Thorbjornsen brings taste of the U.P. to Belding with new business, Nee-Nee’s Pastees

By Ryan Schlehuber "Scoop" • Last Updated 8:08 am on Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BELDING — Call it a “Yooper miner’s power bar,” or a Hot Pocket without the heart attack, or even a meaty candy bar. Just don’t call it a “pace • tee” or mistake it for a pastry.

A native of Escanaba, Ken Thorbjornsen uses a 100-year-old recipe to make his pasties at his new business, Nee-Nee’s Pastees, in Belding. The pasty shop is in the former Belding Brothers’ Cafe building, where Belding Apothecary is now, as well.

Ken Thorbjornsen’s name for his new pasty shop in Belding helps those not familiar with the traditional Upper Peninsula meal be reminded how to say it.
Nee-Nee’s Pastees (pronounced “pass • tees”) opened in the former Belding Brother’s Cafe in the historic district of downtown Belding last month, introducing a cultural food that “Yoopers” (residents from the U.P.) have long enjoyed as far back as the mining boom in the 1800s.
Thorbjornsen, who earned a degree in culinary arts from Grand Rapids Community College in 2008, retired from Ionia Correctional Facility last June after serving almost 25 years as a corrections officer and decided to open his own business.
“I was born and raised in Escanaba and was always helping my great uncle in his pasty shop,” said Thorbjornsen, who has lived in Belding the last 25 years. “We had lots of pasty shops just in that town alone back then so pasties have always been part of my life.”
Using a recipe that is more than 100 years old, Thorbjornsen has perfected it, creating it in a way where a person can order and go with pasty in hand.
“That’s the way pasties are suppose to be, to be able to be picked up and eaten on the go,” Thorbjornsen said. “Traditionally, it’s not a sit-down meal.”

Pasties at Nee-Nee’s Pastees can be eaten by hand, and are especially great for people on the go.

Thus, Nee-Nee’s, which shares the building with Belding Apothecary, is  set up as a take-out pasty shop, a great place especially for those who are on the go, Thorbjornsen said.
“I make my pastes in a square shape, which guarantees you get all the taste and flavors of what’s inside in every bite,” he said. “A lot of times, pasties are made with in a crescent shape but many times you’ll find that you get many bites with just crust.”
The tight, square package that Thorbjornsen makes allows customers to walk in, order, walk out and, with the tasty pasty in hand, go on with their day.
“The secret to the recipe, to me, is the love I put into it when I make them,” Thorbjornsen said. “But many other people who’ve had it said it’s the meat or it’s the crust.”
Nee-Nee’s offers a traditional beef pasty, which includes rutabaga, onions and potatoes, a chicken pasty and breakfast pasties that include a sausage and cheese pasty and a Mexican-style pasty Thorbjornsen says is spicy but not hot spicy. Customers can order it with ketchup, gravy or plain. Thorbjornsen said he prefers eating his pasty with just butter.
“It’s good and nutritious,” he said.
Nee-Nee’s offered a corned beef pasty throughout the week of St. Patrick’s Day and, if was popular enough with his customers, Thorbjornsen said he would keep it on the menu. He is also planning to include delivery of his pasties soon.
Nee-Nee’s Pastees is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. It is at 107 E. Main St. in Belding.
For more information or for large orders, call (616) 244-3263.

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