Category Archives: Cooking School

Denver Chefs to Compete in Grilled Cheese Event

Public invited to sample and vote — & that means you

StevesSnappinDog-logoSteve’s Snappin’ Dogs hosts Denver’s first grilled cheese competition on Saturday, January 11 from 1 to 3 p.m. This change of pace from the usual best pizza or best burger event. I first heard about it on “The Main Course” Saturday morning restaurant show hosted by Michael Long and Elizabeth Woessner on KEZW-1430 AM. Contestants vying to be honored for their best versions of this classic comfort food will include representatives from  Johnson & Wales University’s culinary arts programBull & Bush Brewery (whose beer is served at Steve’s), Happy Leaf Kombucha, Marczyk Fine Foods, Masterpiece Deli, Mobile Meltz, ProhibitionProject Angel HeartThe Pour House Pub, Punch Bowl Social and The Truffle Table. Mobile Meltz might just be the ringer, since it is a grilled cheese food truck.

In addition to judges who are big on the local food scene (Black Tie Social columnist Penny Parker, Westword‘s Lori Midson and Sarah Gore, whom Penny P describes as a “foodie gal around town”), the public can watch for free, sample the grilled cheese sandwiches and vote for People’s Choice honors. The event is a fundraiser for the Denver Zoo, so don’t be surprised if someone passes the hat. And anyone just wants to join vicariously, can tune in to the live broadcast on “The Gabby Gourmet Restaurant Show” on KHOW-630AM.

Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs is at 3525 East Colfax Avenue (at Monroe) in Denver. Overflow parking is available next door at Bastein’s.

Taste Buds Bloom at Botanic Gardens

P1020620Locals and lucky visitors know the Denver Botanic Gardens for their year-round horticultural displays outdoors and in the soaring conservatory, gardening classes, concerts, plant sales and Blossoms of Light every December. But the monthly cooking classes for adults (except in summer) and weekly classes for children (Fridays during the summer) are less well known.

Even less known than these culinary classes are the Gather dinners, pop-up feasts offered roughly quarterly with guests chefs from leading local restaurants presenting creative dinners for a maximum of 75 guests. Previous chefs were Alex Seidel of Fruition, Elise Wiggins of Panzano and Hosea Rosenberg, Blackbelly Catering and “Top Chef” Season 5 winner.

Yesterday evening was my first opportunity to experience a Gather dinner — and what an experience it was. Two long tables were set up in the narrow Orangerie with a garden view and indoor fruit trees in one direction and a view of the opulent conservatory plants in the other.

Chef Daniel Asher desscribing both his culinary philosophy and the next dish to Gather diners.
Chef Daniel Asher describing both his culinary philosophy and the next dish to Gather diners. Photo courtesy Denver Botanic Gardens.

Last evening’s guest chef was Daniel Asher from Root Down and Linger, two restaurants that have been on my Denver Dining bucket list since they opened. Asher created what he called a plant-centric four-course menu, more nuanced and elaborate that he could do in a restaurant dinner menu.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The evening began with gorgeous ruby red cocktails mixed by Mike Henderson, who according to his two-sided business card is both Root Down’s “cocktail service tech” (which is yet another extension of “mixologist” and “bartender” before that) and also Linger’s “spiritual advisor” (which seems just plain whimsical).

Mike Henserson, mixing two drinks at a time.
Mike Henderson, mixing two drinks at a time.

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Then it was time to dine. Chef Asher is a gifted culinarian and committed advocate of fresh and local products. He not only conceived of a brilliant menu full of veggie wonderfulness, but presented each dish artistically — and named each one cleverly. My friend friend and fellow foodie, Toni Dash, who has serious gluten issues, was able to clean the plate at each course, and even though the macadamia-sesame crust on the dessert was reportedly gluten-free, she avoided it — in case. Continue reading Taste Buds Bloom at Botanic Gardens

CSA Model Used for New Boulder Restaurant

Fresh Thymes Eatery employs a different funding concept

FreshThymes-logoFresh Thymes Eatery, anallergy-conscious, ultra-natural foods restaurant scheduled to open in June in the former Elephant Hut Thai space at the Boulder Steel Yards, is a “community-supported” enterprise whose funding, in addition to traditional financing, is to come through member shares of $250 to $5,000. Is this a first?

According to the Boulder County Business Report“The funding model is similar to that of ‘”community-supported agriculture,’ or CSA, in which people buy a ‘share’ of vegetables from a farmer before the growing season and get them delivered – usually weekly – during the summer months. Fresh Thymes members will get special deals, meals and other goodies once the restaurant opens…[focusing] on healthy takeout items such as ‘ingredient-conscious’ salads, sandwiches and hot items. Customers will be able to pick up items or eat at the restaurant.”

Owner Christine Ruch plans to open Fresh Thymes in June. She has had her own issues with food allergies and autoimmune disease, and in fhe process of her own struggles ultimately became the head culinary instructor of Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Boulder and also has served as head chef for the Growe Foundation, a fresh vegetable food program in the Boulder Valley School District. Fresh Thymes will be located at 2500 30th Street in Boulder.

New Colorado Cookbook Features Chefs’ Faves

Launch party for beautiful and useful Tasting Colorado cookbook

BookCoverMichele Morris was born to cook. When she was a child, the kitchen was her favorite room in the house, and the spacious, well-equipped home not far from the University of Denver campus still is. She has been exploring and expanding her culinary repertoire and knowledge. She wears many toques these days: culinary instructor (classes and private instruction), caterer, trained sommelier, writer, blogger, international culinary tour organizer and now cookbook author and food photographer. Her book, Tasting Colorado: Favorite Recipes from the Centennial State, was recently published, produced by. Farcountry Press.to showcase the recipes, mostly gleaned from Colorado restaurants, and mouth-waterng photographs.

Michele Morris preparing a version of her daughter's salsa recipe.
Michele Morris preparing a version of her daughter’s salsa recipe.

Michele invited Colorado Authors’ League members and other friends to a tasting in her home to celebrate the launch of the book. Her versatility and easy way with students was evident as she demonstrated one of the recipes, a detuned Tequila-Lime Salsa (page 44) whose modifications including leaving out the tomatoes because Michele has no use for tasteless winter tomatoes. It is one of the few recipes in the book that does not come from a chef. It was created by Michele’s daughter Jenny, who is following in her mother’s footsteps.

Years ago, I was a volunteer assistant at Boulder’s Cooking School of the Rockies (now the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts). I never audited a class where I didn’t learn something, and so it was with Michele’s demonstration. When grating something on a microplane, she explained, if you turn the implement upside down and grate from below, the concave underside will hold what you’ve grated.

Bear Creek Smoked Trout Pâtė (page 25), recipe from Gail Riley of the Highland Haven Creekside Inn, Evergreen.
Bear Creek Smoked Trout Pâtė (page 25), recipe from Gail Riley of the Highland Haven Creekside Inn, Evergreen.

As a coffee table book, Tasting Colorado is lovely. As a cookbook, it is clear and easy to use. Most recipes are relatively easy. Michele has taken the trouble to explain the terms she uses. For example, “bread crumbs,” she explains refers to finely ground dry, unseasoned bread crumbs unless noted otherwise.” I was a bit surprised that she uses salted whole butter in her recipes. I only use unsalted, but otherwise, I found myself in synch with most of what Michele explained and also what I found in the book. It’s a keeper.

Ducasse’s New Paris Chocolate Atelier

Star chef’s bean-to-bar atelier opens tomorrow

DucasseChocolate-logoHaving just written about the new Bocuse Restaurant replacing the former Escoffier Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America, I have la cuisine français on my mind. Now comes word via David Liebovitz’s Living the Sweet Life in Paris about a new venture from super-chef “Alain Ducasse…along with pastry chef Nicolas Berger, who is now running La Manufacture de chocolat, their chocolate atelier not far from the center of the city.” Liebovitz, an American pastry chef and Chez Panisse alum who now lives in and blogs from Paris, points out that the “bean-to-bar” concept actually started in the US and is one of the few (other than the unforunate migration of American fast food) to transfer from here to there.

Liebovitz notes, “It’s very hard to make chocolate on a small-scale and I was skeptical when friends launched the first of those businesses way-back-when in America, which has become very successful.”

Ducasse is a notable chef, restaurateur, hotelier and owner of Ecole Cuisine Alain Ducasse, a cooking school in Paris (they offer classes in English too). Liebovitz’s most recent blog post, “La Manufacture de chocolat Alain Ducasse,” describes Chef Ducasse’s newest venture, a five-year process of bringing this American concept to Paris. It features wonderful images of the process that begins with roasting chocolate beans and ends with mouth-watering chocolate bars. Liebovitz also relates his own work with chocolate while still in the Bay area.

Liebovitz’s very French directions to the manufacture and atelier include the not just the address and phone number but also the arrondissement and the Métro stop: 40, rue de la Roquette (11th) Métro: Bastille Tél: 01 48 05 82 86. He adds that it is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Bocuse Replaces Escoffier at the CIA

Culinary school restaurant catches up with the times

The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York, closed the Escoffier Restaurant, the formal, classic temple of haute cuisine last year. It has been replaced with the Bocuse Restaurant, a more contemporary French restaurant where perfection is no less revered.

The new $3 million Bocuse Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America.
The new $3 million Bocuse Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America.

French chef Paul Bocuse, a Michelin three-star chef since 1965 who was also named the CIA’s 2011 “Chef of the Century” (though it is not clear which century, the 20th or the 21st), came to the US late last month for the debut of the new namesake restaurant. The journey was not easy for the renowned 87-year-old chef who reportedly did not hesitate to cross the Atlantic for the launch of the Bocuse Restaurant. As always donning his chef’s hat and apron, Bocuse was surrounded by such superstars of names in French cuisine in the US — Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, and Thomas Keller and his son Jerome, who runs Walt Disney World’s Les Chefs de France restaurant at Epcot.

Paul Bocuse, a pioneer of nouvelle cuisine and owner of the much-honored l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges near Lyon, spoke about the future of French cuisine to a packed audience of about a thousand people. “All cuisines are created equal, be they French, Italian, Chinese or American,” said Bocuse, while also pointing France’s unique assets such as being “a huge aquarium, a huge orchard and a huge vineyard.”

The evening’s dinner for about 100 guests was prepared by some 50 students in the kitchen and two dozen in the dining room. The menu included a peach of foie gras, lobster with champagne and caviar and filet mignon of beef with marrow custard. And for dessert, the guests were treated to grapefruit sorbet with vodka, a plate of three chocolates by pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre.

“It’s wonderful,” the guest of honor was quote as saying. “These 3,000 [CIA] students who will introduce Bocuse cuisine to guests each year” and work on a menu adapted from his concepts and other French dishes. “After me, there are still many very good chefs, so we still have some great moments ahead. Yesterday, we were with a group of friends in France and today, we’re with a group of friends around the world.”

The Bocuse Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday when classes are in session. It is one of CIA Restaurantss, 1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park, NY 12538;  845-471-6608,
reservations@culinary.edu

Hawaiian Food on my Mind

One “Top Chef finalist, Hawaiian cuisine class in Denver and a new near-Waikiki restaurant revs up

Hawaii is all over my culinary consciousness these days. Here are three reasons:

Hawaiian Chef Rising on “Top Chef”

Co-host Tom Colicchio and Sheldon Simeon in his signature red hat on
Co-host Tom Colicchio and Sheldon Simeon in his signature red hat on “Top Chef.”

Sheldon Simeon, the congenial “cheftestant” who grew up in Hilo and is now the honored executive chef at Star Noodle in Lahaina on Maui, is a finalist on Season 10 of “Top Chef.” Or at least I think he is anyway  –unless the second-chance curves the producers are now throwing at the two finalists by inserting some who had been told to “pack your knives” appear appear to compete again. There’s also an online second-chance competetion that I’ve never watched and some kind of people’s choice contest too in the increasingly convoluted “Top Chef” format. On camera, Sheldon says he started out as a dishwasher, but the show’s website identifies him as having attended the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and Maui Culinary Academy. He’s a two-time James Bear Award semi-finalist.

Hawaii-Born Troy Guard’s Island Influenced Cooking Class

Chef Troy Guard who is schedule to teach a Hawaii-heavy class at The Seasoned Chef.
Chef Troy Guard who is schedule to teach a Hawaii-heavy class at The Seasoned Chef.

Troy Guard, chef/owner of Denver’s TAG Restaurant, TAG Raw Bar and most recently TAG Burger Bar, is returning to his Hawaiian roots with a tropically inspired class called “Continental Social Food” (which is TAG’s slogan, having little to do with the class) at The Seasoned Chef cooking school on Saturday, February 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is part of the Denver’s Best Chefs series — and indeed he is. He’ll demonstrate Hawaiian Butterfish; Smashed Shrimp Shui Mai; Braised Veal Cheek; Thai Chicken; Maui Sunrise Shortcake and TAG’s signature “Palisade Peach Fizz” cocktail. Register online or call 303-377-3222.

Pre-Pèppoli Pop-Ups Near Waikiki

Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, California, a forerunnner of the new Hawaiian location.
Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, California, a forerunnner of the new Hawaiian location.

There are a lot of restaurants in Honolulu and the most touristy ones are on Waikiki. In truth, the vast majority are, to put it kindly, uninspired. Coming this summer, a new Italian restaurant is poised to join the gourmet parade. Pèppoli, a Tuscan restaurant from the renowned Antinori family of Italy, opens in the Lotus Honolulu, occupying space that was previously home to such notable restaurants as David Paul’s Diamond Head Grill and Bobby Magees. Prior to the Pèppoli launch, Lotus Honolulu is hosting a series of “pop-up” restaurants from two of today’s most renowned chefs during limited engagements in February and March. The series features the cuisines of chef Greg Profeta, former chef at Restaurant Marc Forgione, and Chef Koji Tanaka, executive chef of Hiroyuki Sakai’s highly anticipated Sakai of Hawaii. If Sakai’s name sounds familiar, you probably watched some of the original, made in Japan “Iron Chef.” Allez cuisine!