Sisters Ky and Mel Guse thought it would be fun to open a cozy little cheese and wine bar. When they moved to Minnesota from San Francisco to follow that dream, a friend introduced them to Jill Mott, formerly of the Bachelor Farmer. As the three churned out ideas during what they call their “weekly dream meetings,” their endeavor took on a life of its own. “People have the idea that wine bars are these sleepy little places,” said Ky. “But that is just not who we are. We realized we wanted to work with other products that we were passionate about, like chocolate and coffee.” They named their place Gyst, meaning essence.
At the Gyst Kickstarter party Jim Bovino entered the picture. Jim had been farming and fermenting his own produce. He also happened to brew his own cider. The dream team was in place. “I feel like Jim was the missing piece,” Jill said. “Fermented items were always going to be a part of our menu, but it came to life when Jim brought his talents to Gyst.”
“Anything preserved is life extending, we don’t have to throw vegetables away,” Jim explained. “And the flavors are very different than the fresh form of the food. It’s umami forward.”
No one knew what to expect when they opened their doors exactly one year ago. “I didn’t know how people will respond,” Jim said. “There has been a lot of conversion going on. People think it may be pretentious, or that they are going to hate fermented food, but they love it.”
“I have to say, I am really surprised how much people love it,” Ky laughed. “It’s really a fun experience, sitting with a friend over a bottle of wine and the Mother Board. It’s a picnic.”
The Mother Board is the heart of the menu at Gyst. It’s a gorgeous display of cheeses, meats, olives, pickled and fermented veggies, dried fruit and nuts, all meant to be fawned over with a glass of wine or other fermented beverage in hand. Jill curates an impressive array of rarely seen wines and beers from around the world. So impressive, in fact, that Gyst recently picked up the Outstanding Beverage Program Charlie Award. Not too shabby for an establishment barely out of its infancy.
Additional noteworthy menu items include a smoky tomato soup with paprika and fermented tomato paste seemingly created for these gloomy, cloudy days, and a grilled cheese sandwich featuring a blend of three luscious cheeses and piled with tangy sauerkraut. “People can get tastes here they can’t get anywhere else,” Mel emphasized. “The experience with the Mother Board is really satisfying. It’s unique but simple.”
Looking back at their first year, the team is thrilled and humbled at the reception Gyst has received. While the location is slightly off the hustle and bustle of Eat Street, folks are slowly finding their way to this bright and welcoming hub of all things fermented. “We have built something really special over the first year,” explained Mel. “But there are so many other things we want to do.”
Things like selling some of their fermented items, along with gourmet chocolates, coffee and cheeses that cannot be purchased anywhere else. Because Gyst sources cheese and other products directly from small farms, the only place to purchase these exceptional items is at Gyst, extending the Gyst experience to your own table.
The Gysters are especially proud of the classes and special events they run from a sun-streaked back room. Recent classes included a Georgian Wine Experience (that’s the Republic of Georgia, not the state), a Basque Experience, and Jim’s popular fermentation classes.
To celebrate their first anniversary on Friday, November 27th, GYST will play along with the whole Black Friday thing by offering door busters to the first 25 people to come through their doors. There will also be food and drink specials for all.