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The Latest News from Wheatsville

Local Vendor Spotlight: Mill-King Creamery

Bulk & Chill Coordinator Chris Moore interviews Rhianna Miller of Mill-King

How long has Mill-King been a dairy farm; has the farm always been in the family?

Our family, the Millers, have owned and operated a dairy since 1941. Today’s operation is owned by Billy Miller (2nd generation) and Craig Miller (3rd generation). In 1941 Arnold and Minnie Miller moved into the Crawford area and started milking cows. They would sell the milk and cream at the farm or at the small general store in Crawford. Their small dairy that grew over time, and they then began selling their milk to a co-op as that became a more popular model of selling milk for dairy farmers.

Their son, Billy Miller, worked with his father on the farm, and later bought out his father out of the farm when his father retired. Billy and his wife, Shorty, operated the dairy on the family’s home place for many years. They grew the size of the dairy and also bought more land in the area. In 1993, they built a new dairy facility about a mile from the home place.

In 2004 Craig, Billy and Shorty’s youngest son, came home after graduating college to work on the family farm. Craig’s wife, Rhianna, began working for the family farm in 2008. In 2010, it was apparent that continuing to dairy in a conventional manner was not a viable option for the farm. The family started to explore alternative dairy options.

Spurred by Rhianna’s allergy to milk, the family looked at making raw milk cheese and selling raw milk. From that the family farm began to change. All of our practices changed to promote an unadulterated dairy product. We are passionate about our cows and getting their natural, wholesome milk to consumers.

How long have you been on the shelves at Wheatsville and what are some of your favorite products at the co-op?

We have been on the shelves in Wheatsville since 2012. We love the cheese department and we love getting to try all of the other local farmers cheese. My second favorite department is produce. We love being able to get the freshest produce from our fellow local farmers. Nothing tastes better than veggies straight out of the field, and the Wheatsville produce department never disappoints.

Are there other local vendors that use your milk in their products? If so who are they?

We are proud to have so many local vendors that use our milk. We make a base for Lick Ice Cream with our milk and cream. There are numerous coffee shops that use our milk like Houndstooth, Caffe Medici, and Cuvee. Numerous restaurants in Austin like Barley Swine, Elizabeth Street Cafe, and Bouldin Creek Cafe. Local frozen artisans like Spun Ice Cream also use Mill-King.

Do you have anything new coming out?

We are working on a yogurt that should come out later in 2017.

Do you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share with our patrons?

We love making mac and cheese with a variety of cheeses and fresh veggies thrown in.

Seasonal Mac and Cheese

12oz pasta
5-6 oz bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
2 Tbsp butter
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced

2-4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 Cup flour
2 1/2 Cups Mill-King Whole Milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 tsp ground mustard
ground black pepper to taste
8 oz grated cheese (our favorite is Brazos Valley Gouda and White Cheddar)
Your favorite seasonal veggies. (for example spinach, varieties of squash, artichoke, asparagus, peas, etc)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, cook the pasta according to package directions until just shy of al dente. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the butter until melted with the garlic and onions. Add in mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. To make the cheese sauce, add the butter to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until the butter is completely melted. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is golden and fragrant but not burned, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until it begins to bubble and thicken. Whisk in the salt, red pepper flakes, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cheese until completely melted and smooth. (If necessary, you can return the pan to low heat to melt the cheeses.) Return the drained pasta to the pot.
  4. Mix in the cooked bacon and mushrooms, the cheese sauce and the seasonal veggies. (If necessary partly steam veggies) Stir everything together gently until well combined. Spread the mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart casserole dish.
  5. Bake for 15-2o minutes or until the top is light golden and the cheese is bubbling. Serve warm and top with reserved cooked bacon pieces, if desired.

Photos by Jo Ann Santangelo

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Vital Farms

Vital Farm Folks Interview by Chris Moore, Chill & Bulk Coordinator

How long has Vital Farms been farming, and what sets your standards apart from other farmers’?

Vital Farms was started in 2007 by our founder Matt O’Hayer and his wife, Catherine. They purchased a small farm in South Austin and began tending a flock of 20 hens, believing that there was a better way to produce eggs, sustainably and humanely. As the company grew, we began working together with small family farms to pioneer the Pasture-Raised standard here in the US, providing a minimum of 108 sq ft of green, organically maintained pasture for each and every hen. We’ve been Certified Humane since 2010, and even helped Humane Farm Animal Care develop the Pasture-Raised standard for egg laying hens.

How long has Vital Farms been on Wheatsville’s shelves?

Wheatsville Food Co-op was one of our very first retail partners here in Austin. Our partnership goes way back to 2008, and is very special to us. We are grateful to Wheatsville for believing in our mission early on.

Vital Farms produce different types of eggs. Is there one that is better than the rest? What makes them all different?

Pasture-Raised is the gold standard for eggs, and all of the eggs we produce reflects our passion for treating our hens humanely and bringing the very best eggs to market. Every single one of our hens are Certified Humane, Raised and Handled, and enjoy a standard of living that we believe all hens should have. They go outside every single day, and enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and 108 sq ft of green pasture each to roam and forage. The only difference in our organic brand and non-organic brand is in the supplemental feed we give our girls, to keep them healthy.

Vital farms has recently started to produce butter, what made you go in that direction?

We launched our butter in late 2015. We wanted to extend our Pasture-Raised farming standard to our other favorite Girls on Grass: cows!

What do you like most about Wheatsville Food Co-op?

Wheatsville is a great place to discover something new. There are so many great and innovative products coming out from mission-driven food companies that want to change the way we produce and consume food. We find ourselves in very good company at the co-op!

Is there anything new in the works at Vital Farms?

We’re always working on leading pasture-raised. We’ve got lots of exciting things in the works that we can’t wait to introduce to the world. Follow our Facebook and Instagram for the latest!

Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share with our patrons?

Our Baked Eggs with Fine Herbs was recently featured in the Vital Times, our mini newsletter that is included with every carton of our eggs. It’s absolutely delicious, very easy to make, and takes no time at all! You can also find our other great recipes on our website: www.vitalfarms.com/recipes

Baked Eggs with Fine Herbs

Ingredients
3 Large Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Eggs
½ TBS Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Unsalted Butter
1 TBS Heavy Cream
1 TBS Grated Parmesan Cheese
½ TBS Breadcrumbs
1 tsp Finely chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped parsley
1 tsp chopped Sage
1 tsp chopped Rosemary
1 tsp chopped Thyme
 salt and pepper to taste

• Set oven to Broil, and let heat for about 5 minutes. Place rack no higher than 6 inches from the burner.
• Take a shallow gratin dish, and place 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream in the dish. Place in oven and heat until the cream and butter start bubbling, about 5 minutes.
• Mix chopped herbs, garlic, and grated parmesan cheese together and set aside.
• Crack 3 eggs carefully into a small bowl, taking care not to puncture the yolk.
• Once the cream and butter are bubbling hot, remove the gratin dish from the oven and set on a trivet. Pour the eggs into the gratin dish and sprinkle with the herbed parmesan mixture until well covered. Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally   all over.
• Place gratin dish back in the oven and broil for about 5 minutes. The dish should be done when the edges of the gratin and the garlic from the herb mixture are nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 1-2 minutes, to cool and set the eggs.
• Enjoy with a slice of baguette or your favorite bread.

For more information about Vital Farms: http://www.vitalfarms.com

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Response: How to Raise Worker Wages

On Thursday, March 30th, the Chronicle reported on the work we’ve done with livable wages & benefits at Wheatsville over the past year, How to Raise Worker Wages by Jack Craver, as part of a much larger article about the challenge of workers making a livable wage in Austin. The co-op has worked long and hard on behalf of both our owners and 235 staff members to get all staff earning a livable wage with benefits and we’re pleased to be the concrete example of a business doing right by its employees in the article.

We know that you have a lot of choices for where you buy your food. This article strongly suggests that the kind of businesses you choose to support matter. Sure, in many ways choosing your grocer seems like such a small act – buying a loaf of bread, apple, or jug of milk. But the fact is when you shop here at the co-op, you support livable wages & benefits and a co-op full of PEOPLE, just like you, that come to work every day and try to make a positive impact in this world.  YOUR SHOP MATTERS. PEOPLE MATTER.

While we know that we have not satisfied every staff member or owner around our wage issues, we have worked very hard, and have done our best to address a very complicated problem as shown in the article. This issue is not just a Wheatsville issue, a box store issue, an independent business issue – this is a community issue. How are we lining up to take care of each other? How do we ensure good paying jobs for the future?

Our co-op was started 41 years ago as an alternative to other grocery stores. We listened, we fought, we joined together, we worked hard, we changed, we grew, we acted. We approached the Livable Wage & Benefits problem the same way we’ve been operating years - TOGETHER. Each of us brings a different perspective – but through open and honest dialogue and respectfully listening to each other’s point of view, we solve problems.

We’re happy the Chronicle decided to dig deeper into a complicated issue and glad that we can be a positive example of a good approach to dealing with this challenge. At the same time, we’re pressing forward to ensure that our co-op thrives and survives for another several decades and are glad that we can do so by being a good employer.

We appreciate your support, patronage, feedback, contribution, and criticism. It’s all part of the ecosystem that allows us to grow stronger together!

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Local Vendor Spotlight:Kosmic Kombucha

What was the origin of Kosmic Kombucha

Kosmic Kombucha is lovingly brewed in the heart of Austin by Omar and Mina Rios, who made their separate ways to UT back in the ’90s. Omar studied business administration and came from El Paso. Mina traveled even further to earn her degrees in education, as she hails from Maracaibo, Venezuela. After college, Mina pursued a career in math education, and Omar served as a paramedic. Thanks to their shared passion for yoga, it wasn’t long before the yoga community of Austin introduced them to kombucha. For years, they purchased home-brewed booch from a fellow yogi. When she decided not to brew her own tea anymore, Omar and Mina jumped in to fill the void—and in the summer of 2010, Kosmic Kombucha was born.

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea with a rich history that began in China, where it has been celebrated for millennia as an “immortal health elixir.” The heart and soul of this living drink is a layered culture of yeast and bacteria (called the scoby) that grows on top of the tea throughout the fermentation process. After a short period, fermentation yields raw kombucha, a lightly effervescent tea with unmistakable notes of vinegar. The flavor of raw kombucha can range from tart to sweet—based on the amount of sugar fed to the culture, the duration of the fermentation process, and other factors that are tremendously interesting to those who brew the beverage and tremendously dull to those who simply enjoy it. The key takeaway for people who want to know what they’re putting into their bodies, however, is that raw kombucha is made with nothing but tea, water, sugar, and the all-important scoby.

Is kombucha good for you?

Skeptics doubt that kombucha is an “immortal health elixir” because it’s tough to find people who are celebrating their two thousandth birthdays. Okay, so maybe “immortal” is a bit hyperbolic. Nevertheless, kombucha contains beneficial acids, probiotics, antioxidants, and amino acids. Kombucha is claimed to promote digestive health, support liver function, and alkalize the body. Some proponents of the drink even believe that it may help fend off cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases, but you don’t have to verify any of the more grandiose claims to feel refreshed by a glass of kombucha after a bike ride or a long walk.

How are the flavors developed?

As Kosmic’s brewmistress, Mina goes through meticulous testing (and tasting!) procedures when developing new flavors with a variety of fresh, organic, and delicious ingredients. To help us celebrate our 40th birthday last year, Kosmic developed an exclusive flavor just for Wheatsville. It’s called “Wheatsville’s Pear of the Dog” and it’s got a prickly pear Mexican martini flavor that was named and flavor tested by the Wheatsville staff. With its beautiful dark pink color and refreshing flavor it’s a staff favorite!

photos by Kelly Stevens

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Guadalupe Refresh!

As the seasons make their rounds and the holidays breeze by, our stores see thousands of shoppers in a week. After lots of planning, our Guadalupe store refresh includes new products and fixtures, improved shopper flow, maintenance to our physical store, and lots more! Look for:

  • Expanded selection in fresh foods: produce, meat, deli & bakery!

  • New and improved selections for our prepared foods including more grab & go deli items, hot food and salad bar!

  • Improved wait time for sandwiches along with some new menu items!

  • Larger self-serve coffee bar to help improve flow and increase variety!

  • Beer and wine on tap for when you want to join a friend for a drink!

  • Additional energy efficient coolers that will help us increase our product variety!

  • NEW Fresh Seal packaging for meat!

  • Improved lighting and flooring!

  • Fresh paint for the exterior and interior!

To make room for some of these new features we’ve pared our grocery selection down to our most popular favorites which include all of our Co+op Basics, increased shelf space in Wellness, and have moved our meat-cutting room to S.Lamar in order to offer our Fresh Seal packaged meat and seafood items.

We’re very excited about these changes and hope you will be, too! Work will be finished mid-March. Thank you for your patronage!

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NEW! FRESH SEAL Packaging

BIG NEWS! Our Meat Department is now using Fresh Seal packaging (also known as vacuum-pack) at both stores. This new packaging improves the shelf life of our fresh-cut meat and prevents food waste by slowing down the rate of oxidation.
 
Why we like it:

  • keeps meat fresher longer
  • inhibits the growth of pathogens
  • BPA-free
  • leak-proof packaging
  • prevents food waste
  • marinates ready-to-cook better
  • perfectly packaged for freezing

It also allows us to:

  • offer the same great products
  • keep the same great brands
  • cut our meat fresh in-house
  • offer more variety

 
As part of our Guadalupe store refresh, we will be moving our meat production to the S.Lamar store and removing our full-service meat and seafood cases (Guadalupe ONLY). While we know that this move disappoints some shoppers, we hope that the increase in variety and superior packaging provides the fresh items you need to make great meals.


If you have a special order or request, we are more than happy to accommodate with 24-48 hours notice. Please make requests at the Guadalupe Deli Counter or call our S.Lamar meat department and request delivery to Guadalupe: 512-814-2888.

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Better Bites Bakery

Leah Lopez, Founder and CEO Better Bites Bakery, answered a few questions about her very special baked treats.

1. What led you to start your business?


I founded Better Bites Bakery with a simple mission in mind - I wanted my son to be able to enjoy delicious treats and not feel left out due to his severe food allergies. I believe that food is a BLESSING, but there was nothing on the market that was safe for my son - and delicious enough to be enjoyed by the entire family. Given this discovery, we embraced our new journey and the creative cooking began! It wasn't long until I realized that people were loving what was coming out of my kitchen and I was thrilled to share the passion that I had for baking with others.

2. What kind of ingredients do you use?


We strive to be very intentional with our ingredients. Our bakery sources only the finest gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, Kosher Pareve certified, real food ingredients. We never use artificial colours or preservatives. We believe this is not only better for our bodies, but our taste buds, as well.

3. What allergens do your products NOT contain?


Our products are free of the top 7 allergens. Those allergens are dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and peanuts. We also do not have tree nuts in our facility or products, with the exception of coconut in our Mostess Cupcakes. We are confident that our stringent sanitation procedures will avoid cross contamination for those who avoid coconut.

4. What are some of your favorite things about Wheatsville?


The fact that the Popcorn Tofu is now gluten-free is AWESOME! Also, my employees are definitely hooked on the vegan donuts. I love that we can be inclusive with our breakroom snack choices and not leave anyone out.

5. Do you have a favorite cool tip?

I love Cookie DO Bites au naturel, but I have a weakness for milkshakes. I love to throw in vanilla ice cream, milk, ice, and a few DO Bites into a blender for a chocolate chip cookie dough milkshake. Try it – you’ll love it!

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Sustainable Seafood

Sustainability can be a tricky word. It has ideals and emotions attached to it and it can be challenging to define. We know that what ever we deem sustainable, it should have a conscientious impact on the environment, the life cycle and quality of life of the organism in question. Seafood has been a staple protein in cultures the world over for thousands of years. Technology and mastery of fishing technique have brought us into dangerous territory and it's necessary to make sure that our fishing practices are maintaining themselves for generations to come.

Eco systems and environments have different needs. Fresh water fish are very different than salt water fish and require different standards and practices to maintain their sustainability. Almost all fresh water fish must be farmed to be sustainable. There are plenty of farms, whether they be recirculating tanks or pens in a river that have standards that pass the peer reviewed science of the Monterey bay Aquariums Seafood Watch program.

The Seafood Watch program is Wheatsville's main standard for choosing our seafood selection. We also use the Marine Stewardship Council and EU standards such as the RSPCA. 

What does this mean to our seafood shoppers? It means we do the best we can to make sure that the seafood you buy from Wheatsville is clean, safe and socially responsible. Enjoy our seafood selection and feel confident that you are eating responsibly.

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