Koli Fyten-Swap has always had a flair for flavor.
As a girl, she dreamed of being a chef and experimented with unexpected food combinations. She put that dream on the back burner when she started a family.
Now, she has refined her taste. She and her husband, Cory, are pairing classic comfort foods — grilled cheese, hamburgers and pulled pork sandwiches — with garden-fresh gourmet touches, including handmade sauces and garnishes.
She’s selling her fare at Anoka County’s summer festivals and farmers markets in her Jellybean and Julia’s food truck and at her new deli, which opened a couple of weeks ago on Main Street in Anoka. Her loyal customers say her homemade cuisine and creative flavor pairings are a rare palate pleaser in the north suburbs.
It truly is a taste of Anoka County. Many of the ingredients are either hand-picked from her Anoka County garden or purchased from local farmers markets.
“Her sauces always have a unique twist on something familiar. It’s all amazing,” said customer Marie Menkevich.
Menevich is such a big fan she risked getting barbecue sauce on her wedding gown — she had Jellybean and Julia’s cater her reception.
“The guests thought it was awesome. We have a lot of friends that are pretty big foodies,” Menevich said. “They were blown away. Everyone was impressed and raving about it.”
Fyten-Swap dresses up her sandwiches with homemade kale and basil pesto, balsamic onion jam, garlic mayo, jalapeño jam and bourbon apple barbecue sauce.
She peels the apples with her grandmother’s peeler and boils the apples down with a host of spices and ingredients. Her sandwiches are served with fresh-made potato chips and homemade thyme or dill pickles and an assortment of garnishes.
‘Squealed in glee’
Her specialty is the “heart attack,” a grilled cheese with pulled pork, two kinds of cheese, bacon, grilled onions, jalapeño jam and roasted garlic mayo, all cooked on a flat-top grill.
“I squealed in glee one time eating that sandwich,” said Jenny Christianson. “It’s the one sandwich that can make my rolls my eyes back in my head. It’s just an amazing flavor combination.”
The sandwich is so good, said Christianson, she snapped a picture and posted it on Facebook before eating.
What’s for dessert?
Depending on what’s in season, Fyten-Swap is serving up homemade rhubarb bars, chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting or an apple pie-cheesecake egg roll with salted caramel sauce. She makes both the fillings from scratch.
Fyten-Swap, who owns a 3-acre property in Ramsey with her husband, learned to can and pickle her garden harvest about five years ago. One of the first books she bought was “The Joy of Pickling.”
“I taught myself, but it’s in the blood. My grandma did it. She canned things to survive the winter,” Fyten-Swap said.
Fyten-Swap liked to experiment with different flavor and herb combinations, including thyme pickles and ginger pickled carrots.
“I spent a lot of hot days in the kitchen sweating over pots of pickles,” she said.
She sold her creations at local farmers markets to rave reviews. She and her husband bought and outfitted the food truck in 2012 and borrowed their daughters’ middle names, calling it Jellybean and Julia’s.She knew her sauces would be the secret to her success. Most of her food truck creations feature some of her homemade sauces, jams, garnishes or pickled vegetables.
They parked the food truck in different locations to attract the lunch crowd last summer. Their deli, at 300 E. Main St., is across from the county government center.
They still sell from the food truck at Rum River Wine and Spirits on Friday evenings, the farmers market at Goose Lake Farm and Winery in Nowthen on Saturday afternoons, and the Anoka Classic Car Show on Saturday evenings.
She lets her own taste buds guide her.
“It’s stuff that we like to eat,” she said.
Christianson said she puts a lot of stock in locally grown and prepared food. She recalled once seeing a man in downtown Anoka walking with a fast-food bag. She stopped him and recommended Jellybean and Julia’s.
“You know where your food is coming from with Jellybean and Julia’s,” Christianson said. “You know they are putting their heart into it.”
For more information, go to www.jellybeanandjulias.com.