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.”

American Gelato Festival Coming to Boulder

One of four cities to host the first American version.

I can still remember my first taste of gelato. It was in Rome a long lifetime ago at a gelataria across the street from and just to the right of the Pantheon. Thanks to the Internet, I am pretty sure it must have been Cremaria Monteforte (via della Rotonda 22), and that small flavor bomb on a hot summer day  was the first of many that I have savored over the decades. It is still there — and still widely praised for its flavors and authenticity. And I do remember it even though I’ve consumed many little cups and cones of gelato since then.

The Gelato Festival launched in Europe 2010 and has taken root there, and Boulder is the first stop of the first Gelato Festival America from September 29 through October 1 at the Twenty-Ninth Street shopping area. The unique creations of seven gelato makers from Italy, the U.S. and Canada compete for the honors of being the best in show as voted on by a panel of judges and by the public. There are also sessions to learn about the long history of gelato and how it’s made.

Click here for tickets and here for a GroupOn offer that saves 20 percent. In addition to the Boulder event,  Gelato Festival America then goes to Santa Barbara (October 20-22), Scottsdale (October 27-29) and Tucson (November 3- 5).

Daily Meal Picks Columbine for Affordable Steaks

Federal Boulevard classic gets national nod.

The Daily Meal’s selection of “The Best Inexpensive Steakhouses in Denver” features a Federal Boulevard standby that is not on everyone’s radar screen when it comes to Denver steaks. Anyone looking for less spendy places than Elway’s, The Capitol Grill, Ruth’s Chris, Guard & Grace and Shanahan’s, can go casual way south on Federal Boulevard (#300) for a super-affordable steak dinner with Texas toast. Here’s what the site posted:

Columbine Steak House & Lounge, Denver

This low-slung, no-frills Denver legend has been going strong since 1961, and its main claim to fame is how amazingly inexpensive it is. Fried chicken costs $8.75, a steak sandwich costs $7.95, pork chops $11.25. And most impressively of all, there are six steaks on the menu, and the most expensive one of the bunch, an absolutely massive porterhouse, costs just $20.75. As for the rest: the large fillet is $18.25, a T-bone is $16.25, sirloin and New York strip are $13.95, and a small fillet is $12.75. Tax is already included in the price, and all steaks also come with salad, potato, and toast.

Not a steakhouse but a old-style New Mexican restaurant that is also a Federal Boulevard classic is going away. Jack-n-Grill at #2524 is closing.

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.