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Home is Where the Startup Is

As Fresh as it Gets, These Four Food Businesses Bring a Whole New Meaning to Home Grown Goodness Shop Local in Orange County

Written By: Jake Palumbo

Photographed By: Patrick Martin

We decided to highlight four local Orange County businesses whose innovative, new companies are making waves in the local SoCal food scene. Each of these small businesses are as locally grown as their delicious products and strive to provide their customers with only the freshest, all-natural ingredients. The inspiring stories of their owners eschew the comfort of certainty and safety in favor of the consummate reward of pursuing your dreams and doing what you love. Each of these outspokenly passionate owners has put their blood, sweat, and tears into building something they believe in, and we think you should too. Your taste buds will thank us.

Buff Bake

www.buffbake.com

It’s not hard to believe why cousins and Buff Bake founders Ashley and Brittany Boeckle always felt destined to start a business of their own. Entrepreneurship runs in the family. It also stays in the family. Their fathers, who happen to be twin brothers, have been running a successful business together since the girls were in diapers and have always fostered a loving home for the entrepreneurial spirit. So it came as no surprise when Ashley and Brittany decided to take their concept for creating a healthy line of protein infused nut butters and go into business together. What was surprising, however, was how quickly their viral popularity would spread like wildfire, rocketing them from humble farmers market stands to international distribution deals with The United Arab Emirates within a matter of months.

The idea for Buff Bake was born when Ashley, a fitness guru and bikini competition competitor, approached her baking enthusiast cousin Brittany in hopes of coming up with a healthy snack that would help her stick to her strict diet regimen without completely sacrificing her craving for something tasty. Brittany, who was busy working on starting her own cake pop company at the time, came up with a series of protein infused muffins, that the pair lovingly refer to as “buffins, ” which quickly began to turn heads. With the popularity of buffins, the pair saw there was a significant demand for healthy homemade baked goods, but also quickly realized that due to their short shelf life and expensive natural ingredients, mass producing buffins didn’t really lend itself to an efficient business model. Never discouraged, and knowing they were onto something, the girls pressed on, and after some time back at the drawing board they landed on all natural, protein-infused butters made from peanuts and almonds. After experimenting with different recipes, applying their most popular buffin flavors and adding superfoods such as chia and flaxseed, Buff Bake quite literally found their bread and butter. Once they had their recipe locked down, the girls took to the farmers markets of Southern California with their new products; and it didn’t take long for the word, much like a spoonful of their Snickerdoodle Almond Butter, to spread.

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When I walked into Buff Bake’s headquarters in Irvine, it was hard to believe that I was seeing an operation that was less than a year old. What started out as a DIY project in their own kitchen on a little red peanut butter machine has grown into a highly impressive full-scale operation conducted on stainless steel, commercial grade equipment in what can only be described as “overnight.”

Once demand began to skyrocket, it became clear that it was time to step up the operation. Suddenly, the household peanut butter machine they were using to futilely tackle the overwhelming onrush of orders was no longer going to cut it, and the girls decided it was time to go shopping for something a little more … industrial. Now the girls stand proudly before the polished sheen of their fully operational kitchen reminiscing about the grueling days grinding away on their first machine.

“What used to take us five hours on this little machine, now takes us five minutes, ” Brittany tells me as she shows me around their enormous kitchen space, where a pair of workers are fiendishly working to get a massive order ready to be shipped to Kuwait.

The girls attribute their astoundingly rapid growth to their hugely popular Instagram account where they are constantly creating pictures and recipes for their brand. In just a few short months, their account blew up, accumulating 40, 000 followers. When I asked Ashley what the tipping point was, she replied, “It was probably when Sofia Vergara posted for us. It was huge. I reached out to her through Instagram, and when she sent us an address, we sent her the butters. Now she orders Cranberry Coconut weekly.”

With international distribution in Sweden, Italy, and The United Arab Emirates, along with shelf space in prestigious health food retailers such as GNC, Whole Foods and The Vitamin Shoppe, the sky is the limit for Buff Bake. With flavors including Chocolate Chip, Snickerdoodle, Cinnamon Raisin, and Cranberry Coconut, these delicious spreads can be enjoyed right off the spoon, on toast, or can be incorporated into an endless variety of delicious and nutritious baked goods. Look for Buff Bake to continue expanding into the world of nutritious baked goods. Their bright future includes plans for a line of protein bars, cookies, brownies, and of course the original buffins that started it all.

Native Knowledge: The butters also come in on-the-go squeeze packs. You can also get more recipes by following Buff Bake on Instagram at @buffbake.

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Front Porch Pops

120 E Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92866
714.614.0857
www.frontporchpops.com

For Erin Whitcomb, sometimes all that glitters is cold. After being laid off from her job as an event planner in 2010, Erin found herself at a nerve-wracking crossroads of uncertainty. Yet, instead of sprinting wildly to the first semblance of career safety in sight, Erin boldly seized the opportunity to change gears and pursue her passion for creating delectable frozen desserts, particularly those of the wooden stick persuasion. When life gives you lemons, you make Tangy Lemon Cream popsicles, obviously. So, backed by the encouragement of friends and family well privy to her talent for saccharine innovation, Erin set about building the foundations of what has quickly become an Orange County institution, Front Porch Pops.

It took months of careful research and mad-scientist-esque recipe development to get the ball rolling, but as soon as Erin sold her first ice pop in the summer of 2011, the cat was out of the bag and the momentum has been gaining ever since. Now, little more than three years after taking the plunge into the icy blender of her dreams, Erin is gearing up to feature her spectacular roster of handcrafted gourmet popsicles, ice cream and pies in the third Front Porch Pops storefront in Orange County’s Union Market.

With an alluring assortment of pops running the flavor gamut from Blueberry Lime to Creamy Vanilla Caramel, the most difficult part of a trip to Front Porch Pops is deciding what to order. When it comes to helping a new customer make that daunting first decision, Erin says, “I like to give them something that’s both unique and accessible, maybe something they’ve never tried before. I like to give people the Blueberry Lemon Creamsicle because it’s both sweet and creamy, but everyone has the thing they crave. Some people like chocolate and decadence, and some people like light and fruity. So, we try to match people up with the right pop.” With such a wide selection of pops, you can be sure there is something to satisfy every palate, mood, and season.

In addition to Erin’s extraordinary talent for Elsa-like frozen creations, a huge key to Front Porch Pop’s success has been their commitment to keeping it local and organic, using only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients to hand craft their impressive variety of creative masterpieces. “We make everything from scratch and source as much as we can from the farmers markets we participate in. We try to make the products as seasonal as possible, ” says Erin, as I unwrap my creamy Vanilla Spice pop. You can be sure you’ll never find artificial colors, flavors, or high fructose corn syrup in one of Erin’s pops. In fact, the full flavor profile of each and every pop is listed on her website.

Poised behind her cavalry of ten carts, three storefronts, and a booming catering business, Erin stands prepared to tackle the challenge of keeping up with the overwhelming demand for her gourmet desserts. And while she is excited by the inevitable prospect of growing her successful business, she promises to stick to her roots of gourmet creativity and fresh, all natural ingredients.

Speaking of expansion, Erin has recently taken her winning concept across the dessert galaxy and applied it to the campfire classic s’more— with Torch, a new storefront she opened in January right next door to Front Porch Pops in Union Market. The newest temple to Erin’s endless culinary creativity re- imagines the old classic with a luxurious makeover that spans the flavor spectrum. To learn more about Front Porch Pops or how to book your own Popcart for events, visit www.frontporchpops.com

Native Knowledge: For custom catering events, FPP makes specially customized pops, including some that are booze infused. Erin said the one she likes making the most is the bananas foster pop, because it’s 100 percent true to how the dessert is made. They flambé the bananas, there’s rum, cinnamon, caramelized bananas, and ice cream put in popsicle form.

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Elli Quark

3943 Irvine Blvd, #610
Irvine, CA 92602
855.998.3554
www.elliquark.com

My first question for Preya Patel Bhakta, President and Founder of Elli Quark Products, was one I’m sure she’s used to hearing: So what is Quark? It turns out that Quark is a fresh cheese common in German-speaking countries similar to Greek yogurt, but without the sour bite. It’s creamy, high protein and delightfully spoonable. According to Preya, “If Greek yogurt and cottage cheese were to have a baby, it would be Quark, and it would have the best qualities of both parents.” Unlike yogurts, which are cooked at high temperatures for a short period of time, Quark is carefully crafted and takes all day to make. The result is a high protein, zero fat cheese with highly effective live and active cultures, in other words, extremely healthy, and thanks to the efforts of Elli Quark, extremely delicious.

If you ask her, Preya will say that the idea behind Elli Quark was sparked by necessity. Tired of scouring supermarket dairy aisles for high protein dairy without the added baggage of sugars, artificial sweeteners, and other pesky additives and coming up empty handed, Preya took matters into her own kitchen and began experimenting with her own curdled concoctions. “My curiosity led me to do some further research, which is what led me to German-style Quark, which looked and sounded a lot like what I was creating in my kitchen, ” says Preya, “My husband convinced me that we needed to divert our honeymoon funds to a trip to Germany so we could research this further. So, we did just that and we fell even more in love with Quark!” After returning from their trip, Preya and her husband were confident that they had stumbled upon something unique. Although it was actually one of the very first European cheeses, Quark is relatively new, if not unheard of, in the American market and the couple spotted their opportunity to fill the void.

“I just knew that there were so many others like myself who could benefit from all the nutritional attributes and taste qualities that Quark had to offer, so I started right away on turning this newfound discovery into a business plan, ” says Preya. But discovering a profitable gap in the marketplace for a new product like Quark wasn’t the end of the line for the Elli Quark team. They sought to set themselves apart by creating a wholesome product that has no added sugars, artificial sweeteners or ingredients. Much like the Elli Quark label, the ingredients are as clean and simple as possible and crafted on the sunny front porch of Southern California in Orange County. Elli Quark is proud to be a supporter of local California dairies and farms to source the freshest ingredients available. It took months and months of careful research and planning to get their foot out of the door, but the end result has been highly successful and equally delicious. Elli Quark is now available in natural/specialty and traditional grocery stores across the country.

Native Knowledge: Since they have no added sugars, the probiotics remain highly effective. A little unknown secret about probiotics is that when you add sugar to them, they’re much less effective. It’s like adding water and gasoline to a fire.

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Backyard Bees

1.800.476.6105

www.backyardbees.net

It’s been just over a decade since lifelong Orange Country resident Janet Andrews noticed a strange buzzing coming from the roof of her house. After a harrowing trip to the attic, she realized that the disturbance was nothing more than the busy buzzing of honey bees dutifully at work about their prospering hive in the annexed attic. Where others might have taken a more remorseless approach to the intrusion, Janet took the high road and had the hive relocated, sparing the lives of thousands. “I found somebody what wouldn’t kill the bees, ” she tells me, “because most people want to just exterminate them. And when I watched the man I hired bring out these great big pieces of honeycomb, it made me want to keep bees.”

For Janet, who had already found a passion in cultivating fresh herbs and veggies from her impressive garden, as well as eggs from her beloved chickens, keeping bees to harvest their natural golden honey was a no-brainer. Janet began rescuing hives and (because of her grandson’s allergy to bee stings) relocating them to local residents’ backyards, coming by to harvest the honeycomb and process it at the “Honey House” on her property, learning everything there is to know about beekeeping along the way from mentors, magazines, and old-fashioned trial and error.

About five years after she began managing her own hives, Janet met her future business partner and fellow bee lover, Kelly Yrarrazaval while rescuing a hive in her neighbor’s yard. Kelly took note of Janet’s growing practice of sharing her hand-harvested honey with friends and family as well as her burgeoning penchant for spinning beeswax into organic lotions and creams and became her partner. The pair have been building the business of Backyard Bees ever since.

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A few years ago, when the worldwide honeybee crisis was a particularly salient news topic (and still continues to be an ecologically important issue), a curious reporter from OC Weekly highlighted the urban beekeeping duo in a story that landed on the front page. The cover story rocketed local honeybee awareness and demand soared for the services of Backyard Bees to new and exciting heights. Calls poured in from Orange Country residents who were now electing to have their hives rescued instead of exterminated. The buzz also caught the attention of Whole Foods, who began stocking the shelves with Backyard Bees’ all natural, local honey.

With the number of hives poised to expand quickly from the hundreds already prospering throughout the backyards of Orange County, business is better than ever. Once the hives are rescued, they are placed in a wooden hive box and carefully relocated to the preapproved backyard of an eager host (there is now a growing list of volunteers who have called to request their own hive) at no cost to the host family, who in turn for hosting receives 10 percent of the honey. The hives are then maintained and the honeycomb harvested by traveling Backyard Beekeepers each month and brought back to Janet’s Honey House to be processed into pure, unfiltered, treatment free honey whose unique color and flavor are naturally determined by the seasons and surrounding flora.

Once the honey has been extracted, Backyard Bees makes the most of the remaining honeycombs by melting them down into beeswax which is then mixed with essential oils to create their own line of organic lotions, creams, and lip balms that efficiently and naturally moisturize and rehydrate the skin.

In addition to creating delicious local honey and natural beeswax cosmetics, Backyard Bees also plays an important role in educating the local community on the ecological importance of honeybees by inviting groups of students to the Honey House to participate in the process. Whether it’s through their eco-friendly hive rescue or their delectable harvests of golden honey, Backyard Bees has made a business out of sweetening the lives of Orange County residents every day.

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