Frasca On Another “Best” List

Thrillist lists the country’s 21 top Italian restaurant.

Thrillist-logoThere seems to be no end to the honors heaped upon Boulder’ sublimed Frasca Food and Wine. The latest is Thrillist.com’s selection of “The 21 Best Italian Restaurants in America.” It is one of the few restaurants the is not on a coast — in our small college city with no appreciable Italian heritage. Here’s what they wrote:

Frasca

Boulder, CO
What you’re getting: Multicourse dinner & wine pairings at weekly Monday wine dinner If you go to Frasca, you’ll inevitably meet Bobby Stuckey. He roams around the white tablecloth-filled dining room, offering anything from a smile to a wine pairing suggestion pulled from his 20+ years as a sommelier. He and Frasca have won so many James Beard Awards for wine they should rename the category after them. The restaurant stands out as a fine-dining oasis in Boulder, CO, a town where form-fitting bike shorts are a respected sartorial choice. The menu changes seasonally, but always highlights the “flavors and international influences” of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy.

Congratulations to the Frasca folks — once again.

New Cookbook from ‘5280’ Magazine

5280-cookbook-CoverSomehow, 5280s food editor Amanda M. Faison managed to find time to edit a cookbook — not a trivial undertaking. Not surprisingly called 5280: The Cookbook and subtitled “Recipes for your kitchen from Denver and Boulder’s most celebrated chefs,” the recently published book is sure to appear on every local cook’s shelf. Amanda is at the Tattered Cover on East Colfax on Wednesday, November 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. for a talk and book signing. Ryan Warner, Colorado Public Radio’s host of “Colorado Matters,”  interviews Faison and chefs Dana Rodriguez (Work & Class) and Kelly Whitaker (Basta, Cart-Driver), so it will also provide a sense of being in CPR’s studio. Of course, the direct topic 5280: The Cookbook but there will be plenty of discussion about Denver and Boulder’s vibrant—and ever-changing— restaurant scene. As a bonus, Rodriguez and Whitaker are bringing sample samples. The bookstore is at 2526 East Colfax Avenue, Denver; 303-322-7727.

 

Taste of Arvada Features 60 Restaurants

TasteOfArvada-logoThe annual Taste of Arvada on Thursday, November 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. features food from more than 60 Arvada and metro Denver restaurants, craft breweries and displays by non-food vendors.  Originally called the Taste of the Holidays and held later in the year, it has been moved earlier on the calendar. Another change this year is the new VIP experience at $25 per person from 5 to 6 p.m., giving guests the opportunity to sample bites and beverages before the crowd and also use the VIP lounge area to enjoy the festivities. In addition, restaurant and bar vendors will compete for coveted prizes in their categories, voted on by attendees.

While Arvada may not be a culinary hotspot, this event showcases the variety of food and drink available there.  Adult tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Kids five and under are admitted free, while tickets for youngsters aged 6 to 12 and tickets are $5. Family packs (two adults and up to three children under 18 years). It takes place at the APEX Center, 13150 West 72nd Avenue in Arvada. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.arvadachamber.org or call 303-424-0313. 

Participating Restaurants Include:

Yak and Yeti
La Patisserie
Fire and Ice Bistro
Fuzzy’s
Beau Jo’s Pizza
JR’s Smokehouse
Enstrom
Great Harvest Bakery
Springwood Retirement Campus
Grand Lake Brewing Tavern
The Egg and I restaurant
Odyssey Beerworks
3 Sons Italian
Arvada Beer Company
Bennett’s Smokehouse & Saloon
40 Weight Coffee
Babycakes
Kristo’s Epicurean Market
Silver Vines
Arvada Tavern
HuHot
Mahnke Auto Body (Water Booth)
Papa Murphy’s
Bread Winners Cafe and Catering
Panera
Coldstone Creamery
Smiling Moose
Country Buffet
Luke’s, A Steak Place
Global Goods and Coffee
Firehouse Subs
Silvi’s
Braun

Sarto’s Tailor-Made for Denver Foodies

Brilliant new Jefferson Park restaurant is latest west of I-25.

002As soon as I received the invitation to a food sampling at Sarto’s, I knew I’d like it. Brian Laird, who spent a decade or so at the estimable Barolo Grill, is the man behind the food. And I liked being there as soon as I walked in the door, because the coffered wood ceiling promised (and delivered) a relaxing setting. Sure, the popular loft look of exposed brick and open ductwork has had its visual appeal, but it’s hard to converse without shouting and hard to hear without straining — and it has become a cliché, hasn’t it? By happy contrast, Sarto’s with white walls, gleaming floors and lots of large windows brings the relaxing ambience of a Mediterranean café Denver. The wood absorbs crowd noises, making dining what I think of as a grown-up delight.

Big windows, clean lines, wood floors and sound-absorbing coffered ceilings are simple yet elegant. Note the pinstripe fabric. (Sarto's photo)

Big windows, clean lines, wood floors and sound-absorbing coffered ceilings are simple yet elegant. Note the pinstripe fabric. (Sarto’s photo)

The back bar is pretty in aperol-pink, just one of the clever design touches at Sarto's.

The back bar is pretty in aperol-pink, just one of the clever design touches at Sarto’s.

The backstory: Taylor Swallow started daydreaming about owning a restaurant for long that he had 20 years of notes — many made in Italy. In 2011, he and his then-fiancée, Kajsa Gotlin, kept returning to an osteria in Verona. Across the street was a sarto shop — sarto being Italian for tailor. They returned to Colorado and started looking for the right restaurant space. They found it in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Sarto’s is the name, and trailoring is the decorative theme, from the door handles that look like sewing needles to the pinstripe upholstery fabric to the collection of antique Italian sewing machines in the private dining room. Sarto’s is divided into several parts: booze bar and cicchetti bar at right angles to each other, dining room, the pantry for grab-and-go items that is opening shortly and the spacious patio for warm weather. BTW, cichetti is Italian for small plates — rather like tapas.

Custom door pulls that look like sewing needles set the tailor tone for Sarto's.

Custom door pulls that look like sewing needles set the tailor tone for Sarto’s.

Brian Laird, commander of Sarto's kitchen.

Brian Laird, commander of Sarto’s kitchen.

While Sarto’s was progressing from dream to reality, Taylor and Kasja got married, and Taylor also connected with Brian Laird “to pick his brain” about Italian fare. Turned out that Brian was itching to captain a kitchen again. It takes someone with Brian’s talent and experience to make a dream like Taylor’s come into being. The dishes that the kitchen sent out were more meat-heavy than I customarily eat, but every single one was fantastic. The anticipation of the neighborhood, local foodies in general and Brian Laird fans in particular seems to have been fulfilled as soon as the doors opened.

Pickled vegetables as a pre-appetizer.

Pickled vegetables as a pre-appetizer.

Continue reading “Sarto’s Tailor-Made for Denver Foodies”

Morsels at Mercantile

Small plates shine at Seidel’s ultra-cool Union Station eatery & market.

003When we have theater tickets in Denver, we usually drive from Boulder, park in a garage and grab a bite somewhere near the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Yesterday, we decided to be greener and took the bus, giving us an opportunity to try a Union Station restaurant. We passed the set-up for the watch party for Governor Hickenlooper’s re-election that was to occupy the grand hall and continued to the end of one of the corridors to Mercantile Dining & Provisions, Alex Seidel’s restaurant, bar, food market and all-round cool space.

Looking past the marketplace toward the dining room.

Looking past the marketplace toward the dining room.

The cheese case. Elsewhere are the salumi and dessert cases.

The cheese case. Elsewhere are the salumi and dessert cases.

Mercantile is pricey if all you think about is quantity, but based on quality and creativity, it’s a bargain. Being on the way to a high-energy production of “Kinky Boots,” we wanted to each light, were happy with a couple of small plates, a bit of wine and the attractive and energizing Euro-market ambiance — and didn’t break the bank either.

Innovative presentation of oysters and chips. Potatoes cut into long, thin strips and wrapped around Maitake mushrooms and fried, with luscious fried oysters, malt vinegar aioli and malt vinegar mayo with Brussels sprout slaw. imaginative and a delicious contrast of textures.  tastes and temperature.

Innovative presentation of oysters and chips. Potatoes cut into long, thin strips and wrapped around Maitake mushrooms and fried, with luscious fried oysters, malt vinegar aioli and malt vinegar mayo with Brussels sprout slaw. imaginative and a delicious contrast of textures. tastes and temperature.

Fruition Farms ricotta gnocchi with tomato-marrow sauce, in place of the lamp ragout that regularly comes on this dish because my husband doesn't care for lamb.

Fruition Farms ricotta gnocchi with tomato-marrow sauce, in place of the lamp ragout that regularly comes on this dish because my husband doesn’t care for lamb.

Price check:  At dinner, snacks,  $6-$9; appetizers, $11-$14; soups and salads, $14-$15; pastas, $11-$14; vegetables, $13-$15; seafood, $26-$30; meat and poultry, $20-$30; ice cream and sorbet, $3 each; desserts, $10.

Mercantile Dining & Provision on Urbanspoon

Eric Skokan Introduces New Cookbook

Chef to give talk and sign at the Boulder Book Store.

FarmForkFoodI first met Eric Skokan more than a dozen years ago when he was executive chef at Alice’s Restaurant at Gold Lake Resort near Ward. In a rustic yet refined restaurant, he was a pioneer of what has come to be called contemporary Rocky Mountain cuisine. Even then, he was advocating local sourcing of top-quality ingredients and seasonal cuisine, even though it is challenging to grow much at at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. The former resort became a private retreat, while Eric established himself in Boulder.

Over astonishingly few years, he opened two downtown restaurants (Black Cat Bistro in 2006 and Bramble & Hare in 2012), and during that time, he and his wife Jill restored an old country house and also escalated the agriculture from a kitchen garden the began to address Black Cat’s produce needs to their current 130-acre Black Cat Farm that supplies both restaurants and more.

Eric Skokan, chef, restaurateur, farmer, author.

Eric Skokan, chef, restaurateur, farmer, author.

There, they and their farm team care for the nearly 400 animals (pigs, chickens, cows and turkeys) and cultivate 250 varieties of vegetables and fruits. Each afternoon, they pass through the fields to supply the restaurants with just-picked produce at the height of its flavor to create his award-winning cuisine. And, every Saturday morning, you can find Eric and Jill, and sometimes some of their four children, at Boulder County Farmers’ Market, selling their crops and doling out cooking tips. He has even planted winter-hardy Scandinavian seeds for year-round crops and does a lot of preserving and pickling as well.

Somehow, with all this, he managed to write a cookbook, Farm, Fork, Food. It is gorgeous and features recipes that are generally within the skill set of competent home cooks. When he had some early author’s copies, Eric sold a few from the back of the farmers’ market stand. Of course, I bought one immediately. Eric is doing a reading and signing at the Boulder Book Store on Wednesday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m. Vouchers to attend are $5 each and may be used that evening for any purchases at the store. I’m betting every foodie will put it toward Skokan’s book.

Pasta Vino Suddenly Shuttered

Arrivederci to downtown Boulder restaurant.

PastaVino-logoPasta Vino just west of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall abruptly closed yesterday. I’m sorry but not shocked, because even when The Kitchen and SALT flanking it on either side were full, this Italian restaurant was too often hauntingly empty. It wasn’t the food,  which was good. It certainly wasn’t the location. Maybe the décor — a combination of starkness and Crayola rainbow colors — was not inviting. In any event, a sign on the door thanks folks for their patronage and asks people to watch that space for what is yet to come. That could be a clue that the ownership isn’t changing — only what will be served there. Chances are that it will be different from Fabio Flagiello’s Venetian cuisine.