All posts by Claire Walter

Denver Rises on Top Food Cities List

Mile High City on Zagat’s list of country’s  best cities for food.

Zagat-logoThe Zagat name has been synonymous with restaurant reviews and recommendations since Tim and Nina Zagat launched it in New York in 1982 as a compilation of diner reviews. It’s now an on-line empire with correspondents in what in considers to be worthy food cities. Zagat’s newly released list of “The 26 Hottest Food Cities of 2016.”

The write-up includes the links that Zagat typically inserts into all its posts, and the image accompanying the write-up is of Denver’s hot new Central Market in RiNo.

No. 3: Denver, CO

The best city for singles. For millennials. For entrepreneurs. For outdoorspeople. Over the past few years, Denver has ranked at or near the top of virtually every U.S. index there is; it was only a matter of time before outsiders “discovered” its dynamic dining scene too. This year alone, Nobu Matsuhisa, Gregory Gourdet, Deborah Schneider and Hugh Acheson staked claims here; Jeffrey Wall of Atlanta’s Kimball House is on his way, and so is the team behind New York’s Death & Co.

Meanwhile, there’s no stopping our homegrown talent. Beard award-winners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson (Frasca) will be opening Tavernetta soon; fellow recipient Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja et al.) is expanding her mini empire with Ultreia. Rising stars like Hop Alley’s Tommy Lee, The Way Back’s Chad Michael George, Joshua Pollack of Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen and Bar Dough’s Mac MacKissock have swiftly garnered national acclaim. The spotlight that was already trained on our impressive field of food halls (The Source, Avanti F&B, Union Station) just intensified with the opening of The Central Market; Stanley Marketplace will be even bigger. And though Denver’s long been at the craft-brewing forefront, it’s poised to break whole new ground (theoretically, at least) with the legalization of cannabis use in restaurants and bars. Innovationwise, this is the wonderfully Wild West all over again.

Ruth Tobias

Lyons Liqueur Medals in New York

Local liqueur features decaf coffee & clean alcohol.

richardosbottleRichardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur, a 40-proof liqueur made with naturally decaffeinated coffee, pure vanilla and neutral grain spirits, was awarded a Silver Medal at the 7th Annual New York International Spirits Competition. It is the fifth international award win for Richardo’s, which can be used in cocktails, cooking and baking, and served neat or over ice. Do alcohol and decaf coffee cancel each other out?

Richard England makes his liqueur through a patent-pending process blending neutral grain spirits with England’s signature mix of naturally decaffeinated coffee, high-quality vanilla and other ingredients, then aged for at least 30 days. England and his wife, Linda, started making Richardo’s in small batches in 1986 , mainly for family and friends. In 2012, he teamed up with Spirit Hound Distillers to take his recipe to production scale while still keeping the rich, creamy and smooth taste of the liqueur intact.

According to England, Richardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur is made with high-quality vanilla and decaffeinated coffee, which requires less sugar to overcome the natural bitterness of caffeine.

Made just outside Denver in Lyons, Colorado, Richardo’s is available at Spirit Hound Distillers tasting room on the east side of in Lyons. We’ve passed it a million times en route to Estes Park. We’ve got to stop next time for a distillery tour and to try some Richardo’s. If you aren’t going though Lyons, click here for Colorado liquor stores and restaurant where you can find it.  4196 Ute Highway (US Highway 36), Lyons; 303- 823-5696 (tasting room) or 720- 636-4525.

Roger Beery & His Wines in the Wall Street Journal

jcagecellars-logoA few years ago, at a wine event in a LoDo loft, I met Colorado wine-lovers Roger and Donna Beery. We chatted pleasantly and exchanged cards.  I have periodically, but not recently, checked their Bacchus & Beery wine blog.  They now split their time between Austin and Healdsburg, CA, where they established J. Cage Cellars, a winery named after Roger’s great grandfather, a Texas bridge-builder. They refer to it as “their wine-stained dream” and in fact, that’s what they named their newsletter.

The Beerys and their grown children are building a reputation with their award-winning wines, including several golds in 2014, 2015 and 2016 at the Denver International Wine Festival competition.  The Wall Street Journal profiled them yesterday in a retirement piece called “At Last, Becoming a Winemaker.” Happy to share this recognition, and I hope to try their wines along the way.

Centro’s Good Food but Poor Service

Perhaps an anomaly — or perhaps wait staff has gone downhill.

centro-logoI’m not much of a shopper, but I do my modest best to support local independent businesses on Small Business Saturday, an annual antidote to Black Friday frenzy. A downtown Boulder bead shop had the earring wires I needed, one bookstore always has good deals on calendars, another carried the Pam Houston book I wanted to read and one of the two arts coops had a jigsaw puzzle I had my eye on to bring as a host/ess gift to friends’ annual holiday open house.

Even that little shopping made my husband and me hungry (in our defense, we’d eaten tiny breakfasts and hadn’t had lunch). We decided on Centro Latin Kitchen, whose weekend brunch was still in effect. We took a table on the covered patio, ordered drinks and food. The drinks — mercifully strong enough to mellow the irritation that followed — were more or less promptly delivered, but when it came to food, we waited and waited and waited.  And did I mention that we waited? One adjacent table turned over completely, but our food was nowhere in sight — and neither was our server. Abducted by aliens?

We finally flagged down a runner and asked where out food might be.  That appeared to speed things up. When the waiter himself brought our order, he said he was “sorry” for the delay. I replied, “We’re even sorrier.” He offered to comp a dessert.

Shrimp a la plancha -- street taco size. The small corn tortilla was stuffed with shrimp4.5 corn tortilla, shredded cabbage, sliced carrot and jalapeño aioli
Shrimp a la plancha — street taco size. The small corn tortilla was stuffed with shrimp, shredded cabbage, sliced carrot and jalapeño aioli. It was a tasty mix.
Carnitas Benny is a Latin spin on eggs Benedict. On a base of a spicy smoked cheddar-green chile biscuit sit two poached eggs, slow- roasted pork and a really good roasted jalapeño hollandaise. Roasted potato chunks (called papas charros) are alongside.
Carnitas Benny is a Latin spin on eggs Benedict. On a base of a smoked cheddar-green chile biscuit sit two poached eggs, slow- roasted pork and a really good roasted jalapeño hollandaise. Roasted potato chunks (called papas charros) are alongside.

From the dessert menu, we selected tres leches cake, served cold so it should be delivered quickly — especially since by that time, the brunch crowd had gone. But again, we waited and we waited and we waited. Again, invisible waiter. This time, we flagged down a busser.

w single-0serve portion of this classic
Single-serve portion of this classic “three milk” cake sat in a milk pool and topped with whipped cream and apple-cherry preserve.

Again, I expressed my/our frustration at the disappointing service. The waiter offered to get the manager, who seemed able to determine from the register tape that we weren’t blowing smoke about our long waits. He gave us some reasons, and I said that it might have been nice it the waiter has stopped by our table with a work of explanation or at least apology. He agreed and offered to comp all the food.

For what it’s worth, Centro’s nom de cuisine is the ponderous Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace, which no one uses. Not ever,

Price check: At weekend brunch, small plates, $3-$8; tacos, $4.5; specialties (i.e., entrees), $7-$18; sides, $1-$5; desserts, $3-$6.

Centro is at 950 Pearl Street, Boulder; 303-442-7771.

Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brainy New Magazine for Home Cooks

Christopher Kimball, PBS alum, launches super-smart publication.

milkstmag-coverToday’s mail brought a plastic-wrapped copy of the inaugural issue of Milk Street Magazine, the erstwhile host of “America’s Test Kitchen” on PBS and founder of the esteemed Cooks Illustrated. ATK was a brainy cooking program about classic American fare — no gimmicks — hosted by Christopher Kimball. With his bow tie and his professorial demeanor, he gave credibility to the scholarly and analytical way that dishes were presented. The magazine is cleanly designed with legible type and excellent food photos.  And it is scholarly in its food history and cultural references.

I’m not up on the issues that resulted in Kimball’s departure from PBS, but Boston Magazine’sChristopher Kimball: Bow Ties, Recipes & Law Suits” provides some background and other tidbits.  I’m enjoying cruising through the stories and the recipes, but I’m thinking it might just be too detailed for me. I’ve toned down my kitchen ambitions. But if I decide to subscribe, six issues a year are $19.95 right now. Click here to subscribe for yourself or as a gift for the brainy cook in your life.

New Favorite Holiday Recipe

Roasted Cranberry & Grapes perfect side dish at a turkey dinner.

recipebox-jpgThanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was the first I took over from my mother decades ago. I love to prepare and eat the food, and friends always ask, “What can I bring?” I usually reply, “an appetizer, a side dish or a dessert.” My husband likes to make a mountain of mashed potatoes, and I select different versions of other classic dishes every year — soup, turkey (including stuffing and gravy) and cranberries.

I make two cranberry dishes every year — one the simple recipe from the back of the Ocean Spray package and one other. Below  is this year’s cranberry “other,” an unusual and tasty side dish:

Roasted Cranberries & Grapes

1 12-oz. bag or fresh cranberries
12 oz. black seedless grapes ( I used Moon Drops, which resemble plum tomatoes in size and shape)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 fresh rosemary sprigs

Combine all ingredients on a jelly roll pan. Toss to coat cranberries and grapes, and press the rosemary springs into the fruit mixture. Broil 6 minutes until fruit browns slightly and softens.

Mo9on Drop grapes.
Moon Drop grapes.
Roasted cranberry dish ready for the broiler.
Roasted cranberry dish ready for the broiler.

And guess who neglected to take a picture when the dish came out of the broiler?. Sorry.

Flagstaff House Chef Wins ‘Chopped’ Episode

Royster prevails in on Food Network show.

Addendum: The Denver Post ran an interesting piece on Royster after the competition, concluding with “Royster’s winning dessert will make its way onto the menu at Flagstaff House, and plans for a dinner featuring his ‘Chopped’ dinner are in the works.”

chopped-logoI recently posted an item about Chris Royster’s upcoming appearance on the Food Network’s “Chopped.” That episode, aired last night, and the Flagstaff House chef de cuisine came out the winner. The last two standing out of the initial field of four contenders turned out to be Colorado chefs. Royster’s runner-up was Brother Luck of namesake Brother Luck’s Street Eats in downtown Colorado Springs.

This episode was called “Beast Feast.” The  theme of this heavily formatted mano a mano a mano a mano was supposed to be “meat.” One of those “meats” was chicken, which I would classify as poultry. Oh well. Each contestant is presented with a four-ingredient box of items that must be used in creating a dish. These four have nothing  to do with each other (in fact, clash), and it is a testimony to their skills and creativity that they can produce anything edible or attractive in the required 30 minutes or less.

Immediately following this episode was a rerun of last week’s “Battle of the Butchers.” One of the contestants was from Denver’s Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, but frankly, I couldn’t bear watching another of these contrived programs. Remember, I’m the one who ardently dislikes the unreal realm of “reality” television — even as I celebrate the victory or even the appearance of any Colorado contestant.

In case I still have your interest, here’s how this excessively formatted show goes: “After each round, a rotating round of culinary judges critique the dishes based on presentation, taste and creativity. The judges then decide which chef is “chopped,” and that chef is eliminated from the competition. By the Dessert round, only two chefs remain. When deciding the winner, the judges consider not only the dessert course, but the entire meal presented by each chef as a whole. The winner of the competition receives prize money, usually in the amount of $10,000.”