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THE EATBEAT: Dakota Harvest offers warm soup, fresh bread

It was cold outside but warm inside Dakota Harvest Bakers shop downtown on North Third Street when I stopped for lunch on a Saturday in December. People were tasting samples of baked goods in little containers on top of the display case. Others were in line waiting for sandwiches, pastries, coffee or soup. Some were picking up fresh loaves of bread.

I had a feeling I had come to the right place for lunch. Soup of the day was Italian Wedding, so I ordered a bowl of it with a thick slice of Dakota wheat bread. My check came to $5.35 including tax, and I found a place to sit at one of the tables.

I could tell the soup was made from homemade broth. It was well-seasoned and enriched with kale and five not-too-small meatballs. Butter was available at the counter, but you really don't need it with the freshly baked bread. I had helped myself to a glass of water when I picked up my food.

This was a lunch that was nutritious and warm. It filled me up. I didn't need to go hunting for a Mr. Goodbar in midafternoon. It was so good, in fact, that I went back Sunday.

This time, the soup was pumpkin squash, and the bread was oatmeal whole wheat. The soup was thick as pudding, and I was glad I ordered a small bowl. That was enough to fill me up. It was an interesting soup, and I just knew it must be good for me.

What I had missed was the North Woods Porridge, the feature of the day. But it was getting a thumbs up from Kathy and Terry Daucsavage (KD and TD) and Sheila and Doug Hiney (SH and DH) at the next table. KD told me about this porridge with wild rice, dried cranberries and blueberries with maple syrup and cream. It was $3.50 for a cup and $6.75 for a bowl. Never would I feature myself ordering porridge, but after tasting a sample at the counter, I could see how good it was.

That's the thing about Dakota Harvest Bakers. The place, which opened a year and a half ago, has a motto "Indulge Your Passion." The bakery is a place where imagination in products knows no limits. I consider it as a treasure in the heart of Grand Forks.

The place has been building a clientele from all walks of life. Some people come in and work on laptop computers. Others sit at the counter facing out on Third Street and sip coffee.

On my first visit to Dakota Harvest, I visited with Greg Opp and Susan Opp (GO and SO). SO likes the Dakota wheat bread, even though she isn't a "bread freak." GO nodded approval over his bowl of Italian Wedding Soup, which he called "the marriage soup."

Days begin around 4 a.m. in Dakota Harvest Bakers, when bread starts going into the convection ovens in the big kitchen at the rear of the sales room and cafe. Bob Legg is the lead baker of breads during the week. Then, there's Maurine "Mo" Dieter, the pastry chef who turns out an every creative array of cakes, tarts, cookies, bars, caramel rolls and puddings.

This is a rare place where you can find scones. There are cookies, such as old-fashioned Snickerdoodles, in normal as well as monstrous sizes.

The bakery is inviting and attractive with yellow walls that featire art by local artists. Background music is of holiday tunes right now and also light jazz. The bakery has a spacious, informal ambience. Restrooms at the rear are easily accessible and clean - always a tip-off on how a place views cleanliness.

With all the pluses at the bakery, there are a few drawbacks. You do have to wait at times at the counter, where there sometimes is congestion. That may be a small price to pay for high-quality food fresh from the oven. One of the pluses is the Web site that is up-to-date and shows products available and menus for takeout and delivery orders.

Owners George Kelley and Paul Holje have seen a gradual growth in their business. Holje oversees the bakery during the week. Kelley, who is a Federal Aviation Administration employee at the airport, comes in on weekends to help out. Kelley says they are having fun. For them, running the bakery and featuring area products is a dream come true.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or (701) 772-1055.

17 N. Third St.

Owners: George Kelley and Paul Holje.

Manager: Paul Holje.

Pastry chef: Maurine "Mo" Dieter.

Hours: Opens 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday; closes 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday; open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Seating: For 50 at tables, counter.

Telephone: (701) 772-2100.

Online: www.dakotaharvest.com.

Pay: Major credit cards, cash.

Report card: A warm, inviting bakery shop in downtown Grand Forks where you find creative, wholesome baked goods made from locally grown products. Prices are moderately high, but reasonable for quality and freshness of foods. Service is friendly, occasionally slow at busiest times. Free delivery for minimum $10 orders in downtown between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Web site is up-to-date and convenient.

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