Finally, I think we’ve found somewhere to call home…at least for longer than a 12-month lease. Our new apartment is in a converted old textile factory in northern Massachusetts. When it was originally built back in the early 1900s, it was called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” because it was just so enormous. In today’s world, the building is still a monster. Only about a third of it has been rebuilt into modern, eco-friendly housing, with the remaining two-thirds still being gutted for future residential and commercial use.
But one of the best yeast smells from the Brew City was whenever we drove on I-94 going toward downtown Milwaukee. Just east of County Stadium, what now is Miller Park, there was a little brown brick factory nestled next to one of the off-ramps. I remember driving by with my mom, who would always have her window cracked just a bit whenever we drove (a little thing I need to do now whenever I’m in the car), but as we got to this brown building – with its towering chimney and the white plumes of smoke hovering over the Menomonee Valley, she would open all of the car windows to let in the vibrant scent of yeast. It just filled the entire car and I inhaled the effervescence with pure joy.
That brown factory building was home to Red Star Yeast company. In 2001, the company was sold to a French firm and in 2004 a joint-venture took it over. Today, while Red Star Yeast no longer is manufactured in Milwaukee, there are still factories in Alabama and Iowa. But the Red Star corporate headquarters remains on Milwaukee’s west side near Wisconsin State Fair Park.
If you remember, a few months ago I posted a list of “6 New England Things To Try.” On the list, one of the things that I most wanted to try was the “Whoopie Pie,” a chocolate cookie sandwich with a fluffy cream interior. Shortly after I posted my list of things, I received a message on Twitter from one of the owners of Chococoa Baking Company in Newburyport, Mass. She invited me to her little shop in this seaside town to enjoy my first Whoopie Pie.
Owned by a husband and wife team, Chococoa Baking Company prides itself on using fresh, natural and organic ingredients in its Whoopies. (By the way, the name Whoopie Pie comes from when kids would yell “Whoopie” for the treat.)
Julie Ganong is a Maine native who remembers baking Whoopies with her grandmother and mother. Her husband, Alan Mons, is the genius behind all of the baking. He’s taken classes all over. The pair has even traveled to France to try the some of the world’s most decadent chocolates to find some of their Whoopie inspiration.