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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
On Saturday (Nov 29) from 12 PM-2 PM, our friend Luke Duncan of Eli Mason will be at the Batch Store to offer guests a unique sampling of locally made cocktail syrups and mixers. Earlier this week we caught up with Luke for a quick chat.
Batch: Hey Luke. Thanks for catching up with us. So we’ve heard Eli Mason may have new products in the works. Any chance you could drop a few hints to Batch customers and let us know what exciting things to expect in 2015?
Luke: There are two whiskey cocktails that we receive the most requests for. One we've almost perfected. One is gonna take a long time. We're also still working on that elusive gin mixer. Our long-term plans can be summed up in two words: "Grapes" and "herbs."
Batch: That’s exciting. Grapes and herbs? We may be onto you, but we’ll keep quiet.
So let’s get serious for a moment. Imagine a world co-opted by cocktail-hating goblins where drinks like the “Old Fashioned” no longer exist. In such a world, what would Luke Duncan be drinking? A highball of vodka and peach Nehi? What is the one drink you crave that would get you banned from [insert your favorite Nashville craft cocktail bar] for 25 to life?
Luke: Haha. Probably something like Corona with a splash of grenadine. Can I at least have a pomegranate-based grenadine and not the cherry cough syrup that this classic mixer has become?
Batch: Hmm. It’s up to the goblins, but we’re thinking cough syrup might be your only option here.
Okay. Back to a less frightening goblin-free reality. Let’s talk tunes. Say you come home after a long day to relax and sip a cocktail. What album are you listening to?
Luke: I like a good techno-jazz album for relaxing. Something like Morcheeba, Alpha, or Jazzanova. When I'm packing and shipping boxes it's gotta be either Heartless Bastards or Rage Against the Machine. To paraphrase one of the Bobs from Office Space, "I celebrate their entire catalog." When I'm making deliveries, I listen to podcasts from the Maximum Fun network, especially Stop Podcasting Yourself.
Batch: Thanks to a lot of creative folks (you included) the way Nashvillians experience food and drink is undergoing a massive sea change. Imagine a world (goblin-free again) where Luke Duncan runs a restaurant. What’s on the menu?
Luke: Burgers and BBQ! Longtime dream of mine. My wife and I are judges in the Memphis BBQ Network and I've been working on my ribs technique for years (currently experimenting with higher-than-usual smoking temps). And just really good fries. There's nothing in the world like a hot plate of fries.
Batch: Back to the land of make-believe one more time. 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, except maybe live animals.
Luke: A sci-fi novel like Hyperion, along with a leather journal and some Pilot pens. Definitely peanut butter and honey. I would need a bottle whiskey and some bitters as well. Probably the Xocolatl Mole Bitters from Bittermen’s and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label.
Batch: Okay. Last one. Perhaps it’s only rumor, but we’ve heard (not witnessed) that Batch co-founder Stephen Moseley tops his Old Fashioned with a popularly branded lemon-lime soda. Do you have anything to say to Stephen? Should he be publicly shamed for such a practice?
Luke: No shame, baby. I haven't tried that myself but will do so tonight. Cocktails should be fun and personal, a chance to get weird and experiment with flavors we don't normally use. Stephen may be onto the next big thing with this bitter+sweet+citrus combo. But it's also possible he's a maniac and must be stopped. I'll let you know after I try it.
Batch: Thanks for taking time to chat with us, Luke.
Luke: You bet. This was fun!
Are you ready for some salsa? You better be. And if you’re not, then one look at how Ric Ousley and his team craft his famous Ousley Ouch salsa by hand will have you hankering for a chip.
It began nearly two decades ago, when Ric and his sister Mona decided they could gather up some tasty local peppers, tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, and other vegetables to concoct a condiment better than any they were finding around town on grocery store shelves. And what began as a culinary passion is now a full-fledged enterprise with his product being enjoyed on store shelves far and wide.
We got a behind-the-scenes look at the Ousley operation, so soak in the flavor and the heat that these pictures provide. But trust us - you’re going to want to get your hands on some of this so your tailgates, holiday parties, and afternoon snacks can hit the big time. Stock up here and build your own batch in our online market.
We'll go ahead and jump to the big news: Austin, Texas will be Batch's 4th city from which we offer monthly subscription and a line of local gifts to companies and individuals.
And how did we decide such wonderful news? Because while looking around for items for our sixth and final Tour of the South stop, we were blown away by all that's made in and around Austin.
For example, here's what was in our recent Austin Tour of the South shipment (which you can now grab as a gift here):
Pecan Popcorn from Great San Saba River Pecan Company
Approximately 10,000 pecan trees grow in a park-like setting bordered the San Saba River and located in the Hill Country of Central Texas. This impeccable popcorn is produced and shipped from facilities within the orchard. Appreciated by connoisseurs of gourmet products, we bet you'll be ready to restock your pantry with these fine delicacies in a snap.
Granola from House Granola
Holly Henderson's products are as delicious as her company's mission is fantastic. Her nephew, nicknamed House, who was born with Down syndrome, passed away in July 2012. Holly was inspired to create a healthy way to give back to the special needs community. "I began coming up with my own granola recipes and sharing them with friends and family. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and House Granola was born!" With all natural and organic ingredients, and sourcing as locally to Austin as possible, each small batch is baked by hand, 1% of annual proceeds is to a local charity called Down Home Ranch.
Chai Tea from Luscious Pastry
Located in Austin, Texas and operated by a pair of mamacitas that really love food and baking, Luscious Pastry specializes in gourmet baked goods for special occasions and gifts. They make a variety of pie and cheesecake bars, bundt cakes, and special occasion cakes. But they also have a quite a few savory tarts, quiches, and breads in their arsenal and, of course, tea. Is there anything they can't do?
Salsa from Royito's
The magic ingredients in every Royito's concoction is simple: fresh tomatoes, serrano peppers, and fresh lemon juice. There’s no vinegar, preservatives, or water or sugar added. Better yet, Royito’s is dedicated to and inspired by Roy’s dad, Big Roy, who taught him three things: be kind to everyone you meet, keep it simple, and never do mild. “Don’t Do Mild” is therefore not just a clever hot sauce tagline, it is a way of life. The purpose of Royito’s is to inspire people to not “do mild” in life by following their own passion and purpose.
Be sure to grab all this goodness while supplies last. And stay tuned, because very soon you'll be able to subscribe to our brand new monthly offering from Austin.
In the meantime, if you or someone you know can help us head up operations in Austin, send this job description their way.
We've officially gotten up and running in Charleston, folks! And to kick things off with our first monthly shipment from there this month, we decided to get up and get going with our Rise and Shine Charleston batch.
Check out what we sent to our happy customers:
Biscuit mix from Callie’s Charleston Biscuits
Carrie Morey has taken her mother Callie’s recipes and made them available to all of us with this delicious and unforgettable biscuit mix. With a family story at its heart, Callie’s Charleston Biscuits now offers a full array of products that are always handcrafted and never made by a machine. After you’ve enjoyed this portion, be sure to visit their website to stock up on more where you can choose from seven different varieties.
Whole bean coffee from Caviar and Bananas
Caviar & Bananas Gourmet Market & Café was born in 2008 on George Street in Charleston, South Carolina. The name Caviar & Bananas was inspired by the concept of creating a place where the extraordinary and the ordinary could live in harmony, a place where the ingredients were quality and the products made by hand. C&B believes that gourmet should be for every day.
Bloody Mary mix from Fat and Juicy
The Fat & Juicy brand was born on a band roadtrip from Atlanta back to Charleston the "morning after the night before.” It was bandmates Joe Good and John Glenn's desire to have a bloody mary with a homemade taste that drove them to create what would soon become the country's fastest growing bloody mary mix. Fat & Juicy Bloody Mary Mix was created with "fat and juicy" tomatoes, fresh horseradish, celery, garlic, and their signature hint of sultry smoky heat.
Apple butter from Food for the Southern Soul
For Jimmy Hagood, Food for the Southern Soul isn’t just the name of his specialty food and catering business; it’s his way of life. Following his passion, Hagood has made an indelible mark on the Lowcountry food scene. As a barbecue impresario and an advocate of coastal South Carolina’s unique culinary culture, he has brought national visibility to the art of barbecue cooking, and further elevated high-quality Southern pantry items.
Miss out on this delicious assortment? No worries. We got it right here, ready to send out when you are.
It's been a year.
And in honor of our longevity, we're not asking for presents, we're giving them. The way we've decided to do that at Batch is to give away meals to those in need.
The best way to do that is to partner with our local food bank, Second Harvest. We already offer a line of five delicious gift options that, when purchased, provide meals to folks nearby. And for our birthday month, we decided to double down and provide a meal with each subscription shipped in September.
Better yet, we used purveyors that also have a relationship with Second Harvest and also donate money to the food bank to provide meals. Here's who was all in on our birthday batch:
With a full line of cocktail mixers, Luke Duncan's young company is off to a hot start. This month's infusion—demerara syrup—is perfect for any libation you'd like to sweeten up. Luke is proud to have his product be a catalyst for change in the community. He says, "Second Harvest is one of those rare organizations with the heart to serve, the quality of management needed to be effective, and the scale to actually make a dent in the problem. Eli Mason is proud to support their efforts to end hunger in Middle Tennessee." Be sure to stock up on other Eli Mason staples like the Old Fashioned or Mint Julep mixes and check out their website for recipes.
One of our first purveyors, we're happy that this duo is back with us (and has stuck with us for a year now). The team of Tracey Levine and Cindy Muscarello crafts oatmeal with catchy flavor names. Their commitment to tasty breakfast food is matched by their goal to help feed people. "It is a both a privilege and an honor to partner with Second Harvest Food Bank in its ongoing effort to make a difference in the lives of those in need."
The Nashville Jam Co.
With new packaging, this pantry staple looks as good as it tastes. Gary Baron has been making his jams and sauces for years and now he's got a flavorful cause to boot. "No child can realize his or her full potential with an empty stomach. We have to feed those that are hungry. Second Harvest is a blessing for so many, and it is great to be a part of this campaign," says Gary. Be sure to restock when you run out of this strawberry jam and explore their other sweet offerings on their website.
Baking bread has never been easier than when you tell someone to "just add beer." But that's all it takes, thanks to Veronica and Jordan. This mother and son duo have combined their loves of craft beer and baking to serve up an ingenious item for your next family feast. Know what goes well with that? A commitment to give back: "We’re proud to be a part of the solution to end hunger with Second Harvest."
What a happy batch it was! And while we won't be reselling this one right now, you can help fight hunger this month and beyond by giving (to yourself or someone else) any of these five speciality batches.
With the The New York Times weighing in on how they'd spend 36 hours in our hometown, we thought we'd share our recommendations because we like a little bit of discovery to our weekends in Music City. So hop aboard the Batch bus for a roarin' good time.
Friday at 4 PM
That's when we try to leave the office, too. And when we do, we like to head over to Corsair Artisan Distillery to their tasting room to see what the bartender has concocted for that day. Based on who's behind the bar, you'll be sampling some unique blends and cocktails, all made with Corsair's line up of quality libations. Once you're done there, stumble down the street to find other distillers opening up in Marathon Village.
Friday at 7PM
Find a Lyft driver (seriously, those pink mustaches are everywhere). and ask them to take you over to Germantown for more drinks, dining and discovery. With stalwarts like Mad Platter, City House, Rolf and Daughters, Silo, and Germantown Cafe, you're bound to find something tasty. And, check back after the First Tennessee Ballpark opens next year for triple the dinner options.
Saturday at 8 AM
Wake up and run off your hangover and food coma. Head west out to Percy Warner and get your run, walk, or hike on via the Mossy Ridge Trail. With plenty of nature and lots of friendly faces, you won't have to leave the city limits to find the country.
Saturday at 10 AM
Once you get cleaned up, we suggest coffee and brunch downtown. Yes, downtown in the morning on the weekend. The Frothy Monkey on 5th Avenue has mighty fine brunch offerings and lets you gaze out at passersby. Try breakfast at 417 Union or even head to SoBro for Crema or The Southern. You hiked far this morning. You earned it and the day is young with a lot of places to go.
Saturday at 1 PM
Since you're downtown, get on up to the Farmer's Market and sample some local produce or visit with (and buy wonderful things from) some Batch-approved purveyors who set up shop on the weekends. Get a snack or six. Trust us, this is the place to be (ahem).
Saturday at 3 PM
Pay Bryce McCloud and Elizabeth Williams, and their trusty dog Hiram, a visit at Isle of Printing. Root around in the prints and paraphernalia. Ask Bryce about his latest whiz-bang project combining old letterpress and cutting-edge in laser technology Grab a Nashville Sight Seer to explore hidden-in-plain-sight parts of our city.
Saturday at 4 PM
Take a nap. My God, look at all you're doing! A typical weekend for us at Batch but you may need to pace yourself.
Saturday at 5 PM
Drink local beer. Anywhere it's served up on tap or made. Our favorite spots include Yazoo, Black Abbey, and Tennessee Brew Works. Go to all three if you want because as best we can tell, when you follow one of these "36 hours in" pieces, you gain the ability to time travel.
Saturday at 7 PM
Time to eat again. And maybe be seen if you're in to that. So soak in the M Street family of restaurants down in the Gulch. And then walk around and gawk at the chain places imported from other cities that can afford the growing lease payments. Hot foot it to Patterson House for what may be the best cocktails on the planet.
Saturday at 11 PM
How are you still awake? Oh yeah, you took our advice about that nap. Good. Because now it's time to play "Who's a Tourist" down on Broadway. Soak in the music and fun to be had at The Stage or Robert's but please be aware that anyone in a cowboy hats is from out of town. That's fine - we love them all - but citizens aren't allowed to own 10-gallon Stetons per city ordinance 41.c-4 (May 1974). It's up to you if you leave with a souvenir hat or pair of boots. After all, we can't be mentioned in the press without some reference to "country."
Sunday at 9 AM
Do you wish you were dead? Sick of Nashville? Don't be! You haven't even seen some of the cool parts like 12 South, East Nashville, Hillsboro Village, NoBro, WeBro, BroBro, or what's at the bottom of the Cumberland. No matter. If you're looking for brunch on your way out of town, go to Marche for the fancy stuff, Pancake Pantry if you like pancakes, long lines, or both, or Sky Blue for something a bit different and undiscovered.
Sunday at Noon
Your flight is leaving. So enjoy the crooners and pickers at Tootsie's in the airport on your way out. And be sure to save some energy for that long walk to the far reaches of C terminal. Ah - who are we kidding? You're flying United and you're going to be delayed. So, seriously - hunker down at Tootsie's East.
Happy August! Our Batch Nashville customers just received a heaping helping of local goodness for our recent "Lazy Days" shipment. Keep reading to find out what was in this batch and if you like what you see, you can always grab the gift batch for you or a loved one here.
Nashville Chocolate and Nut Company
You never know when inspiration will strike, and after 10 years in the music business, Tracy Page, singer/ songwriter, found a way to blend her love of music with gourmet foods. With so many delicious product options, we bet you're sure to find something you love.
Nashville Sight Seer
The Nashville Sight Seer is another in the line of great ideas from Isle of Printing. IOP and the Sight Seer are committed to making Nashville (and the world) a better place through public art and projects which encourage exploration and creative thinking. Join us today - it's fun!
Two decades ago, Ric and his sister Mona Ousley craved a salsa that they simply could not find anywhere. So in true American fashion, they decided to make their own. Ousley Ouch Salsa has a thick and chunky texture which comes from the onions and jalapeno peppers (grown locally) which are diced by hand.
What began as simple beekeeping is growing into a line of delicious and useful products for your kitchen and home. With nine years under their bee veils, the husband and wife team at TruBee makes sure that each jar, lip balm, or wax rub captures the taste of nature in a particular place and time.
Walker Feed Co.
Harvesting the regional flavors of the South, Walker’s Southern Bloody Mary and Honeysuckle Sour mixes take a savory approach to any libation. Helmed by Kristin Walker, this company is offering a unique, southern take on mixers you'll want to keep on hand all year round.