Photos provided by M. Schleif Photography
For your taco theme this month we couldn’t help ourselves but to have Scott Grandi-Hill from Morningside Heights Provisions join us! Excuse me while we go pour a cocktail from his Prairie Perfect Margarita infusion jar to enjoy on our patio with our tacos 😉
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I grew up in San Jose, California, and worked in kitchens all through high school and college. I have a degree in soil science, and really appreciate the link from agriculture to cooking. I met my partner in California, and she was offered a job in her hometown of Bismarck, and I tagged along for the ride. I really like it here in the Northern Plains – especially seasons (which don’t really exist in the parts of CA I’ve lived). I had the opportunity to open and run a fine-dining kitchen here in Bismarck which was an amazing experience.
After getting out of the food industry, I transitioned to the “farm” side of “farm to table”, and I teach sustainable agriculture at United Tribes Technical College here in Bismarck. I like working in agricultural education, but I still wanted to create recipes and make things with local, seasonal produce. A few years back we used the produce from our garden to make hot sauce as a Christmas gift for family and friends. The feedback was great, and we’ve since expanded to other goods to spice up everything, every day.
Describe what you create under Morningside Heights Provisions?
We make small-batch hot sauce, craft mustards and cocktail infusion kits. The hot sauces range from mild to quite hot, but the flavor is always our first focus. With both the hot sauces and the mustards, we strive to create “better than basic” provisions. In essence, we want our products to be more interesting than the average goods.
Our cocktail kits come from our shared experience working in – and enjoying – fancy cocktail bars. Great drinks often require a ton of ingredients, and that can be daunting for a home bartender. Our cocktail kits are designed with all the niche ingredients already inside and shelf-stable – dehydrated fruit, bitters infused sugar, spices and even at one point the marshmallows from breakfast cereal. Just add your favorite spirit and enjoy!
Tell us where your name came from?
Since this all came from our home, we’re named after the name of our development here in Bismarck. No relation to the Upper West Side neighborhood in NYC. Just pure local pride.
Your personal favorite thing you’ve created so far?
Has to be a toss-up between the Habanero Jerk hot sauce – spicy, smoky, deeply flavored and perfect on pizza, and The Volunteer mustard. It’s yellow mustard with a ton of fresh dill. It’s perfect for summer – great in potato salad, on brats or anything off the grill.
With the theme of tacos, tell us what products of yours would pair best with a real good taco?
It’d be crazy to not shout out the LA Taco Truck hot sauce for this. It’s designed as an homage to the LA taco scene. When you get a street taco in LA there’s usually a salsa bar on the side, and one thing that’s near-universal is a mixed pickle called Escabeche. It’s never the same, but always has some pickled peppers, onion, carrots and other tasty goodies.
For our LA Taco Truck-inspired hot sauce, we make a quick pickle of onions, habaneros, serranos, carrots and garlic, then blend that up with a ton of fresh cucumber for a bright, fresh, and pretty spicy sauce.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a novice home chef interested in going next level?
Get good at the basics – you don’t need to use 25 ingredients to make a good dish. Knowing how to roast a chicken, cook a steak to temperature, make a stock, cook an egg the way you like it or any other simple thing. When you’re comfortable, experiment! But maybe don’t try out a new recipe for the first time when you’re having a dinner party – stick to what you know you can knock out of the park.
What is your favorite thing about having your own business?
I love having customers get excited about something new I’m developing. Whenever we launch a new product there are always people who are excited to check out what we’ve made. It’s great to be able to start with an idea, develop it and get other people as excited about it as I am.
What is the most challenging thing?
I work a 40 hour a week job in addition to making all of these things. Scheduling is very important but can be tough to make sure I’m all ready to go, especially during the busy season.
What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Try something and don’t be worried about failure. That’s often where you learn the most.
Where can people find your work?
I sell at the Bismarket here in Bismarck a couple of times a month. The cocktail kits are stocked at Unglued in Fargo, and starting in July I’ll be at the Red River Market hopefully at least monthly – and at the Drekker Craft Market June 13. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for all events.
How can our community support you – especially in this pandemic recovery time?
I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to keep my full-time job throughout this pandemic, so I’ll be fine. And I’d love to sell you some tasty goodies at markets this summer. But as someone that ran a kitchen, I know how razor-thin the margins are for the owners, and how hard it’s been for the workers – both front and back of the house. The large restaurant chains have deep pockets and can wait this out, but I worry about the local places. Support your favorite local joints to make sure they’re able to stay open as we continue recovery!
How can we keep in touch?