Ramen Competition Coming Up

Five Denver chefs compete for a good cause.

Ramen — that cheap student staple that comes in a cellophane package with its own (usually salty) flavor packet– rises to ethereal heights when five gifted Denver chefs who do a lot with contemporary Asian cuisine prepare their versions from scratch. They compete for the title of Ramen Showdown Shogun on Monday, November 13 from 6 to 10 p.m. with guests slurping (or not) and doing the judging.

Departure Restaurant + Lounge hosts the event. Its own chef, Gregory Gourdet competes against Steve Redzikowski (Acorn, Oak on Fourteenth), Lon Symensma (ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro and others), Tommy Lee (Uncle, Hop Alley) and Corey Baker (Sushi Ronin). Guests attending the ramen showdown vote for a winner and watch the live results unfold on a 55-inch screen.

Each guest gets to try five ramen tasting bowls plus  Departure’s bite-sized Koji-Chestnut ice cream with persimmon and miso butterscotch dessert for $30 including tax and tip. There’s also an optional five-course sake pairing for $20.

A portion of the proceeds goes to Project Angel Heart, a fabulous organization that  has delivered 335,000 meals to more than 2,900 Coloradans living with AIDS or other life-threatening illness this year.

Departure Restaurant + Lounge is located at 249 Columbine Street, Denver. FoMoInfo or tickets, call the restaurant at 720-772-5020.

Portland’s Farmers Market

Downtown market one of several each week.

My husband and I came to Portland, Oregon, a day early for the pre-convention trip we’d booked before the #SATWPortland convention. We are at the Paramount Hotel, and a block away in Shemanski Park is the Wednesday location of the #PortlandFarmersMarket. There couldn’t be a better welcome to town for us, since we got up at 5 a.m. back in Colorado. This is the last market this season. It starts up again in May.

Cooking veggies for Mexican dishes.
Heaps and heaps of fresh veggies from area farmers.
Pearl Bakery’s tempting selection of breads.
Missionary’s fabulous artisinal chocolates.
Tastebud brings its wood-burning pizza oven to the farmers’ market.
In addition to standard pizzas, Tastebud asembles some from “whatever the farmers bring us.” Here, a fresh eggs top pizza with sauce, caramelized onion sand roasted jalapenos.

@SATWPortland

Garret Meyer Joins Sarto’s

Jefferson Park eatery re-establishing  its cicchetti bar.

Garret Meyer

Sarto’s, a metropolitan Italian eatery in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, has had a challenge finding its focus. When it opened nearly three years ago, Brian Laird of Barolo Grill was the first chef. Click here for my report. 

There was at least one other top toque before Meyer was appointed as executive chef. He was an interesting choice, having been at Sarto’s veteran in the early days, but his experience is broad. He once cooked at a trout fishing resort near Alamosa and did stints at Old Major, where he worked his way up to junior sous chef before initially joining Sarto’s. He left to help a friend open a fine dining barbecue restaurant in Singapore, returned briefly to Sarto’s before heading north to Alaska to serve as a chef at a boutique fishing lodge where he learned how to cure his own caviar, forage for wild mushrooms and filet a 300-pound halibut. Back in Denver, he returned to Sarto’s to take the helm as executive chef. Hopefully, the third time is the charm.

Meyer has worked  to create a culture where employees feel like they can thrive and grow. Despite his fish diversions, his approach to the menu is quintessentially Italian, using the best seasonal ingredients expertly prepared  simple and elegant dishes that are also approachable and authentic. 

Meyer doesn’t believe great food should just be reserved for special occasions.  He has returned the restaurant’s popular Cicchetti Bar back to its roots, making it less of a chef’s table and more of a place where diners can gather socially for cocktails and cicchetti, Italian small bites that change daily. The Cicchetti Bar is open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Sarto’s is also adding a new calendar of events, including Saturday cooking classes and Sunday Night Screenings, featuring a themed dinner and movie in the restaurant’s private Verona Room.

Sarto’s is at 2900 West 25th Avenue, Jefferson Park, Denver.

Sarto's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Easy Margarita Cake Recipe

Shortcut  uses some boxed products.

In my soul, I’m a from-scratch cook, but in reality, I now take some judicious shortcuts when I need to or want to. One such was yesterday when, following a work morning, a Pilates class and a much-needed massage, I had to prepare something to bring to a potluck. The AllRecipes website produced a promising one for a Margarita Cake. The Safeway that I went to didn’t have a couple of the necessary ingredients, so I punted. In fact, my punt was more like a big base hit, because I ended up changing the recipe so much that it bore only faint resemblance to the original. It was a success. A couple of the potluck attendees said they had two pieces. Another admitted to three. I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t think I’d be posting the recipe, but due to several requests, here it is:

Margarita Cake

1 box Krusteaz Meyer Lemon Pound Cake Mix (16.5 ounces)
1 1-ounce package of Jell-O Sugar Free vanilla pudding
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
Juice of 3 fresh limes
1/4 cup tequila
2 Tbsp. Triple Sec
Glaze (see below)
Grated lime zest to taste (grate on microplane)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 degrees if using a convection oven, as I did). Butter and flour a 9- or 10-inch Bundt pan
1. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer (my choice) combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and all wet ingredients.
2. Pour batter into the prepared Bundt pan.
3. Bake for 45 to  50 minutes in a regular oven and 35 minutes for convection until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
4. Cool on rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan,  pour glaze over it while it is still warm and sprinkle with a bit of lime zest.

Glaze

I used the glaze packet from the cake mix box. Otherwise:
in a small bowl, combine 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1 Tbsp. tequila, 2 Tbsp. Triple Sec and 2 Tbsp. lime juice. Either way, sprinkle with lime zest to taste.

New Pizza Spice Combos

One hot, one not — both blended in Colorado.

When I encounter food sampling stations, I always try a bite, and when a Colorado product is involved, I pay extra attention. So it was at Alfalfa’s on Sunday, where two guys were offering squares of pizza with two different seasoning options. The guys were Matt Lenore and  Mike Chen,  co-workers in the field of finance. They are also pizza lovers — and now seasoning entrepreneurs.

Matt and Mike sampling FlatIron pizza blends.

Eight months ago, they launched the FlatIron Spice Co., working out of a commercial kitchen in Arvada, where they now blend spices and herbs into a tastier, more complex alternative to plain old hot pepper flakes to sprinkle on pizza slices. The red, called Four Pepper Blend,  is hotter, with the heat coming on gradually. The green, called Hatch Valley Green, is quite mild.

The partners see commercially to pizza restaurants, online and now  to retail grocers, initially Alfalfa’s in Boulder and Louisville, C+P Provisions in Denver’s Highland ‘hood and Venice Olive Oil Company in Florida. Expect to pay about $5 per jar — and based on my first tastes, worth every penny.

Pizzeria Locale One of the Best ‘Small Chains’

Restaurant trade site likes Colorado chain.

Pizzeria Locale, a casual spin-off of Boulder’s heralded Frasca Food and Wine, got a shout-out from RestaurantBusiness.com in a roundup of “20 Small Chains Poised to Break Out.” The first Locale next door to the mother ship is a table service spot, but the newer locations follow a fast-casual format with lower prices but still with the high food standards expected at a place that Frasca co-founder. chef Lachlan Mckinnon-Patterson, has set up and oversees. Pizzeria Locale is a joint venture with Colorado-based Chipotle. Here’s what the site wrote about Pizzeria Locale in a piece on small chains with fewer than 20 locations:

“The Denver-based build-your-own pizza concept made headlines three years ago when it got funding from Chipotle. It’s since expanded the brand—which cooks pizzas in two minutes in a 900-degree oven—into the Midwest, with restaurants in Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. The chain’s method of differentiating in the saturated pizza segment: a focus on southern Italy, from the ingredients used to the house creations.”

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.