Category Archives: spirits

Cochon 555 Chef Roster Announced

Five top Colorado chefs in heritage pork competition.

Logo from 2011, the last time Denver was a stop on the Cochon 555 tour.
Logo from 2011, the last time Denver was a stop on the Cochon 555 tour.

In a recent post, I shared the good news for Denver foodies that Cochon 555, a chef competition created to showcase the wonderful meat that comes from heritage pigs, is returning to Denver on March 9 after a five-year absence. The event features five top local five chefs, five pigs and five wineries to celebrate breed diversity and family farming. Ruben Garcia, executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton Denver, will lead the panel of judges in selecting Denver’s Prince or Princess of Porc, who will go on to  the national finals at the 2014 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen this June.

The chefs were selected on the basis of their support of the local food and farming community, raw culinary talent and commitment to whole animal utilization, with extra credit for naming specific heritage breeds and citing specific farms on  their menus.

The Chefs

Each chef must offer six dishes in this, the first nose-to-tail competition. In addition to his or her name in culinary lights, the winner gets a four-day wine experience to Rioja, Spain’s most prominent wine region, so it would seem prophetic for Jasinski to win, but all five chefs are at the top of their game, so it’s no slam dunk for her.

Also at Cochon 555

A highlight of the event is the presentation of butchering as a spectator sport.  Jason Nauert of the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat will butcher a pig for the audience in a pop-up butcher shop; Brian Busker and Toru Watanabe of Matsuhisa Vail will prepare an additional whole pig in a late-night Asian Speakeasy style before dessert and the awards ceremony.

  • A welcome cocktail from Four Roses Bourbon.
  • The Bourbon Bar presented by Breadcrumb by Groupon featuring Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Breckenridge Bourbon, Hirsch, Templeton Rye and Luxardo.
  • Libations include Crispin Ciders, Wines of Rioja and Cochon Rose.
  • Guests will also have the chance to pair a selection of Goose Island beers with the chef-prepared dishes and food courses offered throughout the evening.
  • TarTare Bar featuring Creekstone Farms and John Little of Harman’s Eat and Drink.
  • An artisan cheese bar with Rogue Creamery and La Brea Bakery.
  • Swine & Sweets signature ‘ice cream social’ desserts featuring Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Guests will indulge in a literal and figurative pig-out, what with 30 pork dishes to sample and all sorts of other food and beverages. Click here for tickets — $125 for general admission  (5 p.m. entry to the event) and $200 VIP admission (4 p.m. entry and VIP extras).

Colorado’s Home-Grown & Home-Made Adult Beverages

Beer, wine and the hard stuff from Colorado ingredients

ColoradoFlagIt is no secret Colorado is one of the top craft beer producing states in the nation with 160 breweries and counting, award-winning craft distilleries across the state and unique wines.. While Colorado is known for its après adventure libations, many don’t realize the secret ingredients are local ingredients from Colorado farms and often times from the beverage producers’ own farms and gardens. They call it “seed to table,” a phrase I like. The mammoth Coors brewery has for years boasted of using pure Rocky Mountain spring water, and that’s a key ingredient to other adult beverages too. The Colorado Tourism Board has assembled a sampling of some of Colorado’s top distilleries, breweries and wineries offering seed to table beverages, most with tasting rooms and tours.


  • Deerhammer Distilling Company in Buena Vista is an award winning micro-distillery specializing in premium small batch whiskey. Deerhammer sources their grain from the sort-of nearby San Luis Valley. Their Buena Vista Brandy is made in partnership with vineyards on Colorado’s Western Slope, and the barrel-aged spiced apple liqueur to be released this fall was made from 900 pounds of hand-cut apples from Cedaredge. They also work with some of the smaller farmers in the Buena Vista area to trade spent grain as animal feed for various cocktail ingredients such as mint, pickled green beans, beets and even bacon.
  • Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, the heart of Colorado’s fruit belt. It is the first Colorado distillery that I became aware of. In fact, it was the state’s first artisanal distillery and was named the American Distilling Institute’s 2012 “Distillery of The Year.” It utilizes was named the American Distilling Institute’s 2012 “Distillery of The Year.” various fruits from a stone’s throw away from their distillery. Last year, it utilized local corn, sage and more than 90,000 pounds of over-ripened Palisade peaches and pears. Peach Street also recently acquired a farm to begin growing their own produce for their spirits.
  • Peak Spirits Farm Distillery at the USDA-certified organic and Demeter-certified Biodynamic Jack Rabbit Hill Farm creates handcrafted CapRock gin, vodka and brandies as well as Jack Rabbit Hill wines. Each product is made with certified organic fruit grown at Jack Rabbit Hill in the North Fork Valley and nearby Gunnison River Farms and Ela Family Farms, and cut back with naturally pure, soft water from the CapRock formation on Grand Mesa. Peak Spirits is the recipient of several national awards including a James Beard Foundation Nomination for Outstanding Beer Wine & Spirits Professional and Good Food Awards for both CapRock Gin and Vodka.
  • Spring44 Distilling in Loveland utilizes Colorado water from its own artesian spring well in its spirits. Spring44’s Honey Vodka includes Colorado honey and its Old Tom Gin includes locally grown rosemary and coriander. The distillery is also currently developing bourbon utilizing local grains.
  • The new Woody Creek Distillers in Basalt grow sits own alpine potatoes at Scanlan Family Farm in Woody Creek for their potato vodkas that are completely grown, distilled and bottled in the Roaring Fork Valley. It will also be releasing three specialty spirits including gin, apple brandy and pear Eau de Vie made from pears and apples from local farms, Colorado rye and wheat, mountain spring water and Colorado-sourced barley malted by Coors.


  • Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins is committed to serving the communities in which they distribute by sourcing local raw materials. Its Amuste Imperial Porter utilizes Tempranillo grapes from Colorado’s Western Slope; Tree Shaker Imperial IPA includes 3,000 pounds of Colorado peaches from Big B’s/Delicious Orchards in Paonia; FRIEK includes cherries and raspberries from Colorado’s Western Slope and Front Range and Mountain Standard Double Black IPA features hops hand-picked by Odell’s brewers from Western Slope farms.
  • Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont and elsewhere is a funky little brewpub that started the craft-beer-in-a-can craze ten years ago with Dale’s Pale Ale. Oskar Blues has its own Hops & Heifers Farm with a two-acre hops field in addition to growing its own vegetables, Black Angus Cattle and Berkshire Pigs to supply their restaurants. They also use spent grain from the brewing process to supplement feed for the animals, and they host beer dinners at their farm.
  • Ska Brewing Company’s signature True Blonde and True Blonde Dubbel include local honey from Durango’s own Honeyville. It also brews Hoperation Ivy, a wet-hop IPA that coincides with the Colorado hop harvest each August. Hoperation Ivy is made entirely with ingredients sourced in Colorado including organic hops from Leroux Creek Farms in Hotchkiss, and malt from the Colorado Malting Co. in Alamosa.
  • Twisted Pine Brewing Company in Boulder has also utilized local resources as often as possible. Last year, the brewery started the Farm to Foam series, using only ingredients sourced in state. The initial beer in the series, Roots Revival, introduced carrots grown just north of Boulder into an American-style Pale Ale. The latest offering from the series is the Cucumber Cream Ale utilizing Crystal hops from Olathe and fresh English cucumbers from the 2 R’s Farm in Platteville.
  • Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo) is Colorado’s first brewpub celebrating its 25th year of pioneering, small-batch liquid art. The latest small-batch canned good is Belgorado, a Belgian-style IPA made with Colorado-grown malts and hops. The malted barley is grown and malted by Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa. The whole-leaf and pelletized hops come from Misty Mountain Hop Farm in Olathe. Wynkoop famously launched founder John Hickenlooper into a political career, first as mayor of Denver and now as governor of Colorado.


  • Augustina’s Winery in Boulder is a one-woman operation creating novel and unexpected blends from unusual grapes sourced from Colorado farms. The Venus de Vino Table Wine is made from Boulder’s Leistikow Farms Marechal Foch grapes. Augustina’s Winery makes sure that each and every bottle has its own personality and purpose including wines that go with backpacking adventures, mystery novels and gingersnaps.
  • Canyon Wind Cellars in Palisade is a family-owned, estate winery that does everything on-property from growing the grapes through winemaking and bottling. The award-winning, signature wines utilize sustainable and low-intervention winemaking practices including a computer controlled drip watering system, a complete weather and soil moisture monitoring system and no use of herbicides.
  • Sutcliffe Vineyards‘ 12 acres nestled at the foot of the Sleeping Ute Mountain in Southwestern Colorado are planted with Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Petit Verdot .The estate and 22 additional sustainably and responsibly farmed acres are overseen by three farmers who meticulously farm, harvest and vinify. Eschewing the adding of tannins, color enhancers or acid, they allow the wines to reflect the grapes.
  • Terror Creek Winery in Paonia is reputedly the highest commercially operating vineyard and winery in the Northern Hemisphere. It cultivates some of the original grapes planted on the Western Slope from the Four Corners Research Project in the mid-1970s. Winery owner Joan Mathewson trained in winemaking in Switzerland and uses many of the traditional central European methods for trellising and training her vines.
  • The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City began as an extension of the next-door Benedictine Abbey and exists independently today. It buys some of its fruit from the nearby state penitentiary’s vineyard and orchard management rehab program, but it also created Wild Canyon Harvest from the grapes picked by area residents from backyard vines and growing wild, which are remnants of the thriving grape growing and winemaking at the end of the 19th century. Now many of those original, resilient vines are still growing in backyards and open space.

4-Evening Taste of Iceland at Coohills

Award-winning Icelandic chef brings authentic menu to Coohills

Iceland is so hot that it’s cool — or vice versa. Icelandair’s Denver-Reykjavik flights are so popular that the carrier will increase flights from four to six times each week. To promote the service and the country, Iceland has established a short-term beach-head in downtown Denver as part of A Taste of Iceland, a four-day cultural festival showcasing the island nation’s food, music and film.

Tom Coohill and Hákon Már Örvarsson.

Yesterday evening, I had a chance to preview the Icelandic menu featured for just four evenings at Coohills 1400 in LoDo. Guest Chef Hákon Már Örvarsson, a private chef, international promoter of Iceland and Bocuse d’Or and World Culinary Cup award winner, collaborated with owner/chef Tom Coohill to give diners a unique experience in the Mile High City. Continue reading 4-Evening Taste of Iceland at Coohills

At Chloe, It’s All About Style

Stylish LoDo lounge opened in July by nightlife impresario Francois Safieddine serves small plates and lush drinks

Chlóe Mezze Lounge is no shrinking violet of an eatery. The website features an invented namesake — sort of an imaginary friend: “Chloe, a jet-setting, New York fashionista, who has planted her roots in Downtown Denver to share her experiences from all around the world. The culmination of her travels has manifested into three distinct spaces in one venue. These include the Mezze Lounge, Garden, and Discotheque.” The hook is baited for Denver’s fashionable party set that loves Denver but wishes it were a little more like Manahttan. There’s even a dress code: “Dress to impress. No hats, sneakers, T-shirts, hoodies, shorts, sports apparel, baggy or ripped clothing, or excessive jewelry. Jeans are OK. Dress code strictly enforced.”

I experienced the lounge portion for a recent media event early on a weeknight evening, when the disco was dark and the beautiful people that this beautiful place is designed to attract were, by and large, mercifully in the minority. Just as well, because the regular clientele would have made me feel underdresed, not sufficiently stylish and with too many years on my odometer to wear short, short skirts, high, high heels and low, low necklines.

Even if I and the media guests I was hanging with aren’t Chlóe’s target clientele, I can appreciate high style and lofty ambitions. The lounge features clean-lined furnishings, flattering light and, on a warm summer evening when the large doors were wide open, Market Street traffic noise. A peek into the discotheque component revealed a nightclub. It is open only three nights a week beginning at 10 p.m., an hour when Denver’s less-beautiful denizens are ready to turn in.  Someone told me that the “garden” is a terrific courtyard with a firepit and the look of a supper club under the stars.

The Conte de Fee (serrano chile-infused Skyy vodka, Leopold Bros absinthe, mint and Lemon 9 served under a cap of cucumgber slice in a tall, thin glass) might just be the tastiest, most refreshing cocktail I've had all summer -- or longer.

From happy hour beginning at 4 p.m. to late night indulgence ending 10 hours later, Chlóe is a see-and-be-seen place.  The kitchen under chef Jose Guerrero turns out mezze (the Italian word for tapas) as gorgeous as the people Chlóe is seeking to attract, and the bartenders turn out a various cocktails invented by creative head mixologist Eryn Latterman.  If the three courses of mezze brought to us by the attractive waitstaff are any indication, the food is drawn from several Mediterranean strains, and the cocktails, beers and wines have been chosen to harmonize. I’m hardly Chlóe’s target customer, but I’d return in a heartbeat for the lovely small bites, the excellent drinks and maybe a glass of Proseco that goes so well with this type of food.

A trio of mezze. On the left, caprese of bufala mozzarella topped with peeled cherry tomatoes, basil amd balsamic reduction. Center, sweet potato falafel, minty Noosa yogurt, cucumber and tomato. Right, lemon gnocchi, roasted garlic aioli, goat cheese and Iberico cheese.
Three more mezze. Left, tuna crudo, cherry gremolata, pink peppercorns, fresh herbs and tahini. Center, albondigas (meatballs to you and me) with garlic and tomato sherry. Right, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus with Iberico cheese, Marcona almonds and hummus.
A dessert duo. Left, profiterole with vanilla gelato and warm chocolate ganache. Fresh raspberries for color and texture. Right, roasted banana bread with candied pecans, creme Anglaise and a bit of gelato.

 Price check: Small plates of mezze, soups, salads and desserts, $4-$9 per item.
Chlóe Mezze Lounge on Urbanspoon

Spring44 Vodka & Gin Local Launch at SALT in Boulder

Colorado-made all-natural spirits introduced to media and hospitality industry folks

The invitation to be among the first in Boulder to taste the new made-in-Colorado, all- natural vodka, honey vodka and gin under the Spring44 brand was irresistible. Part of the irresistibility was curiosity about in-state, sustainably produced artisanal  spirits. Part was because the local launch took place at SALT Bistro, whose food is great and mixology program creative — as I wrote about here when the restaurant introduced its DIY cocktail program that invites guests to concoct their own drinks. In New York, they launched at at Madison Square Garden and other high-profile venues that now escape me. In Colorado, where the brand born, the intro was lower key, at SALT, Denver’s Euclid Hall and perhaps some other venues that no one mentioned.

Spring44 premium spirits source their pure water at some 9,000 feet in what sounds like an inholding in the Roosevelt National Forest in Buckhorn Canyon, west of Fort Collins. In one order or another, they distill it and filter it several times through coconut fibers, letting natural flavors shine through. Spring44’s promotional materials and press kit arerather coy, so I am not sure whether the distillery is in Fort Collins, in Denver (where there is an office and/or mailing address) or elsewhere.

SALT beverage director Evan Faber consulting on a cocktail using a Spring44 product.
I had to leave before the intro event was over because I was on a travel panel that evening, so I only had one drink. My choice mango/honey vodka fizz (above right) was really tasty. Another guest's drink is on the left. I wish I could have stayed to taste the other two Spring44 items mixed with other flavors and made in other styles.

On the way out, I was able to snap a few images and nab a couple of the wonderful raw bar bites put out when the party moved up to the main floor from the basement where it started.

Oysters on ice.
Pretty skewered somethings. I took the picture but didn't want to spoil the preentation before anyone else had a chance to taste.
Smoked salmon-plus on left and shrimp-plus on the right. Again, I photographed -- and that was that.

And than, as I rued previously, I had to leave.


Two Spirits Made for Sipping

Zacapa rum and Corzo tequila are neat for drinking neat

I’m basically a wine drinker, but don’t care much for beer or any of the whiskeys. I tend to drink tequila and rum in mixed drinks. But this week has been an epiphany. On Saturday, apres-skiing at Beaver Creek, I had some Zacapa rum, a sugar-based rather than molasses-based rum that is aged for six to 23 years “above the clouds” at 7,600 feet in Guatemala. A smart marketer decided that this premium rum, which retails for about $45 for 750 milliliters (a fifth in an elegant bottle), would partner well with upscale Vail Valley resorts. To that end,some has even created the “Above the Clouds” ski/travel package to the Vail Valley, a five-day trip of fine food, extraordinary skiing, dining, hospitality, assorted luxury extras and of course, ample opportunities to sip Zacapa rum. The price tag, $40,000 for five adults, is a jaw-dropper, but I did get a chance to try the rum.

Zacapa mixologist/ambassador Michael Martensen (above) presided over happy hour in a private room at the Osprey at Beaver Creek, a recently renovated slopeside lodge. I first tried a Presidente cocktail that was tasty but seemed a waste of that wonderful rum — one that graced with a glowing review and a rating of five out of five bottles. So I tried a shot neat — and then added a single ice cube. Perfect, so I had another. Zacapa is sweet, smooth and lovely on the palate.

Last fall, I took the Tequila Train from Guadalajara (click here for post) to visit the enormous Herradura tequila factory, At Herradura and elsewhere,I tasted a lot of tequila and learned a lot about it. A box that appeared on my doorsep recently contained a small sample bottle of Corzo Reposaoa and three small bars of Toblerone chocolate, a suggested combination. The Corzo is smooth enough to drink neat and savor, and the combination of tequila and Toblerone is a lot better than I expected when I opened the box. I don’t think that I’ll abandon my red wine and chocolate combination — no surprise since it’s one of my all-time favorite duos, but this particular tequila and this particular chocolate go well together too.