All posts by Claire Walter

A New Spin on New Mexican Ingredients

Hotel Andaluz chef cooks out of the culinary box.

As award-winning Cordon Bleu-trained chef Marc Quinones was cooking his way around some of the top restaurants and resorts in the Southwest, he prepared a lot of excellent versions regional favorites. But when the recently appointed executive chef of downtown Albuquerque’s historic Hotel Andaluz was asked to cook for a Denver media reception on behalf of New Mexico travel interests, his imagination took wing, and he offered contemporary dishes from various traditions but using New Mexican-grown and -raised ingredients.

Some of the dishes:

Pineapple, watermelon and grape salad with Marcona almond crumble and pimenton. oil.
“Peas & Carrots,” a whimsical name for toasted corn and white Balsamic/sambal chile dressing.
New York strip steak (two levels of doneness) with jalapeno butter. Thick slices of toasted sourdough were in a separate dish. Since it is New Mexico-raised cattle, perhaps it should be called New Mexico strip steak.
Hatch Green Chile Hummus on Broken Lavash with cilantro oil and red pepper gel.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with caramelized onion ragout and Cascabel chile Romesco sauce.
For sheer creativity, my ad hoc award goes to the Pinon Brittle, a clear sugary rectangles topped with oreango gremolata and lemongrass yogurt.

I think I was too busy eating and sipping cocktails made with Colkegan single malt whiskey or gin from Santa Fe Spirits, a craft distillery, to take pictures of two terrific dishes: the Berkshire pork belly with Anasazi bean ragout, yellow corn and harissa-sherry reduction  and the super-fab Mew Mexico ceviche — Bay scallops in tangerine, Maldon salt, pickled red onion and Chimayo chile vinaigrette.

Then there was the chocolate — the wonderful chocolate from Cacao Santa Fe,  which produces fantastic chocolate bars, beautiful and interesting bonbons, workshops led by master chocolatier Melanie Boudar and Factory tours with owner Derek Lanter.

Then there was Clear Light, the Cedar Company, which has been producing Cedar Essence and other aromatic potions since 1971, giving complimentary hand and forearm massages. The boss’s business card is a thin slice of cedar.

It was wonderful to have New Mexicans bring their eats and drinks  (and more) to Denver. High time to head south to eat in situ.

Morel Fest in Michigan

Fabulous fungus celebrated in May.

I have no plans to visit northern Michigan later this month, but a little corner of me wishes I could go. The 57th Annual National Morel Mushroom Festival taking place May 18-21 in Boyne City, on beautiful Lake Charlevoix is enough reason. Petoskey is the city you might have heard of. I know the area in winter for its Boyne Country ski areas. I’ve eaten morels, but not in situ, and I do know they are a potent lure for foodies.

Organizers invite people to come forage the woods in search of the rare morel mushrooms. They even schedule a guided practice hunt on Friday the 19th for newbies. There’s a Wine & Dine dinner that evening, and  a morel breakfast on Saturday the 20th, followed by the National Morel Mushroom Hunting Championship. Yes, there is such a thing, with prizes in a variety of categories.

There’s a carnival with rides and games for the kids, mushroom seminars and the “Taste of Morels” where visitors can sample the best mushroom recipes from area restaurants. Click here for a full schedule.

Boulder Area Kitchen Tour Today

Annual Dream Kitchens Tour this snowy weekend.

The weekend snows are something of a nightmare for participants in Boulder’s annual Dream Kitchens Tour to support the I Have a Dream Foundation of Boulder County. Those who bought the $20 tickets in advance might tough it out, but I’m afraid there won’t be too many same-day sales. Nine fabulous Boulder County kitchens are open to view today, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and tomorrow, 12 noon-4 p.m., with a demonstrator on duty at each and samples available.

Project Angel Heart Fundraiser Today

250 Denver-Boulder eateries participate in Dining Out for Life.

I’m en route back from South Asia today and am not certain I will be back home in time to eat out — or, if I will have the energy after three flights across eleven time zones, but if I do, it will be at one of the 250 of so participating restaurants and breweries in the Denver/Boulder area that are donating 25 percent of their day’s sales to Project Angel Heart’s Dining Out for Life. This wonderful organization prepares and delivers medically tailored meals to people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, kidney disease and other life-threatening illnesses. Funds raised from the Dining Out For Life event are used specifically to support clients living with HIV/AIDS.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Select a participating restaurant or brewery.
  2. Make plans to dine out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (or drink a pint!) with friends, family, or colleagues. If possible, make a reservation at your selected restaurant or brewery. (Bonus points for letting them know you’ve selected their establishment because they’re participating in Dining Out For Life!)
  3. Enjoy a great meal or beverage, knowing you’ve made a difference for people in need.

Colorado Natural Wine Event

Organic and biodynamic wines showcased.

I’m in China and have been unable to attend any of the events of Colorado Natural Wine Week, but I turn your attention to the event’s Grand Showcase coming right up on April 19, 4:30 to 8 p.m.. It features more than a dozen winemakers and importers including winemakers, winery owners, importers and winery representatives from Artadi, Domaine Marcel Deiss, Fattoria Poggerino, Jack Rabbit Hill, Cooper Hill, Ovum, Scribe Craft Wine Company, Kermit Lynch, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, Becky Wasserman & Co, Louis-Dressner Selections, Jenny & François, Domaine Select and more in partnership  with Slow Food Denver. Cost is just $39 per person, $75 per couple. Location is the Space Gallery,400 Santa Fe Drive, Denver. Click here for tickets.

Free Slow Food Event in Denver

Mark your calendar for food event born in Italy.

Slow Food USA announces that Slow Food Nations takes place in Denver from July 14-16. Inspired by Slow Food International’s biennial Terra Madre gathering in Turin, Italy, Slow Food Nations combines the energy of a street food festival, the rigor of an academic conference and the inspiration of a cultural exchange. Big culinary names like Alice Waters, Ron Finley, Simran Sethi, Jack Johnson,  Alon Shaya and Colorado’s own Hosea Rosenberg are among the food movement leaders joining the festival.

Entrance to the festival is free and includes a taste marketplace with 100 exhibitors and producers, an outdoor culinary stage, gardening and cooking activities for kids and families, heritage food tastings, author talk, and more.

Ticketed Events

I am posting this now because tickets for some of the key events went saleon  Monday, April 10 . Slow Food leaders from around the globe are to participate in an all-day delegate summit including small group discussions, focused working groups and a lunch by Alice Waters that will explore school lunch as an academic subject. Delegates will then serve as hosts and speakers during the weekend festival.

The first round of ticketed events  and include taste workshops, block parties, regional food and farm tours, roundtable discussions, and one-of-a-kind dinners.

Slow Food Nations is organized to reimagine the food festival to inspire individuals and communities to change the world through food that is good, clean and fair. As Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini says, “If you want to change the world, don’t do it with sadness; do it with joy.”

Oskar Blues in the News

Craft brewery cited for innovation and also coming to Boulder.

Mid-country restaurants and other purveyors are largely like the Rodney Dangerfield of the food and beverage biz:  They “don’t get no respect,” or not enough respect. Coastal myopia, I’m afraid.

Denver and other Colorado locales have a robust craft brewing industry, from giants like Fort Collins’ New Belgium (the country’s 4th-largest brewer) and Blue Moon (Coors’ craft-beer sidekick) to tiny breweries in very small towns (Silverton Brewery and the Crestone Brewing Company, respectively deep in the San Juan Mountains and in an off-the highway community in the San Luis Valley). The Denver Festival is one of the largest in the country.

But when it came to listing “The 25 Most Important American Craft Beers Ever Brewed,” Food & Wine could think of only one (Longmont-born and -based Oskar Blues) and that was for its retro innovation (packaging), not for any of its beers or ales. Relying on a perhaps biased panel that includes a number of brewmasters, F&W wrote:

15) Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale

Not all innovation happens in the brewing process. In 2002, Colorado’s Oskar Blues did something with a solid, but otherwise unassuming pale ale that changed craft beer forever: They put it into cans, becoming the first craft brewery to do so independently. Dale’s Pale Ale launched a movement (currently 2,162 beers strong, according to CraftCans.com) and this once-lowly container now holds some of the world’s most coveted beers.

On another note, Oskar Blues is coming to Boulder’s Pearl Street, taking over the space at No. 921 vacated by the World of Beer. Sometime late this summer, the location just west of the Mall will become taproom and live-music venue.  I’m not sure what, if any, food service there will be, but the food at Oskar Blues brew pubs, CHUBurgers, CylceHops Cantina and other Oskar-owned venues is very good and very fresh.