It's Sunday morning at Foxy Falafel, the food stand that personal chef and caterer Erica Strait debuted in May. From across the Kingfield Farmers Market, we're drawn in by a laughing customer, eyes on the smoothie-filled blender in front of her, feverishly pedaling a stationary bike that's powering the appliance. Onlookers hesitantly approach the stand, ask what a falafel is (answer: a fritter made of ground, spiced chickpeas) and snatch up free samples. Amid the bustle, Strait is all business, slathering fresh pitas with a mild hummus, then filling them with cabbage and her signature crispy falafel. But when interacting with customers, she breaks into a big, welcoming smile.

Strait became interested in food and its origins at an early age. "I grew up on a farm in South Dakota, so I was very close to where food comes from -- growing it, eating from the garden, and raising animals that we would eat," she says. "I grew up cooking in the kitchen with my mom and my grandma and have always been so interested in it."

After culinary school, Strait met Israeli chef Einat Admony, the main inspiration for Foxy Falafel. "I learned how to make falafels from [her]. She has a very successful falafel restaurant, this really tiny place called Taïm," Strait says. "They've been declared the best falafel in New York City. She's amazing." For two years, Strait and Admony worked together in fine dining restaurants in New York.

In 2007, Strait moved to Minnesota to be nearer to her Minnesota-based siblings. Soon she became line cook at Spoonriver, a restaurant whose organic, local philosophy is similar to her own. While working at the restaurant, Strait met fellow chefs Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer (now of Chef Shack), both of whom proved to be big supporters of Strait's food-stand idea. "We're just really good chef friends -- we all share a love for travel and for food and for the street-food thing. So they were my biggest cheerleaders in getting this started."

The next step for Strait was deciding what to sell. One was a no-brainer. "I decided that I wanted to do my version of falafel because I ate falafel in Minneapolis and I haven't been able to find anything like the falafel that I make," she said. Strait's version resembles the bright green kind she learned to make from Admony, but Strait also sprouts the chickpeas to increase the nutrient value, boost their digestibility and create a light, fluffy falafel. On the side, she offers pickled onions and three sauces: Tunisian harissa, mint cucumber and green tahini.

Thanks to some ingenuity, Foxy Falafel also offers smoothies ... with a twist. "I was reading about Hawaii, and they had a thing about smoothie bikes," Strait says. "And I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, I have to do that!'" She dug up her old bike, searched Craiglist for some used blenders and brought them to a friend, who combined them to make a pedal-powered smoothie maker. The gimmick has been a big hit at the farmers markets. "People love it," Strait says.

  • Foxy Falafel can be found at the Northeast Farmers Market (9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays), the Kingfield Farmers Market (8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays), and the Uptown Farmers Market (11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays).

The Churn

Patisserie 46 opened this week, sending Minneapolis pastry fans into a veritable frenzy. The bakery/gelateria/coffeeshop at 46th Street and Grand Avenue S. is run by John Kraus, named one of the country's top 10 pastry chefs in 2005 and 2006 by Pastry Art and Design Magazine.

The Heavy Table team writes about food and drink in the Upper Midwest five days a week at www.heavytable.com.