A farmers market sampler

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August 3, 2009 // UPDATED 8:55 am - August 3, 2009
By: Cristof Traudes, Sarah McKenzie and Dylan Thomas
Cristof Traudes, Sarah McKenzie and Dylan Thomas
Deena’s Gourmet Hummus

Hummus has become a staple for many families. There are lots of great options these days in just about every grocery store, but if you’re looking for something special, Deena’s Gourmet Hummus should be on your radar next time you hit the Minneapolis Farmers Market or the Nicollet Mall market.

The hummus is made fresh each week without any preservatives or tahini, a Middle Eastern sauce commonly found in hummus. It’s got great texture and is a little thicker than other varieties of the chickpea spread.

Deena Kvanik, the woman behind the hummus, sort of stumbled upon her latest passion by accident. She whipped up some hummus for a party, following her own recipe that included feta and no tahini. It was a huge hit and friends kept making requests for it.

So when Kvanik lost her job as a Macy’s buyer in 2008, she decided to launch her own business selling her special hummus. She applied for a spot at the St. Paul Farmers Market and within three weeks she was up-and-running.

She has a few varieties — roasted red pepper and feta (by far the most popular), original and eggplant hummus.

In addition to the Minneapolis and St. Paul farmers markets, you can find Deena’s Gourmet Hummus at the Mississippi Market, Linden Hills Co-op, Natural Valley Foods, The Golden Fig and Golden’s Deli.

On Thursdays, her stand is in front of McCormick & Schmick’s, 800 Nicollet Mall.

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Tollefson Family Pork

The free sample is a tried and true method to lure business. At the Minneapolis Farmers Market, some do it better than others.

It’s easy to accept a Dixie cup of kettle corn and keep walking; less so to sample a few cinnamon roasted almonds and not buy a small paper bag, hot from the roaster.

On a recent Saturday, few vendors’ free bites attracted a larger crowd than the pieces of bratwurst and porkchop skewered on toothpicks at the Tollefson Family Pork stand. Dan Tollefson, a white-haired bundle of energy topped in a baseball cap, offered one to every empty hand.

The Tollefsons, who farm about 70 miles southwest of the Twin Cities in Gaylord, hold down a far corner of the market with a grill and a low wall of freezer cases. There are brats and polishes on the grill and in the freezers, too, along with slabs of bacon, pork links, Italian sausage, Braunschweiger, ham steaks and just about anything else you can make from a pig.

One of the more popular items seems to be the smoked porkchop, and with good reason. They are tender and succulent, like a cross between a chop and a piece of ham.

A sign says you can order one off the grill if you’re willing to wait 10 minutes. It’s better to grab a two-pack out of the freezer case, go home and fire up the barbeque.

They just need a few minutes on the heat and they come off flakey and moist, tasting pleasantly of a hardwood fire.

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Momo

It would be easy to send someone to the Mill City Farmers Market just to try a burger at the Chef Shack or an Aebleskiver dunked in powdered sugar. Both are great choices. Delicious.

But it would be a mistake not to also mention Café Nepal’s tasty momos.

A close cousin to a potsticker, the momo is a spicy, flavorful bite. It’s served with tomato-mint chutney, which although close in texture to tomato soup leans heavier on the herbs than on the tomato. That’s good — this is far from a cheap-tasting dumpling-and-ketchup combo. Rather, it’s a complex concoction of flavors.

Café Nepal is the booth of Rashmi Bhattachan, a Nepal native who wants to open her own restaurant. As long as momos are on the menu, we’ll be there when she does.



Minneapolis Farmers Market
312 E. Lyndale Ave. N. (Daily, 6 a.m.–1 p.m. through mid-November)

Nicollet Mall Farmers Market
Between 5th & 12th streets (Thursdays, 6 a.m.–6 p.m. through November)

Mill City Farmers Market
Chicago & 2nd Street South (Saturdays, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. through mid-October)