Outdoor Dining in Boulder County

In an article called “Happy Hours” in the Friday Section of today’s Daily Camera lists “some of our favorite places to dine, soak in the rays and enjoy the great views of the foothills” (a sidebar lists the writer’s rooftop faves, but I’m just sharing the patios here):

Perhaps this is a picky quibble, but not all of these places have “great views of the foothills” — and some have no views of the foothills whatsoever. That doesn’t make them unappealing, but it seems odd for a writer to promise diners something that they won’t find. More puzzling: I wonder why not a single establishment on the Pearl Street Mall made the list. With no vehicular traffic, every patio along the mall is uncommonly pleasant. The selection includes no places at all in Nederland or other eateries scattered through the mountains in western Boulder County, but even sticking with the flat part east of the foothills, there are a few reall y obvious (to me) omissions.

For instance, why not include Sherpa’s, at 824 Pearl Street (303-440-7151), a couple of doors west of D’Napoli and with its own shaded patio? Centro at 950 Pearl Street in Boulder (303-442-7771) has a great, lively patio — no foothills views, but everything else that makes for great patio dining. In North Boulder, the patio of Proto’s Pizza (4670 Broadway; 720-565-1050) is on the side of the building fronting on a quiet side street. Treppeda’s at 300 Second Avenue in Niwot (303-652-1606) boasts a wide patio with umbrella-shaded tables. And other than the fact that its al fresco dining is on a porch rather than a patio, the Chautauqua Dining Hall (set in Chautauqua Park off Baseline Road, just south of Ninth Street, 303-440-3776) is an unsurpassed outdoor venue for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Ceviche, Shaken and Not Stirred

Ciche martinis — the next big thing?

I first encountered ceviche martinis at a reception at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel several months ago. A white-coated cook was stationed at a tabled laden with citrus-marinated raw seafood and appropriate condiments. Whenever someone ordered a ceviche, he mixed it to order in a martini shaker, gave it a good toss, poured it into a martini glass and garnished it. It was a good show, the result was delicious and soon a line built at that station.

Yesterday, there was another ceviche martini station at a reception at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, CO. The chef offered a selection of scallops, shrimp and mahimahi to be tossed with a choice of three sauces. He spooned the requested combination into his martini shaker, shook up the combination of ingredients, tossed them and decanted them into a martini glass. Again, delicious.

I thought this was something new, but I guess it was just new to me. I was chastened to read, in a Dallas restaurant review from back in October 2006, that the ceviche “tumbled into a martini glass…long ago ascended to ceviche cliché.” Long ago? Where was I? Maybe I don’t get out enough. In any case, ceviche martinis aren’t old hat to me, and I really like ’em.

New in New Orleans

Whatever the general state of post-Katrina New Orleans, the restaurant scene seems to be popping. Many of the big names re-opened months and months ago, and now some of the smaller players are in business too, including some new restaurants. Zagat just released the following list of new eateries in renascent New Orelans:

  • Lüke, an Alsatian resturant run by John Besh, who operates several restaurants in the Crescent City.
  • Café Minh, relocated to a small corner spot in the Mid-City section of Canal Street, and serving “serving affordable yet sophisticated French-influenced Vietnamese dishes.”
  • Camellia Grill, a reopened 1940s-style Uptown diner (“an adored and much-missed landmark awash in original 1940s decor” says Zagat); also returned are with some veteran waiters and back and “the same iconic menu” (chile omelets, bacon cheeseburgers and chocolate freezes).
  • Crescent City Steak House, a venerable family-run institution in Mid-City.
  • Gautreau’s, “a charming converted antique drugstore in Uptown serving high-end New French–New American fare; its top-to-bottom renovation adds a new sense of airiness to the dinner-only space, but it still fills up in a flash with longtime fans, so reservations are a must,” says Zagat.

Boulder’s Best Bake Sale

No lopsided cupcakes, overbaked brownies, cakes made from mixes or pie fillings leaking though rubbery crusts at the bake sale at Boulder’s Culinary School of the Rockies on Friday, May 25, from 11:30 a.m. until the last item is sold. The bakers are students — almost-professional bakers really — attending the school’s Pastry Arts program. They will create a wide assortment of delicious and gorgeous pastries and breads. The sale benefits a good culinary cause, with 100 percent of proceeds directly benefiting CSR’s student scholarships.

For the spring bake sale, the students will make :

French Pastries
Fancy Cookies
Layered Cakes
Cream Puffs
Sticky Buns
Fruit Tarts
Artisan Breads
Pain au Chocolate

The school is located at 637 South Broadway (west side of the building). For more information, call 303-494-7988.

Food Historian Karen Hess Dies

Karen Hess, who “translated” cookbooks from as far back as Colonial and American Revolutionary times era into contemporary English, died on May 15 at the age of 88. Her 1981 work, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, handed down in the Washington family, is considered her most important academic work. Her best-known work, The Taste of America published in 1977, was co-authored with her husband, journalist John Hess. The couple returned from France, where they had lived for nine years, and tried to open America’s eyes to its predilection for processed, packaged junk food. Fellow food historian John Martin Taylor was quoted as saying, “the book was a scathing statement” of the was America was eating. Think of her as the American food world’s equivalent to Rachel Carson and her Silent Spring or Jessica Mitford and The American Way of Dying — women who used eloquent words to sound alarms in very different areas.

Wop’s in a Name?

In 1919, Michele and Emira Colacci, who had come to the coal-mining town of Louisville, CO, opened a restaurant serving the simple, hearty food of southern Italy, from which they had recently emigrated. Eventually, the Colaccis became a dynasty of restaurateurs. The family’s surviving Louisville restaurant, the Blue Parrot (left), is located on Main Street, just two blocks from the original (and now gone) Colacci’s. Michele and Emira added a sausage burger to their menu and called it the Wopburger, which bothered no one for nearly nine decades, until an East Coast transplant named James Gambino took umbrage at what he considered an ethnic slur.

Joan Colacci Riggins, Michele and Emira’s granddaughter and owner of Blue Parrot Restaurant with her father and brother, told the Boulder Daily Camera that Gambino “raised a stink.” He complained to the National Italian American Foundation in Washington, DC, and to the Boulder Valley School District, which buys Blue Parrot bottled pasta sauce for school lunches. NIAF’s chairman, Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli, chided the Colacci clan, noting that, “Perhaps you are not aware that this is a pejorative term that insults the Italian American community.” Linda Stoll, who heads the BVSD’s food services, politely intimated that the oh-so-politically-correct district might have to stop buying the Blue Parrot’s spaghetti sauce unless they change the name of the burger on the restaurant menu, although the restaurant and sauce business are separate.

Initially, it appeared that the Colaccis would cave to political pressure and that Blue Parrot menu would we reprinted to offer an “Italian burger.” That, of course, spurred reactions too. One Longmont reader wrote to the Camera: “What has our society come to if a single customer can change an 88-year tradition of serving a proudly named menu item? One customer was ‘offended’ by the name of the Wopburger and demanded the menu be changed, and they are changing it! It is apparent from the story that the Colacci family bore no malice when the ‘Wopburger’ was named in 1919, and that name has not been offensive to the community for nearly nine decades. How is it that a single overzealous, politically correct individual has the power to pressure the Boulder Valley School District into calling the restaurant and implying that they will stop purchasing spaghetti sauce from them if the name on the menu is not changed?”

Another reader, this time from Louisville, disagreed: “I, as a second-generation Italian American, and my husband, a first-generation Italian American, are glad Wopburger got taken off the menu at the Blue Parrot. I find that word very offensive. I don’t know about Colorado, but back East, WOP became a nasty term for Italians….It seems Italian Americans are the favorite ethnic group in this country to still be called names, and stereotyped. Just look at TV and movies. We are gangsters, crooks, ignorant, slutty, you name it. If their [stet]were a burger on the menu with a pejorative term for any other ethnic group, it would make the evening news, but Italian? Big deal. Well it is a big deal, and I’d like to thank the school district and the person who brought it to their attention.”

Just a week after the fuss surfaced, the Colaccis thought it over some more. “We’ve had so many people coming in and calling us, telling us, ‘I can’t believe you’re changing the name. Please don’t change the name,'” said Joan Colacci Riggins told the a reporter. “When certain words are used in a certain way, they can be derogatory in context. But that was never the way with us.”

So the Wopburger remains on the menu. Some people will be happy. Some will boycott the place. And some don’t care. One story of the origin of the word was to refer to immigrants who arrived with out papers — undocumented aliens or illegal aliens in today’s parlance. In any case, I’m glad the Colaccis have resolved the issue to their own satisfaction. I suppose their business won’t rise or fall on the patronage of James Gambino. Not after 88 years.

If Chocolate is Not Sacred, What Is?

The ingredients for chocolate are no secret (sugar, cocoa solids and cocoa butter, and for milk chocolate, milk solids). The proportions, the care and the result are the diffrence between the makings of a prosaic candy bar and both premium chocolate and high confectionery art. I’m seeing chocolate threats on various fronts. A “citizens’ petition” under consideration by the Food & Drug Administration would permit manufacturers to substitute vegetable fats and oils for cocoa butter. Considering that the “citizens” who wrote this petition were the likes of the Chocolate Manufacturers Assn., the Grocery Manufacturers Assn., the Snack Food Assn. and other powerful lobbying and trade associations related to the food business, the petition is suspect.

The Chocolate Manufacturers Assn. tap-danced around its reasons for endorsing the industry-friendly, consumer-unfriendly petition by proclaiming, “The Chocolate Manufacturers Association’s (CMA) decision to co-sign the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) citizen’s petition reflects CMA’s view that now is an appropriate time for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to update the standards of identity for all foods. We want to emphasize that by co-signing the food industry petition, CMA has not endorsed any particular change to the standards of identity for chocolate products.” Yeah, right, but who wants to bet that some of their powerful members wouldn’t want to be permitted to replace costlier cocoa butter with cheaper vegetable fats without having to reveal the subtrefuge and thereby ratchet up their profits, even at the expense of taste?

Further, the heart-health benefits of dark chocolate have been recently touted after a Cleveland Clinic study. In addition to the guaranteed erosion of taste, I am going to guess that vegetable fats won’t have the same beneficial effects.

Now, Reuters reports that Mars has already been monkeying with its chocolate formulations, at least in England where the article was date-lined. Mars had decided to add rennet, an enzyme made from the lining of cows’ stomachs, into chocolate. It’s usually used in cheese, where it is expected, but vegetarians and vegans are furious that it was sneaked into chocolate. Three million British vegetarians were unhappy, perhaps among them some of the 40 members of Parliament who objected, and Mars has rescinded its chocolate abuse. Let’s hope the FDA is equally smart.

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.