Category Archives: Event

Fourth First Bite Boulder at Bácaro

Saturday was the last evening of the 2007 running of First Bite Boulder, and we ushered out the week the same way as we began it — with a good dinner with good friends at a good restaurant. And it was all good.

Our friend Mary Jo was in town, so she, my husband, I and three friends of hers went to Bácaro Venetian Taverna. This a stylish northern Italian restaurant was inspired by Venice’s congenial taverns, where friends gather for food, wine and conversation — of course, minus the canals. I like Bácaro’s pastas, with that tender toothsomeness that only fresh house-made pasta has. A bottle of Barbera for the red wine drinkers and a couple of glasses of white wine for the others and hefty slices of bread with olive oil (butter pats on request) got us started.

While the others ordered various salads, pastas and gnocchi from the regular menu, Mary Jo and I ordered the same selections from the First Bite Boulder menu, which offered a choice of three antipasti, four secondi and two dolci. We started with a salad of hydroponically grown baby arugula with candied roasted walnuts, creamy Gorgonzola dolcé and aged balsamic vinegar. For our entrée, we both selected the roasted pumpkin and ricotta ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted almond sauce.

The restaurant was busy and some wires got crossed, so we were the beneficiaries. Instead of the ravioli, the waiter brought me tagliatelle pasta with Colorado lamb ragu, braised baby spinach, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a shave of pecorino Romano. When I alerted the waiter, he told us to keep it, because he couldn’t do anything with it anyway. When my pumpkin ravioli arrived, Mary Jo noticed that it looked different from hers. It turned out that he had erroneously brought an order of other ravioli from the regular menu. We were so busy talking when the dishes were put before us that she hadn’t noticed tomato instead of brown butter. With even a light tomato sauce, it didn’t seem surprise that the pumpkin didn’t come through. The result was that the six of us were able to share two extra entrées, and with a second bottle of Barbera, we didn’t mind the mix-up at all! For dessert, we had a thin slice of pear and apple tart on a thick, almond crust with vanilla gelato, whipped cream and caramel sauce. The restaurant is at 921 Pearl Street, Boulder; 303-444-4888.

We expected yesterday’s dinner to be the last First Bite opportunity for 2007, but Trattoria on Pearl, just a few blocks away, is extending the deal for one more week. The $26 three-course menu is continuing through Saturday, November 17, with a wine pairing available for an additional $15. The restaurant is at 1430 Pearl Street, Boulder; 303-544-0008.

Third First Bite Boulder at Colterra

On Tuesday evening, Colterra captured our First Bite Boulder business. Actually, this fine-dining restaurant that put Niwot on the Colorado culinary map, captured my First Bite Boulder business. My husband and our friend, Michael, ordered from the regular menu. The two-item choices for the first and second courses did not appeal to my husband. He does not like squash (hence no Roasted Local Organic Butternut Squash Soup), beets or goat cheese (both of which were on the salad that I ordered) or lamb (featured in the Coleman Colorado Lamb Two Ways entrée). Michael simply preferred the regular menu and ordered four courses instead of three.

We did serious damage to the basket full of very good, crusty, chewy bread while we deliberated about our food and especially our wine, finally settling on a bottle of Redbank Fighting Flat Shiraz that happily saw us through our leisurely dinner. The guys both enjoyed everything they ordered, but since have been into First Bite Boulder this week, I’ll just post on my meal.

I started with the Warm Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese Salad. The square plate was loaded with a heap of fresh local greens with a bit of local bacon and mustard vinaigrette — crowned with an entire round of slightly warm local goat cheese and croutons made from that same excellent bread.

I thought that the Local Organic Vegetable Tasting entrée (right) would be a light antidote to the two out of three previous evenings of First Biting. In fact, it was a generous tapestry of interesting vegetable preparations: a large rectangle of Hubbard squash gratin with two cheeses, a pile of garlic-seared chard, caramelized salsify (which I never would have identified in a blind taste test, parmigiano flan, roasted baby turnips and crispy panisse.

Frankly, the panisse had me stumped. By the time I got to it, so many flavors were dancing on my palate that I couldn’t identify the flavor, and crispiness masks texture. The waitress was elsewhere when I thought to ask, and when she appeared, I forgot about it. Panisse doesn’t appear in my trusty Food Lover’s Companion or in an old Larousse Gastronomique that I rely on as a last resort.

For dessert, we had two orders of Colorado d’Anjou Pear and Almond Tart (right), which appears on both the First Bite and regular menus, and one of Local Pumpkin Spice Cake. Both came with vanilla bean ice cream.

Colterra is a spacious, semi-fancy restaurant where owner/chef Bradford Heap draws inspiration from France and Italy, meticulously uses fresh ingredients (local when possible) and prepares and combines them splendidly. Colterra is at 210 Franklin Road in downtown Niwot; 303-652-0777.

Second First Bite Boulder at Tahona

On Monday evening, three of us celebrated First Bite Boulder at Tahona Tequila Bistro. In addition to a dazzling assortment of boutique tequilas and great margaritas made with them, it specializes in modern adaptations of regional Mexican cuisine, notably from the Yucatan area that is distant from the Tex-Mex border area.

Their $26 First Bite Boulder menu features a choice of three appetizers, three entrées and three desserts and includes a glass of red or white sangria or house wine. Tahona’s dishes tend to be a flavorful and piquant without over-the-edge searing hotness. We started with Gold Coin margaritas at the $5 happy hour price. My husband ordered off the regular menu (chile queso fondue with chorizo followed by chicken enchiladas), while our friend, John, and I chose from the First Bite Boulder selections. There appears to be no overlap between the First Bite Boulder menu and the regular menus, which I kind of like, because we go there now and again for their excellent, well-priced happy hour, and I was happy to try different dishes.

The tortilla soup, served in a soup plate, was thick and displayed a rich smoky red color, with a center nicely garnished with chayote squash, avocado, crème fraiche and salsa. The tasty, pan-fried crab cake was flaky without falling apart. It perched on a tiny bed of greens and was topped with a generous spoonful of roasted poblano aioli. The roasted tilapia fillet was a generous assemblage of fish topped with nippy sauce Veracruz and sided by spears of grilled asparagus, carrots and poblano-lime rice. Two vegetable empanadas in their mantle of cornmeal crust were crisp, hot and tasty. The thinly sliced roasted sweet potatoes and the caramelized onions were a happy pairing. Chipotlepepita sauce rounded out the dish.

Desserts were small but adequate — given that my husband and already had requested a take-out container for one of his three enchiladas and one of my two empanadas. The Colorado Peach Crepes was actually a single thick crepe filled with vanilla ice cream and surrounded by thinly sized peaches and a wonderful dulce de leche, a classic caramel sauce derived from Spanish and Portuguese cuisine.

The three First Bite Boulder dishes that we did not try were Cherry Tomato & Arugula Salad, Flatiron Carne Asada and Banana & Toasted Almond Empanadas. Tahona Tequila Bistro has always a small, value-priced happy hour menu (with $3 house margaritas and mostly $2 to $4, with just one $6 and one $8 offering), available at the bar all night on Monday.

Anyone who wants to learn to make margaritas the Tahona way can sign up for this Saturday’s Margarita Making Class — in their words to gain “the ability and confidence to become a margarita master.” The class starts at 3:00 p.m. and costs $25 to learn from “Professor Nico,” enjoy complimentary appetizers and have, the restaurant promises, “a damn good time.” Call for tickets.

Tahona Tequila Bistro is located at 1035 Pearl Street, Boulder; 303-938-9600.

First Bite Boulder at 4580

We and friends, Jody and Doak, scored a Saturday night reservation at Restaurant 4580 for the first regular evening of First Bite Boulder (three-course special menus at 40 local restaurants). We had been there previously, while opening chef Kelly Kingsford was still in command in the kitchen. We liked the food and the ambiance, but the service was uneven, and the noise level was high. Both of those problems have been solved. The service last night was attentive, and the noise not a problem any more.

While we were deciding what to order (even with a limited menu, everything looked good), a small plate of tissue-thin Swiss cheese called Tête de Moine. This sharp-flavored mountain cheese is produced near the village of Bellelay, and we are lucky to have it served authentically in Boulder. The restaurant seems top have girolle, a small gadget incorporating a dull blade that is rotated around the wheel of cheese to scrape of a thin ruffle of cheese. (Please don’t be impressed that I knew about the girolle. Our friends were seated a few minutes before we arrived and already been told about the special device. I’ve had Tête de Moine in Switzerland, but as part of a cheese platter, but looked up the name of the gadget in Steve Jenkins’ Cheese Primer.)

Accompanying the bread is neither butter nor olive oil but a lovely white bean purée with garlic, mint and (I think) lemon (above left). This idea is a holdover from the Kingsford era, but frankly, I can’t recall whether the recipe is the same or has been modified.

Presentations were simple, with attractive but not over-the-top arrangements of ingredients. A couple of crossed chives on ahi entrée was about as fancy as anything got. The combinations of ingredients and the preparation did, indeed, speak for themselves — eloquetly.
Three of us started with the gnocchi, small orbs of wonderful dough cooked just right, fresh mozzarella balls the same size as the gnocchi and a lovely, light tomato sauce with fresh basil (above right). One of us ordered the “grilled” Caesar salad, which turned out to be one large leaf of Romaine lettuce topped with tempura-battered and fried “things” (one of which was green beans) and dressing on the side.

Among the four of us, we ordered all three of the entrées. The risotto came with oven-roasted vegetables and shaved Parmesan Reggiano. The substantial yet fork-tender pork osso bucco was bathed in a ragout of white beans called flagelots and whole dried figs that gave the dish an nontraditional twist. It was somehow reminiscent of beef bourguignonne. Strips of medium rare seared ahi were fanned with slices of acorn squash and potatoes. The accompanying ginger vinaigrette was subtle.
For dessert we had two orders of intensely rich, velvety chocolate truffle torte with lavender syrup and two of bread pudding topped with fresh blackberries with frozen crème anglaise (right).

The wine pairing was $15 additional. The restaurant could not spare one of its menus, which indicated which wines had been selected for which dishes. I knew that the menu was on-line, and — silly me — thought it would include the wines. It didn’t. I wish I had written them down, or at lease paid more attention. I remember a Washington State Riesling from Kung Fu Girl that was poured with the ahi and vanilla mead that went with the bread pudding. Sorry. I’ll do better next time — and there will be a next time.
The restaurant is in North Boulder at 4580 Broadway; 303-448-1500.

Second Annual First Bite Boulder

Forty restaurants literally from A (Alba) to Z (Zolo) are participating the second annual First Bite Boulder, Saturday, November 3, through Saturday, November 10. This year’s deal is three courses for $26 per person, plus beverages, tax and gratuity. Go to the First Bite Boulder website and click on “Restaurants.” That will take you to a list from which you can click on each restaurant’s general website or on the special First Bite Boulder menu — limited, but representative. Most restaurants also link to OpenTable for on-line reservations. It’s pretty seamless.

"Celebrity Waiters" Event at Elway’s

The food service equivalent of “Dancing With the Stars” might just be the third annual “Celebrity Waiter” dinner this Friday, September 28, at Elway’s Restaurant. Unlike the twinkle-toed stars who compete on TV, Denver’s celebrity waiters probably won’t get much time to practice for this fundraiser for Concerts For Kids. After all, Denver celebs have real jobs in the media, local government and the business community. Not paparazzi-bait, perhaps, but well-known in Denver.

There’s no indication that John Elway, a genuine national sports celeb, will appear — but you never know. And Reggie Rivers, a former Bronco teammate of John Elway and now a sportscaster on CBS4 News, will be there. Other scheduled participants include Penny Parker, Rocky Mountain News columnist; Molly Hughes, Ed Greene and Jim Benemann, CBS4 News; Walter Isenberg, Sage Hospitality Resources; John Oates of the duo, Daryl Hall & John Oates; Mitch Morrissey, Denver District Attorney; R.D. Sewald, City Auditor’s Office; Murphy Huston and Denise Plante, KOSI 101.1; Josh Hanfling, Hanfling & Associates; Kelli McGannon, King Soopers; David Goldstone, LodgeNet Entertainment Corporation; Paulina Szafranski, Lotus Entertainment; KC Veio, Kline Alvarado Veio, P.C.; Norm Clarke, Review Journal; Jake Schroeder, Opie Gone Bad; Peter Ore, Live Nation; Omar Jabara, Newmont Mining, and Dahlia Weinstein, described as a “media personality.” When the first celeb list came out, she was the editor Shine Magazine, but she is no longer with this publication. While her affiliation has changed, her interest in Concerts For Kids evidently has not.

The format is unusual. Seating is at 15-minute intervals, beginning at 5:00 p.m. Guests order what they please from the menu and whatever they add to the tip line goes to Concerts For Kids. Donations can be increased by tipping a waiter or waitress for performing various tasks, such as serenading guests with a song to wearing a pink tutu throughout the evening. Perhaps the pink tutu bit is the reason that only one former Bronco has been brave enough to sign on. To reserve a spot at this fundraiser, call 303-399-5353

A Shrimp Tail of Two Cities Named Lafayette

To food and wine aficionados, Lafayette, CO, is known for festivals celebrating oatmeal (every January), wine (June) and peaches (August). You can be forgiven if you soon confuse Colorado’s Lafayette with Louisiana’s, because the 51st annual Celebrate Lafayette Festival (right) will feature a classic Cajun shrimp boil orchestrated by Louis Raines. Raines is a Louisiana seafood distributor who fled New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. He now lives in high and dry Colorado and operates his ShrimpDaddy business from here too.

The downtown festival will take place Saturday, September 29 on South Public Road from 12:00 noon to 4:00. The festival is free. The shrimp are $12 per plate, and beer and wine will also be available for purchase. Raines plans to boil up enough authentic Gulf shrimp to serve about 600 people. When they’re gone, they’re gone, so don’t arrive too late.