Category Archives: Trends

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.
ChefsCollaborative2014

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).

Visit Greece to Enjoy Greek Wines

Greek wines are little known in the US so a trip is in order to taste some.

Ancient Greek wine jug.
Ancient Greek wine jug.

When in Rome, the old saying goes, do as the Romans do. My corollary is, when in Greece, drink as the Greeks do.  I’ll draw the line at Retsina, which I truly don’t like, but I have been ordering a glass of wine with every meal in Greece — red, white, rosé. Ours was not a culinary trip, so we ate in mid-priced restaurants, and the house wines I tried with meals were just fine and suited the food, and my husband ordered beer as often as wine.

Greek wine-making goes back through the millennia, with evidence of dating back 6,500 years ago, when wine was produced on a household or communal basis, but they do not enjoy a high profile today — at least not in many other wine-growing counties. I have a 1995 edition of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to Buying Wine that does not have a single Greek wine among the 34,000 in the book. My 2007 edition of The Southeby’s Wine Encyclopedia, which runs to 664 pages, devotes just 2 1/3 pages to Greek wines and only one short paragraph to Santorini. Perhaps more recent books have remedied this lapse.

Not one type of grape, with the possible exception of Roditis, was familiar to me, and even though I read and reread restaurant wine selections even as I ordered the house wines, none of the names stuck. Assyrtiko, Lygorthi and Xinomavro are not names I can dredge up. The first of these is a grape grown predominantly on Santorini.

Wine map of Greece.
Wine map of Greece.

When visiting this enchanted and enchanting island in the Cyclades, it is impossible to ignore the viticulture there. Elsewhere in Greece, the vines might be trained, but on Santorini and also on Mykonos (the two islands I visited), the plants resemble low-growing grape bushes growing in the volcanic soil, perhaps because of the strong winds. Because of heavy winds our initial Mykonos-Santorini ferry was canceled, so instead of having two days on Santorini, we have one full day and one morning. That didn’t leave time to visit any wineries.

Grape vines on Santorini, taken from a fast-moving bus.
Grape vines on Santorini, taken from a fast-moving bus.

My limited wine experience in Greece whets my appetite to learn more.

Lyiamas (pronounced, "yah-mas.")
Lyiamas (pronounced, “yah-mas”), which means “to your health.”

 

Metro Denver Meat News

Butcher switch-over at The Source & Hosea Rosenberg’s new meatery.

MeatChartLiving in Boulder and not being much of a mammal-vore myself, it’s easy to overlook or ignore the renaissance in meat consumption: burger joints and steakhouse, nose-to-tail dining and do-it-yourself butchering (and classes to teach the skill), and other signs of a major food trend. You might say it really took off in Denver when Justin Brunson (he of Masterpiece Deli Fame) opened Old Major in the Highland ‘hood in early 2013. I was blown away during the media preview, and since then, the meat-centric restaurant with the urban farmhouse vibe has won a number of awards.

Western Daughters

WesternDaughter-logoWhen The Source opened in RiNo last September, Kevin Klinger operated Meat Head, a mini-butcher shop, there. When I was there recently during Doors Open Denver, I was surprised that the space was empty. I later learned that owner Klinger closed it when he decided to move to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

Nature, The Source and carnivores all abhorred that vacuum — a vacuum that will be filled on June 1, when Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, a whole animal butcher, opens there. Kate Kavanaugh and her fiancé, Josh Curtiss, opened the first Western Daughter in at 34th and Tejon in Highland (or is that LoHi?) not long ago, selling High Plains pork, beef, lamb and other seasonal meats from pasture-raised livestock raised within 250 miles of Denver and  all are antibiotic- and hormone-free, sourced from less than 250 miles from Denver.

When Western Daughters opens in The Source, the couple will break down carcasses in a showcase cooler, conduct butchery demonstrations and offer lessons. For some people. this will be mouth-watering. For others. am appetite suppressant.  Western Daughters plans to be open six days a week, offering sandwiches made with house-cured products, house-made sausages, stocks and more.

Blackbelly Market

Blackbelly-logoHosea Rosenberg, winner of Top Chef Season Five who now runs Blackbelly Catering and Blackbelly Farm, is expanding the brand with Blackbelly Market in East Boulder, where the now-shuttered Minglewood Restaurant was once located. This area is awash with breweries, and the plan is to serve largely local beers. Rosenberg cross-fertilizes his experise with that of James Lee, owner of Boulder’s super-hip Bitter Bar, and Mark DiNittis, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat and of the revered and now gone Mondo Vechhio artisinal sausage operation. Projected opening for the Blackbelly Market is mid-July.

Rosenberg told Westword‘s Lori Midson that the new venture will include a his-farm-to-his-table restaurant with abundant indoor and outdoor seating, an open kitchen, a meat counter and a glassed-in butchering area. Click here for Midson’s exensive interview with the high-profile chef. He is also getting set to launch a food truck — as yet unnamed, though Blackbelly on Wheels, Blackbelly on the Move, Blackbelly on the Go would seem likely choices.

Stoic & Genuine

Swimming upstream, both literally and figuratively, is grandly moustachioed Jorel Pierce, arguably Denver’s first high-profile meat guy. He was been chef/partner Jennifer Jasinski’s right-hand man on “Top Chef Masters” (the team was the runner-up) and 2014 Cochon555 heritage pig cook-off. Jasinski and her business partner Beth Gruitch have tapped Pierce to run Stoic & Genuine, the team’s new seafood restaurant coming in to Union Station.

 

Boulder Valley School Lunches Honored

Boulder makes another “top 10” list.

BVSD-logoBoulder chefs, restaurants, mixologists, sports and lifestyle are often lauded on “top 10” and “best” lists. Here’s yet another for the budding foodies in my health-conscious town. The Boulder Valley School District’s lunches have made it onto “The 10 Best School Lunches in America” on The Daily Meal, a food-oriented site, which wrote:

“In the past several years, this Colorado school district has revamped its offerings to include burgers and nachos made with hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, locally sourced bratwurst and tamales, buns from Whole Foods Market, and an international array of dishes. Scratch-made items include lasagna, Szechuan beef and broccoli stir-fry, cheesy polenta with veggies, and oven-fried chicken. Students are allowed to hit up the salad bar as much as they want (and get unlimited skim or organic 1 percent milk and fresh fruit).”

Boulder Valley School District lunch tray. Do they all look this good? Photo: Facebook/BVSD.
Boulder Valley School District lunch tray. Do they all look this good? Photo: Facebook/BVSD.

Boulder is number 10 on that list, which includes other entire districts (Seattle, Berkeley, Burlington), schools where pupils grow their own food (New Orleans’ “Edible NOLA program” in designated First Line schools, where youngsters learn to grow and harvest food, and also such prestigious private schools as Dalton, Calhoun and Sidwell, which First Daughters Malia and Sasha attend). Then there is someplace called the U B U Lounge, which (if the link is correct) seems to be more about entertainment than a school.

Keeping Up with the Food & Bev Business

Online resource for biz news from the Rocky Mountain region.

CompanyWeek-logoSuch food and beverage producing businesses as wine-making, brewing, coffee roasting or making artisanal foods in Colorado and elsewhere in the Rocky Mountain region are covered by Company Week, an online publishing operation that launched last summer but that I just learned about. With the decline of print publishing, this is a valuable resource for keeping up with news about and trends in the production of things we like to eat and drink. What I really like about the searchable website and the free weekly digital newsletter is that they highlight news from small, local entrepreneurial businesses. Print publishing veteran Bart Taylor helms Company Week.

Between the weeks of September 10 and March 10, Company Week’s Food & Beverage category profiled Crooked Stave (brewing), Polidori Sausage, Peach Street (distillery), Rudi’s Organic Bakery, Sushi Den (“equal parts manufacturing and art”), Zum XR (performance beverage), Epic Brewing Company, Patsy’s Candies, Fresca Foods, EVOL (burritos), Door to Door Organics, Good Belly (probiotics), Mile Hi Foods, Kitchen Coop, Boulder Soup Works, Ska Fabricating (brewing), High West Distillery, Two Rivers Winery & Chateau and White Girl Salsa.

The Lifestyle category as included posts from the making of longboards to mountain bikes, but also inexplicably such food and beverage enterprises as Epic Brewing Company and Growing Spaces (off-grid greenhouses for growing vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs of all sorts year-round, without the need for heating). Thanks to Bart Taylor for hiring Wendy Aiello, Denver public relations diva, for spreading the word on this valuable site. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter.

Quiet Opening for The Source

Denver food market will put a culinary shine on RiNo

Photo courtesy Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau (Denver.org).
Photo courtesy Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau (Denver.org).

Restaurants often have what they call soft openings to work the kinks out of plant and personnel and to provide customers for cooks and servers alike to practice on before their official openings. The Source, a vast, food-oriented marketplace created out of a huge, shuttered foundry in Denver’s River North (RiNo) district, can’t really have a single soft opening, because it has multiple occupants with different timetables. The concept is akin to Boston’s fabulous Faneuil Hall Marketplace or San Francisco’s wonderful Ferry Building Marketplace.

The Source opened last week with its first tenant trickle. Comida, which began as Boulder County Food truck and later opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Longmont’s Prospect New Town, is now serving its wonderful Mexican eats in The Source. The trickle will become a flood in the near future as such diverse businesses as a micro-brewery, a distillery, an artisanal bakery, a real butcher, a coffee roaster, a cheese shop, a spice store and more, all sharing space in an old 19th-century steel foundry on Brighton Boulevard —  will make The Source a destination. After Comida come Babette’s Artisan Bread and Acorn, an offshoot of Boulder’s OAK at Fourteenth. Some of The Source’s businesses carry familiar names, while others are new ventures.

The Source is at 3550 Brighton Boulevard north of downtown Denver.