Houston, Minn. — The flavors of Old World Germany can be found nestled in the Mississippi bluffs of southeastern Minnesota.“Through the Grapevine,” a restaurant featuring traditional German cuisine, offers homemade ketchup, shrimp dip, sweet horseradish and tartar sauce with every meal. Now the diner’s popular condiment sauces are being offered for retail, along with schnitzel mix for breading pork and fish.
Restaurant owner Rosemarie “Rosie” Buege says Through the Grapevine uses “as many Minnesota-grown ingredients as we possibly can,” including horseradish, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and herbs. She chose her restaurant’s top four sauces to bottle and sells Rosemarie’s sauces at her restaurant, area retailers and eBay.
“People almost drink them like water,” Buege jokes, adding that all are versatile enough to be served with a variety of foods. The ketchup, with its tangy German taste, is the best seller — appealing to all ages. Buege also designed a small booklet with cooking and serving suggestions, attached to each container.
Germany in Minnesota
Buege is a native of Germany who grew up eating and preparing traditional German foods. When she met her husband, he was serving in the United States Air Force in Germany. They moved to Houston, Texas in 1974 and three years later to another Houston — in Minnesota — where they purchased her husband’s family farm.
Buege owned and operated flower shops for many years, and continued to cook dishes she grew up with. “I cooked for twenty years in Germany and just couldn’t give it up,” she says.
In 1997, upon closing her Houston flower shop, Buege decided to fulfill a lifelong dream — to share her love of German food. She converted her shop space to a restaurant and opened Through the Grapevine, which has operated for 12 years.
The quaint diner is known not only for delicious, authentic German cuisine but its Old World atmosphere with hanging flower baskets and German decorations throughout.
As soon as the restaurant opened, many German-American customers came to share stories of meals their parents and grandparents had cooked. “People remember good meals for a long time, and I kept hearing from customers who had great family memories.” But recipes for many of the dishes had not been passed down, and “no one in their family remembered how to make them,” Buege says.
“They wanted sauces; they asked about the spices. We decided to help them prepare the foods in their own homes.”
To begin, Buege prepared her own sauces in large volumes, then sold them at Through the Grapevine. They were an immediate hit and one day an inspector suggested that she sell the sauces at retail establishments. Buege was interested but had to do some homework first.
“We were exempt from labeling (because of size), but we wanted to do it right to begin with,” Buege says. She contacted AURI’s food scientist Charan Wadhawan for a full nutritional analysis of the sauces. Then Wadhawan helped Buege formulate four sauces and a schnitzel mix at AURI’s food lab in Crookston. “We helped to standardize the recipes, source ingredients and analyze the nutrients so that customers would know exactly what they were getting,” says Wadhawan, who also connected Buege to a seminar on marketing new food products.
Buege hired a local company to design and print nutrition and package labels, and the old-time sauces emerged with an updated look and complete product information on each container.
To get new ideas for sauce uses, Buege pays attention to her customers. She noticed restaurant guests using the dip she created for seafoods on vegetables, bratwurst and bread. “A woman told me yesterday that she uses the tartar sauce on potatoes.”
The schnitzel breading, a rich mix of herbs and spices, is traditionally used on pork loin and cod fillets, but can also be used on chicken, fish, cauliflower, mushrooms and onion rings. “The breading is very easy and fun to use … it comes with instructions for beginners.”
With demand for her products increasing, Buege is considering hiring a bottler and a Twin Cities distributor. Sam’s Club has approached her with interest in carrying Rosemarie’s sauces and mix.
Buege plans to add more items to her line, and currently has a new mustard sauce in the works. “We’re excited that our customers can have an authentic German experience at our restaurant and now they can recreate those tastes in their own homes.”
To purchase Rosemarie’s products online, visit eBay.com and search for German sauces. Schnitzel mix and the condiments, which retail for about $4.99 each, are also sold at Through the Grapevine restaurant and area retailers, including Winona, Houston and LaCrosse, Wisc. grocers.