Lower 48’s Multi-State Toast

New heights for humble food.

ToastWhen I read the headline, “Best U.S. Toast” as Food & Wine’s most recent “top” list, Garrison Keillor’s frequent references to toast came to mind. But no, F&W didn’t find any top toasts in Lake Woebegone but rather in top eating cities — including Denver. Here’s how the site described Lower48 Kitchen, its Colorado selection, and it’s a lot more elaborate than the slices shown here:

Lower48 Kitchen; Denver

Chef Alexander Figura wanted to create a toast to honor the bounty of the Lower 48 states. The base is sourdough house-made with flour from an organic mill in Utah. Figura tops it with ham sliced as thinly as possible, which he sources from The Hamery in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where it is aged from 18 to 24 months. Colorado ingredients are piled on next, including ricotta made with milk from a dairy in Longmont; and pickled peaches made from highly sought after fruit from Palisade; this impressive base is topped with three varieties of basil from an organic farm in Brighton.

Lower48 is one of just 15 toast purveyors on the list. Being listed was a nice gift, coming just a few days after its first anniversary.

Denver Has One of America’s Best New Restaurants

Work & Class on Thrillist.com’s top 21 list.

Thrillist-logoThrillist.com loves lists, and I love it when a Colorado restaurant or other enterprise makes it onto one of the site’s “top” or “best” lists. Work & Class is the latest, just having been named one of “The 21 Best New Restaurants in America 2014.” It’s the last on the list, but since the list is alphabetical, no ranking is implied — and as one whose last name is near the end of the alphabet, I get it.

Thrillist wrote:

Denver, CO

Work & Class

There are no mysteries at Work & Class. You pick a meat, you pick a side, and you should probably also pick a beer, because it’s Denver. Simple right? But when you’re making a choice between red chile-braised pork and coriander-roasted colorado lamb or chipotle-tomato mac & cheese and Brussels sprout, apple, and bacon hash, things get pretty damn stressful. Oh, and there are apps like the Peppers Five Ways, a fiery mixture of fresno chile poppers and bacon-wrapped jalapeños, and pepper jam with toasts, and, well, two others, but you’ll get distracted again by the fact that you can add extra poppers or bacon-wrapped numbers. Which you should because you’re a smart person. The on-the-surface-simplicity extends to booze with a mix-and-match style set-up where you choose a liquor and choose a house mix, but just try and stay level-headed when opting for the spicy basil sour versus the spiced cran-apple cider and when picking which of the 10 tequilas you should add in. The answer here is obvious, though: treat it just like that choose-your-own-adventure book where you totally went with every option and go back again, and again, and again.

The chef is Dana Rodriguez, who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and came to the US with her three children. She climbed up the Denver restaurant ladder, working with Jennifer Jasinski, then at Panzano and now partner in Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall and Stoic & Genuine in Union Station. Rodrigquez spent two years as executive chef at Bistro Vendôme, but years earlier, when she was Panzano, Tony Maciag was behind the bar. Rodriguez and Maciag are partners in Work and Class, opened in a cool complex of repurposed shipping containers on the fringes of the Ballpark Neighborhood. She is the executive chef, building her menu on the foundation of family recipes. The revies have been glowing, and crowds began coming as soon as it opened in January. I’ve seen it, but haven’t eaten there yet. It’s on “the list.”

America’s ‘Most Eco-Conscious’ Eatery Is in Boulder

Bramble & Hare tops national list.

CultureTrip-;ogo-jpgWhen I read the headline, “The Top Ten Eco-Conscious Restaurants in The United States,” I knew that one would be a Colorado restaurant (and probably Boulder, and I immediately thought: The Kitchen. But I guessed wrong. The Culturist selected Boulder’s Bramble & Hare, like the original Kitchen in downtown Boulder, to top the list. Perhaps it was not intended to be a 1-t0-10 ranking but rather a roundup of the top 10, But still….. Here’s what the site posted:

Black Cat Bistro

Chef Eric Skokan is one of the most ambitious farm-to-table chefs in the United States. He farms and ranches more than 130 acres in Boulder County, Colorado, to support his two restaurants – Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare, in addition to his farm stand at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market and his Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Nearly all of the food at his restaurants comes from his very own fields: carrots, lentils, corn for polenta, lovage, lamb, eggs, heritage pigs, beef, goose and much more. From the menu, try the farm vegetable curry, which includes ricotta, beets and basmati rice cakes.

Black Cat Bistro, 1964 13th Street, Boulder, CO, USA +1 303 444 5500

Also, Colorado writer Douglas Brown, late of the Denver Post, did a Q&A with Skokan that appears in the current issue of Origin magazine under the title “Restaurateur Eric Skokan: Farm to Table the Skokan Way.”

L’Hostaria’s Bar is Congenial for Solo Dining

Tuscan-style restaurant a good option for lone diners in Aspen.

L'Hostaria's welcome mat.

L’Hostaria’s welcome mat.

I’m in Aspen for just a couple of days, my prime purpose being to write about the recently opened Aspen Art Museum. A side benefit is always eating. When I arrived I was tired and hungry, so I was looking for a quick bite of something tasty and not too pricey. A local friend suggested L’Hostaria Ristorante– coincidentally across from the museum where I will be tomorrow.

The décor is Tuscan. The menu features a range of starters, meats, seafood, pasta, sides and desserts. There was something vaguely familiar about the look of the place (a bar area separated from the dining area) and even the way the menu is written. When I returned to write and looked up the restaurant, it turns out that the owner(s) opened Bacaró in Boulder. Bacaró is closed, but if a Monday evening in low season in a ski town is an indication, L’Hostaria is still doing strong.

I asked the waitress about the cool bicycle hanging over the bar. She said, "The owner likes cycling."

I asked the waitress about the cool bicycle hanging over the bar. She said, “The owner likes cycling.”

The bar area seating includes the bar itself, a salume bar and tables — a set-up that provides options for lone diners. Because my companion was author Mark Adams in the form of his book, Turn Right at Machu Picchu, I picked a table with the best lighting. A glass of chianti, a savory and a sweet sufficed. The ambiance was very pleasant, though I’m guessing later in the evening, there was more noise from other patrons, which would have made dining solo less pleasant. Like Bacaró, the food was good — but not great. Still, it was a good choice for me.

Good bread gets any eating experience off on the right chew.

Good bread gets any eating experience off on the right chew.

Even in land-locked Colorado, seafood appeals to me -- as long as the restaurant is good and serves it fresh and well prepared. L'Hostaria's Zuppa di Pesce features salmon, clams, mussels, crab claw and shrimp in a delicious tomato-lobster broth with toasted crostini for dipping.

Even in land-locked Colorado, seafood appeals to me — as long as the restaurant is good and serves it fresh and well prepared. L’Hostaria’s Zuppa di Pesce features salmon, clams, mussels, crab claw and shrimp in a delicious tomato-lobster broth with toasted crostini for dipping.

Tiramisu is composed of mascarpone cheese, ladyfingers soaked in coffee,  cocoa and a heap of whipped cream with  smiley face made of chocolate syrup.

Tiramisu is composed of mascarpone cheese, ladyfingers soaked in coffee, cocoa and a heap of whipped cream with smiley face made of chocolate syrup.

Price check: I can’t give you the usual range, because I didn’t take notes or take a menu, but my food and wine at the bar came to about $30. And the pleasant atmosphere and congenial service? Priceless.

L'Hostaria on Urbanspoon

Nelson’s GreenBrier is New-Old Nashville Distillery

Fifth-generation bothers revive family craft on cool new setting. GreenriarDisteillery-logoI’m not much of a whiskey drinker myself, but I’m all about history. I am fascinated by the story of Nelson’s GreenBrier Distillery, which just opened 150 years after state Prohibition forced the closure of their great-great-great grandfather’s original distillery. (Tennessee banned booze before the temperance crowd got its way and inflicted Prohibition on the entire country.)

Brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson, descendants of Charles Nelson, who started making bourbon in the late 1800s, are behind the new venture. The new site where the old brand is produced is the lively Marathon Village, an historic automobile factory in Nashville that now houses many of the city’s creative enterprises. Marathon Village seems to be Nashville’s equivalent of The Source in Denver.

Andy and Charlie Nelson, who have resurrected the family's GreenBrier bourbon.

Andy and Charlie Nelson, who have resurrected the family’s GreenBrier bourbon.

The Nelson brothers are known locally for their award-winning Belle Meade Bourbon. Their distillery within the lofty industrial building anchoring one end of Marathon Village features barrel staves in a wicker-woven style pattern covering the interior wall to capture the purposeful essence of the space. In the handsome oak-paneled tasting room is an ample bar serving half-ounce samples of the spirits produced on the premises.  A long, live-edge walnut counter offers a view into the heart of the distillery: gleaming stainless steel vats, grain bins, miles of pipe, and the centerpiece, a custom crafted copper pot-bellied still affectionately called “Miss Louisa” after Charles’s wife who ran the business after his death. Continue reading “Nelson’s GreenBrier is New-Old Nashville Distillery”

Hangin’ at the Ale House

Post-Thanksgiving tradition at LoHi pub.

Alehouse-logoIt’s become something of a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for a few friends to gather someplace in Denver for an  afternoon or something casual to eat that isn’t turkey and some adult beverages to drink — and fine congenial company. We’ve been as many a eight or 10, but today, we were just four — my husband and I, Rich Gant and Stan Wawer. For the second time in the last few years, we sent to the Ale House at Amato’s in LoHi. The afternoon was warm, the overhead doors were raised, so we grabbed a table that was the best of both worlds, inside table and adjoining the patio. We had fresh air plus a view of the bridge, a piece of the downtown skyline and the sunny sky.

The guys ordered from the ample beer list, and as usual, I preferred wine. The menu features more artisanal products and more interesting dishes than are found at an average pub. Here’s what we ate.

Rockies Dip, sort of  inspired by French Dip but with smoked prime rib, grilled onions, a lot of melted Provolone and Avalanche Ale au jus. One side, fine fries.

Rockies Dip, sort of inspired by French Dip but with smoked prime rib, grilled onions, a lot of melted Provolone and Avalanche Ale au jus. One the side, fine fries.

This image may look like a sandwich, but its actually the Classic Breakfast with two eggs, a choice of sausages and those fab fries instead of breakfast potatoes.

This image may look like a sandwich, but its actually the Classic Breakfast with two eggs, a choice of sausages, toast and those fab fries instead of breakfast potatoes.

The Sausage and Cheese Board features grilled smoked elk and wild boar blueberry sausages, capicolla, Point Reyes blue cheese, Haystack Mountain goat cheese, apples, agave-glazed pecans and thick baguette slices.

The Sausage and Cheese Board features grilled smoked elk and wild boar blueberry sausages, capicolla, Point Reyes blue cheese, Haystack Mountain goat cheese, apples, agave-glazed pecans and thick baguette slices.

The small Sonoma Salad consists of baby greens, Point Reyes toma cheese, dried cranberries, agave-glazed pecans, avocado slices and citrus vinaigrette, plus baguette hunks.

The small Sonoma Salad consists of baby greens, Point Reyes toma cheese, dried cranberries, agave-glazed pecans, avocado slices and citrus vinaigrette, plus baguette hunks.

Price check: At brunch, Sharing Plates and Griddle Plates, $7-$14; Brunch Plates, $9-$13; Soup & Salad, $3-$15; Brunch Side Plates, $2-$4.

Ale House at Amato's on Urbanspoon

Beaver Creek’s Cookie Contest

Beaver Creek selects this season’s official chocolate chip cookie.

Beaver Creek ResoBeaverCreek-logort opened on November 26 with 589 acres of terrain, six feet of snow in November and the new Centennial Express combination gondola/chairlift.  But for chocolate chip cookie addicts, perhaps the best part was the afternoon taste-testing of 5,000 cookies at the 11th annual World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Competition.

Cookie bakers submitted their entries to Beaver Creek Resort Company back in October, and the five finalists were chosen by local judges. Entries came from all over Colorado plus Texas, California, Wisconsin, Georgia, Oregon and elsewhere. Conveniently, the finalists all came from Colorado, because each one had to bake 1,000 cookies to be judged. Finalists were Lori Lavicka of Avon, Cassie Sewell of Eagle, Kristen Gorrell of Gypsum, Hannah Bailey of Lone Tree, and Julianna Kopec of Avon. After sampling all of the cookies, guests had the opportunity to vote on their favorite recipe. Kristen Gorrell and her “baker’s Dozen” recipe took home the top honors and $1,000.

Her recipe is the new “official” Beaver Creek cookie for the season. Second place winner, Hannah Bailey won third place and $750 for “Hannah’s Mile High Chocolate Morsels,” and third place winner, Julianna Kopec  took home $500 for “Cookies of Prey.” Fourth place recipient, Lori Lavicka’s “2015 Champion Chip Cookie” earned her two tickets to Dancing Like Pros Live performance at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, and fifth place netted Cassie Sewell two tickets to the Cirque Mechanics Pedal Punk at the Vila for her Cassie’s World Class Chocolate Chip Cookies.”

Beaver Creek's signature daily cookie service begins on day one of the ski season.

Beaver Creek’s signature daily cookie service begins on day one of the ski season.

Cookie Time is Beaver Creek’s guest service program daily at 3 p.m. when Cookie Time chefs in chef whites serve warm, fresh, chocolate chip cookies on silver trays.  The tradition started in 1985 and evolved into the cookie competition in 2004 providing opening day guests with a village celebration. More than 500,000 cookies are served annually and the new Beaver Creek Cookie & Crepe Company, located by Beaver Creek Lodge, now allows guests to purchase their favorite Beaver Creek cookies to take home  or to their resort accommodations.  

Kristen Gorrell’s Baker’s Dozen Cookies

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, partially melted
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup tightly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons additional brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups  semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beaver Creek did not provide baking instructions, but typically all ingredients are combined (I’m guessing first dry ingredients, then butter, then sugars followed by eggs and finally chips). The dough is dropped in balls about two inches apart on cookie sheets often lined with parchment. Without instructions, I’m mystified by the divided brown sugar, but perhaps you will figure that out and post a comment. Bake at 350 to 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until the edges begin to brown and crisp. Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly. Devour.