Category Archives: Colorado

Small Plate Delights at Denver’s New Amuse

I recently wrote about the coming of Amuse by Michel at 5 Degrees in Denver. Now it’s here, and on Tuesday, I attended a preview for media and other guests. The 5 Degrees part is a big bar/lounge in front, geared for the LoDo evening social crowd, while the Amuse part is the eatery that occupies the back. The restaurant is small and very cool-looking. It reminded me of a house of mirrors, with mirrors set in white frames against black walls, antique-white chandeliers with robin’s egg blue shades (right) that could have come from Cinderella’s castle, birchwood table tops, black armchairs and wood floors. An expansive patio in back looks inviting for a summer evening but was not open for the preview for media and guests on Tuesday evening.
The wine list was imposing, but I selected a sparkling Micheltini to start, and it was so good that I had another during the progression of a dozen small plates, each one attractively presented. IMHO, the best were:
  • The mixed Mediterranean olives with fresh herbs, lemon, orange, spices and garlic. I doubt that Wahaltare cures his own olives, but they displayed variety and marinade was terrific.
  • Seasonal Pacific oysters (right) with Maui onions mignonette. The oysters were “gentle,” not assertive, thereby not competing with the onions — and vice versa.
  • The lemon buerre blanc that blanketed the potato gnocchi was delicious.
  • Even better was the saffron mustard cream sauce for the PEI mussels. Understandably, given so many dishes to try, there was no bread on the table, but if there had been, I would have been tempted to sop up every drop. As it was, I made sure that ever mussel was well coated.
  • The Mountain Meadow Colorado lamb loin was tender and sweetly lamb-y, and the cassoulet of beans and balsamic emulsion was a lovely counterpoint.

One of Michel’s marketing minions came around and asked what we thought of different dishes, so if I was not alone in my opinions, the following dishes might change in the future, but as of last Tuesday, the least successful were:

  • The Red Bird Farms chicken drumettes confit with home-made ginger and sun-dried apricot barbecue disappointed. The chicken was tender enough, beneath a coating of a tempura-like batter, but I couldn’t taste the ginger, just the apricot, and the “barbecue” component mystified me.
  • The lightly fried citrus almond-crusted calamari served with spiced tomato sauce featured tender enough calamari, but the crust bore no taste of citrus or of almond, and the tomato sauce packed no flavor punch other than the tomatoes.
Too full for dessert, I lumbered back to the Market Street station and rolled back to Boulder on the bus.

Amuse at 5 Degrees is at 1475 Lawrence Street, Denver. It is open from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. except Sunday. For reservations, call 303-260-7505.

Cooking Class at Maggiano’s

I’m normally not a fan of chains, but Maggiano’s Little Italy (two locations in Denver, 20 other states) is one of the best of the lot. Maybe it’s nostalgia. The ambience mimics East Coast Italian neighborhood restaurants, though the ones I have been to ramble from room to room and seem as big as some entire East Coast Italian neighorhoods. Maybe it’s because relatively few locations thinly spread across not-too-many states (only four in excessively chainified California) makes it feel less corporate. Maybe it’s because the food is really quite good — heaping platters of filling southern Italian-style favorites, served family-style.

In any case, on Monday evening, I attended a small cooking class put on by George Poston, chef at the downtown Denver Maggiano’s. Normally when the restaurant invites some media friends, the classes are hands-on in one of their kitchens, but this time, every dining room was packed, the kitchens were all occupied and we were exiled to the very pleasant patio where the class ended up being a demonstration. (Poston is above right, with his “assistant,” 7News consumer reporter Bill Clarke)

I’ve never been to a cooking class — hands-on or demonstration — where I didn’t learn something. This time, I learned that there are better ways to make buschetta than my never-quite-totally-successful oven-toasting. Poston took very good Italian bread (from Whole Foods, he said, which makes better stuff than Maggiano’s generally puts on the tables) grilled it over very low heat (200 to 250 degrees) in a cast-iron skillet with a bit of olive oil and garlic until lightly toasted and then topped it with chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Zagat Wants YOU!

You be the critic! On-line balloting has started for the 2008 edition of Zagat’s America’s Top Restaurants. Colorado doesn’t rate it’s own Zagat Guide, but this state’s urban, suburban and resort restaurants are included in the national book. Go to http://www.zagat.com/vote/VoteActiveSurvey.aspx, register and cast your votes and make your cyber-voice heard. Zagat Guides are well regarded for condensing and consolidating real people’s input, rather than relying on professional restaurant critics for their ratings and evaluations. In fact, some people conisder them their little dining bibles. Deadline is July 8, 2007.

Denver Chefs to Food & Wine

I’ve been deadline-crazed lately and haven’t had/found/made time to blog for several days. But I just found out which Denver chefs will be at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 15-17 and can resist sharing their names with you.

I don’t have a schedule so don’t know exactly what each one will be doing or when. Speaking generally, some chefs go to Food & Wine to cook for admiring crowds in the Consumer portion of the event, which is truly an honor, but others quietly attend seminars and panels in the Restaurant Trade portion of the event and network with their colleagues. The combo makes it a chef fest of the highest order. The Front Range chefs heading for this toniest of food events, which is billing itself as “the height of good taste,” are:

Matt Anderson, Bistro Vendôme
Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja
Carl Klein, Corridor 44
Ian Kleinman, O’s Steak & Seafood at the Westin Westminster
Curtis Lincoln, Ellyngton’s at the Brown Palace
Christian “Goose” Sorensen, Solera
Tyler Wiard, Elways

Natural Food Sources Near Boulder, CO

I recently received the following questions, and I thought more people might benefit if I answered here rather than via E-mail to just one person.

1) I’m wondering if you could recommend any place to buy fresh, locally made yogurt (not frozen) with active ingredients?

The Boulder Cooperative Market at 19th and Pearl (303-447-2667) probably has local, live-culture yogurt (and might even make their own), but I can’t get anyone on the phone to check. Of the supermarket purveyors, Boulder-based Horizon Organics (888-494-3020) is as local as can be, uses milk from company farms and family farms, makes yogurt with five live cultures and is even available at such prosaic markets as King Soopers, as well as natural foods markets. If you want to buy locally but can compromise on where the products were made, I think very highly of Stonyfield Farm’s products, all the way from Londonderry, NH; 603-437-4040. They use live yogurt cultures and their website has printable coupons. Their products are available locally.

2) Where do you get Wisdom poultry?
I buy Wisdom chicken at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market. Their stand has been set up along Canyon between 13th and 14th, but last Saturday, that location was given over to the Port-a-Potties for the Boulder Creek Festival. Jay and Cindy Wisdom are probably too busy with their chickens to have a website, but their phone number is 970-774-7492.

3) Do you know a place locally to buy healthy lamb, pork, and beef? I’m thinking I’d like to get a couple of people together and purchase some meat, start buying more of this stuff locally, support local farmers.

I didn’t know anything off-hand, except for a natural beef purveyor with a stand at the Boulder County Farmers’ market. I couldn’t remember the name, so I just started searching, and I am amazed at the number of natural meat ranches in Colorado and elsewhere. If you want to buy really locally, you might try Herb’s Meats in Boulder or Your Butcher Frank in Longmont and see whether they source from nearby ranches and what kind of bulk deals they can put together (most butchers offer some kind of freezer quantity purchases). Otherwise, Rocky Plains Quality Meats in Dacono, which isn’t too far, offers their own natural buffalo, plus Colorado lamb, pork, chicken and more at their “mini-ranch” just east of I–25 between Hwy 7 and Hwy 52; 303-833-3791. [A caveat is that their website isn’t working, so for all I know, they’ve sold out to a developer, so call before heading out that way.]

For a list of local ranches (i.e., those in northeastern Colorado), see the regional meat directory put out by the state Agriculture Department. There are also directories for other regions. Each listing indicates what the ranch produces, how it produces, what quantities are sold, whether meat can be purchased at the ranch and whether they ship. Also, the Health Alliance for Life and Longevity (HEALL = clever acronym) has a list of Colorado organic ranches. The closest is Stillroven Farm in Berthoud; 970-535-4527 (no website). Still another Colorado list at Eat Wild’s website includes the B Bar S Ranches, a beef operation with ranches in the high desert near Elizabeth and the high mountains near Nederland (right); 303-442-1995.

Beyond that, major distributors contract out to producers in Colorado and elsewhere that meet their requirements for pesticide-free feeding and immunizing/medicating livestock. Coleman Natural Meats is HQed in Denver, with beef and lamb from Colorado ranches; 800-442-8666. Coleman Ranches in Saguache have been in the same family for five generations, and the Colemans really set the standard for natural livestock. “A Cowboy in the Meat Business” is an illuminating interview with Mel Coleman and how he got started producing natural cattle.

Also HQed in Denver is Maverick Ranch distributes natural beef, buffalo, pork and chicken; 303-294-0146. For an interesting look at standards, go to Maverick’s website and click on the “Producers Click Here” box. Wyoming Natural Products near Newcastle, WY, sells grass-fed beef (they call it “premium”) and handcuts meat for shipment; 800-969-9946. Cameron Ranch near Riverton, WY, ships grass-fed natural beef and lamb; 307) 856-6057. Nebraska isn’t too far away, and Walnut Creek Organic Ranch (402-262-2245) is also a source for grass-fed Angus beef; they also ship. A bit farther afield is La Cense Ranch near Dillon, MT, which now seems to be owned by a gentleman rancher who has been able to invest in upgrading and improving ranch facilities. The ranch also specializes in grass-fed black Angus beef, and like Walnut Creek, ships too; 866-442-2333 (BEEF) or 406-683-5900.

Outdoor Dining in Boulder County

In an article called “Happy Hours” in the Friday Section of today’s Daily Camera lists “some of our favorite places to dine, soak in the rays and enjoy the great views of the foothills” (a sidebar lists the writer’s rooftop faves, but I’m just sharing the patios here):

Perhaps this is a picky quibble, but not all of these places have “great views of the foothills” — and some have no views of the foothills whatsoever. That doesn’t make them unappealing, but it seems odd for a writer to promise diners something that they won’t find. More puzzling: I wonder why not a single establishment on the Pearl Street Mall made the list. With no vehicular traffic, every patio along the mall is uncommonly pleasant. The selection includes no places at all in Nederland or other eateries scattered through the mountains in western Boulder County, but even sticking with the flat part east of the foothills, there are a few reall y obvious (to me) omissions.

For instance, why not include Sherpa’s, at 824 Pearl Street (303-440-7151), a couple of doors west of D’Napoli and with its own shaded patio? Centro at 950 Pearl Street in Boulder (303-442-7771) has a great, lively patio — no foothills views, but everything else that makes for great patio dining. In North Boulder, the patio of Proto’s Pizza (4670 Broadway; 720-565-1050) is on the side of the building fronting on a quiet side street. Treppeda’s at 300 Second Avenue in Niwot (303-652-1606) boasts a wide patio with umbrella-shaded tables. And other than the fact that its al fresco dining is on a porch rather than a patio, the Chautauqua Dining Hall (set in Chautauqua Park off Baseline Road, just south of Ninth Street, 303-440-3776) is an unsurpassed outdoor venue for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Ceviche, Shaken and Not Stirred

Ciche martinis — the next big thing?

I first encountered ceviche martinis at a reception at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel several months ago. A white-coated cook was stationed at a tabled laden with citrus-marinated raw seafood and appropriate condiments. Whenever someone ordered a ceviche, he mixed it to order in a martini shaker, gave it a good toss, poured it into a martini glass and garnished it. It was a good show, the result was delicious and soon a line built at that station.

Yesterday, there was another ceviche martini station at a reception at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, CO. The chef offered a selection of scallops, shrimp and mahimahi to be tossed with a choice of three sauces. He spooned the requested combination into his martini shaker, shook up the combination of ingredients, tossed them and decanted them into a martini glass. Again, delicious.

I thought this was something new, but I guess it was just new to me. I was chastened to read, in a Dallas restaurant review from back in October 2006, that the ceviche “tumbled into a martini glass…long ago ascended to ceviche cliché.” Long ago? Where was I? Maybe I don’t get out enough. In any case, ceviche martinis aren’t old hat to me, and I really like ’em.