Sneak peek at 20 Below Coffee Co.

The number of quality cups of coffee available to us in Fargo-Moorhead continues to grow. Small batch roasters have made their mark now, too, with Stumbeano’s setting up shop downtown last year. They roast beans in Fergus Falls, where they started, but now are slinging espresso near the Boiler Room restaurant.

Some drinks at Stumbeano’s I recommend are the chai tea, cafe miel or a cortado. They really know what they’re doing. Also available are pour-over coffee or aeropress.

Now another place is just weeks away from opening.

20 Below Coffee Co., at 14 Roberts St., looks to be a perfect pairing of quality coffee and outstanding customer service, as they write on the website:

Paired with this goal of bringing the highest quality coffee and community environment to our beloved city is the goal of strengthening community in the countries we are receiving our coffee from.

There’s also an emphasis on fair trade with coffee farmers:

One of our long-term goals is to develop direct-trade relationships with coffee farmers in order to maximize their profit, product quality, and relationship with others in their community.

Something the founders, Ty and Elisha Ford and Michael and Danae Moran, have been doing I found particularly interesting. They’ve set up a Kickstarter-like campaign “founding member opportunity” with different rewards for amounts contributed, ranging from a drink token to free coffee for life (with $2500 contribution).

An email went out to early supporters with photos of the new space and it’s looking good so far:

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There will be a grand opening party on April 11th with live music and giveaways.

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Quality Bakery closing after more than 90 years

Fargo’s Quality Bakery will be closing in the next couple months after a long, long run.

It’s understandable the owners want to hang up their rolling pins; running a bakery is a tough job, including waking up hellishly early and staying late. Pete and Marcene Fendt have done a great job with the place after they took over from Pete’s dad.

I had the opportunity to talk with Pete and take some photos a couple months back. Here’s the story:


Working in the long and narrow back kitchen at Quality Bakery in south Fargo, owner Pete Fendt certainly has the arms of a baker.

Along with his wide, white mutton chop goatee, Fendt has been at the helm of the business since the 1980s, sustaining it and its reputation as one of the best.

Quality Bakery

While there were three different Quality Bakery locations at once in the area, there’s now one, in the same building since 1972 at 2532 S. University Drive.

Nearing retirement, Fendt and his wife, Marcene, are looking to sell the well-known business, hopefully to someone who can keep it going. The bakery was listed for sale by the Property Resources Group for $650,000, which includes the real estate, the business or both. Fendt says he’s aware it could take time to find the right buyer and that there would be a period of transition and training.

Pete Fendt

Pete Fendt

Like most other bakers, Fendt has to be at work early, readying the different products for the day. It’s an around-the-clock job, he says, but it allows some flexibility in the daytime hours for things anyone else with a 9-to-5 office job wouldn’t be able to do.

From Germany, with flour

Fendt isn’t the first in his family to catch the baking bug, though. His father, Erwin, started baking in Germany before Pete was born. A long time before, actually. Erwin, now 83, was at it when he was about 13 years old. Pete’s mother, now 87 years old, was displaced from her native Chezchoslovakia and sought refuge in Germany. She worked in a butcher shop. The Fendts’ story would have taken on a drastically different turn had it not been for an American soldier from North Dakota who sponsored the family and helped them move to Fargo in 1956. Doing what he knew best, Erwin started working at Quality Bakery and was able to become a part owner, along with two other bakers.

Food fads

Having baked for such a long period time, Pete has seen his share of fads when it comes to food. He remembers when there were about eight different businesses in Fargo-Moorhead making bagels. Now, only one. Then it was a deluge of donut shops popping up around town. Cupcakes, cake pops and clever chemistry are the latest, he says. One of the biggest, if not the most pervasive, changes in food is the emphasis on gluten-free baking options. A shopper can barely head down a supermarket aisle without seeing something that’s been updated without the gluten.

Cake Pops

Cake Pops

When asked if there were any plans to change the menu of offerings at the bakery, Fendt says the benefits just don’t outweigh the risks and costs. To be a completely gluten-free bakery, Fendt says, requires a new kitchen with new equipment to ensure there isn’t any contamination that could cause an allergic reaction for someone with Celiac disease. But that doesn’t mean the shelves don’t see the new and innovative products that his customers want. Cake pops, for example, have been particularly popular, Fendt says.

After so many years at the helm of Quality Bakery, there will be an obvious transition to new ownership, but Fendt hopes not much else will change. Until the time comes to hand over the reins, Fendt will keep on baking.

New gluten-free bakery opens in Fargo

Call me cynical.

I just don’t see a gluten-free bakery doing well. Just Grains, a similar option that opened a while back in Moorhead, didn’t last long.

But the folks at Mehl’s Gluten-Free Bakery will try their best. And who knows, maybe it’ll work out well!

The new shop is at 1404 33rd St. S. Suite D in Fargo and is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Jade Dragon

There are few things better in life than a well-prepared bowl of pho.

(And before we go any further, it’s pronounced fuh, not faux.)

I tried a great version with moist and tasty grilled chicken at Cafe 21 a few months ago. And a couple places in the Twin Cities have nearly unbeatable versions. But the pho at Jade Dragon came close. Continue reading

All about a sweet new startup: Gigi’s Ice Lollies

In only six days, Nicole Kolbe and her sweet new company, Gigi’s Ice Lollies, shattered their Kickstarter.com goal of $2,500.  While that brings Nicole quite a bit closer to being up and running, there’s still time to contribute to the cause, as the Kickstarter project will be online until July 19. 

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Holy lollies!

Nicole’s idea is a fairly simple one: Quality, handmade popsicles sold from a cart in the sweltering North Dakota summer. The first cart should be mobile on or around July 13 in the area of the corner of 3rd St. and Broadway, across from Atomic Coffee. Keep a lookout for a bright rainbow umbrella and follow it for deliciousness. dc59b3c7e8f2a54d7bd3512831292592_large

“We are even working on the concept of taking ‘ice lolly party’ orders where you can arrange to have ice lollies delivered to your office for you and your co-workers. Eventually we are hoping to cater weddings, parties, and other events- but that probably won’t happen any time soon, unless it is a special case,” Nicole wrote in an email to me.

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As for the background on the name and idea, I’ll let Nicole explain it to you:

“I grew up on a small farm in TN and during the summer my grandmother, Gigi, would make us handmade ice lollies to keep us cool. Everything was natural, fresh and wonderfully delicious,” Nicole wrote. 

“Fast forward 20 years where I am married 1,500 miles from home and pining away for the lovely pops of King of Pops (in Atlanta, GA) and my grandmother. Then it dawned on me to simply make my own. Then it dawned on me that Fargo needs a handcrafted frozen treat on a stick to call its own, too. Thus Gigi’s Ice Lollies was born.” 

How cool is that?!

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Not only is the idea great because it honors the memory of Nicole’s grandma, but she’s using fresh, local and locally-sourced ingredients without any preservatives, artificial flavors or sweeteners, so you can feel good about indulging. Nicole says most of the lollies have less than five ingredients and quite a few are vegan, so everyone’s invited!

What really caught my attention were the flavors Nicole has thought up: Banana split, honeyed peaches and cream, strawberry basil, vegan frozen hot chocolate and (mmmm) lemon ricotta. They all sound crazy good, right?

I think it’s great that young people in Fargo are trying new stuff like this. It all goes together to make our community better, one step at a time, one ice lolly at a time!

Check out Gigi’s Ice Lollies on Facebook

RibFest 2013 coming soon!

For me, June means RibFest.

I can’t wait to dig into a full rack of ribs, sauce dripping onto my shirt and my fingers sticky for the rest of the day.

RibFest!

RibFest!

Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, June 5

A Lip Smackin’ Lunch Special 11am-1pm “You buy the meat and the sides are our treat!”
FREE parking, FREE admission, 2 FREE sides plus a FREE premium gift to the first 100 people!

Entertainment: Sugar Ray (time TBA)

Thursday, June 6

A Lip Smackin’ Lunch Special 11am-1pm “You buy the meat and the sides are our treat!”
FREE parking, FREE admission, 2 FREE sides plus a FREE premium gift to the first 100 people!

Entertainment: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (time TBA)

Friday, June 7

A Lip Smackin’ Lunch Special 11am-1pm “You buy the meat and the sides are our treat!”
FREE parking, FREE admission, 2 FREE sides plus a FREE premium gift to the first 100 people!

Entertainment: Blue Oyster Cult (time TBA)

Opening act: The Front Fenders

Saturday, June 8

Riblet Fest at RibFest 11am-2pm FREE parking & admission.

Times subject to change

Entertainment: Gloriana (time TBA)

Aladdin’s Cafe

I love a good gyro.

Shawarma is my bag, bro.

I make baklava my bitch!

And Aladdin’s Cafe can satisfy that itch. Continue reading

How to shop specialty markets

For some of us, shopping at the growing number of specialty shops may be a daunting task. In Fargo and Moorhead, there are quite a few Asian grocery stores, at least one Halal market and a new European market.

But if you don’t know what some of the items are, how are you to know what to do with them?

Alicia over at the super, fantastically awesome blog, Prairie Style File, explored that problem and offers quite a few great tips, some that I plan to put into practice.

I love seeing more and more of these places. They’re great to find exotic ingredients at unbelievably cheap prices. And the owners and workers can provide a vast wealth of knowledge. You just need to ask.

Red Pepper has ‘soft opening’

There are till a few hours to get your grinder on.

Grinders

Grinders

The Red Pepper is holding a “soft opening” for its “unpretentious Mexican” food at their new Fargo location at 1115 19th Ave. N. in the Happy Harry’s Plaza.

“The Pepper” has been a mainstay up in Grand Forks, mostly for inebriated college students.

Fellow blogger Jeni Flaa went to check the place out for the first time, but unfortunately had to turn back due to the extreme wait and slow-moving line.

In line, people were yelling to keep the door shut. Despite the publicity for the restaurant, the owners did not provide any way to guide the long line so it was a crowd of people struggling to keep any semblance of a line. Lots of people letting their families in so the line never seemed to get shorter. Waited for 20 minutes and moved ahead but only a few steps. Puzzled that hardly anyone seemed to leave the restaurant with their orders. Heard the ding of the microwave-also puzzled how it takes so long to put together food that mostly needs to be assembled and nuked.

Jeni said she’ll try again when the initial buzz dies down.

The Red Pepper Fargo will be fully open starting Monday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

F-M’s Celtic Festival

I had a great time at the 10th annual Celtic Festival in Moorhead today. It was my first time at the festival, too.

The best thing, to me, was the “meal deal,” a plate of corned beef and cabbage, “colcannon” potatoes, root vegetables, soda bread and a shortbread cookie. Oh, and lemonade.

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Continue reading