Category Archives: Colorado

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.

Boulder’s Best Bake Sale

No lopsided cupcakes, overbaked brownies, cakes made from mixes or pie fillings leaking though rubbery crusts at the bake sale at Boulder’s Culinary School of the Rockies on Friday, May 25, from 11:30 a.m. until the last item is sold. The bakers are students — almost-professional bakers really — attending the school’s Pastry Arts program. They will create a wide assortment of delicious and gorgeous pastries and breads. The sale benefits a good culinary cause, with 100 percent of proceeds directly benefiting CSR’s student scholarships.

For the spring bake sale, the students will make :

French Pastries
Fancy Cookies
Layered Cakes
Cream Puffs
Sticky Buns
Fruit Tarts
Artisan Breads
Pain au Chocolate

The school is located at 637 South Broadway (west side of the building). For more information, call 303-494-7988.

Wop’s in a Name?

In 1919, Michele and Emira Colacci, who had come to the coal-mining town of Louisville, CO, opened a restaurant serving the simple, hearty food of southern Italy, from which they had recently emigrated. Eventually, the Colaccis became a dynasty of restaurateurs. The family’s surviving Louisville restaurant, the Blue Parrot (left), is located on Main Street, just two blocks from the original (and now gone) Colacci’s. Michele and Emira added a sausage burger to their menu and called it the Wopburger, which bothered no one for nearly nine decades, until an East Coast transplant named James Gambino took umbrage at what he considered an ethnic slur.

Joan Colacci Riggins, Michele and Emira’s granddaughter and owner of Blue Parrot Restaurant with her father and brother, told the Boulder Daily Camera that Gambino “raised a stink.” He complained to the National Italian American Foundation in Washington, DC, and to the Boulder Valley School District, which buys Blue Parrot bottled pasta sauce for school lunches. NIAF’s chairman, Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli, chided the Colacci clan, noting that, “Perhaps you are not aware that this is a pejorative term that insults the Italian American community.” Linda Stoll, who heads the BVSD’s food services, politely intimated that the oh-so-politically-correct district might have to stop buying the Blue Parrot’s spaghetti sauce unless they change the name of the burger on the restaurant menu, although the restaurant and sauce business are separate.

Initially, it appeared that the Colaccis would cave to political pressure and that Blue Parrot menu would we reprinted to offer an “Italian burger.” That, of course, spurred reactions too. One Longmont reader wrote to the Camera: “What has our society come to if a single customer can change an 88-year tradition of serving a proudly named menu item? One customer was ‘offended’ by the name of the Wopburger and demanded the menu be changed, and they are changing it! It is apparent from the story that the Colacci family bore no malice when the ‘Wopburger’ was named in 1919, and that name has not been offensive to the community for nearly nine decades. How is it that a single overzealous, politically correct individual has the power to pressure the Boulder Valley School District into calling the restaurant and implying that they will stop purchasing spaghetti sauce from them if the name on the menu is not changed?”

Another reader, this time from Louisville, disagreed: “I, as a second-generation Italian American, and my husband, a first-generation Italian American, are glad Wopburger got taken off the menu at the Blue Parrot. I find that word very offensive. I don’t know about Colorado, but back East, WOP became a nasty term for Italians….It seems Italian Americans are the favorite ethnic group in this country to still be called names, and stereotyped. Just look at TV and movies. We are gangsters, crooks, ignorant, slutty, you name it. If their [stet]were a burger on the menu with a pejorative term for any other ethnic group, it would make the evening news, but Italian? Big deal. Well it is a big deal, and I’d like to thank the school district and the person who brought it to their attention.”

Just a week after the fuss surfaced, the Colaccis thought it over some more. “We’ve had so many people coming in and calling us, telling us, ‘I can’t believe you’re changing the name. Please don’t change the name,'” said Joan Colacci Riggins told the a reporter. “When certain words are used in a certain way, they can be derogatory in context. But that was never the way with us.”

So the Wopburger remains on the menu. Some people will be happy. Some will boycott the place. And some don’t care. One story of the origin of the word was to refer to immigrants who arrived with out papers — undocumented aliens or illegal aliens in today’s parlance. In any case, I’m glad the Colaccis have resolved the issue to their own satisfaction. I suppose their business won’t rise or fall on the patronage of James Gambino. Not after 88 years.

New Museum Cafe in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is putting the finishing touches on a new wing that, when open in early August, will just about double its exhibition space. With a brilliant new permanent collection of Dale Chihuly glass and space for its noteworthy Southwestern collection to be on display all the time, plus higher-caliber visiting exhibitions in spacious new galleries, the CFAS will be worth more time. Therefore, art lovers and others who just enjoy the ambiend welcome the newly opened Cafe 36 in the landmark Art Deco original building, which was built in 1936.
Lunch is served Tuesdays through Saturdays and Sunday brunch between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Prices are moderate, ranging (at lunch) from $3 for a cup of soup to $12 for an entree of chicken forestiere or salmon filet with topical salsa at lunch, and steak and eggs, or salmon and eggs at brunch. Most dishes are under $10, and there’s also a children’s menu. The new executive chef is Bruce S. Calder, formerly with the Colorado Country Club. The new cafe is adjacent to the SaGāJi Theatre in the Fine Arts Center at 30 West Dale Street. Reservations are recommended; call 719-477-4377.

Beau Jo’s Returning to Boulder

According to a report in the Boulder Daily Camera, Beau Jo’s Pizza will soon return to Boulder after about a decade’s absence. It will be located at 2690 Baseline Road, a hard-luck location that most recently was two incarnations of Fiasco’s Mexican Grill. When I first moved to Boulder, it was a Long John Silver’s. Subsequently in was an innovative fine-dining restaurant (Two Bitts), a steakhouse and a couple of forgettable Italian places.

The original Beau Jo’s, founded in 1973 in a tiny 18-seat space, now spreads across several storefronts along the main drag of Idaho Springs, and to me, that’ s Beau Jo’s. Shortly after I moved to Boulder, it because a refueling stop after skiing or hiking, especially on a weekend, when the traffic on I-70 slowed to a proverbial crawl. I’m generally not fond of thick-crust pizzas, and even Beau Jo’s thin crust is heftier than I prefer. In a way, it must be, to support the heavy load of toppings.

Beau Jo’s Mountain Pies hefty pizzas are built on a foundation of honey white or whole wheat crust, with an hand-rolled edge to keep the fillin‘ from spillin‘. There’s a choice of sauces, toppings and cheeses for one of the most easily customizable pies around. Prairie Pies are a lighter alternative.

I always loved seeing patrons’ napkin artwork tacked the walls (no longer such a feature of the decor), the mining memorabilia and even the salad bar atop an old clawfoot tub. The pizza was filling, the ambience was lively, the substitution of Mason Jars for glasses fitting and the honey for dipping the last of the crust a nice touch — a main course melding seamlessly into dessert. Even the wait for a table was rarely unbearable.

To me, the theme didn’t translate well to Boulder, not because the city can’t take funky, but because its location, tucked into a side of an old Montgomery Ward’s in the now-demolished Crossroads Mall, was weird. In addition to Idaho Springs, there are also Beau Jo’s in Arvada, Colorado Springs, Evergreen, Fort Collins and Highlands Ranch. I’ve never been to any of them, but I’ll sure give the cleaner, leaner, greener location coming to Boulder a try.

The new Beau Jo’s on Baseline could be the first of a new, possibly franchisable incarnation. The Camera reported that Chip Bair, Beau Jo’s founder and owner, could be a prototype for a more modern, less rustic, look, with such “green” features as photovoltaic panels and purchasing wind-energy credits. The trend toward more local sourcing and healthier options also will continue.

Article for the Street Food Lover in You

Local reporter highlights favorite street food from a recent trip

If you love Asian street food as much as Kelly Yamanouchi and I do, be sure to pick up today’s Denver Post and read her long feature in the food section called “From the Street to the Table.” You can link to it from this blog, but do get today’s paper so you can see the photos too. Fresh from a trip to Asia where she crammed one last “steaming bowl of noodles topped with fresh vegetables, slow-cooked beef and ladles of broth” in her final half-hour in Taipei before leaving for the airport, she sought similar tastes in Denver.

I remember my own last-minute food frenzies — scooting around the corner from a fancy hotel in Shanghai, where my bags were packed and ready to go, for one last portion of dumplings from a stand, or making time for one more order of chicken skewers with a divine peanut/chile dipping sauce before leaving Bangkok. Unlike me, however, when Kelly, a Post staff writer, returned to Denver, she researched places to get similar food here.

She wrote, “Taipei is known for its night markets, which bustle with tourists and locals jostling for food sold from dozens of different stalls. Street food throughout Asia appears in an array of places – at storefronts along the sidewalk, at festivals and in outdoor markets. While the American notion of street food tends to focus on hand-helds like hot dogs and pretzels, in Asia the selection runs the gamut — almost anything that can be prepared quickly and simply, from noodle soup to deep-fried stinky tofu to oyster omelets. In metropolitan Denver, street stalls aren’t prevalent and there’s no Taipei-style night market or Singapore-style hawker stand, but I found some selections at Asian restaurants and groceries that reminded me of the originals.”

She recommended:
Lao Wang Noodle House, 945-D South Federal Boulevard, Denver; 303-975-2497
H Mart, 2751 South Parker Road, Aurora; 303-745-4592
Spice China, 269 McCaslin Boulevard., Louisville; 720-890-0999
J’s Noodles & New Thai, 945-E South Federal Boulevard, Denver; 303-922-5495
US Thai, 5228 West 25th Avenue, Edgewater; 303-233-3345

A further resource if you love ethnic foods is The Gyro’s Journey (left)by Clay Fong. This guide to ethnic eateries on the Front Range is new from Fulcrum Publishing. I haven’t seen it yet, but it is described as “guide to authentic and affordable ethnic dining experiences in the Front Range. Written for the adventurous diner, this book describes family-owned businesses found off the beaten track that hold true to the traditions of their native lands.” Fong is now a restaurant and food writer for the Boulder Weekly.