Category Archives: Colorado

Snooze Poised to Grow

Denver-born breakfast restaurant group gets New York investor.

snooze-logoA decade ago, when Denver’s Ballpark neighborhood was beginning to take off, brothers Jon and Adam Schlegel established Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. In fact, it was born April 2, 2006, and became an instand hit, sparking a movement toward creative, breakfast-oriented restaurants. It became known for its “atomic age’ mid-20th-century décor, energetic atmosphere and friendly service — and of course, it’s great breakfast items.

There are now 17 Snoozes in Arizona, Texas and California as well as Colorado. The capital and managerial infusion comes from York’s Stripes Group. The big name, food industry-wise, is David Swinghamer, former CEO of Shake Shack. He and two other Stripes Group partners are said to be joining Snooze’s board of directors. Will this corporatize Snooze? Will there still be lines spilling onto the sidewalk? Will it loose its Ballpark soul?

Culinary Treasure in Old Town Erie

24 Carrot Bistro serves great cocktails & sublime food.

p1120723Until last night, I’d only eaten one dinner in Erie — years ago at my friend Kuvy Ax’s birthday dinner at a now-defunct Mexican restaurant. It was at Kuvy’s behest that I ate there again last night. This divine dinner was at 24 Carrot Bistro, a farm-to-table restaurant with a stellar pedigree. The eatery’s name comes from a play on words — 24 karat relating to the finest gold and carrots referencing a key ingredient in fine classic cuisine.

Not only are partners Bianca Retzloff and Kevin Kidd both chefs, but Bianca is the daughter of Mark Retzloff, founder and owner of Alfalfa’s Market  (now Markets, because there are three).  Between them, Bianca and Kevin had worked at Alfalfa’s and in various Boulder County restaurants (SALT, Colterra, Jax and others) before crossing the line to Weld County and Erie. This town has exploded with housing developments, but it lacked any good restaurants until July 2015 when 24 Carrot Bistro opened in an 1880 building, originally a butcher shop and most recently a steakhouse. Now exposed brick walls and exposed joists create a warm, rustic and hospitable look.

24 Carrots Bistro exemplifies the aesthetic of paring a building down to its bones -- exposed brick walls, exposed joists and minimal distracting decorations. Along one side is the bailiwick of D.J. Riemer and his behind-the-bar team, who mix great cocktails and conduct monthly mixology classes.
24 Carrot Bistro exemplifies the aesthetic of paring a building down to its bones — exposed brick walls, exposed joists and minimal distracting decorations. Along one side is the bailiwick of D.J. Riemer and his behind-the-bar team, who mix great cocktails and conduct monthly mixology classes. (Oliver Retzloff photo, courtesy 24 Carrot Bistro)
24 Carrots' skilled bartenders work with house-made liqueurs, digestifs, shrubs and spirits of various sorts. Their speciality is pre-Prohibition contails -- and contemporary ones too.
24 Carrot’s skilled bartenders work with house-made liqueurs, digestifs, tinctures, shrubs and spirits of various sorts, including on-site barrel-aging. Their specialty is pre-Prohibition cocktails — and contemporary ones too.

A blackboard near the entrance lists the local vendors they buy from, but being from Scituate, Mass., executive chef Kevin Kidd has a soft spot for fresh seafood so he has it flown in six days a week.

Elsewhere, calamri can be rubbery, but 24 Carrots' tender and crsisp-fried version might just be the best I've ever had. Chef Kevin soaks it buttermilk, coats in seasoned flour and fries it till it's
Elsewhere, calamari can be rubbery, but 24 Carrot’s tender and crisp-fried version might just be the best I’ve ever had. Chef Kevin soaks it in buttermilk, coats it in seasoned flour and fries it till it’s “just right” — like Baby Bear’s calamari would be. It comes with smears of basil aioli and Romesco, two Mediterranean-inspired sauces.
An elegant and delicious salad of roasted cauliflower, sliced apple, cpinack, celery. some cheddar, hazelnuts for crunch and an elegant cherry vinaigrette.
An elegant and delicious salad of roasted cauliflower, sliced apple, spinach, celery, some cheddar, hazelnuts for crunch and an elegant sherry vinaigrette.
The lighting did not flatter the roasted quail, but the cornbrad stuffing, bacon-braised collards and apple-cranberry compote made for a lovely homage to Thanksgiving.
The evening lighting did not flatter the roasted quail, but the cornbread stuffing, bacon-braised collards and apple-cranberry compote made for a lovely homage to Thanksgiving.
Pan-roasted red snapper with seared sweet potato, spinach, fennel and pistachio in a pool of red pepper/paprika butter sauce.
Pan-roasted red snapper with seared sweet potato, spinach, fennel and pistachio in a pool of red pepper/paprika butter sauce.
The interesting sweet potato cheesecake had a moist crumbly texture, not dissimilar to a rum cake. It is served with a cranberry-tarragon couli, some maple pecan pieces and a crown of whipped cream.
The interesting sweet potato cheesecake has a moist crumbly texture, not dissimilar to a  booze-free rum cake. It is served with a cranberry-tarragon coulis, some maple pecan pieces and a crown of whipped cream.
On a warmer evening, we might have had drinks on the cute little patio, but on a cold night, we went out for a peak at the near-dormant raised boxes where 24 Carrots chefs grow their own herbs,
On a warmer evening, we might have had drinks on the cute little patio, but on a cold night, we went out for a peak at the near-dormant raised boxes where 24 Carrot chefs grow their own herbs.

Price check: At dinner, appetizers, $7-$12 plus $14 for an artisanal cheese plate; salads, $6-$8; small plates, $12-$17; entrées, $17-30 plus $12 for a Bistro Burger; desserts, $7-$8 plus just $2 for a daily selection of mini-bites and ice cream/sorbet tastes.

24 Carrot Bistro is at 578 Briggs Street, Erie; 303-828-1392.

24 Carrot Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lyons Liqueur Medals in New York

Local liqueur features decaf coffee & clean alcohol.

richardosbottleRichardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur, a 40-proof liqueur made with naturally decaffeinated coffee, pure vanilla and neutral grain spirits, was awarded a Silver Medal at the 7th Annual New York International Spirits Competition. It is the fifth international award win for Richardo’s, which can be used in cocktails, cooking and baking, and served neat or over ice. Do alcohol and decaf coffee cancel each other out?

Richard England makes his liqueur through a patent-pending process blending neutral grain spirits with England’s signature mix of naturally decaffeinated coffee, high-quality vanilla and other ingredients, then aged for at least 30 days. England and his wife, Linda, started making Richardo’s in small batches in 1986 , mainly for family and friends. In 2012, he teamed up with Spirit Hound Distillers to take his recipe to production scale while still keeping the rich, creamy and smooth taste of the liqueur intact.

According to England, Richardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur is made with high-quality vanilla and decaffeinated coffee, which requires less sugar to overcome the natural bitterness of caffeine.

Made just outside Denver in Lyons, Colorado, Richardo’s is available at Spirit Hound Distillers tasting room on the east side of in Lyons. We’ve passed it a million times en route to Estes Park. We’ve got to stop next time for a distillery tour and to try some Richardo’s. If you aren’t going though Lyons, click here for Colorado liquor stores and restaurant where you can find it.  4196 Ute Highway (US Highway 36), Lyons; 303- 823-5696 (tasting room) or 720- 636-4525.

Roger Beery & His Wines in the Wall Street Journal

jcagecellars-logoA few years ago, at a wine event in a LoDo loft, I met Colorado wine-lovers Roger and Donna Beery. We chatted pleasantly and exchanged cards.  I have periodically, but not recently, checked their Bacchus & Beery wine blog.  They now split their time between Austin and Healdsburg, CA, where they established J. Cage Cellars, a winery named after Roger’s great grandfather, a Texas bridge-builder. They refer to it as “their wine-stained dream” and in fact, that’s what they named their newsletter.

The Beerys and their grown children are building a reputation with their award-winning wines, including several golds in 2014, 2015 and 2016 at the Denver International Wine Festival competition.  The Wall Street Journal profiled them yesterday in a retirement piece called “At Last, Becoming a Winemaker.” Happy to share this recognition, and I hope to try their wines along the way.

Flagstaff House Chef Wins ‘Chopped’ Episode

Royster prevails in on Food Network show.

Addendum: The Denver Post ran an interesting piece on Royster after the competition, concluding with “Royster’s winning dessert will make its way onto the menu at Flagstaff House, and plans for a dinner featuring his ‘Chopped’ dinner are in the works.”

chopped-logoI recently posted an item about Chris Royster’s upcoming appearance on the Food Network’s “Chopped.” That episode, aired last night, and the Flagstaff House chef de cuisine came out the winner. The last two standing out of the initial field of four contenders turned out to be Colorado chefs. Royster’s runner-up was Brother Luck of namesake Brother Luck’s Street Eats in downtown Colorado Springs.

This episode was called “Beast Feast.” The  theme of this heavily formatted mano a mano a mano a mano was supposed to be “meat.” One of those “meats” was chicken, which I would classify as poultry. Oh well. Each contestant is presented with a four-ingredient box of items that must be used in creating a dish. These four have nothing  to do with each other (in fact, clash), and it is a testimony to their skills and creativity that they can produce anything edible or attractive in the required 30 minutes or less.

Immediately following this episode was a rerun of last week’s “Battle of the Butchers.” One of the contestants was from Denver’s Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, but frankly, I couldn’t bear watching another of these contrived programs. Remember, I’m the one who ardently dislikes the unreal realm of “reality” television — even as I celebrate the victory or even the appearance of any Colorado contestant.

In case I still have your interest, here’s how this excessively formatted show goes: “After each round, a rotating round of culinary judges critique the dishes based on presentation, taste and creativity. The judges then decide which chef is “chopped,” and that chef is eliminated from the competition. By the Dessert round, only two chefs remain. When deciding the winner, the judges consider not only the dessert course, but the entire meal presented by each chef as a whole. The winner of the competition receives prize money, usually in the amount of $10,000.”

Boulder Chef to Appear on Chopped

Flagstaff House’s chef de cuisine Royster to be on Food Network.

chopped-logoI guess I’m going to have to watch “Chopped” this Tuesday, because another gifted Boulder chef will be on television, and the only time I watch reality TV is when a local is competing. This time it’s Flagstaff House Chef de Cuisine Chris Royster, named on the Zagat 30 Under 30 list,  His appearance on the Food Network’s “Chopped” is to be aired on Tuesday November 22 at 10 p.m. EST/8 p.m. MST.

chrisroysterChef Chris grew up in Hyde Park, NY, and I wonder whether the breeze wafting from the Culinary Institute of America infected him with a passion for food. If not that, it was more likely in the genes. His mother had a cake decorating business, and his father and grandfather were avid hunters. Whole animal butchery is a thing now, but once upon a time, it was country folk and hunters who utilized the whole animal, so he learned those skills from his immediate forebears.

Chef Chris has worked in restaurants since he was a teenager, first — along with his brother, Adam — at a local modern American restaurant called The Twist,  rising from washing dishes to being co-chef at the age of 17. Seventeen! He then attended the CIA, where an externship  at the Flagstaff House initially brought him to Colorado.  Prior to his return to this iconic Boulder restaurant, he cooked  in Coloradoat the Red Rocks Amphitheater and various restaurants in the Three Leaf Concepts group and since 2001, back at the Flagstaff House, first as Sous Chef, then as Chef de Cuisine.

I’ll be watching and rooting for Royster. How about you?

Five Top Colorado Steakhouses

Open Table’s “100 Best” list includes a handful in metro Denver.

OpenTable-logoOpen Table, the online restaurant reservation site, has unveiled its users’ choices for the 100 Best Steakhouses in America for 2016. Of those, five are in Colorado — all in Denver or the greater metro area. They are:

  • Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Greenwood Village
  • Elway’s Cherry Creek, Denver
  • Guard & Grace, Denver
  • Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille, Park Meadows, Lone Tree
  • Shanahan’s Steakhouse, Denver

I was alerted to this by a Del Frisco’s spokeswoman, who also noted that this upscale steakhouse chain has three interesting insiders’ features:

  • Secret menu items  that “only those with prior knowledge know to order the off-menu delights, many inspired by Del Frisco’s regulars and local celebrities.”
  • Non-traditional spirits  that vary by each location, offering “some of the rarest vintages and bottles available in the U.S.
  • The recently created recently created Somm Wars pitting “Leaders of Women in Wine” against each other, “with Del being “home to many top female sommeliers and a friendly three-city wine competition, which will become an annual event.” The three cities are Dallas, New York and Chicago.