National Tequila Day with Don Julio

Nutmeg adds an extra zip to a margarita.

DonJulioTequilaThis evening, we broke out the Don Julio Añejo 70, a fine reposado that we save for such special occasions as National Tequila Day, which happens to be today. To sip a nip or mix it? That was the question, and the answer was, as if often is, a margarita. But such an important holiday merits an important marg.

We checked online, and the Don Julio site provided a recipe. Though other possibilities were also enticing, we happened to have agave nectar, lime and nutmeg  on hand, so Don Julio’s Reposado Margarita it was. It turned out to be very interesting and confirmed that nutmeg is good for more than eggnog and cappuccino:

Reposado Margarita

1 .5 oz. Tequila Don Julio Reposado
0.75 oz. agave nectar
0.75 oz. fresh lime juice
fresh nutmeg

Mix Tequila Don Julio Reposado, agave nectar and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and add a pinch of nutmeg over the top.

Gracias, Don Julio.

Sweet Seafood Spot at Union Station

Chef Jennifer Jasinski now doing seafood at Stoic & Genuine.

StoicGenuine-signAmong the many things that have come with Union Station’s exciting renovation/resurrection is the emergence of a new dining destination in this century-old landmark. Several of the greater Denver area’s top chefs and restaurateurs have signed on to open branches there. Some are up and running, while others are coming online soon.

The first to open was Stoic & Genuine, a new seafood restaurant operated by chef Jennifer Jasinski and front-of-house whiz Beth Gruitch. The partners already run a trio of terrific neighboring restaurants. Rioja does Spanish and other Mediterranean food, Bistro Vendome is French and Euclid Hall is meat-centric. Stoic & Genuine gets the partners a few blocks from those Larimer Square restaurants — especially now, because they both spend a lot of time during the launch of a new one.

Tall windows bring abundant light into long, skinny Stoic & Genuine by day. At night, a carefully designed lighting scheme is dramatic.

Tall windows bring abundant light into long, skinny Stoic & Genuine by day. At night, dramatic lighting scheme is designed to set a dramatic mood.

The bright, high-ceilinged restaurant has simply set tables with an octopus mural sinuously wrapping its tentacles on the walls and interesting lights above. The menu is tight and the seafood is fresher than you might expect in the middle of the country. “No Ocean. No Worries. Fresh Seafood Flown in Daily” is what the menu promises. The best of the catch is on display on ice at one end of the booze bar. There are items meant to be served raw and others that are cooked but are served chilled. They are listed on a sushi-style menu.

Raw and cooked seafood is tantalizingly displayed on ice and  behind glass at one end of the long bar.

Raw and cooked seafood is tantalizingly displayed on ice and behind glass at one end of the long bar.

Continue reading “Sweet Seafood Spot at Union Station”

Reserve Now for First Summer DRW

Denver Restaurant Week: It’s not just for cold weather anymore

Denver area foodies, whet your appetites for the first summer Denver Restaurant Week (August 23-29). Instead of a two-week-plus run, DRW is now split into summer and winter components of one week each, and with the availability of outdoor seating at many restaurants, more thrifty diners can be accommodated. The reservations part of the site goes live tomorrow, July 23  at 12 noon MST. 

More than 200 participating restaurants’ menus are listed on the website by cuisine and by neighborhood. Diners can also see which restaurants offer vegetarian options. “to offer tantalizing, multi-course dinners for the fixed price of $30 (drinks, tax and gratuity additional).

This year through the end of DRW, diners are encouraged to enter to win “The Pursuit of Perfection in the Kitchen” sweepstakes, presented by Lexus, which will award two lucky winners private cooking lessons with top Denver chefs, Andrea Frizzi of Il Posto or Elise Wiggins from Panzano. FoMoInfo, go to Facebook.com/VisitDenver.

TAG Burger Bar on Thrillist.com

Snarky comment about Colorado weed accompanies praise.

TAG-Burger-logoAs usual, I read yet another national “best” list in search of Colorado restaurants, this time Thrillist.com’s second annual “The 33 Best Burgers in America.”  While praising the TAG Burger Bar’s TAG American Slam, writer Kevin Alexander couldn’t resist a potshot at pot:

“The man behind a slew of successful Denver-area restaurants opened up his burger-focused shop a few years ago, and it has been a Mile High favorite, while also dominating in area burger contests, ever since. While there are over-the-top builds common to new-school burger shops, like the Godzilla (crispy tempura flakes, smoked kewpi), at its core, Burger Bar excels because of their patty: a blend of chuck, short rib, and brisket specially ground for them. It can be deliciously topped with everything from Colorado-born ingredients like Pueblo green chiles to honey-infused local goat cheese. But even though it’s in CO, you can’t top the burger with weed. I mean, you could, but you’d have to put it on there yourself.”

The reference to Colorado legalized recreational marijuana is getting old. Oh, and “the man behind” the successful restaurants Alexander mentioned in this round-up is owner-chef Troy Guard.  He ignored the Congress Park burgeria’s popular burger and beer pairings. Oh well.

After-Hike BBQ in Nederland

The Roasted Toad trailer serves flavorful sandwiches & platters.

056When I moved to Colorado more than 25 years ago, the low-slung building at Nederland’s roundabout where Highways 119 and 72 come together housed Bob’s Bakery and most recently a sporting goods outlet called Ben’s Emporium. The building is currently the staging area for a BBQ spot in the parking lot. I’d driven by several times since it opened last fall but only yesterday, did my husband and I stop en route home from a James Peak Wildnerness hike — and hungry.

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The Roasted Toad “complex” consists of a  main trailer with the serving window, an ancillary trailer containing a wood smoker and two unshaded picnic benches sit in the parking lot in front of the building. If you need a restroom, you’ll be sent next door to the KwikStop. The building is slated to become a restaurant with real indoor seating and a larger menu — currently confined to ribs, pulled pork, “pulled” chicken, chicken noodles, sides, a few soft drinks and little else. Why it is called The Roasted Toad mystifies me.

Barbecued brisket. The Kansas/Tennessee-style barbecue sauce in a squeeze bottle is set on each table.

Barbecued brisket. The Kansas/Tennessee-style barbecue sauce in a squeeze bottle is set on each table.

Beans with sausage.

Beans with sausage.

"Pulled" chicken is actually cubed chicken that is moist and tender.

“Pulled” chicken is actually cubed chicken that is moist and tender.

Crisp cole slaw is my preferred side dish with barbecue.

Crisp Cole slaw is my preferred side dish with barbecue.

When we were getting ready to leave, I stopped to chat with the owner, who told me his dad once owned a grocery store and learned to smoke meat in Bailey, that he once worked at a BBQ stand at Mile High Stadium (or whatever it was called when he worked there) and such. “What’s your name?” I asked, “Dave,” he said “I’m Claire,” I added and left, mentally deciding that my post would be a play on such other BBQ Daves as Famous Dave’s and Smokin’ Dave’s. When I was starting to write this post and wanted to know more, I found “Roasted Toad Features Smoked Hog” from The Mountain-Ear, Nederland’s weekly newspaper. There are learned that Dave’s last name is Walter. No relation.

The Roasted Toad’s address is 229 Highway 119, Nederland; 303-258-3397.

Flagstaff House Again Given Top Wine Award

Iconic Boulder restaurant again wins Wine Spectator Grand Award.

WineSpectatorGrandAwar2014Winning a Wine Spectator Grand Award has gotten to be a habit for Boulder’s Flagstaff House. The Monette family’s commitment to fine wine and its 15,000-bottle wine cellar mean that it has again won this prestigious award, as it has every year since 1983. Wine Spectator‘s Grand Award goes only to the world’s very best wine lists. One of the criteria is a selection of 1,500 or more wines from the world’s classic wine regions. In addition to a broad and deep wine cellar, service and ambiance are considered. How exclusive is the Grand Award? This year, there are only 74 Grand Award winners worldwide.

Fine food, a sparkling ambiance, perfect service and an awesome wine list keep the Flagstaff House a perpetual top award winner from 'Wine Spectator.'

Fine food, a sparkling ambiance, perfect service and an awesome wine list keep the Flagstaff House a perpetual top award winner from ‘Wine Spectator.’

Joining the Flagstaff House and other repeat winners are Clos Maggiore, London; La Toque, Napa, California; Nice Matin, New York; Saison, San Francisco; The Stonehouse, in Santa Barbara, California, and Studio, Laguna Beach, California. All award winners are featured in the magazine’s August 31 issue, now on sale.

Trash Fish to Chefs’ Treasure

Chefs Collaborative Denver’s trash fish dinner a model for sustainability.

Fish-clipaartWhen I was growing up in Connecticut, fishermen I knew hated sea robins — wild-looking fish with fins and legs. They were aggressive toward desirable fish, and whenever the guys caught a sea robin, they’d kill the critter and throw it back into Long Island Sound. Turns out that what most people thought of as “trash fish” can be quite tasty.

Things haven’t changed all that much, and when it comes to eating sustainable seafood, “trash fish” still don’t usually make it to menus. That won’t be the case on Monday, July 28 when the Trash Fish Dinner takes place at the Squeaky Bean at 6 p.m., highlighting these underutilized species, put on by the Denver “cell” of the Chefs Collaborative, a national organization that works to fix America’s broken food system.  One of the local chefs is Kelly Whitaker of Basta in Boulder and Cart Driver, one of Denver’s newest restaurants. ChefsCollaborative2014 Whitaker joined the Chefs Collaborative last yea, after attending the annual Sustainable Food Summit in Charleston, South Carolina, on a scholarship. He had also participated in a previous trash fish dinner in Los Angeles and wanted to bring it to Denver. After reaching out to both local and nationally recognized chefs, the lineup includes:

As a sponsor, local purveyor Seattle Fish Company will provide the seafood for the evening, but trash fish can be hard to come by, so the chefs will tap their creativity to cook the dishes out of anything from Asian carp and North Atlantic dogfish to porgy. Whitaker says, “By-catch was one thing but trash fish was another….These are species of fish that farmers are selling that just aren’t cool enough to make the cut. They’re sustainable, there’s plenty of it, it’s delicious, but they’re just not cool.”

Hosting at the Squeaky Bean will keep things fun and irreverent, with the out-of-town chefs coming to the heart of Denver. A representative of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, an organization I greatly admire, will be on hand to speak about sustainable fish, and the chefs will also talk through the courses and interact with guests. Tickets for the five-course meal cost $125 per person and are available on the Chefs Collaborative website, along with more information. There will also be a VIP oyster reception beforehand from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Kitchen, for a suggested donation of $50 or more. The money raised goes back to the Chefs Collaborative, inspiring and educating those in the industry to change how they source, cook and serve food. This is not the organization only issue in the food realm. It has also taken on such issues as GMOs, fracking and growth hormones and antibiotics in meat.