Morning Mocha with a Cacoa Shot

Liquid cacao from Cholaca is the real deal.

Not long ago, my friend Kuvy Ax and I met for coffee at OZO, a do-it-right café that in a very Boulder way adheres to the “ideals of community, coffee and a calling” in the way they source, roast and store their beans and other products. Kuvy ordered a mocha Cholaca, and so did I. It provided a power hit of well prepared coffee with the flavor boost of pure cacao.

My own bottle of Cholaca  liquid cacao now resides in my refrigerator, and I pour a shot into my morning coffee to try to replicate the OZO experience.  Even before this product,  I often put a spoonful of chocolate powder into my morning coffee (along with sweetener and soy creamer, because I’m a wimpy coffee drinker). No matter whether I started with coffee and stirred in the powder or vice versa, there was always some sludge left in the bottom of the mug because the  powder completely dissolved. Tasty sludge, but sludge nonetheless. Not so with liquid, which blends easily and totally with the coffee and my other add-ins.

I try to be a responsible consumer, so I like to see labels proclaiming “organic,” “single origin” and “fair trade,” which aims to give growers fair compensation for their products. My Cholaca is “lightly sweetened” with organic, fair trade coconut sugar. They also make unsweetened and more sweetened, as well as pure cacao wafers that must be a dream to bake with. (Next time I’m in cookie-making mode, I’ll use some.) I’m not a beer drinker, but the Boulder Beer Company’s St. Patrick’s Day release of Irish Blessing, a seasonal oak-aged coffee stout brewed with an abundance of black and chocolate malts for a bittersweet chocolate finish might have changed my thinking.

I get together with friends for coffee at The Laughing Goat every Friday morning. I it turns out that they also carry Cholaca, so I’ll order my weekly cappuccino with a shot. The cacao is grown in Peru and Ecuador, and the company is based in Boulder. That makes it appropriate for this Colorado-focused blog — that and the fact that I really like it.

‘Top Chef’ to be Filmed in Colorado

Denver, Boulder and Telluride to be featured.

Boulder chef Hosea Rosenberg was the winner of “Top Chef,” season 5, and a decade later, the highly rated Bravo show is going to be filming in Colorado. Details have not yet be revealed (after all, “reality” shows thrive on suspense), but Denver, Boulder and Telluride are slated as venues.

Entertainment Weekly broke the news host Padma Lakshmi and  judges Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Graham Elliot are to be featured. Colicchio, the head judge, is an admirable member of the culinary community for his anti-hunger work and advocacy for organic foods.

“We are always on the hunt for the next great culinary destination and Colorado is fast becoming a hot spot for young chefs and foodies, making it an ideal backdrop for our upcoming season,” executive vice president for current production at Bravo Media Shari Levine told Entertainment Weekly .

Uncle Joe’s After Travel Show

Hong Kong-style happy hour after to Travel & Adventure Show.

We traveled the world vicariously at the Denver Travel & Adventure Show on the weekend, visiting a lot of Asian exhibitors. These particularly interested me because we are going to Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan next month. We spent a fair amount of time hanging at the Access China Tours booth, where the first of several pairs of Sherpas were stationed. After we had walked every aisle, collected more literature than necessary, we were hungry. I was also primed for Asian food.

I had just been to a media event when Uncle Joe’s Hong Kong Bistro first opened in December 2015. It was the second Denver eating event of the day, and I couldn’t do it justice. But I loved the spare décor, and I did my best with the food; click here for my first experience. And I’ve posted about our happy hour at Uncle Joe’s, when I was hungry.

Four-hour-long happy hour is a big deal at Uncle Joe’s.
Tasteful and simple place setting.

Continue reading Uncle Joe’s After Travel Show

Rustic Mountain-Town Treasure

Meadow Mountain Café in Allenspark fills up with regulars — and newbies like us.

I can hardly believe that I knew nothing about the Meadow Mountain Café on the business loop of the Peak to Peak Highway. The hamlet of Allenspark’s summer homes and rental cabins draw Texans, Oklahomans, Kansans and other flatlanders, and the café also attracts regulars from Longmont, Lyons and Berthoud. Locals said they come up a few times a year. Judging from the social media comments, it seems that breakfast or lunch at the Meadow Mountain Café is one of the things that draws these vacationers to town.

Walk up a few steps with buttons embedded in the mortar between the stones, pass a forest of birdhouses to a porch that I’m sure is delightful when it’s a tad warmer than it was yesterday morning. Enter the funky, rustic café with about a handful of tables and friendly, efficient service. There was a butt on every chair when we walked in, but happily, one party vacated a right-size table for our party of five. Sharing a table with others is actually OK too.

A miscellany in random frames hang on knotty pine walls. Above are two shelves of mostly figural salt-and-pepper shakers. We expected to see corned beef hash on the “specials” blackboard because our friend told us they were always served the morning of St. Patrick’s Day — but alas, no more.
Santa and Mrs. Claus, a jolly pair at the center of the table along with sugar, hot sauce and flimsy flatware and paper napkins in a holder occupy the center of the table.

Peruse the laminated menu. It lists the items — nothing exotic, but everything served in generous portions on random heavy-duty plates. The coffee comes in random heavy-duty mugs. I didn’t ask for cappuccino!

Heuvos rancheros with a choice of red or green chile, an egg and a folded tortilla.
Exceptional breakfast burrito is plump and fully loaded.
By contrast, the powdered sugar-topped whole wheat waffles with pecan add-on seems positively spartan.

Price check: Eggs, $7.50-$8.95; 4-egg omelets, $8.95-$10.95 (2-egg versions also available); Pancakes, French Toast & Waffles,  $4.25-$9.50 (1, 2 or 3 pancakes per order); sides, 75¢-$3.50.

441 Business Highway 7, Allenspark; 303-747-2541.

Meadow Mountain Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Free-Form Pasta Dish

Penne + Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomatoes = Quick Dinner.

Sometimes I follow recipes — faithfully or loosely. Sometimes, I just freelance a dish. That’s what I did when I wanted pasta sometime, had just bought organic baby spinach and rooted around for ingredients that I thought would go well. I used no recipe, and didn’t even measure what I used. So here is a very rough guide to making a quick, tasty dish. The pattern is simple, so it can be made with different kinds of pasta, with other leafy vegetables, with fresh or rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, etc., etc.

Bring salted water to a boil. Add about 3 ounces of mini-penne. Coarsely chop about 3 tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes in oil. Peel and mince one clove of fresh garlic, and sauté in about 1 tablespoon olive oil for a minute or two. Add crushed red pepper flakes. Rinse about 5 ounces fresh baby spinach and add to garlic/pepper. Add sun-dried tomatoes and continue cooking for about 2 minutes, adding a little water to cook the spinach. When pasta is al dente, drain. Put into a serving bowl, top with spinach/tomato mixture. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

 

 

LOW Now in LoHi

Steamboat Springs restaurant’s new location in hot Denver ‘hood.

Two and a half years ago, I learned to appreciate Southern cooking at the original LOW Country Kitchen in Steamboat Springs. Click here for my epiphany. Now Brian and Katy Vaughn have brought LOW to Denver, specifically to LoHi. I love the synergy between these names.

The bar and some tables are located at street level, with the rest of the dining room behind, a few steps higher and separated by a high room-dividing wall. Gray and white are the dominant hues. The food, served family-style to our group of invited media, echoes the fare in Steamboat Springs.

Strawberry & Rhubarb Mash, a welcoming cocktail of Four Roses bourbon, charred strawberry and rhubarb shrub, lemon slide and Amaro Sfumato. I had to look up “shrub” as it pertained to a cocktail ingredient. Turns out that it dates back to Colonial times and refers to a pre-refrigeration way of preserving fragile fruits by make a syrup of them.

Continue reading LOW Now in LoHi

Frasca & Redzikowski are Beard Finalists

Colorado contending for Outstanding Restaurant & Best Chef Southwest .

Narrowing down the annual list of James Beard Award winners is a length process: nominations, semi-finalists and finalists all announced with deliberate timing by the James Beard Foundation. Two Colorado contenders have made it to the finalist round: Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine in the Outstanding Restaurant category and Steve Redzikowski of Boulder’s Oak on Fourteenth and both Acorn and Brider in Denver as Best Chef, Southwest. As I have written before, being nominated is an honor. Being a finalist is greater honor. And winning a Beard Award is, well, over the moon.

Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.