Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Harvest Thyme Bistro welcomes customers

Carol Stender

Date Modified: 12/03/2009 9:44 AM

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Harvest Thyme Bistro

Address: Alley Entrance, 114 Jefferson Street South

Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. - seven days a week.

Featuring: Locally grown foods.

Call them at: 218-632-5110 and visit their website


WADENA, Minn. -- A new restaurant in Wadena is a win-win for diners and local growers.

Harvest Thyme Bistro features locally grown foods prepared by Chef Derek Olson. Whether it's squash or potatoes, duck or pork, Derek uses his talents and spices to transform the ordinary into mouthwatering delights.

"He's the kind of guy who can take anything from your kitchen and make a tasty meal," said Derek's wife and business associate, Shari.

Derek points to squash he purchased from one area grower and lists the dishes he'll feature using the vegetable. There's squash soup, a squash salad and, considering it's earthy taste, it can be a great accompaniment to game dishes like duck or goose, he said. He also has carrots, onions, shallots and eggs plus locally grown frozen ducks, chickens and geese.

Don't look for the meals on a printed menu. There aren't any. All selections are listed on large blackboards over the coffee bar. Each day customers can count on four standard sandwiches, four breakfast items and four salad choices. Daily soup, breakfast and lunch specials will also be listed, he said.

"It is a very seasonally fresh menu," Shari said. "You come in not for your favorite thing but because you know it's going to be good food."

Derek is no stranger to using fresh, local foods in his meals. He and a friend have prepared food samples at a local farmers market to demonstrate the numerous ways to cook vegetables. It was at a similar farmers market event that Derek met Wadena area Stimulating Economic Progress executive director David Everts. Everts and two partners purchased the old Wadena J.C.Penney building, where they've helped several local entrepreneurs start businesses. They wanted Derek to do the same and establish a restaurant in the building and to feature locally grown foods in the dishes.

The possibility was a dream come true for Derek, said Shari.

Harvest Thyme Bistro is in the back of the building and has an alley entrance. The walls are painted with street scenes and the atmosphere is relaxing.

Besides meals, the bistro features an array of coffee drinks from cappuccino to lattes. The beans are roasted by a Duluth company and the brands, Alakef, are fair trade certified organic.

The couple is excited about the new venture. It shows the growth of Derek's cooking talent from his humble 16-year-old beginnings with Hardees to preparing meals at a Mexican restaurant and, later, his chef role at Manhattan beach Lodge at Cross Lake.

"This is something he's always had a talent for," Shari said.

Although some call the use of locally grown food unique, Shari says it's really basic cooking.

"Before, everything was processed in a can or box," she said.

And how can he offer locally grown year round? High tunnel production has greatly extended the growing season, he said. Their goal is to use locally grown foods in all their offerings within five years. He's already been contacted by several area producers raising ducks, geese, chickens and beef.

Harvest Thyme Bistro is a springboard for the development of a network of growers and food services. The couple asks producers to contact David Everts at 218-32-5110 if they have locally grown vegetables, fruits or meats. They're considering a production area of a 50-mile radius from Wadena.

Through the grower-chef connection, growers can also learn what Derek needs and how to package it for his use, and he can learn about the varieties they're producing.

The connections are good for the Olsons and for local growers but it may be the customer who's the biggest winner. There's nothing like a truly home-cooked meal.