BEST GOURMET GROCERY - 2006
How much resemblance do you suppose there is between Tuscany and Woodbury? If there's any, Woodbury has the Kowalski family to thank—it's not the Italianate facade of their mega-grocery that makes the eastern suburb more Italian, it's the quality of the groceries, and, thus, the elevation of the daily meals. In the 23 years since the Kowalski family first got into the grocery business, taking over the old Red Owl on Grand, ripping out its scuffed linoleum and replacing most of the canned pie filling with upscale cheeses and fancy candles, the entire face of the grocery business hereabouts has been improved. It's not just their fancy imports we're talking about, it's the local fruit of our own soil, so to speak. Which is to say there's Pecorino Toscana, yes, but there's also a fabulous selection of regional artisan cheeses, and tres leches cake from St. Paul's El Burrito Mercado, Hope Creamery butter from Hope, Minnesota, Muddy Paws cheesecake from St. Paul, local Bramblewood Cottage pastries, and more. We're pretty sure those olives with wild fennel on the olive bar aren't local, but that's fine with us. We don't need olives to grow in Minnesota when we've got so much of our actual regional abundance represented, though we wonder if they're sad not to have Pepin Heights apples in Tuscany.