Category Archives: Locavore and farm-to-table

Meeting the Meat at Blackbelly

Full butcher shop and charcuterie maker now joins Boulder restaurant.

001First there was the Blackbelly food truck. And a catering operation, plus a bar and restaurant. Soon a secluded patio on the south side of the building. Then a second, larger and more open patio on the north side. And now, a large shop focusing on meat, meat and more meat joins the rest. Before this. the chefs and the butchers were competing for space. Now, there are two kitchens, the original and the new one on the meat side, where breakfast and lunch are prepared.

Nate Singer, born and raised in Cody, WY, runs the butcher operation. His family’s  steakhouse across from the rodeo grounds and his father’s passion for hunting were the “classroom” where he first learned butchery skills, overlaid with official courses resulting in various certifications. He  heads the full-fledged butcher shop that sells meat that has been broken down from whole animals and cut on site. The crew also makes all manner or sausages and cures meat. Getting US Department of Agriculture approval for such an operation is no mean feat, and what they produced is spectacular.  Media had the opportunity to taste some of the specialties.

Blackbelly Butcher's chalkboard menu
Blackbelly Butcher’s chalkboard explains the sourcing of the meats —  lamb and pork from Boulder County purveyors (including Blackbelly Farms) and beef from Wyoming.
Even in veggie-centric Boulder, Blackbelly's meat cases is a thing of beauty.
Even in veggie-centric Boulder, Blackbelly’s meat cases is a thing of beauty.
A selection of charcuterie put out for sampling, including such uncommonly good common items as prosciutto and such unusual ones as nduja, a fermented salami from southern Italy.
A selection of charcuterie put out for sampling, including such uncommonly good common items as prosciutto and such unusual ones as nduja, a fermented salami from southern Italy.
Meat cutters at work.
Meat cutters at work.
A temperature- and humidity-controlled room for aging and curing.
A temperature- and humidity-controlled room for aging and curing.
House-made bison brats on house-made pretzel rolls house-pickled slightly sour cabbage.
House-made bison brats on house-made pretzel rolls house-pickled slightly sour cabbage.
The humble corn dog isn't quite so humble when it comes from Blackbelly Market.
The humble corn dog isn’t quite so humble when it comes from Blackbelly Market.
Chocolate salami anyone? Not kidding. The pastry chef on the restaurant side makes up these treats.
Chocolate salami anyone? Not kidding. The pastry chef on the restaurant side makes up these treats.
And here's an Aperol spritzer toast to owner/chef Hosea Rosenberg.
And here’s an Aperol spritzer toast to owner/chef Hosea Rosenberg.

1606 Conestoga Street (Blackbelly is just north of Araphoe Avenue), Boulder; Butcher Shop and Market [breakfast & lunch], 720-479-8296.

Blackbelly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tastes of Thailand at Aloy

Freshness stressed at stylish Ballpark restaurant.

027I was fortunate to attend an opening party at Aloy Modern Thai in the cold grasp of last winter.  The flames in the double-sided fireplace and the piquant cuisine  from a very warm country provided a welcome contrast to the nippy outside. There were so many courses and so many paired adult beverages that I hit the wall before the end of the feast, The many dishes were so very good, but I was really on overload. Read my post to see what awesome abundance came to the table. At the time I wondered how sisters Bo Bean and Arisa Chanchokpong who own this restaurant and another in Boulder stay so slim. Several months along and meeting them again, I still wonder.

I was therefore delighted that Visit Denver hosted its most recent media reception in this welcome and wonderful restaurant. Rather than the overwhelming inaugural dinner, there were select small plates. With an opportunity to savor came the full impact of the restaurant’s commitment to super-fresh ingredients, especially the seafood and vegetables that are so important in Thai cuisine. Ten local farms are credited on the men for for supplying sustainable ingredients.

Aloy's Mai Tai made with a Thai spirit called Mehkong, Triple Sec, lime, an orange/almond syrup made in-house orgaet and Aztec bitter.
Aloy’s Mai Tai made with a Thai spirit called Mehkong, Triple Sec, lime, an orange/almond syrup called orgaet made in-house  and Aztec bitters.

Continue reading Tastes of Thailand at Aloy

River & Woods to Rise in Boulder

Former John’s location to be reborn as innovative seasonal eatery.

River and Woods logoCome summer, a new community-focused restaurant called River & Woods should be open in the charming old John’s Restaurant space on Boulder’s East Pearl Street. John’s. This jewel of a special occasion restaurant was as classic as they come, but River & Woods will be nontraditional — innovatively crowed-sourced from funding to recipes.

The marquee name is Daniel Asher, the talented and idealistic chef  who is known for his obsession with local agriculture, sustainable sourcing, seasonality and food justice. He was culinary director of The Edible Beats Group (Root Down, Linger, Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox), and he continues to oversee sustainability and culture for the group.

The partnership opening this restaurant consists of Asher and Josh and Kate Dinar (he being the publisher of DiningOut magazines in Denver and other cities, cofounder of First Bite Boulder and other food-related enterprises). Crowdfunding via Indiegogo is part of the business plan. The project raised nearly $5,000 in its first 15 hours. Maybe other restaurants have tapped into such sources, but I sure am not familiar with any. It is hard to imagine Asher needing help in developing recipes for the restaurant’s planned “Colorado comfort cuisine,” but there is a call for just that in order to engage customers in the totality of the restaurant.

Not only is the vintage building at 2328 Pearl Street being brought up to snuff, but there is to be a large, fully-enclosed backyard oasis. The building comes from a time when lots were generous, even in the city, so I’m guessing that it will sizable. In the plan —   a grassy area for kids to run, an outdoor rotisserie and food bar, a mobile beer, wine and cocktail bar, strung lights and beautiful landscaping, Sounds lovely.

Culinary Odyssey in RiNo

Foods plain & fancy in River North.

A few days ago, my friend Julia Joun and I took ourselves on our own  food tour in River North (RiNo), an emerging neighborhood in Denver. Her foodie credentials are solid. She she runs the Flatirons Food Film Festival. At this point, my credentials reside mainly on this blog, which I’m proud to say has won several awards. We left Boulder at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t return until almost 6 p.m. What a great and delicious day.

Rosenberg’s Bagels

Rosenberg-logoWe actually started at Rosenberg’s Bagels in Five Points, near enough to RiNo to count. A couple of years ago, when bagel shop and deli were a bright gleam in Josh Pollack’s eye, he stopped by and dropped off a bag of New York-style bagels. Were they ever good! Read my post here.

The Welton Street light-rail stop is directly in front of Rosenberg’s door, while some customers, like us, come in the back way from Clarkson. The gal from one of the city’s Whole Foods came in that way too, to pick up the morning order. Whole Foods is fussy about its sourcing, so this is a testimonial to the quality, taste and authenticity. Knowing that we had a long day of eating ahead, we shared an everything bagel with salmon cream cheese.

Racks of bagels.
Racks of bagels.
Retro style interior.
Retro-inspired interior with big tufted banquette.

Rosenberg's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Babette’s Bakery at The Source

TheSource-logoIf one baked item for breakfast is good, two are better, so Julia and I proceeded to The Source, a renovated, repurposed and totally cool 1880s foundry that now houses restaurants, retailers, watering holes and other semi-related businesses.

011We made a beeline for Babette’s Bakery, which initially became known for its fabulous artisainal French country breads. The pastries fall in the to-die-for category too. We split one, bought things to take home — Julie snagged some bread to take home, and I bought a ham and cheese croissant for my husband.

Baker at work.
Baker at work.
Decisions, decisions, difficult pastry decisions.
Decisions, decisions, difficult pastry decisions.

Babettes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Continue reading Culinary Odyssey in RiNo

Colorado Finalists for Beard Awards

One restaurant, one chef and one Who’s Who inductee.

BeardAwardWhen writing about the James Beard Awards, I’ve often written that being a semifinalist (Beardspeak for “nominee”) is an honor. Being a finalist is a great honor. And winning is over-the-moon culinary recognition.

Colorado has two finalists for the 2016 awards:

  • Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine is one of five finalists in the Best Restaurant category, whose requirements are: “A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service. Eligible restaurants must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years.”
  • Alex Seidel is a finalist for the Best Chef, Southwest award. The honor comes for Fruition, his first Denver restaurant. Since then, he has been operating Fruition Farms down in Larkspur and opened Mercantile Dining & Provision, the beguiling restaurant/bar/market at Union Station.  Of the four finalists in this six-state region, Seidel is is only one not from Texas.

The third Colorado honoree is the remarkable Temple Grandin, one of five nationwide added to the list of 2016 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America Inductees. She is described as and “Author and Animal Rights Activist” from Fort Collins. A champion of animal rights, she has pioneered research livestock behavior and implementation of humane standards in facilities design and humane slaughter. Dr. Temple Grandin is the public face of high achievements despite the challenge of autism, and as such her accomplishments reach beyond ranching and slaughterhouse practices to acceptance of those with developmental differences.

Culinary Cruisin’ in Downtown Golden

Three chefs raising the bar in Western-accented Front
Range town.

Dining-clipartGolden, cozying up to the foothills west of Denver, is known as a charming town that plays up its Western roots, has a robust downtown and features the world’s largest brewery (that would be Coors). It is also boasting an increasingly diverse and tasty food scene. Visit Golden organized a small, intimate itinerary to a trio of interesting downtown restaurants (well, two downtown and one not far away).

Abejas

001Abejas is Spanish for “bees,” but this new restaurant has nothing to do with a honey-centric menu. The partners — Brandon Bortles and Barry Dobesh — met at the Hill Top Restaurant and went their separate ways when it closed. They rekindled their longtime dream of opening their own place,  whose name subtly references the first letters of the partners’ first names.

Located in a once-upon-a-time-Piggly-Wiggly a few steps off Golden’s main drag,  Shike Design, whose Denver previous restaurant projects include Biju’s Little Curry Shop, Cuba Cuba, Epernay and Root Down, designed the interior. The rustic and responsibly sourced interior features reclaimed barn wood, corrugated metal and old doors from a ranch in Golden that was being sold. The sprightly, modern and creative menu likewise aspires to source as much of the menu locally as possible.

In addition to reclaimed materials, Abejas features a simple room divider or snake plants and red tops threaded on frame.
In addition to reclaimed materials, Abejas features a simple room divider of snake plants and red ropes threaded between the ceiling and a beam.

With Dobesh occupied these days at Brexi and Steakhouse 316 in Aspen, he brought in Nick Ames to helm the Abejas kitchen. The California Culinary Academy grad’s C.V.  includes Duo, an early culinary hotspot in Denver’s Highlands ‘hood.

A lovely and delicious light salt cod fritter, purple sweet potato, celery root, quail egg, borage flower and minced olive.
A lovely and delicious light salt cod fritter, purple sweet potato, celery root, quail egg, borage flower and minced olive.
A wintry combination of baked pork belly pancetta, pumpkin purée, pumpkin crumble and bok choy.
A wintry combination of thickly sliced pork belly pancetta, pumpkin purée, pumpkin crumble and bok choy.

807 13th Street, Golden, 303-952-9745.

Abejas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Continue reading Culinary Cruisin’ in Downtown Golden

Aloy Thai Opening Today in Denver

Expanded, enhanced branch of Boulder restaurant in Ballpark area.

037When they selected  February 1, sisters Bo Bean and Arisa Chanchokpong didn’t pick the most auspicious day to open Aloy Modern Thai, an uptick from their Boulder eatery.  Big snows are forecast for this evening, and I’m not sure what the chefs they’ve brought in from Asia will make of it. But snow melts and warm weather will arrive, and by then, I’m guessing that Denverites will have come to appreciate Aloy’s food, as Boulderites have taken to the original. Smaller than the Denver location and set in a Boulder strip mall, it certainly is one of the best in town.

I got a chance to sample an infinite procession of dishes during a media preview last week on an evening mild enough for a pleasant walk from the 16th Street Mall. Located in in the former Trillium space on Larimer Street, its decorative makeover was largely cosmetic.  In addition to Thai classics, there is a definite Japanese undercurrent that appears here and there on the menu.

Guests were presented with 18 courses along with sips of a like number of excellent and unusual beverages to match. Even with modest tasting samples. The menu boasts of a farm-to-table connection and lists farms from which they source seasonal ingredients are sourced.  The food was dazzling. Here goes with a sample of the sampling, as it were:

Passed hors d'oeuvres included Cracking Tofu.
Passed hors d’oeuvres included Crackling Tofu with shitake bacon, a roll of cucumber and miso sauce.
Smoked Verlasso salmon, a premium farmed salmon from Chile. It is served on an arched yucca chip with orange aioli.
Smoked Verlasso salmon, a premium farmed salmon from Chile. It is served on an arched yucca chip with orange aioli.

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Continue reading Aloy Thai Opening Today in Denver