Alkhemy Khandy The Pop Up That Never Was…

I’ve had an interest in food trucks and pop up food businesses and got a silly idea in my head that maybe I could do this. San Francisco is a big place for foodies and since we don’t have two million people the big chefs won’t come here [a quote from Anthony Bourdain], but that gives the little guys a chance or so I thought.

Well the first thing I noticed was that if you’re going to start a pop up selling food products you have to have everything prepared like you’ve been in business for 20 years. You need to develop the logo, make t-shirts, print business cards, etc all before you actually figure out what you’re going to be selling so you can get money from people in a crowd funding start up site like Kickstarter.

I’m still kind of old school and I knew I had a thing for making candy and I was quite good at it, but the idea of making t-shirts and stickers before I even knew if I had a market was a bit much. I tend to be a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen while at the same time there was always a certain art to what I did. I wanted something that I could turn over easily and that would transport easily and so I decided that out of my candy recipes I’d start with caramels. So I came up with a cool logo and phrase for the business. I could have done fudge or toffee, but those seemed kind of one dimensional to me. Fudge and Toffee are always just that they aren’t a base you can build on which caramels that are a basis of sugar, corn syrup and milk work very well with. I started with the fleur de sel caramels because they were the easiest to make then my mind started thinking outside the box and I came up with the following caramels:

1. Fleur de sel
2. Chocolate/Coconut caramels [vegan]
3. Bourbon & Black Pepper
4. Jolly Rogers [coconut and rum, but I needed a new name to avoid trademark issues]
5. Bacon & Maple syrup [yes, you read that right]

I made them all and they were great. The few people who sampled them loved them and wanted more and there is where the problem started. I did my homework while testing my recipes and found the best price to purchase the ingredients. I could even use agave nectar instead of sugar and corn syrup because it’s a natural invert sugar and would stay smooth and not grainy, but the key factor was in the kitchen and time.

I could crank out a batch in about an hour, but the problem was I could only crank out about 3lbs at a time and then I’d have to clean the pots while the caramels were setting so I could realistically only crank out about 12lbs a week given that I was making them at home and had to find time in between my daughter being at school, keeping the house clean and other things let alone going somewhere to sell them.

While I was thinking this I was looking at what other people were selling homemade caramels for and it was anywhere from $10-$25/pound. At this amount that would mean I would be able to earn between $120-$300/week if I sold them all. I also happened to run across an article about struggling pop up food businesses and one in particular caught me by surprise. It was a couple of women who where making homemade pies and selling them for $35 each. I don’t know about you, but that better be one really good pie for $35. I can get a decent pie for $6 and a pie for $10 that will have people asking for seconds, but what is going to make a $35 pie that special? Likewise, the only thing about my caramels that could justify say a $20/lb price would be what I was putting into them.

Then there was the fact that I’d have to sell that much every week to earn a below minimum wage income from it. In the end I’ve lived too long to earn that little, so I’ve had to put the idea of a candy pop up business on the side for now. That doesn’t mean I won’t be making my caramels anymore. I’ll still make some and have them around most of the time because you never know when someone is going to come by. They’ll also make nice end of the year gifts for the people who help us out because they’ll remember a pound of bourbon and black pepper caramels longer than a Starbucks gift card.

This Place It Is A Changin’…

For some reason there’s a cafe on Taraval Street between 27th and 28th that can’t seem to stay in business for more than about three months. It’s not in that bad a location, but the awning and the name every few months with very little changing on the inside. The free wifi even has the same name as went it first opened about 5 years ago.

The name kept changing from Mocha 101 to Green Cafe to now Rolling Out. The names have changed so much that I can’t even remember most of them now. There’s always a few people in there, but not like some of the other cafes that have people lined up and sitting outside. The staff stayed the same for awhile but now I’ve noticed different people at the register. The inside is almost exactly the same as when it open so all this just seems funny to me.

I don’t know if the place changes hands or if the owner is just very into redecorating. The menu has changed a little bit, now focusing on sweeter treats and sandwiches made with homemade bread. At $4.75 a pop that’s not too bad a price considering I’ve seen sandwiches going for $6.50 closer down to me.

I’m not sure what it is in general with Taraval street, but there’s always a high turnover in businesses on the street unless you get farther out towards the beach where little changes. Unless you’re a gas station or 7-11 or El Burrito Express you can’t expect to stay in business very long on Taraval.

I just wonder why that is?


Businesses are Coming to the Sunset

While it may not be a perfect method to see that things are coming back, I have been noticing a distinct trend lately out here in the Sunset — businesses are coming in that are a little bit different than what we had before. These new places have an appealing look to them that makes up want to come inside. Even some of the older businesses are giving themselves a new paint job as well.

My wife saw a place today as we were driving back from a decadent trip to Andronico’s and it’s a little bakery called, Let’s Cupcake. I don’t know how long they’ve been open, but I haven’t noticed them before so it must have been fairly recent. We stopped by and picked up their chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream. At first site, it reminded me a lot like the cupcakes at American Cupcake. It looked like them and the price was the same, $3.00 and they were even packaged the same. It’s a good sized cupcake that my wife and I could share.

We got home and scooped into it. Not bad actually, for the Sunset district I’d have to give it a WOW because you don’t find cupcakes like that out here. We usually only have the Safeway or Lucky’s cupcakes that taste like bad homemade cupcakes. I’ll give them a 3/5 for potential to get even better. The cupcake itself is dense, but moist. There was an intense chocolate flavor that probably came from the chocolate chips inside it. The buttercream frosting was more like a foam than a real frosting which counter balanced the density of the cupcake. Many people don’t like buttercream frostings because they’re usually too sweet, but this was pretty good and not overly sweet.

The place looks like a very nice coffee shop inside with two large flat screen TV’s and free wi-fi [bonus!] The staff is nice and accommodating and while you’d think they’re just cupcakes they have a few other pastries to choose from. They also serve breakfast, but our daughter had fallen asleep in the car and woke up a little grouchy so we didn’t really have time to look around too much. From doing a little google snooping I also found out that the owner, Genesis gives cupcakes to local organizations. Good for him!

Nice place give it a try. I’m glad to see there are a few hipper businesses coming to the Westside. We need to pull in the hip start up crowd out here so most of the people who live here don’t have to travel so far to get to work.