March 20, 2015

What's in a Batch? March 2015 Edition

For those curious (and not lucky enough to be on the receiving end) about what we shipped out this month far and wide to our subscription customers, belly up to the brunch bar so we can show you all the goodness to be had. 

First off, the goods from each city (Nashville, Memphis, Charleston, or Austin) arrive in a handy box:

And this month, when you opened things up, we felt the need to remind you about our impending Tour of Texas:

And then bam! Look at this tasty brunch from Nashville!

That's some high quality goods from the likes of:

And from Charleston? Ain't no brunch like a Lowcountry brunch:

Who doesn't want to invite the entire family over to indulge in goodies from:

Who's ready to see how they do brunch in Austin?

What a lineup, including treats from:

And as for Memphis? Watch out!

That's some high quality brunch-ness from:

And for the ultimate brunch fan, just soak in all four boxes of brunch-tastic bliss:

Oh - in case you missed it, why not grab the city of your choice today? (Or even better, snag all four!)

March 09, 2015

Why Food Matters

At some point, food became more about calories than community. That can change.

I spent the better part of my weekend standing behind a table. Granted, it was at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, where craft beer, gourmet samples, and delicious wine are ready for the taking. But, there I stood along with Kelly Sherrill, our Batch Charleston director, telling our story and that of our nonprofit partner in Charleston, The Green Heart Project

Like most booths at trade shows and the like, you quickly realize you have about 14 seconds of someone's attention before their mind starts wandering to what's next. This time shortens as the day progresses and people are tired from walking and standing or buzzed from all the free booze (or both). So you learn to make a statement as quickly as possible in order to attract attention and keep the conversation going. 

Batch was partnering with both Green Heart and the festival to produce a limited edition gift batch, full of tastes from the Artisan Market. We were selling these on site and all proceeds were be donated to support Green Heart's farm-to-school work (a limited number of these remain for sale online). And so time and again, all weekend, I got to tell stories about food: about the food in the box, about the food Green Heart helps grow, and about the food that brings us all together.

Food, it seems, has more and more been equated with fuel. I'll admit that on my busiest days, this is my outlook. Nutrients in, energy out. Eat standing up, while emailing, while driving - it doesn't matter. The point is to consume so as to expend and then repeat the process as needed. But all this does is separate food from it's true life giving benefits - that of connection.

Hopefully, most of us have fond memories of food. The scents that greeted us as something was baking in the oven when we came home from college for the holidays. Shared dinners and recaps of our days gathered around a kitchen table with family. Friends getting together for a drink or some snacks to catch up after too many years. Traditions like Sunday suppers, summer cookouts, and road trip restaurant pit stops. Each of these instances isn't just about what's being eaten. It's about what else is happening because something is being eaten.

I imagine this is what happens when Green Heart connects a kid to the wonder of local food. Their work isn't just to convince a youngster that he or she can get more quality nutrients for their growing bodies. It's to connect them with the land that produces local food, the community that it takes to plant and harvest a garden, and the relief and joy that comes from hard work - the fruits of which happen to be pleasantly edible. 

Here's my favorite picture from the weekend. Pictured are Drew Harrison, Executive Director of The Green Heart Project, and Kelly Timmons, of Granna's Gourmet. Kelly's pickled okra is in our commemorative batch and she believes in what is happening when it comes to local food. Soon, when it's season, Granna's may be pickling some of the okra the students are growing. The connection continues. 

Life speeds up and sometimes, food does need to be about consumption and calories. But we're better when we can make food about community and connection. If you feel lost in this dynamic and struggle to find a place where food can be about more than fuel, you're not lost.

You just haven't made it to the table yet. But we've saved a seat for you. 

Come; let's eat.

March 04, 2015

Tour of Texas

Everything is bigger in Texas, they say, but we say everything is better when we bring Texas to you. And beginning in April, that's what we'll do.

Whether you're from the Lone Star State or not, our brand new 6-city subscription tour will offer the best of what we've found in six awesome Texas cities:

You can sign up for the entire tour, or pick and choose your cities. We'll begin sending all this goodness your way, so if you'd like a nice discount (and free shipping), be sure to sign up by April 1

March 02, 2015

BB&T Charleston Wine+Food Festival, Here We Come!

Later this week, Batch Charleston and our friends at The Green Heart Project will be setting up shop (literally) at the 10th BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Come say hello, won't you?

We're lucky to have found a great charity partner in Charleston (we have charity partnerships in each of our four cities) that we work with to provide funds and other support to help them do what they do best. And we're really excited to have found a great match in Charleston with The Green Heart Project.

We spent several months researching potential nonprofit organizations to partner with, ensuring the selected group had a like-minded mission and a focus on local foods and goods. This process led us to select the Green Heart Project, a 501c3 organization that builds urban gardens and farm-to-school programs in the Charleston area.

Our new pal Drew Harrison, executive director of the Green Heart Project, says this about working together: "It is our mission to educate our youth and community on the local foods and food products that nourish our bodies and create our wonderful Charleston food culture. And Batch, as a subscription service, highlights a lot of those same local-food producers that we work with through our farm-to-school programming."

So here's the deal: With each Batch Charleston box shipped as part of our monthly subscription service, we'll make a donation to the Green Heart Project – creating a pool of unrestricted funds that will support the overall work and mission of the organization. And, we've got two specialty gift boxes that offer up additional support:

And best of all, to celebrate the start of this partnership, Batch Charleston and the Green Heart Project have prepared a custom Taste of the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival. We're going to feature a special Green Heart Project tea towel and a wide array of local food products spotlighted at this year’s festival. These special Batch boxes will be available in the Artisan Market in Marion Square throughout the festival, as well as available online right now! All proceeds from each of these boxes sold will support the Green Heart Project.

In other words, it's really fun to get to do what we do. And even funner (is that a word?) when we can combine it with an awesome cause. Check out the above gift batches to offer support to Green Heart Project, or check back in next week to get a taste of the festival in case you couldn't make it out in person. 

February 18, 2015

It's Just Brunch (Part Three)

Okay, people - you brunched out yet? Us neither. This king of all meals deserves a worthy court of opinion. So, having weighed in from Austin and Charleston, now it's time for an onslaught of Nashville:

Stephen Moseley, COO

Noshville - This is an old standby. I love it because of the corned beef hash breakfast bowl (and because I once ate with ((next to)) a still-Country Taylor Swift there).

Crumb de la Crumb - This spot is tops because of the gluten-free bakery options, the kitschy Bellevue Antique Mall location and their Vanilla Bean Lemonade.

Rob Williams, CBO

Marche - The key is to accept that unless you want to wait an hour to be seated for brunch (universally accepted time for brunch is 9:45-11:45), it's best to get up early and be in the first seating on Saturday (8am) or Sunday (9am) at this East Nashville eatery. The menu changes with what’s in season but you can always find an savory crepe or even a steak and eggs to soak up last night’s late night. As you watch the room fill up with brunch purists, it’s good to remember that they serve breakfast every weekday morning, too.

SiloBrunch at Silo means sauces, gravies and breads in its wonderful glutenous varieties—biscuits, rolls, and muffins to name a few. This succulent brunch menu will prime your Sunday for strolling, lounging, and reclining. The hot chicken sliders are as close to hot as any non-cinder block or strip mall hot chicken comes. This is rich, southern cuisine for those who usually use their utensils and have their napkins at the ready.

Stacy Mosley, Store Manager

  • Skyblue - for a neighborhood-y, casual vibe
  • Pinewood Social - get their chicken biscuits and Crema coffee
  • The Southern - what's better than live music, carafes of mimosas and oysters?

Get your hands on brunch from any of our cities by signing up for our March subscription box. 

And, check out both Part One and Part Two in our brunch series.

 

February 16, 2015

It's Just Brunch (Part Two)

We can't get enough brunch. Trust us. We have a lot more of these posts coming all week. 

And when we asked Kelly Sherrill, our city director for Charleston, where her favorite brunch spot is, she said she couldn't pick one. And that's fine with us. So we gave her a dedicated post to help you eat and drink your way through any weekend in the Lowcountry. From a seasoned brunch pro to you, grab a bib and dig in:

High Thyme on Sullivan’s Island - a local gem, great casual spot near the beach, with the friendliest staff. There’s never a shortage of delicious specials and most of your expected brunch fare but one of my favorites is the Crab Cake Benedict! 
Sea Biscuit Cafe - another great spot close to home on IOP ( Isle of Palms). They serve a fantastic breakfast/brunch but expect a wait - this one is a favorite of locals and tourists alike (including all those early-risers headed to the links nearby for a round of 18 holes). You can’t go wrong with one of the daily omelet specials or a stack of pancakes. Be sure and bring cash (no credit cards accepted here).
Red Drum is where The South meets Southwest. A great menu featuring many favorites from the south and southwest. My favorite spot for Heuvos Rancheros and the Mimosa and Bellini “special” seems to be a never ending pour! 
Hominy Grill is a tried and true favorite downtown Charleston. The shrimp & grits are not to be missed and if you’re feeling adventurous (or a little hung-over) try the “Charleston Nasty Biscuit” - with fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese and smothered in sausage gravy. Expect a wait here too; I’m afraid the secret is long ago out on what a great spot this is for brunch.
And if that wasn’t enough, here are a few I’ve yet to try for brunch but are on the ‘must visit soon” list:

Dig in, people! And here are some ideas in Austin and Nashville from a post earlier this week.

Want brunch from any of our cities sent your way? Be sure to subscribe this week to get our March "Just Brunch" theme mailed to your doorstep. 

February 15, 2015

It's Just Brunch (Part One)

It's nearly March and at Batch, that means we're all about the brunch ('bout the brunch; no supper).

So, to get both your breakfast and lunch taste buds ready for our next monthly shipment ("Just Brunch" is the theme for March), we've asked out city directors for their favorite spots to grab a bit in their respective cities. Take a look below and if you want to make your own tasty brunch from your favorite hometown, be sure to sign up for our monthly subscription like yesterday. 

Caroline - Nashville
Confession, y'all. I don't "brunch" a whole lot. I have a long list of places I want to try. Marché, Stone Fox, and Tavern are at the top of the list. But the best brunch I've had lately was at Mad Donna's in East Nashville.

The Big Don was so good (and so big). My friend got the biscuits and gravy, and it was all I could do not to lick her plate clean, too. Plus, their Bloody Mary bar is awesome!

Courtney - Austin
My favorite brunch spot is Yellow Jacket Social Club. They have the best spicy Bloody Marys on the block and their Shrimp and Grits & Amy's Breakfast Sandwich are top notch. It's super divey (one reason why I love it) - on the outside looking in you'd have no idea they serve a stellar menu but their food is by far some of the best in town. Their outdoor area is covered in tall trees creating a spectacular seating area - you could spend all afternoon here.

Stay tuned all week long as we feature great spots in our other cities and recommendations from more of the Batch team!

January 12, 2015

Location Doesn't Matter, But Local Does

I spent some time in Birmingham this past week. I very much enjoyed all that the city is growing towards and is an especially different place since I went to school there at the beginning of this century. 

In a few weeks, I'll be down in Orlando to take a peek at the East End Market. I follow that up with a trek to New Orleans. In May, I'll check out Southern Makers. We'll be announcing two Batch Tours by the end of this month, showcasing some new cities where we're finding passionate and talented people making delicious, high quality items. 

And while you may recognize some of these city names we announce, many more places are being put on that map. In particular, my friend Erin has been telling me more and more about Elkmont, Alabama. Every week, we get emails from people in places big and small curious what Batch could look like in their neck of the woods. No matter if I've never heard of where you're calling from, because every inquiry and every dream we have here boils down to one truth that I'm sure you'll be hearing more and more:

Location doesn't matter. But local does. 

It no longer matters where you brew your beer. Thanks to the Internet and sophisticated shipping companies, you can get those hops anywhere you like. Just build a customer base that is passionate about your drinks and you can be a success. Or you can make caramels in a place like Watertown and sell them by the thousands like our friends at Walker Creek. Your zip code is less important than your passion. 

While entrepreneurs aren't swearing off the big city in droves, they are rethinking a move. I'm convinced that you can stay put, especially if that allows you to stay focused on your talents and passions. 

Get thee to a kitchen, even if that kitchen is just down the hallway. Just get cooking and pouring and making and baking. As you do your unique thing, making your wonderful creations, people will flock. The city of origin on a label is less and less important than what's inside the bottle. 

So, make. Make where you are. We'll find you. Quality always attracts fans, customers, and lifelong support, well after the bright lights of a city have faded.

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Sam Davidson is the co-founder and CEO of Batch and writes here each Monday about the company. When on the road, he tries to find the most unique local flavors he can and takes pictures of it.

January 05, 2015

The Generosity Economy

Did the Christmas spirit seem long gone once that idiot driver cut you off in traffic this morning? Now that the pleas from charities at year-end have subsided, is it easy to forget all the ways we might be able to give to others so easily? Once deals and deadlines stare you in the face this week, are you back to the grindstone where the notion of giving to others is quickly forgotten?

You're not alone. Welcome to cold, cruel, January. Full of promise and hope, but also a stark reminder that we have a long way to go until everyone naturally thinks of giving and kindness and generosity so easily. 

Right?

Maybe not. Let me tell you a few quick stories of what I get to see happening in my role each day as CEO of Batch. 

When Rob, Stephen, and I launched this crazy idea a year and a half ago, we assumed folks would be buying for themselves. We aimed to launch a subscription box company that sent lovely items from Nashville to our customers, most of whom we assumed would be curious about what's out there when it comes to tasty and finely-crafted locally-made goods. 

We came close to this. Yes, we launched a subscription box company, but that company soon changed a bit. And now, instead of being a subscription box company that sells gifts, we're a gift company that sells subscription boxes. And this is a fun and soulful place to be. 

We're lucky. Our team (including yours truly, sometimes) gets to handwrite pleasant messages like these:

  • Happy Holidays and lots of love! Hope you enjoy little treats for the next 3 months!
  • Happy Mother's Day! We hope you enjoy your Batch box!
  • Happy belated wedding & thanks for being great hostesses!
  • A token of the gratitude we have for your company.
  • Congratulations on the wedding and the big move to Texas! All our love!
  • Use this to make your birthday even happier!! With love, Mom

Yes, when you buy something from us (a gift or a subscription) and you indicate it's a gift and type a message, we handwrite them. Every one. Because that's what you would do. 

But better yet, we get to see how generous people are, all year round. And this what gets us at Batch through January. And it'll get us through February (as will the delicious chocolate selections we'll have on hand from our four cities). And on and on until the winter holidays make it easy and seemingly natural to making giving a habit.

So rest assured that no matter how terrible your commute, how boring your workday, or how stressful your life may feel right now, generosity is probably just around the corner. Maybe it'll show up randomly in a box on your doorstep this year when it's your birthday or anniversary or for no good reason at all. Maybe just because you're you, someone will send a gift or a card to tell you that. We know people like that exist in this world.

Those people are you.

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Sam Davidson is the co-founder and CEO of Batch and writes here each Monday about the company. He likes to give people lip balm that Batch finds in each of its cities.

December 05, 2014

Q&A: Megan Armstrong and Kyle Ducharme of Kao Jai Coffee

Batch:  To the land of make-believe we go.  Let’s say you’re stranded on an island (with survival essentials), but can have a single batch delivered to your new home.  What would be inside?  We won’t hold you to our “local” and “artisanal” commitments.  Literally anything goes here.

Meg & Kyle:  WiFi, computer & iPod.  Just kidding, but this was an answer a student of ours gave when we used a similar question as an icebreaker while teaching in Thailand. When we asked why, she looked at us as if we were stupid and said, “so I can send an SOS and listen to music while I wait.”

On a more serious note, we’d love bourbon, bonfire materials, and some good friends (if you can fit them in a box).

Batch:  People in boxes?  That is serious.  Interesting that you think the people you put in the box wouldn’t drink your bourbon en route.

So we did some extensive research (i.e. Google) and found no evidence of a decaffeinated Kao Jai blend or bean (not even a single bean).  So would you say that decaffeinated coffee is the worst innovation ever or merely in the top 5 of all-time terrible ideas?

Meg & Kyle:  Haha. Definitely. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Batch:  Okay.  This one’s sincere.  Tell us a bit about the Thai phrase “Kao Jai.”

Meg & Kyle:  “Kao Jai” is Thai for “understanding” or literally translated it means “to enter the heart.” It’s one of the first phrases we learned while living in Thailand.  It helped us gauge whether or not our students were following our lesson, and if they didn’t understand we’d be able to use games or in-class exercises to break it down for them.

Batch:  How do you envision this practice of relating to people playing out in Nashville?

Meg & Kyle:  We chose to name our business Kao Jai Coffee because we want to use coffee as a bridge to connect people, places, and products.  We want to encourage people to look beyond initial interactions and understand the “why” behind everything.  As embarrassing as it may sound, we didn’t know anything early on about the intricate process of growing and making coffee.  But because of our curiosity we were able to understand.  We want to bring this same mindset to Nashville and encourage people to use curiosity as fuel along the journey to understanding.

Batch:  Thanks to a lot of passionate folks (the two of you included) the local culinary scene and ways Nashvillians experience food and drink is undergoing a rapid change.  Imagine a world where Meg and Kyle run a restaurant or cafe. What are you serving?  

Meg & Kyle:  Our dream is to own a Thai-style cafe/restaurant where we’re able to showcase select healthy dishes from northern Thailand that we fell in love with abroad.  Spicy dishes like Khao Soi Gai (rice noodle soup), Som Tam (papaya salad), and Pad Kra Pao (basil chicken) would be featured alongside other authentic dishes found in the village where we lived.

Batch:  What are Megan and Kyle listening to?  What are you reading?  You have the morning (or evening) to yourself. It’s just you and your coffee.  Any particular music or books?

Meg & Kyle:  Anything Gregory Alan Isakov.  Kyle’s been binge listening to him for like 2 years.  So if he’s listening to it, the whole house is listening to it.  We both love reading books highlighting entrepreneur’s journeys.  Most recently we’ve read The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau and Start Something that Matters by TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie.

Batch:  Hop back into the Batch make-believe teleportation time machine again for a moment.  You can sip your favorite cup anywhere in the observable universe at anytime.  Where and when are you going?

Meg & Kyle:  Recently we’ve been learning about the history of Thai coffee and how the king introduced the first coffee plant in the late 70s to combat the opium trade in northern Thailand.  It would be super cool to go back in time to that exact moment with a cup of Kao Jai Coffee and be like, “this is what your future tastes like.”

Batch:  Last one.  Be honest.  You hate Starbucks, don’t you?

Meg & Kyle:  Haha...no hate from us.  Of course the pumpkin spice latte has no trace of actual pumpkin, so…

Batch:  It seems you are really taking a "Kao Jai" approach to this question.

Meg & Kyle:  We're extremely grateful for Starbucks being able to help support so many farmers around the world because of their size, but we'll definitely stick with supporting local shops.

Batch:  Haha.  That's very diplomatic of you.  Thanks for taking the time to chat and put up with our strange questions.

Meg & Kyle:  Our pleasure!  We love to partner with like-minded businesses that are passionate about buying local and supporting small business, so we're glad to be able to share our story through Batch.

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