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St. Peter's River Rock Coffee serves up locally grown foods

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 10/22/2012 2:55 PM

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River Rock Coffee

Location: 301 S. Minnesota Ave., St. Peter, Minn.

Hours: Monday to Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Customer favorite: River Rock Coffee is known for its soups, said chef Montana Rasmussen. It's entire menu is seasonal using locally grown ingredients. An example of River Rock's seasonal soups is a recent offering of Minnesota sweet corn coconut curry. A cup of day's soup offering is $4.50 and a bowl is $5.75. Both are served with River Rock Coffee's homemade bread.

Contact them: (507) 931-1540.

ST. PETER, Minn. — It's not just great coffee drinks that has people flocking to River Rock Coffee in St. Peter. They also enjoy the soups, salads and sandwiches.

It's all homemade form locally grown ingredients.Tamika Bertram started the business 10 years ago. When she met Montana Rasmussen, a Gustavus Adophus College student, they quickly became friends. Both shared a love of food, locally grown ingredients and sustainability. Rasmussen joined the River Rock staff five years ago and is now the head chef.

The menu reflects the seasonal foods available from local growers, Bertram said. She's recently featured a black bean hummus wrap. The wrap is filled with cucumbers, red peppers, onions, greens and arugula. Salads include quinoa with roasted squash and a basil vinaigrette and a roasted beet salad with candied pecans topped with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

The produce comes from local grower Adam Ellefson and his Living Land Farm. The bacon for River Rock Coffee's BLT is from Prairie Pride of Mankato, she said.

What she's not able to use immediately is quickly frozen to retain flavors. There's nothing like opening pesto in the middle of winter to get a hint of spring, Rasmussen said.

River Rock serves basil lemonade and a cucumber lemonade, Rasmussen said.

"It keeps customers interested," she said of the seasonal menu. "When it's rhubarb season, you get a lot of rhubarb and then you can't wait until it is spring again so you can have it on the menu again."

Rasmussen learned to cook from her grandparents.

While recipes are great, the key to preparing great tasting food is to, well, taste it, she said.

"Some people have a lot of anxiety about the ingredients," she said. "They will see a recipe calling for a dash of salt or a pinch of pepper. They don't know what it means. And if it doesn't turn out, they are disappointed. They forget to taste it. One pepper will be different from the next. Tasting as you go has a lot to do with it."

Rasmussen's base is the locally produced foods she starts with.

River Rock Coffee also has an array of muffins, scones, cookies, bars and cupcakes. Try a slice of River Rock's own cranberry buckwheat bread or the seeded buckwheat.

— Carol Stender