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  • “PASS THE MIC” SERIES #1: Rustica Bakery, Minneapolis

    Interview by Dan Anderson

    [This blog post was written the day before the news of Adam "MCA" Yauch's passing. Like many, we were fans. It is a great loss and we'll continue to appreciate and remember his contributions to music and our culture.]

    Wednesday was an overcast and cool day and for me deserved the songs of Noah Gundersen. Thursday was sunny and warm, so the Beastie Boys took over the airwaves. In preparing for this interview, I was struck by the song and concept of “Pass the Mic”. There I go again, quoting the Beastie Boys. Just the other day with a friend I was trying to relate fatherhood to “No Sleep til Brooklyn” – only kidding. Yeah, so I don’t really ever quote the Beasties or use their songs to express ideas, but this “pass the mic” concept works for me.

    At Dogwood, we are very diligent and careful with our coffee and at some point we “pass the mic”. I know it may be a stretch, but there is a trust, an added fullness and a knowing of each other that allows for the comfort of sharing in a song. I think this is a good framework to express how we view our wholesale partners. At some point with a lot of our coffee, we pass it on. We are extremely proud and grateful for each of our wholesale partners. They are a committed group: committed to quality, to craft, to caution and to our coffee. So, I am going to write a series of blog posts entitled “Pass the Mic” in which we highlight our wholesale partners. They will be relatively brief and hopefully fun interviews that share a glimpse of the people we get to enjoy working with everyday.
    So here we go…


    Rustica Bakery in Minneapolis was really the genesis of Dogwood. You all know the history (if not, look here), so clearly Rustica holds a special place with us and seemed completely appropriate as the first wholesale partner to kick-off the series. Rustica was started in 2004 by Steve and Barbara Horton with Tammy Hoyt, out of the desire to make the bread that they wanted to eat – no compromises. Steve and Tammy both came with a strong background in baking and using their hands and passions, they got to making some amazing bread, pastries and desserts.

    First located in a small space inside Java Jacks (at the time) just off 46th and Bryant in South Minneapolis, Rustica quickly became a huge hit and received numerous accolades and community support in their craft. By 2009, Rustica outgrew the confines of their space and moved to their own location on the north shore of Lake Calhoun. They currently have a side-by side production bakery and full café which offers bread, pastries, desserts, sandwiches and other rations such as various chocolate bars and local honey. For coffee, they brew-to-order on 2 clovers, offering multiple coffees of various origins everyday. The traditional espresso menu is crafted by some really great baristas on a 3-group Synesso Hydra, and they also serve a mean affogato using Sebastian Joe’s Vanilla ice cream (highly recommended!). Rustica is also an outpost for selling Dogwood's 12oz whole bean bags of coffee. 
    On a personal note, I got to know Steve four years ago in working closely with him on the development and build out of Rustica. I quickly gained such a respect and appreciation for his dedication, hard work and craft that was yet tempered by humility and his gentle spirit. It was definitely formative for me to see someone so committed to quality, yet not be an ass (sorry to be crass there, but it was either “ass” or “boob” there and I guess I thought “ass” was maybe better). I have congratulated Steve many, many times on various accolades, etc and as you’ll see below, for him it is really more about how the bread is on any given day. It’s about his craft and creating an inviting place where people can gain pause and enjoy the result of what his team works so hard at day-in and day-out. So, enough said, let’s get to the interview:
    (These questions were asked while Steve was hand-shaping loaves, so if anyone got a miss-shaped loaf on Saturday, it’s my fault.)

    DAN ANDERSON: Ok, let’s start with an easy one…which of your two daughters, Bella or Lily is your favorite?
    STEVE HORTON: Exactly.

    DA: What’s been your most memorable coffee drink (and it better be dogwood, wink wink)?
    SH: I really loved the Ethiopian Amaro Natural on the Clover.

    DA: Ok, now we’re going to move on to something I like to call either/or. We’ll start slow and then speed it up. Starting slowly: Unicorns or Ninjas…………..or Unicorn ninjas?
    SH: Unicorn Ninjas

    DA: Which of your baristas would most likely have a pet unicorn ninja?
    SH: Gwen (actually Gwen is currently looking for a new home for her pet bunny if anyone reading this is interested, let her know)

    DA: Rolling dough or Rolling in the Dough?
    SH: Rolling in the Dough
    DA: Horton Hears a Who or The Who heard by Horton?
    SH: Horton Hears a Who

    DA: Picking up the pace: Tammy Hoyt (head baker) or Greg Hoyt (one of Dogwood’s owners)?
    SH: Greg Hoyt

    DA: Miche or Quiche?
    SH: Miche

    DA: Pre-infusion or Pre-ferment?
    SH: Pre-ferment [looks like bread wins over coffee.]

    DA: Kouign Amann or Queen Latifah?
    SH: Kouign Amann

    DA: Caraway Rye or Catcher in the Rye?
    SH: Catcher in the Rye

    DA: Egg Braid or French Braid (remember Steve has 2 daughters)?
    SH: French Braid

    DA: and which is easier for you?
    SH: Definitely Egg Braid

    DA: Ok, nice work, you passed that section. Let’s move on to some more questions. Do you have a favorite item of what you make?
    SH: Hmmm, actually it changes week-to-week. Currently, I would say I’m really enjoying the Multi Grain and Sesame Levain. [Steve also likes his bread straight, no butter for him]

    DA: What would you do if you weren’t a baker/dream job?
    SH: I would love to be a part of creating a complete solar energy solution to solve our current energy usage crisis. [Maybe this is to get back at the sun for burning Steve’s skin after he was outside for a mere 40 minutes on that sunny Beastie Boy Thursday – ha!]

    DA: What about your job do you most enjoy/least enjoy?
    SH: I really enjoy the chance to bake everyday and I really don’t enjoy (nor does anyone there) the task of cleaning the (mammoth) mixing bowl. This is a daily task that takes at least 25 minutes

    DA: What is one of the most important attributes of your employees?
    SH: Enthusiasm for what they do everyday.

    DA: What is something you gain satisfaction from?
    SH: It’s all about the quality of the bread that day. Every day is a new day.

    DA: Rustica was just named to Bon Appetite’s List of Top 10 Baguettes in the country. Any other Top 10 lists you’d like to be on?
    SH: Yes, Top 10 best singers cause I’m not even close…I’d love to be able to sing like Sinatra or any of the Rat Pack. [Definitely not on the Top 10 suntans list.]

    If you haven’t been to Rustica, we obviously highly recommend it. They have a cult-like following for many of their items and they make delicious coffee. It’s a welcome place to bring kids (you can peer through the window into the bakery side and watch the bakers in action – best before lunch). The coveted seats at the espresso bar are some of the best in town and they have plenty of parking. We really appreciate Steve,our extended family at Rustica and their dedication to their craft. As Ad-Rock says best “From the Hudson River out to the Nile. I run the marathon until the very last mile”.

    Word Up,
    M.C. Danny-D

    3220 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN
    Monday – Friday = 6:30am – 8pm
    Saturday and Sunday = 7am – 8pm
    • Steve Horton and Tammy Hoyt (right) and Barbara Shaterian (back), playing with bread colored play dough.
    • Gwen Comings, lead barista at Rustica
    • Gwen's badass latte art skills.
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