What do cashew butter, blueberry-jalapeño and browned ghee all have in common? They’re all some of Shawnee Bullette’s most recent ice cream flavor concoctions, and they’ll all soon be available in Springfield, Missouri’s Rountree neighborhood. Bullette is the kitchen and products manager at Culture Counter, a new neighborhood grocery and grab-and-go destination opening in Rountree later this month, and she’s been perfecting her flavor mastery for years. Bullette holds an associate’s degree in baking, spending four years behind the grill at Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe and five years as a baker at Tea Bar & Bites, also in Rountree. Now, armed with her trusty Flavor Bible, Bullette is blazing sweet new trails at Culture Counter.
As a whole, Culture Counter is health-focused. Outside of ice cream, the pint-sized grocery will offer a salad bar, smoothies, juices and a breakfast granola bar with waffles available a la carte. “We really want people to know where their food is coming from,” Bullette says. “We want them to be as involved in the sourcing process as possible.” Bullette explains that, while ice cream may go against Culture Counter’s general health-focused narrative, there’s nothing unhealthy about enjoying delicious food. “We wanted to do something just for the enjoyment of it,” she says. The ice cream counter will also fill a hole in the market left by Elle’s Patisserie, Rountree’s most recent dessert destination that shuttered in 2018. “We’ve had an ice cream deficit in this neighborhood since then,” Bullette says.
Most importantly, Bullette’s sweet treats are an excellent way to carry out Culture Counter’s mission of highlighting local food products. Each of the traditional dairy options – there are several vegan options made with coconut milk – are made using heavy cream and whole milk from Ozark Mountain Creamery in Mountain Grove, Missouri. The dairy recipes also involve large quantities of local eggs, which make up the custard base. Finally, the flavorings and syrups are made from mostly local produce – produce that will be available on Culture Counter’s grocery shelves. Those groceries are sourced from a wide variety of local farmers and food manufacturers including Ozark Mountain Creamery, The Date Lady, High Springs Farm, Black Gate Farms, Peace Valley Poultry and Terrell Creek Farm. “Our entire menu is made up of foods with ingredients that are sourced from the store itself,” Bullette says. “We want to show our customers that everything we make can be made at home using products from our shelves.”
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with and why? Orange zest, ginger and vanilla. Depending on the recipe, those three things can really make your flavors shine and pop in ways you don’t expect.
What's your perfect day of eating in Springfield? I’d start with breakfast at Early Bird Breakfast Pub – try to get my day off on the right foot with a nice, hearty breakfast and cocktails. From there, it’d be lunch at Cafe Cusco, and if I’m going for an afternoon snack, European Cafe or Tea Bar & Bites. Then, it’s on to dinner at Grad School followed by drinks and games at Best of Luck Beer Hall.
At the buzzy new Springfield spot, he's exploring the outer reaches of traditional bar fare .
Who are Springfield chefs you admire at the moment? The scene as a whole seems to be getting really creative. We have a growing number of local people who are passionate about providing good food and showing the diversity of what we have to offer on the agricultural side. Clint [McCann] at Best of Luck Beer Hall has been really inventive. I also love Eleanor Taylor with Prairie Pies. She’s fantastic and always very creative. Finally, Joe and Lora Still at Skully’s consistently have incredible stuff.
What’s your favorite comfort food? I’ve been on a real cheeseburger kick lately. You can’t beat The Full Ride at Grad School.
What is your first food memory? My first love was chicken tenders with honey. But the first thing I really started cooking for myself was chicken noodle soup from the can. When I was a kid, I started trying to experiment with seasonings – I remember going way too heavy with the dried herbs, because I thought that was very fancy. That, and boxed brownie mix. I’d add chocolate chips galore and play with extra vanilla before I figured out how to make brownies from scratch.
What’s the most intriguing dish you’ve made recently, and why? Our pear ice cream has been really exciting – the texture is almost like eating a pear. I’m mostly excited about trying to incorporate the seasonal flavors we have on hand into the ice cream. We do have a line of vegan ice creams that are made with coconut milk, and we’ve also been using Persimmon Hill Farms’ jams to flavor some of our ice creams – like our blueberry-jalapeño, which is a lot of fun.
What inspires your cooking? How do you approach R&D at your restaurant, and what inspires that process? There’s been a lot of experimenting, especially with the ice cream. With some flavors, we’ll think we can pull off a solidly dairy version, but it turns out too icy. From there, we’ll incorporate eggs, and it’s a matter of figuring out how many egg yolks we need for our desired richness. The ice cream will also freeze too hard if you don’t have enough sugar. Overall, it’s a lot of experimenting.
What are your future plans? I’d really like to continue expanding on the Culture Counter idea, especially in terms of the storefront as a community organization. I love the idea of connecting people more with their food and seeing where that can take us. It’s also always been a dream of mine to own my own bakery, but that’s probably way down the road.
Culture Counter, 607 S. Pickwick Ave., Springfield, Missouri, 417.861.3287, culturecountercommons.com