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TRIBEZA Talk | April 2014

An Insider's Guide to Austin's Hidden Gems

IN MY BAG: Jen Lewis of Purse and Clutch

Jen Lewis was frustrated with working in the nonprofit world when she “accidentally” started a fair-trade retail concept that directly benefits international artisans. Last year, one of Lewis’s college friends asked for help selling bags made by artisan groups in India. “People associate a certain ‘look’ with fair trade,” Lewis says, “but I looked at these bags and realized that they were totally beautiful and contemporary-looking; they just needed to be marketed differently.” Enter Purse and Clutch, Lewis’s new venture that offers fair-trade bags in an online, user-friendly marketplace. Since launching the site in April 2013, Lewis has started working with ten international artisan groups. “My goal is to meet the need of buyers who want something stylish, but want to be able to support economic growth in developing countries,” Lewis says.

When she’s not selling bags, we wanted to know: Jen, what’s in your bag?

  • Purse “Handmade in India, this bag is my personal favorite because of the mix of structured leather and feminine details. And it tucks perfectly into my laptop tote.”
  • $5 “Back when I was in high school, my dad told me that I should ALWAYS carry cash with me. I'm not sure if his advice is still relevant today, but you'll never find me without at least a little cash.”
  • Chapstick & Lip Gloss “I've always been a plain ChapStick kind of gal, but upon turning 30 this past December I decided it's time to transition to lip gloss.”
  • Coin Purse “I needed something cute to organize my business cards in my clutch and this handwoven ikat coin purse does the trick. In ikat weaving, the threads are dyed individually and then woven together on a hand loom.”
  • GirlsGuild Keychain “My friends Cheyenne and Diana are the GirlsGuild co-founders [a local organization that pairs girls with creative and entrepreneurial female mentors]. Cheyenne designed the P&C logo, and Diana was instrumental in our About page. I love the reminder on my key ring of the amazing collaborative community we have here in Austin.”
  • Book “I never want to be that girl engrossed in her smartphone while waiting for a meeting. I usually have a book of some sort with me and am currently loving this philosophical read reminding me to focus on the present. "On the Shortness of Life: Life is Long if you Know how to Use It" by Seneca, a Spanish-born philosopher of Rome who lived in the first century A.D.”
  • Paper & Pen “I have the worst memory of anyone I know. Having a place to jot down things as they come to mind is imperative in running a business.”

SMALL BATCH, BIG FLAVOR

Stephanie McClenny of Confituras

On the heels of a third Good Food Award (for pickled blueberries!) and in anticipation of the East Austin Urban Farm Tour on April 13, Stephanie McClenny of small-batch jam and preserves kitchen Confituras shares a special recipe with TRIBEZA, and dishes on how she plans to literally preserve local canning history.

  • Q: Tell me more about pickled blueberries.
  • A: These sweet yet tangy preserves have a cult following when they come out every July! They are delicious when served on a charcuterie plate with cheese and pâté.
  • Q: Can you share a bit of canning wisdom for an amateur?
  • A: Our best advice is to keep it small. You really can make just a few jars of jam at a time. Also, use high-quality, fresh ingredients (local if you can get them), and follow recipes and instructions to the letter at first. You must know the rules before you can break them.
  • Q: What are you working on right now?
  • A: We are very excited about our new project: Preserving Austin. We recently won the top grant from the Austin Food & Wine Alliance and will be using it to collect and archive oral histories from local canners with assistance from Foodways Texas. Preserving Austin also includes the process of building out a 1979 VW Transporter van—our “Confi-Tour-Bus”—complete with a recording booth for the oral histories, a small jam-making demo kitchen, and a traveling canning museum that will visit farmers' markets, schools, fairs, and other events.

Learn more about Confituras and where to pick up their delicious and seasonal preserves at confituras.net.

Strawberry Rosemary Syrup/Shrub

  • 2 pounds fragrant, local strawberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 small bunch fresh rosemary
  • red wine vinegar to taste (optional, to make a 'shrub' or tangy fruit vinegar)
  • 1. Heat berries and water in a medium saucepan over high heat until boiling, then lower heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the berries have lost most of their color.
  • 2. Strain berries out (save them to make jam!) and return berry-colored water to pan. add sugar. bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved (you will no feel grit on the bottom of the pan) and the syrup has thickened somewhat.
  • 3. Taste the syrup at this point to determine if you like the level of rosemary infusion (remember, a little goes a long way!). you can do this bringing a teaspoon of syrup to room temperature quickly in the freezer on a plate.
  • 4. Add a few drops of red wine vinegar at this point (if using) to make a tangy 'shrub', or fruit vinegar.
  • 5. If canning, pour mixture into hot jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. alternatively, allow to cool and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
  • 6. To serve, place 1-2 ounces syrup in 6 ounces Topo Chico, cava, or other sparkling wine. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.
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Austin Obsessions: Three local things TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie can’t get enough of...

  • 1. Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar
  • “Whenever [my wife] Heather and I are in town, we always make time for Perla’s: have to order the fish tacos and oysters. ”
  • 2. Uchiko:
  • “A favorite sushi spot: we order the Brussels sprouts cooked with fish caramel, the Madai Japanese bream, and the P–38 roll with Japanese yellowtail.
  • 3. By George
  • “I love stopping by and checking out what new stuff they have. It’s always a great stop whether I’m looking for something for myself or a gift for my wife.”

The popular shoe and eyewear company TOMS opened its second U.S. brick-and-mortar location last month in Austin (1401 S. Congress Ave.). During SXSW, TOMS also announced the newest component of the brand’s charity-driven umbrella: TOMS Roasting Co. Extending its “One for One” principle, the roasting company will provide “one week of clean water to a person in need for every bag of coffee purchased.”

More information at toms.com

Credits

Photography by Michael A. Muller

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