Category Archives: Festival

Several Cities Plan Restaurant Weeks

Bargain prix fixe lunches and dinners and special menus to be offered from coast-to-coast

I am a big fan of promotional restaurant weeks — one reasonable price for prix fixe meals (usually three courses) at participating restaurants. They are the equivalent of a retail sale. The idea is for diners to try new places that might otherwise be out of their normal budget range or familiarity comfort zone, while also enabling restaurants to entice new customers and thank existing ones with a good deal. And both business or leisure travelers score a bonus, because visitors tend to eat out anyway. Each restaurant week is a win/win situation of foodies and restaurateurs alike.

In most cases, diners can go to one website to search restaurants and book reservations online. Restaurant weeks are usually offered in a city’s low season. Taxes, gratuities and (usually) beverages are additional. Upcoming weeks that I know of:

Dine About Town – January 15-31

San Francisco’s seventh annual restaurant week now extends for 16 days. That’s a dozen midweek days and two weekends, including the long MLK Weekend. The caveat is that some restaurants may opt out of some days or times (some, for instance, offer either lunch or dinner specials but not both). Still, scores of restaurants from Absinthe to Zingari Ristorante will be serving $21.95 lunches and/or $31.95 dinners. If there’s a better eating city in the country, I don’t know it.

Dine Out Vancouver – January 16-February 3

This “week” extends for 19 consecutive days and boasts 182 participating restaurants of all cuisines and styles that are offering CDN$15, $25 or $35 meals. Most restaurant also recommend pairings with British Columbia’s truly wonderful wines and many offer specials on those to accompany the dinner specials. New this year is the “Best Bite” awards, which allow diners to select their favorite courses, service, food and wine pairings, and best overall menu. Participants are eligible for prizes, including two tickets to anywhere in North America on Air Canada. Visitors who want to go to Vancouver just to eat (a worthy objective) can also check out hotel specials on the Dine Out Vancouver website.

New York City Restaurant Week – January 21-25 and January 28-February 1

I’m sure that I’m not the first writer to suggest that this event allows diners to take a bite out of the Big Apple at a reasonable price. Sorry. I couldn’t resist. More than 200 restaurants of all sorts in many parts of the city (Manhattan and outer boroughs) have signed up. The good news is that this promotion runs for 10 days. The bad news is that it is not offered on the weekend, when many people like to dine out. The price is $24.07 per person at lunch and $35 at dinner. American Express is donating 50 cents per diner to City Harvest, a New York anti-hunger agency. Sunday Stays is a concurrent lodging promotion with significant discounts at major hotels.

dineLA – January 27-February 1 and February 3-8

The inaugural dineLA promotion offering takes place over two consecutive midweeks. There are two categories of restaurants and two categories of pricing for three-course meals: deluxe $15 at lunch and $25 at dinner, and premier $22 at lunch and $34 at dinner). American Express card-members get dibs on reservations through January 15, after which reservations are open to the general public starting January 16.

San Diego Restaurant Week – January 27-February 1

This Monday-through-Friday promotion is hardly enough to make a dent in the roster of more than 130 participating restaurants with $30 or $40 three-course dinners, so chow down now and plan to reprise it for the second segement June 22-27. This is the fourth year for San Diego Restaurant Week. Organizers report that a quarter of a million diners are expected to dig in.

Center City District Restaurant Week – January 27-February 1

While other city’s restaurant weeks spread out into suburbia, Philadelphia’s concentrates on the heart of the city — the best part — with “a minimum” of three-course dinners for $35. In addition to more than 100 restaurants, parking facilities are offering concurrent specials of their own, not trivial in a city whose roots date back to colonial days and whose narrow streets reflect its horse-and-carriage history. All it the week that the City of Brotherly Love becomes the City of Brotherly Dining, and oh brother, is it expected to be a good one!

Hudson Restaurant Week – January 28-Februrary 8

Unlike other resaurant weeks, this promotion in Hudson County, notably Hoboken on the west side of the Hudson River just across from Manhattan, does not require the 30 participating restaurants to offer the same-priced menus. The only promise restaurants make is to provide prix fixe meals that are a value. Lunches start at $13 and dinners at $23. Diners must check with each restaurant for specifics. Before I moved to Colorado, I lived in Hoboken and note this another indication of Hudson County’s relentless gentrification.

Denver Restaurant Week – February 23-39

As of now, a month before it starts, Denver Restaurant Week has 175 restaurants signed up. These range from longtime classics as The Fort and the Buckhorn Exchange to such brand new restaurants as the Limelight Supper Club and Elway’s Downtown. The price is $26.40 per person, which comes out to $52.80 for two — which, without the dollar sign or decimal point, is Denver’s official elevation above sea level. If you’re planning a ski trip to Colorado in that time frame, you might want to spend a night or two in the Mile High City to sample its interesting restaurants.

Boston Restaurant Week – March 9-14 and March 16-21

Like New York’s promotion, Boston’s runs over two weeks with a weekend break between. Restaurants in Boston, Cambridge and the ‘burbs are offering $20.08 lunches and $30.08 dinners. Last year, 137 restaurants participated. This year’s website, including reservations capabilities, is expected to go live on February 11. In addition to the official listing, BostonChefs.com will offer an unofficial guide to Boston Restaurant week (right), which should be interesting supplementary reading.

Bon appetit!

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.

Two Dinners Celebrating Boulder’s Local Food

Local foodies have abundant choices for enjoying the finest creations crafted from local ingredients by top local chefs.

Weekend Food Fest

I recently posted news of the upcoming Renaissance of Local! Festival. “Upcoming” is right upon us now — next weekend (September 28-30), in fact — and I now know the menu for Sunday’s Slow Food Feast at 4:00 p.m. at Planet Bluegrass at 500 West Main Street in Lyons. It will feature grand buffet showcasing ingredients donated by local farms and catered by A Spice of Life. The buffet dinner costs $25, not included in the festival ticket price. The artwork reproduced above gives a real sense of the Renaissance of Local!’s passionate commitment to its cause. Click on my earlier post for general festival information:

Main Buffet
Pork
Vegetarian Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad, made with cheese tortellini with julienne vegetables tossed with pesto
Garden Salad, made of fresh seasonal greens mixed with cucumber slices, local tomatoes, grated carrots and served with house-made balsamic vinaigrette
Assorted Breads accompanied by whipped herbed butter, whole roasted garlic and olive oil
Churro Lamb Brochettes, grilled seasonal garden vegetables and lamb, delicately seasoned with a light Greek marinade
Sesame Grilled Tofu Skewers

Dessert Table
Boulder Ice Cream
Assorted cookies

Beverages
Lemonade
Eldorado Artesian Springs Water
Fresh Brewed Iced Tea

Farms Donating Ingredients

Cure Organic Farm
Jay Hill Farm
Cultiva!
Abbondanza Organic Farm
Red Wagon Organic Farm

Long Family Farm
Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch
Arriola Sunshine Farms

A highlight of this weekend’s festivities will be cooking demonstrations by Michael Scott of the Culinary School of the Rockies and Eric Skokan, owner/chef of Black Cat Bistro Metropolitain, both in Boulder.

Saturday Food Feast

It is possible to make an entire weekend of dinners celebrating and encouraging use of local foodstuffs. The eighth annual Harvest Dinner for Cultiva!, a youth project of Growing Gardens, is scheduled for Saturday evening, September 24 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder. Chefs preparing this year’s Harvest Dinner are Matthew Jansen, owner/chef of Mateo; John Platt, owner/chef of Q’s Restaurant at the Boulderado; Jason Rogers, executive chef at the St. Julien Hotel; Shamane Simons, owner of Shamane’s Bake Shoppe; and Howard Treppada, owner/chef of Treppeda’s Italian Ristorante. The fact that five top local chefs will be away from their own stoves on a Saturday an indicates how important they feel it is to encourage young people to participate in hands-on organic gardening — and perhaps eventually farming. For tickets ($100 per person), call 303-413-7248.

Boulder Enhances Support of Local Foods & Farms

Boulder is stepping up its support of local, sustainable agriculture in a big way. At yesterday’s Boulder County Farmers Market, the new “Eat Local! Celebration” was launched to further encourage local diners and cooks to support area growers and community resources.

The meatiest part of the of the new 32-page Eat Local! Resource Guide is the list of natural and organic produce, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, honey and wines, as well as spring water. Restaurants and caterers that use Colorado foods are also listed, as are gardens and greenhouses for those who like to grow their own. And of course, 18 organizations that promote such culinary and environmental agendas as sustainability, reducing the carbon footprint, zero waste, relocalization (a new buzzword to me) and just plain good, fresh food on the table. The publication is free.

Yesterday, several participants in the Restaurant Fresh Connection promotion, including as The Kitchen, Organic Orbit and the Dushanbe Tea House, offered free samples of house specialties that use farmers’ market products.

My husband and I walked home loaded down with baby lettuce, heirloom and “regular” tomatoes, corn, apples, peaches, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, chicken, cheese, bread, crackers and probably some other stuff that I can’t remember. It was easy to prepare a delicious dinner when even the simplest preparation suffices for such succulent ingredients. It is the best time of year for food-lovers and community supporters. It is certainly the best time of year for enjoying these foods.

Renaissance of Local! (planned for September 28-30 in Lyons) will be a county-wide festival, conference and expo to promote local foods, energy, economic vitality, culture and more. There will be a juried art show, music, family activities and the Slow Food Feast featuring the best of Colorado produce, paired with biodynamic wines. Adult admission is $20 a day at the gate, $15 in advance or for cyclists who ride to the event, $35 for three days. Students with ID pay $10 a day. Under 12 are admitted free. The Slow Food Feast is an additional $25. And oh yes, parking is $5. Let’s hope it doesn’t snow.

Upcoming Boulder Restaurant Fest

When he’s not roaming around the yard, supervising my neighbor’s gardening efforts or sleeping in the sun, Johnny Cash, The Cat in Black, sometimes sits on the window sill next to my desk, strolls across the keyboard, curls up next to my husband or me, follows me around the house and lets out a communicative meow when spoken to. We adopted him from the Boulder Valley Humane Society.

Therefore, the First Annual Boulder Food & Wine Festival benefiting the local Humane Society has my name all over it. I love good food and good wine, and I’m for anything that supports the animal shelter. The festival will take place on Sunday, August 12, from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. in Boulder’s Central Park (Broadway and Canyon).

Twenty of Boulder’s top restaurants (including Aji, Frasca Food and Wine, The Flagstaff House, Jill’s, Laudisio, The Kitchen, Trattoria on Pearl and Q’s Restaurant) will take part, as will 25 of Colorado’s 60 wineries pouring something on the order of 100 wines and meads. Colorado ingredients will also be emphasized in all of the restaurants’ dishes. The organizers believe that the festival will be the first time that Colorado’s produce, meat and wine have been offered all together on such a large scale.

From 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., instructors from the Culinary School of the Rockies’ will put on cooking demonstrations, and such experts as Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Board, will conduct classes on subjects such as food and wine pairing.

It wouldn’t be Boulder with a physical competition. The Waiter’s Race at 2:00 will pit waiters and waitresses against each other in skill, speed and “most entertaining performance.” Musical entertainment will be provided by The Swingin’ Seven Dance Orchestra, an eight-piece big band, and Bill Kopper’s band, Ginja, playing Brazilian bossa, samba and chorinho.

Tickets are modestly priced at $35 each in advance from the festival’s website or $40 at the event itself. The tickets include a $5 coupon valid toward the purchase of a bottle of wine, as well as food and wine samples, a keepsake wine glass and buffet plate, and a Colorado wine canvas tote. Wine sample bracelets are available only to those 21 and older.

Humane Society of Boulder Valley volunteers will bring adoptable pets, so you might come home with your own wonderful equivalent to our Johnny Cash.

Omni Interlocken Chefs’ Competition.

The Omni Interlocken Hotel down the pike in Broomfield was the setting for another chef’s competition — this year called Sonoma Meets the Rocky Mountains, featuring four teams from mountain resorts who prepared meals to pair with Sonoma wines. Like television’s “Iron Chef,” the contestants were presented with a secret ingedients: mushrooms from Hazel Dell. The Omni’s own chefs set out hors d’oeuvres to hold the guests/judges (one and the same) while the four chefs and their sous-chefs toiled at four cooking stations to create small plates. Of course, there were paired wines. Of course, there were sweets afterwards. And of course, my note-taking and photographing deteriorated as the evening wore on.
The contestants and their dishes:
  • Bob Burden (above left), Beaver Run Restaurant, Breckenridge – Sautéed herb-rubbed lamb loin topped with micro greens and enoki mushroom salad tossed in pinot noir dressing, with Bing cherry and pomegranate demi-glace and forest mushroom bulgur risotto.
  • Jake Linzinmeier, Chair 8, Telluride – Wild mushroom consomme, cappuccino-style topped with a celery root and potato foam, with goat cheese biscotti.
  • Tim McCaw, Zach’s Cabin, Beaver Creek – Coquille St. Jacques (above right, seared scallop and brandied curry cream atop puff potato, which one of the Zach’s crew described to me as duchesse potatoes and five different mushrooms — lion’s head, shiitaki, baby portabello king oyster and oyster).
  • Aaron Taylor, Keystone Ranch Restaurant – Venison strip loin with mushroom duxelles, stuffed with mushrooms and foie gras, with wild ramp potato risotto, huckleberry compote and mushrooms.

I had a heck of a time marking my ballot from four excellent dishes. Burden’s lamb was super-flavorful, and the demi-glace was sensational. Linzinmeier’s “drinkable” soup was imaginative to the max. McCaw’s scallop was perfectly seared, brown-crusted on top and delicate in the center were a straightforward flavor that worked beautifully with the subtly complex mushroom mix. The stuffing for Taylor’s venison was a rich counterpoint to the venison, and the mushrooms and compote tamed it all down a tad. In the end, Linzinmeier took “Best Dish” honors, and McCaw was voted the “Best Food & Wine Pairing.”

Speaking of pairings, the chefs created their mushroom dishes to pair with the following wines:

  • 2005 Buena Vista EVS Pinot Noir for Burden (tied for “Best Wine” honors)
  • 2004 Wattle Creek Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for Linzinmeier
  • 2005 Clos du Bois Reserve Chardonnay Russian River Valley for McCaw
  • 2004 Geyser Peak Reserve Alexander Valley Meritage for Taylor (Geyser Peak’s 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, served during the reception, tied for “Best Wine”)
Even as the the competing chefs were preapring their dishes, the Omni’s own chefs prepared the following appetizers for the reception (and I hope I got them right):
  • Crab cakes with Meyer lemon relish and tarragon aioli
  • Cocoa seared pork tenderloin
  • Heirloom tomato and California artichoke on puff pastry, with opal basil pesto
  • Sesame seared ahi tuna, with wakame salad and pickled ginger, crisp lotus root and wasabi-scented soy sauce
  • Tempura calamari “lollipops”
  • Tomato-lemongrass coulis shooters
  • Duck confit spring rolls with California raisin chutney
  • Niman Ranch steak tartar on crisp potato gallettes
  • Citrus-scented lobster and jicama salad with vanilla Anglaise
  • Spicy Baja ceviche and taro chips
  • Niman Ranch tri-tip with warm tortillas

Then there were the desserts. I thought I’d died an gone to heaven when I ate Wen Chocolates’ offerings. The Mission Fig chocolates were great. Then there were pecans in chocolate that were even greater. Then there were the several teas in dark chocolate — a formula for the longevity if ever there was one, especially with red wine — that were so good that I think I ate myself into a coma!