Category Archives: Award

Boulder Weekly’s Best of Boulder List

Alternative weekly’s readers and editors select of many “bests” including restaurants

A supplement in the current Boulder Weekly features the always-anticipated Best of Boulder list. On the cover is Boulder’s own Top Chef winner, Hosea Rosenberg. The rankings are based on reader votes. As usual, I have issues with the Weekly‘s categories: There’s Italian but no French and no Mediterranean. There’s vegetarian but no no seafood and no steakhouse. There’s fine dining but no pub. There’s ice cream but no frozen yogurt and no separate gelato. In fact, other than the fact that he’s now a locally grown, legitimate food television star, there’s no reason to put Hosea on the cover, because Jax Fish House, where he is executive chef, only got a single honorable mention for “Best Overall.” Nevertheless, pick up your own copy of the Weekly to read the descriptions of the winners. Meanwhile, here’s the list from the “Food & Drink” section, plus my own comments:

The Mediterranean Restaurant
Runner-up: The Kitchen
Claire’s Comment: A tough category this appy-happy city, so I wonder why no runners-up?

Chez Thuy
Moongate Asian Grill
Runner-up: Hapa Sushi & Sake Bar
Honorable Mentions: Moongate Asian Bistro
Claire’s Comment: Moongate and Bimbamboo, which isn’t listed, are Asian fusion, but Hapa is Japanese and Chez Thuy serves Vietnamese and Chinese — no fusion about it.

Moe’s Broadway Bagel
Runner-up: Einstein Bros.
Honorable Mention: Big Daddy Bagels
Claire’s Comment: Moe’s has had a lock on this category for years — understandably.

Runner-up: Great Harvest
Claire’s Comment: Spruce Confections didn’t make the list? Maybe because the other two are known for bread, while Spruce Confections does pastry.

Mountain Sun & Southern Sun
Runner-up: Old Chicago
Claire’s Comment: Conor O’Neal’s has a pretty good choice of beer too.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Runner-up: The Kitchen
Claire’s Comment: How about the Chautauqua Dining Hall, if for no other reason than the atmosphere? A warm-weather brunch on the wrap-around porch is one of Boulder’s finest experiences.

Mountain Sun & Southern Sun
Runner-up: Dark Horse
Claire’s Comment: What? No VG Burger?

Runner-up: Dot’s Diner
Claire’s Comment: The hotel restaurants — notably Q’s and Jill’s — offer fine breakfasts too.

Illegal Pete’s
Runner-up: Chipotle
Claire’s Comment: Huge, over-stuffed tortillas are not my faves. Personally, I prefer the slimmer burritos offered in most Mexican restaurants.

The Mediterranean
Runner-up: The Kitchen
Claire’s Comment: I’d add Jill’s in the St. Julien and Q’s in the Boulderado, both located in good downtown hotels.

A Spice of Life
Runner-up: Who’s Got Thyme
Honorable Mention: Redstone Catering
Claire’s Comment: I’m guessing that relatively few readers have hired caterers. I like to cook, so it’s not a category I could even vote on.

Golden Lotus
Runner-up: Moongate Bistro
Honorable Mention: China Gourmet
Claire’s Comment: The honorable mention restaurant is my Boulder favorite.

The Laughing Goat
Runner-up: Vic’s
Honorable Mention: Amante
Claire’s Comment: My pick would be the Book End, next to the Boulder Bookstore — as usual. I meet friends there on Friday mornings and like the way they do coffee — and their house-baked breakfast pastries are first-rate.

The Kitchen
Runner-up: The Mediterranean
Honorable Mentions: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, Frasca Food & Wine
Claire’s Comment: I’m glad the Weekly cleaned up this category. In the past, bakeries, ice cream dipping stores and chocolatiers were included, muscling out restraurants.

Frasca Food & Wine
Runner-up: The Kitchen
Honorable Mention: Flagstaff House
Claire’s Comment: I’d put L’Atelier, Alba and John’s right up there too.

Half Fast Subs
Runner-up: The Sink
Claire’s Comment: I’m glad the paper added this category, because The Hill is such a big part of the Boulder scene.

The Mediterranean
Runner-up: Boulder Café
Honorable Mention: Mountain Sun & Southern Sun
Claire’s Comment: Add Brasserie Ten Ten, Tahona Tequila Bistro, Laudisio’s, Seven and Arugula.

Glacier Homemade Ice Cream and Gelato
Runner-up: Ben & Jerry’s
Honorable Mention: Cold Stone Creamery
Claire’s Comment: No frozen yogurt category?

Sherpa’s Adventurers Restaurant & Bar
Runner-up: The Taj
Honorable Mention: Tandoori Grill
Claire’s Comment: Ghurka’s is interesting too, but being in Gunbarrel, seems off a lot of readers’ radar screens.

Laudisio Ristorante
Runner-up: Pasta Jay’s
Honorable Mentions: Carelli’s, Radda Trattoria
Claire’s Comment: Hello-o-o-o-o! Frasca serves the cuisine of Friuli, which is part of Italy. Alba, Arugula and Trattoria on Pearl are also excellent. And Pasta Jay’s popularity continues to mystify me.

Jamba Juice
Runner-up: Rush
Honorable Mention: Berry Best Smoothie Company Inc
Claire’s Comment: I occasionally get a good pick-me-up smoothie at Whole Foods too.

Abo’s Pizza
Runner-up: Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar
Honorable Mention: Cosmo’s Pizza, Pizza Colore
Claire’s Comment: I am never up late for food in Boulder, but I kind of like the idea that Baked in Boulder bakes and delivers cookies and more in the wee hours.

Amante Coffee
Runner-up: Vic’s
Honorable Mention: The Laughing Goat
Claire’s Comment: Isn’t this essentially the same category as Coffee House? Same top three, just in a different order.

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant
Runner-up: Tahona Tequila Bistro
Honorable Mentions: Zolo Grill, Efrain’s
Claire’s Comment: That would pretty much be my list too.

Jax Fish House
Runner-up: The Kitchen
Honorable Mention: b.SideLounge
Claire’s Comment: T-Zero Bar in the St. Julien makes great drinks in a terrific urban-bar setting — raises the bar on bars, you might say.

Runner-up: Zolo Grill
Honorable Mentions: Juanita’s, Grande Restaurant
Claire’s Comment: Ajua Ajua and Juanita’s are is pretty good too.

Mountain Sun & Southern Sun
Runner-up: Walnut Brewery, Left Hand Brewing Company
Honorable Mentions: Avery Brewing
Claire’s Comment: Not being much of a beer drinker, I abstain, except to note I’ve heard great things about Oskar Blues in Lyons and Longmont

Happy Noodle House
Runner-up: Arugula Bar e Ristorante
Honorable Mention: Baker Street Pub & Grill
Claire’s Comment: I’d be happier with the Happy Noodle House if there was more oomph to the food.

Runner-up: The Leaf
Claire’s Comment: Owner/chef Eric Skokan of Black Cat actually has his own small farm now, but has been growing much his own organic ingredients for several years.

The Mediterranean
Runner-up: The Kitchen
Honorable Mention: Jax Fish House
Claire’s Comment: All very good, but my list would probably be a little different.

Runner-up: Abo’s
Honorable Mention: Nick-N-Willy’s
Claire’s Comment: Though it’s not my favorite pizza on the planet, I rather like having a BeauJo’s back in Boulder — but the original in Idaho Springs remains an iconic tradition. Also, Laudisio’s, while not a pizzeria, makes excellent individual pies.

Red Robin
Runner-up: Boulder County Farmers’ Market
Honorable Mention: Noodles & Company
Claire’s Comment: China Gourmet gets my vote. Kids need to learn to eat something other than burgers, fries and mac-n-cheese.

Chautauqua Dining Hall
Runner-up: The Mediterranean
Honorable Mention: West End Tavern
Claire’s Comment: Anyplace along the Pearl Street Mall where outdoor seating is not against automobile bumpers.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Runner-up: The Kitchen
Honorable Mentions: Frasca Food & Wine, Flagstaff House
Claire’s Comment: John’s in an intimate cottage is lovely and romantic.

Frasca Food & Wine
Runner-up: The Kitchen
Honorable Mention: Restaurant 4580
Claire’s Comment: The Flagstaff House has maintained high standards of service for decades.

John’s Restaurant
Runner-up: Flagstaff House
Honorable Mention: Frasca Food & Wine
Claire’s Comment: Yes, yes and yes — plus L’Atelier and Jill’s in the St. Julien.

Runner-up: Salvaggio’s Italian Deli
Honorable Mentions: Half Fast Subs, Deli Zone
Claire’s Comments: Jimmy & Drew’s 28th Street Deli to fill an East Coast sandwich craving.

Sushi Zanmai
Runner-up: Sushi Tora
Honorable Mentions: Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar, Japango
Claire’s Comment: Same as before, except the winner and the runner-up are flipped.

Noodles & Company
Runner-up: Snarf’s
Honorable Mentions: Nick-n-Willy’s, China Gourmet
Claire’s Comment: How about little Kim’s, which is take-out only, dispensing to-go Vietnamese and Chinese food?

Dushanbe Teahouse
Runner-up: Pekoe Sip House
Honorable Mentions: The Tea Spot, Celestial Seasonings
Claire’s Comment: OK, so I’m splitting tea leaves, but Boulder has one teahouse. The others are “tea cafes,” but not teahouses as understood on the continent where teahouses were born, so in my view, this is a misnamed category.

Khow Thai
Runner-up: Siamese Plate
Honorable Mentions: Chy Thai, Bhudda Cafe
Claire’s Comment: I also miss Yummy Yummy in Louisville, but otherwise, this would be my list too.

Sunflower Restaurant
Runner-up: The Leaf
Honorable Mentions: Turley’s
Claire’s Comment: Boulder being Boulder, even a traditional steakhouse like The Cork is vegetarian-friendly.

Chez Thuy
Runner-up: May Wah
Claire’s Comment: Kim’s Vietnamese and Chinese, that endearing little take-out place on the corner of Broadway and University, should be on this list too.

Frasca Food & Wine
Runner-up: Flagstaff House
Honorable Mention: The Kitchen
Claire’s Comment: I’d actually flip the top two. Frasca has an excellent but tightly focused wine list. The Flagstaff House, with its 160-page wine list and 20,000-bottle wine cellar actually has a far better selection.

2009 Awards Honor Top Cookbooks

Presitigious Awards given at the 2009 IACP convention in Denver

The International Association of Culinary Professionsal closing gala dinner was the presentation site for the 2009 IACP Cookbook Awards (previously called the Tastemaker Awards, until Rochester-based R.T. French Company of mustard fame) cancelled its sponsorship. This year’s winners:

Book of the Year

A16: Food & Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren with Kate Leahy, Ten Speed Press

American/National Cattelman’s Beef Association Award
Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes (revised) by Arthur Schwartz, Ten Speed Press

The Art and Soul of Baking, for Sur La Table by Cindy Mushet, Andrews McMeel Publishing

Chefs & Restaurants/California Table Grape Commission Award
Chanterelle by David Woltuck and Andrew Friedman, photography by Maria Robledo, Taunton Press Inc.

The Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook by Barbara Fairchild, John Wiley & Sons

First Book/Julia Child Award
A16: Food & Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren with Kate Leahy, Ten Speed Press

Food Photography & Styling
Chanterelle by David Woltuck and Andrew Friedman, photography by Maria Robledo,Taunton Press Inc. (Claire’s note: Since this award included styling, I wonder who the stylist was.)

Food Reference & Technical
The Science of Good Food by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss with Philip Handel, Ph.D., Robert Rose Inc.

Do It For Less! Weddings: How to Create Your Dream Wedding Without Breaking the Bank by Denise Vivaldo, Sellers Publishing

Health and Special Diet
The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger, Editors: Taunton Press

International/Le Cordon Bleu Award
Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Artisan Books

Literary Food Writing/Cuisinart Award
Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Single Subject
Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient by Jennifer McLagan, Ten Speed Press

Wine, Beer and Spirits
Ciderland by James Crowden, Birlinn Limited

Congratulations to all!

Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs 2009 Announced

Coast-to-coast chefs on latest list, but none in Colorado

After much speculation and Twitter clues dropped by Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin, the magazine’s Ten Best New Chefs of 2009 were announced in New York yesterday. The ten were actually eleven, because two chef partners in one restaurant were selected this year. No fooling. The winners:

Every chef and every restaurant has a story. For instance, Bon Appetit previously had called Reef America’s top seafood restaurant. Dotolo and Shook (the former extremely tattooed) moved from Florida to L.A., started a catering business called Caramelized Productions that was featured on the Food Network (“Two Dudes Catering”) and then opened their dream restaurant there. Kelly English (a he-Kelly, not a she-Kelly) is a Louisiana native who brought his French-Creole cuisine north to Tennessee. Linton Hopkins was also a James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast this year. Beast is an innovative, acclaimed prix fixe resaurant. Across the country, Corton on Hudson, also known for its prix fixe menu, is a Tribeca restauant and a play on words with the upriver town, Croton-on-Hudson but was actually named for a Grand Cru region of France.

These chefs will be featured on the cover of Food & Wine’s June issue and will be honored again at the Food and Wine Classic at Aspen. No Best New Chef from the Centennial State this year, but at least we get to meet them.

Denver’s Rioja Awarded Fourth AAA Diamond

Coveted AAA honor awarded to popular Larimer Square restaurant

Rioja has just become Denver’s third restaurant to receive the Four Diamond rating, putting it among the top 3 percent of restaurants nationally to have achieved this level and earning it a prominent spot in AAA’s 2009 Denver Tour Book. Chef/partner Jennifer Jasinski and GM/partner Beth GruitchVerucchi (right) opened Rioja in 2004, and the AAA recognition is just the most recent of a slew of national and local honors.

AAA’s Diamond rating program reviews hotels and restaurants throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean for consideration in its annual travel guide. A Four Diamond rating (out of five) is defined by AAA as “establishments that are upscale in all areas, are progressively more refined and stylish, the physical attributes reflect an obvious enhanced level of quality throughout, and include an extensive array of amenities combined with a high degree of hospitality, service, and attention to detail.”

Rioja is at 1431 Larimer Street, Denver; 303-820-2282.

Hooray for Hosea

Boulder chef Hosea Rosenberg took it all on the “Top Chef” finale telecast this evening. The Big Red F Restaurant Group, David Query’s multi-restaurant company that owns Jax Fish House where Hosea is the chef, threw a media party this evening. The celebrants took over the rooftop terrace of the West End Tavern, which they also run. I’m in Snowmass so couldn’t attend, but I was there in spirit.

Colorado Chefs in the Running for High Honors

State is well represented on TV’s ‘Top Chef’ and for Beard Foundation honors

Boulder’s Hosea Rosenberg (Jax Fish House) is still in contention for “Top Chef” honors on the highly rated Bravo TV reality show. The first part of this season’s programs that winnowed the field from 17 (including Centro’s sous-chef Melissa Harrison) to four was shot in New York. For the final episodes, the show moved to New Orleans. Three days ago, the Daily Camera’s Cindy Sutter wrote a front page feature called “Jax cook Hosea Rosenberg in ‘Top Chef’ Final Four“about his climb to the upper reaches of the program’s pyramid. Tune in on Wednesday to see how he continues to fare.

Meanwhile, the James Beard Foundation unveiled its preliminary list of semifinalist nominees for 2009 chef and restaurant honors. Colorado contenders are:

Boulder’s Frasca Food & Wine has previously been multiply honored by the Beard Foundation, as reported here. My fingers are crossed that Colorado chefs and restaurants are similarly favored this year. These Beard honors (even the nominations) are huge in the culinary world — and winning “Top Chef” is equally big in popular food-oriented broadcast entertainment.

Monday Menu at Fabulous Frasca

Perfection is practiced at Boulder’s most acclaimed restaurant. On Mondays, choices are simplified & prices are lower

On my (too) few previous visits to Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder’s award-winning restaurant, I’ve had a devil of a time deciding what to eat. The menu has always been written with several courses of seasonal enticements. The restaurant’s Monday night prix fixe menu removes the agony of decision, because only one dish is offered for each of the four courses — and the choice of supplemental starters is also limited. Frankly, I was a bit relieved not to have to narrow down the selection from the usual array of enticing options when my husband, my son and I dined there yesterday evening.

I tried to remain unobtrusive in this refined restuarant and therefore did not use the flash, so please do not hold the quality of the images against Frasca. The plates and linens really are bright white, and the food shows more color than these flash-free photos convey.

Frasca’s quiet elegance, perfect service, meticulous northern Italian cuisine from the talented chef/partner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and exemplary wine list overseen by master sommelier/partner Bobby Stuckey have been lauded over and over — and honored again and again. The food, the wine, the service and the ambiance were as polished as always. Last year, while writing a roundup of Boulder resaurants, I spoke with Stuckey and asked how they keep their many honors from going to their heads. “It makes us work even harder to surpass expectations,” he told me. Frasca describes itself as a “neighborhood restaurant,” but few neighborhoods in the US are as fortunate as ours. For us especially, Frasca really is a neighborhood restaurant — just a short walk from our home.

Dinner at Frasca has a quiet rhythm. Water (tap or bottled) is poured into goblets, and two hefty slices of artisanal bread are placed on each bread plate. A modest bit of wine (called a tajut) is poured of while guests browse the menu — and this lovely welcome gesture is made even when there is no decision-making involved but, rather, only a quick read of the evening’s limited offerings. On Monday, the kitchen also sent out complimentary canapes of smoked salmon topped with sweet grilled onion (below) Our only real decisions were whether also to have a “pre-antipasto” and whether to order glasses of wine, a bottle or wines Stuckey had selected to pair with each course — and we all decided on the wine pairing.

The additional starters included a salumi plate (prosciutto and speck, both from northern Italy, and a Tuscan-style salami from California); a plate of spiced almonds, peanuts and cashews, or cole slaw. The salumi looked wonderful, but when I wondered out loud whether we would have room for the dinner that followed if we filled up first, our waiter suggested a half-order (below), with pencil-thin breadsticks called grissini and a horseradish sauce called rafano. And that’s what we did.

Then we launched into the Monday menu, starting with an antipasto consisting of frico caldo, a small brick of bits of potato, onion, nutmeg and Parmigiano Reggiano cooked in oil until golden brown. I can only irreverently describe them as perfect hash browns with a Friuli accent, but what a difference that accent makes, elevating a simple dish to something worthy of a fine-dining restaurant. This is one of Mackinnon-Patterson’s seasonal dishes, and his recipe has been published serveral times. The frico caldo came with two disks of house-made mortadella, bologna’s very rich cousin from Italy, and a crown of crisp shaved cabbage.

The pasta course, called Primo on the menu, was Riso Vialone di Nano (below). This sinfully rich risotto studded with small pieces of diver scallop and celery root was made autumnal with sage. The presentation of this dish, like all those at Frasca’s, was simple, but adornment for the sake of adornment is not Mackinnon-Patterson’s style.

Secondo was grilled veal with fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions and broccoli (below). The last time I had veal is lost in the mists of pre-history, but this veal was grass fed in Oklahoma and showed red center when prepared — more like healthy baby beef than the anemic pallor of caged calves.

The dessert was a slim wedge of faulous rich and crunchy cranberry walnut tart with a hefty chunk of gorgeous Gorgonzola huddled up against it.

Price check: The Monday night dinner is $45 for four courses, including the tajut. A paired wine flight is an additional $43, but there is no requirement to order it. Yesterday’s wine flight consisted of three paired wines from Colle Duga of Friuli: a 1996 Tocai, a 2007 Bianco and a 2005 Merlot. On other evenings, the four-course prix fixe dinner is $62, but it does offer a selection of dishes for each course.

Frasca is located at 1738 Pearl Street, Boulder; 303-442-6966.
Frasca Food & Wine on Urbanspoon