Category Archives: Colorado

Another Year-End Accolade

Frasca honored yet again.

Gayot has released various end-of-year lists, including what it deems the 40 best  restaurants in the land. There is Boulder’s acclaimed Frasca Food and Wine, of which the site that refers to itself as “The Guide to the Good Life,” posts:

Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, takes diners on a journey through the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Chef/co-owner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson’s Northern Italian fare is masterfully complemented by co-owner Bobby Stuckey’s show-stopping wine list.

Read the full review for Frasca Food and Wine restaurant

Year-End Accolades

Annette best restaurant in Denver, Zagat’s #4 food city.

Year-end proclamations of the best this or the top that are conversational fodder for the food-obsessed. I always eagerly read them and report them here. Here are two that just broke.

Zagat has declared Denver to be the country’s No. 4 food city — beating out the likes of San Francisco, Seattle and New Orleans. Pretty heady stuff. Ruth Tobias explained it thus:

No. 4: Denver, CO

If major restaurant openings were the only criterion for a hot food city, Denver would be a shoe-in for a top 2017 slot. Nearly every established chef or restaurateur of the past several years either launched or is about to launch a new, landscape-changing hot spot. Case in point: James Beard awardees Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson debuted ​Tavernetta. Fellow recipient Jennifer Jasinski opened Ultreia. Nationally recognized innovators like Justin Cucci, brought us eye-popping penthouse tapas bar El Five, and Robert Thompson, opened a 32,000-sq.-ft. Punch Bowl Social in the control tower of the former Stapleton airport, of all incredible places. And that’s just to name a few.

Meanwhile, luxury and boutique hotels went up all over town anchored by splashy, ambitious destinations like Hearth & Dram, Citizen Rail, Quality Italian, Urban FarmerKachina and 20th-floor rooftop bar 54thirty. Still to come are The Ramble Hotel, home to NY-import Death & Co and the aforementioned Super Mega Bien, and The Source Hotel, expanding the groundbreaking RiNo food hall it’s named for. Speaking of food halls, Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace created a thriving outlet for acclaimed and breakout chefs and food producers in a former aviation factory; next year, Zeppelin Station will do the same on the RiNo light-rail corridor — not far from upcoming branches of Tyson Cole’s celebrated Uchi and Shake Shack.

Yet major openings aren’t the only criterion. The executives at Slow Food named Denver the new home of international conference Slow Food Nations, held annually in July. The producers of Top Chef also decided to film Season 15 here. In fact, it was Tom Colicchio himself who observed that Denver’s strong network of cultural support would guarantee its future, nurturing the talents of tomorrow. In short, as food towns go, the Mile High City has just hit the stratosphere.

And in our fab food city, Eater Denver just named Annette, an eclectic comfort food eatery in the Stanley Marketplace, as the Restaurant of the Year. The reasons:

In her quiet, cheerful leadership, a headband and high bun, [Caroline] Glover sets the tone for Annette. Originally from College Station, Texas, she has worked her way from a local Chili’s to The Spotted Pig in New York. There, after graduating from culinary school, Glover found her career path: “I think it definitely formed my palate more than anything else,” she says of working for chef April Bloomfield at the famous West Village gastropub. “I loved April’s palate. I love it still. It’s very simple, and clean, and bright. That’s definitely where it started for me.”

While people might expect white table cloths and tiny portions at a buzzy new Denver restaurant, Glover insists she’s only doing comfort food with a different approach. She keeps high chairs and kids menus, and for the adults, dishes that spin off au gratin potatoes, grilled chicken, and pecan pie. “This is what I want to make at home,” a regular has told her more than once.

At Annette, Glover and her husband and business partner Nelson Harvey are paying all of their employees equally. Let that sink in: “Everybody’s making the same amount of money, everybody’s helping each other out, and everybody’s responsible for the guests’ happiness. It falls on (servers) and it falls on my cooks, as it should, and my dishwasher,” Glover says.

It starts with every employee earning the same base wage and then pooling tips evenly. From the servers to the dishwashers and cooks, Glover says her staff should never earn below $18 per hour, even on a slow night. The result, she says, is that cooks can survive on one job, and servers who stick around are more invested in theirs. “We almost went back so many times,” Glover says of the policy, “but this is something I’ve always felt so strongly about. How could I do that? I worked my whole entire life for $11 an hour and couldn’t make ends meet. I don’t want to put anybody else in that position.” Much of Glover’s staff, starting with general manager Daniel Seibel, previously worked with her at Acorn at The Source.

Last week, during a typical dinner service, Glover and her team had the chance to cook for New York Times columnist and former restaurant critic Frank Bruni. The opportunity was serendipitous for Glover, who had cooked for Bruni before, during his review of the Spotted Pig. In 2006, the critic took aim at the Pig’s ridiculous wait time and unruly front of house (which has new meaning given recent news events). But he extolled chef Bloomfield’s food, from the “fantastic gnudi” to a “luscious smoked trout.”

When Bruni walked into Annette in Aurora, more than a decade later on a dinner interview with a politician, Glover had a stressed but familiar feeling. She turned to chefs Chelsey Maschhoff and Michelle Senna, and she decided to take a minute with them: “We’re going to put out the same food that we put out every single night,” she told the two, “but this is really cool, this is a really special moment.” The chefs would then gather themselves and prepare a grilled beef tongue and bone marrow toast, also a wood-fired half chicken — “perfect,” Bruni would later Tweet. But before that last social media review came in, and amid the shower of other recent accolades, two weeks before the holidays and the close of their first business year, Glover turned to her chefs and stopped the line just for a moment. She wanted to remind them and perhaps also herself: “Take it in.”

Vegan Chinese Food in Boulder

Table Mesa Shopping Center ‘s low-meat eatery.

When visiting Chinese markets and asking for menu translations, I have joked that “in China, they’ll eat anything that doesn’t eat them first.” I’ve seen (but never wanted to try) some really weird stuff. I thought that if I ever stumbled across a vegan restaurant over there, I’d be relieved.

Legions of Boulder’s many vegetarians and vegans are presumably equally relived that Tsing Tao Chinese Restaurant has lots of vegan dishes on the menu as well as a vegan buffet on Mondays and Thursdays. I’m not sure how long this restaurant, named after a popular Chinese beer, has been around, but we just heard about it and decided to try it. It is spacious, happily is not too noisy and is staffed by efficient, accommodating servers.  But note – If you want an itemized bill, you might have to ask for it.

Sushi and fruit (some fresh, some canned) dominate one part of the buffet.
Vegan versions of popular Chinese dishes do a good job of mimicking the original. Nothing, however, is highly or distinctively flavored.

It serves lunch and dinner both off the menu and buffet-style. The menu features a page of vegan offerings, plus that vegan buffet, which features respectable vegan versions of beef, chicken and shrimp dishes, plus a couple of platters of sushi. For my taste, many of the items were a tad too sweet for my taste. My husband order his favorites (hot and sour soup, crab wontons, sesame chicken), which he pronounced “okay but not special.”

Tsing Tao under Snarf’s on the northeast part of the Table Mesa Shopping Center, 607 South Broadway, Boulder; 303-494-6228.

‘Top Chef’ Season Features Colorado

Series filmed in Colorado kicks off on December 7.

It’s been 10 seasons since a Colorado chef won top honors on “Top Chef,” the wildly popular Bravo TV chef competition. The last Colorado champ was Hosea Rosenberg, then with Jax Fish House and now partner chef at Blackbelly Restaurant & Butcher and the new Santo, both in Boulder.

Chef Hosea won Season 5, and Season 15 starts on December 7 with two Colorado chefs in the mix. Here’s hoping the hometown advantage helps one of them rise to the peak of chef celebrity.

“Top Chef” Season 15 Cheftestants

  • Fatima Ali. New York
  • Tyler Anderson. Simsbury, CT
  • Carrie Baird. Bar Dough. Denver
  • Adrienne Cheatham, New York
  • Laura Cole, Denali National Park, AK
  • Joseph Flamm. Chicago.
  • Rogelio Garcia. San Francisco
  • Tanya Holland.  Oakland, CA
  • Bruce Kalman. Los Angeles
  • Brother Luck. Four By Brother Luck, Colorado Springs
  • Melissa Perfit.  San Francisco
  • Tu David Phu. Oakland
  • Joe Sasto. Los Angeles
  • Christopher Scott, Brooklyn
  • Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins. San Diego

Coloradans will all look for familiar sights as the program showcases our breathtaking landscapes and the thriving culinary scenes in Denver, Boulder, Telluride and Aspen. The show kicks off with a block party Larimer Square — unfortunately in the 11 to midnight. Hoping I don’t doze off. Fortunately, it is possible to record it and watch when convenient.

Also appearing are local star chefs Troy Guard, Alex Seidel, Hosea Rosenberg, Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson, Keegan Gerhard, Jen Jasinski and Frank Bonanno. The program has all sorts of twists and audience-pleasing gimmicks, but for those of us who appreciate Colorado’s burgeoning school scene, it’s all about the chefs.

Santo Brings New Mexican Fare to Boulder

Top Chef alum and restaurateur Hosea Rosenberg’s latest hit.

There is still a temporary sign above the door.

On powder days, I’ve stood at the top of ski run, waiting for the patrol to drop the rope so I could score some turns in fresh snow. For the first time, I felt that familiar anticipation as I waited for a new restaurant’s door to be unlocked. The restaurant is Santo, the newest venture for chef Hosea Rosenberg, who grew up in Taos, became a genuine celeb chef after winning Top Chef, Season 5 and operates the popular East Boulder Blackbelly Market, restaurant and butchery. He has tapped into his northern New Mexico roots for decorative statements but mostly for the food.

The line was building for an anticipated 4 p.m. opening of the new occupant of the space next to Ideal Market. A paper sign on the door indicated that due to “technical difficulties,”  Santo would open at 4:30. When it did, we first customers felt like celebs, greeted by cameras and cell phones. What a hoot!

Eager diners in line at dusk for chef Hosea Rosenberg’s Santo, which brings the distinctive cuisine of northern New Mexico to Colorado’s Front Range.

The Santo space  is both familiar and new. Once Radda Trattoria, then Ella’s from the Zoe Mama team then Scott’s on Alpine — I’ve eaten at them all. The look, the cuisine and the vibe may have changed with each transition, but I’ve always known where to find the restroom without asking.

Santo’s  commodious square bar remains on the west part of the large dining room. A wonderful wooden zia symbol  chandelier floating above the bar was made by a New Mexican carver, as were the santos along the walls. I intended to take a picture, but I was so eager to get seated and order that I didn’t — and by the time we left, the bar area was mobbed — and loud. Framed B&B photographs decorate the dining area, but in truth, the focus is on the food, as  it certainly should be. Here’s what my husband and I ate on Day One (plus wine for me, a beer for him):

Wood Oven Queso is a blend of local cheese melted in the wood oven in a small cast-iron pan. It is topped with red pepper jelly and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). The portion looks small but the taste is big. And what’s the New Mexican word for ‘umami”? White and blue corn tortilla chips come on the side.
A trio of wild boar empanadas with cilantro crema, salsa with a kick and a bit of crunchy salad.
The smoky aroma of this thick soup rises from the table as soon as the bowl is set down. Smoked corn, huitlacoche (corn smut (an unappealing name for a specialty) and thin flavor ribbons of Christmas salsas (red and green).
Generous portion of Kale and Quinoa Salad, with slices of apple, jicama, grilled cactus queso fresco, piñon nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Apple and green chile pie backed in a cheddar crust with a generous scoop or vanilla ice cream on top.

Price check: At dinner appetizers, $6-$12; soups and sides $6-$12; entrées $16-$32; chile, side add-ons $2-$5; desserts, $5-$7.

Santo is at 1265 Alpine Avenue, Boulder; 303-442-6100.

Farmers’ Market’s Seasonal Farewell

Boulder County Farmers’ Markets go fallow until spring.

Each year’s early-season downtown Boulder farmers’ market brims with enthusiasm for the coming growing season both for home-grown veggies and for those that vendors will be bringing in until well into fall. And that’s where we are now — well into fall and winding down our expectations of fresh local products every week.

 

 

Still, fall markets are simply gorgeous with an abundance of late-season produce, notably squashes of so many shapes and shades. Boulder’s last market of 2017 was today — an opportunity also to stock up on locally produced pantry products. There will be one  more market this year at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on Saturday, November 17. Then, it’s adios until April.

Bienvenue au French Cafe

Tasty new bakery and café in The Village.

Le French Café Boulder opened quietly in The Village shopping center just a few weeks ago. Agnes and Quentin Garrigou, who had run two French cafes in Miami for about a decade, decamped for Colorado just ahead of Hurricane Irma’s devastating arrival in Florida. Quentin hails from the Loire region, while Agnes is from the Chamonix-Mont Blanc area and was eager to return to the mountains where their seven-year-old son could enjoy a childhood something like hers.

The couple sank all the money from the Miami cafes into the Boulder location, so are relying on word of mouth (and word from fingertips on keyboards) to get the word out. I’m happy to help, since it is the first French bakery in Boulder since Le Francais in the BaseMar Shopping Center closed years ago.

This trio of cheerful chairs on the building’s south side greets patrons — as does recorded mood-setting French music.

Le French Café is in what might be considered Boulder’s bakery intersection. It occupies a corner that features two other bakeries — Woodgrain for Montreal bagels and Great Harvest for whole-grain items. They are all different.  My husband and I went there this morning and it was an altogether pleasant experience. The space is bright and cheerful. The service is attentive. And most of all, the breakfast items are very good. I’m a gluten fan myself but I am very impressed that there is no surcharge for gluten-free crepes.

A cappuccino is my idea of the perfect morning coffee.
Croissant or quiche? Quiche or croissant? That was my question this morning. The day’s correct answer was quiche, accompanied by a salad that would have made it suitable for lunch or brunch as well.
My husband’s selection was the heartier combo of a fried eggs excellent bacon curled into a little nest,  potato cubes and a croissant.
We couldn’t resist ordering some macarons to take with us. Agnes boxed them and wrapped them with a little yellow ribbon.

The Village Shopping Center 2525 Arapahoe Avenue Boulder; 303-284-2265.