Monthly Archives: October 2014

#pieandbooze #recap

So, last Thursday evening, we hosted 13 fun-loving people for a night of pie and booze at PJP Buttonwood.  We taught our guests to make their own PJP baby apple pie from scratch.  Our friend Van from Dogmaster Distillery ( shared bartending skills galore and then whipped up the most delicious cocktail EV-AH.  It was an epic amount of fun and by the end of this post, you’ll unquestionably want to attend our next event.  Unless you don’t like pie or booze, and then this is probably the wrong blog for you anyway.

We set up each person with a rolling pin, a mixing bowl, a spatula, a ball of dough, a container of peeled apples, and a baby pie tin.  Each table shared a large bowl of flour and sugar and smaller containers of nutmeg and cinnamon.


Jeanne launched into her feelings about pie dough and rolling techniques and quickly everyone was flouring their table space and rolling their dough like long-term experts.


Before long, each person had rolled and mixed and stirred and fluted and we had trays of baby pies ready for the oven.


While the pies baked, we got to the part of the evening that I had been anticipating all week…cocktail hour.  Van brought all of his supplies (including real bar glasses, which may have stolen my heart forever).  He started his part of the evening by giving us each a shot of vodka made from his still at his St. James Street location…(this completely made me re-think our intro at these sorts of events…perhaps we need more of a hook).


Van taught us all to make a Cloud 9 cocktail…which is a creamy, coffee, holy-crap-it-is-really-freaking-delicious sort of drink.  I’ll leave the secrets of this cocktail to Van and my 13 new #pieandbooze friends, but I can’t help but add that he garnishes the glass with chocolate sauce…which is basically just the glitter of the cocktail world, in that it makes everything instantly better.


And then we each got to practice our new skills by whipping up our own drink.


Jeanne and I exercised extreme restraint by making and drinking one cocktail each, though we secretly wanted three.  Or five.


We took copious notes on the preparation of this drink and Jeanne has asked me no less than 11 times since Thursday if I know what I did with our notes and when do I plan to whip up a batch to keep in our refrigerator.  And in the best news ever, Dogmaster Distillery will offer their vodka for sale in the next few weeks.  Is it wrong that I asked Van to Tweet me when it was ready?


No Answers.

If you looked up “epic failure” on Friday afternoon, you likely would have seen these faces staring back at you…(except with flour smudged on us).


Friday, from start to finish, didn’t work well at PJP Buttonwood.  For starters, we had an insane amount of orders, including 150 tarts due by 10:30 am.  Add in a dose of being tired from the #pieandbooze event the previous night and a shot of Homecoming weekend festivities and you have the making of a perfect storm of pie failure.

As a rule, we stock PJP Buttonwood with 12-15 different kinds of pie each day.  Because we spent most of the very early morning on Friday working on tarts and breaking into a terror sweat as we approached the 10:30 am deadline for tart pickup, the actual storefront had very little inventory as we opened our doors.  And look, that has happened to us before but then we focus for a good solid hour or two on baking for the store and we start a momentum to fill inventory before it gets too busy.  But not last Friday.  We opened our doors and within minutes, our front was flooded with would-be pie purchasers anxious to buy our pie…and us all without pie.  We were baking furiously, but that means nothing to someone who stopped by to buy a 9-inch Chocolate Bourbon Pecan and learns that they are in the oven for at least another 30 minutes.

And the day didn’t change much from there.  We were two people baking without stopping, often times selling pies that hadn’t even gone into the oven quite yet.  We also were flooded with new customers and instead of getting the super fun and super cute and super delicious PJP experience, they got a short supply of pie, a really messy kitchen, and us on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  BEST. DAY. EVER.  Not.

I really didn’t answer text messages all day, which completely out of character for me.  I didn’t have time to look at my phone, much less type out responses while covered in egg yolk and panic.  When I finally had a shower and two glasses of wine at 8pm that night, I responded to the texts from Inner Circle people with a variation on “Sorry I didn’t respond yet…worst day ever at PJP.  So busy and kept running out of pie.  Feel so stressed.”  Each person responded with a variation on “Hey, selling out is great…isn’t that what you want?”

And they are right, right?  Isn’t the goal of a from-scratch bakery to sell out of everything every day?  And yet, we consciously decide to bake all day to avoid that one customer walking out the door in disappointment at 5:25 pm because we didn’t have a baby blueberry pie left for purchase.  It is better to have extra product and sell it for 50% off the next day than to run out of product at 2pm on a beautiful fall Friday afternoon and then bake furiously whilst offering unending apologies.  Yes?  No?  Bueller?

How do we learn to bake more and sell more?  Or how do we learn to relax the expectations we place on PJP Buttonwood?  Where is the sweet spot of just enough pie for everyone that wants one?  Does the information we need for those decisions come from data?  Or from intuition?  I have no answers.


Talk To Me…

Jeanne and I will often stop what we are doing during the day and say “well, talk to me” to each other…even though we’ve been talking about everything and nothing with each other for most of the day.  It is sort of this interesting phenomena we’ve developed with each other of having a lot of chatter but very limited time for meaningful conversation.  Here is a glimpse of the topics covered in conversation today…

  1. Butter is $4.28 a pound at Hyvee this week.  That is almost $1.50 more a pound than just a few weeks ago.  And unless we are suffering from some sort of national butter shortage that I didn’t get the memo about, I would suggest that the butter manufacturers are creating a national butter collusion.  And it needs to stop.
  2. Every person that shows up at PJP Buttonwood with a Doormail coupon for $5 off two nine-inch PJP pies is subject to intense and directed psychological profiling by Jeanne.  She demands to know how the person feels about Doormail and if the person knew about PJP Buttonwood prior to Doormail and if the coupon was incentive to visit the store.  I would guess she knows more about the psychology behind Doormail than the people who make Doormail.
  3. We keep making Brown Butter Chess pie and selling out of Brown Butter Chess pie.  If you aren’t familiar, chess pie is an exceptionally basic pie recipe made from readily available ingredients, like butter, sugar, and eggs.  In the brown butter variation on chess pie, you heat the butter until it almost burns…creating this insanely warm and nutty flavor.  Two people today said it has become their most favorite pie ever.
  4. I’m sorta in love with Angus and Julia Stone…listen to them on Spotify and you will be as well.
  5. We are offering 10% off all Thanksgiving pie orders through next Friday, October 31st.  Our goal is to bake 2,000 pies in the three days prior to Thanksgiving.  As of right now, we have about 100 orders.  I have no idea if that is on target to our goals, off target to our goals, or who really cares because 2,000 is an insane amount of pie.  We both do better with a goal in mind and so we picked 2,000 pies.  And that is how that happened.
  6. I just saw that Small Business Saturday is planned for November 29th, which is the Saturday immediately following our 2,000 pie extravaganza.  We would like to plan something fun, but we will probably still be laying on the floor and recovering.  Here is a better idea…support small business and shop local every day.
  7. Jeanne is a little bit obsessed with the King’s Daughters Festival.  I could tell her that we have  two interviews and a photo shoot tomorrow and she would say to me “and we are doing the King’s Daughters festival next month and we don’t have a plan!”.  I could tell her that we have a lot of orders for Saturday morning and she would say to me “and we are doing the King’s Daughters festival next month and we don’t have a plan!”.  I could tell her that my arm was hanging off my body by a tendon and she would say “and we are doing the King’s Daughters festival next month and we don’t have a plan!”.   For someone who loves the last minute, taking PJP on the road is giving her all the feelings.
  8. Jeanne has an entire theory that Twitter is just some massive pyramid scheme.  Once she explained it all to me, she actually made sense.  She also convinced me for a short time in 1987 that Elvis was still alive, so take it for whatever it is worth.
  9. Coffee is coming to PJP.  It will be basic coffee because I can’t have the knowledge of how to make a mocha or I would likely just bleed non-fat milk and chocolate syrup.  I’ll tell you now  that I put about six Splendas in my basic coffee, so keep your judgment to yourself.  PJP will be a judgment-free coffee zone.  You are welcome.
  10. Our Ecolab guy reported back to our food broker person that he didn’t think we liked him very much.  He may have outrageous demands for the purchasing of unneeded chemicals, but he is perceptive.  So there is that.

If you are interested in hanging out with us tomorrow night and eating pie, drinking cocktails, and discussing any of the above items, we do still have five tickets left for our #pieandbooze event starting at 7 pm.  You’ll learn to bake your very own apple pie and make the paired cocktail from Dogmaster Distillery.  And Jeanne will probably remind you that we are doing the King’s Daughters festival next month.  And that we don’t have a plan.