Thursday, March 29, 2012

Halfway to Hippo Heaven

So we completed our little pizza film and launched our crowdfunding campaign on three nights ago. As you may have gleaned from the title here, we've raised half of our minimum goal of $5K.

It's pretty inspiring to get emails AND financial backing from people all over the country saying, "Yeah! Go for it. And your pizza looks amazing. Please make it happen and take Pizza Hippo national so we can eat some, too!"

Hey, I'm totally down with that! I really do hope to make it happen.

The one thing I'm a little bummed about is that Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef on a mission to bring organic food to the masses himself; Emeril, Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, and all the other food celebs I've contacted via Twitter haven't promoted our campaign, not even a retweet! WHAT THE HECK?! I know they don't really manage their own social media, but come on fellas. Yeah, you too Bobby Flay. How about helping out the Pizza Hippo? If any of my four to seven readers know someone who knows those guys, send them the link to our video. I think they might be down with the cause. At least a throw down. Something.

On another topic, I had to kill one of our two roosters a few days ago. He was at the bottom of the pecking order and getting pretty beat up, as well as overcompensating by violently mounting our hens as much as possible. Since we turned him into gumbo (excellent stock, kind of tough and stringy meat - someone suggested this can be mitigated in the butchering process - anyone know more about this?) egg production has gone up 33% per day. Yes, we track daily egg production. Plus with only six layers it's pretty easy math :) So I'm looking forward to Amber getting her flock of meat birds later in the spring, and hopefully a few ducks as well. No, this has nothing to do with Pizza Hippo, but it is part of my outlandish dream. The part that says I don't go to the grocery store ever again.

I know this is kind of an impossible dream, but with Pizza Hippo's new wholeseller accounts we really might be able to pull it off. Buy the things we can't grow in bulk at cut rate prices and, well, grow the rest. Definitely going to preserve A LOT more veggies this year. And apple juice for that matter. But that comes in the fall.

For now, Spring is in the air, and we have all season to watch things get big, grow fat, and soak up the earth's energy to sustain us later on.

Until then, I can't wait to get back to making organic pizza Vermont style and pushing my limits as a businessman, a farmer, and a person.

Out of my comfort zone is where I feel the happiest, after all.

PS I just wrote Jamie Oliver another letter. I hope he writes back.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pizza Hippo and the Brattleboro Farmer's Market Jury Day

Today is the Brattleboro Farmer's Market Jury Day.

"What is this?" you ask. It's the day where everyone who wants to take part in the market shows up with product to be judged by a very, how do I say, tightly... knit group of folks who run the show.

Its a little nerve wracking as these things have a reputation for being political and similar to Greek Rush week. As you may or may not know, I never rushed. Draw your own conclusions as to why ;) Hopefully, these are just rumors, everyone will be pleasant, and we'll get accepted without being hazed.

Regardless, Amber and I will be there today with bells and smiles on. Below is the document we're attaching to our food, which by rule cannot speak for itself today. Check it out.

Pizza Hippo - Vermont's Best Organic Pizza

Pizza Hippo's Fire Grilled Pizza is Vermont's Best Organic, Farm-To-Table Pizza.

Pizza Hippo is a local, sustainable business at the forefront of the organic food movement. World Headquarters: Windham, Vermont.

Our mission: Transform communities through the power of organic food.

Made to order and grilled to perfection over real, non-chemical treated charcoal and hard woods, our gourmet pizzas feature homemade Organic Sourdough crust, Local, Organic Vegetables, Local Meats, hand-crafted sauces, Artistanal Vermont Cheeses, and a wide variety of combinations, textures, and flavors.

Some of our food sources include, but are not limited to:

Kindle Farm Organic Vegetable Stand, Wild Sheppard Farm, Pizza Hippo’s home garden, Grafton Village Cheese Company, Taylor Farm, West River Creamery, Cabot, Wild Carrot Farm, River Bend Market Butchers, Snow Farm, and Guerilla Grown Produce. We also source the most local products available from Hillcrest Foods and Dole & Bailey.

All pizzas are single portion (feed one person) and will be served on compostable paper plates (on order) with unbleached, recycled paper napkins. To-go boxes will be available on demand, but will not be encouraged.

Today’s Menu:

Veggie Freestyle Pizza on Classic Marinara featuring Vermont Cheddar Cheese. Organic onions, bell peppers, broccoli, garlic scape pesto and tomatoes.

Yeah You Right BBQ Pizza featuring Vermont Cheddar Cheese. River Bend Market’s own Italian sausage, organic onions, and baby portabella mushrooms over Pizza Hippo’s award winning New Orleans Yeah You Right barbecue sauce.

Creole Sweet Potatopotamus and Sopressata Pizza. Creole spiced sweet potato topping with organic onions caramelized in balsamic vinegar and thinly sliced sopressata featuring Vermont Cheddar Cheese.

Other specialty pizzas include, but are not limited to:

· Peaceful Hippo Thai Basil

· Hippo Bandito Ole Mole

· Hippo Hawaiian Pineapple & Ham

· Blancopotamus Alfredo

· Swingin’ Hippo Crawfish Etouffee

· Spicy Hippo Eggplant Creole

· The Classic Hippo (sausage, onion and mushroom on marinara)

· Margaritapotamus

· Creole Muffalettapotamus

Pizza menu changes weekly. Contingent on what’s fresh and chef’s whimsy.

Wish us luck, and have a great weekend. With any luck, we'll see y'all on Wednesdays this season at the market!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Pizza Hippo, Organic Vermont Crowd Sourcing, and Long Distance Bike Riding for Hippopotamus

Hello, and welcome back to the Outlandish Dreams blog. I've got to say that un-outlandish dreams are okay, like dreaming for a dishwasher, but the bigger ones really get me going.

Today we booked our inspection with the health department. May 1 at 9AM. The inspector seems incredibly reasonable, and to boot, he LOVES the name Pizza Hippo. I even got him to say, "It Hits the Spotamus!" Yeah! Nothing is more entertaining to me than getting serious adults to say, "It Hits the Spotamus!" How anyone says it with a straight face is beyond my comprehension. Some people do, however.

This May 1 deadline means we have to buy a bunch of equipment and have everything set up in roughly five weeks. Luckily we finished our video and submitted our campaign for approval this morning. With any luck we'll start raising the capital we need early next week. Stay tuned for the link.

If you believe a national farm to table organic pizza chain should exist, you'll want to support us. Its so important for the country and the world for this to happen. This will be your chance to contribute to a feel good project that can truly change the world for the better.

On a different thread, I've been training to ride my bike from Vermont to Key West, Florida this November. Yeah, it's March 23 and I'm starting way early. Today I did 33 miles, a lot of it uphill, and it was pretty tough climbing the hills that ended my trek.

To get to Key West in a reasonable amount of time, say 30 days, I need to average 70 miles a day. Keep in mind it's going to be rough for the first several hundred miles in November with winter weather creeping in. So I need to be able to ride six to eight hours per day for an entire month by November 2. Does the superior athlete I think I can be really live inside of me? Only time will tell.

Biking, IMHO, is fantastic because, like many other sports, it is a metaphor for life. When you're climbing hills, you have to dig deep. The closer to the peaks you come, the harder you have to pedal. When you're approaching your goals in life, the time you have to focus most, strive the most, give the most, is the time when they're just out of reach. If you stop, biking or in life, you'll inveritably roll backwards. There are too many other setbacks (flat tires and Murphy's Law) to lose focus at the critical moments.

When obstacles arise, there are only four options. Go over, under, around or straight through them. Momentum must not stop! It's physics and psychology, plain and simple.

Once you reach the peaks, you're instantly rewarded with a period of coasting, shooting down the hill like a rocket, wind in your face, effortless flight, a condor floating on currents in the blue beyond, fish carving bubbles in the sea riding the riptide with reckless abandon. It's why I love riding in Vermont.

Soon, another hill rises up, smiling mockingly. Can you master your pain and keep going forward? Was the ecstasy of the last down slope enough to push you onward? Will you cower or throw your head back, mouth agape, tusks shining in the sun, Hippopotamus yawn of domination!

Just like life, the bicycling. So tell me, how fit can you get? How far can you push yourself? What kind of amazing can you accomplish today?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vermont's Best Organic Pizza Dreams, Nickels, and GMO Labeling H.722

I don't own the clothes I'm wearing
And the road goes on forever
And I've got one more silver dollar - Gregg Allman

Yesterday I broke a promise to myself I've kept since 2006. I broke into my change jar, although this desperation was painted in joy and promise, a fresco illuminated by the first vestiges of morning sun creeping through the stained glass. After all was counted and rolled, my table looked like it was covered in strange, colorful sausages. Pizza Hippo banked nearly $400 in total. And a quart of pennies left over! Counting to 100 to get $1 just takes too long.

This week we've made substantial progress. Svetlana, our 1988 Volvo wagon whose odometer kindly stopped working at 257K and change over a year ago, is in the shop being fitted with a trailer hitch for the soon to be operational Pizza Hippo wagon. She's also getting a new muffler which should be enough to pass inspection for another year.

With the nickel sausages in the bank we have enough loot to apply for our commercial catering license, register our business name, and cover a fair chunk of what's needed for liability insurance. It's incredible how far we've come since last season operating illegally from our front yard.

As my fingers were transformed to arthritic talons counting and rolling coin, I recalled several conversations with entrepreneurs I've had through the years. So many of them, when questioned about getting started, said they had every nickel they had invested in their business. Man, I never knew they were being so honest! I truly have EVERY nickel I have invested in Pizza Hippo. (At least I still have a quart of pennies if times get tough!)

The interesting thing is the more and more I put into the business, the more I know we're on a world changing mission. Pizza Hippo is going to be the first fast food chain that solves the problem of being national and sourcing locally. When this model proves viable and profitable, look for Bob Langert and McDonald's to come a knocking. (I know, I'm obsessed with changing McDonald's. A worthy mission, no?) When McDonald's buys in, the world is a different place. I keep repeating it because its true and because the things you visualize become to be. Let's make it happen!

On another front, H.722 (GMO Labeling in Vermont) sees to be destined to die in committee. Rep. Catherine Partridge tells me they are reviewing it for constitutionality, and that "its not being put to bed yet", but I am extremely skeptical.

I hate to sound revolutionary, but when we're using a 235 year old document to study an issue so steeped in modern technology, one thinks about burning the Constitution and tearing down the fabric of our money stained political process.

To me, bringing affordable, organic food to the masses is best way for me to fight GMO. People, keep voting with your wallets.

Buy local, buy organic, grow your own! Planting season is upon us in Vermont, you know.

Monday, March 12, 2012

GMO Labeling, H.722, Take Action Now in Vermont

The following is the correspondence between my local state representatives in Windham, VT concerning H.722 requiring labeling of genetically modified foods for sale to consumers. It would appear our representatives are happy to let us know the bill is in committee, and they'll support it IF it gets out of committee.
As someone who's been a political operative before, you can take it from me this is NOT supporting the bill. Please take the time to contact Carolyn and/or Matt to let them know they need to take action!
Carolyn Partridge -
Matt Trieber -
Dear Mr. Trieber and Mrs. Partridge,

Thank you both for writing back to me.

As a former lobbyist in Louisiana, the tone of both of your emails
sounds like the bill is going to be put to bed in committee.

My neighbors, friends, and colleagues all urge you to TALK to the
committee chair and use all your influence to push the bill onto the

NOT TALKING TO THE COMMITTEE about such an important issue is the same
as NOT SUPPORTING THE BILL in my humble opinion. The day will happen
whether or not we get out of bed, after all.

This is the most important agricultural bill in Vermont at the
present. Please do more to support it than offer lip service. Take
action! We, your constituents, are counting on you.

If I can personally be of any service to you, I live down the street
from Mrs. Partridge and am easy to reach in person, by email at this
address or by phone at 802.874.8120.

Thank you both again for writing back to me.

Best regards,
Malcolm M. Hood

On Sun, Mar 11, 2012 at 5:37 PM, Matthew Trieber <> wrote:
> Dear Malcolm,
> Thank you for contacting me regarding H.722. I agree with your e-mail, and
> as such, was a co-sponsor of H.367 which sought to require labeling of
genetically-modified food. H.722 has been referred to the committee on
> Agriculture. My understanding is that the committee has taken testimony on
> the bill, although, I have not spoken to anyone on the committee directly
> about it. Please know that I do intend to support this legislation should it
> come to the house floor. Feel free to contact me again if you have any other
> concerns.
> Regards,
> Matt
> --
> Rep. Matthew A. Trieber
> State Representative for Windham-4
> (802) 376-1134 or
> Sergeant-At-Arms: (802) 828-2228

Friday, March 9, 2012

Shooting down McDonald's is not the solution

Just read an interesting article about McDonald's and the London Olympics.

Gist of it London Olympics is attempting to source all of the food needed to feed the event locally. What a giant challenge!

McDonald's, of course, is not being held to the local guidelines and is sourcing 90% of its chicken from Brasil. People are upset. Like the London Assembly.

Organizers site huge amounts of (we're talking tons) of chickens required to meet demand as well as the amount of chicken McD's buys annually from UK farmers ($475 million!) when explaining the McXimption.

However this might make us feel, being upset at McDonald's isn't going to change anything.

Here are two things that actually can make a difference.

1. Stop buying things from McDonald's. Anything at all. Not so they'll go out business, though.

Then why? Check out Jamie Peck's blog on Rush Limbaugh and free market speech.

Dollars are the only thing multinational corporations care about. We all know this to be true.

In fact, Bob Langert, McDonald's VP of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, has stated the reason many sustainability measures have taken root within the corporation is because they "save millions and millions" of dollars, ie using napkins made from recycled materials.

If we as a state, country and world stop buying from the McDonald's of the world, they will listen. Guaranteed.

IMHO, the keys to the organic movement in America and beyond is McDonald's and Wal-Mart. The day these two companies say, "We're only selling organic produce and humanely raised meats, and will not sell any food products made with GMO ingredients past this date" is the day the world will change.

Farmers big and small would be forced to change production. We would, as a country, be eating better, healthier food in a matter of years.

So instead of bashing the McDonald's and the Wal-Marts of the world, let's embrace them. Embrace them with open hearts, open minds, and empty wallets. (Southern Vermonters, until they fall in line, save your cash for the likes of Vermont's Best Organic Pizza and Seitanic Kitchens.)

2. Bombard Bob Langert with INTELLIGENT emails. Let him know we can't buy his food products now, but look forward to eating a quarter pounder with cheese the way it was meant to be sometime in the near future. You can reach Bob at

Wal-Mart doesn't have such as easily accessed person as far as I can tell, but you can reach them via Twitter @Walmart or through their green blog.

Be active and be well.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pizza Dreams, Social Fundraising, and Getting Out of the Way

"You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, and know when to run" - Kenny Rogers

"Everyday, it's a-gettin' closer, Goin' faster than a roller coaster" - Buddy Holly

Yesterday I received a call for which I'd been waiting for some time. As soon as I picked up the phone, I knew my bid for a kitchen and land lease for Pizza Hippo's first legitimate pizza stand was going to be rejected. Nothing can kick the knees out from under a great plan like a meeting with a lawyer well versed in imagining liability scenarios. (They really out to use their creativity creating something fun like Hippo Joke Jeopardy for once!)

We must have been into the conversation about three minutes before I realized what was said in the first two seconds. Pizza Hippo was approved! They decided to go against council and at take a chance on my dream. Yeaaah, cabbage patch time, baby!

Then it hit me. Everything I've been working so hard to accomplish was happening. Whether I was ready or not. Despite the fact that a few weeks ago I lost the backing so critical to getting this operation up and running. Despite the fact I might not know exactly what I'm getting myself into, or that "I might get rich or I might get busted" (Steve Miller). As they say, the day does always go on whether you get out of bed or not.

Of course I deferred my decision to strengthen my negotiating position, but knowing all along this opportunity is something that cannot be passed up. No excuses.

Al Copeland of Popeye's Fried Chicken fame started with one fried chicken stand in Arabi, LA. If you've ever been to Arabi (or St. Bernard Parish), lovingly known as "The Parish", you'd say starting a national brand from the front of your house on Windham Hill Road doesn't sound so, um, I don't know, outlandish?!

Sometimes the best strategy is to stay out of your head and out of your own way. Why worry about what isn't possible?

"But hey!", says the internal critic, "What about the $5G's (that's $5000) you need to secure the lease, buy a few mandated pieces of equipment, and pay for the licensing? You're only working a few days a week in a seasonal kitchen that's about to close for two months!"

Like I said, stay out of your own way. So far, a positive relationship with the universe and my command of long division have gone a long way. Want something? Draw a picture of it and look at it every day. Visualize it in your possession. Then divide the big amount you need into manageable chunks. Where am I going to get $5000? Who knows? Where I can get 10 bunches of $500? Um... How about 100 bunches of $50? Yeah, that sounds more like it!

It reminds me of stacking wood when I was a kid. "Two chords! TWO CHORDS!!! I'll NEVER finish this job..." A few hours later, a few pieces at a time, the wood had magically transported itself (on my now scratched up arms) to its new home. Every long journey starts with a single step or, in case you don't like that one, insert your own cliche by clicking here.

Enter This social site for entrepreneurs gives people like me a safe, legitimate way to raise capital. In the coming days (post final terms negotiation with KFS) I'll be creating a account and sending it out on the social network superhighway to see if I can get my cheddar.

Don't worry. Our community, your community, the entire country and world needs for this to happen. Great tasting, affordable, organic fast food. It's not just my dream. It's a right. So off to work I go.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hippo Joke Jeopardy - How Well Can You Think Like a Hippo?

What do you call an extremely witty hippopotamus? Hippojokesalotamus!

Hippo Jokes are taking the country by storm! These simple, creative witicisms are more than silly, more than just plain fun...they're the most addictive word game you'd never think you'd love, but you do!

You can play anywhere, anytime, with anyone, or you can play alone.

To see more jokes and to find out how well you can "Think Like a Hippo", click the link below.

Play Hippo Joke Jeopardy Now!

Hippo Jokes: Not just for hippopotamus anymore!

Come up with tons of your own Hippo Jokes? Post them on our Pizza Hippo Facebook Page

Friday, March 2, 2012

Vermont Food Revolution (NO GMO!) and Beyond

Good morning good morning. It's a great day to be a hippopotamus!

Yesterday we printed our first Pizza Hippo fliers of the season and have already posted a few on the local message boards. Vermont is great for low cost marketing as people still stop to read the boards and there are not so many messages (road side signs are outlawed!) bombarding folks that simple posters get lost in the mix.

Hopefully the first phase of re-branded marketing (from Chefadelic to Pizza Hippo) will go off smoothly. Fire Grilled Pizza is from last season's campaign, and in the same font. We'll see how much new web traffic they generate...

On a more global topic, Vermont has pending legislation requiring FRONT of the package labeling disclosing genetically modified foods (GMO) used as ingredients.

Many of us in the organic food movement believe (based on scientific research) GMO's are unhealthy. Also, current laws make organic crops unintentionally cross pollinated with Round Up Ready varieties of the same kind susceptible to intellectual property lawsuits. There is a ton of information out there on GMO's. Here is good place to start reading up if you want more info.

At any rate, Vermont's legislation would be the first of it's kind in the country. I personally believe people will STOP buying these poison "food" products if they realize the ingredients are tainted. Besides the genetic modifications (which pose any number of severe health risks), these crops are drenched in Round-Up. This stuff will kill you if you drink it. Why buy food products you know are sprayed with it??

Consider my father's on going battle with cancer. Superior athlete, in great shape, healthy diet, non smoker, moderate to light drinker, mostly wine and beer. When he asked his doctor why this happened to him, the doc said because of where you live, cancer alley in Louisiana. The same cancer causing chemicals being produced on the banks of the lower Mississippi river are being sprayed on our food. Go organic or go to bed, er take a dirt nap. Or at least raise the probability you and your family will have to go through emotionally, physically, and financially destructive chemo therapy. Trust me, you don't want this!

My advice, grow your own food. Live in the city? Get access to your roof and grow vertically! You can do it.

When consumers demand change, corporations listen. Talk with your wallet.

Support your local farmer's markets. STOP buying food based on what's cheapest. Just like everything else, what you PUT IN to your body has everything to do with what you GET OUT of it.

Trust me, I'm a hippopotamus.