Category Archives: Award

Another Year-End Accolade

Frasca honored yet again.

Gayot has released various end-of-year lists, including what it deems the 40 best  restaurants in the land. There is Boulder’s acclaimed Frasca Food and Wine, of which the site that refers to itself as “The Guide to the Good Life,” posts:

Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, takes diners on a journey through the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Chef/co-owner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson’s Northern Italian fare is masterfully complemented by co-owner Bobby Stuckey’s show-stopping wine list.

Read the full review for Frasca Food and Wine restaurant

Year-End Accolades

Annette best restaurant in Denver, Zagat’s #4 food city.

Year-end proclamations of the best this or the top that are conversational fodder for the food-obsessed. I always eagerly read them and report them here. Here are two that just broke.

Zagat has declared Denver to be the country’s No. 4 food city — beating out the likes of San Francisco, Seattle and New Orleans. Pretty heady stuff. Ruth Tobias explained it thus:

No. 4: Denver, CO

If major restaurant openings were the only criterion for a hot food city, Denver would be a shoe-in for a top 2017 slot. Nearly every established chef or restaurateur of the past several years either launched or is about to launch a new, landscape-changing hot spot. Case in point: James Beard awardees Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson debuted ​Tavernetta. Fellow recipient Jennifer Jasinski opened Ultreia. Nationally recognized innovators like Justin Cucci, brought us eye-popping penthouse tapas bar El Five, and Robert Thompson, opened a 32,000-sq.-ft. Punch Bowl Social in the control tower of the former Stapleton airport, of all incredible places. And that’s just to name a few.

Meanwhile, luxury and boutique hotels went up all over town anchored by splashy, ambitious destinations like Hearth & Dram, Citizen Rail, Quality Italian, Urban FarmerKachina and 20th-floor rooftop bar 54thirty. Still to come are The Ramble Hotel, home to NY-import Death & Co and the aforementioned Super Mega Bien, and The Source Hotel, expanding the groundbreaking RiNo food hall it’s named for. Speaking of food halls, Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace created a thriving outlet for acclaimed and breakout chefs and food producers in a former aviation factory; next year, Zeppelin Station will do the same on the RiNo light-rail corridor — not far from upcoming branches of Tyson Cole’s celebrated Uchi and Shake Shack.

Yet major openings aren’t the only criterion. The executives at Slow Food named Denver the new home of international conference Slow Food Nations, held annually in July. The producers of Top Chef also decided to film Season 15 here. In fact, it was Tom Colicchio himself who observed that Denver’s strong network of cultural support would guarantee its future, nurturing the talents of tomorrow. In short, as food towns go, the Mile High City has just hit the stratosphere.

And in our fab food city, Eater Denver just named Annette, an eclectic comfort food eatery in the Stanley Marketplace, as the Restaurant of the Year. The reasons:

In her quiet, cheerful leadership, a headband and high bun, [Caroline] Glover sets the tone for Annette. Originally from College Station, Texas, she has worked her way from a local Chili’s to The Spotted Pig in New York. There, after graduating from culinary school, Glover found her career path: “I think it definitely formed my palate more than anything else,” she says of working for chef April Bloomfield at the famous West Village gastropub. “I loved April’s palate. I love it still. It’s very simple, and clean, and bright. That’s definitely where it started for me.”

While people might expect white table cloths and tiny portions at a buzzy new Denver restaurant, Glover insists she’s only doing comfort food with a different approach. She keeps high chairs and kids menus, and for the adults, dishes that spin off au gratin potatoes, grilled chicken, and pecan pie. “This is what I want to make at home,” a regular has told her more than once.

At Annette, Glover and her husband and business partner Nelson Harvey are paying all of their employees equally. Let that sink in: “Everybody’s making the same amount of money, everybody’s helping each other out, and everybody’s responsible for the guests’ happiness. It falls on (servers) and it falls on my cooks, as it should, and my dishwasher,” Glover says.

It starts with every employee earning the same base wage and then pooling tips evenly. From the servers to the dishwashers and cooks, Glover says her staff should never earn below $18 per hour, even on a slow night. The result, she says, is that cooks can survive on one job, and servers who stick around are more invested in theirs. “We almost went back so many times,” Glover says of the policy, “but this is something I’ve always felt so strongly about. How could I do that? I worked my whole entire life for $11 an hour and couldn’t make ends meet. I don’t want to put anybody else in that position.” Much of Glover’s staff, starting with general manager Daniel Seibel, previously worked with her at Acorn at The Source.

Last week, during a typical dinner service, Glover and her team had the chance to cook for New York Times columnist and former restaurant critic Frank Bruni. The opportunity was serendipitous for Glover, who had cooked for Bruni before, during his review of the Spotted Pig. In 2006, the critic took aim at the Pig’s ridiculous wait time and unruly front of house (which has new meaning given recent news events). But he extolled chef Bloomfield’s food, from the “fantastic gnudi” to a “luscious smoked trout.”

When Bruni walked into Annette in Aurora, more than a decade later on a dinner interview with a politician, Glover had a stressed but familiar feeling. She turned to chefs Chelsey Maschhoff and Michelle Senna, and she decided to take a minute with them: “We’re going to put out the same food that we put out every single night,” she told the two, “but this is really cool, this is a really special moment.” The chefs would then gather themselves and prepare a grilled beef tongue and bone marrow toast, also a wood-fired half chicken — “perfect,” Bruni would later Tweet. But before that last social media review came in, and amid the shower of other recent accolades, two weeks before the holidays and the close of their first business year, Glover turned to her chefs and stopped the line just for a moment. She wanted to remind them and perhaps also herself: “Take it in.”

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

Kudos for The Kitchen

Boulder Restaurant cited by Food and Wine.

A Food and Wine magazine feature listed “The Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant in Every State.” For Colorado, The Kitchen in Boulder was honored. Here’s what the magazine thinks:

Colorado: The Kitchen

“Over the past five years in Boulder and Denver, I’ve noticed a big shift towards a vibrant restaurant scene with a palpable verve around sustainability,” said Toni Dash of Boulder Locavore. “Restaurants like Black Cat, Potager, and Fruition have really stepped up to the plate to deliver inspired seasonal cuisine.” Paving the farm-to-table way in Colorado is The Kitchen, which has establishments in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins and applies its strong eco-friendly philosophy—that includes everything from the locally sourced ingredients to wind power to composting—in each location. Founders Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Husk have also created a nonprofit that’s built over 200 Learning Gardens in schools in Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Memphis for 120,000 students to discover the benefits of growing and eating fresh healthy food.

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.

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.