JBF Celebrity Chef Tour in Boulder

13th Street site of one long outdoor dining experience.

jbfcelebtour-logoA big culinary splurge coming to Boulder. The city is the as one of 20 sites of the 2016 James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour. The tickets are $115, so I’m not splurging. (Besides, it seems  to be sold out.) Long immaculately set tables will stretch along 13th Street between Pearl and Canyon. Let’s hope for clear skies and comfortable temperatures. Bon appétit!

Eric Skokan of Black Cat Farm, Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare has been key to organizing what will surely be a dazzling occasion — “a culinary block party,” someone called it.  He recruited  talent from Boiulder, Denver and even Chicago — Daniel Asher (River & Woods), Jessica Emich (Shine), Will and Coral Frischkorn (Cured and Cured West), Bradford Heap (Wild Standard, Salt and Colterra), Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Euclid Hall, Stroic and Genuine ), Mark Monette (Flagstaff House), Dave Query (Big Red F Restaurant Group), Alex Seidel (Fruition and Mercantile Dining & Provision),and James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal of Mindy’s HotChocolate in Chicago. Joining them is (Bryan Dayton of Oak at Fourteenth, Acorn, Brider) as mixologist and Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman (Boulder Wine Merchant).

Adios, Deli Cioso

Bidding farewell to long-time Longmont Mexican restaurant.

001When my husband, a fan of Mexican favorites, worked on the IBM campus in northeast Boulder, he occasionally drove to Longmont for lunch — and then often to Deli Cioso. I had only been there once before (click here for my write-up). I enjoyed the funky laid-back ambiance then and appreciated it again.

A sunny corner table.
A sunny window table.

Saturday will be the restaurant’s last day, so my husband and I went there for a farewell lunch. It is the antithesis of the excessively sanitized chain restaurant. People either love or detest the food. Ditto for the service. The owner is retiring and Boulder’s Gondolier is setting up a second location there.

Chips and a liquid-y salsa to start.
Chips and a liquid-y salsa to start.
Deli Cioso boasts about its burritos, so I had a one with chicken smothered in chile sauce. Unlike chains that overfill the tortillas with rice, Del Cioso uses just tender chicken chunks in a nice sauce, wraps them in a flour tortilla and smothers the assemblage in green chile..
Deli Cioso boasts about its burritos, so I had a one with chicken. Unlike chains that overfill the tortillas with rice, Del Cioso uses just tender chicken chunks in a nice sauce, wraps them in a flour tortilla and smothers the assemblage in green chile..
My husband favors combo plates. At Deli Cioso, he especially likes the crisp chile relleno. Also on the plate, an enchilada and beans -- and something that I can't recall.
My husband favors combo plates. At Deli Cioso, he especially likes the crisp chile relleno. Also on the plate, an enchilada and beans — and something that I can’t recall.
When the Gondolier takes over. I wonder whether the faux Mexican entrance will be changed or somehow adapted to faux Italian.
When the Gondolier takes over. I wonder whether the faux Mexican entrance will be changed or somehow adapted to faux Italian.

It is located at 1217 South Main Street, Longmont. Hurry. Only a couple of days left.

Rebirth of a Culinary Landmark

Former John’s Restaurant location reborn as River and Woods.

011The small house at 2328 Pearl Street in Boulder long was John’s Restaurant, an atmospheric, romantic, family-run restaurant.  Chef-restaurateur John Bizzarro operated the place for decades, and then Corey Buck took over. Eventually, Buck moved on and the quaint cottage stood empty. John and his wife Nancy still own the building, and they were determined that no chain would occupy the space. It took a while to find a team to renovate and operate it.

John's exterior was red. The new paint job is sky blue with dark trim.
John’s exterior was red. The new paint job is sky blue with dark trim.

That team, publisher/restaurateur Josh Dinar and Denver star chef Daniel Asher, have created River and Woods, a new paradigm in Boulder dining. There is neither river nor woods nearby, but the name implies a simpler, more natural approach to food.  Asher was behind the cutting-edge food at Denver’s Root Down, Linger and Ophelia’s. Dinar is a co-owner of Boulder’s T|ACO, co-founder of First Bite Boulder and publisher of DiningOut Magazines.

The bar near the entrance is light and bright -- at least in daylight. We'll have to see what it's like on a winter evening when the sun sets early.
The beam-ceilinged bar near the entrance is light and bright — at least in daylight. We’ll have to see what it’s like on a winter evening when the sun sets early.
Outdoor tables made from gorgeous rustic reclaimed wood.
Outdoor tables made from gorgeous rustic reclaimed wood.

River and Woods is a sprightly new space with a terrific outdoor backyard. A few rustic tables and wooden barrels were scattered amid the trees on pre-opening weekend, and there’s also an outdoor kitchen that wasn’t yet operating. The new menu uses local ingredients to create food that is both familiar and infused with innovation. Some of the recipes are tributes to the Bizzarro days. Others derive from contributions solicited from Boulder foodies. Still others come from the fertile culinary mind of Daniel Asher.

Chef Daniel Asher passing River and Woods' unusual and excellent gazpacho.
Chef Daniel Asher passing River and Woods’ unusual and excellent gazpacho.

We were invited to the Friday night opening party where wonderful small bites were  passed around (spicy corn dogs were the best — and I don’t generally like corn dogs all that much). And today, we sampled the real thing at a Friends and Family Brunch.

When is a Bloody Mary not a Bloody Mary? When it's made with the restaurants Tomato Barbato Gazpacho, which I'd loved two evenings before, and Spring 44 Vodka and an application of lime salt on the side ot the glass.
When is a Bloody Mary not a Bloody Mary? When it’s made with the restaurant’s Tomato Barbato Gazpacho, which I’d loved two evenings before, plus Spring 44 Vodka and an application of lime salt one the side of the glass. Look closely next to the lime wedge and you’ll spot it. The gazpacho recipe was shared by Lisa Barbato, a Spanish teacher at Boulder High School.
The improbably delicious croissant BLT is loaded with Tenderbelly bacon, organic greens, heirloom tomato, two-year cedar from Vermont, Calabrian pepper aioli and a Cottonwood Creek egg, over easy. On the side, the restaurant's excellent breakfast potato. Josh Dinar told me that his 10-year-old son made these breakfast sandwiches. The kid has a future!
The improbably delicious croissant BLT is loaded with Tenderbelly bacon, organic greens, heirloom tomato, two-year cheddar from Vermont, Calabrian pepper aioli and a Cottonwood Creek egg, over easy. On the side, the restaurant’s excellent breakfast potato. Josh Dinar told me that his 10-year-old son assembled these breakfast sandwiches. The kid has a future!
Zimmer Challah French Toast, a recipe contributed by Pat Miller (aka, Gabby Gourmet) from a recipe she got from Sara Zimmer a concentration camp survivor. In this tribute dish, the challah bread with Marionberry cream cheese and baked in an individual lidded cast iron mini-casserole until the top is golden. On the side, warm maple syrup,, those excellent breakfast potatoes and some dressed organic greens
Zimmer Challah French Toast from, a recipe contributed by Pat Miller (aka, Gabby Gourmet) from a recipe she got from the late Sara Zimmer, a concentration camp survivor. In this tribute dish, soaked challah bread is combined with Marionberry cream cheese and baked in an individual cast iron mini-casserole until the top is browned.. On the side, warm maple syrup, those excellent breakfast potatoes and some dressed organic greens.
Close-up of the top of the French toast.
Close-up of the top of the French toast.
A generous cup of coffee, attractively served as is everything else at River and Woods.
A generous cup of coffee, attractively served — as is everything else at River and Woods.

The old John’s Restaurant was a special-occasion place to dine, and judging by our initial experience, River and Woods will be that as well.

Price Check: At brunch, entrées, $7-$13.

River and Woods is at 2328 Pearl Street, Boulder.

Denver Food & Wine Fest

Eat, drink and celebrate local chefs and winemakers.

denverfoodwinefest2016-logoThe Denver Food + Wine Festival is six days events celebrating the good life at the table. It takes place downtown on the Pepsi Center grounds, Metro State and he Curtis Hotel. Here’s the roundup. Click here for details and to buy tickets.

Tuesday, September 6. Culinary Cinema Night,  part of the ongoing Culinary Cinema Series, a partnership between the Colorado Restaurant Association and Denver Film Society, the Denver Food + Wine Festival will kick off with an evening comprised of great food, great drinks and a great movie. An exclusive screening of an engaging culinary film will be paired with wine, cocktails and bites from Denver’s notable chefs.

Wednesday, September 7. Dinner Under the Stars, which is new for 2016, celebrates the best of what Colorado’s culinary scene has to offer. Each course of the curated, five-course prix fixe meal is designed by a different acclaimed chef and served in a beautiful outdoor setting.

Continue reading Denver Food & Wine Fest

Hot Start to Mild Mexican

Classic favorites on Old Santa Fe Grille menu.

001The chips and salsa were the first things delivered to the table when my husband, two friends and I sat down for lunch at the Old Santa Fe Mexican Grille in Louisville. I dipped a large chip into the dish of salsa, bit into it, swallowed and started coughing as soon as it hit my throat. I like hot and spicy, but there must of been some ingredient in that salsa that got to me. No water had been delivered yet, and no waiter or busser was in sight, so it was a while before our waiter appeared and brought some relief in the form of tall plastic glasses filled with water. No one else was affected the way I was.

French baskets of big crisp chips were replaced whenever the neared emptiness.
FresWe were thereh baskets of big crisp chips were replaced whenever the neared emptiness.

The food when it came was standard-issue, comfortable Mexican — the usual dishes and combination plates — which is to say that there was shredded iceberg lettuce,  chunked tomato and shredded cheese.  I can only identify what my husband and I ate, but here are all four plates:

Combo plate of beef taco, smothered chile relleno and enchilada with no rice but double beans.
Combo plate of beef taco, smothered chile relleno and enchilada with no rice but double beans.

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Spinach enchiladas smothered in green chili with rice and pintos alongside.
A pair or spinach enchiladas smothered in green chili with rice and pintos alongside.

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When the waiter overheard that we were there to celebrate one friend's birthday, he brought a basket of sopapillas with one squeeze bottle of honey (common) and one of caramel (unusual).
When the waiter overheard that we were there to celebrate one friend’s birthday, he brought a basket of sopapillas with one squeeze bottle of honey (common) and one of caramel (unusual).

Price check: The cheapest items on the menu are some apps for $7.99; the most espensive, an order of steak, pork sausages and more, $19.99.

592 McCaslin Blvd. (physically just behind the McDonald’s),  Louisville; 720-890-8456
Old Santa Fe Mexican Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aspen Magazine’s Picks for 5 Best Local Bakeries

Fab five in Colorado’s toniest mountain town.

AspenMagazine-coverWhen we were Aspen recently, we went to two of my must-go eateries in this fabulous mountain top. Of course, they are bakeries: the venerable Main Street Bakery in town and the beyond-wonderful Franck Thirion French Pastry & Cafe in the Aspen Airport Business Center. Aspen Magazine likes ’em too, including those two on its list of “Top Five Favorite Local Bakeries.” Another is Paradise Bakery in the heart of downtown, which I often but not always visit.

Here’s the magazine’s list; click on this link to read more about each, including locations and phone numbers:

1. Paradise Bakery
2. Main Street Bakery
3.  Louis Swiss
4. Franck Thirion
5. Annette’s Mountain Bake Shop

‘Gourmet on the Gore’ Fest on Labor Day

10th annual food and wine festival in Vail.

GourmetOnTheGore-logoA Taste of Colorado, the long-running Labor Day Weekend tradition of food, entertainment, carnival attractions and vendors galore, packs ’em in to Denver’s Civic Center Park. But an option in the mountains holds more epicurean appeal –.away from the Front Range’s late summer heat. The commonality, in addition to being in Colorado, is that entry to both events is free. You pay for what you eat.

The 10th annual Gourmet on Gore, a comparatively new classic culinary festival, takes place in the heart of Vail on Labor Day Weekend (September 2-5) and features gastronomic creations from some of Vail’s most renowned chefs, sips from world-class vintners, exceptional beers and events that highlight the natural beauty of Vail. In short, you won’t fine BBQ turkey legs or funnel cake.

In addition to the open-air tasting with wine, beer and spirits selections and  food from the Vail Valley’s top restaurants, Gourmet on Gore offers also offers a variety of additional pairing events and outdoor activities throughout the weekend. The Tasting Tour kicks things off on Friday, September 4, and Open-Air Tastings take place on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5 and 6, from 11 a.m.  to  6 p.m. Brunch on Bridge Street closes the weekend on Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Find a full schedule of events, lodging packages and other details or purchase Tasting Tour tickets online, FoMoInfo: 970.476.6797 x712.

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.