Blue Plate Special: ‘Wild Roots is about taking a chance’

  • Luke Eriksen, right, co-owner of Wild Roots with wife Kelli, and Travis Whittle, left, in Sunderland with two of their signature sandwiches — the Vegan, left, and Sunderland. Check out today’s column for recipes to recreate these dishes. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Try the Sunderland, left, or the Vegan, right, with an Immune Booster smoothie, back, all made with organic ingredients, at Wild Roots in Sunderland. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Wild Roots is an organic, whole-food oriented eatery that serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday in Sunderland. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Eriksen makes an Immune Booster smoothie with bananas, wild blueberries, dates and coconut water at Wild Roots. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A customer places an order at Wild Roots in Sunderland. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Along with lunch and breakfast offerings, Wild Roots also sells a variety of gluten free, vegan pastry items. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz


For The Recorder
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Kelli Eriksen has been a restaurateur for only nine months. Nevertheless, she is pleased with the progress of Wild Roots, the café she runs with her husband, Luke, on Bridge Street in Sunderland.

Eriksen is not surprised by the success of her enterprise. “I feel like when I went into this, I had a positive outlook,” she told me. “I felt that it was going to do really well, that we needed this.”

“This” was, and is, an organic, whole-food oriented eatery that serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday. Eriksen calls her style of cuisine “healthy fast food.”

She told me that she was inspired to open the café by her mother, a longtime healthy cook, and by her own needs as a parent.

“I come from a family that’s very holistic and organic,” she explained. “I have three little girls. I was thinking, ‘Wow, my life is so complicated. I would love to be able to go someplace that’s not very far from where I live (in South Deerfield) and find something healthy.’ Of course, I made more work for myself.”

Since opening last April, the café has attracted a varied clientele. “We definitely have a lot of college students,” Eriksen noted. “We have a lot of young professionals. Professors, teachers, nurses. A wide range. We have a band that comes in all the time!”

Above all, she emphasized, “It’s young families. We love Sunderland. The community has been really supportive.”

Many of the customers order food to go, but the café also seats 30-odd customers. Eriksen loves her five employees. “We definitely are like a little family,” she said with a smile. “We create a very healthy work environment.”

She described the atmosphere as “very light hearted.”

“There’s a little bit of goofing around,” she noted. “Everyone works well and shares stories all day long.”

The Eriksens have three little girls — an 8-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a baby born a short month after they opened the café last spring. Eriksen has ceded much of the day-to-day running of the restaurant to her husband while she deals with the demands of an infant.

“She’s the best little baby but definitely needs a lot of attention,” Eriksen said ruefully. “I do a lot of the more creative aspects of the food.”

All three children are incorporated into the menu, lending their names to sandwiches. Only the oldest actually understands the business, Eriksen told me. The 8-year-old is highly enthusiastic about her mother’s enterprise.

“I feel like she’s very proud to see it doing so well and that she’s a part of it,” Eriksen said. “I want to show my girls that they can do anything.”

I asked about the origins of the name “Wild Roots” for the café. Eriksen reported that it came out of a brainstorming session with friends. The group decided that the phrase would be appropriate given the café’s emphasis on the earth and natural foods.

“And then we thought of coming back to being children, when you get things that are more outgoing or a little crazy,” she added. “Wild Roots is about taking a chance — and that’s what we did.”

Immune Booster smoothie

Note: All ingredients should be organic.


2 bananas, peeled and frozen when ripe

1 cup wild blueberries

2 pitted dates

16 ounces coconut water


Combine all the ingredients in a powerful blender. Process until they liquefy. Pour into a large glass.

Makes one 20-ounce smoothie.

Wild Roots Vegan

Kelli Eriksen calls this “a very clean sandwich.” She likes to serve it on sourdough bread to keep it vegan. Again, all the ingredients should of course be organic.

Ingredients (to taste):


Sliced avocado

Shredded carrots

Sliced red onions

Sliced tomatoes

Arugula leaves


Combine the ingredients to your taste between two slices of bread.

Serves 1.

The Sunderland

This is the café’s heartiest sandwich. It and the vegan are Kelli Eriksen’s customers’ favorite lunch treats. The ingredients are organic, all natural and nitrate free.

Ingredients (to taste):

Sliced chipotle gouda cheese

Slices of ham, turkey, and bacon


Cucumber slices

Avocado slices

Kitchen Garden Sriracha sauce

Sliced cheddar cheese


Combine all of the ingredients except the Sriracha on one slice of bread, beginning and ending with cheese. Squirt a little Sriracha on top, and place a second slice of bread on top. Gently press the sandwich together and toast it using a panini press.

Serves 1 generously.

Food writer Tinky Weisblat of Hawley is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and the forthcoming “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” For more information about Tinky, visit her website: www.TinkyCooks.com.