Laurie Crowell is one busy lady! The Golden Fig Fine Foods owner has been selling specialty foods since her early twenties when she worked at the well known East Hampton foodie destination, The Barefoot Contessa. Laurie’s passion for fine foods and great ingredients did not stop after leaving East Hampton, and a few important rules about food have helped to shape her career: Keep it Simple, keep it local, and, keep it delicious. Following these rules has guided Laurie as she has built a career that began with her bottling and selling her own uniquely infused vinegar all over the Twin Cities, to eventually opening her popular fine foods store, The Golden Fig, which is located in the heart of Saint Paul, Minnesota’s premier shopping district on Grand Avenue.
Recently I caught up with Laurie to ask her a few questions about her background, her food philosophy, her favorite cookbooks, plus a few tips for busy moms and home cooks!
You launched your Golden Fig Line Products in 1996 with infused vinegar. Why did you decide that infused vinegar would be your brand’s starting point?
Many years ago I went to a vinegar making class with Harvey McLain and Pam Sherman from Turtle Bread Co. After the class Harvey said “those look great! Make some for the shop [McLain’s Bakery, Turtle Bread Co.]”. I did and the rest is history!
What tips do you offer people when they ask you how to use infused vinegar?
I say any recipe you have calling for oil, swap out one teaspoon of the oil for one teaspoon of the flavored vinegar. The oil coats your taste buds a little, so, replacing it with a flavor enhancer like vinegar is a great way to cut a few calories and boost your flavor tenfold.
Twenty years later your product line is huge, offering over 45 herb blends, seasoning salts, spices and beverage mixes. Where do you draw inspiration for these combinations?
Most of the products came out of buying something similar and getting home and being disappointed with what it actually tasted like. I thought “I can do this better!”
What makes Golden Fig Products different from the more mainstream spice blends and mixes that can be found at most super markets?
We blend and bottle them fresh every week so the flavor is quite superior to what you pick up in the grocery that many times is quite old when you buy it.
After 10 Years of selling your products around the Twin Cities at places like The Saint Paul Farmers Market and The Turtle Bread Co., what compelled you to open your store?
I had been selling at the St. Paul Farmers Market for several years and realized outside of market season, there was really nowhere to buy many of those products. This was before many of the mainstream groceries started offering local, so there really was a blank space in the market.
In the beginning your mission was to focus on products created in Minnesota by Minnesotans, but it is now starting to shift. Can you explain this change?
Now that mainstream groceries have caught up with us on realizing the importance of supporting and offering local, we have found we can’t compete with them sometimes in the price department. They are ordering in much bigger quantities than our little shop so they often get better price points. We still remain heavily focused on local and instead of offering someone’s whole line, we now offer our very favorite of what that producer is making. Those spots of extra shelf space are now filled with other USA made goodies, many are items that don’t have anyone locally producing it so we aren’t overlooking the local producer, we are simply educating and introducing shoppers to some other great artisan producers and makers that are US based.
How do you decide which products make the cut and earn a spot on your shelves?
A LOT of effort goes into choosing every single items that ends up on our shelve…we factor in…taste, ingredients, and packaging. We don’t have anything in the shop that has hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, or, artificial flavors. We really try to seek out items in glass vs plastic. We consider the sustainability and necessity of the product.
Laurie, before we go I’m going to ask you a few quickfire questions, please share with us the first answers that comes to mind!
As a busy business owner, wife, and mother of two young boys what 3 meals do you recommend mastering for other busy mom’s who want to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less?
Sausage and Parmesan Pasta
Grass Fed Burgers with Oven Fries
Recently President Obama visited your store (AMAZING!!)
What 3 Things Do You Remember Most From That Day?
How genuine he seemed
Our discussion on the importance of kids knowing where food comes from
The hello hug he gave me (WHAT!! I know right!!) PS – he smells great 🙂
If you could offer 3 pieces of advice for home cooks what would they be?
Don’t use a lot of ingredients
Use good ingredients
The more you cook the better you will get
Feature Shot Photo Credit: Unser Imagery
Additional Photos: Courtesy of Golden Fig Fine Foods
Because I think The Golden Fig is such a fabulous store, I want you to enjoy some of the great treats it has to offer. 2 lucky winners will get a set of Laurie’s favorite items that she shared with us in the interview. In order to be eligible to win these three items I need you to follow a couple of steps:
Leave a comment in the comments section below. THIS is how you will be entered into the drawing for the give away.
You have from Sunday, March 20, 2016 until Sunday, March 27, 2016 to put your name into the drawing, submissions close at Midnight on Monday, March 28, 2016.
Enter your email address when requested for it, this is how I will contact you if you win!
Winners will be contacted via email and shared on Social Media the week of March 28, 2016
Last request, please tell a friend about A Pinch of Lemon! This is of course not necessary to win, but it would be super awesome to have your help in introducing more readers to the blog! You can spread the word by sharing my Facebook Page, Tweeting, Instagramming, Pinning, and of course, a good old fashioned email works too!
Thank you for reading A Pinch of Lemon and thank you for sharing with your friends!!
Additional Terms and Conditions For The Golden Fig Giveaway
One comment per person – multiple entries will be discarded
Two winners will be chosen at random and notified via email the week of March 28, 2016
Winners will have two business days to claim their prizes, via email
Void where prohibited
TODAY Show Dreams!
Friends! I am in a contest for a chance to cook on the TODAY Show! I sure could use your help to get there though! It is super simple! I just need your votes! If you think that I would be a fun segment on the show, and would have a great time hanging out with some of the most fun TV Hosts in America please vote! All you have to do is click on this link and click on the words “VOTE UP!” which are located just below the title! Thank you so much for supporting my dream to share my recipes on national TV! xo