Back in August, I wrote a brief post about Suzanne Frisse and Meadowlark Acres and posted some colorful photographs from my summer visit. That visit was research for the October issue of Kansas City Magazine on news stands now. My interview turned into a cooking class and dinner at Frisse’s home in Stilwell, Kansas. Now that the magazine story is out, I decided to share some additional shots and notes from the visit that didn’t make it into the final story.

Suzanne is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. As the photo above suggests, she’s colorful inside and out. Her gentle humor, quirky style and down-to-earth demeanor goes hand in hand with her playfulness and strong work ethic.

Under the name of Meadowlark Acres, she makes and sells garden fresh gourmet goods such as fresh pepper and herb jellies, chutney, breads, oozy boozy cakes infused with alcohol, mustards, flatbreads and more. She also teaches classes in her home and appears regularly at The Olive Tree in Leawood to offer food samples and sell her fresh-made products.

Suzanne’s colorful friend Michele Craig and her husband Mike joined us for the pasta making class and dinner. Her glasses were striking and bold. Michele and Mike were busy cutting up heirloom tomatoes when I arrived.

Suzanne quickly put me to work kneading out a ball of focaccia dough and stretching it onto a baking sheet. A liberal drizzle of olive oil, a dash of sea salt, and a handful of sliced olives topped off the airy bread.

Later, we strolled outside to gather herbs and flowers to use in the burrata, a mozzarella-based cheese we were making from scratch. Suzanne and her husband Dan Lathrop, who passed away last November, spent years building and tending to multiple flower, herb and vegetable gardens that surround the home. In the peaceful countryside of Stilwell, this small acreage is a relaxing getaway from the pace of the city. Suzanne carried shears and snipped away while we picked our own collection of purple basil, chives, sage, delicate flower petals and other flora.

Once inside, Suzanne explained how milk is made from a gallon of milk, but it’s best to take her class to learn the process. We each gently handled a ball of fresh mozzarella, formed it into a bowl using a ramekin as a mold, added soft creamy cheese inside, folded and twisted the edges and popped the burrata out. Oiled  ramekins had been lined with the herbs and flowers earlier and remained attached to the warm cheese after removal from the mold. The taste was clean, fresh, soothing; it was quite unlike any other mozzarella I had eaten.

After we made burrata, a type of fresh creamy mozzarella surrounded by a firmer outer cheese shell, Suzanne fired up the Cuisinart so we could prepare lemon basil and rainbow fettuccine. Above, Michael feeds a small batch of dough through an implement designed to successively flatten the dough into thinner sheets. Once the dough if flattened adequately, it is hung on a rack to dry slightly and later cut into noodles.

We were inclined to drink some Prosecco also. Sparkling wine goes with just about any food.

Earlier that day Suzanne also made some grilled pork loin that was marinated in soy sauce and other ingredients. It was a tempting course for dinner that included focaccia, garden fresh salad, burrata, fettuccine and delectable moqua jelly and stone ground grainy mustard.

Over the course of the day, I learned many details about Frisse, who grew up in St. Louis originally. Access to the Missouri Botanical Garden during her youth left a distinct impression on her. Her parents loved to cook and explore food during the Fifties era of convenient canned and frozen food. Suzanne once played piano and sang in an all-girl rock band in the Sixties. She taught business seminars to corporate clients for over two decades. She misses her sweetheart Dan, a partner in life for twenty-six years.

After dinner, a rainbow-colored hot air balloon drifted across clear blue sky. It was a silent punctuation to a moment, a wordless comment on the course of an afternoon free of stress and full of food, conversation and friendship.  I left Frisse’s country home and garden after dinner a bit reluctantly. She works hard to grow food, tend to her gardens, cook, sell, teach and connect with others. Above and beyond her hard work, one key idea of hers stuck with me long after I had left and drove down suburban streets toward home.

Frisse summed up her lifestyle:  “I don’t want to do it if it’s not fun.”