Tag Archives: minnesota

Verdant Tea: Minneapolis, MN

14 Nov
by Deanne

Verdant Tea: Minneapolis Tasting RoomPhoto of Verdant Tea

The last time I wrote the word verdant I was speaking of my garden and all the possibilities when it grows with abandon in midsummer.  This time, I am referring to a place I heard on MPR about the growth of the Seward neighborhood for good food. We had a quick trip planned to Minneapolis so I looked up Verdant Tea. Intrigued by the elegant selection of offerings, we arrived for breakfast last Saturday morning.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

Verdant Tea does serve local food.  They have partnered with Birchwood Cafe which many readers will recognize from our past reviews.  Verdant’s focus is on tea.  They source their teas from small farmers in China.  The business began as on online tea business and has now expanded to include the tasting room.

Flavour: 5

We ordered chai tea and another kind of tea that we didn’t quite catch when it was given. Both were good, but the food was what we enjoyed most.  I ordered the sweet Congee, Steve had the Soba Noodles, and Luke ordered the Birchwood Granola with Fruit and Yogurt. Photo of Rice PorridgeCongee is a porridge and the sweet version had wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, burdock root, gogi berries, walnuts, and a coconut ginger sauce.   I was able to sneak a taste of the two other options and was equally impressed with both.  The yogurt was excellent.  It appeared to be the kind of yogurt one makes at home on the counter rather than the kind one dumps from a plastic container.

Photo of Hot Soba Noodle

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

The food was surprisingly good.  Since it is a tea room that has food we were not really sure what to expect.  We went hoping the food would be decent.  It was stellar!  We talked about it for days afterward and discussed how to recreate it at home.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4.5

When we walked through the doors we were greeted immediately.  The environment is serene and makes for a peaceful calm retreat or gathering place for quiet conversation.  The staff was friendly but a bit more explanation about the options would have been helpful. They explained that they didn’t have tea flights at that time and they were in the process of changing their menu.  Having owned a restaurant, I have sympathy toward the situation they are currently finding themselves but others might be more put off by that kind of response.

Photo of Birchwood Granola

Overall Rating: 12.5+

I strongly recommend visiting Verdant Tea.  I look forward to returning and learning more about tea next time I visit.  In addition to partnering with Birchwood Cafe, they also sell Sweet Science Ice Cream.  We heard about them last year at an event for new food producers.  I look forward to trying some interesting flavors like salted caramel or toasted coconut.

Verdant Tea on Urbanspoon

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River Rock Coffee: St. Peter, MN

16 Dec
by Deanne

River Rock Coffee: St. Peter, MN

Francine and I happened to find River Rock Coffee when we stopped in St. Peter to visit the local Co-op back in October.  We were hopeful that this coffee shop would have more than the standard (usually stale) coffee shop food.  A photo of River RockWhat we found was a sweet little restaurant and coffee shop that uses locally sourced food in artistic and intelligent ways. 

River Rock has a garden in nearby Kasota. They also source ingredients from local farms: East Henderson Farm and Living Land Farm. It’s evident that they consider what’s in season when preparing their weekly menu; the first time we visited we had Autumn Black Bean Chili. A few weeks later, on our second visit, we enjoyed a cup of Tomato Soup.

Their weekly creations are posted on a “whimsy board” so that customers can gain inspiration about what to eat. River Rock also does an excellent job of maintaining their facebook page—keeping customers up to date on the delicious items cooking and baking in their kitchen. Since our first visit, we’ve returned a few times and each time we’ve found different but wonderful food (and of course, great fair trade coffee).

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4

We asked if the garden was close enough to visit.  (I guess we’re becoming bolder and beginning to sound an awful lot like the characters from this episode of Portlandia.)  We discovered that the garden is at the owner’s home in a nearby community. From our conversation, it sounded like this year they relied on their CSA shares more than the garden. Nothing wrong with this, it’s great to support other community growers and showcase the farmers’ hard work through creatively prepared dishes.

A photo of the Seasonal SamplerFlavour: 5

The Autumn Black Bean Chili was delicious and beautiful. It was made with black beans, peppers, squash, and onions. I had it as part of the Seasonal Sampler with humus and flat bread.  After shopping we stopped back in for coffee, and Francine found a new way to enjoy coffee—with honey and cardamom.  She described it like this (on her facebook wall), “One sip and I’m taken back to making pulla (Finnish sweet rolls) with my au pair kids; another sip and I’m reminded of spicy Indian chai!”  When food and drink transport you to a different time and place and leave you craving more, you know you’ve been cared for by the person who was inspired to create it.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

I am both a dreamer and a cynic when it comes to looking for a place to eat while traveling.  I dream of finding a restaurant like River Rock, but I’ve been disappointed enough in the past to not expect much when stumbling upon a new place (usually I like to research places to eat before leaving home). A photo of Tomato Soup

The fact that River Rock’s food was wholesome and delicious and made with locally sourced ingredients gave me hope about discovering new restaurants while traveling. Also, I was encouraged to discover that our Southwestern MN restaurant neighbor is supporting locally grown food.

Comfort + Coziness (The C factor): 4

The service was warm and inviting.  The staff was knowledgeable and seemed to enjoy working there. These simple things made me feel comfortable and cozy. The decor was open and fun, but I would describe it as typical for a coffeehouse—a tad eclectic with a touch of grittiness.

Overall Rating: 13+

If you ever find yourself in St. Peter, MN and feel like a cup of fair trade coffee, a light lunch or fresh baked bread, stop by River Rock. They’ll treat you right and serve you some real local food.  We know we’ll continue visiting and enjoying their inspired creations, and we look forward to keeping tabs on the good things River Rock Coffee is up to.

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