Despite my best intentions, I don't often remember to make spiced nuts, despite the fact that they make terrific gifts, cocktail snacks and a finish to tossed salads.
Then I discovered Patti's Rosemary Roasted Nuts at the checkout counter. These crisp, perfectly seasoned nuts taste better than my homemade version (which is a problem, as I am likely to eat half of the bag on the way home), and they're packaged in pretty jars and hostess-gift-worthy bags.
Patti Heimbold of Minneapolis has always been nuts for cooking and entertaining.
"My mom was a terrific baker, and I loved to hang out with her in the kitchen," she said. "I'd make snacks as she iced cakes or baked cookies and people were always dropping in. I now use her granola recipe for our newest product, Patti's Granola."
Heimbold began making spiced nuts several years ago when she catered parties and events. As the mother of two athletic sons, she brings her version of nuts and granola to team games and events for treats. With the encouragement of her family, she began taking orders to sell them directly to friends and later to gift shops.
In 2013, she created a label and packages to sell the roasted nuts at a local farmers market. There she attracted a cadre of regular customers, among them, a buyer for Kowalski's Markets.
Within the year, Patti's Nuts nuts were in one store, then two, then the entire chain. She moved her production out of her home kitchen and into City Foods Studio in Minneapolis. Several months ago, to meet increased demand, she moved again to a larger facility in Golden Valley.
Heimbold credits her understanding of food distribution and marketing to her early experiences as a salesperson for large food companies — Stouffer's and Pepsi. Cooking for her family, while also catering on the side, honed her multi-tasking skills. A fan of farmers markets, Heimbold sources fresh rosemary, maple syrup and honey from local growers.
She's an innovative cook, inspired by a collection of cookbooks, food blogs and magazines, and she's a perfectionist.
"It took forever to get the levels of cayenne right in the Maple Cinnamon Nuts," she said.
"The real key to our success is Kowalski's interest and support for this product," said Heimbold. "At first I was nervous to try and meet the demands of scaling up, but they've been very supportive and I've learned a ton."
Find Patti's at Kowalski's, specialty stores and online. Two versions of the roasted nuts are available (Rosemary, and Maple Cinnamon), both of which come in 6-ounce bags for about $9, and 8-ounce jars for about $14. Two granola varieties (Maple Pecan and Honey Almond) come in 12-ounce bags for $8. All are available online and in gift baskets: pattismpls.com.