Denver Restaurant Week Consolidates

Ten days in winter set aside for affordable restaurant feasts.

DenverRestaurantWeek-logoWhen Denver Restaurant Week was launched more than a decade ago, it was an epic, exhausting 17-day slog for restaurants. Foodies loved the many opportunities for bargain dinners, but a killer for those who prepared and served the meals. In deference to restaurateurs and chefs, this past year’s DRW was split into a summer week and a winter week. The 2015 DRW reverts to a single event  — 10 delicious days from Friday, February 20 to Sunday, March 1. It’s still more than a week (including two weekends), and it remains a good value at $30 per person for a prix fixe multi-course dinner.

More than 300 restaurants participated in the 2014 winter DRW and more than 200 in the summer DRW, making this one of the largest culinary celebrations in the nation. The list of participating restaurants and menus are to be announced in mid-January. Keep alert when this happens, and book fast.

 

Colorado Olives? Sort Of….

Real Greek olive stand at the Boulder farmers’ market a delicious surprise.

OleaEstates-logoAlong with the expected seasonal apples, pears, pumpkins and other local produce, today’s Boulder County Farmers’ Market brought something of a surprise: a stand selling olives and olive oil. We’ve got lots of great produce, but there are no olive groves in this state. Olea Estates was selling brined olives, olive oil and a few other products from Greece. Most of the foods sold at the market is Colorado-grown or -raised, but there is an adjunct category of local food artisans and distributors, and that’s presumably where Olea Estates falls, I’m thinking, similar to Wild Alaska Salmon, which fishes for sockeye in Bristol Bay, flash freezes it for transport but cures and packs it here.

Jake of Olea Estates.

Jake Burgart of Olea Estates and olives packed in accordance FDA guidelines to maintain its organic certification.

The Chronis family has been producing Olea since 1856 from olive groves in the valley of Sparta, Greece. They harvest, press and distribute from a single variety of olives, and as the website notes, “Nobody else interferes.” A few years ago, as the Chronis chronicle tells, it was costing the family almost twice as much to produce their organic olive oil as the wholesale price would bring. Most farmers were making a profit only from selling olives and were press the ones they could not  into olive oil and cut their losses. Single rather than multiple pickings at the right time saved costs, and use of fertilizers and insecticides increased. The Chronis family did not compromise their standards in that way, and in 2009, George and Demosthenis Chronis started Olea Estates to bring their quality products to the American market.

Jake Burgart, a distributor, is located in Colorado. It was he who manned the table at the farmers’ market (and does so at other food events around the state) and sold us some of the best olives I’ve ever had. We asked about pitted olives, and Jake said Olea Estates doesn’t carry them, because the inside softens too much when the  pit has been removed.

Of course, I had to find out more about these wonderful olives. The variety is Kalamon, which a Greek products website describes as “considered as a superior variety of edible olives which thrives in an arid environment with dry and low moisture soil in order the fruits to grow. It is cultivated in the areas of Messinia (formerly known as Kalamata) and Lakonia (known as Sparta) can also be found in the region of Agrinion in Greece. The Kalamon fruits usually ripen during mid-November to early January which is the late fall to midwinter.”

If you’re going to any of the following Front Range events, look for Olea there too: November 7-9, Colorado Country Gift Show, Denver;  November 14-16: Colorado Springs Holiday Food and Gift Show; November 20-21, Denver International Wine Festival, Broomfield;  December, 6-7, 2014 Holiday Market, Longmont; December 6-7, Sugar Plum Festival, Denver; December 21, Last Minute Gift Show, Longmont.

Trillium’s ‘ Rehearsal Dinner’ for Beard House

Leinonen schedules a practice run in Denver before New York debut.

Trillium-logoOn Tuesday, November 11, Ryan Leinonen, owner/chef of Trillium in Denver, is cooking at New York’s prestigious James Beard House. His cuisine is described as a marriage of “the New Nordic larder with a classic American sensibility, offering Denver dwellers a dining experience that the Beard folks describe as being “at once adventurous and comforting.” The dinner — three hors d’oeuvres and six courses with paired wines — is $130 for James Beard House members, $170 for guests. Click here to see the menu and/or to make reservations.

On October 22 at 6:30 p.m., Leinonen and his team are preparing that menu in his Five Points/Ball Park area restaurant both as a celebration for guests, friends and family in Denver of what we’ll be preparing at The James Beard House and as  rehearsal for their New York debut. As in New York a few weeks later, there is a three-course hors d’oeuvres reception followed by six courses of what Leinonen promises are the most exquisite dishes plus a few new ones, all with wine pairings.  There is only one seating at 6:30 p.m., and reservations are required. The cost is $100 per person, plus tax and gratuity, which is a comparative bargain.  A credit card is required to secure a reservation.

Trillium on Urbanspoon

Oceanaire’s Lobster Roll Special

New England favorite works as a pre-theater treat.

Oceanaire-logoWhen I got wind of The Oceanaire’s current (till the end of the month) special on lobster and crab rolls, my mouth started watering. We had theater tickets the other night, and The Oceanaire is across the street from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. As a (happily) displaced New Englander, I love and miss lobster rolls, so this was a no-brainer about where to grab a bite before the show.

The current special is  for a pair of lobster and crab rolls on a proper New England-style split-top bun with a heap of shoestring fries is $19 including a glass of Meomi Chardonnay or $16 without the wine.

The current special is for a pair of lobster and crab rolls on a proper New England-style split-top bun with a heap of shoestring fries is $19 including a glass of Meomi Chardonnay or $16 without the wine.

We were early because we had a 6:30 curtain, so I was happily able to order the at-the-bar special at a table — white cloth and all.  (Thanks, general manager John.) Of course, once I get into a seafood restaurant, I always have to try one more thing besides what I came for, and for my husband, whose taste for seafood is limited, the availability of a steak was appealing. The Oceanaire’s coolly elegant décor, inspired by old ocean liners, and the mellow retro music made for a pleasant wait until the wine and then the food came.

A classic relish tray and wonderful crusty bread start off each meal.

Backtracking here to the classic relish tray and wonderful crusty bread that start off each meal. I had some, but not enough to spoil my appetite.

A trio of three varieties of sweet, fresh Pacific oysters was my add-on.

A trio of three varieties of sweet, fresh Pacific oysters(Sookum, Kumamoto and Kusshi) was my prelude to the lobster roll.

A salad of bibb lettuce, Granny Smith Apples and candied pecans, but with Balsamic rather than bleu cheese dressing because one of us doesn't care for bleu cheese.

A salad of bibb lettuce, Granny Smith Apples and candied pecans, but with Balsamic rather than bleu cheese dressing because one of us doesn’t care for bleu cheese.

Surf and turf, combining a grilled 6-ounce flavorful, tender fillet and shrimp with asparagus and Béarnaise sauce.

Surf and turf, combining a grilled 6-ounce flavorful, tender fillet and shrimp with asparagus and Béarnaise sauce. Lovely and delicious.

Seeing my camera on the table, the attentive waiter offered to take our picture. Here we are.

Seeing my camera on the table, Rashid, our attentive waiter, offered to take our picture. Here we are. We capped off this fine meal with an enormous scoop of vanilla ice cream served in a gigantic martini glass. No photo required.

 

The Oceanaire Seafood Room on Urbanspoon

Boulder Gets a LYFE

Healthy fast casual restaurants now in Colorado.

014“Eat Good. Feel good. Do Good.” The grammar nut within me cringes at LYFE Kitchen’s slogan (Eat Good?!?!?!), but the advocate for healthy, tasty, responsibly produced food and environmental responsibility in me cheers and is delighted that it is in town. Boulder’s LYFE Kitchen opens today just east of the Pearl Street Mall, and the city and the concept are made for each other. A lot of deliberation has gone into everything about the concept including the name (Love Your Food Everyday), design, sustainable practices, sourcing and general ambiance. In fact, it is the first WELL Certified restaurant, a trademarked building standard certification that “promotes emotional and physical wellness.” Think Dr. Deepak Chopra.

At this fast-casual restaurant you order and pay at the counter and receive this GPS locator so that servers can find you with your food.

At this fast-casual restaurant you order and pay at the counter and receive this GPS locator so that servers can find you to deliver your food.

Lovely little centerpiece sits on every WELLShield-topped table, said to be protective against bacteria. A restaurant where even germophobes will presumably eat.

Lovely little centerpiece sits on every WELLShield-topped table, said to be protective against bacteria. A restaurant where even germophobes will presumably eat.

Launched in Palo Alto, a Boulder urban soulmate, LYFE has grown fast. It is an attractive place with a gray/tangerine color palate lots of sustainable wood. state-of-the-art surfaces, lighting, appliances, air filtration and more to promote wellness with every bite. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with all menu items clocking in at fewer than 600 calories and fewer than 1,000 milligrams of sodium. So confident is the restaurant that everything is perfectly seasoned that there aren’t even salt and pepper mills or shakers on the table. Request some salt, and the server will bring out a modest amount on a small dish. Menu items were created by a trio of chefs, two with television cred: Art Smith (a” Top Chef Masters” contestant); Tal Ronnen (a Los Angeles-based vegan chef) and Jeremy Bringardner (winner of an episode of “Chopped”). Bringardner was present at the opening.

Short cut the decision-making process if you have dietary needs or preferences by grabbing the appropriate menu from the rack by the door: vegetarian/vegan, gluten free, wine and beer, and one general menu including all. LYFE says that its popular items include the Pizzadillawich, folded pizza stuffed with eggplant, peppers, onions, goat cheese, mozzarella and basil, served with pomodoro sauce for dipping, and a Buffalo Chicken Wrap, which features avocado, black beans, Greek yogurt and kale, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. My husband calls it yuppie food.  I call it delicious. We went to a pre-opening practice lunch yesterday, and we tried:

Baramundi noodle bowl with mushrooms, kale, celery and thin noodles in a tasty broth.

Baramundi noodle bowl with mushrooms, kale, celery and thin noodles in a tasty broth.

LYFE Kitchen is not only for vegetarians and vegans. This small, tender steak comes with roasted potatoes, onions and tomatoes -- and chopped herbs, perhaps from the in-house herbarium (unless it is there just for looks and to clean the air, with the herbs sourced elsewhere).

LYFE Kitchen is not only for vegetarians and vegans, although there are certainly plenty of options for them. This small, tender steak comes with roasted potatoes, onions and tomatoes — and chopped herbs, perhaps from the in-house herbarium (unless it is there just for looks and to purify the air. with the herbs sourced elsewhere).

Rachel and DJ Mitchell are the franchisees for the Boulder restaurant, as they are for the Park Meadows location that opened in June. I think perhaps they are doing penance, because their previous gig was as franchise holders of three McDonald’s in Las Vegas (with Rachel’s mother) and later on their own in Alamosa and Colorado Springs. They sold those in 2013, and when DJ heard a Bloomberg report on his car radio about the rollicking LYFE concept. When Rachel gave a short talk to the pre-opening guests, she said that they had previously been in the “restaurant business,” but she seemingly could not bring herself to name the chain. But they’ve reformed, sold their McDonald’s locations, and now, the couple is firmly behind the LYFE Kitchen concept.

Price check: At lunch, starters. $5.99-$7.99; soups, $3.99; flatbreads, $7.99-$8.99; entrées, $11.99-$16.99; sides, $2.99-$3.99; desserts, $1.49-$3.99.

Lyfe Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Mark Your Calendar for First Bite Boulder

Annual restaurant week coming up next month.

FirstBiteBoulder2010-logoThe 2014 running of First Bite Boulder, the city’s annual November restaurant week, is scheduled from Friday, November 14 through Saturday, November 22. Fifty restaurants are offering three-course menus for $27, plus beverages, taxes and gratuities. Menus are not yet up, but mark you calendar and keep checking so that you can jump on the date and place you want.

Flatirons Food Film Festival Coming to Boulder

Films, tastes & talks mark second annual festival.

FlatironsFoodFilmFest-logoThe first food film festival in Boulder last year was a one-weekend offshoot of the long-running International Film Series on the University of Colorado’s main campus. Nicknamed Chow Down, it featured five food-oriented films. This year, it’s back from October 15 to 19 with a new name and a broadened focus.

The 2014 Flatirons Food Film Festival again offers five films about food and related topics: Craft, Trattoria, Seeds of Time, Growing Cities and El Somni. Respective topics are the craft beer movement, the restaurant industry’s challenge in balancing work and the rest of life, an inspiring film about urban farming and a documentary about seed banks and the importance of preserving crop diversity in the face of climate change. I understand these, but I don’t understand (but am intrigued by) something the festival organizers write is “a visual and sensory tour-de-force described as ‘an opera in a dozen courses and a banquet in a dozen acts’ that involves a Michelin-starred restaurant and artists in various media from around the world.” My only question: Where’s the wine?

Beyond that each of these films is paired with “a craft beer celebration featuring a craft beer/aria pairing performance by Opera on Tap Colorado” plus a chef-hosted feast, a molecular gastronomy demonstration, tours of an artisan brewery, a craft distillery, and a local farm, various panel discussions, and a cookbook signing.

Films screen at Muenzinger Auditorium on the CU-Boulder campus. Tickets start at $7 for CU students and seniors and $8 for general admission. A festival pass is $25 (films only), available at Whole Foods. Click here for a full schedule, pricing and links to ticket purchases.