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LAST BEST PLATES

Going global at Mavens Market

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The city of Bozeman won the trifecta when entrepreneurs Val Flammang and Brie Thompson opened Mavens Market. It’s a unique combo of a trendy gourmet market, cafe, and winery, born out of a love for food from this duo. December marks the third anniversary of this distinct business.

Val, originally from Minnesota, followed friends out to Montana and took a position managing The Bay Bar & Grille on Bozeman’s west end. Brie was born and raised in Bozeman and would work for Val at The Bay, where they forged a friendship that would ultimately benefit the Bozeman community. Brie would move on to establish Olivelle with her mom Michelle, a specialty food retail store focused on high-quality infused oils and vinegars. The tables turned when Val left The Bay Bar to work for Brie. Building off the success of Olivelle, these two entrepreneurs were keen on giving the community a place to purchase irresistible food from around the world and create a locale for kitchen inspiration.

A beautiful day at the Trough & Olde Dairy

Their name, Mavens, emblazoned on the market wall in bold red letters says, it all.

“A maven is an expert or connoisseur; one who is experienced or knowledgeable,” one definition reads. Their mission is to inspire their customers to become mavens that understand and appreciate the best in food.

Mavens Market started by purchasing a vacant building on the corner of Eighth and West Main (formerly Country Flowers). The duo and their families (kids included), set to work on remodeling. They designed the market to have three distinct areas — a cafe and coffee bar, a winery, and a floor-to-ceiling specialty food market.

Mavens Cellars, an enticing space behind the cafe, is cozy and romantic, with cushy seating and soft lighting. The market imports Washington wine in bulk, then bottles and labels wine in house. Local artist Gina DiMaggio created the artful animal-centric labels. The bottled wine selection includes a rose, pinot noir, malbec, syrah, red blend, and merlot. The winery currently has eight varieties on tap, with the option for customers to purchase growlers. Their wine license allows them to distribute in stores and restaurants, which leaves the door wide open for expansion.

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The cafe is light and airy, with a scattering of tables, and my favorite, a corner with two red chairs and a love seat. The walls in this corner display adventure-focused photographs in black and white with a single red element. The color red finds its way into accents throughout the market. The cafe has a great selection of classic coffee drinks, along with some unusual concoctions, such as the Mexican mocha, combining cinnamon and spice with rich, creamy chocolate, steamed milk,and two shots of espresso. The Cubano blends a mix of brown sugar, half-steamed milk and half-steamed foam. My new favorite was the Mermaid, an herbal blue matcha tea. The tea included stone-ground butterfly pea flowers, Madagascar vanilla beans, coconut sugar and steamed milk. The color, which I would describe as a cerulean blue, was enticing.

Breakfast offerings include avocado toast and eggwich paninis. An eggwich starts with sourdough bread from On The Rise Bakery, layered with a fried egg, meat and cheese, then grilled to perfection. Feeling hungry, I opted for the avocado toast topped with prosciutto, Parmesan and arugula, which was delectable. Mounds of house-made gelato were on display, with flavors of pistachio, Nutella, coffee chocolate chip, lemon pie, strawberry shortcake, and cookies and cream looked so tempting. But that avocado toast hadn’t left any room for my sweet tooth.

There is a variety of deli sandwiches for lunch, with the meats and cheese coming from the market. Grilled paninis, using sourdough bread from On The Rise Bakery, are an excellent choice for those wanting a hot entrée. There is also soup and salad, including a caprese and a Maven chop salad. I saw a steady stream of customers stop in for to-go orders throughout the morning. Mavens Market’s website makes ordering online a breeze.

By mid-morning, the market was buzzing with an energized staff building picnic packs and cheeseboards. The picnic packs are a to-go box filled with four kinds of cheese, Genoa salami, Quicos, fig jam, cornichons, Firehook sea salt crackers and fresh grapes. Cheeseboards are made-to-order using a variety of cheese, charcuterie, nuts, olives or cornichons, and fruit, all artfully arranged on an eco-friendly wooden board. Sizes vary, from the Date Night (serving 2-4), Piccolo (serving 8-10), and the Grande (serving 12-20). This is party planning with the greatest of ease.

Wandering around the market was euphoric. Mavens showcases over 100 varieties of cheese from around the world, including a Red Dragon Cheddar with mustard seeds from the United Kingdom, a Fromager D’Affinois with truffles from France, and Grazin Girl Gorgonzola from Valley Ford, California. If you’re unsure of the taste, ask for a free sample. The market features cured meats and salamis, frozen pasta from Italy, hand-packed frozen gelato, and Mavens exclusive blend of coffee (whole bean, but Mavens will grind to order).

The Olivelle oils and vinegars fill one wall. Crackers, cookies, chocolate, condiments, such as mustard, jams and jellies, and herbal seasonings made my mouth water. I couldn’t help but daydream of a return trip to Europe in this global food-focused environment.

In addition to all the fantastic food selections, there is a splendid variety of kitchen accessories, such as cutting boards, knives, fondue sets, utensils, serving bowls and plates, and kitchen linens. Both families are keen on traveling, which results in discovering new products for their business.

I felt inspired and returned home with a renewed enthusiasm for fixing dinner. I picked up some frozen Gorgonzola pasta, along with some Italian sauce, to address that age-old question we empty-nesters have every night around 5 p.m., “What should we have for dinner?”

It’s great to see passionate entrepreneurs that have succeeded in opening the doors for customers to explore a global food scene. There is no question that the Bozeman community is a winner with Mavens Market's trifecta.

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Donnie Sexton, who retired in 2016 after a long career with the Montana Office of Tourism, freelances as a travel writer and photographer, covering destinations around the world.

TheLastBestPlates.com is a digital destination that serves up Montana's tasty food, travel and culture stories … one bite at a time.

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