Category Archives: Pizza

Hawaiian Hole in the Wall Meal #4: The Coffee Shack

Kona Coast cafe known for its baked goods and excellent views

Every Hawaiian town, whether on the coast or inland, has a cafe. Some rely on locals and passing tourists needing or wanting a cup of local coffee and something to eat. Others have become destinations, “discovered” by guidebook author after guidebook author and passed on, by word of mouth, from visitor to visitor. We read about The Coffee Shack just south of Captain Cook and also heard about it from our friends, Glenn and Margaret, who went there several years ago. It has become so popular that we ended up parking at a pullout a few hundred yards down the road.

The Coffee Shack isn’t a hole in the wall but a perch on a steep mountainside in coffee country. Generically, a “coffee shack” is a utility and storage building on a coffee plantation — often right along a roadway. Some our now abandoned. Others have become dwellings, art galleries or shops. This one is an eating destination.
The most desirable tables are on the covered lanai, which on the mainland would be called a patio (below), but they were all occupied when we arrived during lunchtime.
We took a window table in the small, spare back dining room with its view down to Kealakekua Bay, more than a thousand feet below.

Adorable resident geckos cruised in and out of the open window, dipping into the jelly, molasses, honey or whatever had been set out for them. And no, they weren’t selling insurance.

The Coffee Shack’s house-baked breads are renowned on the Big Island’s Kona Coast. My husband ordered a Reuben on toasted French bread (not a baguette, but The Coffee Shack’s version that is baked in a regular American loaf shape). No snide remarks about the resemblance between the accompanying kosher pickle spear and a gecko, please.

I had the super-fresh vegetarian sandwich with avocado, sliced cheese, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, red onion and Dijon mustard piled high between two thick slices of whole-grain bread. It usually comes with mayo too, but I wasn’t in the mood for anything other than the cheese that contained fat.

Price check: Breakfast entrees, $8.95-$11.95; breakfast pastries, $3.50-$4.50; sandwiches, $9.95; 8-inch pizzas, $8.95-$12.95; entree-size salads, $10.95-$13.95; soups, $3.95 for a cup and $6.50 for a bowl; house-made desserts, $5.50; coffee drinks, $3.50-$5.00. (Disclaimer: I didn’t grab a take-out menu but took the prices from The Coffee Shack’s website, which is copyrighted 2001, so these might be out of date and low when you go.)

The Coffee Shack is at 83-5799 Mamalahoa Highway (Route 11), Captain Cook; 808-328-9555.

May News Notes from All Over

Colorado Chocolate Festival

The Colorado Chocolate Festival will take place at the Denver Merchandise Mart this weekend. The Friday Night Gala on May 8, 7:00-10:00 p.m., is $12; the rest of the fest on Saturday, May 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. costs $7 for adults, $3 for kids 5-12 are $3, and under 5 free. There will be more than 150 vendors — many offering free samples — of chocolate candy, chocolate cakes, chocolate cookies, truffles, fudge, brownies, toffees, coffees and much more, plus kids’ activities and entertainment.

Sun Valley Celebrates Food & Wine

The Sun Valley Food & Wine Festival, June 12-14, features culinary demonstrations by top local chefs (and the Sun Valley-Ketchum area has a lot of top chefs), wine seminars and vintner dinners with paired wines to match various cuisines. A full weekend badge is $229; day pass $150. Call 866-305-9798.

Telluride Wine Festival

The The 28th annual Telluride Wine Festival, June 25-28, one of Colorado’s most enduring, again offers the opportunity to meet winemakers, celebrity chefs and sommeliers for an excellent educational and epicurean experience. Highlights include winemaker luncheons; the Grand Tasting – An Outdoor Escapade in Town Park, culinary demonstrations and seminars, with the Sunday Gourmet Brunch in Town Park as the lively finale. Click here for tickets, which range $50 for the Sunday champagne brunch to $800 for the all-festival event, plus $28 for the Citizen Cope in Concert, a non-food performance. For more information, call 970-729-2279.

If you hustle to sign up, an option for Telluride is Colorado Wine Country Tours’ weekend trip to select Western Slope wineries and the Telluride Wine Festival. The three-day, two-night tour (Friday, June 26 to Sunday, June 28, 2009) is $549 per person, double occupancy; $100 additional for single occupancy. The package includes roundtrip transportation on a luxury motorcoach with complimentary snacks and bottled water, an expert sommelier guide accompanying the trip, two nights at The Peaks Resort in Telluride, ticket to the festival and special seating at the CitizenCope concert, one full breakfast at The Peaks, wine tastings in at least three wineries, two catered lunches at Western Slope wineries and a stop at a Palisade fruit stand with time for purchases. Hurry up on this one, because the tour company wants all trips paid in full by May 8. Call 303-777-9463 (WINE).

Restaurant Special in Sedona in June

The new Dine in Sedona Restaurant Fest, from Monday, June 15 through Tuesday, June 30, features prix fixe, three-course dinners in three price categories: modest $19.95, classic $29.95 and elegant $39.95 for appetizer, entree and dessert. Contact the Sedona Chamber of Commerce for details (hopefully including a list of participating restaurants and their menus); 800-288-7336 or 928-282-7722. Immediately preceding the Restaurant Fest is the 14th annual Sedona Taste, on June 14 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Arizona. The cost is $60. Calls 928-282-0122.

Wine and Food Fest in Crested Butte…

The second annual Crested Butte Land Trust Wine & Food Festival, July 23-26, features wine seminars, tastings (including a Grand Tasting, $65 in advance, $80 at the door), chefs’ dinners and guided mountain bike rides with a choice of beginner/intermediate and intermediate/advanced trails following professional local guides, including an invited winemaker and featuring a picnic prepared by a local chef. To purchase tickets, go to the festival’s website, find the event and click on “Add to Cart” for any that interest you. Click here for special lodging packages.

…and One in Steamboat

The sixth annual Steamboat Wine Festival, July 30-August 2, showcases hundreds of domestic and international wines, food and wine seminars, and cooking demonstrations. Among the chefs are headlining the culinary portion of the weekend is the much-in-demand Hosea Rosenberg of Boulder’s Jax Fish House, winner of Bravo network’s 2009 “Top Chef: New York,” Hosea takes center stage in the Viking Outdoor Kitchen on Saturday during the Toast of Tyler Wiard, of Elway’s Cherry Creek in Denver. The event is expanding beyond wine and food with Wine enthusiasts and gourmands with an appetite for fly-fishing and mountain biking adventure four new activity fly-fishing and biking packages: Tight Lines with Wines; Off the Hook; Single-track, Single-vineyard; and Bike and Brunch. Tickets range from $35 for an individual seminar to $495 for a full festival pass. Buy tickets online by clicking here or register here to win two free tickets to Saturday’s Grand Tasting. For more information, call 877-328-2783 .

Cook & Bike in Spain With a Beard Winner

Rob Evans, owner/chef of Hugo’s in Portland, Maine, and winner of the James Beard Foundation’s 2009 Best Chef Northeast Award, will be the guest chef on Bike Rider Tours’ upcoming Cocina Caliente in Andalucia, a week of cycling and cook in Spain, October 18-15. Click here for details of the tour, and check the website for new chefs on the 2009 roster for 2009, or call 800-473-7040.

Denver Restaurant News

Pizza Republica, with a planned opening for May 8, will feature Neapolitan pizza made with house-made pizza dough, marinara, mozzarella and dolce, plus 20 wines by the glass and more than 100 by the bottle, a great beer list and assorted spirits. 375 Landmark Plaza, Greenwood Village; 720-489-2030…The southern suburbs (Greenwood Village and Parker) have enjoyed
Otto’s American Grill’s friendly, casual pub atmosphere and food, and a third opened downtown at 2200 Market Street earlier this week….The Brits are bonkers about “gastro-pubs,” and now Denver has two as well: joining Jonesy’s EatBar is Argyll that opened recently at 2700 East Third Avenue in Cherry Creek North. A dozen brews on tap, many more by the bottle, mostly Mediterranean and California wines, and a menu featuring foods available in northern England and Scotland: oysters, mussels, langoustines, Scottish salmon, lamb, beef and often game — hopefully prepared more “gastroish” than in the auld country. Argylle is open until midnight on weeknights and 2:00 a.m. on weekends, a welcome schedule for night-crawling Denverites. The phone number is 720-382-1117…Keith Arnold and Stephanie Bonin, owners of Duo, and John Broening and Yasmin LozadaHissom, chef and pastry chef, respectively, were slated to open Olivea at 719 East 17th Avenue (the previous Aix space) earlier this week. Phone number is 303-861-5050.

Back Home at the Range for Three Top Denver Chefs

Troy Guard (formerly of Nine75, Ocean and other restaurants run by the defunct Sullivan Restaurant Group) expects to open the doors to TAG Restaurant at 1441 Larimer Street on Monday, May 18. It’s been a long road from the idea to the opening. Phone 303-996-9985…..I was happy to read in Westword that the great space in the Icehouse in LoDo that housed several star-crossed restaurants (Brasserie Rouge where John Broening once cooked and Via where the talented James Mazzio was a consultant) will reopen as The Icehouse Tavern — with Mazzio cooking again. Mazzio was a 1999 Food & Wine Best New Chef. Think back to his tenure at Boulder’s 15 Degrees and Triana, both long gone, and you’ll know why his return to a Denver area kitchen is exciting. The Icehouse is at 1800 Wynkoop Street….Similarly, Sean Kelly (Aubergine, Clair de Lune, Somethin‘ Else and then a stint as a corporate chef) will open LoHi Steakbar at 3200 Tejon Street in northwest Denver sometime in June….Though not removed from the restaurant game (au contraire), another name chef, Kevin Taylor, is also opening a steakhouse next fall in the new aLoft Hotel in Westminster. With five year-round restaurants, one seasonal restaurant (in Central City, coincidentally named Rouge) and two catering operations, Taylor isn’t at the stoves much these days. When I asked him, “Why a steakhouse,” the laconic chef said, “It’s a sure bet.”

..And a Breck Favorite is Closing Its Doors

Keith Mahoney is one of 10 talented culinary professionals who started a side business two years ago called Creative Culinary Consulting (CCC), which advises restaurateurs on both front- and back-of-the-house operations. He is now moving on to concentrate on the consulting business and closing Café Alpine on May 17, after 13 years in Breckenridge. Mahoney and is still are pulling out all stops for the farewell dinners, served nightly, plus brunch on Mother’s Day. Café Alpine is at 106 East Adams Street, Breckenridge; 970-453-8218.

The Seasoned Chef at Sweet 16

The Seasoned Chef Cooking School celebrates its 16th birthday by offering a 10 percent for discount classes from May through August. Just register by May 31. And, everyone taking a class this month goes home with a a free board/bowl scraper as a “party favor.” The school is at 999 Jasmine Street, Denver; 303-377-3222.

Toned-Down Italian Fare at Serioz

Pleasant and casual Lowry restaurant puts out decent but unexciting Italian food

Developed from a decommissioned Air Force base, the Lowry neighborhood has a small, purpose-built commercial center along Quebec Street that has precious few non-chain eating places. One is Serioz Denver Style Pizzzeria, a family-friendly restaurant. “Pizza” is Serioz’ middle name, but neither my friend, Laura, who lives in the neighborhood nor I were in the mood for pizza. We both chose pasta dishes– mine a nightly special and hers from the large, regular menu. The preparation of these two red-sauce dishes reminded me a lot of the way Boulder’s Pasta Jay’s does things, but with a lot less zing.

Like Pasta Jay’s, Serioz sends out garlic bread to start. Pasta Jay’s is flecked with herbs and has a more powerful flavor than Serioz’. The Lowry restaurant’s version (below) is made with foccacia, is more salty than garlicky and comes with mild tomato sauce for dipping. While objectively it isn’t the kind of thing I usually care for, it was seductive. I found myself having another bite and still another bite as I looked at the menu and sipped my wine, but after a few dips, I left the sauce alone and just munched on the warm, salty, mildly garlicky bread.

My cheese-stuffed shells came with a choice of soup or salad. I chose what was listed on the menu as a “small house salad.” I didn’t photograph it — perhaps because I was so surprised at how “un-small” it was. The restaurant makes its own dressings. The Balsamic Vinaigrette that I picked was another surprise — whisked or whipped to pink frothiness and unlike any other vinaigrette I’ve eaten.

The enormous pasta shells (below) from the evening’s special menu were filled with a mild ricotta cheese mixture under a thick blanket of tame marinara. Thick shavings of Parseman perched imperially atop the pasta assemblage and melted quickly. Even though the focaccia was surpisingly salty but quite tasty, the single cold slice of Italian bread that came with the shells had neither much taste nor much texture.

Laura’s classic meat lasagna (below) from the regular menu especially reminded me of what Pasta Jay’s does: that is to assemble lasagna in an oval baking dish and bring out individual servings rather than cut it from a larger pan. The same lame, unadorned bread acccompanied the lasagna, as it did my shells, except there were two slices instead of one.

From the illuminated pastry case, we selected an Oreo cheeecake (below) to share. Serioz might make its own salad dressings, but it buys its desserts. In any case, the cheesecake was nicely plated by the Serioz kitchen staff with a couple of artistic squiggles from squeeze bottle — a kind of presentation nicety that no one bothered with for the entree course. While the wedge looked small, the cheesecake was rich and tasty in an Oreo sort of way, thanks to that bakery whose name I can’t recall.

Serioz is a pleasant neighbporhood restaurant — more predictable than exciting. Moderately price, it it is pleasantly appointed, and while we were there on a quite weeknight, I’m sure it cranks up when pizza-loving families and a younger, louder crowd is there. If the asked me for one suggestion, here’s what I say: The heavy chairs make an extremely unpleasant, spine-chilling sound when dragged across the stone floor. Maybe it’s not so bad when there’s a crowd — or maaybe it’s worse with more chairs being moved around.
Price check: At dinner, antipasti, salads and soups, $5-$11.26; pasta, $10.25-$16.25; subs, $8.75-$9.5; specialty pizzas, $14-$15 for 12-inch to $20-$21 for 16-inch; desserts $4-$6. Kids’ meals are $3.25-$6.25.

Serioz is at 2oo Quebec Street (tucked into Lowry Town Center), Denver; 303-366-5777.

Serioz on Urbanspoon

Impressive Colorado Pestos Top Terrific Pizzas

Ciolo and now Piccolo pestos pass the pizza taste test at Laudisio‘s

Antonio Laudisio makes his own pesto in big batches for use on pizzas and pasta in his Boulder restaurant. He has been doing so for nearly four decades — first at his mother’s restaurant in Florida and since 1988 in his namesake establishment in Colorado. In fact, Antonio makes them in a mortar and pestle made of South Dakota granite that came from the grandson of Gutzon Borglum, who carved the Presidential monuments at Mt. Rushmore from, of course, South Dakota granite — a culinary footnote to American history.

When Tellory, Inc., a Lafayette company, wanted to do a pizza sampling using their artisinal Ciolo and Piccolo brands of handcrafted pesto, the company approached Antonio Laudisio to turn the recipes into reality. Antonio and Adalberto Murillo (below) assembled pizzas using Tellory’s two lines of pesto products, plus quality ingredients and their own scrumptious pizza dough, popped the pies into the oven and sliced them for the mid-day pizza party. What a launch!

Among the the combinations (images below) that they assembled were: caramelized onion, feta, green olive and feta pesto, and slices of fresh tomato; jalapeño pecan pesto ad prosciutto; tomato, basil pesto and pancetta; fontina cheese, bacon and roasted red pepper pesto; roasted red pepper, mozzarella and pancetta. Pizza lovers, eat your hearts out, because these were excellent.

Piccolo (below) is Tellory’s new line of all-natural pestos, spreads and tapanades that are sold in King Soopers in Colorado; Fairway, Zabar’s, Westside Market, Amish Market and Zaytuna Market, all in New York, Kings Super Markets in New Jersey, and Eldorado Supermarket in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ciolo is the company’s earlier brand that is sold exclusively at Whole Foods. Products have a shelf life of 30 to 60 days and retail for $5.49 to $6.99.

Laudisio’s indvidual pizzas from the wood-burning oven are $4.75 at happy hour and $9.50-$11 at lunch and dinner. The restaurant is at 1720 29th Street, Boulder; 303-442-1300.

Nonna’s: An Italian Charmer in Denver

Denver restaurant with a neighborhood feel serves Chicago-style Italian fare

The intersection of Leetsdale and South Monaco in Denver is particularly uninspiring, so an attractive restaurant in a strip shopping center is quite a find. My friend Laura, who lives not far away, was the finder. We went there yesterday for lunch. During a previous visit, Nonna’s Chicago Bistro was a small, cafe-size restaurant — the kind of charmer that should be just around the corner from everyone’s home.

Looking at the restaurant’s website, I have the impression that the Catalano family has operated restaurants around many Mile High corners since opening a place called Johnnie’s back in 1952. Other names that might sound familiar to Denverites are Red Hot Experience (a Chicago-style hot dof place, Littleton), Frankly Red Hots (location unknown to me), Ristorante Catalano (Englewood) and Catalano’s Italian Market (Highlands Ranch).

Since then, Laura had told me, Nonna’s had doubled in size and added the Bella Vino wine bar next door to the original space. The owners, Joe and Dedria Catalano-Tudor, have successfully transformed their cojoined spaces into a pretty place made to feel Italian with faux flowers, vines and fruit painted directly on the stucco walls. Sinatra and other recorded crooners serenaded lunch guests, and on Friday and Saturday evenings, I understand that the entertainment is live.

Thick-sliced, toasted Italian bread and marinara sauce for dipping holds hunger at bay until the rest of the order arrives.

I ordered a small pizza margarita, a thin-crust pie topped with olive oil, sliced fresh tomatoes, cheese and julienne strips of basil leaves. The crust was the best part — thin-crust in spite of the owners’ Chicago ties, tasty, chewy and baked for just the right amount of time. The mozzarella (or maybe mozzarella and something else) was standard. In addition to the cheese that was melted onto the pizza, small cubes of cheese were sprinkled on top — sort of a cheese-0n-cheese garnish. The tomatoes would have been better if it were still tomato season. And the fresh basil curiously did not have a strong basil flavor or bouquet. But most curiously, instead of being cut into wedges, the pizza was cut into little squares. Kind of a pizza grid that doesn’t quite show in the image below.

Laura’s chicken piccata was a lightly breaded and sautéed or pan fried-till-brown piece of poultry perched on a bed of perfectly cooked linguine. The sauce was creamy and lemony, but the assertive capers dominated and overpowered the citrus flavor.

Price check: Many dishes cost the same price at lunch and at dinner. Antipasti, $8.75-$12.95; insalata, $6.95-$10.95; zuppa, $4.95-$8.50; sandwiches, $8.87-$10.95; pizzas, 10-inch, $11.95, and 16-inch, $19.95; entrees, $9.95-$14.95 at lunch, $12.99-$21.99 at dinner.

Nonna’s Chicago Bistro is located at 6603-I Leetsdale Drive, Denver; 303-388-1354.