Category Archives: Chef

Pizzeria Locale One of the Best ‘Small Chains’

Restaurant trade site likes Colorado chain.

Pizzeria Locale, a casual spin-off of Boulder’s heralded Frasca Food and Wine, got a shout-out from RestaurantBusiness.com in a roundup of “20 Small Chains Poised to Break Out.” The first Locale next door to the mother ship is a table service spot, but the newer locations follow a fast-casual format with lower prices but still with the high food standards expected at a place that Frasca co-founder. chef Lachlan Mckinnon-Patterson, has set up and oversees. Pizzeria Locale is a joint venture with Colorado-based Chipotle. Here’s what the site wrote about Pizzeria Locale in a piece on small chains with fewer than 20 locations:

“The Denver-based build-your-own pizza concept made headlines three years ago when it got funding from Chipotle. It’s since expanded the brand—which cooks pizzas in two minutes in a 900-degree oven—into the Midwest, with restaurants in Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. The chain’s method of differentiating in the saturated pizza segment: a focus on southern Italy, from the ingredients used to the house creations.”

2017 Flatirons Food Film Fest

Sixth annual festival features a smorgasbord of films plus culinary stars.

The Flatirons Food Film Festival continues to attract foodies, film lovers and the intersection of both as it has since 2012.  Taking place in several Boulder venues from September 27 through October 1, it comprises nine film programs, an entire short documentary series focused on Colorado and culinary superstar chef Jeremiah Tower as guest speaker.

He is a hugely influential and controversial figure in American gastronomy. He began his career at Chez Panisse, then  opened Stars, an  iconic San Francisco restaurant, before disappearing from the culinary scene at the height of his success. He  re-emerged decades later at New York City’s struggling Tavern on the Green.  He was already middle-aged and left after less than a year after failing to revive the famous restaurant and have serious disagreements with the owners. Perhaps he will even tell tales that only he can know.  ‘Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent’ is an award-winning film about his life. It will be screened on Sunday, September 30 at 7:15 p.m., followed by an after-party at License No. 1 in the Hotel Boulderado.

Jeremiah Tower in 2015. This culinary legend is the big-name guest speaker at the 2017 Flatirons Food Film Festival

Speaking of hugely influential figures, few outshine the legendary James Beard.  Beth Federici, the filmmaker and director of “James Beard: America’s First Fooodie,” is also a speaker. Other local and visiting speakers include journalist Corie Brown; chef Frank Bonanno of Denver’s Bonanno Concepts; Dr. Allen Lim of Skratch Labs, and Jorge de la Torre, director of culinary education at Denver’s Johnson and Wales University. Food documentaries, short films and food-oriented classics fill the program. There’s also a kids’ farmers’ market walk. And yes, some feature actual food to eat and beverages to drink. Click here for a complete schedule and admission prices.

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.

Exotic New Restuarant in Iceland

Top Nordic chef’s dramatic cuisine switch to North Africa & the Middle East. 

Sumac Grill + Drinks is a new restaurant in Reykjavik specializing in Lebanese and Moroccan cuisine. That’s kind of a gee-whiz piece of news, but what makes it really remarkable is that it is the brainchild of Þráinn Freyr Vigfússon, one of Iceland’s star chefs. He is former head chef of the highly regarded Lava Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon restaurant and coach of the national Icelandic cooking team.

Chef Þráinn Freyr Vigfússon in front of the steaming waters of the Blue Lagoon.

This is quite a departure for Vigfússon, who is known as a pioneer of New Nordic cuisine with really sterling creds — Iceland Chef of the Year (2007); One World Culinary Chef Competition, gold medal (2008); Nordic Chef of the Year, silver medal (2009); World Culinary Cup, two gold medals (2014). He and culinary partner and head chef Hafsteinn Ólafsson, Þráinn curated a savory menu that brings together Icelandic traditions and the exotic flare from the coastline of North Africa and the Middle East. What an interesting mix — and I report it here because I am very fond of Iceland.

Sumac Grill + Drinks brings a new flavor to the Reykjavik restaurant scene.  Related Lebanese and Moroccan cuisine are characterized by fried foods with exotic spices, yogurt sauce, marinated eggs, eggplant, hummus, pomegranates and more.

The name of the restaurant comes from the berry, Sumac, which when left out in the sun to dry, can be used as a fragrant spice that adds a “clean astringency and citrus tang to the dish.” Sumac’s bar also includes an extensive wine and cocktail list, naturally including drinks featuring Reyka Vodka, Iceland’s award-winning vodka brand. Click  here for the menu.

The restaurant is located at Laugavegur 28 in downtown Reykjavik.

Denver Food/Wine Fest Next Weekend

Showcase for cuisine, wine & spirits.

2016 dates on this logo.

The 13th annual Denver Food + Wine Festival  starts with Barbecue, a food film, at the Sie Film Center on September 5 and concludes on the 10th with the Rise + Dine brunch. The glamour event, of course, is Saturday’s  Grand Tasting on the Pepsi Center grounds, featuring 700 international wines and some 40 Denver restaurants. Lead sponsors at  Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Colorado and the Colorado Restaurant Association. In between are The Shakedown (a bartender competition), a six-course dinner under the stars at Coohill’s Restaurant and the always informative Riedel Wine Glass seminar. Click here for the schedule and here to purchase tickets.

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.

Colorado Chefs in Colombia

I don’t usually do follow-up picture posts, but I was so tickled that two Colorado chefs were invited to cook at a culinary festival in Barranquilla, Colombia, that I wrote a post.  Diane Coohill sent me this picture from opening day of the festival. After this, she and Chef Tom are going on a trek to Everest base camp in Nepal. Classic Coloradans!

From left, Tom Coohill and Diane Coohill of Coohill’s in Denver, and Daniel Asher of River & Woods in Boulder at a gastronomic festival in Barranquilla, Colombia.