This month, we are excited to share a wealth of women-owned businesses who we partner with on a regular basis to bring you the exceptional products you look for when you shop Market District.

Pittsburgh’s Cherry Valley Organics and Leona’s Ice Cream are both innovative and dynamic in their approach to the market. Their interviews and products are insightful and completely original.

Then, we did what we do best, we paired Lopaus Point gluten-free waffles with Belle Chevre’s goat’s milk cream cheese and yowzah. As individual products, they are phenomenal, but then you put them together and the connection is deliciously destined.

Cherry Valley Organics — Organic to a Tea!

Jodi Danyo — a graduate of the Environmental Science and Management Program at Duquesne University — began sowing the seeds for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program with a one-third acre lot at her Crafton home more than 20 years ago. She started with organic produce and then added herbs and flowers. Soon her crops and clientele flourished, growing from eight to far more than the one-third acre harvest could serve.

From Backyard to Barn

After two years, Jodi took the bold step of buying 36 raw acres of land in Cherry Valley, 20 miles outside of Downtown Pittsburgh, near Burgettstown. Here she began the slow process of installing utilities, building greenhouses, buying a tractor, planting and harvesting organic crops.

Essentially born out of Jodi’s desire to combine a love of the outdoors and plants with a passion for healthy, environmentally sustainable living, today Cherry Valley Organics (CVO) offers a Farm Share Program (providing weekly veggie, herb and flower shares to 300 Pittsburgh families), a handmade organic herbal bath and body line, and USDA 100% Organic herbal teas.

Sustaining Plants, People & Possibility

Approaching their 20th anniversary as a Pittsburgh business, CVO thrives on the passion and drive of their growers, who team together to learn how to farm, to be responsible environmental stewards, to run an economically sustainable and viable business, and how to work together as a high performing team.

“I believe strongly in creating professional jobs in agriculture that pay a livable wage,” says Jodi. “There are so many college grads interested in farming and agriculture, which are essential to the health of our community.

“Environmental, economic and social sustainability have always been part of our mission and culture.”

We Grow. We Blend. We’re 100% Organic.

Cherry Valley’s teas are the crumpet at Market District these days because of the herbs that make up their herbal blends are grown at their farm. There are no other tea manufacturers in the U.S. that can say that. “We grow. We blend. We are 100% organic,” says Jodi. “We have both common (Chamomile & Tulsi) and unique blends (Happy Blend & Lemon) that are great iced or hot.”

“Also, because our team loves to eat amazing food, we’re always inventing new iced herbal teas, especially in summer,” says Jodi when asked about inspiration. “A love of growing plants and the desire to experiment with plants we have not yet grown are great motivators. Not everything we come up with makes it into our packaged line, but we have some great seasonal teas that are served in our Farm Market & Café located along the Panhandle Trail in Burgettstown.”

Find these extraordinary Cherry Valley Organic Teas in our stores: Chamomile, Happoy Blend, Lemon & Tulsi, and learn more about Cherry Valley Organics here.

Waffles & Cream Cheese — Elevate Your Breakfastations!

We have no arguments with waffles and maple syrup. Let’s start there. What we DO have is a curiosity that often takes us to extraordinarily delectable and unexpected foodie pairings: say, gluten-free waffles and cream cheese made with goat’s milk!

Introducing the exquisite coupling of two women-owned businesses: Lopaus Point gluten-free waffles and Belle Chèvre goat’s milk cream cheese. Lopaus Point, located in Columbus, OH, is owned by Stacie Skinner. Interestingly enough, the “gluten-free” part of her product is barely mentioned as a selling point; these are simply amazing frozen waffles. Just a bonus that you don’t have to worry about gluten.

“We use only organic and natural ingredients and no sugar in any of our batters. Instead, we add a bit of organic fruit for a hint of sweetness,” says Stacie, “We like to say that we give you the taste of homemade but with the convenience of toast and serve.” The texture is both light and filling, toasty and chewy. Figure that out.

“I get flavor inspiration from my childhood,” says Stacie. “I spent countless hours with my mother cooking and baking from scratch. The memory of the flavors and aromas is what is inspiring — the nostalgia. Here at Lopaus Point (named after the coastal area in Maine where Stacie grew up), we say we are ‘joyfully obsessed’ and that means that making the waffles gluten free to meet dietary needs is a pleasure.”

“Then we have cheesemonger Tasia Malakasis, President of Belle Chevre, an award-winning cheese creamery in Alabama. It was as a student at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City that she first discovered Bell Chevre at Dean & Deluca’s. With each bite, she could taste her future, especially when she learned that the Belle Chevre fromagerie was located in Alabama, her home state. Following a cheesemaking intensive at the creamery, she purchased Belle Chevre and got to work.

What did Tasia love so much about Belle Chevre? Perhaps it is the time-tested, European farmstead techniques used to make the goat cheese. Or, that the company is purposefully small and women-run, so that a personal touch — taste and texture — is evident in every hand-made batch. Or, maybe it is the unique and visionary flavors — fig, honey and the exquisite original. Perhaps it’s just that good.

So, the idea to take her delicious chevres and make a goat’s milk version of cow’s milk cream cheese was a no-brainer. Except a lot of thought went into it. “We have coined our cream cheeses as ‘The Better Cream Cheese’ because it contains 2.5 times the protein of whole cow’s milk cream cheese, is lower in fat and calories, and contains no stabilizers (or other scary ingredients); all clean label, made by real people and not machines! Essentially, our cream cheese recipe is based, like all of our products, on fresh French cheese, which we have modernized a bit for today’s consumer”

Both of these companies are committed to sustainability from production to packaging and are adamant about giving back to their communities: Tasia favoring No Kid Hungry and Heifer International as partners in helping to change the world. And Stacie? “Our bags, labels and boxes are all from our local county and we source vanilla from a family-owned company in Cleveland. Our pasture-raised eggs come from an Amish cooperative and we also partner with Goodwill Industries to employ people with developmental differences.”

“I am totally in love with the fig cream cheese,” says Jeanne Scardamailia, celiac tester, licking her finger. “I tried it on the banana flax waffle. Just the right amount of sweetness. The original cream cheese is perfect for all of the waffles — the way it melts into the crevices. I’m a little bit of a traditionalist. I think it is my favorite.”

“I think my favorite was the chocolate chip waffle and honey cream cheese,” says Laura Kelly, who is off to college in a week, “but all of the waffles have been super good, even without the cream cheese. “I will definitely be keeping some in my dorm room. I have a toaster oven!”

There you have it! Find Lopaus Point gluten-free waffles in Chocolate Chip, Banana Flax, Wild Blueberry and Pumpkin Spice in our Freezer Aisle and Bell Chevre cream cheese in Original, Honey and Fig in our Dairy Section. Buy them together — just saying.

Leona’s — Lactose Free, Flavor Full, Woman-Run & Totally LOCAL!

At Leona’s, located in Pittsburgh’s East End, they know that ice cream is what dreams are made of — and they dream big.

With the help of a natural enzyme, they create 100% lactose-free ice cream that’s made with 100% real dairy. The enzyme breaks down the lactose that’s difficult to process, without changing the flavor, texture or quality of their ice cream. It simply makes it easier to digest.

“We look for inspiration everywhere and know that a simple mix of milk, cream and sugar is the most amazing canvas,” explain owners Katie and Christa.

How did they start? In 2010, Christa and Katie received an ice cream maker for their wedding. Being lactose intolerant, Katie started playing around with ice cream she could eat. With Christa’s support, she changed jobs to allow her to attend culinary school.

Eventually, they started selling out of the back of a local coffee shop. After a few small neighborhood markets asked about wholesale opportunities, they decided to focus on that path rather than a store front. Interest grew and they fielded more requests, growing one store at a time and eventually added a part-time baker.

“Our whole company was built on local sourcing. It’s crucial to know our farmers, ask questions about their methods and shorten the supply chain.”

And, that’s one of the reasons you should feel good about buying Leona’s. Says Katie, “Most importantly you can feel good about our ingredients. We source carefully so we know where it all comes from — and much of it comes from here! Buying locally made products is a chain reaction. It supports not only our company, but often times, the independent retailer that sold it, the farmers that grew the fruit and supplied the dairy to make it, and the employees that live in Pittsburgh and spend their money here as well.”

Leona’s is comprised of an entirely female staff. The creative problem solving and cooperative, non-competitive nature of their kitchen makes for a very enjoyable environment. They all come from very different culinary backgrounds and bring a curiosity to the job that is unlike anything we’ve ever encountered.

In terms of sustainability, most of their ingredients are found within 150 miles of their kitchen and are purchased directly, keeping their carbon footprint minimal. Some of their local partners include Triple B Farms, Seibel's Eggs, Commonplace Coffee, Ortons Family Farm, East End Food Co-op, Frankferd Farms, Maggie’s Farm Rum, Roundabout Brewery, Hitchhiker Brewery, Singing Dog Vanilla, and Paul Family Farms.

They also have a garden onsite where they grow all of their own mint and supplement their strawberry and blueberry stores, as well as ground cherries, gooseberries, rhubarb and so many flowers! On top of that, their water catchment system captures the water produced from their water-cooled ice cream maker to irrigate their garden.

Leona’s dedication to local seasonal produce dictates their flavor calendar. They have more than 80 combinations rotating throughout the year. Each week shoppers will find a fresh batch of flavors in the freezer case.

Leona’s delivers directly, so the product goes from their freezer to our stores without a middle man. They prefer not to ship to avoid the use of Styrofoam. “We think about sustainability all the time. Sometimes that means making decisions based on the environmental impact, and sometimes it means a growth decision. We are strategic about adding new customers and only grow when we know we can keep up with the demand. We strive to be consistent and rapid growth is often the enemy of consistency.”

Leona’s crew of bakers, ice cream makers and all-around sugar wizards are the beautiful, bursting, creative brains behind their evolving flavors. They bake every cookie, make every brownie chunk and citrus curd, carefully watch each pot of caramel, heath or honeycomb candy until it bubbles to perfection.

“Our staff is incredibly curious with flavors, culinary traditions and techniques. We all bring ideas to the table, in fact it’s part of the job! We all like to travel and experience new things and it yields some really delicious ideas. We do so much testing! Our awesome staff takes ideas from suggestion to fruition and we see what tastes good! Sometimes it sounds better than it tastes, and sometimes it tastes better than it sounds – we just dig in and try things. We are constantly surprising each other!”

Favorite flavors? For Katie it’s a three-way tie between Vanilla on Chocolate Chunk, Black Sesame on Salted Tahini Chocolate Chunk and Cinnamon on Oatmeal Lace. For Christa the top flavor would be Raspberry on Snickerdoodle, hands down.

“Since our partnership with Market District, we’ve seen our customer base grow and diversify. We’ve also been blown away by the adaptability of a large grocery chain being able to work with a small business.”

And, according to Paul Abbott, our specialty grocery buyer, “Leona’s has literally flown off of the shelf. I have never seen such remarkable sales for a local product. And, honestly, I totally get it. Their ice cream sandwiches are untouchable.”

We carry a large rotating selection of Leona’s sandwiches. You’re sure to find a favorite each month!