Apr 24, 2012 • By

Meet two Munchies nominees

Editor’s note: We’re highlighting two of the nominees in “The Munchies: People’s Choice Food Awards,” at Tablespoon.com.

Thirty years ago, many members of Lareen Narva’s family, including her three children, were diagnosed with celiac disease.

With no culinary experience, Narva went to work in her kitchen developing recipes her family could actually eat.

In 2004, she opened Bittersweet Gluten-Free Bakery in Eagan, Minn.

As it turns out, Narva and her family weren’t the only celiac sufferers tired of their food tasting “like cardboard.” She was invited to bring baked goods to the Twin Cities Celiac Walk.

“When support groups got wind of what I was doing, they got the word out. I started distributing products to natural food stores because most people, when they’re diagnosed, go there first,” says Narva.

When a person with celiac disease eats gluten-containing foods (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine, putting them at risk to not properly absorb nutrients.

Now more than 39 shops, cafes, retail locations and restaurants throughout Minnesota carry Bittersweet’s gluten-free products.

Bittersweet Bakery is a family-run business, and their secret to gluten-free baking is to make their products taste just like conventional baked goods. “We got here through lots of trial and error,” Narva says. “I didn’t think about the science of cooking, I just know how to cook. A lot of what I do isn’t conventional, I just do what works.”

The proof is in the pumpkin bars … and the spice cookies, brownies, carrot cake, lemon poppy seed muffins, honey sunflower bread, take-and-bake pizza, cupcakes and more.

Stumptown Coffee

And what goes better with delicious baked goods than a great cup of coffee?

Munchie award-nominee Stumptown Coffee has an abundance of that!

Owner Duane Sorenson started Stumptown Coffee in 1999 with one café in Portland, Ore., and the coffee empire has grown since then. The company now has cafes and roasteries in three cities and is planning an expansion into at least three more.

Director of Operations Matt Lounsbury said the company has grown partly because of fate, but mostly because they build relationships. “Stumptown was Portland’s nickname way back when, and as we’ve grown some people look at us as part of the city,” he said. ”We’ve been part of shaping some of the neighborhoods we’re in, and they’ve kind of evolved around us, it’s cool to watch.”

The secret to Stumptown Coffee’s wild popularity?

It’s not a secret, according to Lounsbury. “It’s quality. We have great relationships with our employees and our providers, but we’re a great experience, and our coffee tastes great. That’s what we’re known for.”

Currently, their most popular items are the Cold Brew Stubbies and the Hair Bender blend. But no matter what your drink of choice, “If you get it from us, it’s going to be better than any drink you’ve ever had,” according to Lounsbury.

You can vote for your favorite Munchies nominees until April 30 at Tablespoon.com.