Vegan Chinese Food in Boulder

Table Mesa Shopping Center ‘s low-meat eatery.

When visiting Chinese markets and asking for menu translations, I have joked that “in China, they’ll eat anything that doesn’t eat them first.” I’ve seen (but never wanted to try) some really weird stuff. I thought that if I ever stumbled across a vegan restaurant over there, I’d be relieved.

Legions of Boulder’s many vegetarians and vegans are presumably equally relived that Tsing Tao Chinese Restaurant has lots of vegan dishes on the menu as well as a vegan buffet on Mondays and Thursdays. I’m not sure how long this restaurant, named after a popular Chinese beer, has been around, but we just heard about it and decided to try it. It is spacious, happily is not too noisy and is staffed by efficient, accommodating servers.  But note – If you want an itemized bill, you might have to ask for it.

Sushi and fruit (some fresh, some canned) dominate one part of the buffet.
Vegan versions of popular Chinese dishes do a good job of mimicking the original. Nothing, however, is highly or distinctively flavored.

It serves lunch and dinner both off the menu and buffet-style. The menu features a page of vegan offerings, plus that vegan buffet, which features respectable vegan versions of beef, chicken and shrimp dishes, plus a couple of platters of sushi. For my taste, many of the items were a tad too sweet for my taste. My husband order his favorites (hot and sour soup, crab wontons, sesame chicken), which he pronounced “okay but not special.”

Tsing Tao under Snarf’s on the northeast part of the Table Mesa Shopping Center, 607 South Broadway, Boulder; 303-494-6228.

‘Top Chef’ Season Features Colorado

Series filmed in Colorado kicks off on December 7.

It’s been 10 seasons since a Colorado chef won top honors on “Top Chef,” the wildly popular Bravo TV chef competition. The last Colorado champ was Hosea Rosenberg, then with Jax Fish House and now partner chef at Blackbelly Restaurant & Butcher and the new Santo, both in Boulder.

Chef Hosea won Season 5, and Season 15 starts on December 7 with two Colorado chefs in the mix. Here’s hoping the hometown advantage helps one of them rise to the peak of chef celebrity.

“Top Chef” Season 15 Cheftestants

  • Fatima Ali. New York
  • Tyler Anderson. Simsbury, CT
  • Carrie Baird. Bar Dough. Denver
  • Adrienne Cheatham, New York
  • Laura Cole, Denali National Park, AK
  • Joseph Flamm. Chicago.
  • Rogelio Garcia. San Francisco
  • Tanya Holland.  Oakland, CA
  • Bruce Kalman. Los Angeles
  • Brother Luck. Four By Brother Luck, Colorado Springs
  • Melissa Perfit.  San Francisco
  • Tu David Phu. Oakland
  • Joe Sasto. Los Angeles
  • Christopher Scott, Brooklyn
  • Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins. San Diego

Coloradans will all look for familiar sights as the program showcases our breathtaking landscapes and the thriving culinary scenes in Denver, Boulder, Telluride and Aspen. The show kicks off with a block party Larimer Square — unfortunately in the 11 to midnight. Hoping I don’t doze off. Fortunately, it is possible to record it and watch when convenient.

Also appearing are local star chefs Troy Guard, Alex Seidel, Hosea Rosenberg, Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson, Keegan Gerhard, Jen Jasinski and Frank Bonanno. The program has all sorts of twists and audience-pleasing gimmicks, but for those of us who appreciate Colorado’s burgeoning school scene, it’s all about the chefs.

Santo Brings New Mexican Fare to Boulder

Top Chef alum and restaurateur Hosea Rosenberg’s latest hit.

There is still a temporary sign above the door.

On powder days, I’ve stood at the top of ski run, waiting for the patrol to drop the rope so I could score some turns in fresh snow. For the first time, I felt that familiar anticipation as I waited for a new restaurant’s door to be unlocked. The restaurant is Santo, the newest venture for chef Hosea Rosenberg, who grew up in Taos, became a genuine celeb chef after winning Top Chef, Season 5 and operates the popular East Boulder Blackbelly Market, restaurant and butchery. He has tapped into his northern New Mexico roots for decorative statements but mostly for the food.

The line was building for an anticipated 4 p.m. opening of the new occupant of the space next to Ideal Market. A paper sign on the door indicated that due to “technical difficulties,”  Santo would open at 4:30. When it did, we first customers felt like celebs, greeted by cameras and cell phones. What a hoot!

Eager diners in line at dusk for chef Hosea Rosenberg’s Santo, which brings the distinctive cuisine of northern New Mexico to Colorado’s Front Range.

The Santo space  is both familiar and new. Once Radda Trattoria, then Ella’s from the Zoe Mama team then Scott’s on Alpine — I’ve eaten at them all. The look, the cuisine and the vibe may have changed with each transition, but I’ve always known where to find the restroom without asking.

Santo’s  commodious square bar remains on the west part of the large dining room. A wonderful wooden zia symbol  chandelier floating above the bar was made by a New Mexican carver, as were the santos along the walls. I intended to take a picture, but I was so eager to get seated and order that I didn’t — and by the time we left, the bar area was mobbed — and loud. Framed B&B photographs decorate the dining area, but in truth, the focus is on the food, as  it certainly should be. Here’s what my husband and I ate on Day One (plus wine for me, a beer for him):

Wood Oven Queso is a blend of local cheese melted in the wood oven in a small cast-iron pan. It is topped with red pepper jelly and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). The portion looks small but the taste is big. And what’s the New Mexican word for ‘umami”? White and blue corn tortilla chips come on the side.
A trio of wild boar empanadas with cilantro crema, salsa with a kick and a bit of crunchy salad.
The smoky aroma of this thick soup rises from the table as soon as the bowl is set down. Smoked corn, huitlacoche (corn smut (an unappealing name for a specialty) and thin flavor ribbons of Christmas salsas (red and green).
Generous portion of Kale and Quinoa Salad, with slices of apple, jicama, grilled cactus queso fresco, piñon nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Apple and green chile pie backed in a cheddar crust with a generous scoop or vanilla ice cream on top.

Price check: At dinner appetizers, $6-$12; soups and sides $6-$12; entrées $16-$32; chile, side add-ons $2-$5; desserts, $5-$7.

Santo is at 1265 Alpine Avenue, Boulder; 303-442-6100.

Farmers’ Market’s Seasonal Farewell

Boulder County Farmers’ Markets go fallow until spring.

Each year’s early-season downtown Boulder farmers’ market brims with enthusiasm for the coming growing season both for home-grown veggies and for those that vendors will be bringing in until well into fall. And that’s where we are now — well into fall and winding down our expectations of fresh local products every week.

 

 

Still, fall markets are simply gorgeous with an abundance of late-season produce, notably squashes of so many shapes and shades. Boulder’s last market of 2017 was today — an opportunity also to stock up on locally produced pantry products. There will be one  more market this year at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on Saturday, November 17. Then, it’s adios until April.

Bienvenue au French Cafe

Tasty new bakery and café in The Village.

Le French Café Boulder opened quietly in The Village shopping center just a few weeks ago. Agnes and Quentin Garrigou, who had run two French cafes in Miami for about a decade, decamped for Colorado just ahead of Hurricane Irma’s devastating arrival in Florida. Quentin hails from the Loire region, while Agnes is from the Chamonix-Mont Blanc area and was eager to return to the mountains where their seven-year-old son could enjoy a childhood something like hers.

The couple sank all the money from the Miami cafes into the Boulder location, so are relying on word of mouth (and word from fingertips on keyboards) to get the word out. I’m happy to help, since it is the first French bakery in Boulder since Le Francais in the BaseMar Shopping Center closed years ago.

This trio of cheerful chairs on the building’s south side greets patrons — as does recorded mood-setting French music.

Le French Café is in what might be considered Boulder’s bakery intersection. It occupies a corner that features two other bakeries — Woodgrain for Montreal bagels and Great Harvest for whole-grain items. They are all different.  My husband and I went there this morning and it was an altogether pleasant experience. The space is bright and cheerful. The service is attentive. And most of all, the breakfast items are very good. I’m a gluten fan myself but I am very impressed that there is no surcharge for gluten-free crepes.

A cappuccino is my idea of the perfect morning coffee.
Croissant or quiche? Quiche or croissant? That was my question this morning. The day’s correct answer was quiche, accompanied by a salad that would have made it suitable for lunch or brunch as well.
My husband’s selection was the heartier combo of a fried eggs excellent bacon curled into a little nest,  potato cubes and a croissant.
We couldn’t resist ordering some macarons to take with us. Agnes boxed them and wrapped them with a little yellow ribbon.

The Village Shopping Center 2525 Arapahoe Avenue Boulder; 303-284-2265.

Another List, Another Honor for Frasca

Boulder restaurant scores again — and Sally’s may be sold.

Eater.com revealed its 2017 selections for “38 Essential Restaurants in America,” and not only was Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine on it, but having been listed for three consecutive years, it is now a Hall of Fame restaurant.

Other listees were less predictable. Bill Addison, who assembles the list, wrote, “I’ve also named a Restaurant of the Year, an of-the-moment union of breathtaking design and rooted, spectacular cooking in one of the country’s most timeless towns — Savannah.” The restaurant is The Grey, and the chef, Meshama Bailey, is an African-American woman. Addison wrote:

Everything that it takes to propel an ambitious restaurant to greatness — a coherent vision, a distaste for complacency, and singular leadership — Mashama Bailey accomplishes at the Grey in Savannah, Georgia. The restaurant synthesizes much of what’s relevant about this moment in American dining: an amalgamation of global and regional flavors; a big-city chef making a seismic impact in a smaller town; and an acute awareness of, and reckoning with, complex racial, economic, and cultural histories. The Grey doesn’t trade in tasting menu extravaganzas or modernist shenanigans. It’s an unabashed stunner of a space, staffed with kind-hearted souls. Beyond that, the cooking bursts with utter humanity. Bailey’s food — curried roast chicken, melting leeks with country ham and curls of grassy tomme, lamb shoulder braised with Senegalese spices — speaks to love of the region and devotion to the craft.

Another listee made my Connecticut-born heart beat with joy was finding Sally’s Appiza of New Haven on the list. This untrendy classic pizzeria has been turning out the same fabulous pies for nearly 80 years.  Addison wrote:

Salvatore Consiglio opened his restaurant in 1938, three decades after Lombardi’s in Manhattan first began serving pizzas in America — and 13 years after Consiglio’s uncle, Frank Pepe, started his namesake operation on the next block over in New Haven’s Italian district. Even so, Sally’s feels like the nation’s ur-pizzeria. It’s gritty, cramped, and chaotically busy; a certain imperviousness drifts in the air like coal dust. It is also, without question, the finest of the town’s legendary pie shops. The crust (a definitive nexus of bready and crackery), the sauce (pure tomato tang), and the cheese (spare, and yet somehow ample) fuse into utter glory. Devouring the signature tomato pie with garlic and pecorino Romano is a sacrament. Consiglio’s children may soon sell the business, so go now while the recipes remain in the family’s practiced hands.

Here’s hoping that even if the family sells the biz, someone who knows it and loves it will be the new owner.

Vegan-Friendly List Includes Fort Collins Restaurant

Most lists of the best this-or-that kind of restaurant in every state feature a Denver or perhaps Boulder restaurant.  Food & Wine’s selection of Colorado’s best vegan-friendly  is in Fort Collins. I haven’t been there yet, but I’d like to. Here’s what the magazine wrote:

The fact that the upcoming season of Top Chef was filmed in Colorado is just one marker of the state’s growing assertion of its culinary prowess. (Four James Beard Award semi-finalists this past year are another.) Although new, The Gold Leaf Collective illustrates how lesser known cities like Fort Collins are capitalizing on proximity to farms that cover so much of the state, while attracting culinary talent and customers from nearby Boulder and Denver. Nothing here is sourced from industrial suppliers—and if you’ve run a restaurant before, you know how hard that is to do. It’s rare to find a place with a near solid five stars on Yelp even after 100+ reviews, but The Gold Leaf Collective manages to do it. Eat here, and you’ll see why. What started as a food truck has now morphed into a brick-and-mortar location whose casual atmosphere belies its frankly sophisticated cuisine. There are beets, perfectly roasted, with coconut cream labneh, pepitas, and mustard greens; there’s a charred iceberg wedge with seitan bacon, pickled apples, and onions. The food doesn’t shun meat analogs, but really holds its own as a restaurant in the New American style. This is the direction in which plant-based dining should be moving, and we want to follow it. thegoldleafcollective.com

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.