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.
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.
The Village Shopping Center 2525 Arapahoe Avenue Boulder; 303-284-2265.
Other listees were less predictable. Bill Addison, who assembles the list, wrote, “I’ve also named a Restaurant of the Year, an of-the-moment union of breathtaking design and rooted, spectacular cooking in one of the country’s most timeless towns — Savannah.” The restaurant is The Grey, and the chef, Meshama Bailey, is an African-American woman. Addison wrote:
Everything that it takes to propel an ambitious restaurant to greatness — a coherent vision, a distaste for complacency, and singular leadership — Mashama Bailey accomplishes at the Grey in Savannah, Georgia. The restaurant synthesizes much of what’s relevant about this moment in American dining: an amalgamation of global and regional flavors; a big-city chef making a seismic impact in a smaller town; and an acute awareness of, and reckoning with, complex racial, economic, and cultural histories. The Grey doesn’t trade in tasting menu extravaganzas or modernist shenanigans. It’s an unabashed stunner of a space, staffed with kind-hearted souls. Beyond that, the cooking bursts with utter humanity. Bailey’s food — curried roast chicken, melting leeks with country ham and curls of grassy tomme, lamb shoulder braised with Senegalese spices — speaks to love of the region and devotion to the craft.
Another listee made my Connecticut-born heart beat with joy was finding Sally’s Appiza of New Haven on the list. This untrendy classic pizzeria has been turning out the same fabulous pies for nearly 80 years. Addison wrote:
Salvatore Consiglio opened his restaurant in 1938, three decades after Lombardi’s in Manhattan first began serving pizzas in America — and 13 years after Consiglio’s uncle, Frank Pepe, started his namesake operation on the next block over in New Haven’s Italian district. Even so, Sally’s feels like the nation’s ur-pizzeria. It’s gritty, cramped, and chaotically busy; a certain imperviousness drifts in the air like coal dust. It is also, without question, the finest of the town’s legendary pie shops. The crust (a definitive nexus of bready and crackery), the sauce (pure tomato tang), and the cheese (spare, and yet somehow ample) fuse into utter glory. Devouring the signature tomato pie with garlic and pecorino Romano is a sacrament. Consiglio’s children may soon sell the business, so go now while the recipes remain in the family’s practiced hands.
Here’s hoping that even if the family sells the biz, someone who knows it and loves it will be the new owner.
Most lists of the best this-or-that kind of restaurant in every state feature a Denver or perhaps Boulder restaurant. Food & Wine’s selection of Colorado’s best vegan-friendly is in Fort Collins. I haven’t been there yet, but I’d like to. Here’s what the magazine wrote:
The fact that the upcoming season of Top Chef was filmed in Colorado is just one marker of the state’s growing assertion of its culinary prowess. (Four James Beard Award semi-finalists this past year are another.) Although new, The Gold Leaf Collective illustrates how lesser known cities like Fort Collins are capitalizing on proximity to farms that cover so much of the state, while attracting culinary talent and customers from nearby Boulder and Denver. Nothing here is sourced from industrial suppliers—and if you’ve run a restaurant before, you know how hard that is to do. It’s rare to find a place with a near solid five stars on Yelp even after 100+ reviews, but The Gold Leaf Collective manages to do it. Eat here, and you’ll see why. What started as a food truck has now morphed into a brick-and-mortar location whose casual atmosphere belies its frankly sophisticated cuisine. There are beets, perfectly roasted, with coconut cream labneh, pepitas, and mustard greens; there’s a charred iceberg wedge with seitan bacon, pickled apples, and onions. The food doesn’t shun meat analogs, but really holds its own as a restaurant in the New American style. This is the direction in which plant-based dining should be moving, and we want to follow it. thegoldleafcollective.com
Ramen — that cheap student staple that comes in a cellophane package with its own (usually salty) flavor packet– rises to ethereal heights when five gifted Denver chefs who do a lot with contemporary Asian cuisine prepare their versions from scratch. They compete for the title of Ramen Showdown Shogun on Monday, November 13 from 6 to 10 p.m. with guests slurping (or not) and doing the judging.
Departure Restaurant + Lounge hosts the event. Its own chef, Gregory Gourdet competes against Steve Redzikowski (Acorn, Oak on Fourteenth), Lon Symensma (ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro and others), Tommy Lee (Uncle, Hop Alley) and Corey Baker (Sushi Ronin). Guests attending the ramen showdown vote for a winner and watch the live results unfold on a 55-inch screen.
Each guest gets to try five ramen tasting bowls plus Departure’s bite-sized Koji-Chestnut ice cream with persimmon and miso butterscotch dessert for $30 including tax and tip. There’s also an optional five-course sake pairing for $20.
A portion of the proceeds goes to Project Angel Heart, a fabulous organization that has delivered 335,000 meals to more than 2,900 Coloradans living with AIDS or other life-threatening illness this year.
Departure Restaurant + Lounge is located at 249 Columbine Street, Denver. FoMoInfo or tickets, call the restaurant at 720-772-5020.
Jefferson Park eatery re-establishing its cicchetti bar.
Sarto’s, a metropolitan Italian eatery in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, has had a challenge finding its focus. When it opened nearly three years ago, Brian Laird of Barolo Grill was the first chef. Click here for my report.
There was at least one other top toque before Meyer was appointed as executive chef. He was an interesting choice, having been at Sarto’s veteran in the early days, but his experience is broad. He once cooked at a trout fishing resort near Alamosa and did stints at Old Major, where he worked his way up to junior sous chef before initially joining Sarto’s. He left to help a friend open a fine dining barbecue restaurant in Singapore, returned briefly to Sarto’s before heading north to Alaska to serve as a chef at a boutique fishing lodge where he learned how to cure his own caviar, forage for wild mushrooms and filet a 300-pound halibut. Back in Denver, he returned to Sarto’s to take the helm as executive chef. Hopefully, the third time is the charm.
Meyer has worked to create a culture where employees feel like they can thrive and grow. Despite his fish diversions, his approach to the menu is quintessentially Italian, using the best seasonal ingredients expertly prepared simple and elegant dishes that are also approachable and authentic.
Meyer doesn’t believe great food should just be reserved for special occasions. He has returned the restaurant’s popular Cicchetti Bar back to its roots, making it less of a chef’s table and more of a place where diners can gather socially for cocktails and cicchetti, Italian small bites that change daily. The Cicchetti Bar is open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Sarto’s is also adding a new calendar of events, including Saturday cooking classes and Sunday Night Screenings, featuring a themed dinner and movie in the restaurant’s private Verona Room.
Sarto’s is at 2900 West 25th Avenue, Jefferson Park, Denver.
When I encounter food sampling stations, I always try a bite, and when a Colorado product is involved, I pay extra attention. So it was at Alfalfa’s on Sunday, where two guys were offering squares of pizza with two different seasoning options. The guys were Matt Lenore and Mike Chen, co-workers in the field of finance. They are also pizza lovers — and now seasoning entrepreneurs.
Eight months ago, they launched the FlatIron Spice Co., working out of a commercial kitchen in Arvada, where they now blend spices and herbs into a tastier, more complex alternative to plain old hot pepper flakes to sprinkle on pizza slices. The red, called Four Pepper Blend, is hotter, with the heat coming on gradually. The green, called Hatch Valley Green, is quite mild.
The partners see commercially to pizza restaurants, online and now to retail grocers, initially Alfalfa’s in Boulder and Louisville, C+P Provisions in Denver’s Highland ‘hood and Venice Olive Oil Company in Florida. Expect to pay about $5 per jar — and based on my first tastes, worth every penny.
I am in South Africa right now, so first-person Colorado food experiences are on hiatus. But news of 5280 Magazine’s list of Denver’s 25 best is available online, so I share it with you here by clicking here.
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.