Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Aunt Maudie’s has “fresh gourmet meals, ready to go home when you are.“

Posted by Lyndi

Pssst… guess what?  Did you know there is something new in town?   Something new and special that was recently born from a familiar Fayetteville favorite?

Join me in welcoming… Aunt Maudie’s!

Aunt Maudie’s is a meal solution service for those of us in Northwest Arkansas. Their tagline says it all…“fresh gourmet meals, that are ready to go home when you are.”

Yes, in case you were wondering, Aunt Maudie’s is the namesake of Maudie Schmitt, co-owner of Café Rue Orleans and Maudie’s Seafood Market in Fayetteville. Aunt Maudie’s is the newest addition to her family and is the ah-ha brainstorm of Brandon Tibbs, her Aunt Maudie's partner. 

Guess what?  I recently had the opportunity to sit down and meet with them to find out more.  Sit back and enjoy the story of Aunt Maudie’s and yes, I give you permission to outwardly drool over the food photos. 

nwafoodie:  So, Maudie, you mentioned that Aunt Maudie’s is Brandon’s idea.  Brandon, tell me about that.

Brandon:  “I am a single man and I don’t cook.  That means I often go out to eat and consume fast foods.  I saw a need out here for something consistent, online, delicious, priced competitively, good portions, and with choices.  I came to Maudie with the idea to provide gourmet meals to go that can be ordered online, by phone, or at her Seafood Market.”

Maudie:  “And then I researched it.  I took a look at what was available in the Fayetteville area.  We knew there were different meal solutions available such as those at Sam’s Club, Diner Dash, and Lean Green Cuisine.  Each provides a good solution to consumers but when I looked at all of these in the context of a pie, we saw a slice of pie that was missing.  At Aunt Maudie’s we can deliver to your house or office or you can pick up meals at the Seafood Market.  Everything can be done online with a consistent menu.  And you do not have to order a full week’s worth of food!  You can order al a cart and be selective and specific to your family’s desires.  The best part is that the website knows who you are when you return.  That provides a convenience to our customers.”

Maudie Schmitt - Lyndi @ nwafoodie - Brandon Tibbs

nwafoodie:  When did you open Aunt Maudie’s?

Maudie:  “On November 8th.  Café Rue Orleans was my first child to raise and I was ready for a second.  We know it will take awhile to get the word out.  We hope your readers will try us out.”

nwafoodie:  I know that my readers are always on the hunt for good food!  And Café Rue Orleans was just awarded a Readers Choice for Best Cajun Food 2010. Congratulations!  Is Aunt Maudie’s Cajun food, too?

Brandon:  “We serve Southern foods and Southern portions.  It is a mixture of both home-style and Cajun foods.”

Maudie:  “Nothing is pre-made!  It’s all my recipes!  If you take a look our website, you will see it is a basic menu from soups, to chili’s, entrees, macaroni and cheese, and gumbo’s.  I also will rotate seasonal dishes such as white chili with beans.  I challenge anyone to get a freshly prepared grilled piece of salmon for $10.99 over mushroom risotto.”

nwafoodie:  How does the delivery service work?

Maudie:  “The key thing to remember is “fresh gourmet meals, ready to go home when you are.”  We want to make it easy, especially when there are so many everyday tasks such as picking up your child from school or daycare, running them to ball or dance practice, and so on.  We can deliver your meals to your business or you can pick them up at our Seafood Market.”

Brandon:  “Yes, and all of our containers are eco-friendly and microwaveable to 500 degrees, too! There is also an option online that allows customers to let us know if they need a dish to be gluten-free.”

nwafoodie:  Do you deliver to all of Northwest Arkansas?

Maudie:  “Right now we deliver to Fayetteville area zip codes:  72701, 72703, and 72704.  But anyone can pick up their orders at our Maudie’s Seafood Market in Fayetteville.”

Brandon:  “We are going to start delivering lunch the first of the new year!”

Maudie:  “That’s right.  In fact, if any of your readers are outside of those Fayetteville area zip codes and their office wants to put in a combined order for lunch or gourmet meals, just give us a call.  My philosophy is that I want to feed you.  Tell me what you need or like and I will feed you.”

nwafoodie:  “Let me feed you.” I like that philosophy. So, what are your personal favorite dishes?

Maudie:  “Shrimp Pontchartrain.  It is a dish I created using Tasso, an incredibly smoked pork cream reduction.  I call it a kicked-up alfredo and served over rotini noodles.  It’s like crack.”

Brandon:  “The salmon.  I was never a salmon person before.  Maudie showed me how to get rid of the fish flavor and now I am hooked.  And yes, I learned how to cook something, thanks to her!”

nwafoodie:  Mmmm… next time I will order the salmon!  I really appreciate you both giving me the inside scoop of Aunt Maudie’s.  I love being able to share a story that may inspire someone to try something different that I think will improve their lives.  Thank you so much for your time!   

So that was half of the story.

The other half… ?  Well… you are wondering how it tastes, right?

So was I, so here is my food photo tour (okay, this is where you are allowed to start drooling).

Beef Pot Roast 
Exceeded my expectations!  I am not a roast person so I ordered this for my husband.  It was so moist that I keep asking for bites!

Bourbon Street Chicken
The chicken was moist and Cajun seasoning screamed authenticity! 

Truffle Mashed Potatoes
Like fluffy-white clouds of delight!

Baked Mac n Cheese
(Sorry, didn’t taste these… much to my gluten-free and dairy-free dismay!)  My husband declared these a food group.

Wild Mushroom Risotto
Honestly, how can every side dish be this good!  I will order this every.single.time!

It was easy to reheat everything for a great evening meal (I know, I am bit of a glutten so back-off, I am sensitive about it).   I simply removed everything from the to-go containers and popped it in my toaster over.  25 minutes later, viola!  Dinner was served and clean-up was a cinch!

So my friends, next time you are crunched for time and think, “what’s for dinner?” make it a simple decision.  Just go online and put in a order for Aunt Maudie’s.  And don't forget to follow them on twitter and facebook to get the scoop on specials!

You will love it!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The story behind NWArestaurants.com.

Posted by Lyndi

Meet Dave.

 Dave Routon is the man behind NWArestaurants.com
, a regional search engine for restaurants in our beautiful neck of the woods of Northwest Arkansas.

It was a fateful day in March when I met Dave.

I ordered a Penguin Bill (we’ll talk about that later) and as a
“thank you for your business” he included an additional restaurant coupon. Gratis.  (I follow him on twitter and I know that I am not the only one he has done this for.)  I used that coupon as a giveaway here on the blog.  He found out… and then offered to give me as many Penguin Bills as I wanted to use as giveaways!  Since March, we have had twelve restaurant giveaways, courtesy of NWArestaurant.com.  Is he great, or what?

And so, our friendship began.

 I recently sat down with Dave over lunch because I was curious to know more about the story behind NWArestaurants.com.

nwafoodie:  When did you launch NWArestaurants.com? 

Dave:  “About three years ago. It was designed for local hotels to give them a resource for travelers who were new to the area.  You know how it is when someone is staying at hotel.  They ask the front desk for restaurant recommendations.  Many times their customers are asking for something specific.  It didn’t start out as a business venture.” 

What did it start out as?  Why did you launch NWArestaurant

Our main business is printing. It was a way for us to have a good business connection with a hotel and visitors starting with dining information as a frequent touch point. NWArestaurants.com provides area maps for hotel guests with featured restaurants noted on the map.  The staff at hotels have a need to serve their guests better with dining solutions as well as printing needs, which I can then provide through Parachuting Penguins, our full-service printing company which is open late and on call 24/7. We do a lot of work with hotel guests for this and other services we provide. 

What do you think makes NWArestaurant
s.com different than other area food-related search engines? 

Dave:  “
First and foremost, we try to list every restaurant in NWA and do this by actually driving out to each restaurant to get their information. It is current and up-to-date and has all the basic information that you are looking for.  Our site not only has menus… it has filter options as well.  For instance, if you are looking for a restaurant with a banquet room, or one with WiFi, or one that is unique to Arkansas, you can filter on that. You won’t see reviews.  We just want to provide all of the most pertinent information about that restaurant.”

 nwafoodie:  What does it mean to be a Featured Restaurant? 

Dave: “
It gives the restaurant an opportunity to tell their story. Whether it is a corporate store or a single restaurant, there are unique aspects based on the market that they are in. All restaurants have hours of operation, average price point, cuisine and service features, and a picture of what the outside of the restaurant looks like. In addition, Featured Restaurants have menus, interior pictures, a map, specials, and if they have had an article in a newspaper or magazine we include that as well. There is also an opportunity for them to provide more specific information under their picture. On the website, Featured Restaurants always have priority by being listed at the top of every search result. Only Featured Restaurants are on our maps and we also add them to special hotel flyers that we distribute for special events and holidays. We provide hotels with electronic restaurant discount coupons for guests rather than the printed ones that you see heaped into drawers and never used. On an average month, our 21 hotel clients hand out about $8,000 of these coupons (based on an average value of $5.31 each) which are only available for Featured Restaurants. Believe it or not, there’s even more that we offer that I don’t have the space to elaborate on.” 

nwafoodie:  How many Featured Restaurants do you have right now? 

Dave:  “We have approximately 40 in the program right now.  They see this as a positive thing for them.”

nwafoodie:  The hottest thing on your site (or least in the facebook/twitter discussion world) are your Penguin Bills. How are you able to offer ~50% off Penguin Bills? 

Dave:  “Penguin Bills are ongoing, special, hot, and
time sensitive restaurant gift certificates that are available for Featured Restaurants.  Restaurants don’t pay any money to be in this program.” 

nwafoodie:  Wait, did you just say that Featured Restaurants get extra exposure… for free? 

Dave:  “
I wouldn’t say it’s free, but there is a definite return on investment that makes a lot of sense. They give us the right to print a specific number of Penguin Bills on their behalf and we are charged with the responsibility of distributing these to help them reach people who are seeking new dining experiences as an example.  They rely on us to distribute these in key demographics as much as possible. Penguin Bills are also distributed through many local charities to help with fund raising. The only cost to the restaurant is when the Penguin Bill(s) comes in for redemption. There are no other costs associated with the program but a lot more benefits than just Penguin Bills.” 

nwafoodie:  How does the “Bargain Zone” work on NWArestaurants.com? 

Dave: “For example, Fred’s Hickory Inn may have a $25 Penguin Bill that only costs $12.50 on our Bargain Zone.  You buy the Penguin Bill online with your credit card and then pick it up at Parachuting Penguins’ office. Fred’s will then honor that Penguin Bill for the full $25 value. We also sell groups of Penguin Bills call “Bargain Bundles”. We send consumers to their restaurant because they just received a great deal and hopefully they will have a great experience and want to return without the Penguin Bill next time.  Featured Restaurants do not sign contracts and can leave the program anytime they want. We feel that if it isn’t a win/win arrangement that they should be able to opt out without a hassle, but it rarely happens.” 

nwafoodie:  How do you find restaurants that want to participate in the Featured program? 

“Sometimes we’re contacted and other times we reach out to restaurants to listen to what we do. The best way is through a referral from someone who actually knows what we do or presently uses us and knows the decision maker at a restaurant. There have been a lot of people over the years who have tried to launch websites, restaurant magazines and coupon books who have not had a very good product which is evidenced by the fact that none of them survive. Our concept is very unique and to the best of my knowledge not being done anywhere else so it takes an open mind to listen to us rather than lump us into those other categories. In fact, if any of your readers are able to set up an appointment with a person at an area restaurant in Benton or Washington counties, who is a decision maker at that restaurant… I will give them $50 in Penguin Bills and donate $50 in cash to their favorite school or charity! And that is regardless if the answer from the restaurant is a yes or no to join our program.  We sincerely believe in our service and I appreciate the opportunity to share the whole concept with them so they can visualize it.  Your readers can call me at 479-845-0808 or email me directly (drouton@nwapenguins.com).

nwafoodie:  Why are they called “Penguin Bills?” 

Dave:  “It is a play on words.  Instead of saying “bucks,” like you often see on gift certificates, we have “bills” because Penguin
s have bills!  All of our products have penguins:  Parachuting Penguins, NWAmovies.com, NWAdogparks.com, and NWAhotels.com.  Besides, who doesn’t love penguins?”

nwafoodie:  What are your hopes and dreams for the future of NWArestaurants.com? 

Dave:  “I would like it to be a household name in Northwest Arkansas as a valuable
resource for consumers and restaurants alike. We will have raised about $,5000 this year for charities and schools and we can do a lot more with additional restaurants on board. The more restaurants we are working with, the more consumers will gravitate to our site. Everything that we do has a win/win approach because we feel it’s the only way to do business. 

nwafoodie:  Tell me something about Dave Routon… is it true that you only eat at restaurants that are featured on NWArestaurants.com? 

Dave:  “ABSOLUTELY!  And it’s
not just me, everyone on our team as well! We are very appreciate for everything our restaurant partners do and feel our loyal patronage is a must. 

nwafoodie:  You’re a neat guy, Dave.  Thank you so much for your time today.  Since the beginning I have been struck by your passion and I cannot thank you enough for providing Penguin Bills as giveaways here on nwafoodie.com. When can we get that started up again?!!! 

Dave:  “
Lyndi, we appreciate all of your efforts as well and want to work more with you to bring gluten free options to as many people as possible. You are one of the brightest and most upbeat people I have met in NWA and it has been my pleasure to work with you and your blog thus far. Much more work to be done right? I’m ready when you are!”

nwafoodie:  Awhh, thanks Dave!  And thanks again for sharing your story! 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some people go to Google… I just go to you.

my dad and I attempting our first gluten-free pasta
Posted by Lyndi

A friend of mine sent me an email this morning, wanting to know about pasta makers.

6 suggestions later he thanked me and told me:  “Some people go to Google… I just go to you.” 

My only experience with making pasta is a not-so-great attempt at making gluten-free pasta with my dad a few months ago.  He packed up his manual pasta maker to my home and together we tried our best to make gluten-free pasta together.  

The result?  Pasta not so great.  

Quality time with my dad?  Priceless.

we did it!  our first gluten-free spaghetti!

Here are my 6 suggestions when buying a pasta maker:

1.     Do they have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer?  If so, Williams-Sonoma has a pasta attachment hat looks to be A-MAZ-ING!  I want one so badly!

2.     Pasta makers are pretty traditional and not very innovative.  There are hand-crank ones and electric ones.  There are tons of manual ones available and not many electric ones.  Amazon has an electric one.

3.     If I were to buy a pasta maker, I would choose the Kitchen Aid attachment (if I had a Kitchen Aid, that is!).  Then, I would go electric, and lastly I would go manual.

4.     Regardless of the path he chooses, I suggested he buy a pasta drying rack.  That way if she makes spaghetti and doesn’t gobble it up right away, she can drape the pasta and dry it for another time.

5.     I also recommended he buy her a book all about pasta.  Again, Williams-Sonoma has one that looks perfect.

6.     The reason why I kept pushing Williams-Sonoma?  (1) We have a local store and (2) according to an email I received from Williams-Sonoma, starting today, for every $50 you spend in store, they will give you a $10 coupon to use post-holiday.  It’s like an instant rebate that he could also give her as a present (I’m thinking pasta tongs, parmesan cheese grater, ravioli cutter...).

And now, I am doing the same thing.  Instead of Google… I am going to… you

Any advice?  Are you experienced in the world of making pasta?  Would you change or add on to any of my recommendations?  If so, please let me know so I can pass it along to him (his wife wants this as a present) right away! 

Monday, December 6, 2010

A cookie that sweetens the soul.

Posted by Lyndi

It’s not a big secret that I am not a sweets person.  I keep thinking that when I grow up, I will learn how to bake.  And, when I learn how to bake, I will become a sweets person.  That is how the logic works in this cranium.

My sister-in-law Julie is one of those who have the baking knack.  She is a natural.  And she doesn’t just bake say, a cheesecake.  No, her cheesecake is eight inches tall with a pressed-on butter graham crust and almond bark scrollwork and comes complete with sides of homemade raspberry and blueberry sauce.

They said it was divine. 

I did not partake since I am dairy free and gluten free.  I am really good at admiring desserts from afar.  Julie, the sweetheart that she is, takes care of little ole me when it comes to dessert time.  On thanksgiving it was a coconut and banana cream pie.  It was heavenly… complete with my very own almond bark shaped initial.

This weekend we were in Oklahoma visiting Julie and the family.  Dessert for everyone just happened to be… gluten free!  It was so delicious that Julie knew everyone would enjoy it.

It’s called Monster Cookies and the recipe comes from Paula Deen, courtesy of The Food Network.  Click here for the recipe.

Perhaps you are the “Julie” baker in your family or you are blessed, like I am, to have a “Julie.”  All I know that it melts my heart when she goes out of her way.  If you have a “Julie” or “Julian” in your family, what kinds of heavenly desserts has she or he wow you with?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Messy liquor cabinet?

Posted by Lyndi

There is warmth that spreads within me whenever I am organized. 

There are areas throughout my home that are beautifully lined up and everything in it’s place.  Humbly-speaking, I know that I cannot go overboard with my bragging for two reasons:

1.     I am blessed with tons of extra storage space.  Let’s face it, that helps!
2.     I am blessed with a neat-freak husband.  What can I say, he rocks!

So imagine my surprise and delight when I arrived home recently to a wonderfully organized cabinet that houses all my tonic waters, club sodas, and 7-Ups (otherwise known as “liquor companions”)?

I bubbled over with joy!   

He picked up these pull-out stainless steel shelves at Lowe’s. (Click here to see more information about the product.)

It’s easy to install and look how great it works!

As I remember little organization gems like these around the house, I will click a picture and share!  And, if you have any kitchen or food-related tips or tricks that you would like to share or that you have come across from sites like TheNester or TheInspiredRoom, let me know so I can check it out and share back with everyone!

Thanks for dropping by!

Happy organizing!
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