ZZest Market :: Beginnings

Zest: n  1. The outer edge of citrus fruit with the most fresh, robust and intense flavor.  2. Hearty enjoyment; gusto, liveliness and energy.  3. Something added to impart flavor or to enhance one’s appreciation. 

ZZest Market n 1. A specialty shop on the outer edge of culinary creativity, selling ingredients with fresh, robust and intense flavor. 2. Open to our chefs as their pantry so we can serve food for your hearty enjoyment with gusto, liveliness and energy.  3. A market selling ingredients to enhance one’s appreciation for fine food.  4. Two “ZZ” for twice the zest (but still pronounced “zest”).

The market was the reason and hub for everything. The goal was bring to Rochester all the hard to find stuff Bon Appetit would ask for in a recipe and more. Back in 2008 (yeah, way back, then) specialty cheeses could not be found in the Rochester grocery stores. Seeing we could fill that niche along with all our shelf items, cheese was ordered, a wire for cutting, a wrapping machine, and SE MN had it’s first domestic and imported cheese case. We called it “Culinary Market.”  Culinary Market was a cute little shop jammed to the brim. And on a corner to boot. Things looked rosy.    

Business was hit or miss, but the excitement was growing! A decision was made to move the store and add what we knew best, a restaurant, but “just a little counter”… offer cheese boards and wine, a couple of great plates, Simple. (Read about the evolution of ZZest Café & Bar to see how that worked). Never really loving the “Culinary Market” name,  “ZZest” was born. And no reason for the 2 ‘ZZ’s” other than we thought we were clever.

ZZest Market and Cafe open on 16th St SW in 2009. We jammed as many different olive oils, vinegars, chutneys and pasta shapes we could find on the shelves. We filled two cheese cases and found glorious charcuterie imported from Spain and Italy but also from IA, CA and WA.  And… we found the best French baguettes ever! The idea was not only to bring in great items, but also focus on the little guy. We wanted artisan, small batch, maybe even family owned.  We loved talking to producers that were just as passionate about their products as we were about our market and cafe. We heard about climbing Pluot trees, and crushing olives and “starting with just a few jars for the neighbors”.  ZZest Market could be the voice for these small companies. The ones that either weren’t interested in selling to big box stores or could make enough even if those stores were interested.

The combo market/cafe was revolutionary to some and weird to others. And the cafe longed for more tables and a bar. In 2014 the market made room for the expanding café and moved back downtown, joining ZZest’s Lunch Counter.  

Moving downtown not only allows ZZest Market to continue to be the “culinary oasis” our regulars have coined us to be, but it can become a great find and a taste of home, for the many visitors that come to Rochester each year.  Win, win.

Dear Downtown Rochester, we’re back! xxoo ZZest Market


[ZZest Market and Café before it split in 2014, moving the Market back downtown
and expanding the popular café into a Café & Bar.]