Biz buzz // Food in its prime

In the year after he closed his Northeast restaurant Fugaise in March 2009, chef Don Saunders went to work at the University Club of St. Paul and at Stout’s Island Lodge in Rice Lake, Wis.

Both, he said, were great restaurants that he enjoyed cooking in. But they were big, and he was part of a team that served parties of up to 300 people. It was then that he realized he had to get back to his passion.

“I need to get back to what I love about this industry, which is feeding 40 people on a Friday night,” he recalls thinking. “I’ve always had this idea of telling the story about how I seasonally cook, which is how I’ve always cooked, but really spelling it out and getting the customer involved in the story of how to write menus and what’s seasonally appropriate.”

Saunders’ concept of emphasizing seasonal cooking with a constantly changing menu is why his new restaurant at 5416 Penn Ave. is called In Season. On the front of his menus is a list of ingredients that are either at their best or can only be found at the time the customer is reading the menu. On the back are his creations using those ingredients.

His 40-seat restaurant is in the space formerly occupied by Café Maude’s Armatage Room. Café Maude used the Armatage Room, which is across the street, for bigger parties and for its small plate menu.

Saunders, 34, says he’s learned a few things from the failure of Fugaise. That restaurant, which was open for almost four years, did not close because of its food. Saunders made frequent appearances on lists of best chefs in the Twin Cities.

Fugaise, a French restaurant, was a windowless building without good visibility. It was one of the more expensive places in town. Saunders said that, not by his intention, customers felt like they had to order a starter, entrée and dessert.

In Season serves primarily French cuisine, but items are more affordable (about $5 less for starters and $10 less for entrees). The staff emphasizes that customers can be very flexible in their ordering.

“We want it to be elegant. Trust me, we want to be known as one of the better places to eat in the Twin Cities,” he said. “At the same time, we want to make sure people know this isn’t your anniversary night necessarily. This could be a Tuesday night with a buddy.”

For reservations, call 926-0105.


Pet store opens in Calhoun Square

A Pets Place, an upscale pet store with locations in Southdale and Eden Prairie, opened Nov. 19 in Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Ave.

A Pets Place sells natural pet foods, animal clothing, pet furniture, treats, toys and most other pet accessories.

The new store, which is on the second floor of Calhoun Square, will also host “Yappy Hour” events, dog adoption offerings and a pet photographer during the holiday season.

“The goal of our store is to be more than just a retail outlet — we want to be a community gathering spot to help like minded pet owners come together,” owner Steve Adams said in a press release.

A Pets Place is a family-run business headquartered in Eagan. It’s planning to open its fourth and fifth locations in Mendota Heights and on Grand Avenue is St. Paul in 2011.

For more information and a full online catalogue, visit


From Nebraska to Iraq to St. Paul, pastry chef and her cupcakes arrive in Southwest

Sweets Bakeshop of St. Paul is expanding into the Tangletown neighborhood this month, opening a production and retail bakery in the former Madwoman Foods space at 4747 Nicollet Ave.

Co-owners Krista Steinbach and Ly Lo said many of their customers are Minneapolis and Edina residents. The new location, which had been a bakery, allows them to better serve those customers.

Sweets Bakeshop serves only cupcakes and French macaroons, but Steinbach’s cupcakes run the gamut of flavors.

Steinbach’s career as a baker has its origins in her small-town Nebraska home as a child, where she baked with her mother and grandmother. She continued to bake through high school and in college at the University of Minnesota. During that time she was also in the Minnesota National Guard and served with the Red Bulls in Iraq from 2005 to 2007.

Steinbach, 29, didn’t let Iraq stop her from baking.

“We had a bread machine shipped over and then we would order flour from the Internet or have families send it over, and we mostly made bread,” she said.

It was in Iraq, when she had very few choices in her life, that she decided she wanted to work for herself and open her own business. She later graduated from culinary school in California.  

Sweets specializes in weddings and events, but their retail locations will sell baked goods out of the stores as well.

Lo went to college for art and design and she is responsible for decorating the cupcakes.

The two opened the St. Paul location on Marshall Avenue last fall.

The owners of Madwoman Foods could not be reached to find out if they will continue the wholesale aspect of their bakery.

Madwoman specialized in gluten-free products. Ly said Sweets makes gluten-free cupcakes, but they must be pre-ordered.

To place an order for an event, call 651-340-7138 or visit for more information.


Eyebrow estheticians move to 54th & Lyndale

When Extrados waxing studio at 50th & Xerxes closed last summer, estheticians Brook Schlosser and Tiffany Kimmel didn’t want to leave Southwest.

Instead, they opened their own studio nearby, at 616 W. 54th St. The Brow Studio specializes in eyebrow waxing, but offers other services like body waxing and eyelash extensions.

“When we got word that the business we were working for was going to close we decided to go on our own and we found this location that’s not too far from our old one and we were able to maintain a lot of our clients,” Schlosser said.

Schlosser and Kimmel each have six years experience as estheticians.

For appointments, call 823-2769. You can find more information at


Farmers market bakery gets its own space

Kingfield Farmers Market shoppers who became familiar with Sun Street Breads since it opened a stand in 2009 won’t have to wait all winter to get their hands on a baguette or a domino cookie.

Baker Solveig Tofte and her husband, Martin, will open a bakery and café at 4600 Nicollet Ave. Solveig, who has been a baker at Turtle Bread for the last 11 years, said the couple is targeting a March 14 opening, which is coincidentally 3.14, or pi.

Tofte said she’ll have a variety of breads and pastries for sale, but will also be open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We’re going to do the American classic bakery-café,” she said. “We’re going to have a full cook line and we’ll have breakfast and lunch, sandwiches and eggs and all that stuff, but the main feature is baked goods.”

Solveig’s career as a baker didn’t start until after she worked at a software company in northern California. She grew tired of the 9–5 grind, sitting at a computer. So she decided to pursue her passion of baking, and signed up for a course at the California Culinary Academy. The only problem, she said, was that the baking profession wasn’t going to finance a life in the Bay Area.

So she moved with Martin to her hometown and went to work at Turtle Bread. Over the past 11 years she ventured off and taught baking classes and, competed in international competitions and became a board member for the Bread Bakers Guild of America.  

Then, when Martin ended his web design and marketing career, it allowed them to tag-team the startup.

“I was getting deeper and deeper into the baking world, and I was always thinking of opening my own place, but it just didn’t make sense because I couldn’t be away from everyone I hold near and dear to me, by working all the time,” she said.

That includes her 6-year-old daughter, Linnea, whom Tofte said had her own office sketched out, complete with stuffed animals and a square table.

The couple is planning a full build-out of their 2,250 square feet that most recently housed a Snyder drug store. That will include raising the ceilings and hiring Tofte’s father, a fine woodworker, to do the cabinets.

For more, visit



Blue Door Pub, a popular St. Paul restaurant known for its Juicy Lucy burgers, will expand next summer to the 26th & Nicollet corner that is undergoing redevelopment.

Butter Bakery, 3544 Grand Ave. S., scrapped its plans to move three blocks south on Grand.