Aurum is a New Eatery on Yampa

Arum part of the changing face Steamboat’s Riverside restaurant row.

P1100997As we strolled down Steamboat Springs’ Yampa Streeet, I kept spotting signs with new names where I expected familiar ones. Aurum Food & Wine at #811 was one. Previously the family-friendly Sweetwater Grill occupied the riverside space that it is now more urbane. Past the lively bar and door to the patio with firepit is the large dining room. Woodwork and  quiet wall colors and vintage photos don’t really tone down the noisy crowd.  The name relates to Au, the chemical designation for gold, referencing Steamboat Springs’ short-lived gold days.

Since this is low season, I’m guessing that the current special of 50 percent of entrees (through November 15) is drawing in lots of locals. The menu features sprightly dishes that are intensely seasonal and therefore currently feature lots of dark leafy greens, squash and other root veggies. Only the exemplary Jumbo Lump Crab Cake is always on the menu. Steamboat insurrection might break out if they were not available. Chase Wilbanks, a 2004 SIA grad who worked in such diverse Colorado locations as Cooks Fresh Market in Denver and La Tour in Vail, is executive chef.  Seasonal cocktails, a changing wine list and custom house wines from Sutcliffe Vineyards in Cortez make the beverage list as interesting as the menu. Here are just some of the dishes a group of us tried:

Crisp, lightly curried cauliflower with fiery shishito peppers, pine nuts, golden raisins and a sweet and sour reduction.

Crisp, lightly curried cauliflower with fiery shishito peppers, pine nuts, golden raisins and a sweet and sour reduction.

Seared diver scallop with broccolini puree and greens -- a special of the evening.

Perfectly seared diver scallop with broccolini puree and greens — a pair constitutes a special of the evening.

Fall salad consisting of greens, cranberries, toasted hazelnuts,  tomato, orange supreme, brioche crouton and aged cherry vinaigrette.

Fall salad consisting of greens, cranberries, toasted hazelnuts, tomato, orange supreme, brioche crouton and aged cherry vinaigrette.

Wild mushroom ravioli with Gorgonzola fondue, cherry tomatoes, toasted walnut and crisp leeks. There are usually two to an order, but for this abundant sampling, I requested just two.

Wild mushroom ravioli with Gorgonzola fondue, cherry tomatoes, toasted walnut and crisp leeks. There are usually two to an order, but for this abundant sampling, I requested just two.

Two prime beef burgers with foie gras mousse, Taleggio cheese, caramelized onions, house-made and savory gaufrettes.

Two prime beef burgers with foie gras mousse, Taleggio cheese, caramelized onions, house-made and savory gaufrettes.

 

Pumpkin tart with cinnamon caramel, powdered sugar and Chantilly cream

Pumpkin tart with cinnamon caramel, powdered sugar and Chantilly cream

Who doesn't like crème brulee? This is a cold version made with Grand Marnier-macerated beans and a bit of mint on top.

Who doesn’t like crème brulee? This is a cold version made with Grand Marnier-macerated beans and a bit of mint on top.

Aurum’s owner is Phillips Armstrong, whom I’ve previously met when he partnered in the launch HUSH, whose roving pop-up dinners gave up-and-coming chefs a chance to cook in usual venues. I wrote a post about Kate Horton of Black Pearl cooking at the Infinite Monkey Theorem’s original location off Santa Fe in Denver.

Price check: At dinner, appetizers, $39-$16; Salads & Soup, $8-$12; entrées, $22-$42; desserts, $9-$12. (This does not reflect the current entrée special.)
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Ten Days of Fine Food & Wine in Whistler

British Columbia mountain resort hosts fabled restaurant festival.

Cornucopia-logoMuch as Colorado has to offer in the restaurant realm, there’s a good reason to grab a flight to Vancouver next month and head north to Whistler to indulge at Cornucopia. The word means “horn of plenty,” the festival certainly provides opportunities to sample plenty of exquisite food and fabulous wines. There’s not just one style of food or one price point during this annual food and wine event, but local and visiting chefs devise menus for every taste and budget. 

“Each participating restaurant brings its own unique and delicious concept for the festival,” says event producer and Watermark president, Sue Eckersley. “What is really exciting is the vast selection on offer this year, from winery dinners to luncheons to interactive demonstrations. It’s the perfect opportunity to soak up every aspect of B.C.’s diverse culinary scene.”

Cornucopia returnees: Four Seasons Resort Whistler’s SIDECUT Executive Chef Tory Martindale will once again manning the grill during signature events, House Party: Best of B.C., CELLAR DOOR and Crush Gala Grand Tasting. SIDECUT has also partnered with local Lillooet winery Fort Berens for a winery dinner. Alta Bistro pairs modern French flavors with wines from renowned natural wine producers. The Mexican Corner’s five-course dinner features tequila. The Grill Room at Fairmont Chateau Whistler pairs with the Burrowing Owl Winery. Hy’s Steakhouse’s two tableside dinners feature Road 13 winery and Fairview Cellars and the Friday night winery dinner partners  Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery.The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler hosts a black tie event, Indulge Gala Dinner, a fundraiser for the Whistler Healthcare Foundation. Araxi restaurant + bar returns with the annual sell-out event, Big Guns winemaker dinner, and last year’s very popular Intimate Winery Dinner series, all featuring the creations of one of Canada’s leading chefs, James Walt, plus some of B.C.’s finest wines.

If dinner doesn’t work, or if you actually can handle two great meals a day, such Vancouver hot spots Minami, Cibo Trattoria, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Chef Terry Pinchor from Sonora Resort and Good Wolfe Restaurant present Chef’s Table Luncheons in some of Whistler’s private luxury homes. Also, Nourish is back for its second year with a series of educational and informational seminars and luncheons such as Ferment for Health; Eat the Best, Leave the Rest; Benefits of a Raw Food Diet and more. Whistler’s Green Moustache and Pemberton’s Solfeggio are among the presenters.

Locals often like the à la carte option for particular dinners or other events, but the most convenient booking option for visitors is to book a lodging package. United and Air Canada offer Denver-Vancouver non-stops but the aircraft are operated by partner commuter carriers.

Today is ‘Food Day’

National initiative to promote healthy and sustainable food.

FoodTank-logoHaving recently attended both the Chefs Collaborative Summit and the Flatirons Food Film Festival (films + panels), it seems as if every day is Food Day in Colorado — at least in Boulder. But beyond the bubble, today is officially Food Day founded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The goal is to help inspire Americans to change their food choices and convince businesses, schools, farms, and policy makers to implement healthier, more sustainable food policies.  There are said to be “thousands of around the country [that] will bring eaters together to celebrate and enjoy real food and to push for action to make food safe, healthy, affordable and accessible.”

The major Food Day event in Denver appears to be a screening of “Food Patriots,” a documentary that features the diversity of people working to change the way Americans eat, buy and are educated about food, at the Colorado Health Foundation or the SIE FilmCenter

Taste Test Invite Declined – I Already Buy the Product

NestFresh eggs are always in my fridge.

NestFresh-logoThis morning, a public relations representative sent me the following E-mail:

“I was hoping you might be interested in a little experiment that I was thinking of — that I honestly think will be really cool and attractive blog content…One of our clients is NestFresh eggs — a leader in non-gmo, specialty eggs.  I’d love to provide you with a voucher for NestFresh eggs in order to do the experiment on your blog.  I personally would love reading that! Let me know if this is something you’re interested in posting about. Thanks so much!”

NestFreshEggs

I declined by sending this message back to her:

“Unless I buy eggs directly from a farmstand, which I occasionally do, I already buy NestFresh eggs and have for years. They used to branded, in Colorado anyway, as Cyd’s NestFresh eggs. I like the idea of supporting farmers rather than factory farm managers. I like to know that my eggs come from chickens that are permitted to roam. I’ve been happy with NestFresh egg taste. In order to do a taste test, I’d have to buy some other brands. But thanks.”

As Edith Ann was wont to say, And that’s the truth.

Denver Restaurant Week Consolidates

Ten days in winter set aside for affordable restaurant feasts.

DenverRestaurantWeek-logoWhen Denver Restaurant Week was launched more than a decade ago, it was an epic, exhausting 17-day slog for restaurants. Foodies loved the many opportunities for bargain dinners, but a killer for those who prepared and served the meals. In deference to restaurateurs and chefs, this past year’s DRW was split into a summer week and a winter week. The 2015 DRW reverts to a single event  — 10 delicious days from Friday, February 20 to Sunday, March 1. It’s still more than a week (including two weekends), and it remains a good value at $30 per person for a prix fixe multi-course dinner.

More than 300 restaurants participated in the 2014 winter DRW and more than 200 in the summer DRW, making this one of the largest culinary celebrations in the nation. The list of participating restaurants and menus are to be announced in mid-January. Keep alert when this happens, and book fast.

 

Colorado Olives? Sort Of….

Real Greek olive stand at the Boulder farmers’ market a delicious surprise.

OleaEstates-logoAlong with the expected seasonal apples, pears, pumpkins and other local produce, today’s Boulder County Farmers’ Market brought something of a surprise: a stand selling olives and olive oil. We’ve got lots of great produce, but there are no olive groves in this state. Olea Estates was selling brined olives, olive oil and a few other products from Greece. Most of the foods sold at the market is Colorado-grown or -raised, but there is an adjunct category of local food artisans and distributors, and that’s presumably where Olea Estates falls, I’m thinking, similar to Wild Alaska Salmon, which fishes for sockeye in Bristol Bay, flash freezes it for transport but cures and packs it here.

Jake of Olea Estates.

Jake Burgart of Olea Estates and olives packed in accordance FDA guidelines to maintain its organic certification.

The Chronis family has been producing Olea since 1856 from olive groves in the valley of Sparta, Greece. They harvest, press and distribute from a single variety of olives, and as the website notes, “Nobody else interferes.” A few years ago, as the Chronis chronicle tells, it was costing the family almost twice as much to produce their organic olive oil as the wholesale price would bring. Most farmers were making a profit only from selling olives and were press the ones they could not  into olive oil and cut their losses. Single rather than multiple pickings at the right time saved costs, and use of fertilizers and insecticides increased. The Chronis family did not compromise their standards in that way, and in 2009, George and Demosthenis Chronis started Olea Estates to bring their quality products to the American market.

Jake Burgart, a distributor, is located in Colorado. It was he who manned the table at the farmers’ market (and does so at other food events around the state) and sold us some of the best olives I’ve ever had. We asked about pitted olives, and Jake said Olea Estates doesn’t carry them, because the inside softens too much when the  pit has been removed.

Of course, I had to find out more about these wonderful olives. The variety is Kalamon, which a Greek products website describes as “considered as a superior variety of edible olives which thrives in an arid environment with dry and low moisture soil in order the fruits to grow. It is cultivated in the areas of Messinia (formerly known as Kalamata) and Lakonia (known as Sparta) can also be found in the region of Agrinion in Greece. The Kalamon fruits usually ripen during mid-November to early January which is the late fall to midwinter.”

If you’re going to any of the following Front Range events, look for Olea there too: November 7-9, Colorado Country Gift Show, Denver;  November 14-16: Colorado Springs Holiday Food and Gift Show; November 20-21, Denver International Wine Festival, Broomfield;  December, 6-7, 2014 Holiday Market, Longmont; December 6-7, Sugar Plum Festival, Denver; December 21, Last Minute Gift Show, Longmont.

Trillium’s ‘ Rehearsal Dinner’ for Beard House

Leinonen schedules a practice run in Denver before New York debut.

Trillium-logoOn Tuesday, November 11, Ryan Leinonen, owner/chef of Trillium in Denver, is cooking at New York’s prestigious James Beard House. His cuisine is described as a marriage of “the New Nordic larder with a classic American sensibility, offering Denver dwellers a dining experience that the Beard folks describe as being “at once adventurous and comforting.” The dinner — three hors d’oeuvres and six courses with paired wines — is $130 for James Beard House members, $170 for guests. Click here to see the menu and/or to make reservations.

On October 22 at 6:30 p.m., Leinonen and his team are preparing that menu in his Five Points/Ball Park area restaurant both as a celebration for guests, friends and family in Denver of what we’ll be preparing at The James Beard House and as  rehearsal for their New York debut. As in New York a few weeks later, there is a three-course hors d’oeuvres reception followed by six courses of what Leinonen promises are the most exquisite dishes plus a few new ones, all with wine pairings.  There is only one seating at 6:30 p.m., and reservations are required. The cost is $100 per person, plus tax and gratuity, which is a comparative bargain.  A credit card is required to secure a reservation.

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