Warning: These noodles aren’t for enthusiasts of the status quo.
Purists have told them Minnesotans can’t make soba and ramen out of Midwestern American grains. Jeff and Kelly are proving them wrong. These are two curious makers who aim to take the best of the world’s food culture, turn it on its head and create something truly Minnesotan.
Meet Jeff Casper and Kelly McManus – friends, former neighbors, Noodlers at large and co-founders of Dumpling & Strand.
Jeff Casper, Grain Whisperer
Jeff has always been curious about food, culture and family traditions. As a kid, he wondered why his Germanic Milwaukee family ate things like German Potato Salad and Spätzle but he didn’t see these foods at his friends’ houses. After beginning college as a bio-chemistry major, he soon changed to food science. His grades shot up and the rest is history.
Jeff’s career has been focused on product development of grain foods at companies like Pillsbury, General Mills and Cargill. Through classes at the National Baking Center and the Culinary Institute of America, he became passionate about artisan baking. Locally, he admired the work of places like Rustica, but felt something was missing in the Twin Cities. He wondered if there was a way to apply artisan baking methods to pasta making to create something truly different.
Kelly McManus, Creative Magic Maker
Kelly was a passionate kid who was always embarking on a new creative project. Before the age of ten, she served as editor-in-chief of a newspaper produced by her neighborhood friends in South Minneapolis. At home, she played “restaurant” – she and her friends made pretzels out of flour and water, hung up curtains, created a menu and wore uniforms. She didn’t know it yet, but these were the first expressions of her creative and entrepreneurial spirit.
Kelly’s adult career is as varied and colorful as the one of her childhood. She’s designed marketing materials and developed brands for a variety of small non-profits and startups, including Windlight animation studio, Fiori – a flower shop Kelly owned, MSP magazine and Open Arms of Minnesota. At the heart of Kelly’s journey is a natural progression of creation. She’s a maker – at her core, she has always wanted to create and run her own business.
While Jeff and Kelly explore grains in cultures from all over the world, they try to source ingredients as close to home as possible. Case en pointe is the Minnesoba noodle – a soba-like noodle made from wild rice flour. As Jeff experimented with the wild rice flour, he noticed it seemed Asian in nature. The wild rice noodles can be used in broth like ramen, or cold in a salad like traditional soba. The noodle form makes it possible to cook a rich wild rice dish in just two minutes, were wild rice would normally take 30 minutes or more to make.
But wild rice is only one of the many uncommon grains Jeff incorporates into Dumpling & Strand noodles. He makes noodles with buckwheat, rye, farro, whole wheat levain and gluten-free basmati. Jeff develops relationships with small, local Minnesota farmers to grow these unusual but sustainable grains for Dumpling & Strand. On top of that, Jeff layers on “curious” techniques, experimenting with using freshly milled and toasted grains in making his fresh noodles. Finally, the noodles come in a variety of shapes inspired by both traditional Asian noodles and Italian pastas.
This all adds up to some seriously curious noodles.
Kelly and Jeff hope to continually outdo themselves, making their noodles even better than they are today. What’s more, they hope to challenge their customers to expand their food horizons. They want to play a role in building a true local food culture that reflects Minnesotan people and Minnesotan ideas.
For When You Noodle
Dumpling & Strand’s products are not your average noodles. When you make fresh pasta at home, do not, we repeat, do not step away from the boiling water. Once your water has reached a vigorous boil, drop in your noodles for just 2-3 minutes. Cook them until they’re 80 percent done, and finish cooking them in the pan with the sauce.
Oh yea, and when it comes to sauce, Kelly and Jeff are also redefining the role of pasta on your plate. Rather than being a vehicle for a big blob of sauce, many of these noodles need little more than a little butter and salt.
Visit Dumpling & Strand to try some exceptionally curious noodles. They can also be found at France 44, Lakewinds, Seward Co-op and The Wedge in Minneapolis, as well as co-ops in Iowa, South Dakota, Illinois and Wisconsin.