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Strawberry Fields Forever

A couple weeks ago I got a call from my good friend Amber enlisting my kitchen and assistance for a project that had become much bigger than she ever expected. As paycheck to paycheck food service veterans we both enjoy putting an extra dollar or two in our pocket by moonlighting .

It began as a lark. Amber and her brother were sitting around late at night and saw an ad on a facebook page for crappy looking Valentine's day cupcakes for sale at a ridiculous price. So it was decided that Amber would place an advertizement for chocolate (dark, milk or white) covered strawberries for Valentines day. Expecting a few friends and relatives to order some, the expected total was for about 10 orders give or take. Little did she know. Fortunately Amber got some good deals on things like boxes and discounts on cupcake papers. Now, I have a pretty decent kitchen, larger than most, and plenty of Chef toys, and having owned a couple restaurants in the past I have an abundance of full sheet and ½ sheet pans along with a couple glide racks that hold 7 sheet pans at once, which was nice because before we began the packaging we had both racks filled.

So, two days before dipping Amber brought over packaging supplies which was nice because all the boxes were assembled already. The next day she brought over the strawberries. She bought out all of Wal-mart's strawberries, 15 pounds of milk chocolate (over 900 they were the most requested), 6 pounds of white chocolate and 4 pounds of dark chocolate.

Production day. We started at 8:00 am by baking the cupcakes that I had pre-measured the ingredients for the night before. We figured we'd let them cool while dipping strawberries before filling and frosting them. We had two pots of chocolate going at all times. One in use and one on the melt so that we didn't have to wait around for another bowl of chocolate to dip. We had one of the glide racks set up in the kitchen to store the dipped, but as yet, un-garnished strawberries. However, it was a bit too warm in my kitchen and the chocolate wasn't setting up like it should so we set it outside and covered it with plastic(because it was snowing). Half way through the milk chocolate dip (around noon) we realized we weren't going to have enough strawberries or milk chocolate. So a count of how many strawberries were in a large 2 pound container (36 average by the way) a few quick calculations and Amber was off to Sam's Club for 18 more pounds of strawberries and 4 more pounds of milk chocolate while I condensed large sheet pans of dipped berries to ½ sheets, did some quick tidying up, and continues dipping. Around 1:30 I was getting a little hungry so I threw together a couple sandwiches and Amber and I stood and looked at the chocolate and berries while we scarfed down our lunch. Then back to dipping.

At about 3:00 - 3:30 we were done with dipping and garnishing the milk chocolate berries.

At this point in time Amber had to pick up her daughters and I had to run an errand for a class at JCC. Twenty minutes later I'm back. Five minutes later, Amber returned with her 6 and 2 year old daughters. Now the fun really begins. Don't get me wrong. Lyric and Trinity are absolute angels but, they're still only 6 and 2, and my wife and I have no children so we have nothing in the house to occupy a child. Even still they were pretty well behaved, they just needed much more attention than we could offer them. They were very helpful in the strawberry tasting, and bowl and spoon pre-wash licking department. Keep in mind, at this point in time we still had about 600 strawberries to dip, garnish and package and having taken longer than Amber had expected people had now started calling for pick-up of their strawberries but, by 5:30 we had all but 3 dozen pink strawberries done.

At 5:30 Amber starts the boxing up of all her orders, and as I stated earlier people were calling for their orders so I said “just give them my address and they can pick 'em up here.” So now I'm dipping the 3 dozen pink berries, and giving the girls apple slices and carrot sticks between strawberries and utensils heavily laden with chocolate and tastes of peanut butter frosting earmarked for the cupcakes.

Our two dogs are barking like crazy when people come to the door. Amber is now trying to deal with her (now, completely bored and outrageously jammed up on sugar) girls, packaging her orders for pick up and delivery, answering the door for people picking up orders, and stressing, not freaking out mind you, but definitely stressed, because we're running about 3 hours behind what she had expected or planned for.

After all, she has to deliver some orders, not to mention a fiance, and after school projects to help with, a house of her own to take care of and, still 3 doz. Cupcakes she wants to fill and frost for her family and extended family.

At around 7:30 pm. all the orders were complete. Amber loaded up the girls to take them home and deliver several orders. I started cleaning up and putting away. Amber did leave a HUGE box of packaged orders to pick up later and that was cool. It was about 9 o'colck that I sat down in a mostly cleaned up and put away kitchen for another sandwich (my dinner) and Amber comes back to get the rest of her orders and all her tools and accessories. So, it was a long, 13hour day for me and even longer for Amber.

Now,... don't tell her this but, when I'm doing things like this, working with, friends like her for, friends like her, payment is optional.

I gotta hand it to her, even though she egregiously under priced them she did all the logistics required, (and trust me when I say, the logistics for any project like this are enormous), to make 3 doz. Cupcakes and 1,500 chocolate dipped strawberries and make a small profit. Enough anyway that she was able to pay me. Cha-Ching! Love you Amber. Great job!

Oh yeah! By the way. We're doing this again for Mother's Day!

Work hard and eat well my friends. :)

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