It was a simple dream: Reuben Nilsson wanted to make something that he could share with others at the end of the day. He went to the University of Minnesota to study food science, graduated, and knew he would make beer or cheese. He worked at the Caves of Faribault for seven years, making some of the best blue cheeses in our region. He made mention to a friend that he might want to go off on his own one day. His friend said: "I know a guy."
That guy? Kieran Folliard of Kieran's, of Three Gingers, one of the masterminds behind Red Table Meat, and now mastermind behind Food Building, a northeast Minneapolis space where food wizards come to do what they do best, and then share it with the world.
And share they did on Tuesday, when Lone Grazer Creamery threw open its Minneapolis doors (that has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? A creamery in the city.)
Cheesemakers busied themselves within the plant, popping wheels of cheese out of molds, and head cheesemaker and owner Nilsson mingled, along with farmers Dave and Mariana Nyquist and Clark Stengard, who provide the Minnesota-pastured cow's milk that goes into the cheese.
The air hung heavy with the aroma of that pasture; there's a striking difference in dairy that's been produced by animals who eat grass. It smells like something -- it smells like the farm. Nilsson says that just as consumers increasingly wish to know their farmers, his farmers are curious about the consumer.
Currently, Lone Grazer is producing three cheeses: string cheese and cheese curds, as well as an aged, washed rind wheel that's taken on the earthy funk of a good Tallegio. We sampled it with fig jam on a grilled cheese and it made for a memorable hors d'oeuvre that stood up and said hello. Soon they'll offer fresh Ricotta.
Food Building is not yet open to the public, though that is the goal. They say they would like it to be a natural spot on out-of-towner itineraries, and we can totally see why: As Bedford Cheese Shop and Mast Brothers are to Brooklyn, Red Table Meat and Lone Grazer are to Minneapolis. And they are planning a deli to show off the product. They're aiming for a fall opening for all of this wonderfulness.
There is a third space still currently vacant that was to originally house Chow Girls Catering, but the deal fell through. Folliard says he'd love to see a vegetable pickler take the space, which would complete the fermentation trifecta. He's currently talking to a local sauerkraut producer, but nothing is final yet.
Lone Grazer cheeses, which, by the way have a clean, pleasant taste and grassy finish, are available at your local co-op, as well as on the menus at Anchor Fish & Chips, Red Stag Supper Club, and Gyst.
Lone Grazer in the Food Building is located at 1401 Marshall St. NE in Minneapolis.
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