Years ago, I worked for the Village Cheese Shop in Wyckoff and Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. It was a delightfully stinky, marvelous place, headed by two visionary foodies I wish I’d kept in touch with. The shop was jam packed with artisanal cheeses, fine quality meats, and fresh-baked breads. At those cutting counters, I introduced customers to aged hard cheeses and creamy pungent spreads, all the while building my own taste education in the finer points of cheese. To this day I still savor triple-crème French cheeses, and the sharp salty bite of extra-aged Gouda.
Now, whenever I come across a gourmet shop like Grass Roots Gourmet that boasts a fantastic cheese selection, it takes me right back to those early days in my culinary education, and I experience a secret thrill about what I will discover.
I met the lady behind this superb shop at Minneapolis’ Midtown Global Market. Vicki Potts shares my appreciation for a well-balanced cheese board. As the shop’s owner, she is dedicated to providing her customers with locally-sourced and small-batch artisan food products of top quality.
As a young girl, Vicki lived in California, and while on a family vacation to Dillon Beach, she visited a dairy farm and tasted her first truly fresh-made cheese. Like me, Vicki fell in love with farm-fresh cheese at an early age, and that passion for exceptional food shines in her offerings at Grass Roots Gourmet.
Grass-Fed Cows Make for Great Cheese
Vicki points out the distinctive, subtle flavor that comes from dairy products made in farms on the prairies and lake shores of Minnesota and surrounding states. She has worked hard to cultivate a well-balanced collection of these locally-sourced cheeses that she graciously samples for customers.
After tasting a range of locally-made cheeses, I chose three for my cheese board – a cheddar, a blue, and a brie. To add a bit of crunch and sweet, I picked up a package of organic Potter’s Crackers in classic wheat and a jar of MN Red Wine Jelly by Lucille’s Kitchen Garden.
The first of my cheeses was the now famous Blue Earth American Brie by Alemar Cheese in Mankato, MN. Certified organic, as Vicki points out, “This one puts Minnesota on the world cheese map.” I would have to agree. Blue Earth American Brie is soft-ripened, but full-flavored. Learn more about the history of this cheese made in the Blue Earth region surrounding Mankato. “Bright, grassy, buttery, and versatile,” the cheese makers describe of this 2014 addition to their line of fine cheeses. To those descriptions I’ll add, creamy, rich and memorable.
For a more full-bodied cheese, I tried Joe Sherman’s Northern Lights Blue. This is a pretty amazing blue, and I thoroughly enjoyed both its creaminess and its zesty flavor profile. In researching this cheese, I learned that “Each batch is hand-crafted in small 100-wheel batches from the fresh unpasteurized milk of a local herd of Brown Swiss cows. The cows are allowed to graze on pasture year round, which helps to create the rich, creamy texture and delicious, butter flavor you’ll find in the cheese.”
In Prairie Breeze Farmstead Cheddar by Milton Creamery, I fell a little bit in love. This Amish Cheddar is creamy, but just crumbly enough to create a really appealing texture and bite. And it’s no wonder it’s a four-time blue ribbon winner (American Cheese Society 2011 – Montreal, Quebec; World Cheese Contest 2010 – London, England; American Cheese Society 2009 – Austin, TX; and US Cheese Championship 2009 – Green Bay, WI). This is a go-to cheese to keep on hand at all times.
But before settling on a favorite, remember just how many cheeses there are to try. You’ll just have to visit Grass Roots Gourmet to sample and to learn more, Vicki told me she doesn’t have a web presence and would rather put her time and energy into discovering sharing the products of her region.
I’m happy to spread the word for her and encourage you to stop by her wonderful shop in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. 920 E. Lake Street.