If you want proof that we’re living in a seriously interconnected world, just check out Seven Sundays Muesli. Its creator and driving force, Hannah Barnstable, was inspired to do a high-quality muesli while honeymooning in New Zealand. Her business chops were honed by a career in investment banking in New York City, where she specialized in mergers and acquisitions of food-related companies. Now she’s making artisan muesli in the Twin Cities, and has picked up a distribution deal that puts her product on the shelves of some of area’s leading grocery store chains.
If you’re not yet familiar with muesli, granola’s a good starting point, but the comparison’s only fair up to a point. “It’s a healthier version of granola,” says Barnstable. “It’s a lot looser and lighter and it’s not baked for a long time — it doesn’t have any oils or refined sugars. It’s like a loose, unprocessed cereal. There are some mueslis on the market, very few in the US — but they tend to be very dusty, and dirty.”
Seven Sundays Muesli is anything but. Served with milk or yogurt, the muesli tastes light, clean, and flavorful. For example: The Everyday Muesli, one of four flavors her company produces, boasts honey, raisins, coconut, currants, almonds, banana chips, Brazil nuts, and spices, among other ingredients.
“Our mueslis are half or less grains so there’s a lot more crunch to it. It’s small batch-made and we created specific recipes, as opposed to doing something generic — we get flavors like cinnamon and cardamom in there, which get people excited.”
Barnstable says that Seven Sundays uses whatever ingredients it can source locally (coconut, probably not so much). “Our grains come from a mill near La Crosse, WI,” she says. “We use honey from Sweet Harvest down in Cannon Falls. Our golden flax is grown in Minnesota as well. All our packaging is done here, too.” Working with a local commercial bakery, Barnstable turns out 600 cases of product every two or three weeks.
The origin story of Seven Sundays goes back to Barnstable’s New Zealand trip. “We were mostly on the South Island,” she recalls. “Between the people and the culture … it was the perfect vacation. In between hikes we’d stay at bed and breakfasts, and every bed and breakfast we’d go to would have these glass jars of homemade toasted muesli. And you’d eat that before you’d eat the big breakfast.”
Upon returning to New York City, however, Barnstable found it challenging to source an equivalent product, the vast array of stores in the five boroughs notwithstanding.
“I went to every grocery store and kept buying muesli, and it was terrible,” says Barnstable. “So I just started to make it at home, and I remembered all the unique ingredients, like coconut — things you don’t see in mueslis here.
We tried all four varieties of Seven Sundays muesli and liked them to varying degrees. Both of her “foodie-friendly” varieties (Ginger Pear Macadamia Toasted Muesli and Vanilla Cherry Pecan Toasted Muesli) were solid hits.
Boasting satisfyingly crunchy texture overall, both are studded with delightfully chewy, fruity land mines of flavor, and accentuating spicing that makes for a sophisticated impact on the palate. The plain old Original Toasted Muesli was a bit more sedate but still a great start to the day: simple, earnest, richly textured.
It’s no knock on the ingredients or the recipe to say that we weren’t fond of the deliberately plain unsweetened and untoasted Bircher style muesli when we first tried it — this austere stuff is almost unbearably dry and serious when eaten directly out of the box. Soaked overnight (as per the recipe on the box’s back) and served with yogurt and maple syrup, however, it makes a profoundly substantial healthy base for toppings like maple syrup, fruit, and yogurt.
As for the name of the muesli, the well-traveled Barnstable cites an incident that happened close to home in Minnesota. “Last spring we were with a bunch of friends in Lutsen, skiing, and it was Sunday. We got up, and made this big breakfast, and we said: ‘Sundays are the best days.’
“It reminded us of the New Zealand culture — simplicity, taking your time, and enjoying the moment.”
Seven Sundays Muesli is available at local co-ops, Lunds and Byerly’s, and Kowalski’s, and online at the product’s website and Abe’s Market. It retails for between $7-10 for a one-pound box, which contains eight 1/2-cup servings.
The Heavy Table received samples of the four varieties of Seven Sundays muesli and a quart of Cedar Summit yogurt.