Freshness stressed at stylish Ballpark restaurant.
I 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.
The Daily Meal just doesn’t get the middle of the country.
Once again, a New York-based dining authority may know lots about food but seems to know little about Colorado. It includes Keystone’s Ski Tip Lodge in a list of worthy if remote eateries. Worthy it is. But remote? Not really.
This historic building is now part of the vast Keystone Resort that includes six lodging pods that stretch for miles along US 6. Except arguably in mud season, the resort throbs with activities and can be crowded visitors. It is an hour give or take from Denver, the largest city in a 600-mile radius. Interstate 70, a prime east-west route across the country, is just 6 miles away — and those 6 miles are hardly through wilderness but increasingly developed.
When the snow isn’t falling and the tourists aren’t touring, Keystone, about 70 miles west of Denver, is a town of only 1,000 residents. However, the local Ski Tip Lodge —within an 1800’s stagecoach stop that was once the home of Keystone’s founding family — has a restaurant that makes a trip here worth the trouble. Executive chef Kevin McComb offers a four-course meal daily that constantly changes, with dishes like porcini mushroom and potato purée with truffle whipped cream, hoisin cured crispy pork belly, braised and glazed al natural beef short rib, and bourbon marinated Colorado lamb chop. The romantic dining experience is enjoyable and slow-paced, which is possible because the restaurant only offers two seating times per night.
The photo caption perfectly summarizes the site’s ignorance. It reads, “This Ski Tip Lodge meal can be yours! All you need to do is travel into the middle of a forest in the Rocky Mountains.” Not exactly.
It’s never a surprise when Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine appears on yet another “best of” and “top” restaurants lists. I’m again thrilled about Frasca’s inclusion, and I note that editor Colman Andrews has addressed my biggest gripe: the snooty reverse provincialism of the list. He wrote (and I liberally condense his intro to the list):
We expect to hear complaints… because we haven’t included any of the doubtless excellent restaurants in, say, Providence, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, the Twin Cities, Santa Fe, Phoenix, San Diego — or any of the hundreds of smaller towns across the U.S. …Yes, we’re food snobs who recognize only the restaurants of New York City, Chicago, the West Coast, and a few token municipalities scattered around other corners of the country…. But here’s the thing: There are more than 600,000 restaurants in America, counting fast-food outlets, dinner house chains, small places…. Our list has room for only a tiny fraction of these, and not surprisingly they tend to be concentrated in those cities that are, for reasons that are probably cultural as well as economic, our best “food towns.” Chief among these are Las Vegas (four restaurants), San Francisco (six restaurants), New Orleans (six restaurants), Chicago (seven restaurants), Los Angeles (12 restaurants), and (grumble if you wish) New York City (27 restaurants).
Given these constraints and the fact that New York is credited with more than one quarter of the allotment, it is remarkable that Frasca is not only honored but was promoted from #71 last year to #32 this year.
Here’s what The Daily Meal posted about Frasca:n the Friuli region of northeastern Italy, a frasca is a roadside farm restaurant, serving simple regional food. Frasca Food & Wine captures the spirit of these venues, while also championing the vast diversity of Colorado’s unique culinary resources. Owners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have created a warm and inviting space that can accommodate an impromptu dinner or an evening of fine dining. They offer a unique menu that includes salumi and cheeses along with entrées like Broken Arrow Ranch quail; gnocchi with Buckner Farm lamb sausage and broccolini; and raviolo of veal ossobuco, bone marrow, cipollini onion, and salsify. Just be sure that you don’t miss the frico caldo, a crispy pancake of potatoes, onions, and Piave cheese — a Friulian specialty. Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson have a new restaurant in the works, slated to open in Denver by the end of the year, and it’s one of the year’s most anticipated openings.
One restaurant, one chef and one Who’s Who inductee.
When 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.
Taqueria Los Comales in a strip shopping center on the fringes of central Loveland has all the earmarks of a real Mexican spot — a salsa bar with eight salsas and four other items, an absence of combination plates and menudo on the menu. The space seems to have been repurposed from something that wasn’t always Mexican. The black Styrofoam take-out boxes are labeled Church’s Fried Chicken.
I didn’t grab a plasticized menu, and there were no paper take-out ones, so I went on-line and was surprised that Taqueria Los Comales was born in Chicago and still has restaurants there, as well as in northern Colorado and elsewhere. The graphics and menus are identical, but there is no obvious ownership or franchise link between the Midwestern taquerias and the outliers.
Price check: Tacos, $1.75 or 3 for $7.99; tortas, $5.25; burritos, $5.85; dinners, $11.99.
The Post Brewing Company opened a couple of years go in a former VFW Post in downtown Lafayette, but good intentions aside, it was only yesterday that I finally got there. My husband and I went for a New Year’s Day walk at Barr Lake State Park near Brighton, so East Boulder County was a logical place for something to eat. The pickings are slimmer than in the Boulder orbit.
I have high regard for anything David Query and his Big Red F Group put together — a gaggle of distinctive eateries that are all so different that they don’t feel like part of a group. several Jax Fish House locations, Zolo, Centro, the West End Tavern and Lola are really cut from different culinary cloths, and The Post Brewing Company, operated in partnership with former Zolo executive chef Brett Smith, was different from all the rest. We were glad to show up just as happy hour was starting, but in truth, the very limited happy hour menu didn’t really appeal to us. Everything else is à la carte, a format I don’t love.
The large space contains a tempting pastry case right at the entrance, booths, high-top tables, a couple of bars, the brewery run by Bryan Selders in the back and both enclosed patio and seasonal outdoor seating on the west side of the building. It certainly can handle a crowd, and as we were leaving, people were pouring in.
Price check: I don’t have a menu, and none is available on-line, but the five items above plus an additional 50¢ for a biscuit came to $32.25, plus tax.
Geographically challenged Zomato claims that Post Brewing is in Louisville, but it’s really in Lafayette, specifically at 105 West Emma Street; 303-593-2066.
Former fondue place now a “modern American” eatery.
The co-joined restaurants at 15th and Arapahoe have been several things. Until recently, the corner space was a steakhouse, a place that looked uninviting due to lattice obscuring the windows, and the next space along 15th specialized in fondue. Now, the steak space that was Gallagher’s then Hickory Prime and then just Prime Steakhouse has become the “Cheers”-like, lattice-free Reunion Gastropub + Wine Bar, and the old La Fondue/Le Chateau space is the light and attractive Viand Modern American. Where’s my scorecard?
I went to Reunion for lunch on November 13 and had a long chat with manager Martin Hammer, a Front Range veteran restaurateur. By the time I returned for a media gathering at Viand on December 1, both Hammer and the young chef were gone. The current headliners are consulting chef Dana Rodriguez and executive chef Victor Mena. Both go back a long way, when they worked together at Tamayo, at Rioja and most recently at Work & Class, Rodriguez’s brainchild/dream-come-true on the southern reaches of RiNo.
Price check: Small plates, $8-$12 (plus $18 for large risotto); #14-$21 (plus $28 for New York strip).
Zomato.com has not yet discovered Viand, which is at 1040 Fifteenth Street, Denver, just a block from the Denver Performing Arts Center. I’m hoping they will soon offer a pre-theater menu.
Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.