ChoLon’s Soup Dumpling on Select National List

Food Network found ChoLon on its dumpling search.

FoodNetwork-logoWhen I read the headline, “Where to Eat Great Dumplings” on the Food Network’s site, I knew that if Denver were on the dumpling list, ChoLon would be the selection — storied dish at sleek 16th Street eatery. Here’s what the site had to say:

Denver: ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro

“Denver may be better known for snow bunnies than snow peas, but Chef Lon Symensma (who cut his teeth at Buddakan, Spice Market and Jean Georges Shanghai) is making a name for himself at his modern upscale bistro in the lively LoDo district, where he presents wildly creative Southeast Asian-inspired dishes such as bacon “thrice fried rice” carbonara. He’s also managed to turn the traditional Asian soup dumpling on its head. Inspired by the classic French onion soup, Symensma fills his dumplings with sweet caramelized onions, melted Gruyère cheese and a sherry-infused broth that bursts when you bite into them.”

Here's the image the Food Network posted on its site.

Here’s the image the Food Network posted on its site.

 

Pleasing Eats at Gunnison’s Blue Mesa Grill

Re-opened restaurant with new chef & new menu.

041I was knocked out by the elegant furnishings at the Inn at Tomichi Village (see my travel blog post), and once I learned the backstory, the sprightly and eclectic fare at the Blue Mesa Grill, the hotel restaurant, was no less of a surprise. Reopened along with the refurbishing of the inn itself. the restaurant kitchen is now captained by Michel Nabar Vidals, a chef who was recruited after stints in his native Mexico City and also New York. Somewhere along the line, he learned to prepare sushi, which is now a real surprise on the menu. Locals say that the Blue Mesa Grill is the best restaurant in town. I couldn’t quibble with that.

Neither my husband nor I ordered sushi but were tempted by other items:

Shiny-crusted bread starts the meal.

Shiny-crusted bread starts the meal.

A bowl of seafood and corner chowder makes for a filling main course.

A bowl of seafood and corn chowder makes for a filling main course.

French onion soup is topped with happily stretchy cheese floating on a crouton.

French onion soup is topped with happily stretchy cheese floating on a crouton.

Continue reading “Pleasing Eats at Gunnison’s Blue Mesa Grill”

Frasca’s Stuckey Named Best Somm’ in the Country

Wine Enthusiast honors Boulder sommelier.

Bobby Stuckey (Photo by Bill Addison)

Bobby Stuckey (Photo by Bill Addison)

A number of years ago, when Boulder’s Frasca Food & Wine had already begun collecting honors, I wrote a travel feature about Boulder food. I asked master sommelier and partner in the now 10-year-old restaurant how he and chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson kept from letting awards and recognitions go to their heads. Stuckey replied that each one challenged them to do things even better.

And so they have. Since then, the honors have multiplied — including major national recognition.  In 2008,  Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson was named Best Chef, Southwest by the James Beard Foundation, and Bobby Stuckey was nominated s the country’s Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional. In 2013, Frasca was honored by the Beard Foundation for its Outstanding Wine Program. And just yesterday, Bobby Stuckey was scheduled to receive an award as the country’s best sommelier by Wine Enthusiast magazine. A banquet was scheduled for the New York Public Library, but given the blizzard warnings, I don’t know whether the event actually took place. But still, there’s another plaque for Frasca’s wall of honors.

Atmospheric & Inexpensive Mexican Resto in Gunnison

El Paraiso recalls the sounds and flavors of Mexico.

026 Here’s a weird story. My husband and I spent a couple of nights at the super-comfy Inn at Tomichi Village on the east end of Gunnison. We ate in the inn’s Blue Mesa Grill the first night. The next morning, as we were driving to Crested Butte — just before the right turn onto Highway 135 —  I said, “Look there’s a Mexican restaurant.” My husband, always on the hunt for south-of-the-border fare, saw it too — there on the left side of US 50. When we returned from skiing, we somehow missed it. That evening, we looked for it again, and it wasn’t there. When I later told a local friend about the vanished restaurant, she said, “There used to be one there.” Had we driven through a few yards of The Twilight Zone?

Cheerful interior of what might have once been a steak or BBQ place, considering the horseshoes on the ends of the booths.

Cheerful interior of what might have once been a steak or BBQ place, considering the horseshoes on the ends of the booths.

One way or another, we were in the mood for Mexican. I was almost deterred by the words “Family Mexican Restaurant” on El Paraiso’s sign, because “family restaurant” usually mens bland, flavor-deprived food. But we decided to give it a try. Happily, it turns out. Located just off the main drag, it looked like a former house. Inside, it is tricked out with serapes and other Mexicana. Cheerful Mexican music is piped into the dining room, and the welcome was hearty. We slipped into a booth, started munching on complimentary chips and salsa as we waited for our margaritas (a happy hour steal at $5, because we ordered before 6). The food was really good, the portions really generous and the prices really reasonable.

Huge flaming margaritas. The ends of fresh limes must have been filled with a bit of alcohol and set afire. With salt on the rim of the glass, a fresh lime wedge, this has to be the best-presented $5 marg ever. And it tasted good too.

Huge flaming margaritas. With a bit of alcohol in the ends of fresh cut limes set afire, salt on the rim of the glass and a fresh lime wedge, this has to be the best-presented $5 marg ever. And it tasted good too.

Continue reading “Atmospheric & Inexpensive Mexican Resto in Gunnison”

2 Great Restaurants Remodeled

Rioja and Fruition get makeovers & reopen next month.

knifeandforkRioja on Larimer Square and Fruition on East Sixth Avenue are celebrating significant anniversaries, and their respective owners (Rioja partners Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch and Fruition’s Alex Siedel) are giving their first-born the gifts of new looks. Jasinski and Gruitch have since opened bought Bistro Vendome and opened Euclid Hall and Stoic & Genuine, and Seidel is now a farm (Fruition Farms) and has a second restaurant, Mercantile. Stoic & Genuine and Mercantile are neighbors on opposite wings of the renewed Union Station.

Hard to believe, but Rioja is now 10 years old. Business partners Jasinski and Gruitch were so happy with the design that Boss Architects did for Stoic & Genuine that they hired the same for the Rioja makeover. When it reopens on February 2, expect new furniture, wall and ceiling treatments and new floors. Also expect the same wonderful award-winning food. For my part, I hope tat the new materials will tamp down the noise a tad.

Fruition opened its doors in 2007, and it has reportedly invited the original guests who dined with there on the first night of dinner service to join them again on February 6 reopening. The new look, according to Penny Parker’s “On the Town”column is “early New England dining room. Walls of subtly toned painted paneling, tufted woolen banquettes, vintage lighting and large-scaled linoleum relief prints on paper by Denver artist Geoffrey Ridge are the highlights of this nostalgic space.”

Winter Menu at Wahoo’s

California-based chain has seasonal menu — not all fish.

Wahoos-logoI personally love to eat fish, so I post this as a service to those who don’t but who regularly share a table with people like me. Wahoo’s Fish Taco restaurants (at least those in Colorado) have a trio of new winter dishes, two entrées and one hearty coup. The Chimi, Wahoo’s version of the chimichanga, combines rice, beans and chicken rolled in a flour tortilla,  deep fried and served over enchilada sauce with spicy ranch and then smothered with house queso. Also from the seafood-free zone are Steak, Potato & Queso Tacos, served three to an order with a side of house queso and a deep-fried jalapeño.

The there’s the Colorado Seafood Chowder, which –to me, born and raised New Englander — strikes me as an oxymoron. Billed as “a Colorado spin to the classic Manhattan Clam Chowder,” it contains clams and shrimp simmered in a tomato broth with potatoes, carrots, onions and cilantro. That pre-supposed that Manhattan’s  tomato-based seafood soup is chowder. To me and my fellow New Englanders, it must be milk- or cream-based to be chowder.

Wahoo’s has 10 locations in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Longmont, Highlands Ranch and Lakewood.

Broth Bar at Boulder’s Fresh Thymes

Natural foods restaurant quick to hook onto hot trend.

FreshThymes-logoRich, hearty broths are suddenly a current food trend, and Boulder’s Fresh Thymes Eatery has jumped on the “brothwagon” and is making the “good stuff our body craves – collagen, gelatin, bio-available minerals and amino acids,” according to a press release. The restaurant’s house-made broth is served from a new Broth Bar, with herb- and spiced-up flavor “in our nutrient dense broths, added a condiment bar and are calling it righteous”

New York’s Rotisserie Georgette, known for its slow-cooked poultry, had an excess of chicken bones and parts from the daily operations and started making broth early last year. The head chef, Chad Brauze, formerly at Daniel Boulud’s Michelin-starred Daniel, liked bone broth’s sustainable aspect. “We are basically getting a second delicious, valuable dish from otherwise discarded items: necks, feet, roasted chicken carcasses—all things our Upper West Side audience wouldn’t care to order,” wrote alternate.org in a piece called “Why Drinking Bone Broth is the Next Hot Thing in Cuisine.”

Brodo, a take-out broth window appeared in downtown Manhattan in December 2014, serving three types of bone broth: organic Pennsylvania Amish chicken broth, grass-fed beef bone broth and a signature broth with chicken, beef and turkey bones, according to alternate.org.  It usually takes far longer for a trend to make it this far from one of the creative coasts, foodwise, so kudos to this Boulder purveyor of natural, organic, local, nutritious and tasty fare for its Broth Bar.

Broth seems especially suited for winter enjoyment. The present both list comprises just three items: Ginger Garlic Beef, Roasted Turmeric Chicken, and Sundried Tomato and Caramelized Mushroom. The latter sounds vegetarian, which means it’s not bone broth but simply broth. They sell it by the cup and pint Mason jar, and customers who bring in their own mug, cup or jar get 20% off their broth purchases.

Fresh Thymes is located at 2500 30th Street, #101, Boulder; 303-955-7988. It is open Monday through Saturday.

Note: Turns out that two more Boulder purveyors are introducing bone broth. According to a piece in Denver Eater (or is it Eater Denver?; I’m never sure), Hosea Rosenberg’s Blackbelly and Will and Coral Frischkorn at Cured are about to introduce bone broth too.