United for a Common Goal at Common Roots

Tracy Singleton from the Birchwood Cafe and Danny Schwartzman from Common RootsAward winner Tracy Singleton from the Birchwood Cafe and Danny Schwartzman from Common RootsLast night's Common Roots event combined many of my favorite things: delicious local, seasonal fare; presentations from some of the Twin Cities most forward thinking food experts; and the chance to connect with old and new friends in our community who share a commitment to good food that comes directly from the farmer.

Danny Schwartzman, owner of Common Roots, was our first speaker. He discussed the values that drive his business, including an ongoing commitment to providing local, organic, and fair-trade food - an astounding 88% of all Common Roots' 2009 purchases fit within this category.

Next, farmer Greg Reynolds from Riverbend Farm discussed the challenges and opportunities we face when it comes to school lunch, including introducing kids to vegetables they've never seen, like rainbow colored carrots. He believes good food is critical to good learning, and to drive the point home, Greg made a suggestion:

"Here's what you should do," he said, "when you wake up one morning, eat a candy bar and drink a Mountain Dew for breakfast. Then write down how you feel at about 10 in the morning. For lunch, eat a bag of Cheetos and drink another Mountain Dew. Write down how you feel at about two in the afternoon. I think it'd be a very brave thing to do." Strangely, there didn't seem to be any takers (yet).

Next up was Tracy Singleton, whose phenomenal support of Simple, Good and Tasty - including perfect attendance at each of our monthly events - won her a free dinner and gorgeous hand-made crown (made with construction paper and crayons, as seen above). Tracy was generous in her praise of SGT, and let people know that there are still tickets to see the movie Fresh and to attend the Birchwood Cafe's Earth Day dinner this week.

Our final guest speaker before dinner was Daniel Klein, whose Perennial Plate video series gives people a chance to experience Minnesota's food production system up close and personal, all year round. After Daniel spoke, I took the opportunity to remind people that April 22 is Earth Day, that April is National Stress Awareness month, and that the two are connected: we can't let stress (what if I don't do the right thing? what if I get it wrong?) get in the way of making good, sustainable choices.

And then, we ate!

First course: Tasty egg drop soup with foraged ramps (Oh, how great it is to be eating ramps again. I've missed them so.)

Entree: Delicious roasted duck breast with Door County cherry chutney, nettle and ricotta agnolotti, and pickled green garlic (vegetarians ate nettle ravioli with white wine cream sauce, asparagus, and cauliflower)

We took a short break in between our entree and dessert to hear from Leslie Kreumpel and Lisa Burger of MN Idea Open, whose first challenge got more than 400 Minnesotans to submit ideas about how to fix Minnesota's obesity epidemic. MN Idea Open graciously donated cookbooks and Common Roots gift cards, which we raffled off along with a couple of SGT Local Food Lover cards.

Our final speaker of the evening was Keith Tomlinson, Peace Coffee's master roaster. Keith told us that Peace Coffee is committed to using different organic, fair-trade beans and roasts in different seasons, and allowed us to taste the company's brand-spanking-new Brazilian coffee in the form of espresso shots.

Oh - and then we ate dessert: Scrumptious pavlova with mascerated berries, lavender and almond ice cream, chocolate friand, chocolate ganache, and lemon curd.

The night was loads of delicious fun and I learned a lot. Thank you to Common Roots for a terrific meal and event, and thanks to all our guests, friends, and supporters for being a part of this inviting, provocative, thoughtful, and tasty community. See you next month!

Lee Zukor is the founder of Simple, Good, and Tasty. Email him at