Category Archives: Chef

Topflight Brunch at Under the Sun

Chef-driven menu elevates comfort food & pub fare.

001The 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.

013I’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.

The Captain's French Toast, a bizarre-sounding but actually yummy dish made of Captain Crunch-coated challah bread with Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries.
The Captain’s French Toast, a bizarre-sounding but actually yummy dish made of Captain Crunch-coated challah bread with Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries.

Continue reading Topflight Brunch at Under the Sun

Chef Tyler Wiard’s SPAM Tacos

Sample tacos al pastor with laughline meat or make them at home.

SPAMSPAM, the pork-in-a-can product not the E-mail annoyance, is a favorite in Hawaii and the subject of Mainland laughlines. But people stop laughing when they taste dishes prepared by name chefs using SPAM. The SPAMERICAN Tour visits 16 cities across the countries where chefs demonstrate that point with interesting recipes.

SPAM is also an iconic Army ingredient, and there-in lies the backstory of the SPAMERICAN Tour. It is partnering with Operation Gratitude, a volunteer based organization that sends care packages and letters to U.S. Service Members deployed overseas, veterans, wounded soldiers and their families, plus new recruits and first responders here at home. The tour is bringing Operation Gratitude’s letter-writing campaign into 16 communities, supporting its “March to a 2nd Million” goal with a $50,000 donation by pledging $1 for every letter written in-market and online at SPAM.com. I know it’s a little complicated.

But each stop is simplicity itself with free samples of Operation SPAM Gravy with Biscuits  and SPAM fries, plus creations of local chef partners. It comes to Denver’s Sustainability Park, where Tyler Wiard, the energetic culinary director of Elway’s restaurant and a recent “cheftestant” on Bravo’s Top Chef, prepares al pastor tacos. He uses crispy SPAM rather than the traditional pork butt. Taste them for FREE on Saturday, May 14 from 2 to 6 p.m. at The Big Wonderful, a sustainability fair at the park (2600 Lawrence St.).  Continue reading Chef Tyler Wiard’s SPAM Tacos

Meeting the Meat at Blackbelly

Full butcher shop and charcuterie maker now joins Boulder restaurant.

001First there was the Blackbelly food truck. And a catering operation, plus a bar and restaurant. Soon a secluded patio on the south side of the building. Then a second, larger and more open patio on the north side. And now, a large shop focusing on meat, meat and more meat joins the rest. Before this. the chefs and the butchers were competing for space. Now, there are two kitchens, the original and the new one on the meat side, where breakfast and lunch are prepared.

Nate Singer, born and raised in Cody, WY, runs the butcher operation. His family’s  steakhouse across from the rodeo grounds and his father’s passion for hunting were the “classroom” where he first learned butchery skills, overlaid with official courses resulting in various certifications. He  heads the full-fledged butcher shop that sells meat that has been broken down from whole animals and cut on site. The crew also makes all manner or sausages and cures meat. Getting US Department of Agriculture approval for such an operation is no mean feat, and what they produced is spectacular.  Media had the opportunity to taste some of the specialties.

Blackbelly Butcher's chalkboard menu
Blackbelly Butcher’s chalkboard explains the sourcing of the meats —  lamb and pork from Boulder County purveyors (including Blackbelly Farms) and beef from Wyoming.
Even in veggie-centric Boulder, Blackbelly's meat cases is a thing of beauty.
Even in veggie-centric Boulder, Blackbelly’s meat cases is a thing of beauty.
A selection of charcuterie put out for sampling, including such uncommonly good common items as prosciutto and such unusual ones as nduja, a fermented salami from southern Italy.
A selection of charcuterie put out for sampling, including such uncommonly good common items as prosciutto and such unusual ones as nduja, a fermented salami from southern Italy.
Meat cutters at work.
Meat cutters at work.
A temperature- and humidity-controlled room for aging and curing.
A temperature- and humidity-controlled room for aging and curing.
House-made bison brats on house-made pretzel rolls house-pickled slightly sour cabbage.
House-made bison brats on house-made pretzel rolls house-pickled slightly sour cabbage.
The humble corn dog isn't quite so humble when it comes from Blackbelly Market.
The humble corn dog isn’t quite so humble when it comes from Blackbelly Market.
Chocolate salami anyone? Not kidding. The pastry chef on the restaurant side makes up these treats.
Chocolate salami anyone? Not kidding. The pastry chef on the restaurant side makes up these treats.
And here's an Aperol spritzer toast to owner/chef Hosea Rosenberg.
And here’s an Aperol spritzer toast to owner/chef Hosea Rosenberg.

1606 Conestoga Street (Blackbelly is just north of Araphoe Avenue), Boulder; Butcher Shop and Market [breakfast & lunch], 720-479-8296.

Blackbelly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Durango Wine Experience This Weekend

Food & wine showcased in Southwest Colorado event.

DurangoWineExperience2016-logoI seem to remember being at the very first Durango Wine Experience a decade ago. If not that one, I must have been at the second. In any event, it was an early one and it was terrific. Seminars and tastings, chefs and winemakers occupied Durango‘s charming Main Street. It’s kicking off today for the 10th time. Wish I were there.

Half-dozen educational seminars start today. The Walk-About Durango, the signature tasting event, provides attendees to enjoy a casual, multi-location stroll in downtown Durango tasting wine, beer, spirits and drinking in the artsy atmosphere. It takes place tomorrow, Friday, May 6 from 4 to7 p.m.

The Grand Tasting is grand indeed, with top local chefs and scores terrific wineries, distributors, breweries and distilleries from around the world featured on Saturday, May 7 from 3 to 6:30 p.m. If you can still make it, click here for tickets. If not, put it on your radar screen for 2017. I am.

New Ice Cream Emporium in East Boulder

Heifer & Hen’s rich and flavorful ice cream.

012Heifer & The Hen sounds like the name of a pub in an English country village, but it’s Boulder’s newest place for designer ice cream and related treats. It’s the work of the talented Ian Clark, the chef and brewmaster whose BRU Handbuilt Ales & Eats turns out unfiltered, naturally carbonated ales and excellent hand-tossed pizzas and pub food. He calls it a “gastrobrewery.”

Last Friday, Clark quietly unlocked the Heifer & The Hen door, and the next day, it snowed. A lot. Still, people made through the weather for the organic creamery’s divine ice cream, milkshakes and floats. I visited on Tuesday afternoon. There were no lines (yet) but a steady stream of adults and kids. Subway tiles cover the walls. The counter features unpainted tin panels made for ceilings with a top or concrete. Seating consists of three swings suspended from metal chains, tall barstools facing the window and on the patio. All over are clever design touches, which Clark credits to his wife Bryce.

The young and the young at heart can hop aboard a swing at the counter.
The young and the young at heart can hop aboard a swing at the counter.

Clark is committed to thick, butterfat-rich ice cream made on a custard base in an open kitchen, so guests can watch. Cream + eggs = custard. Therefore, the dipping store’s name. I tasted several of the innovative flavors that he calls “elevated versions of classics. Burnt Honey. Sour Cherry, Buttermilk & Dark Chocolate. Mint, Basil & Dark Chocolate. Each one packs more of a flavor punch than the last.

The menu is written on butcher paper -- easy to update when items change. In addition to ice cream and dairy-free sorbets, there are sodas made in-house, affogato with cold-brewed coffee and old-fashioned poured over ice ice cream and old-fashioned milkshakes.
The menu is hand-written on butcher paper — easy to update when items change. In addition to ice cream and dairy-free sorbets, there are sodas made in-house, affogato with cold-brewed coffee and old-fashioned poured over ice ice cream and old-fashioned milkshakes.

The side-by-side locations of BRU and the ice cream place make for a symbiotic destination. Families can come to eat, with the beer perhaps enticing the adults, while kids then want ice cream.

Best ice cream sandwich wrapper ever.
Best ice cream sandwich wrapper ever.

I had been lusting after an ice cream sandwich for a couple of weeks, and I found Heifer & The Hen’s irresistible and bought one for the road — the cold stuff between two robust chocolate chip cookies. Worth waiting for.

5290 Arapahoe Avenue, Unit H, Boulder; 720-328-3159.

Heifer and the Hen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Work Opinions of Women Fundraiser

Top women chefs in Denver raise money for their sisters.

WomanCook.-logoThe 12th annual Women Cook! dinner on May 2 from 5 to 9 p.m. seems bigger than the 11th annual, which seemed bigger than those that preceded it. The more women in professional kitchens, the more they rally in support of impoverished women, helping them gain skills and confidence needed to work their way out of poverty and become gainfully and permanently employed in the food service industry..

This year’s fundraising feast features:

  • Sandra Adams,  Grand Hyatt
  •  Nadine Donavan,- Vesta Dipping Grill,
    Steuben’s and Ace Eat Serve
  •  Jennifer Jasinski,  Stoic & Genuine, Rioja,
    Bistro Vendôme and Euclid Hall
  • Jenna Johansen, Epicurean
  •  Kathleen Kenny Davia,  Gateaux
  •  Sheila Lucero, Jax Fish House
  • Mary Nguyen, P17 and Olive & Finch
  •  Aniedra Nichols, Elway’s Cherry Creek
  •  Summer Polson,  Project Angelheart
  •  Cindhura Reddy, Spuntino
  •  Dana Rodriguez, Work & Class
  •  Samm Sherman, Craftsy
  • Carrie Shores, WOW Cafe
  •  Elise Wiggins, Panzano

It takes place at Temple Emmanuel, Temple Emanuel
51 Grape Street, Denver.

River & Woods to Rise in Boulder

Former John’s location to be reborn as innovative seasonal eatery.

River and Woods logoCome summer, a new community-focused restaurant called River & Woods should be open in the charming old John’s Restaurant space on Boulder’s East Pearl Street. John’s. This jewel of a special occasion restaurant was as classic as they come, but River & Woods will be nontraditional — innovatively crowed-sourced from funding to recipes.

The marquee name is Daniel Asher, the talented and idealistic chef  who is known for his obsession with local agriculture, sustainable sourcing, seasonality and food justice. He was culinary director of The Edible Beats Group (Root Down, Linger, Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox), and he continues to oversee sustainability and culture for the group.

The partnership opening this restaurant consists of Asher and Josh and Kate Dinar (he being the publisher of DiningOut magazines in Denver and other cities, cofounder of First Bite Boulder and other food-related enterprises). Crowdfunding via Indiegogo is part of the business plan. The project raised nearly $5,000 in its first 15 hours. Maybe other restaurants have tapped into such sources, but I sure am not familiar with any. It is hard to imagine Asher needing help in developing recipes for the restaurant’s planned “Colorado comfort cuisine,” but there is a call for just that in order to engage customers in the totality of the restaurant.

Not only is the vintage building at 2328 Pearl Street being brought up to snuff, but there is to be a large, fully-enclosed backyard oasis. The building comes from a time when lots were generous, even in the city, so I’m guessing that it will sizable. In the plan —   a grassy area for kids to run, an outdoor rotisserie and food bar, a mobile beer, wine and cocktail bar, strung lights and beautiful landscaping, Sounds lovely.