Cynthia Fletcher, and DJ Alli; dancers Dionne Griffiths and Cynthia Brown; poets Hannah Drake and Robin Garner; and storytellers Kristen Williams, Taylor Little, and Andrea Massey.

This event is open to the public with a suggested donation of $10 to $20, which includes delicious food from Dasha Barbour’s Southern Bistro and Louisville Vegan Kitchen. There will be a cash bar and silent auction.

There’s still time to buy tickets to the event here. You can also learn more about Kentuckians for the Commonwealth here.


We Are Kentuckians: Celebrating Our Common Heritage

When: 7-10 p.m. Thursday, March 10

Where: Clifton Center, 2117 Payne St., Louisville

Cost: $10-20

For more info: We Are Kentuckians website

It’s that time of year: Join me at the Desserts First fundraiser for Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana

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It’s that magical time of year when Girl Scout cookies and top Louisville chefs come together for Desserts First, an annual fundraiser for the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana. At the event, which takes place this Wednesday, chefs have to create appetizers, drinks and desserts that incorporate Girl Scout cookies. This year’s participants include:

Arctic Scoop | Bake My Day | Bernoulli Small Batch Ice Cream | Bill’s Famous Spreads  | Bristol Bar & Grille | Cellar Door Chocolates | Corbett’s: An American Place | Feast BBQ | Flour de Lis Bakery | Four Roses Bourbon | Gary’s on Spring | Jack Fry’s | Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon | Ladyfingers Catering | Louisville Cream | The Melting Pot | RedHot Roasters | Roux | Scarlet’s Bakery | Teacups & Bombshells Cafe |  Terri Lynn’s Catering by Design | Varanese | Vincenzo’s | Ward 426

Winner gets glory and maybe a little indigestion from all those cookies.

I love Desserts First for a couple of reasons. I’ve volunteered with Girl Scouts since my boisterous Brownies were dainty Daisies (about three years in non-Scouting terms) AND I get to be a judge at the event for the second year in a row. Wait, one more reason – tasty treats.

There’s still time to buy tickets to the event online. If $65 isn’t in your pre-income tax return budget, consider buying a box from the next Girl Scout you see stationed around town.

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10th Annual Desserts First fundraiser

When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24

Where: Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center, 1860 Mellwood Ave., Louisville

Cost: $65

For more info: Desserts First website, Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana

 

Come to the Moth tonight, and bring some mittens, too

I’ve been involved with Moth StorySLAM events at Headliners Music Hall for about four years, and one thing that’s kept me around is the sense of community among the storytellers and attendees. There are the folks I can always count on seeing on the last Tuesday of every month, the newbies who leave gushing about how much fun they’ve had, and the storytellers who impress me with their honesty and bravery to tell their own stories to a room full of strangers.

Tonight, it’s time for our Moth family to come together and give back. We’re collecting clean, gently used (or new!) children’s clothing for the JCPS Clothing Assistance Program. Here’s a blurb about the program, courtesy of Louisville Moth producer Tara Anderson:

The CAP helps make sure families get clothing they need, especially during the cold winter months. Sweaters, pants, hats and gloves are especially appreciated.

Worthy cause, yes? Then bring that sweater that’s two sizes too small and join me tonight for some good stories. I’ll be holding down the mic as host, so I’d love to see you there.


The Moth StorySLAM

When: Tonight, Dec. 29; doors open at 7 p.m., stories begin at 8 p.m.

Where: Headliners Music Hall, 1386 Lexington Road, Louisville

Cost: $8

For more info: The Moth website

 

A few things to remember before Christmas

*dusts off blog*

*cracks knuckles*

*girds loins*

Christmas is less than 72 hours away. Like most of you guys, I’m trying to fit in last-minute shopping, baking and a little bit of blogging, too. There’s no time for dilly-dally, so let’s dive into a few items to keep in mind as we wait for Santa to arrive.

  • I wrote a piece for WFPL about how to outsource your Christmas cooking. TL;DR – Order meals and desserts from your favorite bakeries and delis, make reservations or eat a little Chinese for Christmas dinner.
  • Big Momma’s Soul Kitchen on West Broadway offers a free meal for those in need on Christmas. Unfortunately, the restaurant needs donations and volunteers to keep this seven-year tradition alive, according to WAVE. Big Momma’s is in my book, Louisville Diners, and the restaurant is run by a great family with big hearts. Consider lending a hand or a couple of bucks for their Christmas dinner.
  • And speaking of my book, Louisville Diners, it would make a great stocking stuffer. Just sayin.  

OK, this was a nice break. But onward with Christmas shenanigans.

Local grocery will close unless new owners swoop in

The Root Cellar started in this converted garage in Old Louisville. It eventually closed and operated solely in its Germantown location.
The Root Cellar started in this converted garage in Old Louisville. It eventually closed and operated solely in its Germantown location.

Some sad news from a great local grocer: The Root Cellar will close at the end of the year unless new owners take over the business.

I’ve been a fan of The Root Cellar since it opened in Old Louisville in 2011. The small space was packed with local produce, meat and dairy products. At its peak, owner Ron Smith added a second location in Germantown in 2012 and even created a Kickstarter project to fund a mobile Root Cellar to bring produce to underserved areas in Louisville. Eventually, Ron closed the Old Louisville store and operated The Root Cellar out of the Germantown location.

On Saturday, Ron posted on The Root Cellar’s Facebook page that he will close the store at the end of the year if he can’t find someone to invest in the business. Here’s the post:

As many of you may already know, I have been trying to find some way to keep The Root Cellar around. I have discussed various ideas with some potential investors, but I have not fully committed to the process of selling the business. Well, now I have. I can no longer sustain the financial or physical burden of operating this store. I regret to have to tell you all, that I will be closing the store at the end of this year, unless a buyer or investor is found to take over the daily operation of the store. Any reasonable offer or investment scheme will be considered. I will be open regular hours through this winter and I look forward to serving each and every one of you. Thank you so much for your continued commitment to the store, the farmers and me. If you would like to meet to discuss purchasing the store, please email me at ron@louisvillerootcellar.com.

This makes me all kinds of sad. Ron is a great guy who always had the community’s interests at heart. He wanted to make fresh, local produce available to everyone, no matter what neighborhood you live in. I loved shopping at The Root Cellar when I lived in Old Louisville. It was good to know exactly which farm my eggs came from, to have a variety of seasonal produce around which to plan a meal, and to chat with an owner who loved food and agriculture even more than I do.

I’m not at Oprah-level baller status (yet), but I’m sure there’s someone out there who would be interested in taking over The Root Cellar. Ron included his contact info in his Facebook post, so get in touch with him if you want to invest. I’d sure hate to see The Root Cellar go.

Event Alert: Louisville Storytellers event will be all about food on Nov. 16

Food and good stories complement one another like Nutella and pretzels (just try it if you don’t believe me). And later this month, the first-ever Louisville Storytellers event will turn the spotlight on this entertaining combination.

Louisville Storytellers is a quarterly event from the Courier-Journal that will showcase people telling stories around a particular theme. It’s reminiscent of The Moth StorySlam, a monthly storytelling competition that I host ever other month at Headliners Music Hall. But rather than randomly drawing participants from an NPR-friendly tote bag, the Louisville Storytellers show will feature pre-selected storytellers.

Anyhoodles, the first Louisville Storytellers will take place Nov. 16 at Actors Theatre of Louisville. The theme of the night is “Confessions from the Kitchen: Stories from the world of restaurants and food.” It’s an exciting bunch of storytellers:

I’m excited about the diverse lineup for Louisville Storytellers. It’s good to see a group of restaurant owners, chefs and cooks that isn’t just made up of folks from white-tablecloth establishments. I’m also super-pumped to see Miss Shirley Mae Beard, who I interviewed for Louisville DinersIf her story is anything like our interview, everyone will be in for a good night.


Louisville Storytellers

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 16 (refreshments and cash bar available at 6 p.m.)

Where: Actors Theatre of Louisville

Cost: $10

For more information and tickets: https://tickets.courier-journal.com/e/louisville-storytellers-confessions

7 tips to get the most out of the Kentucky State Fair

ALERT: You have through Aug. 30 to visit the Kentucky State Fair.

If you still need some convincing, here are 30 reasons why you should visit the fair, also known as the most exciting event of the year. And once you make the correct decision to go to the fair, here are some tips to make the most of your visit:

1. Wear closed-toe shoes.
Goats and other animals track that hay all over the place.
Goats and other animals track that hay all over the place.

Owners walk their animals in, out and around the expo center throughout the fair, which tracks straw, dirt and, ummm, organic material everywhere. You don’t want to step in something gross with just a $5 flip flop protecting you. 

2. Bring cash.
A footlong corndog was $7, a worthwhile purchase for my yearly treat.
A footlong corndog was $7, a worthwhile purchase for my yearly treat.

I’ve seen more vendors accept debit and credit cards over the years, but the majority of business at the fair is cash only.

3. Wear a crossbody bag.
Some of the rabbits were for sale. I was *this close* to bringing one home.
Some of the rabbits were for sale. I was *this close* to bringing one home.

This just makes the day a lot easier.

4. Bring a water bottle.
I don't have any pictures of water bottles, but I do have a picture of a cake in the shape of a woman's behind.
I don’t have any pictures of water bottles, but I do have a picture of a cake in the shape of a woman’s behind.

There are water fountains throughout the the expo center to fill up your water bottle. This is a lot better than paying $2 every time you’re thirsty. And that saves more money for ice cream.

5. Get to the fair early.
The dog show was packed, and it was only 1:30 p.m.
The dog show was packed, and it was only 1:30 p.m.

Traffic has been horrendous to get into the fairgrounds. If you’re going on the weekend, aim to leave the house by 10:30 a.m. to avoid afternoon traffic. And try to enter through one of the gates off Crittenden Drive rather than the big entrance off Phillips Lane. The traffic volunteers still might send you far away to park, but at least you’ll get in relatively quickly.

6. Map your route.
I always include the decorative cakes and other exhibit hall entries in my fair schedule.
I always include the decorative cakes and other exhibit hall entries in my fair schedule.

You have to have a plan of attack to make sure you see all of your favorite sights. Here’s the routine I’ve perfected over five years of fairing:

  • Animals
  • Lunch
  • Miller’s Border Collies
  • Exhibits
  • Flea market
  • Dessert

Notice I don’t have the midway on my list. That’s not an integral part of my fair experience, so I don’t try to squeeze in rides to an already full schedule. Decide what’s important to you and your family and friends, and go with that. You don’t have to make time to see the miniature Christmas tree decorating entries if that’s not your jam.

7. Make time to see the Miller border collies. This is not optional.
The highlight of my visit was getting one-on-one time with Flint, one of the Miller border collies.
The highlight of my visit was getting one-on-one time with Flint, one of the Miller border collies.

I love my dog, Roscoe. I really do. But the Miller border collies put my pooch to shame. These dogs put on demonstrations at the fair to show off their herding capabilities. Their owner uses whistles and voice commands to get the dogs to herd a group of unhappy ducks around a show ring and into a cage. It is AMAZING to watch. And you never know if the ducks will cooperate; this year, they exhibited some civil disobedience and wouldn’t get into that cage. Get to the show ring a half hour early to get a good seat to watch the herding.