As award-winning Cordon Bleu-trained chef Marc Quinones was cooking his way around some of the top restaurants and resorts in the Southwest, he prepared a lot of excellent versions regional favorites. But when the recently appointed executive chef of downtown Albuquerque’s historic Hotel Andaluz was asked to cook for a Denver media reception on behalf of New Mexico travel interests, his imagination took wing, and he offered contemporary dishes from various traditions but using New Mexican-grown and -raised ingredients.
Some of the dishes:
I think I was too busy eating and sipping cocktails made with Colkegan single malt whiskey or gin from Santa Fe Spirits, a craft distillery, to take pictures of two terrific dishes: the Berkshire pork belly with Anasazi bean ragout, yellow corn and harissa-sherry reduction and the super-fab Mew Mexico ceviche — Bay scallops in tangerine, Maldon salt, pickled red onion and Chimayo chile vinaigrette.
Then there was the chocolate — the wonderful chocolate from Cacao Santa Fe, which produces fantastic chocolate bars, beautiful and interesting bonbons, workshops led by master chocolatier Melanie Boudar and Factory tours with owner Derek Lanter.
Then there was Clear Light, the Cedar Company, which has been producing Cedar Essence and other aromatic potions since 1971, giving complimentary hand and forearm massages. The boss’s business card is a thin slice of cedar.
It was wonderful to have New Mexicans bring their eats and drinks (and more) to Denver. High time to head south to eat in situ.
Not long ago, my friend Kuvy Ax and I met for coffee at OZO, a do-it-right café that in a very Boulder way adheres to the “ideals of community, coffee and a calling” in the way they source, roast and store their beans and other products. Kuvy ordered a mocha Cholaca, and so did I. It provided a power hit of well prepared coffee with the flavor boost of pure cacao.
My own bottle of Cholaca liquid cacao now resides in my refrigerator, and I pour a shot into my morning coffee to try to replicate the OZO experience. Even before this product, I often put a spoonful of chocolate powder into my morning coffee (along with sweetener and soy creamer, because I’m a wimpy coffee drinker). No matter whether I started with coffee and stirred in the powder or vice versa, there was always some sludge left in the bottom of the mug because the powder completely dissolved. Tasty sludge, but sludge nonetheless. Not so with liquid, which blends easily and totally with the coffee and my other add-ins.
I try to be a responsible consumer, so I like to see labels proclaiming “organic,” “single origin” and “fair trade,” which aims to give growers fair compensation for their products. My Cholaca is “lightly sweetened” with organic, fair trade coconut sugar. They also make unsweetened and more sweetened, as well as pure cacao wafers that must be a dream to bake with. (Next time I’m in cookie-making mode, I’ll use some.) I’m not a beer drinker, but the Boulder Beer Company’s St. Patrick’s Day release of Irish Blessing, a seasonal oak-aged coffee stout brewed with an abundance of black and chocolate malts for a bittersweet chocolate finish might have changed my thinking.
I get together with friends for coffee at The Laughing Goat every Friday morning. I it turns out that they also carry Cholaca, so I’ll order my weekly cappuccino with a shot. The cacao is grown in Peru and Ecuador, and the company is based in Boulder. That makes it appropriate for this Colorado-focused blog — that and the fact that I really like it.
Former aviation equipment factory now hub for food, shopping and community.
Being a fan of markets and of adaptive reuse of old buildings, I have cheered the development of the Stanley Marketplace from the other side of metro Denver since I first read about it. Yesterday, a friend visiting from New York, my husband and I went to take a look. It is located near the Aurora-Denver line and near the old Stapleton Airport, an area mushrooming from open space into a dense new urban development of housing, shops, offices and parks.
The cavernous building, once the home of Stanley Aviation, is being remade into a cutting-edge, multi-use building that hyper-industrial in design. It works. Businesses are moving in gradually (Cheluna Brewing and the fourth location of Comida being among the first and Mister B’s Wine and Spirits opening today, being the newest ), and with each opening and each special event, the attraction grows. Even on a weekday morning, there was activity, It was not just construction crews. Parents and little kids were playing in a tumbling space for tiny tots, gym rats were umping heavy iron in a weight training studio) and people needing their hair or faces done were visiting a hair salon, aesthetician or barber. .
We popped in and out of boutiques with wonderful fashions and accessories and peered into construction sites, and I even went upstairs to the shell that will become the newest location of The Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery. Here are some current eating/drinking opportunities, with more soon to follow.
I interrupt my usual Colorado fixation with this post about Connecticut. When I was growing up, Norwalk, which had been urban-renewed within an inch of its life, was the more vibrant of the two downtowns. South Norwalk was by the New Haven Railroad tracks. It had the railroad station, City Hall, the big library, the big post office and a lot of vacant turn-of-the-last-century commercial buildings. Neglect turned out to be a good thing, since those buildings remained ignored.
Chocolate Truffle: La Madeleine au Truffle, Knipschildt Chocolatier, Norwalk, Conn.: $250
Master chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt is selling the most expensive chocolate truffle in the world from his shop in Norwalk, Connecticut. It’s made via a seven-step process and contains chocolate ganache made from 71 percent Valrhona dark chocolate, French Perigord truffle (or Italian white truffle if they’re not available), and truffle oil. If you want one for yourself (or for your significant other), you’ll need to order it at least five days in advance so Knipschildt can import the truffle.
Fritz Knipschildt also runs a cafe and retail shop called Chocopologie on Washington Street, the main drag of South Norwalk. Next time I return, I’m going to the cafe and will pay homage the over-the-top truffle with a cappuccino and a chocolate treat of some sort.
I had just finished a small container of Noosa 0% fat salt caramel flavor yogurt the other day, when a package arrived. It held two containers of high-test Noosa blackberry serrano Greek yogurt, a new variety available only in Colorado. I opened one soon and loved the richness, the fruity flavor and the kick of serrano. But having only eaten non-fat and low-fat yogurt for years, I had to consume it in two helpings. Fortunately, it had a real lid and not that foil peel-off stuff.
I should add that I have a soft spot for Noosa Yoghurt, because it comes from tiny Bellevue, Colorado, north of Fort Collins and is made with local milk. My inspiration for the second container was a quick dessert recipe called “3 Ingredient Chocolate Strawberry Yogurt Bites” from a site called A Cedar Spoon and modified it to suit three main ingredients that I happened to have on hand. I didn’t take pictures, but here’s what a made for Valentines Day:
Chocolate/Blackberry Serrano Yogurt Bites
1 carton of 15 ready-made phyllo shells
1 container Noosa blackberry serrano yogurt
2 ounces organic dark chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place phyllo shells on baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes to crisp. Set aside to cool.
2. In a glass bowl, melt chocolate in a microwave set on medium power for about 8 minutes or until melted, stirring once or twice.
3. Stir yogurt into chocolate and spoon into shells.
4. Cut strawberries into small pieces and place a few bits on top of each.
Special exhibition follows cacao from rainforest to candy.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science debuted a new exhibition on chocolate, exploring its botanical, cultural, economic and culinary impacts. Called “CHOCOLATE: The Exhibition,” this modest visiting exhibition with its suitably bilingual captions was developed by Chicago’s exemplary Field Museum. It provides an enticing experience for the whole family during its brief stop in Denver.
As visitors progress from the Central American origins of the use of chocolate to the history and on to the present, the chocolate aroma becomes stronger. The captions are appropriately bilingual, as suits an exploration of a food that originated in Central America. At the exit, there is a chocolate shop and a little café. Double dare you not to stop.
The members’ opening event included tasting tables set up among the dioramas. Grand Junction-based Enstrom’s provided samples from dark and bitter to sweet milk chocolate. No special ticket is required, for this exhibition is included in the general admission. It is in town through May 8. Photography was challenging, so here are just a few images — the best I could manage:
Single-vineyard wines + single-estate chocolate a fortuitous pairing.
Single sourcing seems to be a thing these days — single-vineyard wines and single-estate coffee, tea and now chocolate are capturing connoisseurs’ fancy. Boulder’s Settembre Cellars hosts a Valentines Weekend pairing of four of its own single-vineyard wines with four sweet bites of Boulder’s Fortuna Chocolates — two bonbons made with single-estate cacao and two ganaches.
I’m familiar with Settembre Cellars’ traditional, Italian-inspired wines, and I learned about Fortuna from a Daily Camera piece called “For the Love of Chocolate.” The take-away is that cacao beans grown in the shade of mango trees possess unique flavor characteristics that have captivated the trio that runs Fortuna Chocolate in its “mobile chocolate lab,” which is a glamorous way of describing a trailer
Frankly, this might all be too subtle for me, but I will rely on the refined tastebuds of those who can judge the merits of single-sourced chocolate or, for that matter, single-vineyard wines. Meanwhile, I do know that nothing says Valentines Day like the combo of wonderful wine and divine chocolate, regardless of the provenance. The Settembre Cellars tasting room is hosting this inspired local pairing this weekend — Saturday and Sunday, February 13-14 from 1 to 4 p.m. The cost is $17 online or $19 at the door. The tasting room is at 1501 Lee Hill Road, Boulder.
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.