Trumpet Blossom transforms its menu to cater to the pandemic food economy

Photo by Adam Burke

Strong communities are built on inclusiveness. They provide spaces where members can explore new ideas, new art and new food, and that cater to a wide variety of needs and preferences. For almost a decade, Trumpet Blossom Cafe has done exactly that for Iowa City.

As a restaurant, Trumpet Blossom offers high quality, locally sourced vegan fare that has become a staple for vegans and omnivores alike. As a music venue, they have welcomed performers from every corner of the musical spectrum and provided an intimate stage for the best kind of direct artist-to-audience interaction. And as community members, Trumpet Blossom has generously hosted fundraisers and other events to lift up its citizens most in need.

Trumpet Blossom has been a physical refuge for many in Iowa City, a place just outside of downtown that is cozy and quiet. However, as with every other business in Iowa, Trumpet has had to shift its focus to serving its customers where they are — at home.

After a closure of almost two months in the spring, Trumpet Blossom reopened for curbside pickup and delivery. Chef/owner Katy Meyer decided to get creative with her menu, offering new take-and-bake options, baked goods and an ala carte, deli-style menu that allows customers to take home some of their favorite Trumpet Blossom sauces and vegan cheeses.

Meyer took the time to answer some questions from Little Village via email and explain all the changes at Trumpet Blossom over the course of the past six months.

What do you consider to be Trumpet Blossom’s role in the community?

Trumpet Blossom exists to provide a place for folks to experience and enjoy plant-based cuisine. We have also operated as a music venue for several years and have been lucky enough to host a multitude of musicians and performers spanning all genres. We hope that we can be a spot for all people to feel safe, cozy and comforted.

Madassane Ahmoudou performs with Mdou Moctar at Trumpet Blossom Cafe. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann

One of the main ways we connect with and support the community is by using as much local produce and other locally made goods as we can. Iowa, and specifically our little region of it, can grow an abundance of food and we’re grateful for the farmers who make that happen.

Our community has supported us so much over the years and we try to give back as much as we can by hosting benefit dinners, general fundraisers and events, and by staying involved in many community-building efforts that local organizations have created and implemented. We are honored to co-exist with other locally-owned small businesses and non-profits in a vibrant city full of unique individuals doing amazing work.

In what ways has the pandemic impacted operations at Trumpet Blossom and your relationship with the community?

We haven’t had any dine-in service since March 15 and were closed completely from March 19 to May 4. Currently, we offer curbside pick-up and are delivery partners with Chomp. We have made the decision to keep our dining room and stage empty to help keep the community safe.

We aren’t sure when we will re-open the dining room or when we will be able to have live music again. We miss everyone so much, and we look forward to seeing familiar and new faces again, but we are doing the best we can right now. We have tried to remain present with regards to fundraising and support for causes that need attention and aid. Some days it’s tough to reconcile selling things with what’s going on in the world; sometimes I know it would feel better to give it all away.

Personally speaking, I have the BEST group of co-workers, some of whom I haven’t seen in almost six months, and we’re doing the work we are right now so that we can all come together again down the road. The community has been unbelievably supportive of our efforts. It’s really incredible how fortunate we are to still be doing this, and it’s only because the community is there to keep us going. I’ve always been cognizant and appreciative of how much people give so that we can do what we do, but it’s especially apparent right now.

I am beyond humbled at the love shown by our community to Trumpet Blossom. Every night before I leave I look at the quiet dining room and I tell the restaurant thank you for making it through one more day.

Trumpet Blossom Café, 310 East Prentiss St. Iowa City, Iowa. — Adrianne Behning

What interesting or creative changes have you made to The Trumpet Blossom’s business model and/or menu since the pandemic hit?

We’ve changed our hours and our menus to reflect what seems reasonable and relevant given current constraints. Since we are putting everything in to-go containers, we are almost transitioned to 100% compostable materials, we only have a couple more items to go through before the switch is complete. I have created a deli-style carryout menu that features plenty of our regular menu items that are now sold individually so you can use them when cooking at home—things like our vegan cheeses and dips, stuff like that. I put together a bakery menu that features a ton of housemade baked goodies, since people are looking for more comfort food right now, and it’s always fun to create new treats.

I also created a weekly Take & Bake menu that customers pre-order and heat at home. The Take & Bake menu is especially enjoyable for me because I get to highlight and use local seasonal ingredients and make new things each week. One of the things I really miss is the creativity of coming up with new dishes so it’s a real bonus to be able to offer these new menus.

How have you adapted your plans for the future of Trumpet Blossom for the duration of the pandemic and beyond?

Honestly, we aren’t really planning too far ahead right now. We are trying to stay flexible and adapt to what our circumstances require of us. It would be great to be able to say, “We will return to normal operations on such-and-such date!” but that doesn’t seem feasible or logical yet. So we’re continuing with our current business model indefinitely and will ease back into other forms of service once it seems appropriate. We’re in this for the long haul and we hope others can understand and stay with us for the journey.

How can people help and support The Trumpet Blossom?

You can order food from us for curbside pick up when we’re open, which is Tuesday through Saturday, 12-7 p.m. You can visit our website to see our complete menus. You can purchase a gift card for someone else to use anytime or to use yourself once the dining room is open again. New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City sells a couple of our grab-and-go items in their prepared food section that you can pick up when you’re there.

We are still selling our T-shirts and tote bags printed by White Rabbit. I also put together some bundles of handmade items from my grandma, including napkins and coasters, etc., and all the money from the sale of those is going directly to Shelter House. You can send us a nice message if you liked the food or if you just want to say hi — it really means the world to me to hear from the folks who support Trumpet Blossom.

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