Taking a break from writing for the GAZETTE

Apr 10th, 2009

Today like many we are really thinking about how we spend our money. After paying for the basics there is less and less leftover for what “they” call discretionary funds. Lenore reminds me often that what really seems to count when life goes sideways on people seems to be all that we have postponed or denied ourselves far too many times. Making memories with friends and family means so much more than the things we can buy. So what might be considered worth spending on and or “priceless” is my topic.

Just last night one of our guests asked us how we got started and why Cannon Beach. Lenore, a Northwest native, answered as usual that the first time she brought me to the Oregon coast I told her this is where I want to live some day. It took us about 15 years to get here but we did it. Someone usually asks if we have any regrets. Lenore’s pat answer is only one: that we didn’t do it sooner!

Heck we had no idea what this was going to entail and yet we came with the confidence in our desire to be our own boss in the hospitality field. It was clear to us early on that we had a steep learning curve and soon became humbled by business ownership. Such respect and admiration we might never have known had we stayed in our city corporate jobs. The great thing is that every time we greet new guests at the door or welcome back those who have participated before, we still get the satisfaction and appreciation we felt when we opened.

Just being given the opportunity to put into practice the many principles we choose to live by in our very own business has been a priceless experience. It isn’t as easy as we once thought. For example we believe strongly in the principle of sustainability. Not just the way foods are grown and produced but how the producers treat their land, animals and workers. We have learned that being sustainable requires both providing for our employees AND for ourselves. Did we actually think we could do it all without taking time to revitalize and energize our engines from time to time? Though we have moments in every day to enjoy this beautiful place we live and do appreciate the beauty, clean air and amazing people, we haven’t always made sure our personal schedules are sustainable. So with a bit of regret we have asked our editor if we may take a break from writing this column for a few months. We want to give our attention to some new projects, namely the children’s pea patch and the community projects we are already involved in. We have some things to give attention to as with any business nearing it’s fifth anniversary. We are hoping to get our coriander oatmeal cookie to market and providing some home meal replacement products for our visitors. Additionally we have another intern this summer who deserves lots of my attention. Our goal is to return to the Gazette with so many topics we cannot wait to write about them!

We also have been given free rein when it comes to writing these articles and we do appreciate our editors’ confidence and faith. In fact they have told us to promote EVOO in the process. So before we take a break it does occur to me, gratefully, that our customers have been purchasing memorable experiences and learning new skills every time they come to a class. Our Dinner Show, formerly Small Plates with Wines, $89, offers four courses, three of which are full entrees paired with wines, followed by a great dessert. All are presented in smallish portions with the overall satisfaction of a full meal. The objective is for guests to go home feeling happy with three new menus and the skills to create them. We never tire of customers kind words and praises, and are all the more flattered when they come for celebrations.

Some of our customers explore through our classes to see if their avocation and love of cooking might be a good new career move for them. We offer a full day one-on-one class, called Sous Chef of the Day, with Chef Bob and crew for $125. And our Culinary Fundamentals classes can be several days long and are even more personalized to the individuals. Another popular class is the Artisan Bread making class for $75 where students learn a skill that pays back with grocery savings as well as the sheer satisfaction of creating bread!

When it comes to investing in oneself through making memorable experiences, one of our partners, Lexie Hallahan, director of Northwest Women’s Surf Camps, is at the top of the list! Offering fun, skill building, surfing, personal growth and bonding, Lexie’s events do this and so much more while occurring in two places people love to be, the Oregon coast and the island of Kauai. This year she has added a couples and partners weekends. We hope you will visit her website, www.nwwomenssurfcamps.com, to learn more about the experiences she offers. Oh and by the way, we do the organic foods for many of her projects.
Another trend we are noticing is a full on interest in sustainable products, both food and non and the desire to become green. We have corporations asking us for team building because we support sustainable seasonal concepts and we teach it to others. I have done some consulting to the company I worked last to help bring their corporate dining closer to being seasonal, sustainable/local, and organic.

Maybe it is the turndown economy that is actually helping people to focus on what can be done in our own back yards–organic gardening for one thing. Cannon Beach is in the process of forming community gardens, and I am working with our elementary school to get a small pea patch started for children to experience the growing, cultivating and cooking of their harvest.

Speaking of kids, we have started a class for the local kids after school once a week for twelve weeks. They have made up a menu for their cafe named by them, “Want S’more Café.” By now they have made from scratch every dish on the menu. Each week they take a new role–server, cook or customer–in running a café. Eventually everyone experiences all the roles, and everyone eats every class. Before long these 8-11 year old little chefs will have cooked, set tables, waited tables, ordered and paid for their snacks and tipped out their fellow players and will almost be ready for the public. Well at least their parents and friends. Thanks to Helene Hal and _____ for volunteering their help with our kids café.

On the retail front, more and more culinary tools and gifts are coming in stamped, “Designed in Germany (or France, or US) but made in China.” We find this trend to be escalating over the past year and a half. The challenge to find made in USA has been building even longer, and so much is outsourced. You would think pricing would have remained stable but not so. We are seeing more customers who are conscientiously choosing not buying items made in China. With this new reality, we are more determined to find local and artisan made products. Our shop is small but we are proud our made in the Northwest gifts and food section is growing. For example we carry hand lathed saltcellars, rolling pins and cutting boards by Will Leroux, Executive Chef for Martin Hospitality in Cannon Beach. He creates this useable art in his spare time.

In closing we invite readers to think of EVOO whenever they need a memorable experience, be it for a girls’ weekend out, an anniversary, landmark occasion, graduation, birthday, engagement, marriage, reunion and most importantly a weekend just to relax and re-energize, we would be honored to help make it so.

See you again soon in the pages of the Gazette. Bob Neroni