Standing around at Open Streets Nicollet, hovering over the masterpiece porchetta that Corner Table chef Thomas Boemer and charcuterie master Mike Phillips collaborated overnight for, I asked Phillips if they were planning on taking over the world.
"Yep," he answered succinctly.
"They" being the minds behind Food Building, Kieran Folliard's bringing together of food craftspeople, those at the top of their game who want, who need, to do things right, to do them slowly, precisely, and profoundly.
We were discussing how we eat as well in Minneapolis as anyone is anywhere in the country right now. Phillips' world-class meat, Lone Grazer Creamery Cheese, Luke and Katie Kyle's upcoming Workhorse Restaurant, all Food Building tenants and collaborators, are at the forefront of that movement.
And now they will be four.
Steve Horton, formerly of Rustica Bakery, is building a mill and bakery in the space— the first such operation of its kind in the metro.
Doing things the slow, difficult way, as it turns out, might just have been the right way after all.
"But we're not doing this in order to try and do something romantic," says Horton, who is responsible for searing the flavors of European-style, fermented, and naturally leavened breads into our collective taste consciousness locally. Many have followed, but we've often turned to Rustica as the gold standard. Last year, he sold the bakery. And the next obvious step was a new challenge. Not just a bakery, but a mill. All of the breads will be naturally fermented, "or what some people call sourdough." Horton says that while "there's noting wrong with quick leavened bread, the nuances of whole grains come through better with ferments. And they can be more time-consuming."
And it's true: Milling your own wheat and rye and barley in order to make a loaf of bread does sound romantic, just as it sounds that way as Phillips ages salamis and hams in months-long processes or when Lone Grazer collects grass-grazed milk directly into their tanks each week for cheese curds so fresh they'll pinch you. It's not romance they're after, but flavor.
Traditionally, you've got farmers and you've got millers and you've got bakers. And each has their own perspective on what makes a flour "good." The farmer is interested in what does well in the field. The miller is interested in what does well in his equipment. The baker is interested in what does well in his dough. And the end user— that's us, the eater— is interested in what does well in our mouths.
Ideally, Horton, over a long and dedicated process, will bring these perspectives closer together, in a merry harmony for us all.
The group has been in negotiation with the city since May to assist with zoning changes, as traditionally milling is not allowed in commercial neighborhoods. Then, they must build firewalls, specialty venting systems for particulate matter, and all manner of other specifics to make a bakery and mill, quite unlike any other thing we've had around here locally. The footprint will be small, only about 200 square feet for the milling operation, but the end result will hopefully be more like a loaf of bread we would have eaten 150 years ago— more complex, more malted, more healthful, with the germ and the brand still intact, unlike commercially milled flours.
"The germ is were the fats and wonderful flavor comes through," says Horton.