Wonderful Life Foods is Crookston’s newest food establishment and grocery store, but you would swear they’ve been here for years.

    Jess Bengtson's 35th stop on her alphabetical tour of Crookston eating establishments took her to Wonderful Life Foods. Her series is featured every other Friday.

    Wonderful Life Foods is Crookston’s newest food establishment and grocery store, but you would swear they’ve been here for years. They have their regular customers, daily specials and are adding new items all the time. Their fully-stocked grocery store has not only food, but household and beauty items as well. Wonderful Life Foods is basically your one-stop shop. You can pick up all the items on your grocery list and know that you are getting healthy, fresh, useful and local products.

    WLF co-owner Erin Brule says some new items they now carry include essential oils, teas, herbs and spices in bulk; local bison, honey, eggs, and wild rice; bath and body products, cookbooks, freshly-ground coffee by Silver Bridge of Ohio, flavored sparkling water by the 12-pack, ice cream, and… their store features paintings from local artists.

    “Since we’ve opened, our grocery line has more than doubled,” explained Brule.

    “Plus, we’re more than willing to accommodate to customer product requests,” added WLF co-owner Shawn Rezac. “A little later this summer, we will carry fresh organic produce, too.”

    One thing that I was particularly excited to talk about was their baked goods line. Brule and Rezac come in every morning and bake fresh homemade-from-scratch cookies, cupcakes, muffins, granola and more. Now when I say homemade-from-scratch, I mean nothing from a box or bag. Rezac and Brule even shred their own carrots for their amazing carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

    Let’s talk a little more about those carrot cupcakes, shall we? This was the first item I requested a sample of because, well, it’s a cupcake. Who doesn’t like cupcakes? And the fact that it’s homemade and might be even the slightest bit healthy for you is a win-win. As Brule handed me the delightful little package, I could immediately smell the wonderful scent coming from the cream cheese frosting. While WLF is gluten-free and, for the majority, dairy-free, Rezac did say the cream cheese frosting had dairy in it. I was okay with that. The cupcake and frosting combination made for probably the best carrot cupcake I’ve ever eaten. The carrot cake itself was soft, and had a nice blend of spice and flavor. You could see the shredded carrots right in the middle! The cream cheese frosting was melt-in-your-mouth fantastic. It was creamy, sweet and just made the whole cupcake flow perfectly. Seriously, people. You would be a hit at the office (or at home) if you brought a six-pack (or 12-pack) of those treats to share. In fact, the next day, I made the trek over to WLF to buy some drinks and brought back cupcakes for everyone. They wolfed them down in no time.

    Next on the sample list was Kale and Sausage soup that happened to be the special for that day. I was surprised to find that the soup had cauliflower instead of rice or potatoes. It was a nice addition that seems to be gaining popularity, even on the Food Network. The soup was a blend of, again, cauliflower, kale, sausage, onions, mushrooms and broth. The combination of flavors from the vegetables, broth and meat worked nicely for my palate that day. In fact, I let the owners help their waiting customers while I devoured the rest of the cup. Some people don’t like soup in the summer, but I could eat soup year round. 90 degrees and sunny? Sure, I’ll have a cup of that Kale and Sausage soup. It’s sure tasty.

    While standing next to Rezac at their check-out counter early on in my visit, I asked what their customer favorites were. I could tell he was waiting for me to ask that question because the answer practically flew out of his mouth.

    “Carrot cupcakes,” he replied quickly. “They’re definitely our top seller.”

    Rezac said they can’t ever be out of those. He added that their Chicken Salad wraps and sandwiches were also a hit along with the Kombucha drinks. What’s Kombucha, you ask? I was told by Rezac and Brule that it is similar to a soda, but non-caffeinated and made from fermented tea.

    “You might also compare it to wine,” added Brule. “You have your sweeter kinds and then your drier kinds.”

    The Kombucha drinks come in a variety of flavors including Ginger, Wild Root, Cabernet Grape, Cherry, Asian Pear & Ginger, Traditional, Tart Cherry, Pineapple Peach, Lime Mint Coconut, Citrus and Gingerberry.

    I brought back two to the office for everyone to try - Lime Mint Coconut and Pineapple Peach. The Lime Mint Coconut was refreshing and you could taste every ingredient (three of my favorite flavors.) I was told that it would make for a good mixer in a Mojito. The Pineapple Peach was deliciously different. The flavors were bold and the carbonation added a nice touch to the cool drink.

    The owners say their soups are also very popular. A soup served cold, Gazpacho, is their current Friday special. Gazpacho is made of raw vegetables and is usually a tomato base. It originates in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. Their other soups include the Kale & Sausage that I had just sampled, Lemon Chicken, Chili, Caribbean Jerk Chicken (my favorite), Chicken Tortilla and Cabbage. They save a few for the cooler months and keep a few for the summer months.

    Want to have an office gathering or host a luncheon with Wonderful Life Foods? They can cater to you. WLF has a call-ahead or to-go menu that includes a wide variety of sandwiches and wraps, chips (the Sweet Potato chips are awesome), soups and baked goods. All of their lunches are naturally gluten-free and they can cater to any other dietary concerns for your group. The food is prepared fresh in their kitchen so it’s ready when you are. Consider them your downtown quick and healthy lunch option.

    Wonderful Life Foods is open six days a week Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you have yet to visit them, please do. They’re not only a healthy option, they’re a fun option. They have so many different meal and snack items that will cater to taste buds young and old. Wonderful Life Foods was definitely a needed addition to our city’s downtown and they have proved to be a great success.