Category Archives: Seafood

Sockeye Salmon Specials in 2 Area Restaurants

Kelly Whitaker’s Basta and Cart-Driver celebrate Sockeye Week.

BristolBayFishermanChefs Collaborative, a group of influential chefs dedicated to promoting sustainable, natural food sources. The group has declared this to be  Sockeye Restaurant Week through November 15. Restaurants and other businesses across the country are featuring wild sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay, Alaska, on their menus. No, sockeye isn’t fresh in November, but it was flash-frozen and is just about as good.

Bristol Bay is the world’s largest sockeye fishery. Today, it is celebrated by no less that President Barack Obama, a supporter of Bristol Bay’s pristine nature, who took action to protect the ecosystem and the fishing community. His actions assure that it will remain a sustainable and productive fishery. Until then, there was a long and ugly threat from the proposed development of the Pebble Mine, a porphyry, copper, gold, and molybdenum operation that would have put Bristol Bay and its population of all five types of salmon at risk if the mine were developed and its waste containment were to fail. Think of the Gold King mine mess near Silverton last August and the far worse situation in Brazil right now, where two burst mining dams have already cost 28 lives, safe drinking water and numerous small villages. Imagine that crap spilling into Bristol Bay. Fortunately, the mine project didn’t come to pass, and now, let’s think about delicious salmon again.

Chefs Collaborative member Kelly Whitaker is hosting two sockeye specials at Cart-Driver (Denver) and Basta (Boulder). Cart-Driver is replacing its popular tuna mousse with sockeye mousse, and Basta is they are extending Sockeye Restaurant Week into First Bite Boulder with a sockeye special.

IKEA Improving Its Seafoods

Furniture retailer’s café offering upgraded.

IKEA-logoPeople go to IKEA for affordable, assemble-it-your-self furniture and home accessories, but they often return for the reasonably priced Scandinavian dishes served in its public cafeterias. It never occurred to me that the seafoods might not be sourced from sustainable fisheries. It appears that they weren’t but are shifting in that direction. IKEA has announced that it will make all of its seafood certified sustainable by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) or the Marine Stewardship Council (ASC). It is currently working with the MSC to certify crayfish fisheries.

Additionally, IKEA will be providing consumers with more nutritious and appropriately portioned menu options, and also update the look of its restaurants to reflect its Swedish heritage and “a more personal experience and ‘homey’ feeling.” I am assuming, but don’t know for sure, that food products sold at retail will be meeting the same standards.

“We will continue to serve delicious food, offering a taste of Sweden at affordable prices, but with increasing focus on the aspects of food that are really important to people: health and sustainability,” said Michael La Cour, managing director of IKEA Food Services AB. “We have high ambitions, and our journey in this direction has just begun.”

Denver Fest Celebrates Sustainable Seafood

Go Fish!  tasting event on Wednesday.

Fish-clipaartTop Denver chefs are coming together on Wednesday, August 26 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Baur’s Restaurant and Listening Lounge. The first Go Fish! Sustainable Seafood Tasting Event is described as a “luxurious strolling dinner” that includes ocean-friendly fish donated by Seattle Fish Co. — with gourmet beer wine and cocktails as well. The focus is on  sustainable ingredients as identified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s wonderful Seafood Watch program. During this fishy feast, guests can sample dishes by some of the top restaurants and chefs in Denver, including acknowledged local seafood specialists. The event is open to the public.  Click here to purchase tickets ($40).

  • Dory Ford,  Baur’s Restaurant and AQUA TERRA Culinary.
  • Sheila Lucero, Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar.
  •  Kelly Whitaker, Basta and Cart-Driver.
  •  Robert Grant, Baur’s Restaurant and Listening Lounge.
  •  Alex Seidel, Fruition.
  •  Troy Guard, Guard & Grace and others.
  • Paul Reilly, Beast + Bottle.
  • Shaun Motoda, TAG Raw Bar.
  • Matt Vawter, Mercantile Dining & Provision.
  •  Kyle Mendenhall, The Kitchen Community.
  •  Kevin Grossi, LOLA.

Bauer’s is at 1512 Curtis Street, Denver; 303-615-4000.

Abbott’s on National Seafood List

Connecticut institution cited as great lobster shack.

DailyMeal-logoWhen I moved to Colorado in 1988, I was cheered to find prepared clam chowder from Abbott’s of Noank at my local King Soopers. A true taste of New England was much appreciated by this Connecticut native. I used to buy it all the time, until it disappeared from the refrigerated case. I guess there weren’t enough nostalgic New Englanders in Boulder (or all of Colorado) at the time.

Now Abbott’s gets top billing in The Daily Meal’s list of “America’s 40 Best Seafood Shacks.” Well okay. It is first because the list is alphabetical, but I’d put it right up there with Maine’s finest anyway.

Any New Englander worth his or her salt knows how to deal with a whole lobster, given nutcrackers and a pick. I like my lobster plain -- no drawn butter needed to compete with the sweetest of all seafoods. Photo: Flickr/outdoorPDK
Any New Englander worth his or her salt knows how to deal with a whole lobster, with a nutcrackers and a pick. I like my lobster plain — no drawn butter needed to compete with the sweetest of all seafoods. Photo: Flickr/outdoorPDK

Here’s what The Daily Meal posted: “According to the digital countdown clock on the Abbott’s website, at the moment this is being written there are 18 weeks, six days, seven hours, 19 minutes, and 36 seconds, oops, 37, oops…well, you get the idea, left until Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough serves their last lobster of the 2015 season. This reminder is convenient, because you do not want to miss out on this. Abbott’s has been in business for more than a half century, and they put a spin on lobster rolls by low steaming them and serving them hot with melted-on butter — not that it makes them shirk on buttering the roll. Local oysters are on offer, too.”

L’Hostaria’s Bar is Congenial for Solo Dining

Tuscan-style restaurant a good option for lone diners in Aspen.

L'Hostaria's welcome mat.
L’Hostaria’s welcome mat.

I’m in Aspen for just a couple of days, my prime purpose being to write about the recently opened Aspen Art Museum. A side benefit is always eating. When I arrived I was tired and hungry, so I was looking for a quick bite of something tasty and not too pricey. A local friend suggested L’Hostaria Ristorante— coincidentally across from the museum where I will be tomorrow.

The décor is Tuscan. The menu features a range of starters, meats, seafood, pasta, sides and desserts. There was something vaguely familiar about the look of the place (a bar area separated from the dining area) and even the way the menu is written. When I returned to write and looked up the restaurant, it turns out that the owner(s) opened Bacaró in Boulder. Bacaró is closed, but if a Monday evening in low season in a ski town is an indication, L’Hostaria is still doing strong.

I asked the waitress about the cool bicycle hanging over the bar. She said,
I asked the waitress about the cool bicycle hanging over the bar. She said, “The owner likes cycling.”

The bar area seating includes the bar itself, a salume bar and tables — a set-up that provides options for lone diners. Because my companion was author Mark Adams in the form of his book, Turn Right at Machu Picchu, I picked a table with the best lighting. A glass of chianti, a savory and a sweet sufficed. The ambiance was very pleasant, though I’m guessing later in the evening, there was more noise from other patrons, which would have made dining solo less pleasant. Like Bacaró, the food was good — but not great. Still, it was a good choice for me.

Good bread gets any eating experience off on the right chew.
Good bread gets any eating experience off on the right chew.
Even in land-locked Colorado, seafood appeals to me -- as long as the restaurant is good and serves it fresh and well prepared. L'Hostaria's Zuppa di Pesce features salmon, clams, mussels, crab claw and shrimp in a delicious tomato-lobster broth with toasted crostini for dipping.
Even in land-locked Colorado, seafood appeals to me — as long as the restaurant is good and serves it fresh and well prepared. L’Hostaria’s Zuppa di Pesce features salmon, clams, mussels, crab claw and shrimp in a delicious tomato-lobster broth with toasted crostini for dipping.
Tiramisu is composed of mascarpone cheese, ladyfingers soaked in coffee,  cocoa and a heap of whipped cream with  smiley face made of chocolate syrup.
Tiramisu is composed of mascarpone cheese, ladyfingers soaked in coffee, cocoa and a heap of whipped cream with smiley face made of chocolate syrup.

Price check: I can’t give you the usual range, because I didn’t take notes or take a menu, but my food and wine at the bar came to about $30. And the pleasant atmosphere and congenial service? Priceless.

L'Hostaria on Urbanspoon

Oceanaire’s Lobster Roll Special

New England favorite works as a pre-theater treat.

Oceanaire-logoWhen I got wind of The Oceanaire’s current (till the end of the month) special on lobster and crab rolls, my mouth started watering. We had theater tickets the other night, and The Oceanaire is across the street from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. As a (happily) displaced New Englander, I love and miss lobster rolls, so this was a no-brainer about where to grab a bite before the show.

The current special is  for a pair of lobster and crab rolls on a proper New England-style split-top bun with a heap of shoestring fries is $19 including a glass of Meomi Chardonnay or $16 without the wine.
The current special is for a pair of lobster and crab rolls on a proper New England-style split-top bun with a heap of shoestring fries is $19 including a glass of Meomi Chardonnay or $16 without the wine.

We were early because we had a 6:30 curtain, so I was happily able to order the at-the-bar special at a table — white cloth and all.  (Thanks, general manager John.) Of course, once I get into a seafood restaurant, I always have to try one more thing besides what I came for, and for my husband, whose taste for seafood is limited, the availability of a steak was appealing. The Oceanaire’s coolly elegant décor, inspired by old ocean liners, and the mellow retro music made for a pleasant wait until the wine and then the food came.

A classic relish tray and wonderful crusty bread start off each meal.
Backtracking here to the classic relish tray and wonderful crusty bread that start off each meal. I had some, but not enough to spoil my appetite.
A trio of three varieties of sweet, fresh Pacific oysters was my add-on.
A trio of three varieties of sweet, fresh Pacific oysters(Sookum, Kumamoto and Kusshi) was my prelude to the lobster roll.
A salad of bibb lettuce, Granny Smith Apples and candied pecans, but with Balsamic rather than bleu cheese dressing because one of us doesn't care for bleu cheese.
A salad of bibb lettuce, Granny Smith Apples and candied pecans, but with Balsamic rather than bleu cheese dressing because one of us doesn’t care for bleu cheese.
Surf and turf, combining a grilled 6-ounce flavorful, tender fillet and shrimp with asparagus and Béarnaise sauce.
Surf and turf, combining a grilled 6-ounce flavorful, tender fillet and shrimp with asparagus and Béarnaise sauce. Lovely and delicious.
Seeing my camera on the table, the attentive waiter offered to take our picture. Here we are.
Seeing my camera on the table, Rashid, our attentive waiter, offered to take our picture. Here we are. We capped off this fine meal with an enormous scoop of vanilla ice cream served in a gigantic martini glass. No photo required.

 

The Oceanaire Seafood Room on Urbanspoon

Denver’s Upcoming Taste of Iceland

Food, music & art  form from North Atlantic nation in the Mile High City.

IcelandNaturally-logoI’ve just returned from Iceland, so I’m still a little obsessed by that wonderful little island nation. I soaked in the fabled Blue Lagoon, but I never got a chance to eat at the Blue Lagoon’s LAVA Restaurant. My loss, because it is considered one of Iceland’s best. My re-entry will be eased if I make it to try the special menu of authentic Icelandic cuisine served at Rioja from September 24 to 27.

Chefs Jennifer Jasinski, Viktor Örn Andrésson and Kuklinski.
Chefs Jennifer Jasinski, Viktor Örn Andrésson and Tim Kuklinski.

Viktor Örn Andrésson, the fabled restaurant’s head chef (and 2014 Nordic Chef of the Year), is flying in to prepare this special meal showcasing the best of Icelandic cuisine. He will work with Rioja’s owner/chef Jennifer Jasinski, whose accolades include James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest and Colorado Chef of the Year, and Rioja’s Chef de Cuisine Tim Kuklinski to offer the menu below ($65 plus $25 for optional wine pairing). Rioja is at 1431 Larimer Street, Denver. For reservations, call 303-820-2282. And if you don’t happen to be in Denver, Taste of Iceland events are also scheduled for Seattle, October 9 t0 12, and Toronto, November 13 to 16.

Taste of Iceland Menu at Rioja

F  I R S T • Arctic Char
Blow-torched and lemon-cured Arctic char
Beetroots, cream cheese, horseradish, chervil

S E C O N D • Icelandic Cod and Langoustine
Slowly cooked cod and dried seaweed ‘söl‘ from Stykkishólmur
Lightly smoked langoustine salad, apple, black salsify, pickled onion

T H I R D • Icelandic Free-Range Lamb
Roasted rack of lamb and slowly cooked lamb shoulder,  sun chokes, watercress, mustard, mushrooms and Madeira sauce

F O U R T H • Icelandic Viking Skyr
Skyr and red currant mousse, chocolate cremaux,
Marzipan cake, marshmallow, skyr and lemon ice cream

Music, Cocktails & Yard Storming

Denver’s Icelandic experience includes several other events. Music lovers can attend the free Reykjavik Calling Concert on Saturday, September 27 at 7 p.m.at the 3 Kings Tavern. Mixologist Chris Sage conducts craft cocktail classes at Rioja’s sister restaurant, Bistro Vendome, featuring a variety of cocktails using Reyka Vodka and Icelandic ingredients. Classes from September 25 through 27 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. are free but are limited to 20 guests (21+ only) per class. Reservations are required (and might already be filled), but call 303-825-3232 and try.

BarbaKnit,jpgIceland is a nation of sheep (the four-legged kind) and therefore, also of knitters. Artist and knitter extraordinaire Linda Björk Eiríksdóttir (also known as BarbaKnit) invites experienced knitters and novice knitters alike to a free yarn storming party on Saturday, September 27 from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at the lawn just east of the McNichols Building at Civic Center Park (144 West Colfax). Guests will create an all-new art installation by “yarn storming” park trees with a splash of color and texture. Guests are encouraged to bring their own knitting needles, crochet hooks and yarn or any other fabric lying around. Linda is available to teach guests easy ways to get started in the wide world of knit art.