Category Archives: Trends

‘Blended Burger’ Combines Meat & Mushrooms

Project to cut down on red meat consumption & up taste.

BlendedBurgerThis is the second year for the Blended Burger Project, designed to make burgers “better” by combining ground meat with chopped mushrooms. Not a promotion directly aimed at consumers (that is, you and me), it challenges chefs to create “an incredibly delicious burger that’s healthier for your guests and more sustainable for the planet.” The burgers, which are to be on the restaurants’ menus from Memorial Day through July 31, must be made with at least 25% cultivated, chopped mushrooms.  Foraged wild fungi need not apply.

The James Beard Foundation is behind the project, and winning chefs based on diners’ votes get a trip to prepare their blended burgers at the JBF Food Conference, October 17-18, the prestigious James Beard House in New York. I’m not clear on whether any Colorado chefs were involved last year, when it was called the Better Burger Project. The five winners were respectively from Indiana, Louisiana, Tennessee, California and Pennsylvania), but three of Denver’s best are offering a sneak peek to the 2016 project, and others are invited to participate, so there’s hope for this year. Chefs Alex Seidel (Fruition, Mercantile), Justin Brunson (Old Major, Masterpiece Deli) and Troy Guard (Guard & Grace, TAG Burger, Sunnyside Burger Bar and more) have each created their own renditions of a blended burger.


A media preview is scheduled at Fruition later in the month, but I’ll be out of town so won’t be able to attend. I regret the timing, because A) I believe that for environmental reasons, even the most responsibly raised beef cattle take their toll on the environment; B) for health reasons, many people need to cut down on their red meat consumption; C) I like mushrooms.

2015 Food Trends According to NYC Publisher


Grand Central Publishing, which prides itself on keeping up with food and other lifestyle trends, has declared that 2014 trends that passed their expiration dates include “‘healthy’ gluten-free products, all-juice cleanses, coffee with butter, cronuts, cupcakes (Sex and the City ended 10 years ago), $18 small plates of brussel [stet] sprouts, uni, foraging and vocado toast (thanks, Instagram).”  FWIW, I didn’t know that coffee with butter was a trend. Shows how our of the loop I am. No excuses for this year however, if I pay attention to the publisher’s list top health and food trends for 2015.

  • Fermented foods. Who knew that pickles would become a health food? Turns out that fermented food contains good bacteria and is a digestive aid. So, it’s kind of like the Activia of 2015. In addition to pickles, foods like yogurt, kimchee, kefir, miso and kombucha all share this gastro health benefit.
  • Bone broth. From newspaper articles to your hip restaurant down the street, bone broth is everywhere. And for good reason! There are numerous health benefits to consuming this nutrient-rich comfort food. Bone broth is even known to help eliminate cellulite thanks to the wealth of vitamins, collagen and keratin.
    Nourishing Broth contains all the recipes you need! (Click here for my recent post about the broth bar at Boulder’s Fresh Thymes.)
  • Hybrid vegetables. Kalettes (mash-up of kale and Brussels sprouts) and broccoflower (broccoli and cauliflower) may seem like a foreign language now, but soon they’ll be familiar to everyone. They’ll bring new life into vegetable dishes and will have chefs creating new recipes with these hybrid flavors and textures.
  • Matcha: Green tea is amazing for boosting metabolism and promotes weight loss. Matcha is even better. Matcha green tea has 130x more antioxidants than your standard bag of green tea. There are numerous health benefits from consuming matcha, but the drink contains less caffeine so it provides a more even, soothing energy boost
  • Coco loco. Sure coconut water may seem totally 2013, but be prepared for even more coconut in the coming year! Coconut sugar, coconut aminos, coconut oil, and coconut flour will all be prominent in diet recipes and in health food stores. Coconut sugar boasts a lower glycemic index than traditional sugar, and coconut flour is gluten free, is high in good fats, and is high in dietary fiber and proteins.
  • Hemp seeds. Unlike their cannabis sativa cousin, hemp seeds do not contain THC. However, they are full of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, fiber and much more. They can be consumed raw or toasted, have a mild nutty flavor and can be used in salads, smoothies, oatmeal, and more. (In Colorado, with legalized recreational marijuana, hemp is a non-issue.)
  • Noodle bowls: Japanese-inspired restaurants are cropping up all over, and not just in New York City—ramen bowls in all varieties, from vegetarian to soft boiled egg-topped creations; there is something for everyone to love. Here’s a recipe to try at home from Half Baked Harvest.Fat: But don’t get too excited and start taking bites out of a stick of butter: we mean good fats, not the trans fats found in processed foods. Good fat is derived from both natural sources, so expect to see lots more full-fat yogurt, cultured butter, eggs, and oils being advocated for in a healthy diet. Trust us, this is a good thing. (Click here for my post about Sushi Tora’s weekend ramen bowls. Kasa Japanese Grill on the east end of the Pearl Street Mall is now also offering midweek ramen lunches.)
  • Millet: Millet has been around for a while in granola and breads, but it will become more prominently featured as recipes’ main ingredient in 2015. It’s gluten-free and rich in protein, fiber, and other minerals like magnesium. Also, it’s grown predominantly in the United States, which should help to avoid the backlash that the quinoa farming is generating.
  • Poutine: We’re closing our top 10 list with a much more indulgent food trend. If you’ve been to Montreal, you’ve probably had a plate of these wonderful French fries, slathered in cheese curds and gravy. Well, the trend is spreading, and with more variety from pulled pork, coq au vin, olives, vegetables, and more. Savour!

Broth Bar at Boulder’s Fresh Thymes

Natural foods restaurant quick to hook onto hot trend.

FreshThymes-logoRich, hearty broths are suddenly a current food trend, and Boulder’s Fresh Thymes Eatery has jumped on the “brothwagon” and is making the “good stuff our body craves – collagen, gelatin, bio-available minerals and amino acids,” according to a press release. The restaurant’s house-made broth is served from a new Broth Bar, with herb- and spiced-up flavor “in our nutrient dense broths, added a condiment bar and are calling it righteous”

New York’s Rotisserie Georgette, known for its slow-cooked poultry, had an excess of chicken bones and parts from the daily operations and started making broth early last year. The head chef, Chad Brauze, formerly at Daniel Boulud’s Michelin-starred Daniel, liked bone broth’s sustainable aspect. “We are basically getting a second delicious, valuable dish from otherwise discarded items: necks, feet, roasted chicken carcasses—all things our Upper West Side audience wouldn’t care to order,” wrote in a piece called “Why Drinking Bone Broth is the Next Hot Thing in Cuisine.”

Brodo, a take-out broth window appeared in downtown Manhattan in December 2014, serving three types of bone broth: organic Pennsylvania Amish chicken broth, grass-fed beef bone broth and a signature broth with chicken, beef and turkey bones, according to  It usually takes far longer for a trend to make it this far from one of the creative coasts, foodwise, so kudos to this Boulder purveyor of natural, organic, local, nutritious and tasty fare for its Broth Bar.

Broth seems especially suited for winter enjoyment. The present both list comprises just three items: Ginger Garlic Beef, Roasted Turmeric Chicken, and Sundried Tomato and Caramelized Mushroom. The latter sounds vegetarian, which means it’s not bone broth but simply broth. They sell it by the cup and pint Mason jar, and customers who bring in their own mug, cup or jar get 20% off their broth purchases.

Fresh Thymes is located at 2500 30th Street, #101, Boulder; 303-955-7988. It is open Monday through Saturday.

Note: Turns out that two more Boulder purveyors are introducing bone broth. According to a piece in Denver Eater (or is it Eater Denver?; I’m never sure), Hosea Rosenberg’s Blackbelly and Will and Coral Frischkorn at Cured are about to introduce bone broth too.


Resolve to Eat Better

Follow the lead of modern epicures.

ChefClipArtIt’s New Year’s resolution time, and Slow Food USA has some suggestions for the coming year. I don’t generally do soapbox posts, but I do believe these points are excellent and timely, as American chefs and American foodies have learned to eat well — for the body and the planet as well as the palate. Here’s what Slow Food USA reminds us, linking the resolutions to the upcoming Super Bowl (which I like most card- carrying Coloradans hope will be won by the Denver Broncos):

“It’s 2015! No longer are we nibbling at the edges of the century. We are now deep into another one. Look around: There is much to rejoice! Evidence of a promising new world is everywhere: Be it the birth of craft beer, the morphing of school gardens into a full-fledged farm-to-school universe, and consumer concern for fast food workers. However, so too do the embers of this old and faceless world glow. Consider the buckets of agri-money poured into state referenda to squash GMO labeling and animal welfare. Or, how is it possible to purchase pork shoulder for 99 cents a pound? Amidst such turbulence and transition, we must be ever mindful of the decisions we make individually and collectively to shape our future. So, consider a few New Year’s Resolutions that might inch you closer to the bright new world.

  1. Make a Resolution to Eat Better Meat: Serve your friends cleaner wieners and better burgers at the Nationwide Nose-to-Tailgate Super Bowl Party as we advocate for Better Meat in sports stadiums. Join the event and invite friends near or far to party with us for the cause.

  2. Make a Resolution to Eat Less Meat: After a Super Sunday night fixating on pigskin, tackle Monday, February 2nd head-on by planning a year of Meatless Monday menus.

  3. Make a Resolution to Eat Local: C’mon. Take the challenge. Channel the spirit of Jane Jacobs and her hunger for the principles of import substitution with your family, friends, and neighbors by taking the 10-Day Local Challenge.

  4. Make a Resolution to Serve Local: If you’re a restaurant chef, you possess a lot of power in the equation for the local flavor/local economy. We want to hear from you. Raise your hand now to help create the new Slow Food Chefs Alliance.

  5. Make a Resolution to Be Better Informed: Learn about the world around us. Study the Slow Meat playbook with these excellent coaches: Nicolette Hahn Niman’s Defending Beef, Patrick Martins’ The Carnivore’s Manifesto, Andrew Lawler’s Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?, Ted Genoways’ The Chain Never Slows, and Christopher Leonard’s The Meat Racket. My (re)reading list also includes some of the better food books published in 2014: Dan Barber’s The Third Plate, Paul Greenberg’s American Catch, Stefanie Sacks’ What the Fork Are You Eating? and William Powers’ New Slow City. And, of course, regular trips to the Slow Food USA Blog. Yes, I believe food is paramount, but it shouldn’t be all consuming. Explore economics, politics, music, art and fashion. The wider you explore, the more you’ll recognize common themes that link the food system to everything else.”

And happy, healthy, delicious 2015 to all.


Zeal Introduces A New Chef

Former Greenbriar chef tackles & tweaks “clean” food menu.

001Zeal, a downtown Boulder restaurant catering to health-conscious food enthusiasts, opened November and developed a following from those allergic or averse to certain foods or food groups. Vegetarian? Zeal has many dishes for you, including sustainably harvested proteins of various kinds. Carnivore? They serve only pedigreed meats from grass-fed animals. Gluten-free? The only gluten is in the beer and the little spelt-flour bread that is served. Avoid processed foods or concerned about GMOs, pesticides and chemical fertilizers? Zeal is the restaurant for you. On the Paleo diet bandwagon? It’s easy at Zeal. Interested in the Conscious Cleanse? Jo Saalman and Julie Paleaz, authors of the bestselling book by the same name, are hosting a three-course, $39 Conscious Cleanse dinner at Zeal on November 11.

Zeal owner Wayde Jester at the chalkboard where the changing menu and the popular grab-and-go options are posted.
Zeal owner Wayde Jester at the chalkboard where the changing menu and the popular grab-and-go options are posted.
Leslie White, who joined Zeal after a stint at The Greenbriar. Being able to accommodate both restaurants' styles shows his versatility.
Leslie White, who joined Zeal after a stint at The Greenbriar. Being able to accommodate both restaurants’ styles shows his versatility.

From the beginning, Zeal has used whole fresh ingredients, served as simple flavorful combinations. But like many a new restaurant, Zeal has experienced some growing pains. In addition to the service glitches common to new restaurants, there has been turnover in the kitchen. It is on its third chef in less than a year. Opening chef Arik Markus had left by June, and his successor, Sean Smith, was replaced about a month ago by Leslie White (that’s a he-Leslie), who has made a rapid shift from the butter-and-cream kitchen of The Greenbriar to the “clean” ingredients used at Zeal. I don’t know any details about these changes, except to speculate that since founder/owner Wayde Jester, a prototypical Boulder endurance athlete, comes from the real estate realm and though a cooking enthusiast, didn’t have restaurant experience, the owner/chef combination has taken a few tries.

Zeal hosted a group of foodies and food bloggers to sample a few of White’s creations, plus artisanal cocktails, other adult beverages and the sensational cold-pressed juices.

Super-fresh cold-pressed juices in a rainbow of colors.
Super-fresh cold-pressed juices in a rainbow of colors. Juicing is a two-step process that can be seen through a window in a back corner of the restaurant.
Thai-style shrimp and tofu cradled in an endive leaf.
Thai-style shrimp and tofu cradled in an endive leaf.
Spicy eggplant puree in a hollowed cucumber.
Spicy eggplant puree in a hollowed cucumber with carrot and red cabbage slivers providing additional color contrasts.
It may be fall, but this is Zeal's spring mix salad with spiced pecans.
It may be fall, but this is Zeal’s spring mix salad with shredded carrots, spiced pecans and dressing on the side.
Cute bundles of sweetness, on this evening some orange-flavored and others pumpkin.
Cute bundles of sweetness, on this evening some orange-flavored and others pumpkin.

Zeal is participating in First Bite Boulder but has not yet posted its menu — perhaps to busy serving breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and recently added happy hour ($2 off beer, wine and spirits and $5 small plates). In addition to the popular bowls and sandwiches, Chef White is presenting more large and small plates and has brought dessert-making in-house. Zeal is pickling and fermenting in-house too (think kimchee and kombucha). During the warm months, the restaurant closed for two hours for Movement Mondays or Trailblazer Tuesdays so that staff and guests could go on a local hike. The concept might soon be transferred to a climbing gym or other indoor venue. And then there’s the Zeal food truck, which debuted at the Hanuman Yoga Festival and most likely dispatched to Uptown Denver, where Jester hopes to open a second restaurant. Stay tuned.

Zeal on Urbanspoon

Trash Fish to Chefs’ Treasure

Chefs Collaborative Denver’s trash fish dinner a model for sustainability.

Fish-clipaartWhen I was growing up in Connecticut, fishermen I knew hated sea robins — wild-looking fish with fins and legs. They were aggressive toward desirable fish, and whenever the guys caught a sea robin, they’d kill the critter and throw it back into Long Island Sound. Turns out that what most people thought of as “trash fish” can be quite tasty.

Things haven’t changed all that much, and when it comes to eating sustainable seafood, “trash fish” still don’t usually make it to menus. That won’t be the case on Monday, July 28 when the Trash Fish Dinner takes place at the Squeaky Bean at 6 p.m., highlighting these underutilized species, put on by the Denver “cell” of the Chefs Collaborative, a national organization that works to fix America’s broken food system.  Among the local chefs is Kelly Whitaker of Basta in Boulder and Cart Driver, one of Denver’s newest restaurants.

Whitaker joined the Chefs Collaborative last year, after attending the annual Sustainable Food Summit in Charleston, South Carolina, on a scholarship. He had also participated in a previous trash fish dinner in Los Angeles and wanted to bring it to Denver. After reaching out to both local and nationally recognized chefs, the lineup includes:

As a sponsor, local purveyor Seattle Fish Company will provide the seafood for the evening, but trash fish can be hard to come by, so the chefs will tap their creativity to cook the dishes out of anything from Asian carp and North Atlantic dogfish to porgy. Whitaker says, “By-catch was one thing but trash fish was another….These are species of fish that farmers are selling that just aren’t cool enough to make the cut. They’re sustainable, there’s plenty of it, it’s delicious, but they’re just not cool.”

Hosting at the Squeaky Bean will keep things fun and irreverent, with the out-of-town chefs coming to the heart of Denver. A representative of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, an organization I greatly admire, will be on hand to speak about sustainable fish, and the chefs will also talk through the courses and interact with guests.
Tickets for the five-course meal cost $125 per person and are available on the Chefs Collaborative website, along with more information. There will also be a VIP oyster reception beforehand from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Kitchen, for a suggested donation of $50 or more. The money raised goes back to the Chefs Collaborative, inspiring and educating those in the industry to change how they source, cook and serve food. This is not the organization only issue in the food realm. It has also taken on such issues as GMOs, fracking and growth hormones and antibiotics in meat.

Past, Present & Future Foods at Colorado History Museum

Global foods across the ages explored in visiting exhibition.

001The History Colorado Center generally devotes itself to what has occurred within the Centennial State’s rectangular borders, but “Food: Our Global Kitchen” from May 31 through September 1 is an exhibition that is global in nature and transcends millennia. This is the museum’s first major traveling exhibition, created by New York’s prestigious American Museum of Natural History.

I know a reasonable amount about food and food history, yet this exhibition, which is geared for children and adults, relates much of what I already know and fills in some blanks I didn’t realize were there. Food origins, cultures, sustainability, the opposing challenges of hunger/starvation on the one hand and obesity on the other, food and dining in the past, the impact of agribusiness on food production today and the future of food production to feed a growing population on the planet. These include heritage foods that, if brought back, can help alleviate world hunger. Interactive features include a clever flat screen where visitors look down on videoed cooking demonstrations and sniff stations that emit aromas of particular foods. Some highlights:

Diorama of a well-organized Aztec market in what s now Mexico City. Many of our common foods are native to the Americas.
Diorama of a well-organized Aztec market in what s now Mexico City. Many of our common foods are native to the Americas.
The rich and the royals always are well and dined in luxury.
The rich and the royals always ate well and dined in luxury.
Flat-screen table provides cooking demonstrations. Want to see how to poach an egg?
Flat-screen table provides cooking demonstrations. Want to see how to poach an egg?
Part of Whole Foods' kitchen display included a chopstick dexterity test.
Part of Whole Foods’ Taste Kitchen display included a chopstick dexterity test, because many of the world’s people use implements other than fork, spoon and knife. Most people can easily pick up packing peanuts. Beans provide more of a challenge.

Entry to the exhibition is normally $5 in addition to museum admission ($12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, $8 for ages 6 to 12); get $2 off with a receipt from any Colorado Whole Foods Market.  1200 Broadway, Denver, 303-HISTORY (303-447-8679).

The museum’s calendar is filled with special events including family days, off-premise tours and speakers during this exhibition. These include a June 3 presentation by Denver’s self-described soul food scholar Adrian Miller, a 2014 James Beard Award winner, speaking about his book Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. From mac and cheese to chicken and waffles, Miller explains how foods got on the soul food plate and their meaning in African American culture. You’ll leave ready to cook up one of his recipes or visit one of his favorite soul food joints in the metro area. ($10, non-members and $8.50, members).