Category Archives: Boulder

Celebrating First Bite Boulder

At the halfway point of First Bite Boulder, a local advertising, strategic planning and branding firm called the Sterling-Rice Group hosted a reception to celebrate the first annual city-wide restaurant week, whose name and logo it was instrumental in creating. Wine, beer, soft drinks and a quartet of hors d’oeuvres were set out in advance, but the real highlight of the evening was a demonstration by Hosea Rosenberg, executive chef of Jax Fish House. Focusing on seasonality and the impending Thanksgiving holiday, Rosenberg made half-a-dozen dishes with his own not-so-secret ingredient: sweet potatoes. These luscious autumn tubers are low in calories and pack a nutritional wallop.

Sterling-Rice’s client roster includes a number of food and beverage corporations (Nestle, Horizon Organic Dairy, Frito-Lay, Kraft, Kellogg’s Tropicana, Starbucks, Heinz, Quaker Oats, Fantastic Foods, Hellmans, Coors and Celestial Seasonings) and one of their top executives is culinary director Cathryn Olchowy (Johnson & Wales culinary grad and MBA holder), which makes it all the more remarkable that they took on a one-week, local restaurant festival.

Rosenberg made Sweet Potato Bisque (served in tall tall shot glasses), Sweet Potato Hash, Sweet Potato Corn Muffins, Sweet Potato Chipotle Gratin and Sweet Potato Souffle. The photo above shows him cutting the peeled sweet potatoes for his gratin (recipe below), which would be ideal for a Southwestern-themed Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd, but could easily be reduced for fewer people:

Sweet Potato Chipotle Gratin

1 large yellow onion
3 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper
5 pounds of sweet potatoes
1/2 can chipotles in adobo
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup Gruyere or other Swiss cheese, grated
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Peel and slice onion. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and cook onions with a little salt and pepper until soft. Turn up heat and cook until onions begin to caramelize, being careful not to let them burn. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel sweet potatoes. Using a mandolin or slicer (or sharp knife), cut potatoes into thin strips. Oil or grease the bottom of a two-inch-deep baking pan and place an even layer of potatoes on the bottom. The “pattern” resembles shingles. Sprinkle with a small amount of the cheeses, onions, salt and pepper, distributed evenly over the sweet potatoes. Repeat process, ending with a layer of potatoes. Press down with a spatula to even the layers. Pour cream over the potatoes and top with remaining cheese. Cover with foil, being careful not to permit the foil to touch the cheese. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and pierce with a knife to make sure the potatoes are thoroughly cooked. Allow to rest before slicing; slice as you would a lasagna.

After we feasted on sweet potatoes, a group of us continued to celebrate. Sterling-Rice clients include Applebee’s and some other chain, but fortunately, we headed for Mateo, where we enjoyed the First Bite Boulder menu. See the Dining Diary on my website for a review.

An eyeball evaluation of First Bite Boulder gives it high marks. En route to Sterling-Rice’s offices and then to Mateo, I walked past a number of participating restaurants. While I didn’t see any out-the-door lines, most tables appeared occupied. And that was the whole idea.

First Bite at Aji

Aji is Boulder’s newest South American restaurant

My husband and a friend an I took advantage of the great prices during the First Bite Boulder promotion to visit Aji Restaurant, a South American restaurant east of the Pearl Street Mall and a few blocks from our home. The food was wonderful, the portions ample and the price appealing. For a review, please go to my website’s Dining Diary.

Beyond our own satisfying meal, I have to sing the praises of cities and participating restaurateurs that team up to offer well-priced meals for a special week each year. Denver does a Restaurant Week each February, following the lead of such culinary meccas as San Francisco and Seattle. Whatever these promotional weeks are called and whenever they fall on the calendar, they provide an opportunity for diners to try places they haven’t been or to return to a favorite without running up a huge bill.

Powells Has Landed

When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, my favorite treat place was the Ice Cream Parlor (or maybe Parlour) in Westport. This recreation of a Gay Nineties ice cream parlor had small marble tables, wire-back chairs, an old-fashioned soda fountain (that made free ice cream sundaes or banana splits for anyone with a birthday) and employees in old-style garb. The boys wore striped shirts, white pants, suspenders, straw boaters and, for a while, faux handlebar moustaches. The girls’ outfits were similar to square dancers’ dresses.

Powell’s Sweet Shoppe has now landed on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. There’s no sit-down eating, there’s gelato instead of Borden’s (or whatever the Ice Cream Parlor/Parlour dished up), and the staff isn’t costumed. But oh, that penny candy to tickle the kid in us all. Lollipops, dots, small candy bars (including half-forgtten retro brands), jellybeans and M&M’s in all sorts of colors, filled candies, animal-shaped candies, gum, Pez refills (and dispensers to put them in) and much more. There’s even fine chocolate in bars or by the piece for the grownup in us, but that’s not why I’d go there.

Powell’s is based in San Francisco, and while I’ll still support buy boxes of Belgian-style fine chocolates from Colorado-based Belvedere Chocolates a couple of blocks away when I need a gift for a chocoholic and Rocky Mountain Chocolates when I’m wandering by and want a small chocolate fix. But when I want something cheery and smile-provoking, or when I just want to get in touch with my inner sweet-toothed child, I’ll be heading to Powells.

Boulder Dining Deals

First Bite Boulder (Nov. 11-18) is a week-long opportunity to try a new eatery or return to a favorite at a good price. Three-course meals at some of the city’s best restaurants from Aji to Zolo will be just $26 per person. Beverages, tax and gratuities are, of course, additional. Go to First Bite’s website and click on ‘Restaurants’ for a complete list, as well as click-on menus and, in some cases, links to on-line reservations. I’ve been to many of these restaurants myself and have posted writeups on my website ; click on ‘Dining Diary’ and use the clickable index to see whether I’ve reviewed the restaurant that interests you.

Speaking to Bookstore Luncheon

In the year-plus after Culinary Colorado was published, I traveled all over the state giving talks, presenting my slide show, appearing on panels and signing books. Over time, those promotional activities tapered off. Yesterday, I was one of the two authors invited to speak at the Rocky Mountain Skyline Bookstore Association luncheon in Fort Collins — the first time in months I’ve done such a presentation for this book.

It was a beautiful day for the drive (though the aggressive sprawl and the “de-ruralization” in the Berthoud-Loveland area was a shocker, but that’s another matter). The attendees were book people are with college and university bookstores, mostly from the Front Range. Questions are always enlightenting, and it was surprising how many were also foodies or married to foodies. “What is your favorite restaurant in Colorado?” is a common one, but I was also asked what my favorite new kitchen gadgets are (microplanes in a couple of sizes and an immersion blender, I answered), whether I shop at a farmers’ market (yes, of course, Boulder’s Saturday market whenever I’m around) and what I think of the Palisade Wine Festival (I haven’t been there since the relocated from the in-town park to a larger space on the outskirts of town, but I love the energy and the growing enthusiasm for and quality of Colorado wines). In my talk, I had mentioned that four Colorado chefs have been named as one of Food & Wine’s 10 best chefs of the year and named Frasca’s Lachlan Patterson, the most recent (2006). Someone asked me who the other three were. Answer: Charles Dale, then of Aspen’s Renaissance; James Mazzio, then of Triana, and Bryan Moscatello, then of Adega. None of those three is still around, but I think Frasca will last for a long, long time.

I drive to Fort Collins “the back way,” west of the towns between here (Boulder) and there, in what a few years ago had been rural (horse country, farm country), and driving through the construction zone that exists west of U.S. was not encouraging. It reminded me that to encourage farmers and ranchers to remain on their land, we all have to help them stay in business. If you want more info on the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, which is ending soon for the season, go to http://www.boulderfarmers.org).