I am always on the lookout for natural food stores, co-ops, farmer's markets, and vendors of locally grown and produced foods. The fewer steps between the grower/producer and me the better.
As I was talking to a coworker last week about goat's milk and homemade kombucha, he asked me if I knew about Traditional Foods of Minnesota. I said no. He then proceeded to tell me all about it; it is a farmer and producer direct buying co-op, located in a warehouse down in South Minneapolis, featuring everything from handmade beet kvass to locally baked breads to cultured vegetables to meats. I was giddy. I knew I had to get there as soon as possible!
So, yesterday I was in the neighborhood and had some free time, and decided to have a traditional foods adventure. This place is tucked away on a quiet, industrial street, in a warehouse that is behind another building; a simple sign points down a driveway leading you to the parking lot. It didn't feel like I should have been going where I needed to go. I rounded the corner and was greeted by a totally non-descript warehouse building. Seriously, this is it (photo from the Traditional Foods webpage):
This photo is totally empty, obviously. BUt when I got there, the loading dock door was thrown open, revealing tomato plants and a white board describing specials for the day. Bistro tables and more plants lined the outside wall. At the top of the stairs, the entrance door was propped open. Nice. Welcoming. Simple.
Inside, I found amazing things. I was greeted by Daniela, an Italian ex-pat from Naples who leads cooking demonstrations on a volunteer basis, just because she likes to hang out there. She gave me samples of kombucha and served me a hot mug of Dandy Blend. Then she showed me the basics of dry goods area; dry local herbs, honey and maple syrup, frozen local vegetables and pizzas, homemade sprouted, raw granolas. Then, I was given the full tour by Warren, an Australian native. He showed me the entire refrigerator case filled with local, lacto-fermented vegetables, kombuchas, and beet kvass (buy the glass jar full and pay a deposit, bring the empty jar back and get a refund), to which I squealed with delight. They have free range, organic, local duck, goose, and chicken eggs, as well as a variety of grass-fed beef and responsibly produced pig products, free-range, organic chicken and turkey. There are jars of frozen, locally made soups and stocks. There are locally produced cheese and milks. And on a small table amidst the coolers, there was a selection of early season vegetables - garlic, chives, and spring onions. Near the checkout counter, a display case boasted beeswax lip balms, goats milk soaps, and other all-natural body products.
I was blown away!
I was there chatting with Daniela and Warren for almost an hour, and didn't want to leave. This place has a great, welcoming vibe. But the best part is that their entire stock is farmer and producer direct. Their stock varies depending on the season and what the producer has available. Sometimes they have kefir and yogurt, other times they don't. Between giving me samples, Daniela was trying to find me some sort of roasted sunflower seeds for me to try, but they had sold out. Once more produce season is in full swing, they plan on having a variety of vegetables and fruits. Cooking demos, activities, and lectures happen all the time. And there were copies of Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions", as well as other great books, sitting around everywhere. Better still, Warren told me they are having a dance and barbeque later this month! The opportunity to hang out with a group of like minded individuals while eating and dancing? Whoa, I am so there.
The prices were very reasonable, and a membership is $10 for a day, or only $30 for 3 years, or $75 for a lifetime. They only opened last September, so they are still fairly new; I'm excited to see how they grow!
If you find yourself in the Twin Cities area, be sure to stop by Traditional Foods of Minnesota. Check out their website; it lists their hours, membership details, and other great information about their store. I will definitely be buying myself a membership, and am excited to try more of the great products from local producers. Raspberry sauerkraut, local goat milk, beeswax lip balms, nitrate-free beef bacon (yes, you read that right - pure beef bacon!) and fresh veggies here I come!
For more info, there's a great write up on Traditonal Foods of Minnesota on Simple Good and Tasty, a local blog, and another one in Citypages, a local rag.
TRADITIONAL FOODS OF MINNESOTA
361 W. 61st St
Minneapolis, MN 55419
(drive through gate to the back of the building)