Chef Lenny Russo grew up in Hoboken, NJ, above his family’s Italian market. He moved to Minnesota as a young man for a girl, but immediately fell in love with Minnesota’s great abundance of wild and farmed options. Thirty years later he’s the state’s leading locavore, a perennial James Beard award nominee, and the owner of a spacious, gleaming market attached to his restaurant, Heartland. The Heartland Farm-Direct Market, which overlooks St. Paul’s historic downtown farmers market, is essentially a retail mirror of what is available inside his restaurant-kitchen, including the specially butchered and aged beef cuts, chef-made stocks and hams, and all the other things that a head chef is used to having at his disposal.
In the meat case you’ll find the components which make his legendary charcuterie plates: Mangalitsa prosciutto, lamb terrine, goat rillettes, duck ham, beef braesola, braunschweiger of wild boar, and much more. But you’ll also find airline-trimmed raw chicken breasts (that is, breasts with the cage-bones removed, and the wing bones left in, for better flavor, better handling in the pan, ease of cutting at table, and more elegant presentation), raw wild-boar chops, and whole rainbow trout. Heartland also has a cheese counter; and they’re the only retail source of Lovetree Farm’s goat’s milk cheese (considered some of the United States’ best). They have a farmers market section, with hazelnuts, celeriac, and everything else; their freezer case is stocked with frozen quarts of fish fumé and lamb Bolognese sauce; and a refrigerator case holds duck eggs and high-fat, restaurant-only butter for pastry super achievers. If you ever wanted to be a Midwestern locavore chef, in your jammies, in your own kitchen, here’s how.