Local Epicurean Offers Wild Food for Urban PeopleBy Jane Whitttington on January 8th, 2016 /
Anyone who has been lucky enough to travel to Rome will remember the little shops lining the cobblestone streets which sell fresh pasta, delectable meats and cheeses, wine, flavored oils and vinegars and delicious desserts like tiramisu and pizelli (waffle cookie). At Local Epicurean in Grand Rapids, that experience is recreated without having to fly to Italy.
Steve Bowyer and business partner Ryan Raredon started out simply enough—making traditional, fresh homemade pasta from local ingredients. Their pasta, unlike store-bought versions, is wide, often colorful and infused with unusual ingredients like mushrooms, truffles, sun-dried tomatoes and/or squid ink. Starting in 2010, they sold their pasta at farmers’ markets in the area. At that time they were working out of a home kitchen and were only able to make about 100 bags, which would sell out in less than a day. By fall, they had decided that it was time to move into high gear, and they rented a storefront in the Eastown area of Grand Rapids.
According to Bowyer, “We continued to sell at farmers’ markets, and we also found customers seeking us out in Eastown—customers like those at outdoor markets who were looking for fresh, local, homemade items. We outgrew our Eastown store in six months and found a downtown location that was much larger and enabled us to do more events and expand our product line.”
He continues, “Pasta is our specialty. We mix everything by hand, cut it ourselves, hang it to air dry and then package it right here. The whole process takes about 24 hours, and we don’t take any shortcuts. Unlike store bought pasta, which is oven baked, our pasta only takes three or four minutes to cook and retains its color and flavor. And all of our ingredients—except squid ink—are local and usually organic. In fact, we are developing new pastas that will be branded as Pure Michigan, and the labels for that brand will be created by local artists. We are also partnering with a winery in Traverse City to create wine-infused pasta.”
They offer a total of 155 different pastas, some seasonally, with 40, like the popular basil and garlic, available all year.
Besides selling at their store and in 23 farmers’ markets, they also have an online presence and are available in over 100 stores, including Whole Foods, D & W and Meijer.
IN addition to everything already mentioned, they offer specialty salts, pasta sauce (made in-house, of course), local honey, pesto, risotto, beans, soup mixes and bread.
Another popular aspect of Local Epicurean are their classes—everything from pasta-making to learning the art of chocolate truffles and how to make delicious ravioli. And these classes include Italian appetizers to nibble while cooking.
Now Local Epicurean is on the move again, back to Eastown and back to their original location but with two adjacent buildings added to the mix. This will allow them to continue offering everything they have available in the current store but with more kitchen capacity which they need as they enter into more wholesale relationships with stores both large and small.
In other exciting news, Bowyer and Raredon are in the process of opening another Local Epicurean in Atlanta, Georgia in 2017.
After the middle of January, aficionados of all things Italian can find Local Epicurean in Eastown. Delizioso!