When it comes to noodles, Dumpling & Strand is going with the grain. Local grains.
This company, which specializes in fresh noodles, is the brainchild of Jeff Casper, food scientist, and Kelly McManus, marketing specialist. They met some 15 years ago as neighbors in south Minneapolis, and decided to put their passion for pasta to work.
Casper's experience in product development includes stints at Pillsbury, General Mills and Cargill. "As I rose through the ranks in large companies, I found myself supervising others but no longer directly engaged in the products," he said. "I love creating new things."
McManus most recently worked with Open Arms of Minnesota, and has a long history in marketing and running small businesses. They began working out of their home kitchens and as demand increased, moved to Gia, a licensed commercial space in St. Paul.
They have developed a variety of Italian and Asian-style noodles to showcase the flavor of heritage grains.
"Take our 100 percent Buckwheat Juwari Soba noodle," said Casper. "Because the buckwheat grown here is different from Japan's, we formulated a noodle that's inspired by the traditional soba, but is not the same. Other U.S. producers import Japanese buckwheat, but we are creating something new. Our toasted farro noodles — fettuccine, pappardelle and cavatappi — are made with the grain grown near Fargo. All of our noodles reflect the real taste of this place," he said.
To keep the milling close to home, Casper works with Steve Horton of Baker's Field Flour & Bread in Minneapolis, who toasts and mills the grains.
"The label's old-timey, apothecary-shop image reflects our approach," McManus said. "We research and experiment, curious to see what works." The name suggests short, fat "dumplings" and long, thin "strands," as well as the "curious" noodle shapes in between.
Dumpling & Strand's 22 varieties include four Asian, seven egg, three whole-wheat levain, three farro and five gluten-free egg noodles. Their flavors are so distinct that they require very little seasoning. For a quick dinner, try the egg fettuccine, a firm and pleasantly chewy noodle, tossed with extra-virgin oil, a little grated Parmesan and freshly chopped herbs.
"If using a sauce, undercook the noodles and then finish them off in the saucepan, so they absorb more of the sauce's flavor," suggests Casper.
A variety of the noodles are available at Lakewinds, Harvest Moon, Seward and Wedge food co-ops, as well as France 44 and Mazopiya markets. The full selection can be found at the Mill City Winter Farmers Market. Each 9-ounce package serves about three to four people, and retails for $7 to $8. dumplingandstrand.com.