My horrorscope says that in the second half of 2016 I’ll claim a victory that will make up for the defeat I endured during the last few months of 2015. It also says that right now is when I can lay the groundwork for that future triumph. Right now I’m trying to perfect a gluten free chocolate cookie crust for future triumph. Right now, as I type, two versions of this crust are cooling and my handy-dandy kitchenaid, whom I call “Big Sister” is whipping a most decadent chocolate silk filling. Big Sister is a noisy beast, full of whining complaint as she whips the butter, sugar, chocolate, and eggs into something more luscious than should be allowed. Gluten free is one of those tricky things that makes me a little fussy and since I was already a little bit fussy today, it may not have been my best choice for recipe development. The flours are gritty. I eat them and they make my teeth feel almost as if I’m dining at the beach on a windy day. I’ve procured the best, most finely milled, local rice flours and still I am not happy. But I’m a picky picky girl and I suspect that my gluten free readers would point and laugh at me. Perhaps, on the other hand, this was exactly the thing I needed to tackle today. Perhaps, if I succeed, this will be the big win that will make me feel less restless.
Last Summer, we thought we’d found a space to house The Whole Pie. But the construction costs quickly became insurmountable, the timeline frustrating, the outlook bleak. Then we found another space. We signed our names and sealed the deal with a short rib handpie. We thought if we were diligent and lucky that we might be opening The Whole Pie right about now. But the Holidays and an unfortunate accident for Julia brought the process to a screeching halt. We picked up the dropped ball as soon as we could and thought we had it rolling. It looked, for a moment, like we’d chosen the right bowling ball, lined it up just perfectly, and it was speeding down the mirror finished wooden lane toward a full strike of the pins while we cheered it on. But it wasn’t. We somehow missed some of the steps. I visited the city building department, trying to get us on track. Julia called the city planner trying to get us on track. Within two weeks, the girls had seen me so many times that they greeted me by name as I entered the city permits office.
“You need an architect, and a site plan, and maybe a heat loss evaluation, and oh right, don’t forget to spend 20% of your budget on ADA improvements”. What?!? Our lovely bathroom is already ADA compliant, the parking space is front and center, we’ve designed our seating to accommodate wheelies of all kinds. There’s still more to do? 20%?? “Talk to your architect.”, the sweet ladies at the permitting department told me. Our heads were spinning. Little did we know that there is quite a long list of things we would never have guessed that must be done to help out our handicapable friends. Like moving outlets up four inches so that they are 15 inches from the floor. Who knew? Certainly not this sugar queen.
We called our kitchen design guys and were told that they don’t do this piece. Ooookayyy. We asked friends, we asked Facebook. We started calling architects. When we finally found an architect willing to do the job, Julia had a very stern talk with the numbers and figured out how to pay him. He drafted new plans, made a plan for ADA improvements, and told us that he thought maybe we could go to the city office at the right moment and be handed our building permits that very day. Today was that day. I did not leave the building with permits in my butter softened hands. I left with sad face and had to take a few minutes to cry by myself in the car before I called Julia to tell her what they told me. They no longer issues permits on the spot. For our very simple build out it would take them 6-8 weeks to review the plans before granting us permits. At the end of that 6-8 weeks, they could in fact deem our plans somehow not perfect enough and ask us to redo them and submit again. That pie shop we dreamed would be filled with lovelies in time to stave off the Winter blues will not be opening anytime soon. If we’re lucky, it will be open in time for the strawberry-rhubarb pies of Spring. If the fates are against us, early Summer. Peaches. If all else fails, at least we’ll make Peach pies for you all this year.
I really want to hate the girls at the city permits office. I want to be able to shake my fist at them and curse them for being so so terrible. But I can’t. Because they’re nice, and they look happy to see me, and they’re excited about pie. It’s not their fault that the government rules make everything so darn difficult. They’re just doing their jobs like everyone else. Susie helped us with zoning, Jill and Susie both helped me figure out the signage rules (because I was so confused it took two of them, man I’m a dingdong), Tracy warned me that these things take forever. At no point were they surly or sour, they’re just doing their jobs. I will say that the governmental agencies make these things very challenging. And very expensive. I do a lot of walking from one building to another in downtown Santa Rosa, trying to get the various pieces of the puzzle lined up. I swear we really did start with the corners, it’s just that filling in the middle is proving more time consuming than we could have imagined. I’m just hoping that none of the pieces have slipped off the table and under the refrigerator. Certainly, we were warned, but we thought that our project was so simple that this would be faster, cleaner, easier than many of the other small businesses we’ve seen wait and wait and wait to open their doors.
For now, there isn’t a lot to do. I’ve painted the sideboard that will sit under the window on the back wall. I’ve fashioned a valance to go above the window. My Mom is working on some seriously cute aprons for us to wear, our version of auniform. Julia is having long and drawn out conversations with the numbers and the forms and the file cabinet. I hope she’s using her serious voice because they need to know that she means business. The boy and I will prepare the pantry for dry storage next week (yay, the nail gun!!) and I’ll come up with some table top options for the table base I fashioned out of gas pipes. Hopefully, we’ll hear from the painter soon. And the sheet metal guy. And the window repair man. And the contractor. And and and. I think I hear big sister calling me…..