All posts by Claire Walter

Sustainable, Local Farming Focus of Aspen Lecture

Noted ag author coming to Aspen to give free lecture.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin

I am a great admirer of author Michael Pollan, who brilliantly deciphers what is wrong and what is right on the American food scene. Joel Salatin and his Polyface,  Farm (Swoope, Virginia) were featured in Pollan’s New York Times bestseller and in the award-winning documentary, “Food, Inc.” The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the City of Aspen Parks and Recreation, and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails are bringing Salatin to Aspen to give a talk, “Local Food to the Rescue.”

Joel himself has authored nine books on the topic of farming and sustainability where he passionately defends small farms, local food systems, and the right to opt out of the conventional food paradigm.  As ACES distills this critical issue, “For local food to be a credible part of the global food system it must develop six integrated components: production, processing, marketing, accounting, distribution and patrons. In this lecture Joel will educate our community on how to build a functional local food system, including economies of scale, collaborative food shed distribution, and meaningful volume.V

The talk takes place on Friday, August 7 at 7 p.m. in the  Paepcke Auditorium (1000 North 3rd Street). Click here to RSVP.

Colorado Wine Event on Colorado Day

Celebrate the day Colorado joined the Union on August 1 with Colorado wine.

ColoWineBoard-logoColorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper has been a beer guy, but he presides over a state with a long wine-making history.  These days, there are so many wine  and beer events here that I can’t keep track of them all, but the Governor’s Cup Wine Competition is the only statewide winemaking one exclusively for Colorado wines.

This year’s competition drew 241 entries from 37 local wineries, which were judged by a panel of sommeliers, winemakers, writers and wine experts from around the country. The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board invites the public to attend a tasting of this year’s 16 winners at the History Colorado Center on Saturday, August 1.

The top 16 Governor’s Cup wines included a tie for top honors between Canyon Wind Cellars’ 2013 Anemoi Lips and Turquoise Mesa Winery’s 2013, both Syrahs made from a red grape that originates from the Rhône region of France.  “Syrah often excels in Colorado as a varietal wine and also makes a wonderful component in blended wines,” said Doug Caskey, executive director of the CWIDB. “It is quite a statement that four Syrah-based wines are among the top 12 wines in the competition.” Canyon Wind is one of the Grand Valley’s oldest vineyards and wineries, while the Turquoise Mesa Winery is located in Broomfield but uses Western Slope grapes.

Also new with this year’s Governor’s Cup is a separate judging by a different panel for cider, mead and all “other than standard” and agricultural wines.  Additionally, the event features small plate pairings made from locally sourced ingredients from six noted Colorado chefs.

Tickets ($60 for History Colorado members, and $75 general admission) are available online . The event begins at 7 p.m. for VIP entry; 7:30 p.m. for general public entry.visit .

Hopdoddy’s Special Banana Shake

Burger restaurant’s shakes come in unusual flavors & combos.

Hopdaddy-logoHopdoddy Burger Bar, whose sole Colorado outpost is by Denver’s Union Station, is known for unusual and varied burgers, beer and sweets. These include an  selection of interesting — make that unique — shakes:  Vanilla Bean,  Oreo Cookie,  Chocolate Stout,  Lemon Olive Oil Biscotti, Red Velvet Cake,  Caramel & Sea Salt and  Nutella & Chocolate Pretzel on the regular menu.

Now through August 2, the Austin-based burger place is also serving a current special, the  Frozen Banana Shake that features house-made ice cream blended with honey-roasted bananas and a rich chocolate sauce topped with whipped cream and a chocolate-dipped banana chip. The price: $6.

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Metate Room on List of Great Park Eateries

The Daily Meal likes SW Colorado restaurant.

DailyMeal-logoThe Daily Meal, a popular food site, loves “10 best lists.” The most recent is “America’s 10 Best Restaurants in Parks” — city parks, state parks and national parks. Listed as No. 4 is the Metate Room in Mesa Verde National Park. Though neglecting to mention the critical fact that the restaurant is open only seasonally (mid-April through late October), here’s write-up on the site:

Metate Room

Perched high in southwest Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park is Far View Lodge. From its 8,250-foot elevation, visitors can overlook four states while enjoying a contemporary menu at the Metate Room. Inspired by regional foods and flavors, the Metate Room does a stellar job of incorporating history into their menu. Specialty items to order: pork and chili stew, pueblo portobello stack or roasted vegetable salad.

Chinese Exotica in Boulder

Regional authenticity in North Boulder.

001Where a Subway once catered to staff from the now-shuttered Boulder Community Hospital’s Broadway building there is now a small and fairly new Chinese restaurant that appeals to those seeking more unusual dishes than the usual Cantonese/Szechuan/Hong Kong offerings.  Until I read about it recently (perhaps on another food blog), I hadn’t noticed Flower Pepper in that former Subway space. Its droopy, temporary-looking sign is under an awning and behind some trees is challenging to spot in passing.

Painfully tight space -- room enough for one table by the window. Images of Chinese markets and food hang on the wall.
Painfully tight space — room enough for one table by the window. Images of Chinese markets and food hang on the wall.

The offshoot of a  tea importing business, its menu is presumably limited by the kitchen that could be created in the wide and shallow space on the side of parking garage. Noodle and rice dishes predominate, though sadly not the soup dumpling I had somehow hoped for in this fast-casual spot. The tea, served in a thick white ceramic tumbler, was so hot that I couldn’t pick it up, even with two napkins, until I was finished with my food.

Excellent steamed wontons in delicate wrappers.
Excellent steamed wontons in delicate wrappers.

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Denver’s Big Eat Celebrates Indie Eateries

BigEat-logoThe BigEat, a festival of some of  Denver’s top independent restaurants, takes place in the covered arcade at the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Thursday, July 23 from 6 to 10 p.m. featuring bits and bites from more than 40 restaurants, plus cocktails from Denver’s top mixologists and craft beer from local  breweries.

The Big Eat promises “surprises and countless fun,” all to benefit Eat Denver, which believes that food is fuel for community. The organization says, “Through our food-focused passion, we increase the richness of dining experiences in our community and add to Denver’s unique flavor and cultural flair. Independence as path to engagement. The art of the original meal creates the pathway to one-of-a-kind experiences.”

Tickets are $55, with proceeds benefiting Work Options for Women, Denver Urban Gardens, Colorado Cooking Matters and Eat Denver. Click here for tickets.

Chefs Honored for Best Beer Pairings

Culinary competition featured nine chef, 37 beers & 18 dishes.

Pairsine-logoThe 2015 Pairsine/Taste of Elegance beer-pairing competition is in the can, so to speak. Nine Front Range chefs each prepared  two dishes to pair with beers that were winners in an earlier phase of the competition. A panel of judges (including yours truly) selected the Best Chef overall Billy Chartres of Stuft A Burger Bar, Fort Collins, and Most Creative Chef, an honor that went to Steven Chandler of the Omni Interlocken,  the Broomfield resort hotel where the event was held. People’s Choice honors went to Darrell Jensen of Samples World Bistro in Longmont.

Chefs and their assistants prepare tasting portions of two dishes for the crowd of Pairsine guests.
Chefs and their assistants prepare tasting portions of two dishes for the crowd of Pairsine guests.
Maia Parish, me, Jean-Luc Voegele and Rudi Helvig. Jean-Luc Voegele, a judge this time, has been a frequent winner of Pairsine events, both food and wine pairings.
Maia Parish, me, Jean-Luc Voegele and Rudi Helvig. Jean-Luc Voegele, a judge this time, has been a frequent winner of Pairsine events.

There always seem to a few dishes prepared by more than one chef but executed differently. This year, Chandler and Tim Berry  of Boulder’s Fate Brewing Company both made spring rolls. Chandler’s were soft and spicy; Berry’s held together and were crisp. William Merwin of The Blue Star in Colorado Springs and Kirk Spare of the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, not far from the Omni in Broomfield both made fried chicken. Merwin’s was cut into small tasting pieces that were skinless and crustless; Spare’s was hot and crisp. Merwin and Jensen both prepared versions of arancini. Merwin’s had a hint of coconut and accompanied cocoa-braised short ribs; Jensen’s rice balls encased chili con carne with cheddar in the middle.

The next event will be the 11th annual Denver International Wine Festival, October 28-30, and I’m looking forward to it already, since wine is more up my alley than beer.