If you've been to Sharon Springs before, chances are that you've met Tony Daou...probably over one of his famous "Thanksgiving Every Day Sandwiches," or "Blaak & Mac Cheese." As owner of the The Black Cat Cafe, Tony was one of the first businesses to open on Sharon Springs Main Street since it's rebirth in the 1990's. A true pioneer. Trust us...to have kept a cafe open during those early days confirms that he has some of the best food you'll ever taste.
But more than being a great cook and cafe owner, he's been a terrific collaborator with Beekman 1802. We've tested and developed all kinds of food products with Tony. In fact, Blaak Drizzle is one of Beekman 1802's all-time bestsellers. Folks rave about the Beekman 1802 Generous Fruitcake we offer each holiday season...another bestseller. Much of the reason AOL, Martha Stewart and Good Housekeeping have said it's the best they've ever tasted is because Tony bakes them pretty much to order. You place the orders, we walk down the street with them, and Tony (and his colleague Caroline) bake them up. Fresh. Hot. (We do let them cool before we ship them.)
Read more about Tony and check out all his amazing Beekman 1802 products below...
Where do you live? In a lovingly restored 1906 Late Victorian on Main Street in Sharon Springs, just 2 blocks from the Black Cat Cafe.
Who's in your family? My 5 beautiful children, Sebastian,Nicholas, Isabella and my twin boys, Adrian & Julian (oh and the twins' 2 all-black Cats Mowgli & Persnickety) -- I should really include my Mom, who spends time in Sharon Springs, and my 5 younger brothers & sisters who all live in Manhattan. I also consider our team at the Black Cat, especially the many of whom started with us as teenagers, and many who are now in or even graduated from college and whom we still keep in touch with as they grow up and follow their own passions. Our very first employee actually opened her own cafe much like ours in Brooklyn last year!
How long have you been practicing your craft? At the Black Cat Cafe & Bakery, we just entered our 10th year, but I've been involved with food both professionally and as a passion since I was a kid.
Can you describe the moment you first discovered your passion for your craft? In 6th grade, when I won the Science Fair for making the "perfect sandwich" -- the point was what order the ingredients should be put together, and that the quality and simplicity of the ingredients could be "scientifically" (well at least measured) proven to make a better sandwich.
As an artisan, your hands are your most important tool. Do you have any special regime for taking care of them? At the Cafe I wash them dozens of times a day. I use a goat-milk soap made by my neighbor Deb McGillicuddy -- she makes them in cat shapes for us -- I used to use the pervasive hand-sanitizers or dish-soap until I realized they were drying my hands out terribly .
If you could hold the hands of any person, living or dead, who would it be? My Lebanese grand-father. He had the strongest hands, with long-slender fingers, and even in his 90's (he died at 97 in 1977) he'd challenge you to squeeze as hard as you can. He also always
checked my fingernails and made me always keeps them short and clean -- but the biggest thing was when he held my hand as a kid as soon as we visited him every Sunday, it was not an old man's intrusion, but to hold my attention while he grilled me about math and poetry, his 2 passions, and everything else. There was a youth and vigor in those smooth, old, powerful hands and his intellect, even when in his last years he was bed-ridden. But mostly it was the unconditional love that flowed through them, it seemed, to me.
What's your favorite item that you make for beekman 1802, and why? I can't decide whether to say Blaak Drizzle or the Fruitcake. The first because it goes so well with so many things and how many repeat purchases and compliments we hear about it. While the fruitcake is probably one of the best in the country (as Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart and so many individual customers tell us,) and also because incredible quality all-natural ingredients and the many stages it takes to make them. When they are coming out of our ovens, the aroma of the Holiday season permeates the air for blocks around.
What's your favorite item on Beekman 1802 that's not one of your own, and why? Beekman BLAAK cheese. It's delicious as it is, but it also makes a great addition to several of my favorite dishes (BLAAK & Mac, Premium Cheese Pizzas and flatbreads, grated over all-herb salads, on cheese dessert plates, in grilled panini sandwiches, and in my new hors d'oeuvre: "Fig & Goat" with figs, balsamic drizzle, soft local goat cheese on slices of our home-baked ficelle baguettes.)
What's your advice for people who want to follow their passion like you do? Do what you love, do it with a passion -- though that sounds like a cliche -- but most importantly, live your passion, day and night. Don't complain or be discouraged -- every "failure" is a learning lesson, and sometimes can lead to inspiration you'd never otherwise get. So "show up for work" every day -- yes, it's hard, but it is so satisfying when it works out, it won't feel like work anymore.
If people want to find out more about your work, or contact you, where can they look? Facebook : Black Cat; online at blackcat-ny.com; at the Black Cat Cafe, open 7 days a week, a block down from the Mercantile on Main Street in Sharon Springs. Or call me at 518-284-2575 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . I personally read every email and comment we get if I am not there, and will always personally answer.
Check out the items Tony cooks exclusively for Beekman 1802: