You’ve probably noticed that the offerings at Twin Cities farmers markets have expanded far beyond local produce, meat, dairy, and eggs. On any given day you might find bagels, doughnuts, cakes and pastries, broth, bread, pickled veg, or charcuterie. It’s hard to imagine how they could do a better job meeting your weekly shopping needs.
This year saw the debut of Dumpling & Strand Noodlers at Large. With a name that is at once trendy and old-timey and a stand styled to look like an apothecary shop, they are peddling some pretty great noodles. Behind the counter you’ll find purveyors Jeff Casper, a food scientist, and Kelly McManus, a marketing specialist, along with their handiwork on prominent display, his on platters and hers on the signage and packaging. Fun fact: She’s Dumpling and he’s Strand. We asked.
Dumpling & Strand sells Italian and Asian noodles. All are fresh (with a use-by date), and take only three minutes to cook. The Italian line includes egg pastas (regular and gluten-free), sprouted whole-wheat pasta, and toasted farro pasta. The Asian line includes ramen (regular, squid ink, and gluten-free) and juwari soba, made of 100 percent buckwheat.
The egg pastas are excellent. We had the fettuccine, fusillo, and pici. When cooked al dente, they were all slightly nutty, perfectly chewy, and salted just-so. Casper and McManus recommend using a simple sauce, and we concur; think homemade pesto or a light red sauce. You don’t want to drown out the pasta’s subtle taste.
The ramen were similarly chewy and perfectly salted. At the owners’ recommendation, we undercooked our ramen (two minutes instead of three), ran cold water over the noodles, and then poured hot broth over them for a perfect result. These ramen noodles want a rich broth, not a flavor packet. The soba were unlike any dried soba we’ve prepared — softer and with a faint aroma of autumn spices, something like nutmeg or cloves. They played well with a tahini and ginger sauce and tons of fresh cilantro.
At $7 per 9-ounce package ($8 for gluten-free), or three for $20, these won’t replace dried pasta in most households on account of both cost and shelf-stability. But if you’re picking up basil and heirloom tomatoes, you will be hard pressed to find a better noodle to accompany your summertime bounty. For now, Dumpling & Strand products are available only at the Mill City, Kingfield, and Linden Hills farmers markets, but keep an eye out for them in co-ops.