Chef-driven menu elevates comfort food & pub fare.
The Mountain Sun Pubs & Breweries has grown from a single microbrewery in downtown Boulder to a tight trio of locations that includes the popular Southern Sun in South Boulder’s Table Mesa Shopping Center and Denver’s Vine Street Pub. The South Boulder location is a two-fer, with the original pub (and large sunny patio) on the upper level and the newer and cleverly named Under the Sun below.
I’ve been to Mountain Sun any number of times and to Southern Sun’s upstairs brewpub for after-hike or after-ski refreshment and downstairs for happy hour. I didn’t even realize that Under the Sun served brunch, but 3½ years after it opened, Southern Sun has hired a real, classically trained executive chef, Nick Swanson. His credentials are sterling — Boulder’s Bácaro Venetian Taverna and PastaVino (both now gone), a stage at Michelin-starred Relais Villa D’Amelia in Italy’s Piemonte region. Then New York’s French Culinary Institute, graduating with honors. A resume sprinkled with glamour names in the food world: Chefs Fabbio Bocchi and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, cooking for big-name celebs (Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Jim Carrey, Calvin Klein.
But enough dropped names. What counts here and now is his position as executive chef of Under the Sun, where he has moved toward seasonality and reasonable price points while putting out creative cheffy takes on classics. I’m not wild about most “comfort food,” but Samson’s spin has me rethinking my preconceptions, and a sampling of the new brunch dishes convinced me that he’s one of the best in town.
On previous visits to Santa Fe, lunch or dinner at Cafe Pasqual ‘s has been on the food docket. I always enjoy this cheery eatery a couple of short blocks from The Plaza. The breakfast items are unusual, with flavorful versions of popular New Mexican favorites plus items I’ve never seen before.
After two weeks in Australia, I have concluded that there several discernible constants.
“Damper,” a rough rustic bread is an iconic Australian bread that is traditionally cooked over a campfire. That’s not what you’re likely to find in a B&B. There, thin slices of square white bread prevail. The host typically leaves a carafe of juice, an electric tea kettle and a toaster plus makings for tea and coffee and some sliced bread plus butter and jam. Fortunately, good bakeries are scattered about that landscape, even in fairly small towns.
Denver’s Bistro Charlotte makes these filled treats.
Once upon a time, there was a cafe in Boulder that made divine pierogis, filled dumplings that could bring gustatory sunshine to a rare Colorado gloomy day. I wrote about them here, but that now is a nostalgic essay rather than a description, because the Eggcredible Cafe is no more.
I just received a heads-up message from Charlotte Pistek, whose frozen pierogis are available in high-end markets around the metro area. Preparing them takes less time than driving across town. Three flavors (traditional Potatoes and Cheese with Sautéed Onions, Kraut & Sautéed Mushroom Potato and the Colorado-inspired Cheddar with Roasted Jalapeño) are sold under the Bistro Charlotte label, though there appears to be no brick-and-mortar bistro. Amanda Faison of 5280 Magazine has tried them and recommended them, so that’s good enough for me. She wrote:
Look to most any corner of the world and you’ll find a dumpling. Japan has the gyoza, Nepal the momo, Italy the ravioli, and Russia the pelmeni. But to many, the ultimate dumpling is the supremely comforting pierogi. The Polish finger food is usually stuffed with a starchy combo of mashed potato and cheese or potato and sauerkraut. A good pierogi is worth hunting for, especially as winter weather blasts us with cold and snow.
Enter Bistro Charlotte, Denverite Anna Postek’s boutique pierogi company. Postek began making and selling her own dumplings when she couldn’t find the quality she was looking for in the market. “Everything is so processed now,” Postek says. She looked in old books and pestered her Polish mother and family members and friends’ family members until she came up with a pierogi recipe that “is something like what used to be made.”
Postek works every batch from scratch using organic eggs and flour, and the results yield excellent chewy dough stuffed with creamy, satisfying fillings. She sells her Bistro Charlotte pierogi (there are three varieties: potatoes and cheese with sautéed onions, kraut and sautéed mushroom, and potato and cheddar with roasted jalapeño) at Marczyk Fine Foods, Whole Foods, and Sawa Meat & Sausage. The pierogi are so good, we keep a box or two in the freezer for a quick lunch, dinner, or anytime snack.
At Home Tip: We like serving the potato and cheese pierogi with balsamic-red onion jam.
When I researched and wrote Culinary Colorado (the book) in the early years of this millennium, the Absolute Bakery & Cafe in Mancos was fairly new — and very wonderful, both for the food and for the down-home, hippie and very welcoming ambience. The original owners, both Culinary Institute of America grads, no longer own it, but whoever is cooking and baking there has continued the tradition of quality. ABC was using local and organic ingredients before it became the norm. And the old hippie vibe is still there too.
Guests who want coffee or tea are handed thick mugs to fill at a counter. Espresso drinks are brought by servers. And so are generous portions of food. The cafe format to me says “breakfast” so that is the meal my husband, our friend Mary and I went for.
Price check: At breakfast, main courses, $4.25-$9.25; sides, $1-$3.50.
My husband and I spent several hours at the Planes of Fame museum, whose collection largely consists of World War II era aircraft. (My post and some pix are at http://bit.ly/1PGg0CT) The museum is on the north side of Chino Airport, in the transition zone between agricultural and suburban southern California.
Right down the street is Flo’s Airport Café, a throwback eatery specializing in enormous portions of traditional American fare — with a few stir-fries and salads thrown in to communicate modern-ness. We ate there to continue the back-in-the-day theme.
I generally try not to eat anyplace predictably uninteresting, but today was an exception. As we were driving south of Broadway in Boulder to go for a sunny-day hike, I suddenly got hankering for spicy Chinese food. The power of suggestion was great, and my husband bought into it.
But we had miles to hike before we ate. On the way back, we were ravenous, so we pulled into the Base-Mar shopping center, where May-Wah has been located ever since it came into my consciousness. It is located in a strip mall, so I had few expectations of interesting fare and have always avoided it. My expectations were met. When we arrived, a single woman at one table was finishing her meal, and one fellow was waiting for his take-out order. One table was left to be cleared. It still took quite some time to have our order taken and then for our food to be brought out
Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.