Maybe you are a gifted home chef, whose culinary feats evoke hushed murmurs of wonderment from your dinner guests. Or perhaps your many blessings do not include an aptitude for cooking. Either way, your deeply ingrained sense of Midwestern hospitality compels you to serve only the best to your friends and loved ones each holiday season.
What luck! Kowalski's, the family-owned Twin Cities grocery chain which curates a selection of the finest foods the world has to offer, is right here in Minneapolis. Whether you seek superlative ingredients – or intend to play host or hostess without dulling a single Wüsthof – Kowalski’s makes entertaining a piece of cake.
“There are high standards, and then there are our standards,” said Mary Anne Kowalski. “If you find it at Kowalski’s, you can rest assured that we have personally traveled to wherever it was grown, raised or prepared and approved of everything we saw. These are products we are proud to serve to our own families.”
“Exercising our standards has taken an incredible amount of work,” said Kris Kowalski Christiansen, Mary Anne’s daughter who has worked in the family business since she was old enough to operate a till. “When we’re unable to find a product that meets them, we create it in-house. That’s why we have our own bakery, hired our own bread maker, and even began cultivating our own yeast. When a bread has the words ‘cinnamon’ and ‘raisin’ in its name, it simply cannot fall short of perfection.
“Most of our recipes originated in our family or team members’ home kitchens. We have my nephew Boyd Oase to thank for our stuffing recipe. Terri Bennis, our chief merchandising officer, came up with our Salsa di Parma – a spread made with parmesan and asiago that complements nearly anything. Many of our recipes are created in-house by Rachael Perron, our culinary and branding director. And my father’s Aunt Nettie has our undying gratitude for creating our potato salad, a perennial favorite at our deli.”
Here I must editorialize. If the Nobel Committee ever comes to its senses and begins awarding accolades for potato salad, Aunt Nettie would join her rightful place among Einstein and Mother Teresa. For hers is ambrosial potato salad: a fitting side to any Olympian’s burger. The recipe should be launched into deep space for the benefit of alien civilizations. In case I’m not making myself clear, I like Aunt Nettie’s potato salad.
“We recognize when we can’t recreate a recipe without sacrificing some part of its charm,” said Mary Anne. “For example, my neighbor’s tiramisu only tastes best when it comes from her own kitchen, so hers is the only kitchen our tiramisu will ever come from.
“Whether we’re partnering with a local producer or one abroad, we insist on knowing everything about their process. In addition to ensuring the quality of their product, we want to make certain they’re paying fair wages and treating animals ethically. That attention to detail has made Kowalski’s the first retailer to achieve Leader status in the James Beard Foundation's Smart Catch Seafood Sustainability Program, as well as the first multi-location retailer in the country to offer USDA Choice and Prime beef that is Certified Humane by the Humane Farm Animal Care organization.”
“I’m not a great cook,” confessed Kris. “I’d like to think you wouldn’t be disappointed if I cooked for you, but I admit I can’t hold a candle to the collective talent of team members. But you know what? So much the better. Instead of mashing and basting and sautéing all day, I get to serve a premade Christmas dinner without feeling like I’m cheating my guests.”
Kowalski's inedible wares are no less incredible. Their European-style flower shop offers gorgeous arrangements of brilliant things grown by Len Busch Roses of Plymouth, and their gift department showcases many local artisans’ best work. Give your loved ones jewelry by Art 'n Soul, scented candles by rareESSENCE, outdoorsy apparel by Waggle Golf, leisurewear by Blind Havoc, or the world’s softest socks by World’s Softest Socks this holiday season, and they’ll wonder what they could have done to deserve so much affection.
“Knowing we are part of so many holiday celebrations is always a wonderful feeling,” said Mary Anne. “Thank you, [Minneapolis], for having us!”
“Knowing we are part of so many holiday celebrations is always a wonderful feeling."