March Dinner: Spring Sunlight & Out-of-Towners

Saturday was our March dinner. Dinner number five. We really could not have asked for a more enjoyable evening. Our ever generous friends Aanna & Logan Greer offered to let us use their home as the venue. The windows & amount of sunlight in this place is unreal. We can’t describe it in words. So, here’s a picture:

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& another one:

AndCompany-31 As great as the sunlight was, it was made even better by the design genius of Ashley Snyder, who puts us all to shame when it comes to just about everything. & these gorgeous photos (and all the ones to follow) were captured by our new friend Mitzi Starkweather, who is one of those ladies who may technically be a “new” friend, but we feel like we’ve known her for years, & therefore know all of her deepest darkest secrets, but totally aren’t telling you guys any of them because we’re total BFFs.

Anyway…

Our March guests are also new friends, but have very quickly become some of our favorite people. Lycia Shrum & Taylor Macfee are the brains & brawn (not respectively, but collectively) behind Blackboard Grocery and Eatery in Fayetteville, Arkansas. If you don’t know about Blackboard yet, prepare to get educated. Blackboard Grocery and Eatery is a high-end, specialty goods market/gourmet, healthy-options-abounding convenience store. Awesome, right? Lycia & Taylor probably have a more compact description for their store, but we want to be as descriptive as possible.

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Upon entering Blackboard, you’ll find a huge selection of specialty convenience items ranging from small-batch chocolates (Askinosie, Mast Bros., Raaka, etc.) to Snack bars (Bobo’s, Bearded Brothers, Larabars, etc.) to beer (local, craft and domestic brews) to chips, pints of ice cream & frozen entrees. They also boast a large selection of local items: Onyx Coffee, Bernice’s Hellacious Hummus & Loblolly Creamery Ice-cream, just to name a few. In the mornings, they serve breakfast tacos (uh, yum) & have a selection of soups and sandwiches in the afternoon.

Lycia hails from Austin, TX & Taylor is a Joplin native (holla!). They met while on Warped tour. Taylor was playing bass, & Lycia was being wooed by Taylor (at least that’s the story we heard). They have been together since.

Lycia says she’s been dreaming of Blackboard since 2010, when her passion shifted from music, to food while working at a market similar to Blackboard in Austin. She says she had a hard time accepting that she was good at customer service, because she thought of it as a “college job”. To feel accomplished in working a service job, she needed to make it her own. & that’s what she did. She chose Fayetteville, in part, because she felt like she had knowledge to offer the area. Something fresh, that had not been introduced yet. While Austin had seen the likes of Blackboard, Fayetteville had not – until this last December. Now, it’s a fixture on notorious Dickson St., the heart of Fayetteville’s entertainment & nightlife district. If you’re not familiar with Fayetteville, Dickson Street is the place to be. It’s got all the cool haps & hangs. You know, it’s hip.

Taylor is simultaneously passionate about Blackboard, & his love for music & playing in a band. He is a bass player, & spends a lot of time on the road. When he is home, though, he’s making coffee, pressing panini’s, & learning how to run a business, right alongside Lycia. The pair said it has been fun learning together & are looking forward to what’s to come. When you make the trip to Blackboard, make sure you order a panini. Taylor’s a whiz at running the press. He recommends the Cuban.

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The Ultimate Galentine’s Day and Pesto-y Potatoes

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Up until a week ago, we knew Valentine’s Day as an annual holiday, to be celebrated on February 14th , with your sweetheart, and then promptly swept aside in preparation for Easter. However, last Saturday, our perceptions were shattered as we celebrated Valentine’s Day on February 21st with – get this – 10 other women. It was such an affair to remember, that we have vowed to celebrate Valentine’s Day for the entire month of February from here on out, making it more of a season than a once-a-year holiday. Don’t expect to see us in anything but perfectly clashing pinks and reds in February 2016.

Our guests for February’s dinner were Ashley LeBlanc and Melissa Simmonds, co-founders of Write It Down Stationery here in Joplin. They launched their first line of stationery on the 21st, and it is nothing short of spectacular. We had the privilege of catering their launch party, which was complete with strawberry milk and donut party favors (the really colorful, sprinkly kind of donuts), wines to pair with each of our courses, and a valentine exchange! It was, to put it simply, rad.

Ashley and Melissa’s motto for Write It Down is, “Sweet, simple whimsy for generous souls.” And their first stationery line is just that. They feature a series of sharable cards, which are perforated at the top, so that you can tear off the top portion and share the love. It’s not re-gifting. It’s paying it forward. It’s generosity. And it practically defines simple whimsy! These chicks have got it going on.

Ashley designs all of the cards by hand – watercolors, hand-lettering – there’s really not a lot she can’t do. Melissa is in charge of the marketing, social-media and blog side of the biz, and helps Ashley with their DIY segments, as well as features on fellow creatives. Their first line includes a “Thinking of You” card, a “We Work Well Together” card, a “Thanks-a-Million” card, multi-occasion floral cards, a hearteye emoji card, and a card stating, “I’d Share My Doughnuts With You”, which is of course reserved for only the most exclusive of relationships. A love for stationery and paper products runs deep in Ashley and Melissa, and it shows in the quality of their product. They may operate out of a home office, but their stationery looks anything but homemade. Both their online presence and their physical cards are beautifully designed, meticulously crafted and certified impressive.

Pulling off a launch party can be a difficult task. We know that from experience. As you’ll be able to tell from the photos, Ashley and Melissa did it, and they done did it good. We tip our hats to the ladies who not only will be supplying all of our holiday, and any other occasion you can think of cards for the rest of our lives, but who also have found where their talents and passions collide. Seriously check out the stellar team behind Write It Down Stationery. When you do, you’ll be impressed, humored and most likely be craving doughnuts for the foreseeable future.

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We’d also like to share one of the recipes we created for their Launch! We hope you enjoy P.S. This would also be a killer St. Patty’s recipe, which only just now crossed our minds…hooray!

Roasted New Potatoes with Sweet Pea Pesto

Serves 4 (as a side dish)

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4 Small-Medium New Potatoes, cut into wedges

1 T Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Pesto:

1 Handful Fresh Basil

1/3 C Sweet Peas (frozen or fresh, defrost if frozen)

½ C Pine Nuts

Squeeze of lemon wedge

½ t salt

1 T parsley (fresh or dried flakes)

Preheat oven to 385 Toss potato wedges with EVOO, salt and pepper and lay one flat side down on a baking sheet Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly crisp.

While the potatoes are baking, put all pesto ingredients into a food processor, and blend until smooth. The pesto should be slightly gritty. Let the potatoes cool for 5-10 minutes. Once they have cooled spread pea pesto over the top and serve! If you have extra pea pesto, put more on your potatoes, or grab a spoon.

Bon Apetit!

All In a Month’s Work

We’ve been pretty busy as of late. Busy with & Company related things and busy with normal, adult life things. Of course we wish we could be chopping veggies and eating with pals 24/7, but until that is our reality, we’ll go to school and work like everyone else. When we are fortunate enough to be working on & Company biz, it’s quite the whirlwind of planning, emailing, note taking, and tasting (which is undeniably our favorite part). We thought it might be fun to give you all a look inside of a typical & Company month. Our creative process, if you will.

We do one dinner each month. Even more important than the food that will be served is the person we will be serving food to. This is Phase One. Finding a dinner guest. What we typically look for in a dinner guest is someone who is currently a Joplin resident or who got their start in Joplin. We look for someone who is pursuing a dream, who is full of passion and is making a difference. We look for someone with personality, be it a driven personality or a fly-by-seat-of-pants-but-somehow-it-works personality. It’s (maybe?) a lot like searching for a match on an online dating service. We brainstorm until we feel like we’ve landed on Mr./Mrs./Ms. Right, and we send them an email explaining what our ultimate goal is and how they fit into the plan. After we have a confirmation from the guest and settle on a date, we move to Phase Two: The Menu.

Planning a menu has yet to be a difficult or un-enjoyable task. There’s a lot of “ooh”, and “ahhh”, and “YUM”, and “ooh, ooh what about this…” So that’s pretty much how that goes. We plan an appetizer, a main course and a dessert using as many seasonal ingredients as we can. After the menu is planned, we begin Phase Three, or Phase Ultimate as we like to call it: Recipe testing.

So during Phase Ultimate we meet once a week and test as many recipes as we can in a few hours. Once again, there’s a lot of “ooh”, and “ahhh”, and “YUM”, and “ooh, ooh what about this…” Sometimes we forget to write down our recipes because we get so excited about making them exist in our kitchens, and not just in our minds. We are by no means experienced chefs. But somehow, miraculously, we’re always able to recall ingredients and amounts and jot them down in our dream notebook before it’s too late. This Phase is repeated until our recipes are as delicious as we dreamed them up to be.

From here on out, it’s another whirlwind of planning location, emailing our photographer and designer, and buying ingredients all while simultaneously restarting Phases One and Two. It really is a blur when you throw in homework, tests, jobs and (attempted) social lives. When the day of the dinner arrives, though, and we sit at a table with our vision realized, every single whirlwind was worth it.

Cheers to your crazy lives, friends. We feel your pain, and it hurts so good.

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January Dinner: Cocktails 101 and Versatile Pineapple Stir-Fry

&coeats-23It’s hard to believe that January has come and gone. It seems like just yesterday we were toasting to a new year, and the day before yesterday wrapping gifts and decking halls with holly. It’s undeniable, time moves quickly. Too quickly at times. January’s dinner was an absolutely perfect remedy to the flying time. But then, when isn’t a 3 hour long meal a breath of fresh air? In a world that values convenience over all else, its rejuvenating to sit down with friends and talk. Really talk. And eat. Really eat. To taste everything that is in a dish, recognize it and appreciate it. We had the opportunity to do just that with a couple of friends who love combining flavors as much as we do, but in a slightly different way.

Daniel Valentine and Lanna Jones are Joplin, Missouri’s bartenders. If you want a drink – a drink that’s not a Long Island Iced Tea, a Vegas Bomb or neon colored and too fruity – you go see Daniel and Lanna at Infusion, where they keep bar and take names Wednesday through Saturday, 4 to close. They have a deep love for their work and are passionate about exposing Joplin to the art that is craft cocktails. Daniel and Lanna use fresh herbs, local and organic produce for fresh squeezed juice and high quality, hard-to-get-your-hands-on liquor. We’re so digging their vibes. And these two have it down to a science. They hold the herbs in the palm of their hands, then clap their hands together, which heightens the aroma and flavor of the herbs immensely. Watching them make a drink is equally as enjoyable as drinking the finished product…almost.

We chose Daniel and Lanna for our January dinner not only because they make a mean drink, but because they have refused to be stagnant. They believe in innovation, in changing with the times, thinking outside of the box and taking risks. They also believe in Joplin and the potential it has to be a city full of life and culture. Like our past guests, they are inspiring and dedicated in the midst of challenges and discouragement. Also, because they make a mean drink.

We served Daniel and Lanna a Thai-inspired meal, and they crafted two cocktails that paired perfectly with our appetizer and main course. For more details on the drinks, you’re going to have to wait for our book. But we can assure you that they were original, delicious boozy glasses of perfection that you won’t find on any average drink menu. As far as the meal we served, it was colorful, full of spice and unbelievably easy. We are going to share our Pineapple Chicken Stir-fry with you all, because it’s incredibly versatile. Maybe you don’t like pineapple. Totally fine. Sub another fruit or veggie. Maybe you’re allergic to basil (if that’s the case we are SO sorry). But really, no big deal. This meal would rock with cilantro, too. It’s absolutely acceptable to make this one your own. We hope you enjoy.

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Pineapple Chicken Stir-Fry

(Serves 6)

1.5-2 pounds chicken breast (omit if you’re an herbivore)

1 Pineapple, diced

2 Red Bell Peppers, diced

2 C Sugar Snap Peas

6 Cloves Garlic, minced

1 T fresh Ginger, minced

1/2 to 1 C Fresh Basil, chopped (plus more for garnish)

1/4 C Olive Oil

1/2 C Coconut Aminos (or Soy Sauce, if you’re not Soy free)

1/4 Rice Vinegar

2 C Mung Bean Sprouts, divided

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Defrost and cut chicken into 1 inch pieces, then transfer to a bowl and drizzle with coconut aminos and sea salt. Let marinate for at least half an hour.

Heat Olive Oil in a skillet over medium high heat, until it’s nice and shiny and coats the pan.

Brown chicken on medium high, adding coconut aminos and rice vinegar as you stir.

Add all of the vegetables except the bean sprouts, and continue to stir.

Stir meat and veggies until they crisp slightly, then add 1/2 of the mung bean sprouts and stir for another minute.

Transfer stir-fry to a large serving platter, and garnish with leftover bean sprouts and fresh basil.

Serve along Jasmine Rice (and a craft cocktail) and enjoy!

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Collaboration: How we do what we do

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This post is pretty much going to have nothing to do with us. And we’re pretty okay with that. We’d like to share a few photos from our December dinner, and introduce to you the people who made it possible, and will continue to make &Company dinners possible for many months to come.

When we started dreaming about &Company, we knew we wanted to collaborate with talented people from our hometown. We were, however, skeptical as to whether or not they would want to be involved. Not because they are selfish snobs who don’t care to give fledgling businesses the time of day, but because they are talented and therefore busy and therefore we don’t want to make them feel overwhelmed! So… that being said… it turns out that we have been the ones who are overwhelmed. We have been the ones who are amazed at the talented people in our community willing and desiring to be a part of &Company.

Take, for example, Drew Kimble of 12Eighty-One Photography. He is easily one of the most sought after photographers in Joplin, if not the entire 4-state area. Chances are if there is something important or fun to be photographed, Drew Kimble will be there capturing everything. He photographed my wedding and I have been recommending him ever since. Not only is he dynamite behind a lens, but he is a fierce friend and was on board to photograph our dinners from day one. There is no one else we’d rather have documenting our dinners. Drew, we love you and are beyond grateful for what you bring to the table (pun very much intended).

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Another one of our collaborators is one of our long-time best gal pals Ashley Snyder of Ashley Lauren Design Studio. She approached us after our launch party asking if she could do our table settings and we were like, “um, duh”. Ashley has always been a creative, making every space she designs classical and trendy but also absolutely her own. She makes it look effortless. Our dinner would have lacked the ambiance and atmosphere that made it so magical, had it not been for Ashley and her design genius. We love you, Ash, and it’s such an honor to be teaming up with you on things other than Mario Party (which is still bomb).

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Finally, we’d like to thank the incredible  women of Art Feeds, who we featured in our last post and who will be featured further in our book. They were, like everyone else we have worked with, so willing and generous to give up their time to help make our dream a reality. One of the reasons we chose them for our first dinner is that we have watched Meg and Brooke pursue their dreams like champs and make Art Feeds a prominent, respected fixture in our community. Their passion and genuine joy is contagious. Their love and admiration for children and their creativity is real and they are changing lives with it, daily. In short, they are inspiring – to us, as small business developers and creative thinkers, and to a city in the process of rebuilding and overcoming. Art Feeds, we thank you for inspiring, believing, giving back and doing all of that with a smile and pep in your step.

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December, December.

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December, the month of a jolly man giving gifts to all the children of the world.  Speaking of jolly people and the children of the world, we had the pleasure of starting this month off with some of the most creative, driven, and jolly people we’ve ever met. Our December dinner guests run a nonprofit organization that has empowered over 22,000 children to lead creative lives. Whether this be creative problem-solving, therapeutic art, or simply expressing yourself through art, Art Feeds is by far one of the leaders in meeting kids where they are and giving them tools to become healthy creative adults.

Meg Bourne (Founder & CEO) & Brooke LeMasters (Director of Visual Content) are two of the fantastic brains behind Art Feeds. We enjoyed these lovely ladies and their husband’s company as we ate and learned more about what they do. The food was delicious (if we do say so ourselves) and the conversation was even better. The night could have never ended and we would have been great with that!

We served Honey N’ Clove Spiced Nuts, Red Wine Triple Bean Chili, Skillet Corn Bread, and a Banana Whip with Peppermint Carob. At the end of the night we were stuffed and thrilled to have made two new friends with such big hearts for their town and the people in it.

Recipe from December’s Dinner: Honey n’ Clove Spiced Nuts

Spiced Nuts

Our December dinner with the Art Feeds gals and their husbands was definitely our favorite dinner (other than our launch party) thus far. It was also our only dinner (other than our launch party) thus far, but who’s counting? We loved every minute.

When guests arrive for dinner, it’s always in good taste to get a drink in their hand and an appetizer in their belly. So, we served these Honey n’ Clove Spiced Nuts, along with Boulevard Brewery’s KC Pils. It was a delightful pairing, perfect for any holiday party or a night at home, as you binge-watching Gilmore Girls.

We hope you enjoy this recipe and please, share it with your loved ones!

Honey n’ Clove Spiced Nuts

Preheat oven to 275.

1/2 C Raw Almonds

1/2 C Raw Walnuts

1/2 C Raw Hazelnuts

1/2 C Raw Pecans

1 t. Clove

1/2 t. Cayenne

1/2 t. Cinnamon

Dash of pink sea salt

1 T Extra-virgin Olive Oil

1 T Honey (Local preferred!)

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the nuts and stir.

Combine oil and honey in small bowl, and spices in a separate small bowl.

Pour oil and honey mixture over the nut mix and stir until nuts are well coated.

Sprinkle the spice mix over the nuts and stir until well coated with spices.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the nut mix evenly. Nut clusters are okay.

Roast the nuts for 15-20 minutes, or until they are fragrant and crispy.

Launch Party

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When you begin a giant project, you have to throw a giant party to tell all of your best friends about it. That’s how we do things, at least. And so, &Company – our giant project – was given the biggest bash we could muster (on a budget, of course). It was the perfect evening with over 50 of our closest friends who came out to show us love and support, wine bottles in hand. The night was completed with the classiest of champagne toasts, red solo cups lifted high (like we said earlier, BUDGET).

We developed a menu that included an appetizer salad, a main course and two desserts, one of which we shared on the blog last week. The rest will be featured in our book. Our oh so talented friend Drew Kimble of 12eightyone Photography (seriously, check him out) captured the evening in all of it’s glory. It is with great joy and appreciation that we share what he captured. Thank you to Drew, for these magical photos; to Eric and Torrie Epperson, who were the most gracious of hosts; to our husbands, who made a surprisingly excellent wait staff; and to everyone who showed up to eat our food and give us words of encouragement. We love you all more than we can fit in this blog post. Here’s to you.

Small Business Saturday: Why It’s Awesome

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The Saturday after the infamous “Black Friday” was, in 2010, deemed “Small Business Saturday”. This holiday was created to counter the massive amounts of money spent in big box stores on Black Friday, and shine the spotlight on small, family-owned businesses who maybe couldn’t afford to run a Black Friday ad, or didn’t want their employees to have to work through Thanksgiving night into the wee hours of Friday morning. While no one can deny the killer deals that Black Friday brings, it can be harmful and frustrating to small businesses struggling to keep their doors open.

Because &Company Eats is a small, newly founded business, we know and appreciate the hours hard work small business owners put in to providing a service for their community. It’s often more challenging than rewarding. Family time and social lives are inevitably sacrificed. But the small business owner keeps on keepin’ on – in many cases for decades! Small business is the lifeblood of character in a community. Uniformity is gross. Every town has a McDonald’s. Every town has a Wal-Mart. Every town should have a Chipotle. Chipotle is the exception. But we digress…

Small businesses deserve our attention every day of every week. The least we can do is hoist them up on our shoulders for one Saturday out of the year and applaud them for everything they bring to a community. At &Company, we do our best to purchase all of our produce, spices, etc. at small, local markets. Scout’s honor, the quality is unmatched by any large chain stores. We hope you spent some time at a local small business today. If you didn’t, make a point to in the near future, just as a way to thank the small business owners who live to keep their business (and your community) alive.