2015 Wine & Food Festivals in the Colorado Rockies

ColoradoFlagDurango, Telluride & Steamboat put on really good wine and food fests.

Most of us don’t have the budget for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen (June 19-21 this year), an annual see-and-be-seen extravaganza in Aspen, but smaller events are both more affordable and more manageable. Here are a few of Colorado’s upcoming festivals in the high country. Expect to find such components as a grand tasting of hundreds of wines and perhaps other adult beverages, wine-pairing dinners in local restaurants, tastings guided by top sommeliers, cooking demonstrations by local or visiting chefs and other food/wine options. Click on the links for price and ticketing info. When it comes to events in mountain towns, consider that lodging is always at low-season prices in spring and still affordable in summer.

April 23-25 and May 19

DurangoWineExperience-logoComing right up is the ninth annual Durango Wine Experience in Historic Downtown Durango that starts with a special VIP welcome reception on the evening of April 23 that is followed by public tastings, more than seven educational wine, craft beer and spirit seminars and multiple wine dinners. The multi-location “Walk-About” on Friday, April 24 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. features tastings in downtown galleries, shops and such delightful outdoor venues as the Rochester Hotel Courtyard and Steamworks Brewing Company’s Patio. It benefits the United Way of Southwest Colorado.

A few short weeks later, on May 19, Main Street is shut down for the Taste of Durango, a one-day event to benefit the Manna Soup Kitchen. Featuring local craft breweries, artisan cocktails and countless samples of the interesting and high-quality cuisine that Durango’s top restaurants offer. In addition to food and drink, guests enjoy a fantastic selection of music, dancing, fun and friends, old and new.

June 25-28

The Telluride Wine Festival benefits from timing, coming on the heels of the Food and Wine Classic. A number of vendors/exhibitors/chefs customarily stick around and do both. At this writing (late April), the schedule of classes and small-batch tastings, list of exhibitors and roster of guest chefs and sommeliers was not yet available. But traditionally, more than 1,000 guests attend the large tastings, which include wine, spirits and unique foods.

August 5-9

The Steamboat Wine Festival is noteworthy for its mix of wine, food and outdoor activities on the mountain, in restaurants, classrooms, and around town. Seminars and tastings increase knowledge, and enjoyment of food and wine, and other activities including hikes, bike rides and standup paddling. To stay informed on all the happenings, check out the website. And FWIW, the Farm to Barn dinner on August 8 is already sold out.

Denver on the Thrillist Donut List

Glazed & Confuzed cited for donut deliciousness.

Thrillist-logo“Here you go again,” you might be thinking. Yes, I’ve become obsessed with passing along word of every local or national award and honor or even recognition bestowed on Colorado food and beverage purveyors. This time, it’s Denver’s Glazed & Confuzed that’s on the site’s “Best Donut Shops in America.” The donuts sound delish (most of them, anyway) and I love the humorous name that plays off all the ampersanded eateries around the metro area. Here’s what Thrillist post:

“Step into some of Denver’s finest coffeeshops (Kaladi, Aviano, Pablo’s), and you can spot Glazed & Confuzed’s donuts pretty easily; aside pastries and muffin varieties so boring even your grandma would pass on them, you’ll find their donut-y take on the Girl Scout Samoa with a caramel glaze, toasted coconut, and chocolate drizzle, and the cheekily-named Guava D’s Nutz with a cream cheese cake donut and a guava glaze. In mid-2014, the donut boundary pushers behind G&C opened their first standalone shop in Mile High, giving donut lovers even more variety to choose from, where they have the capacity to make crazy donuts like… umm, a Boston Cream Pie. Sometimes the classics can be good too.”

It’s all the way down on Leetsdale, a haul from Boulder just to try the donuts, so I won’t be there anytime soon. But eventually, for sure.


Boulder Named to Another National Food List

Boulder-logoNot surprisingly, Boulder has made it to another “best” list — this time, TheDailyMeal.com’s “Best College Towns for Food in America,” which posted the following:

3. Boulder, Colo.
Long known as the hardest partying college town in the country, Boulder can also rank itself among the tastiest. Moe’s Broadway Bagel serves the best in bagels and a schmear in town, and The Kitchen is a cool and communal space with a seasonal, farm-to-table menu featuring homemade tagliatelle carbonara, Colorado quinoa with broccoli, and Colorado steak frites. For an even more authentic taste of Boulder, students should hit the Boulder County’s Farmers Market.
Other than the flying comma (it’s the Boulder County Farmers’ Market), my only quibble is the selection  of The Kitchen. A better fit for students, IMO, would be its neighboring sister restaurant, The Kitchen Next Door, which is equally cool, more communal (i.e., more big community tables) and less expensive.
Special Note to Picky Proofreaders: I have tried every which way to add a line space between the paragraph ending with “….”Farmers Market” and the one starting with “Other than….” WordPress keeps overruling me. I only add this because it would be the height of irony to have let this stand in a picky post about else’s punctuation.

Colorado Has a New Master Sommelier

Mea culpa. Make that “Colorado almost has a New Master Sommelier.”

Master Sommelier Nick Barb.

Master Sommelier Nick Barb.

Yesterday I posted the following:

“Nicholas Barb, sommelier at The Little Nell Hotel’s Element 47  in Aspen, was one of 18 candidates who just passed the grueling Master Sommelier examination. If you saw the movie, “Somm,” you might have an inkling of what a triumph it is to pass this odyssey of deep knowledge about wine, super-human tasting skills and exemplary service set forth by the Court of Master Sommeliers. He follows in the footsteps of Richard Betts, who gained the honor in 2003 when he was with the Little Nell.”

And I did it in good faith, thanks to incomplete information I found on Facebook — not posted by the Little Nell but by someone else. Turns out that Barb passed the Advanced Sommelier exam, one step below Master Somm, which the Little’s PR spokeswoman May Selby “is the likely next goal.” I jumped the gun, I hope my mistake foretells Barb’s future. I really do know better, but it also explains why 18 names appeared on the list — a number never achieved in one year at the Master Somm level. It should have been a red flag, and it is a reminder to me not to take half-baked info for gospel.
Barb’s bio on the hotel website reads:

“Like many culinary professionals, Nick Barb made his debut with a high school job in a local kitchen. Smitten, he later traded international business and economics studies for a place at the Culinary Institute of America. While there, he took an internship at the Larkspur Restaurant and Market in Vail, where he was once more smitten, this time by the Rockies. In 2009, Nick joined the team at Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan, where he spent five years honing his wine knowledge and his craft of impeccable but relaxed service. During his tenure, the restaurant received three Michelin stars and was rated the fifth-best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino. But the mountains were calling, and we’re happy to claim Nick as one of our own now. With the ability to interact with guests from around the world, study for his master sommelier exam with our world-famous team and ski – Nick’s happy too.”

Congratulations are in order.

Matushia Coming to Cherry Creek North

Acclaimed Japanese restaurant to open in Denver.

Matsuhisa-logoFirst Aspen, then Vail and next Denver. That’s been the trajectory that famed chef and restaurateur Nobuyuki Matsuhisa has taken in Colorado. Matsuhisa Cherry Creek will be a 7,800-square-foot restaurant at Steele Creek, which the developer describes as a “transformative” apartment and retail project at 1st Avenue and Steele Street in Denver. Steele Creek represents the best in Denver luxury apartment living. The 218-apartment mixed-use project boasts such amenities as a 24-hour concierge with premier resident services, a spectacular roof-deck pool and lounge, a fully appointed private entertainment lounge, a 24-hour fitness center and Matsuhisa with its world-renowned cuisine.

Matsuhisa Cherry Creek is expected to open at the end of 2015. The interior design will be handled by Denver- and Aspen-based Rowland + Broughton. Matsuhisa plans to service the roof deck pool atop the 12-story building. Residents will also be able to order food and drinks for their residences, as well as have Matsuhisa cater their events. And more prosaically, he restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner. Born and raised in Saitama, Japan, chef Matsuhisa is a classically trained sushi chef who developed his inventive style when he opened a sushi bar in Peru. His career has been defined by finding new ways of incorporating different cultures, ingredients and styles into Japanese cuisine. He opened his first Matsuhisa restaurant in the United States in Beverly Hills in 1987, and it soon became a magnet for food lovers and celebrities.

Matsuhisa was chosen as one of the Top Ten Restaurant Destinations in the world by the New York Times in 1993. Some of chef  Matsuhisa’s personal honors from the culinary community include being named one of America’s 10 Best New Chefs by Food and Wine Magazine (1989), Southern California’s Rising Stars by Los Angeles Times Magazine (1998), induction into the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America by the James Beard Foundation (2002), numerous nominations for Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006), and being named One of the 11 Most Influential Chefs of the Decade by Madrid Fusion (2009).

New Cafe Slated for UniHill Building

Alpine Modern Café is design-master Lon McGowan’s new venture.

One of my favorite buildings in Boulder is the stone structure at the corner of 9th and College, across from Columbia Cemetery. It long housed Delilah’s Pretty Good Grocery and then a short-lived cooperative food store called The Second Kitchen (see image below). Now Lon McGowan, ace designer, owner of LON Little Shop in downtown Boulder and publisher of Alpine Modern magazine, has taken over the building and is turning it into the Alpine Modern Café, slated to open in May.

Expect to see a sleek, contemporary interior within the distinctive exterior. McGowan has hired Alex Baum, who previously opened the Wild Goose Meeting House in Colorado Springs, to manage the café. It plans to serve specialty coffees, chai and hot chocolate in custom-made mugs plus small plates and Scandinavian-style, open-face sandwiches and specialty toasts served on hand-crafted trays.

The Alpine Modern Café will be at 904 College Avenue, Boulder, 303-264-7638

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!