Food entrepreneurs hope to make Nordeast Minneapolis foodie central


Nordeast Minneapolis is becoming a food destination in more ways than one. In addition to new trendy restaurants and little ethnic grocery stores, two seasoned food entrepreneurs, Ruben Nilsson and Kieran Folliard, have opened what they’re calling simply, The Food Building.

Located at 1401 Marshall, not far from the city’s Arts District and with a view of downtown’s skyscrapers, they hope the location will become part of a central food hub, a place where upmarket food makers can go from small time to big time.

Right now, they have only two tenants; experienced cheese maker Nilsson and sausage maker Mike Phillips, a James Beard Award winning chef who once led the team at the South Minneapolis restaurant, The Craftsman.

Nilsson had been working at the Caves of Faribault for more than six years, creating award winning blue cheeses and learning his trade. But last summer, he set out on his own, partnering with Kevin Folliard, pub owner and creator of 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, and by early February, was starting his first batch of cheese.

Nilsson reached out to two organic dairy farm families, David and Mariana Nyquist who farm near Cokato and farmer Clark Anderson, who manages a herd in tiny Sebeka, Minnesota. The farms produce high quality milk and, said Nilsson, the superior cheese will help the farmers become better known, especially among cheese connoisseurs.

“We milk mostly Milking Shorthorns ,  a heritage breed”, said Anderson. “I got my first Milking Shorthorn when I was six-years old. They’re from Northern England originally and their milk is known for it’s high protein solids. It’s very nutritious.” Shorthorn milk is used in England to make Wenslydale and other cheeses.

“The flavor of the cheeses changes throughout the year depending on what the cows are eating,” says Anderson. In the winter, the cows stay in the warm barns eating hay. But, in the summer, when the cows are roaming the green farm pastures and eating fresh grass, they have to be bribed to come into the milking barn with a handful of grain.

“We give them less than a pound of grain a day. Commercial operations feed 20 to 40 lb. a day. Ours give less milk, but the cows live and produce milk for 10 years. The average life for a commercial milking cow is only two and a half years.”

Anderson trucks in from three to four thousand pounds of milk, three times a week, from his and the Nyquist’s farm to the cheese making center, where the staff of five cheese makers gets to work.

Nilsson started with simple style cheeses. “The milk speaks throughout the cheese,” says Nilsson, he said, because “I wanted to make very approachable cheeses, something I can share and enjoy.”

So far, Nilsson’s Lone Grazer Creamery produces three styles of organic cheese – string cheese and white cheese curds, as well as an aged washed-rind cheese (delicious in grilled cheese and fig jam sandwiches.) The cheeses are currently available at 20 local markets. An organic ricotta is in the planning stages.

The cheese makers share the 26,000 sq. ft. building with Red Table Meat Co. a new high-end pork charcuterie,  in production mode since last October. The cured hams, salamis and sausages hang on drying racks. Mike Phillips  buys pigs only from farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin that use humane raising and slaughtering practices.

Red Table’s cured meats are available at co-ops, supermarkets and cheese shops around the Metro. Phillips and Nilsson hope to join forces and open a deli, sometime in the fall. And, says Folliard, they are looking for other food makers (perhaps something fermented?) to fill some of the remaining space.