All posts by Claire Walter

New Executive Chef at Gateway Canyons

Hartwell now heads culinary team at luxe resort in western Colorado.  

I’ve never been to, much less dined at, the Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa, a world-class destination practically at the Utah state line. But I’m impressed at the credentials of the new executive chef. Thomas Hartwell has accepted position at the resort in the spectacular Unaweep Canyon. Its remoteness alone is a challenge, and so are  the five dining facilities (Entrada, Paradox Grille, Kiva Café Cantina and Duesey’s Diner) with different styles. The combination is a challenge.

Like other leading chefs, Hartwell began his restaurant career modestly, first as a prep cook and busboy at the Stage Door Restaurant outside Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  After holding several positions at various restaurants in his home state of Michigan, he moved to Santa Rosa, California to join the team at Restaurant Matisse, a French-inspired California cuisine restaurant under the guidance of Chef Michael Hirschberg.  From there, he landed a coveted internship at Michelin-starred Land Hoff in Solingen, Germany.   

Chef Robert Hartwell

Over the years, Hartwell also held culinary positions at The Westin Copley Place in Boston and at the historic Boston Park Plaza Hotel under Chef Roland Z.  He then opened his own restaurant, The Old Stone Farm House, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Prior to joining the team at Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa, Hartwell served as chef de cuisine at the Meritage Hotel and Resort in Napa and also  the popular restaurant, Zuzu, in downtown Napa for four years.  

The elegant adobe-style resort, offering a whole lot more than just food and scenery, has enjoyed recognition beyond our red-rock country. Among its awards, in 2017 it was named the #3 “Best Resort in the West” in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards competition, #52 in the Top 100 Hotels in the World category and #11 in the Top 15 Resort Hotels in the Continental United States category. Seems as if Gateway Canyons and Chef Hartwell are a good match. And perhaps I will get there someday.

Colorado Chefs in Colombia

I don’t usually do follow-up picture posts, but I was so tickled that two Colorado chefs were invited to cook at a culinary festival in Barranquilla, Colombia, that I wrote a post.  Diane Coohill sent me this picture from opening day of the festival. After this, she and Chef Tom are going on a trek to Everest base camp in Nepal. Classic Coloradans!

From left, Tom Coohill and Diane Coohill of Coohill’s in Denver, and Daniel Asher of River & Woods in Boulder at a gastronomic festival in Barranquilla, Colombia.

SOL Tweaks Its Menu

Mexican food with style in Cherry Creek.

A few days after Denver’s spacious and attractive SOL Mexican Cocina celebrated its first birthday, the Baja-inspired restaurant rolled out new happy hour items and  resized lunch offerings (smaller  renditions of its generous dinner portions). I had the fortunate opportunity to join a couple of hours of sampling many dishes emanating from the glassed-in kitchen presided over by Cortland Collins, elevated from sous-chef to executive chef not long ago. And then, there were the restaurant’s award-winning margs.

Just about everything is made in house, save for the tortillas, which are made to SOL’s specifications by the esteemed La Tolteca Foods in Pueblo. At Cherry Creek rents, it would be foolish to have an in-house production set-up for the quantity they need.

Summery watermelon margarita, judges’ No. 1 choice cocktail at the recent Top Taco event.
Huge tortilla chips with two salsas — tomatillo-chipotle and black bear — made fresh every day.
Tortilla with a floating island of thin avocado slices.
Watermelon copita with cubes of sweet melon, salt, ground chile and lime wedges.
Mexx Chopp Salad (yes, that’s how SOL spells it) — this version with beef.

Continue reading SOL Tweaks Its Menu

Top 10 Listing for Colorado Mountain Winefest

USA Today’s selections puts upcoming festival in the spotlight. 

Just as a prelude to the upcoming Colorado Mountain Wine Festival (September 14-17) comes word that it was voted the best wine festival in the U.S. by USA Today’s 10Best website. That’s right: THE BEST in the whole country, even beating out New York and Chicago.

A panel of wine and travel experts nominated 20 of the best festivals celebrating wine, wine culture and wine tourism across the country’s top wine-making regions. The panel included Jill Barth, an internationally published wine writer and journalist; Jil Child, partner and co-owner of Wine Tours of the World; and Karen MacNeil, one of the foremost wine experts in the U.S. Readers pared the nominee list by half to come up with the 10 winners.

The Top 10
(In addition to being thrilled that a Colorado festival took the top spot, I’m happy that Charlottesville, Virginia, was voted #3 — good news for a city recently in the headlines for terrible reasons.)

  1. Colorado Mountain Winefest – Palisade, Colo.
  2. Vintage Ohio – Kirtland, Ohio
  3. Virginia Wine Summit – Charlottesville, Va.
  4. Finger Lakes Wine Festival – Watkins Glen, N.Y.
  5. Chicago Gourmet – Chicago
  6. Hawaii Food & Wine Festival – Honolulu
  7. BottleRock Napa Valley – Napa, Calif.
  8. Taste of Sonoma – Sonoma, Calif.
  9. New York City Wine & Food Festival – New York
  10. Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest – Rhinebeck, N.Y.

    Click here for a list of participating wineries and here for a schedule of events, which include wine country tours, tastings, pairings and the big “Festival in the Park” on the 16th. It is the state’s largest and oldest wine festival featuring more than 55 Colorado wineries, live music, a grape stomp, live demonstrations and seminars.

 

A Corner of N’Awlins Now in Boulder

French Quarter Brasserie now open on Pearl Street Mall. 

After months of renovations to turn the former Paradise then Panera bakery space into a restaurant, the French Quarter Brasserie opened last Friday in Boulder. We went this evening, and considering that this is the third location (Washington, D.C., and Fairfax, Virginia being the first two), this restaurant just didn’t seem ready for prime time.

The décor is simple with barely adorned brick walls and low lights. The recorded jazz is LOUD. But then again, almost every eatery in Boulder these days is LOUD — some worse than others. The restaurant is just one door away from Broadway, so  traffic noise and busker noise (the one outside today was blowing a trumpet and tap dancing) compete with the music.

Ringside table for the passing parade on the Mall — this being one little moment when no one was walking by.

The awning says “French Quarter Brasserie and Oyster Bar.” I don’t know where they hid the oyster bar, but I sure didn’t see one. A few minutes after 6, there were a handful of happy hour lingerers on the patio,  only one party in the large restaurant area and no one at the bar. Still, service was pitifully slow. There was a hostess, a bartender and (I think) three waiters, but I wonder whether there was anyone in the kitchen. One supposed-to-be hot entrée and one salad took a very long time to come out. And even then, cold  rice was not  most promising  foundation for the classic red beans, andouille sausage (veggie version) and rice dish.

Also discouraging was that none of the staff who had very little to do bothered picking up the two cardboard coasters that had blown onto the patio floor. Did no one see them? (I was tempted to post a picture, but ultimately decided not to. Wrong decision.)

Fried foods dominate, so the still-gleaming kitchen has a six-basket Fryolator.

I don’t know what the East Coast locations are like, or whether this one will survive or thrive, but I’m disinclined to return — except perhaps for $1 oysters at happy hour. I wonder what happy hour wine pricing might be, because my very modest pour of rosé was $10 at dinner.

Red beans, andouille sausage and rice was supposed to come with corn bread but it didn’t. We didn’t notice — and neither did our waiter.
A salad of “blackened” mahi-mahi atop spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers served with an indiscernible amount of Parmesan, croutons and blood orange vinaigrette.
A shareable trio of beignets — chocolate, classic and honey — with an appropriately generous amount of powdered sugar.

Price check: At dinner, starters, $10-$25; entrées, $18-$35; entrée accoutrements (i.e., sides), $6-$12. No desserts are priced on the dinner menu. At lunch, they are $5-$8.

1207 Pearl Street, Boulder. No local phone number yet on the website. And nothing yet on Zomato.com.

Potato Day & Potato Fest

Celebrating the spud nationally and in Colorado.

Today, August 19, is National Potato Day — right between National Fajita Day (yesterday) and World Humanitarian Day (tomorrow).  Potato promoters offer up statistics and recipes galore, but for Coloradans, the real celebration is Saturday, September 9 when the annual Colorado Potato Festival takes place in the San Luis Valley.

Monte Vista in the southern part of the valley hosts the festival in Chapman Park (4 Chico Camino, Monte Vista), 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day is filled with mostly FREE fun activities and events like the Tater Trot 5K Race, music, crafts, guided tours, kids’ games, chef demos using freshly harvested Colorado potatoes, the infamous Mashed Potato Dunk Tank and more.

There’s a free four-hour bus tour of the valley’s potato farms  and shipping centers and two one-hour train tours, also free  courtesy of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad.  Contact the Colorado Potato Assn. (719-852-3322) to reserve spots on the bus. but you can just show up for the train. It departs from Fullenwider Park, so there’s a free tractor-pulled shuttle between the two parks.

At 5 p.m., a concert by country star Brooke Eden takes place at the Ski Hi Park Arena, 2331 Sherman Ave., Monte Vista. Tickets are just 15. Purchase on-line before August 25 and be automatically entered into a drawing for four tickets to Coors Field for the Rockies versus the Diamondbacks and parking.

Two Colorado Chefs to Cook in Colombia

Tom Coohill and Daniel Asher at gastronomic fest.

Tom Coohill, chef and co-owner of the Denver restaurant that bears his name, and Daniel Asher of Boulder’s River & Woods  recently made their second trip this year to Washington, D.C., to work with Plate of the Union, a food advocacy organization that is working to address hunger issues through the 2018 Farm Bill.

Soon they are heading to South America for the 10th annual El Sabor Barranquilla Gastronomic Festival in Barranquilla, Colombia, August 25-27. They will demonstrate cooking techniques and participate in culinary forums using his recipes and the Colombian region’s ingredients.

El Sabor Barranquilla is a three-day event focusing on the foods of the Caribbean, with cooking demonstrations and contests, forums exploring biodiversity, sustainability, culinary techniques and advances, and a variety of dishes cooked by chefs from around the world.

 “A crew came out from SaborUSA TV last year to film at the restaurant, and things went so well that they reached out for this event,” says Chef Tom, who will be accompanied by his wife and Coohills co-owner Diane Coohill. “They’re flying me and Daniel down there, and as we proved in D.C. recently, Daniel and I work well together. So, I think this is a great opportunity to have a really cool cultural exchange through food.”