How it Began
I started Marge in 2010 in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the time, I’d been laid off from my job teaching high school English and began working in the catering department at a local restaurant. I’d bake in my free time, and I somehow managed to convince the baking team at work to let me train with them on the weekends. Soon I decided I wanted to go at it alone, so I rented commercial kitchen space in the evenings and prepped pies, cookies and brownies that I sold at our local farmers markets on the weekends.
How it Grew
One lucky day in 2012, The Wall Street Journal called and said they needed me to overnight them granola; one of their writers had the chance to try it at the farmers market and fell in love. They wanted to cover it in the paper. When the piece came out, our online store exploded and orders streamed in from all across the country. My husband Sam helped make spreadsheets and fill orders and we tried not to panic. Around the same time, I’d started bringing samples of granola to all my favorite stores, trying to convince them to carry it on their shelves. It often worked. Today, I no longer sell pies and cookies; granola is our main focus. I relocated the business to Seattle, WA and today we have our own kitchen and produce granola for local farmers markets, large grocery chains, smaller retail shops, and our own online store.
Why More Granola?
If you’re anything like me, you marvel at the choices of muesli and granola when you walk down the cereal aisle. It’s endless. So how is our granola different? When I started Marge, I was making a granola that I often ate at home with far less sugar than most store bought brands – one that was truly loaded with nuts, seeds and dried fruit and that was, obviously, freshly baked. This is the granola people want: a blend with immense personality, color, and bold flavor without all the sugar and preservatives. So that’s what we do. We specialize in small-batch granolas and cereals using organic grains, lots of good nuts and seeds, olive oil, organic Vermont maple syrup, and our signature blend of warm spices. We bake each batch slowly at a low temperature to give it that characteristic toastiness. And yes, I still eat it each week.
These days, Marge Granola is more of a team effort rather than a one-woman show. We have an operations manager and a small baking and farmers market team. And while I’m not in front of the ovens as much as I’d like to be, I’m so proud that we’re making a consistent product that people really love – that families bring us into their kitchens each week for breakfast. That feels like a really big deal to me, and I’m so grateful that we’ve earned their trust and it’s allowed us to keep doing what we love to do: feed you in the morning.
For a peek at our flavor offerings, new recipes, and ordering information, visit our website for more information.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
This time last week I was up in the Skagit River Valley sitting in the early fall sun eating wood-fired bagels and chatting with farmers, millers and bakers at the Kneading Conference West. I made homemade soba noodles, learned the ins and outs of sourdough starters, and sat in on a session where we tasted crackers baked with single varietal wheats. It was like wine tasting, but with wheat and the whole time I kept pinching myself, thinking: THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! I don't get the opportunity to be a student much these days -- usually on the other side of things teaching cooking classes or educating people at the farmers markets about whole grains and natural sugars. So to just sit and listen with a fresh (red!) notebook and a new pen was surprisingly refreshing. I miss it already. Thankfully, this cookie recipe has come back as a memorable souvenir, and one that is sure to be in high rotation in our house in the coming months.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.