19 April 2010

Not Your Vegan Grandmother’s Muffin

Black Sheep Bakery may specialize in dairy and egg free baked goods but their approach to baking is a challenge to make righteously good food rather than a self-righteous cuisine. Black Sheep’s owner, Amanda Felt, went to work in professional kitchens in her teens – learning every job at endless breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts. Of all the stations, Amanda took to the chemistry and precision of baking. A skill that would pay dividends – Amanda found the accuracy and precision needed to develop taste, texture and flavor without relying on dairy or eggs has more to do with Mr. Science than Moosewood.

As rogue baker, a vegan baker, Amanda definitely stood out in small flock and Black Sheep was an apt name for her enterprise, it was a name she could relate to. Calling your own tune is the hallmark of small business owners and the ability/willingness to go your own way has helped Amanda and her Black Sheep Bakery survive and thrive for 10 years. Launched, somehow fittingly, on Jan 1, 2000, Black Sheep spent the first 4 years of its existence as a wholesale baker. Making its first retail appearance at the late Eco-Trust market, the bakery soon expanded to a tiny coffee shop with a bike through window on SE 8th & Main. In 2006, Black Sheep opened their booth at PSU, a few years later, they expanded to a bigger, full service cafe and bakery at 523 NE 19th.

Amanda credits the Portland Farmers Market as “vital in moving us to retail readiness. It was a sound training step from being entirely wholesale. [The Market] gives us direct customer feedback, heaps of exposure and a forum to introduce new items to our customers before adding them to our wholesale offerings”.

This season, Black Sheep has returned to the expanded PSU. Tucked away in the SE corner of the new block, a location that might seem like a good place for a Black Sheep but with the extra space to graze it is really a destination to see how a non-traditional approach to a craft can produce, in Amanda’s words, “baked goods flavorful and light and soft enough to fool traditional eater.” Black Sheep can be found every Saturday at the PSU Market.