Meet Your Best of White Bear Lake 2018 Winners!

by | Jul 2018

Just as flower-lovers have their favorite blooms—whether it’s elegant roses, whimsical daisies, fragrant peonies or awe-inspiring hydrangeas—so, too, do you have your own cherished people, places and businesses in the White Bear Lake area. A few months ago, we planted the seed and asked you to vote on your favorite go-tos, your crème de la crème, your best in the bunch. And you rallied behind your favorites. So, without further ado, here’s your 2018 Best of White Bear Lake—served up with a side of beautiful blooms, because it’s spring in Minnesota, after all!


Washington Square Bar & Grill
Runner’s up: Rudy’s Redeye Grill, Acqua

Runners up: Washington Square Bar & Grill, Rudy’s Redeye Grill

“Once you get to White Bear, you can feel time slow down a bit,” says Daron Close, director of operations at Acqua. Year-round, the eatery serves up fresh, up-scale dishes in beautiful dining rooms on White Bear and Forest Lake. But once the weather warms up? That’s when the waterfront patios start a-buzzin’ and things get really delicious.

“It’s such a relief the day we finally get to open up the doors—and then they’re all open as much as we can possibly leave them that way,” says Close. “And we line the whole driveway with fresh herbs and veggies.” At Acqua, it’s about enjoying every last lake breeze, sunset and burst of flavor—and here are some fresh-from-the-garden favorites that’ll help you do just that.

Passion Chili Sour:
Kentucky bourbon whiskey infused with Acqua’s own garden-grown habañero, jalapeño, serrano and Fresno peppers and mixed with a signature passion fruit sour puree that’s also created in-house. Served on the Rocks.

Cucumber Margarita:
Sauza Blanco Tequila is infused with fresh cucumber and mint, and served with fresh lime. It comes salted, served on the rocks.

Maple-Glazed Scallops
with toasted pancetta, sage creamed corn, fresh peas and a maple-bourbon glaze. It tastes like the sea. And summer. And sailboats.

Matchstick Apple Salad
is a fresh and crunchy concoction that plays nicely with nutty Manchego cheese and olio verde, garnished with fresh-cut chives and cracked black pepper.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese features juicy tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with a syrupy balsamic reduction and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Seared Fresh Salmon
comes with simple sides of sautéed spinach and roasted fingerling potatoes—plus a decadent, citrusy beurre blanc sauce.

Parmesan Risotto is served with roasted Brussels sprouts, Sicilian onion, roasted grape tomato, asparagus, garlic and creamy grana padano cheese.

Washington Square Bar & Grill
Runners up: Big Wood Brewery, Rudy’s Redeye Grill

Keys Cafe & Bakery
Runners up: Cobblestone Café, Washington Square Bar & Grill


Pratt Homes
Runners up: Bald Eagle Construction, Inc., Cox Contracting LLC

Bald Eagle Construction, Inc.
Runners up: Pratt Homes, Cox Contracting LLC

Abbott Paint & Carpet White Bear Lake
Runners up: Christina Lynn Interiors, Deb Walczak (Nesting Inc.)

Letourneau Landscaping Inc.
Runner up: Landscape Design Studios

Waverly Gardens North Oaks
Runners up: St. Andrew’s Village, Cerenity Senior Care

Costa Farm & Greenhouse White Bear Lake
Runners up: Bachman’s Floral, Gift & Garden in Maplewood , Waldoch Farm Garden Center Lino Lakes

Costa Farm and Greenhouse has been family-owned and operated since 1913, building up quite a following for its Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) memberships, fresh produce and plants. Owner Karin Costa works with a team of experts who love nothing more than to educate guests on how to incorporate freshness and flavor into their lives. Here, she shares a simple three-ingredient recipe for creating a stunning container garden. Mix and match these varieties—all available at Costa from mid-April through June—and you really can’t go wrong.

“Main attraction plants are usually planted in the center of a pot—or in the back if the pot is not viewed on all sides,” Costa says. They bring height and drama—stealing the show in the best possible way. Try:

King Tut (papyrus grass)
Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)
Statement Dahlias
Mandevilla or Thunbergia—try these climbers on a small trellis, fence or sculpture
Salvia Velocity Blue or Black & Blue (Salvia Guaranitica)

These trailing plants “spill” over the edge of the container, adding a bit more drama as they get established later in the season.

Sweet potato vine
Waterhyssop (Bacopa monnieri)
German Ivy or Ivy Hedera
Million Bells
Torenia fournieri
Mezoo (Dorotheanthus)
Mint—smells great and doubles as a mojito ingredient!

These guys fill in the gaps to bring all-over color to the container. They also act as a ground cover, holding in moisture.

Dragon Wing Begonia
Wood Sorrels
Santa Cruz Begonia
Parsley is “great as greenery and pretty as a filler!” Karin says. Herbs are also multi-purpose, producing delicious flavors for your next meal while attracting beneficial insects and deterring annoying aphids! Basil, mint and oregano attract bees—while parsley hosts swallowtail butterfly, Karin explains. Cilantro and dill? Those bring out the ladybugs.

Runners up: Abbot Paint & Carpet White Bear Lake, ReUse ReStyle

Upsy-Daisy is all about recycling, renewing and refreshing—so everything old is, indeed, new again. At this endearing shop—which had a complete remodel this spring—modern meets rustic in a beautiful way. Owner Danielle Rode shares a few DIY-able ideas that celebrate all things feminine and flowery, on the cheap:

Botanicals on canvas
Houseplants and pops of green are ultra-popular right now, and one way to get the look without a green thumb is to frame botanical prints. Hit up Ebay, Etsy or your favorite shop for similar designs—old or new ones will do—to frame on your own.

“These ones are 22 inches tall,” says Rode, sharing one example that’s in stock at Upsy-Daisy. “They’re a great way to fill a large wall in an entry or above a sofa. The botanical print is a great way to bring the garden indoors. We love the green tones and with the darker background, these can really work in your décor all year long.”

Watercolor floral pillows
What could be easier to throw together than a pillowcase? Grab a fabric that works well with your décor and sew one up! Don’t have a machine? Upsy-Daisy carries this one and tons of its friends.

“Right now, décor in white and black is so on-trend,” says Rode. “This fabric, with its white with black dots, can easily be incorporated into existing décor—but adds a splash of color with the watercolor roses.”


EDITOR’S PICK: Best Intriguing Art
Artist Lexi Ames delights in her world of science and art.

Sometimes you run across a story, a person, a talent that is so striking you can’t get it out of your head. Such is the case with Lexi Ames, a 22-year-old artist from Mahtomedi, whom was brought to my attention by Dellwood resident Mary MacCarthy, a public relations and marketing wiz.

With the mind of an anatomist and the soul of an artist, Lexi Ames adroitly (and passionately, I might add), creates art that captivates and moves. Her ability to see beauty in the anatomical structures of the human body, and of nature in its purest, most elemental form, is uncanny, and at the core of her creative expression. “Art and science share a paramouric existence in my work,” she says.

Her pieces are mostly created with a utilitarian ballpoint pen and harken memories of dusty anatomy books and botanical guides, like the piece pictured above, titled Pelvis. The piece to the left, however, which is a detailed shot of Kindito, was created using acrylic paint and is part of Ames’ work, The Medicinal Plants of Madagascar. You can see more of her work, which includes what she calls “whimsical anatomy,” as well as scientific illustrations and more, at

YMCA (White Bear Lake)
Runners up: Life Time Fitness, Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping (White Bear Lake)

White Bear Smiles
Runners up: Lakeshore Family Dentistry, White Bear Lake Dental

Signature Orthodontics (White Bear Lake)
Runners up: Gulden Kent DDS, Orthodontic Care Specialists White Bear Lake

The Carlson Clinic of White Bear Lake
Runners up: HealthSource of White Bear Lake, Wildwood Chiropractic Center

HealthPartners Clinic (White Bear Lake)
Runners up: Children’s Minnesota Hugo Clinic, Entira Family Clinics (White Bear Lake Banning Avenue)

White Bear Eye Clinic & Optical
Runners up: Associated Eye Care (Hugo), Birch Lake Eye Clinic

Dermatology Consultants Vadnais Heights
Runners up: Advanced Dermatology Care (White Bear Lake)

Sunbear Salon & Medical Spa
Runners up: LifeSpa at Life Time Fitness, Contour Clinic (Vadnais Heights)

Indulge Salon & Wellness Spa
Runners up: Sunbear Salon & Medical Spa, Revive Salon

Indulge specializes in natural hair and skin care, with a full line-up of services designed to bring out the best in clients’ skin without using harsh chemicals. Check out the Trade In and Trade Up program: trade your toxic beauty products for $5 off the purchase of organic and socially sustainable products from Indulge.

The Oncology Harmony Facial brings together an array of natural products that specifically soothe and restore the stressed-out skin of cancer patients and survivors.

The steps:

Cream cleanser uses safflower, coconut oil and seaweed algae extract to rid the skin of build-up.

“Once our esthetician has determined next steps so that the skin is not compromised, she will use products containing vitamin A, B5, C and E, mushroom extract, olive leaf extract and/or sugar cane,”
says owner Kim Schoonover.

SPF 30 restorative moisturizer deters future cancer development. “We are always cautious of clients who have compromised immune systems and barrier functions.”

Giving Gardens

Books have the ability to transport, inform, elicit, bedazzle, etc. And they can also be a call to action. Such is the case when Chris Harms, founder of Giving Gardens, pored over the pages of Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berub.

Harms was so moved by the ever-increasing rate of food insecurity in the suburbs (often thought of as hubs of the plentiful) that he launched a GoFundMe site in 2016 to raise funds for Giving Gardens. The organization provides raised bed gardens, free of charge, to gardeners who donate 51 percent (or more) of their produce to the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf, Mahtomedi Food Shelf at St. Jude of the Lake Catholic Church, Hugo Good Neighbors Food Shelf and White Bear Senior Program.

The program is really taking root in the community and Harms is predicting that more than 150 garden beds will be utilized this summer, providing upwards of 3,200 pounds of fresh produce. If you’d like to donate, host a garden or volunteer, visit the website here.

(Head to the May issue of White Bear Lake Magazine to read the full story on Chris Harms and the Giving Gardens initiative.)


Runners up: GoodStyle, Mainstream Boutique

Scroll through Pinterest, and your feed is likely to be budding out with floral clothing trends. From full-on dresses and rompers to more subtle accessories layered up with closet staples, it’s easy to incorporate a bit of floral into any look. Primp’s Michele Henry shares how it’s done with a few spring pieces:

Mariposa Sheer Floral Top $44
Sheer tops are all the rage right now, and this pretty floral one adds a touch of girly elegance to an otherwise-edgy top. While this top might seem intimidating, just pair it with a black bralette and high-waisted jeans for a girls’ night out.

Nina Reversible Floral Bomber Jacket $48
Throw this over a white tee and jeans for a classic look. Plus, this jacket is reversible so you can switch up your look in an instant—it’s like buying two pieces for the price of one. Wear the floral side for spring and summer, then switch to the denim side for fall.

Tipton Floral Wrap Dress $46
My favorite part about this dress is that it’s an instant outfit. You don’t have to match multiple pieces … you can just throw on some heels and you’re good to go.

Valentina Embroidered Slides $20
These are an easy way to incorporate floral into your wardrobe without having to commit to a full floral look. Not sure what to wear with them? Stop by and chat with one of our stylists, or book a free styling appointment to have outfit options (and wine) waiting for you.

Runners up: The Farmer’s Daughter, Kowalski’s Market

White Bear Floral Shop and Greenhouse
Runners up: Lakeside Floral & Gift (Willernie), Kowalski’s Market

What better way to bring a dose of florals into your life than with actual flowers? Owners John and Darlene Birkeland share a few on-trend floral looks for Mother’s Day, graduations and beyond:

Sparkle and glitter: From glitter-dipped vases to subtle sprays that add all-over shimmer, this is huge right now.

Succulents: They’re starring in wedding centerpieces, in fresh arrangements and in longer-lasting potted containers that make awesome, low-maintenance gifts.

Specialty planter boxes
These are new at White Bear Floral, with hands-on classes offered periodically. Take a floral gift in a different direction, and get your hands in the dirt with mom—and up your curb appeal.

Ultra-personalized arrangements: “Each unique arrangement can include items for remembrance: fishing, golfing or hunting, etc,” says Darlene. “All of our designers are unique in their own customizing of arrangements—and their motto is ‘Imagine It, We Can Make It.’”

Meet Market (White Bear Lake)
Runners up: EAT!@ Banning and 5th, The Olive Branch Oil & Spice Company


What was once an under-utilized and abandoned alleyway has been transformed into a garden straight out of a fairy-tale. The pocket garden, which boasts an English garden sensibility, is owned by Terry Kellerman, and sits perfectly tucked away between Kellerman’s Event Center (as well as Big Wood Brewery and The Alchemist) and Keys Cafe and Bakery.

Kellerman and Celine Carlson, owner of Keys, began this grand garden adventure in 2012, and make the perfect team with one (Carlson) buying plants, planting, watering, etc., and the other (Kellerman) adding hardscape items (such as a water feature last year).

The garden, which is utilized year-round, plays host to weddings, parties and to folks who are lucky enough to stroll the meandering cobblestone sidewalk and take in the sights of the flora, shrubbery and garden accoutrements that make the space so magical.

We asked Carlson, who delights in the creative aspect of working in the garden, to share a few thoughts on this little slip of blooming and blossoming heaven in downtown White Bear Lake.

“I believe what gives the garden its life and character are the folks that walk through it every day, and love to be in and talk about it,” she says. “Everyone knows me when I’m in the garden. And even though I might not know them, there’s a lovely connection, a shared feeling of gratefulness.”


Goldwood Kennels
Runners up: Birch Lake Animal Hospital, Oneka Pet Resort

St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church Preschool
Runners up: Frassati Catholic Academy, Lake Area Discovery Center – Community of Grace Lutheran Church

Sheila J. Kelly Law Firm, LLC
Runners up: GDO Law, Galena Law Firm, P.A.

White Bear Animal Hospital
Runners up: Birch Lake Animal Hospital, Lake Animal Hospital

Mathnasium of White Bear Lake
Runners up: Tutor Time of White Bear Lake, LearningRx (Shoreview)

Tamarack Nature Center
Runners up: YMCA (White Bear Lake), 4th Street Dance Centre

“It’s so amazing what kids will eat when they’re part of the preparation,” says naturalist Anna Newton, who teaches garden-centric classes that are designed to expose visitors young and old to new plants and local, healthy foods. She’ll walk students through a plant’s culinary and agricultural history, when to harvest it and how it can be incorporated into recipes.

“I was teaching about fresh garden salsa once, and there were photos of onions, tomatoes, lime, cilantro. I told the kids to go find the ingredients in the garden,” Newton says. “They found most of them, and a third grader—a regular in our programs—came back and said, ‘we don’t have any lime. But we have lemon balm!’ I’ve been gardening for years and never would have thought to do that. But he was improvising! He knew exactly what was out there. I feel like we must be doing something right.”

Tamarack Nature Center offers several ways that visitors of all ages can try out gardening, but here are a few great places to start:

Drop-in Discovery Stations
First Saturday of the month, October to May, and every Saturday from June to September, 10 a.m.–noon.

Meet the Gardener
Mondays, June 11 to August 27, 10:15–11 a.m.

Weekend Gardeners
Select Saturdays, February to September, 10 a.m.–noon.


Naturalist Pam Larson Frink dishes the dirt on the White Bear Lake Seed Library.

How does it work?
The seed library is a repository of free open-pollinated seeds available for community members to grow, enjoy and save seeds for future seasons. It is located inside the Ramsey County Library – White Bear Lake branch and open during regular library hours. Anyone can utilize the seed library—you do not need a library card, nor do you have to reside in Ramsey County to take seeds from the seed library.

What is the Process?
Select which plants you want to grow; the seed packets are sorted in drawers.

Fill out a membership form.
Take the seeds home and grow the plants. (No pesticides, please!)

Save some seeds and return to the seed library.
(If you cannot save seeds, please purchase a commercial packet of open-pollinated seeds to donate to the library.)

What kinds of seeds can folks get?
The seed library has all open-pollinated vegetable, herbs, annual and perennial flowers and native plant seeds. Primarily the seed library emphasizes ‘easy-to-save’ seeds such as tomatoes, peas, beans, lettuce and native plants.

By the Numbers
The seed library has 42 varieties of tomatoes, 20 varieties of beans, 15 types of herbs, 26 kinds of native plants and many, many more kinds of peas, lettuces and other vegetables and flowers. In 2017, over 1,500 packets of seeds were ‘freed’ to start their life in gardens around the area.

Suzy Freeborg Suzy2Point0 Creations

If ever there were an ardent lover of all things flora, it would be Suzy Freeborg. After spending much of her life in corporate America, Freeborg, whom always had an artistic inclination—and a preternatural love for flowers—decided to eschew the buttoned-up career and define herself anew; a new version, she says, a Suzy 2.0 version. (And how could I not have a garden-themed Editor’s Pick of someone whose tagline is “Flowering You With Beauty”?)

Her creative, soul-revealing business marries art and flowers, where Freeborg’s medium of choice is digital painting. In this world, limited only by the confines of Freeborg’s creativity, a bouquet of spring tulips appear, as she puts it, to be rapt in a state of “joyful dancing.” In her Dancing Botanicals collection, daisies tap their toes, and lovely pink roses become whirling dervishes.

“Imagine,” she says, “if flowers could express themselves. Would they be grateful for each day of life – singing joyful songs when you encounter their beauty and dancing a jig when gentle breezes kiss their petals.”

Freeborg sells her floral-fabulous digital paintings as prints, or on mugs, tote bags, mouse pads and more. You can see all of Suzy Freeborg’s beautiful work at the website here.


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