Thursday, August 7, 2008

Serendipity Sales

I was getting ready to post about retail in Laguna. Man, I guess it’s a tough industry; I wanted to post that it’s "dog eat dog." I contacted a few local retailers about carrying the baskets, but they didn’t even respond. No “good luck,” no “thanks but no thanks.” I mean nothing. I guess I'm Old School, but still, I don’t take it personally; maybe they don’t think the line fits enough with their stores. I still have other retailers in town to see. There’s one retailer who thinks she might place an order this fall; she knows who she is and she’s a total class act.
Meanwhile, I have been giving out freebies to some of the nice people in my life who help me out; one of them is Monica, who takes such good care of Napoleon at the kennel. She insisted on paying me for a petite Antibes; then called me later to say one of the guys wanted to buy one for his mother, so I went back and left a few, so he could choose. A client came in to the kennel, saw the baskets, and wants to buy 50, “for Christmas.” That's what I call a Serendipity Sale.
Ironic, isn’t it, that I can’t get a Laguna retailer to even respond, when someone who sees two samples want to buy 50 of them? But then I got to thinking, maybe this is all working out OK....I have a few other things up my sleeve that I'm working on in Laguna to get the word out.
This is not a great photo of Napoleon. His ears aren't up because I was trying to make him get in or sit next to the pink basket and he wasn't going to have any of it.

Bio with your Neighbor

In France, organic wine is called "biodynamique" or just "bio." Growers use various methods, including the addition of compost & manure, microorganisms, and teas of certain steeped ground-up plants applied at key moments. Some allow weeds to grow under the vines and think this helps the soil maintain its natural balance; others follow the cycles of the moon and the relative positions of the zodiac. Hey, why not if it makes great wine? The goal of all of this is to "encourage the natural rhythm of the vines" and of course to allow the soil to be truly alive. Certification rules apply if you want to call yourself "bio."
In Burgundy, the growers we know take it one step further: what's the point of going "bio" if your neighbor is pumping and spraying pesticides and chemical fertilizers on their vines? My lens was not crooked in this photo; the "cote" of Beaune is steep, and if it rains, you can imagine that you might get some runoff from your neighbor up the hill. And the parcels are of course packed together, so if you spray, your neighbor gets your drift, so to speak.
So, what they do is get together with their neighbors and agree that either all of us in this little area are going to be bio, or we can't make it work.
So where am I going with this post? Well, of course I am always ready to share interesting vignettes of France, but more importantly, there was an article in the Register about a national report on beach water quality by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has Laguna scoring in the top tier.
My point is: isn't a good score in Laguna diminished if your neighbor (e.g. Doheney down the coast) is chronically one of the worst? E-coli anyone? Ear infections? Gastro problems? We each take care of our little corner of the world, of course, but in the end our actions relative to each other and the global picture also matter....

Creme puffs

A lot of people asked for creme puffs for the launch party, so I obliged with two towers of creme puff poppers. They made a great display. Since I am a foodie we had a lot of other good stuff: cheese tray, macaroons, tomato basil tarts, mini quiche etc., much of it from Pascal's.
I took 3 pics at the start of the party, then got busy and gave the camera to my nephews. Unfortunately, the only photo they took was of themselves in our freebie t-shirts carrying pink baskets, which of course they thought was hilarious. I won't flatter them by posting the photo....

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Launch Party

We launched on May 31 with a few hundred attendees. It was a mad rush, getting the house ready, the food etc. We had the initial baskets sent by air, which means they went in large sachets from Madagascar to Paris to LAX via Air France. There is only one way out of Madagascar, if you can tell....all roads lead through Paris. Even the sea freight has to go through France.
Everything had to be unpacked and tagged. My neighbors stopped to ask if we were opening a shop.."well, sort of..." It was a scene. But after all the planning, I was so happy to see the baskets we had ordered; they were beautiful!!!

King Beefsteak

My Dad loves beefsteak tomatoes, and eats them like an apple, with salt. So I always plant them, but they are always my worst growers.
This year is different, because my friend Nick helped me put in a super irrigation system for my potager (he did most of the work I admit; I have been really busy). I finished it though, by putting boxwood all the way around the bed. It looks great and the water show is pretty incredible.
So this year, the beefsteaks are my BEST performers. This baby is well over a pound. The insides are a deep red. They won't make it to the freezer; everyone loves them. Even the critters at night, who only eat the beefsteaks....

Noises in Laguna

The Laguna Indy is my favorite paper in town; they cover all the news, and every week I am an avid reader of the history pages and the police blotter.

I was REALLY happy to see an article on the front page last Friday that the City is reviving talk of a plastic bag ban. It's in the City's environmental committee now. They had apparently discussed it in June but had shelved it because they felt the opposition from the bag companies would be too great. They felt there has been a "sea change" (according to the article) because of the ordinances in Santa Monica, Malibu and LA. So they're talking about it again. They are now using words like "inevitable" when talking about a ban. We already banned styrofoam here a few years ago.

The Indy covered our launch party end of May, and I really appreciated the coverage!! The article they wrote quoted a few people in town who said they "wouldn't be surprised to see a proposal soon" to ban the bag. Hey, two months is pretty soon! Bravo to the Laguna Environmental Committee for being forward thinkers!! My only regret is that the Indy used the word "trendy" for the bags as a replacement for plastic. The bags are new here but NOT trendy; and "eco" and "environmental" are not trendy. More on that later.

I will be following all the papers in town and keeping me ear to the ground on updates.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Queen of the Night

Talk about a one night show! This week our ancient Orchid Cactus, aka Hylocereus undatus, went into bloom. It's really a cactus and not related to an orchid. This plant stretches up over a 2 story high cape honeysuckle that the cactus uses for support.
The blooms develop for about 2 weeks and are 8+" long and 6" wide when open.
The flowers bloom only at night and into the morning hours, then die away (I took these photos at 8am when they were already closing)'s a very spectacular sight in the night and with a fragrance that is pervasive yet you can't really describe.
It was unusual this year that most of the blooms went in one night, like a wall of gigantic flowers. It makes a beautiful display, if only for a few hours. It's one of my favorites in the garden, top 5; and to me the most spectacular plant and flower in the garden. Had to share it...

Monday, August 4, 2008


When I think of the French markets, I think of variety.
But I started to think, yesterday, when I had my first big tomato harvest....I don't think the French are as into tomatoes as we are in the U.S. I'm not in France this summer, but I think more of cherry, "salad" tomatoes like an Early Girl, mid-size "vine ripened," roma and some beefsteak.
I went to the market here in Laguna last weekend and they had tables full of all kinds of tomatoes, mostly heirloom. It was a whiff of the Carmel Tomato Fest, where R and I toothpick-tasted hundred of kinds of tomatoes, and duly rated most of them. Rogers in CdM has the best local tomato tasting, IMHO.
Anyway, I don't go crazy hunting down exotic tomatoes anymore, but this year I planted about 20 varieties and have a good mix, as you can see...several kinds of cherry, plum, roma, "golf-ball salad-size, black krim, Japanese, yellow, various heirlooms and beefsteak. What we don't eat or give away, I will freeze and use until next summer. It makes me happy to see them all piled up (in a big flat basket of course!).