The brine is fine: Local Culture Live Foods Market opens in downtown Grass Valley |

The brine is fine: Local Culture Live Foods Market opens in downtown Grass Valley

Although Chris Frost-McKee and Cristina Africano have been offering Local Cuture's products at farmers markets in the area for the past year, the couple opened their first storefront Oct. 12 in Grass Valley.
Photo by Jennifer Nobles

Cristina Africano and Chris Frost-McKee think people would be happier if they ate a little bit of sauerkraut each day.

For the last 15 years or so, Frost-McKee has been a firm believer in the benefits of kraut, a fascination that carried over to his family, who decided to start marketing their fermented foods in hopes of educating the public on the advantageous qualities they possess.

“(My family) brought the concept of working with closely with local farmers and creating fresh ferments, and over the winter we put our heads together to see how we could help or be a part of it,” said Frost-McKee. “It seemed like the best thing for us to do to bring Local Culture to our community would be to create a small family food hub of their vision. So that’s how it began.”

On Oct. 12, their vision was realized when Local Culture Live Foods Market opened at 104 East Main Street in Grass Valley. Africano and Frost-McKee have been operating Local Culture for the last year or so, selling their products at farmers markets and to several local markets.

Kraut, which many reserve for a hot dog with the works or a messy Ruben sandwich, carries beneficial probiotics which help ward off toxins and varieties of less-helpful bacteria within the digestive system. It’s also been said that fermentation aids the body in absorbing nutrients, and helps promote a healthy micro-biome within the gut.

“We believe, and it is proven, that so much stems from gut health and gut health directly associates with our immune system, with mental health function, with frankly everything,” said Frost-McKee. “So it’s about building a healthy microbiome within ourselves.”

In their efforts, the minds behind Local Culture krauts have gone beyond the traditional sauerkraut and branched out to ingredients like jalapeno, carrot, turmeric, fennel and beets.

In addition to the krauts, shoppers will find an assortment of breads, pickles, cheeses, and “gut shots” — a sample of the kraut’s brine wherein resides a large concentration of the helpful microbes. Huge jugs of Sevillano olives sit behind the counter, fermenting in what will be a months-long process.

“We want to adapt and be creative with our local community here, and (offer) fermented hot sauces, anything pickled like okra and asparagus, lacto-ferments. There’s no limit to what it is we can do.”

All items are organic and locally-sourced with an emphasis on quality ingredients.

When the pair originally spoke with the city about bringing their fermentation station to the heart of downtown, they were told they could do so, but there would need to be a retail component to go along with it.

“That started our wheels turning,” said Frost-McKee. “Like, what could we do that would be received well by the community? What we want to do here is a social and educational fermentation experience with the community. People can come in and see fermentation in process, and this all bubbling away.”

Frost-McKee and Africano are parents to a 2-year-old son, who they say happily gulps down “gut shots” on a daily basis. Much as they believe their toddler is building the foundations for a healthy gut from a young age, the couple said the very same benefits of consuming fermented foods and liquids can be enjoyed by people in all stages of life.

“I believe you can never have too much,” said Africano, “just because the amount of gut health microflora we have in our systems now compared to generations ago is minimal. We get asked a lot (about dosage) and I think whatever anyone is comfortable with. I think having it daily is one of the most important things.”

Local Culture’s array of krauts is available not just in its new storefront. The products can be found at Mother Truckers, BriarPatch Food Co-op, New Moon Natural Foods in Truckee and Auld Dubliner at Squaw Valley. Grass Valley’s Wild Eye Pub was one of the first businesses to support Local Culture and features the company’s Yuba Gold kraut on its menu.

“This is a place where the community can come to really nourish themselves, and get high quality fermented products,” said Frost-McKee. “We aren’t a boutique shop. We want the community to eat well. We aren’t trying to exclude certain people of a certain budget. We won’t ever turn down a sample of kraut. We really want people to come in and see what we’re all about.”

Local Culture Live Foods Market is located at 104 East Main Street in Grass Valley. They can be found online at

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at or 530-477-4231.

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