AFBA blogs in support of the Sustainable Food Center
In November and December of 2012, Austin Food Blogger Alliance members were paired up with local farmers and vendors who are fixtures at the Sustainable Food Center’s Farmers’ Markets held throughout Austin several days a week. Their mission: introduce their readers to the remarkable people behind the local food we cook with, eat, and enjoy. Along the way, they also shared the incredible work that the Sustainable Food Center does in and around Austin, through their weekly farmers’ markets and beyond. This blog campaign was launched in support of the SFC’s current capital campaign – an endeavor to raise funds for the SFC’s new training center. For almost 40 years, the center has been without a homebase from which to host and organize their numerous programs supporting community health and disease-prevention through diet. These programs have immeasurable benefit, from breaking down barriers to fresh, nutritious, affordable food to supporting our local economy and local family farms. A permanent center would enable the Sustainable Food Center to reach more members of the Austin community.
In early November, AFBA members gathered at the Downtown Farmers’ Market to hear more from Susan Leibrock and Suzanne Santos of the Sustainable Food Center and to meet some of the folks behind the food that you’ll find there. Addie Broyles of the Austin American-Statesman and Relish Austin provided a few pointers for conducting interviews and composing a feature article, with the ready assistance of Tim and LeeAnne (who blogs at Dairy Berries) of Swede Farm Dairy. Thanks go to all who attended and to Susan, Suzanne, Addie, Tim and LeeAnne for providing us with so much food for thought!
Please visit the links below to learn more about the farmers and vendors our bloggers met during through the “Meet Me at the Market” blog challenge:
Notes from Maggie’s Farm: (almost) wordless wednesday: meet me at the market
Connect a bite: Sustainable Food Center – Capital Campaign
South Austin Foodie: Meet Me at the Market: Sustainable Food Center + Cocoa Puro
Kristi’s Farm to Table: Growing Leaders at Urban Roots
And it’s not too late to help support the Sustainable Food Center’s capital campaign. As of this writing, they are almost 77% of the way to their goal and could use your help in making this local dream a reality. Click on the image below to donate.
Michelle Fandrich, The Kid Can Cook
Chair, Philanthropy Committee
Not to toot our own horn, but the recent Cupcakes & Cocktails philanthropy event was a tremendous success.
We raised over $4500 for Bake A Wish, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit which provides cakes and other baked goods to those in need here in Austin.
It was an incredible evening of cupcakes, cocktails, and a whole lot of fun – all for a great cause. Bake A Wish will be using the funds raised to support and broaden their mission to serve more of those in need in the Austin community. The money will be used to purchase baking supplies as well as partially fund technological improvements for the group’s cake request system. Madelyn Varella, director, and Karen Nichols, the founder and president of Bake A Wish, both see the funds raised as an investment in the future.
“I am so excited for the future of our organization …. that is how we view the donation – as an investment in our vision and in the agencies and individuals we serve. We are honored and humbled by the generosity you all have shown us,” shares Madelyn Varella, Director of Bake A Wish.
Bake A Wish also reports that they have seen an increase in visibility through this event and have increased their pool of volunteers by around 25%!
The Austin Food Blogger Alliance invited five local bakers to come up with their take on the theme of cocktail-inspired cupcakes and what they came up with was truly inspired. Unfortunately, a winner was not declared at the event due to some voting irregularities. Each of these cupcakes and the bakers behind them deserve recognition for their tasty creations and their thoughtful donation to this event. Special thanks also goes to Bill Bartz of Dream Pixel Photography who provided photographic coverage for the event and the photos you see below.
Barrie Cullinan of Amity Bakery provided these tempting Black & White Russian cupcakes.
Heidi Swiderski of Envy Pastries thrilled with her Black Cherry Pomegranate Martini cupcakes.
Jessica Forkner of Objects of Confection brought a refreshing cupcake twist on the classic Arnold Palmer.
Olivia O’Neal of Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop (represented by Andrea Leck, General Manager) shared a boozy, sweet cupcake from the Bakeshop’s menu, the Steve’s Special, with guests of the event.
The Austin Food Blogger Alliance would like to thank the many generous donors and sponsors who made this event possible. The AT&T Conference Center and Hotel provided a stunning venue and support for this event. The catering provided by Chef Josh Watkins and the staff of The Carillon Restaurant was the perfect counterpoint to the evening’s sweeter offerings, the cocktail-themed cupcakes created by Amity Bakery, Envy Pastries, Objects of Confection, Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop, and Sugar N’ Spice Patisserie. The Central Market/Westgate floral department provided the beautiful floral arrangements and Bill Bartz of Dream Pixel Photography provided photographic coverage and images of the event. Greenling sponsored the text-to-vote feature and provided technical support for the Cocktail-themed Cupcake Challenge. Swank Audio Visuals provided audio/visual support and sponsorship for the event.
We’d also like to thank the many donors to the event’s Silent Auction:
Breed & Co.
Heather Santos of midnitechef
Dawn Orsak of The Svacina Project
You’ll also find them listed here, along with the items they donated to help us raise over $2500 in the Silent Auction alone!
My personal thanks go out to the members of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance Philanthropy Committee who worked tirelessly to make this event a success. And most importantly, thank you to all who came out in support of Bake A Wish and the philanthropic mission of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. We’ll see you next year!
Michelle Fandrich, Philanthropy Chair
While you’re enjoying savory small bites created by Chef Josh Watkins and The Carillon at the AT&T Conference Center & Hotel tonight, be sure to stop by the silent auction tables. Here’s some of the highlights:
Unique Chef, Cooking, and Blogging Experiences
A Day in the Kitchen with chef/owner Heidi of Envy Pastries
A Tea Party for Ten brought to you by The Traveling Tea Party, LLC
The Gourmet Gluten-Free Experience with Karen Morgan of Blackbird Bakery
Make Jam with the award-winning Confituras
A Tasting Party at the Savory Spice Shop on West Sixth Street
A Private Party at Make It Sweet including a Cookie, Cupcake, or Cake Ball Class taught by chef/owner Jennifer Bartos
One year Developer membership with WooThemes
Private training sessions with Amanda Vernor, instructor/owner of somaspace pilates
Cookbooks and Kitchen Gear
Signed cookbooks from AFBA Members Kate Payne, Tiffany Harelik, and Melissa Joulwan including:
And other cookbooks and kitchen goodies including:
Baking with Julia donated by Breed & Co.
The Les Dames D’Escoffier cookbook donated by AFBA member Way Out West Austin
Pampered Chef products donated by Lauren Wyler, independent consultant with The Pampered Chef
A collection of Pylones Kitchen Gadgets donated by The Kid Can Cook
Cupcake jewelry by Vinca USA
DEMY Recipe Reader provided by Key Ingredient
Baking and Texas-themed Gift Baskets from Central Market/Westgate
Baked Goods by Austin Food Blogger Alliance members and Gift Certificates to Favorite Austin Restaurants and Shops
Baked goods by Jane Ko of A Taste of Koko and Macarons by Jane, Heather Santos of midnitechef, and Dawn Orsak of The Svacina Project as well as Brazilian Brigadeiros from Evelyn Galante of b.o.m bakery (the wife of our own Mike Galante of A Mike’s Life) and collection of Australian Chocolates donated by The Kid Can Cook
A basket of goodies from Cupcake Taste-off contestant Stephanie Dobos, chef/owner of Sugar N’ Spice Patisserie
Gift Certificates from:
Thanks to all our Donors and our Event Sponsors:
The Carillon Restaurant and Chef Josh Watkins, Catering
The AT&T Conference Center and Hotel, Venue and Event Planning
Greenling, Cupcake Challenge IT Sponsorship
Central Market/ Westgate, Floral Sponsorship
Swank Audio Visuals, A/V Sponsorship and Assistance
It’s coming up this July 25 and tickets are still available. Guests will be treated to small bites and cocktails catered by The Carillon and Chef Josh Watkins and a Silent Auction will be held featuring foodie favorites and surprises to delight most everyone. But guests at Cupcakes & Cocktails have an extra treat in store for them.
This year, the Austin Food Blogger Alliance’s annual fundraising event will feature an invitational cupcake taste-off. We’ve asked five local bakeries to come up with a cupcake creation inspired by their favorite cocktails. Guests at the Cupcakes & Cocktails event will be invited to taste and vote by text for their favorite cupcake. The winner will receive the Cupcakes & Cocktails Challenge trophy (and bragging rights to having the most “toast”-able cupcake in town).
Meet the Cupcakes & Cocktails Challenge Bakers
Amity Bakery, represented by owner Barrie Cullinan
Sugar N’ Spice Patisserie, represented by owner Stephanie Dobos
Objects of Confection, represented by owner Jessica Forkner
Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop, represented by General Manager Andrea Leck
Envy Pastries, represented by owner Heidi Swiderski
From Barrie Cullinan, whose Amity Bakery was named one of Bon Appetit’s Top 10 Best Bread Bakeries in 2011 to Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop, which is the Austin Chronicle’s pick for best birthday cake in the city, the Cupcakes & Cocktails challengers offer some pretty stiff competition. Heidi Swiderski of Envy Pastries not only runs a successful business as a pastry chef, she is also an instructor at Make It Sweet, the city’s best known destination for all things cake. Objects of Confection by Jessica Forkner have been found everywhere from stylish Texas weddings to posts on the CBS Sports blog. And Stephanie Dobos of Sugar N’ Spice Patisserie is not only a pastry chef by day, she’s also a volunteer for Bake A Wish and delivers birthday cakes and other baked goods to those in need throughout Austin. Jessica Forkner of Objects of Confection is also among the ranks of Bake A Wish volunteers who are also professional pastry chefs.
The Austin Food Blogger Alliance raises their glass to these talented pastry chefs for taking on the Cupcakes & Cocktails challenge. We can’t wait to toast you all this July 25!
A chance encounter via Ebay started the wheels turning for Bake A Wish founder and president, Karen Nichols. In the summer of 2009, Karen’s sister bought a mixer via the online auction site from a volunteer with Free Cakes for Kids, a national non-profit founded in 2007 in Georgia which delivers birthday cakes to disadvantaged kids. ”I’d never heard of them before, so I found their website to learn more. The thought of a child not having a birthday cake had never crossed my mind. Once it did, though, I was horrified at the thought. I thought it would be great to have a similar organization in Austin.” Karen dove right in and started an Austin chapter of Free Cakes for Kids. “I didn’t know the first thing about cake decorating!” Karen admits, “I did enjoy taking several classes, though, and eating lots of my mistakes.” Free Cakes for Kids Austin shortly became Bake A Wish, and expanded their mission to include not just kids, but the elderly and the disabled in affordable housing in the greater Austin area as well.
Now, three years later, Bake A Wish has made nearly 2,000 deliveries and boasts a team of over 100 volunteers. In February 2012, they received their 501(c)3 non-profit organization status. With funds raised through events like Cupcakes & Cocktails (hosted by the Austin Food Blogger Alliance), they plan to increase the scope of their mission further. Right now, Bake A Wish and its volunteers serve almost 30 different agencies here in Austin, including SafePlace, Life Works, and many children’s homes and foster care facilities. Bake A Wish hopes to reach out to organizations that serve veterans as well as the homeless.
“We are very fortunate to be 100% volunteer-staffed,” Karen notes, “given that, almost every single penny of the donations we receive can go directly to supporting our mission. Since our volunteers receive no compensation for their work, it’s great to be able to help them out by purchasing and distributing baking and decorating supplies to help offset their expenses.”
For the volunteers of Bake A Wish, it’s not just about delivering birthday cakes. It’s about delivering a sense of hope and a feeling of value to those in need, especially kids. Karen recounts an experience she had early on in her work with Bake A Wish, “With deliveries for the kids, it is extremely rare that we ever get to even see the birthday boy or girl due to the protective circumstances they are in. Most times, we just drop the cake off at the front desk and have to imagine the child’s face when they see their cake.” However, one delivery to Safe Place brought her face to face with one of the kids served by Bake A Wish. “It was a weekend so instead of going to the office, I was to proceed directly to the shelter building. Once I was buzzed into the secure lobby, I told the ladies at the front desk I had a delivery for the birthday girl. When I said the little girl’s name, I heard a shriek from the lobby. To my surprise, she and her mom were standing right behind me! I got down on my knees, opened the cake box, and watched her face as she looked inside. I got to give her and her mom a big hug, too. What an amazing experience! Every time I leave Safe Place I normally cry for sad reasons; this time I got to shed tears of joy.”
Madelyn Varella, volunteer and Director of Bake A Wish, recounts a similar heart-warming delivery experience. “I took the cake in, and the ladies at the desk were so excited to have it. Apparently the child had been having a really difficult time adjusting to his new situation, and had been crying and acting out all week. His cake was the only thing he was looking forward to, and when the ladies called to let him know it had arrived, I could hear his shriek through the phone. So amazing.”
As Karen shares, “Along with a cake, we hope to deliver the message that someone cares about them. For neglected, abused, and abandoned kids, that’s something a lot of them have never even had.”
Tickets for Cupcakes & Cocktails benefiting Bake A Wish are on sale now at http://afba.ticketbud.com/cupcakes-cocktails.
Michelle Fandrich, Philanthropy Chair
Mark your calendar on Wednesday, July 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. for “Cupcakes & Cocktails” – bringing together Austin’s best bakers and food bloggers to raise funds for Bake A Wish, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing birthday cakes and other baked goods to children in shelters and foster homes, the elderly, disabled, and other underserved communities in the greater Austin area. Please visit www.bakeawishaustin.org to learn more about this amazing organization of caring volunteer bakers.
Other than delicious cocktails and catering by The Carillon, the event will feature a silent auction, and a tasting of cocktail-themed cupcakes.
The event will be held in the Tejas Room of the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, located on the campus of UT Austin. Tickets are now available for purchase — $35 for non-members, and at a discounted rate of $25 for AFBA members and the volunteers of Bake A Wish (you’ll find the promotional code in an upcoming newsletter). Buy tickets now at http://afba.ticketbud.com/cupcakes-cocktails.
We’re so thankful to our sponsors, including The Carillon Restaurant and the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. The AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center sits in the heart of the University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas and offers travelers the highest in service, dining and conveniences. Equipped with 276 guest rooms and 21 suites, the hotel features inspiring views of the university’s Main Building Tower, the State Capitol and a serene central courtyard. It is also home to The Carillon Restaurant, featuring the work of Executive Chef Josh Watkins and Pastry Chef Plinio Sandalio. For more information, visit www.meetattexas.com and www.thecarillonrestaurant.com.
In early February, twenty-two volunteers from the Austin Food Blogger Alliance spent an evening at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. We were there to help sort through donations from the Food Bank’s Souper Bowl of Caring donation drive.
With work clothes on and following an orientation from Bethany and Lea (part of the Food Bank’s dedicated team), AFBA members got down to business, preparing nearly 10,000 pounds of food for distribution to people in need in the Austin area. That’s equivalent to almost 8,000 meals for Austin’s hungry!
If you visited your local grocery store in January and early February, you probably saw some of these bags full of canned goods for donation to Food Bank. Maybe you even donated one. If you’ve ever wondered what happens to the food you donate to the Food Bank, it’s simple.
Your donations are delivered to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas on one of these semi-trailers. All told, Souper Bowl of Caring donations filled five trailers – that’s over 835,000 pounds of food!
Volunteers and staff unpack the donated goods and sort them into different categories.
Sorted donations travel down the Food Bank’s conveyor belt to be packaged for short-term storage in the warehouse before they are distributed to those in need via service organizations, food pantries in the area and CAFB’s mobile food pantry.
At the end of the night, our volunteers got to add their name badges to CAFB’s super “ball” of caring.
But the Food Bank is still in need of assistance. Now is the time to lend a hand and help CAFB get Souper Bowl of Caring donations out the door and into the bellies of Austin’s hungry. You can help by volunteering – just visit CAFB’s volunteer page and register for a work day or evening.
- Michelle Fandrich, The Kid Can Cook
Flipping through December’s “Cool Issue” of Austin Monthly, I found something decidedly not cool. Tucked in the issue, along with listings for the city’s hippest shops and newest restaurants, was an article by Sarah Thurmond focusing on Austin’s low ranking among America’s “most generous cities.” How could that be? I thought. Not my city, this city that I love, where I have met some of the most generous people in the world? The rankings were done by Convio and based on the amount per capita each city donated online. And yet, despite Austin’s position as one of the most tech-savvy, nearly recession-proof cities, we ranked two points lower in 2010 than we did only two years ago.
I think Austin deserves a place in the top 10 most generous cities and I’m asking you to help me get us there. I invite you to join me in making this the year that Austin gives back in a big way – and not just through online donations! Through our philanthropy programs this year, we’ll be reaching out to help those less fortunate in our community. We’ll be helping spread the word about fundraising for important causes such as kids’ cancer research. We’ll highlight volunteer bakers and cooks in our community who give hope to some of Austin’s least-served communities.
This year, the Austin Food Blogger Alliance will be kicking off our philanthropy campaign with a return to one of our first community collaborators – the Capital Area Food Bank. In February, our members will spend an evening working with the staff of CAFB, sorting through donations and helping get food into the hands of Austin’s hungry. Giving back couldn’t be simpler – just RSVP to our Eventbrite invitation (hitting mailboxes after the first of the year) and show up ready to work. The Capital Area Food Bank does have a few guidelines for volunteers that we must adhere to: 1. All volunteers must wear closed-toe shoes (no sandals) and 2. This evening work shift is only open to volunteers aged 18 years and older. More comprehensive guidelines will be emailed to participants the week before the event.
Invitations for this event will be going out in early January so keep an eye on your inbox and RSVP early. See you in February!
Michelle Fandrich, Philanthropy Chair
The Kid Can Cook
Hello, I am Suzanna Cole, and my blog is South Austin Foodie. I’ve been a member of the Philanthropy Committee for the past two years, and an off-shoot of our committee is the Volunteer Corps. Christy Horton has turned the reigns over to me as she becomes chair of the Philanthropy Committee. The VC is comprised of AFBA members who like giving back to the community by donating their time to volunteer at local food-related events, such as the Austin Wine and Food Festival. Members of the VC will have the first opportunity to sign up for volunteer shifts before it is opened up to the general membership if assistance is still needed.
In many cases, volunteers are asked to work a shift for a few hours, and then are given free or reduced admission to the event. It’s a great way to lend a hand, and often taste great food along side some of your AFBA bloggers! And you never know, you may end up assisting one of your favorite local chefs as they get ready for a demo!
By joining the VC, you’ll be put on an email list, and will receive an email from me when an opportunity arises; you are under no obligation to commit to an event, but the VC is only open to members in good standing. (If spots are still open after a period of time, we’ll then open it up to the general AFBA membership via the Facebook group page.)
If you’d like to join (or have any questions), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, email address, and blog name. Also, please indicate if you’re TABC and/or food handler certified. Thanks, and I look forward to volunteering with you!
– Suzanna Cole
“If only life were as easy as pie.” That’s the tag line for the movie Waitress, which centers on Jenna, a diner waitress and pie aficionado who escapes an abusive marriage. Sadly we know for many, life isn’t always idyllic. This month the Austin Food Blogger Alliance Philanthropy committee organized a pie-centric benefit to assist SafePlace, a resource center for women in need.
With Kristina Wolter of Girl Gone Grits at the helm, Christy Horton of Epicuriosities, Kathryn Hutchinson of Austin Gastronomist, Bob Wolter of Tequila Tracker, and myself worked together to produce August’s philanthropic event, open to both AFBA members and the community. Working with Chef John Bullington of the Alamo Drafthouse, they agreed to host a screening of Waitress, with ticket sales benefiting SafePlace.
Now, back in July, the AFBA social event was a Pie Luck, where members brought their favorite homemade pie, and we held a contest, judged by local chefs (including Chef Bullington), to determine the best pie. The winner was Michael Chu, of Cooking for Engineers, with his pecan pie. Along with bragging rights for top pie, Michael got to work with Chef Bullington in the Alamo kitchens to make 20 pecan pies to be served at the Waitress screening; slices were $10 each, which went towards SafePlace as well.
The Alamo proved to be a great organization to partner with, as they also allowed us to solicit pies from local bakeries, and sell them on a donation basis at the end of Waitress. Our committee was able to get 35 whole pies, quite a number of miniature and bite-sized versions, and some redeemable pie coupons from 14 companies! A HUGE thanks to our wonderful, very sweet donors! Bluebonnet Cafe, Cake and Spoon, Dagar’s Catering, Fleming’s Steakhouse, Pie Fixes Everything, Royer’s Round Top Cafe, Silver Whisk Cooking, Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop, SugaPlump Pastries, Texas Pie Kitchen, Tiny Pies, The Pie Society, Upper Crust Bakery, and The Wine and Food Foundation of Texas.
As Waitress ended, and patrons filed out of the theater, the pie-buying frenzy began! From pecan to strawberry rhubarb to chocolate cream to key lime to mini peach to bite-sized crimps, I think we had it all! Thank you to all of the wonderful people who bought a pie, and especially the woman who gave $100 for a single pie!
Needless to say, we are on a sugar high, and are thrilled to announce that between ticket sales, pecan pie slice sales, and pie donations, we raised over $2000 for SafePlace!