There’s the smell of freshly baked bagels in the air and a mezuzah on the doorpost. No, this isn’t New York or Jerusalem, and it isn’t even a temple baking extravaganza hosted by the Sisterhood. This is an honest-to-goodness kosher bakery in the Twin Cities. As in, not just kosher-style. And, all the baked goods and candies are made fresh on-site, and they’re all sure to put a starch-induced smile on your face.
Kathy Rendleman, co-owner with Kimberly Barrett, handles the kitchen – including recipe creation and testing. “Fiddling with the bagel recipe took five weeks, and my husband didn’t want to eat another bagel,” she says. And it’s that recipe that she uses beginning at 3 a.m. (THREE A.M.!) every morning. “It was important to me to have really good bagels here. It’s something we wanted to take on.” Obviously the time investment paid off. These are some phenomenal bagels: chewy outside, toothy, dense center, with a solid lineup of flavors, including plain, sesame, poppy seed, sea salt and pepper, “everything,” and cinnamon sugar – and they’re toying with a blueberry recipe. About 80% of the recipes they use came from Kathy’s family. The other 20%? Mostly from her employees. “It’s nice for them to get to say ‘That’s MY family recipe'” when it’s made and displayed in the glass case, she adds.
It’s obvious that there is a tremendous amount of pride in this place, from the early and long hours, to the lengths required to go to to get – and maintain – kosher certification, not to mention the hand-made candies. And the counter staff was clearly genuinely pleased with the shop’s offerings, proudly arranging items for me to photograph and sharing their thoughts on the day’s specials.
In addition to bagels, they also serve cinnamon rolls, scones, muffins, bars, breakfast breads, and cookies, with flavors changing (mostly) daily. If you’re not in the mood for pastries, try one of the sandwiches, salads, or – after September 1 – soups.
I had a chance to sample a raspberry-chocolate chip scone and a cinnamon roll, in addition to the sesame and sea salt and pepper bagels I tried. It turns out I don’t care much for chocolate in much of my breakfast treats – or at least not my scones – but it had great crumb and that almost-dry quality I look for in a scone (you know – the kind you just know will soak up coffee, almost like biscotti), and the raspberries were sweet, slightly tart, and delicious. Next time I’ll try the blueberry scone, and skip the chocolate adventurousness.
The cinnamon roll was quite decadent, and just the right size. Usually, breakfast rolls like these are ungodly large and overwhelming, insisting you share them or face the consequences; but this one was approachable without feeling like you shorted yourself, while the cream cheese frosting was some of the best I’ve ever had – you could actually taste the tang of the cream cheese. There’s no way this was store-bought with flavor like that.
The full city roast Sumatra and dark roast Nicaraguan coffees I had with my goodies came from Roastery 7, which is kosher certified by the same agency as Seven Stars. They clearly know their coffee and strive to share their knowledge with their clients, because Kathy sure knew her product. Every coffee shop owner should be this well versed in what they sell. And all coffee should be roasted this well; Kathy shared that it’s because it’s actually all light roasted, relying on the boldness of the bean to dictate how “dark” it tastes.
The shop is located in south Edina – where there isn’t a huge Jewish community, according to Kathy (but it is just south of Saint Louis Park and Hopkins – traditionally a bastion of Jewish neighborhoods). So, they don’t hide the fact that they’re kosher. There are Magen Davids on the shop’s sign, but they promote themselves locally as a “gourmet vegetarian” coffeeshop. However, people tend to notice the “no outside food allowed” signs on the doors and the kosher certificate on the wall. “[The customers] seem to appreciate it, even if they don’t know what kosher is. They like knowing it’s a cleaner, higher standard,” Kathy says. No kidding. Even her health inspector got his chuckles upon finding out that they would be kosher certified, reportedly saying, “If you’re going to have a rabbi in here three to four times a week, my job here is done.” And it’s true – every visible inch of the place sparkles, and it’s probably safe to assume the rest does as well.
Kathy keeps a kosher home, but didn’t realize how relaxed it was until she started running a kosher shop. Luckily, that’s where her supervising agency comes in. Overseen by Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky of MSP Kosher, it’s part of what seems to be a growing movement to offer kosher food establishments in the Twin Cities. According to their Web site,
MSP Kosher aims to serve the greater Twin Cities community by providing free kosher supervision to local establishments. This supervision agency is a collaboration of community rabbis with the greater community’s interests in mind. These rabbis do not accept payment of any kind for this supervision.
To which I say, “WOW.” Not only do they not accept payment, but Kathy couldn’t be more pleased with the support she’s gotten, based on how highly she spoke of Rabbi Olitzky, from access to him via text message, to him getting some of their preferred vendors kosher certified – which in turn just creates more opportunities for kosher options.
Parents of b’nei mitzvah kids (and anyone else who hosts any kind of gathering demanding nosh) take note: they cater. Just be sure to give them enough notice, because items like bagels require more time (dough rising, shaping, etc.) than you’d expect, and they bake fresh everyday, so there isn’t a stockpile of extras hidden in a freezer somewhere.
Seven Stars Coffee House has been open since June 30, 2010, but their grand opening is slated for sometime post-High Holy Days. Stop in now if you like to be in the know before all your friends.