Scenes from Pairsine 2014

Twenty beers + 10 local chefs = great evening.

Pairsine-logo2Pairsine is the name given to both wine and beer pairing events that challenge local chefs to prepare dishes to go with winning adult beverages from prior competitions. Each of 10 participating chefs each got two winning beers and went to work. I’ve been a judge at both wine and beer events, and the most obvious difference in the food is that the wine version earns its subtitle, “Taste of Elegance” with chefs inspired to create sophisticated and beautifully presented dishes, while the beer version results in some fancy foods and some renditions of simpler pub dishes. From set-up through tastings to awards, Pairsine is a feast for the tastebuds. Here are some images.

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New Bargain Restaurant in Pricy Mountain Town

The A$spen Bar fills a need in for fresh, affordable food in downtown Aspen. 

059   Long-time Aspenites and Aspen guests will always think of the downstairs space at 301 East Hopkins as “the place where the Steak Pit used to be.” A couple of other eateries have since occupied it, the newest being the A$pen Dollar Bar, which opened on July 3. The owners, Mark Reece and Vlada Djordjevic, who own the Slopeside Lanes bowling alley in Snowmass Village, have already nicknamed it The Buck.

Amusing signs and "art" over the fireplace downstairs.

Amusing signs and “art” over the fireplace downstairs.

The downstairs space looks and feels like a dark and intimate sports bar with high-top tables, but food is served there and in part of the patio that it splits with Rustique. whose entrance is around the corner. What makes this a super-affordable option in downtown Aspen is the nightly $6 dinner special. Other entrées are $9-$12. Appetizers, salads, desserts and drinks are relatively more expensive, but still a lot more affordable than most of the neighboring eateries. The menu tends toward American comfort food, with no effort made at elaborate presentation but, more importantly, everything made in-house.

Three lightly roasted jalapenos -- halved and filled with three cheese and topped with applewood-smoked bacon -- are an easily shareable appetizer.

Three lightly roasted jalapenos — halved and filled with three cheese and topped with applewood-smoked bacon — are an easily shareable appetizer.

Chicken pot pie features moist chicken chunks,  carrots, peas, potatoes and a light brothy sauce, comes in a bread bowl rather than the traditional crust.

Chicken pot pie features moist chicken chunks, carrots, peas, potatoes and a light brothy sauce, comes in a bread bowl rather than the traditional crust. The bread, BTW, is very good.

The pineapple shrimp salad consists of mixed greens, shrimp, cucumber, mango and pineapple pieces heaped into half a hollowed-out pineapple shell. It is usually served with coconut mango dressing, but since I don't care for coconut, I asked for balsamic instead, and that was also a good combination.

The pineapple shrimp salad consists of mixed greens, shrimp, cucumber, mango and pineapple pieces heaped into half a hollowed-out pineapple shell. It is usually served with coconut mango dressing, but since I don’t care for coconut, I asked for balsamic instead, and that was also a good combination.

Price check: Appetizers, $7-$9; salads, $8-$12; The Buck Fodder (entrées), $9-$12 (plus nightly $6 special).

Aspen Dollar Bar on Urbanspoon

3 Upcoming Food/Drink Fests

Beer pairing in Broomfield, burgers in Denver & winefest on the Western Slope.

Colorado and visiting foodies, pull out your calendars for three terrific food/beer/wine events in the next few weeks.

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Pairsine

Whether your passion is food, beer or both, the upcoming Pairsine Chefs Fine Food & Beer Pairing Competition provides an unsurpassed opportunity to taste the best the Front Range has to offer. This event on Wednesday, July 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. pairs gold medal award-winning beers from the recent Denver International Beer Competition with outstanding culinary creations prepared by 10 top Colorado chefs. In addition to evaluations by  professional judges who vote for the “Best Chef” and “Most Creative Chef,” attendees vote for “The People’s Choice Chef.”

The chefs, each of whom prepare two dishes to pair with specific beers, are Joe Troupe, Lucky Pie Pizza and Taphouse; Brandon Muncy, The Lobby; Elijah Odell, Highland Tap & Burger; Chris Cina, Breckenridge-Wynkoop; Jonathan Power, The Populist; Drew Watson, Executive Chef, Hops & Pie; Kyle McCune, The Meritage at The Omni Interlocken Resort; Jose Guerrero, Viewhouse; Lucas Forgy, Executive Chef- Fresh Craft, and Jon Mendoza and Jamey Freeman, Bad Apple.

Here’s a deal via MileHighOnTheCheap.com: Order tickets online and use the code Cheap40 to get the $50 tickets for just $30 each, a 40% savings. Having been involved with MHOTC since the beginning, I pay attention to values, and I’m stoked that $30 buys 20 food pairings with 20 award-winning wines, and because there is no tipping and no parking fees, of the three, it’s unquestionably the best value. It takes place at the Omni Interlocken Resort, 500 Interlocken Blvd., Broomfield.

Denver Burger Battle

DenverBurgerBattle-logoFour chef-judges at the annual Denver Burger Battle winnow down Colorado’s abundant burgers to from places that they consider the 12 best in an intense evening of chowing down and drinking up. It takes places this year on Thursday, August 7 at the Sculpture Park (Champa and Speer, beside the Denver Center for the Performing Arts).

The contenders are Old Major, Park Burger, TAG Burger Bar, Crave Real Burger, Highland Tap & Burger, Williams & Graham, Humboldt Farm Fresh Wine, Ste. Ellie, Drifter’s Hamburgers, The Populist, Larkburger and Acorn. Judges are Elise Wiggins, Panzano, Paul Reilly, Beat + Bottle; Justin Cucci, Root Down and Linger, and Theo Adley, Squeaky Bean.

Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice awards are on the line. In addition to an open bar with four Colorado brews and Cupcake wines, all attendees get unlimited 1/4 samples of all competitors’ entries and unlimited desserts. Regular admission tickets ($69) are valid from 6:30 to 9 p.m.; VIP entry ($99) begins one hour earlier and includes unlimited wine and beer and other extras. Click here to buy tickets. Aged 21+ only; get a sitter for the little ones, who are not admitted.

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Steamboat Wine Festival

The Steamboat Wine Festival combines wine, food, indoor seminars and outdoor sports into four fabulous days, August 6 to 10. Click here for the schedule. Among the presenters are no fewer than three master sommeliers, wine makers and top local chefs. The signature events are Thursday’s Wine on the Mountain beginning at 5 p.m., Friday’s Stroll of Steamboat at 4 p.m. and Saturday’s Toast of Steamboat at 3 p.m. All events are priced à la carte ($65 to $165 per event); click here for the list and prices for each.

 

Stellar French Bakery Near Aspen Airport

Franck Thirion bakes the best croissants.

002The best croissants I’ve had outside of France came from Aspen’s Franck Thirion French Pastry & Café  – not downtown but in a modest space at the Aspen Airport Business Center maze of streets. We met a local friend there and lingered over breakfast and coffee. Everything was so outstanding that we returned the morning we were leaving and also brought some more croissants, an apple turnover and a baguette to take home. Some of the items didn’t make it to Boulder but ended up as roadfood.

At one time, there was a location on East Hopkins in downtown Aspen, but now there is just one for eat-in, take-out and catering. For my part, I wish there were a branch in Boulder. Franck said, “non” when I told him my wish. He prefers a smaller town than Boulder.

A chocolate croissant and an almond croissant, along with a cappuccino, are my idea of an ideal breakfast.

A chocolate croissant and an almond croissant, along with a cappuccino, are my idea of an ideal breakfast.

A breakfast sandwich on a sliced croissant  contains eggs, a choice of cheeses and perhaps some ham.

A breakfast sandwich on a sliced croissant contains eggs, a choice of cheeses and perhaps some ham.

The café is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday. 111 Aspen Airport Business Center, Aspen, 970-925-3569.

 

La Choza Gets a Brick-and-Mortar Home

After a couple of moves, Mexican hut set for “lucky” space.

LaChoze-logoAs we’ve discovered through two locations in dirt parking lots (first on the west end of the Diagonal Highway and currently behind the ReBay pawn shop on North Broadway), La Choza has aced the preparation of down-to-earth Mexican food at down-to-earth prices. When we stopped there a few days to refuel after a hike, we saw an encouraging sign that La Choza was moving around the corner.

The sign of things to come.

The sign of things to come.

Meanwhile, customers are always waiting around the hut for their orders.

Meanwhile, customers are always waiting around the hut for their orders.

The food is cheap and good. Here is a puffy quesadilla.

The food is cheap and good. Here is a puffy quesadilla.

Burrito wrapped in foil and ready. Customers select their red or green chile sauce.

Burrito wrapped in foil and ready. Customers select their red or green chile sauce.

The space that launched Pupusa's and Julia's will next house La Choza.

The space tucked in next to ReBay at 4457 Broadway that launched Pupusa’s and Julia’s will next house La Choza.

My hopes that La Choza would alight at 4457 Broadway are coming to pass. Both Pupusas Sabor Hispano and Julia’s Kitchen started simply there and moved onto to bigger, better spaces. I think of his little storefront as “lucky.” I hope the luck continues for the hard-working owner of La Choza.

Looking in on Lindsay’s Deli Remodel

Pearl Street Mall classic looking good & expanding menu.

HaagenDasz-logoThere is no shortage of places to buy frozen treats in downtown Boulder. Ice cream and frozen yogurt shops and carts abound in the Pearl Street Mall and on adjacent blocks to the east, west and south. One long-timer is on the southwest corner of Broadway and Pearl. When a Häagen-Dazs shop opened in 1981, little Lindsay Shaw helped her parents. She gave out samples and dipped the popular ice cream — one of the first boutique brands. A decade ago, she became a Häagen-Dazs and became a franchisee a decade or so ago. She transitioned into the deli realm, first adding soups and later sandwiches, baked good and breakfast. She also added the words “Lindsay’s Boulder Deli” to the awning.

LIndsay's Boulder Deli sports a clean new look, with all the seating up front near the Pearl Street windows.

Lindsay’s Boulder Deli sports a clean new look, with great wood finishes and lighting.

The ice cream/shop deli had enjoyed immense popularity, but the place was nothing much to look at. Shaw put covered the windows paper and embarked on a total renovation and expansion to nearly 3,000 square feet that took the better part of spring. The wraps are off now, so I popped in for a look. The layout has been reconfigured, and the floors, walls, counters, seating and lighting are new, as are the restrooms that I didn’t check out. The soup and sandwich menu offers both deli classics and modern combos of ingredients. As for ice cream, Lindsay’s is still dipping.

Lindsay's Boulder Deli on Urbanspoon

3 Tasting Rooms = Boulder Wine Studios

North Boulder boasts the city’s new “winery row.”

boulder-wine-studios-logoBookcliff Vineyards, a family-run operation that makes wines from grapes grown in its own Western Slope vineyards, has operated a tasting room in North Boulder for several years. Two newer wineries have now joined it. Settembre Cellars, founded in 2007 and now graduated from being a home operation, prides itself on hand-crafted, Old World-style wines. What We Love Winery is just the opposite — a non-traditional winery founded on the Aussie-born, Kiwi-trained winemaker’s love of chardonnay and offbeat diversion into bottled sangria under the Decadent label.

The trio now have wineries and tasting rooms within a few feet of each other, and today was the grand opening of the Boulder Wine Studios, as they promotionally call themselves, at 1501 Lee Hill Road (at US 36). Just as Colorado Winery Row at 46th and Pecos creates a wine destination in Denver, the Wine Studios are now doing so in Boulder. The grand opening was, well, grand, with $10 buying five tastes at each of the three wineries, a quality wineglass and a coupon for $5 off a single bottle. My husband and I were there and took full advantage. If you weren’t there, here’s a bit of what you missed.

Bellying up to the tasting bar at Settembre Cellars.

Bellying up to the tasting bar at Settembre Cellars.

Winemaker Michael (whose last name I don't yet know) offered a bonus barrel tasting.

Winemaker Michael Hasler offered visitors a bonus barrel tasting of his chardonnay.

Bookcliff Vineyards are the veterans at Wine Studios. Ulla Merz and her husband John Garlich established the vineyard and winery in 1992.

Bookcliff Vineyards are the veterans at Wine Studios. Ulla Merz and her husband John Garlich established the vineyard and winery in 1992. At her side is Justin, whose last name I don’t know, a sommelier and John’s assistant.

Weekends are tasting times at the Wine Studios. Click on the individual wineries’ links for hours. They overlap, but they are not identical.