Unhappy Hour Farewell to Volta

Boulder is about to lose a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant.

001My jaw dropped in sadness and in surprise when I learned that owners Jon and Eleni Deering, owners of Volta, are closing the restaurant and planning to move to Portland, Oregon. Sunday, March 29 is the last day, ending with a farewell taverna dinner where the tears will surely flow along with the wine.  The couple put their hearts and their passion into this terrific restaurant located at Canyon and Folsom next to McGuckin’s. The location, it turns out, was too challenging. Downtown, the couple feels, would have made a world of difference. This is actually surprising, since people tend to complain about the lack of parking in downtown Boulder, and the McGuckin’s lot provided ample parking.

I’ve been there a number of times, mostly for happy hour in the restaurant with modern art on the walls or on the enchanting patio. I also had two fabulous multi-course dinners there: once with a group of food bloggers not long after it opened (click here) and just last October when it celebrated its first anniversary with a special menu (click here). Sadly, there will not6 be a second anniversary. My husband and I went to Volta this evening, again enjoying the tapas menu at happy hour where we made  farewell toast and ordered favorites from the small plates menu — for the last time.

There are as many versions of hummus as there are chefs and cooks around the eastern Mediterranean or inspired by that region.

There are as many versions of hummus as there are chefs and cooks around the eastern Mediterranean or inspired by that region. Volta’s is mostly smooth but with a tad of texture and a fine flavor with chickpeas dominant.

Olives of various colors and flavors come in a small dish.

Olives of various colors and flavors come in a small dish.

Individual pizza with mushrooms, onions and a bit of cheese.

Individual pizza with mushrooms, onions and a bit of cheese.

Spanakopita -- spinach ad cheese in a flaky phyllo crust -- is one of my favorite Greek specialties. Volta serves it with excellent yogurt sauce and tzatziki, a traditional yogurt and cucumber sauce.

Spanakopita — spinach and cheese in a flaky phyllo crust — is one of my favorite Greek specialties. Volta serves it with excellent tzatziki, a traditional yogurt and cucumber sauce, and a few greens.

Price check: At happy hour (which Volta calls “tapas hour,” small plates range from $1 to $10.

Best wishes to the Deerings for the next chapter in their lives. Lucky Portland!

Tortilla Chip Tasting (& Brunch) at Lola

Food Should Taste Good makes products that live up to the brand name.

018Food Should Taste Good is based in Minneapolis, but this line of tasty natural tortilla chips, crackers and other snack foods could be a Boulder area company. After all, the products are gluten-free, cholesterol-free, have zero grams of trans- fats and are even kosher, and some varieties are also certified vegan. Certified organic is the only desirable attribute that is missing, but you can’t have everything — and since it is part of giant General Mills, I’m not holding my breath for organic. What these products do have is great taste — hence the name that resonates with me, because I believe that taste is really important.

A public relations crew came out from Massachusetts on Saturday to host a tasting at Lola Mexican Fish House, a Highland eatery known as much for its brunch as its seafood. I have been wanting to go there for a long time, so I’m grateful to FSTG. Lola, part of the Big Red F Restaurant Group, is something of a melding of Jax Fish House (four metro area locations plus Kansas City) on the seafood side and Centro Latin Kitchen and Zolo Grill (both in Boulder) on the Latin side. This  chef-driven group was founded in 1994 by David Query with Jamey Fader as culinary director. Both are well-known veteran chefs in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

The tasting took place in the basement bar, a venue that along with good brunch drinks, gave the event an after-dark air. In fact, it was a bit of a shock to come upstairs into the bright light of the early afternoon. Lola’s chef de cuisine Kevin Grossi put out a selection of guacamole and assorted dips to mix and match with various Food Should Taste Good chips flavors. Blue corn chips are my favorites. I kind of liked dipping guacamole chips into Lola’s fine guac, but in truth, every combo was good.

I couldn't get the whole line of chips, plus salsas and guac for dipping into one picture.

I couldn’t get the whole line of chips, plus salsas and guac for dipping into one picture.

Continue reading “Tortilla Chip Tasting (& Brunch) at Lola”

Chef Kleinman Wins ‘Restaurant Startup’

TV victory helps The Inventing Room’s brick-and-mortar location come into being.

InventingRoom-logoColorado’s magic-making chef, Ian Kleinman, out own master of molecular cuisine, has won “Restaurant Startup,” CNBC’s entrepreneurial competition show. Kleinman and partner Mike Coberlain pitched their concept and cuisine to judges Joe Bastianich and Tim Love, and came away with a $150,000 investment. Egalitarian Ian wants to open an affordable, friendly restaurant that showcases the fun of food — or as he puts it, “gastro-fun.” He has been having that kind of fun since he was executive chef at O’s Steakhouse in the Westin Westminster Hotel. Molecular and meat were strange kitchen-fellows, but he honed his craft there and went on to become a popular caterer with parlor tricks galore.

Kleinman reportedly created the prototype of his restaurant – from the design up – for free, with or without help from other creative sorts. If I interpret this correctly, it means that his winnings can all go into the brick-and-mortar Inventing Room that is to open at 2020 Lawrence Street in the Ballpark area. An ice cream shop is scheduled to launch on June 1. “On the Town” columnist Penny Parker wrote, “The ice cream shop will feature composed confections such as a compressed mango and strawberry kabob with salted carmel and chocolate, a carrot cake cookie ice cream sandwich with toasted marshmallow and cream cheese ice cream dipped in liquid nitrogen and a robot that will make chocolate truffles. Oh, and you can also get a pedestrian scoop of ice cream such as Kleinman’s popular hot fudge flavor and classic vanilla bean.”

New Flavors from Endangered Species Chocolate

Three new dark chocolates — yum. And ethically produced too.

EndangeredSpeciesChoc-logoI love dark chocolate, and I’ve become a bit fanatical about buying products that bear the “Fair Trade” logo, as well as being organic, non-GMO and non-mega-corporate. Yes, I know it costs more, but such products please my palate and soothe my conscience. With all that, I welcome the news that Endangered Species Chocolate (ESC), the first American-made chocolate brand made with fully traceable Fairtrade cocoa from West Africa, has three new 60 percent cocoa bars. These are Dark Chocolate with Lemon Poppy Seed, Dark Chocolate with Blackberry Sage and Dark Chocolate with Cinnamon, Cayenne and Cherries, formulated to today’s current food trends. I share the  millennials’ taste for  lemon poppy seed, blackberry sage and especially the combo cinnamon, cayenne and cherries that balances heat and sweet.

ESC’s chocolate bars are Fairtrade International certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, vegan, gluten-free and support wildlife preservation efforts – differentiating factors among other chocolate bars. I expect that they will be relatively easy to find in one of Boulder’s several natural grocers and many specialty shops.  I know such products are premium-priced, and I’m willing to pay it.

KC-Style BBQ Truck in Denver Area

Frisco BBQ veteran launched truck last fall.

Smokestack70-logoLike many Easterners, my first insight into the barbecue culture came from Calvin Trillin, the Kansas City-born writer who put his hometown’s barbecue on the nation’s food map. In 1988, shortly I moved to Colorado, I went to Kansas City and naturally made a pilgrimage to Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, which Trillin made famous.

I quickly developed an affection for KC-style barbecue with its sweetish tomato and molasses sauce. I’ve tried other regional styles since then, but never developed a taste for the vinegary versions from the Carolinas and elsewhere in the Deep South. Brent Selders, the ex-Kansas City owner of the Smokestack 70 food truck, set out west on I-70 looking for a Colorado lifestyle.

He began competing in the Frisco BBQ Challenge in 2007, with admirers soon urging him to open a restaurant or a food truck or something, and in October 2014, the Smoke Stack 70 truck rolled out. It as named, of course, in recognition of the highway that led him to Colorado. I never heard of it until I received an E-mailed press release today, but I’m intrigued and hope to seek it out. It visits the Anschutz Medical Campus for lunch and various Denver microbreweries in the evening, and Selders is hoping to join Civic Center Eats. That will be my best shot at trying the KC-style “meat candy,” pulled pork, brisket and  more.

Blackbelly is Hosea Rosenberg’s Latest Hit

Boulder-based “Top Chef” champ’s restaurant also a winner.

011Hosea Rosenberg, the Taos-bred and Boulder-based chef who won Season 5 of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” took his time parlaying his renown and his revenues into a permanent restaurant. While he was planning his neat step, he did personal appearances, took on catering gigs and became a farmer too. Hosea originally studied engineering, and that deliberate thinking came to the fore in planning this restaurant.

As he put it when he opened his East Boulder restaurant/market/butchery biz last November, “I have been conjuring up this scenario for years — a restaurant and market, with a whole animal butchery program and a kitchen ‘laboratory’ where we can experiment, tinker and dream. Blackbelly Restaurant, Bar & Butcher is “the culmination of thousands of ideas, years of brainstorming, and a whole lot of cooking.”

Rosenberg was all smiles as he was ready to launch Blackbelly in November.

Rosenberg was all smiles as he was ready to launch Blackbelly in November.

I was in Denver on the day of Blackbelly’s media preview four months ago, so I arrived late — after introductions and remarks had been made and when most of the food tastes were finished. When Hosea told me that there had been a last-minute plumbing crisis, I thought that the pressure of TV — no matter how unreal reality television actually is — must have helped him with that hurdle. I didn’t get much to eat on that first visit, but I liked what I tasted and vowed to return. I don’t know why it took so long, but my husband and I finally met two friends there last night. The earliest available reservations were for 7:45 p.m., and when we left a bit after 10, people were still ordering, eating and lingering — a testimonial to Blackbelly’s success. Continue reading “Blackbelly is Hosea Rosenberg’s Latest Hit”

Lola’s of Littleton on Best Candy List

LolasSugarRush-capTravel & Leisure magazine’s recent selection of “America’s Best Candy Shops” included Lola’s Sugar Rush of Littleton. If I lived anywhere near there, I might be haunting this cheerful shop at 2490 West Main Street. Here’s what this prestigious national magazine published about what they call “a shrine to sweets” — largely nostalgic old-timey sweets, really:

Lola’s Sugar Rush, Littleton, CO

“Perhaps it was inevitable that a woman whose nickname is Sugar would open a shrine to sweets.”  About 200 glass jars line the shelves of Lola Salazar’s fanciful pink and white boutique. “We serve every single customer, and we welcome them and tell them how it works. We want to make sure everyone who walks through the door has personal assistance,” she explains. Besides the gummies, jelly beans, and other bulk candies in the jars, the store sells nearly 900 types of novelty and retro treats like candy cigarettes, Astro Pops, and Sky Bars, as well as ice cream and cookies.”