New Museum Cafe in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is putting the finishing touches on a new wing that, when open in early August, will just about double its exhibition space. With a brilliant new permanent collection of Dale Chihuly glass and space for its noteworthy Southwestern collection to be on display all the time, plus higher-caliber visiting exhibitions in spacious new galleries, the CFAS will be worth more time. Therefore, art lovers and others who just enjoy the ambiend welcome the newly opened Cafe 36 in the landmark Art Deco original building, which was built in 1936.
Lunch is served Tuesdays through Saturdays and Sunday brunch between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Prices are moderate, ranging (at lunch) from $3 for a cup of soup to $12 for an entree of chicken forestiere or salmon filet with topical salsa at lunch, and steak and eggs, or salmon and eggs at brunch. Most dishes are under $10, and there’s also a children’s menu. The new executive chef is Bruce S. Calder, formerly with the Colorado Country Club. The new cafe is adjacent to the SaGāJi Theatre in the Fine Arts Center at 30 West Dale Street. Reservations are recommended; call 719-477-4377.

Beau Jo’s Returning to Boulder

According to a report in the Boulder Daily Camera, Beau Jo’s Pizza will soon return to Boulder after about a decade’s absence. It will be located at 2690 Baseline Road, a hard-luck location that most recently was two incarnations of Fiasco’s Mexican Grill. When I first moved to Boulder, it was a Long John Silver’s. Subsequently in was an innovative fine-dining restaurant (Two Bitts), a steakhouse and a couple of forgettable Italian places.

The original Beau Jo’s, founded in 1973 in a tiny 18-seat space, now spreads across several storefronts along the main drag of Idaho Springs, and to me, that’ s Beau Jo’s. Shortly after I moved to Boulder, it because a refueling stop after skiing or hiking, especially on a weekend, when the traffic on I-70 slowed to a proverbial crawl. I’m generally not fond of thick-crust pizzas, and even Beau Jo’s thin crust is heftier than I prefer. In a way, it must be, to support the heavy load of toppings.

Beau Jo’s Mountain Pies hefty pizzas are built on a foundation of honey white or whole wheat crust, with an hand-rolled edge to keep the fillin‘ from spillin‘. There’s a choice of sauces, toppings and cheeses for one of the most easily customizable pies around. Prairie Pies are a lighter alternative.

I always loved seeing patrons’ napkin artwork tacked the walls (no longer such a feature of the decor), the mining memorabilia and even the salad bar atop an old clawfoot tub. The pizza was filling, the ambience was lively, the substitution of Mason Jars for glasses fitting and the honey for dipping the last of the crust a nice touch — a main course melding seamlessly into dessert. Even the wait for a table was rarely unbearable.

To me, the theme didn’t translate well to Boulder, not because the city can’t take funky, but because its location, tucked into a side of an old Montgomery Ward’s in the now-demolished Crossroads Mall, was weird. In addition to Idaho Springs, there are also Beau Jo’s in Arvada, Colorado Springs, Evergreen, Fort Collins and Highlands Ranch. I’ve never been to any of them, but I’ll sure give the cleaner, leaner, greener location coming to Boulder a try.

The new Beau Jo’s on Baseline could be the first of a new, possibly franchisable incarnation. The Camera reported that Chip Bair, Beau Jo’s founder and owner, could be a prototype for a more modern, less rustic, look, with such “green” features as photovoltaic panels and purchasing wind-energy credits. The trend toward more local sourcing and healthier options also will continue.

Zagat Rates Fast Fooderies

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry about the news that Zagat Guides, those slim, maroon guides that rely on “suveyors” to evaluate and rank restaurants, now has rated chain restaurants, including fast-food places. Each restaurant listing carries a numerical score and also quotes evaluators’ comments, just as for what I think of as “real” restaurants. Zagat did this in conjunction with “The Today Show,” a surprising (to naive me, anyway) confluence of committed foodies and the mass-est of the US mass television audience (OK, maybe “American Idol” or “Dancing With the Stars” is even mass-er, but you get my drift).

Zagat has released two new surveys, one covering 24 fast-food chains and “mega-chains” (at least 5,000 outlets), and the second covering 21 sit-down “family” restaurants. Both are food-service places that I take pains to avoid. In any case, Zagat Fast-Food Chains 2007 and Zagat Full-Service Chains are out, with a preview online as PDFs. Zagat says that 5,500 “diners” rated chains on food, facilities, service and overall, plus the specific categories of burgers, chicken, fries, shakes and child-friendliness in the fast-food group. If you’re in suspense, know that Panera Bread came out at the top of the overall fast-food rankings and Outback Steakhouse did the best in the full-service category.

Article for the Street Food Lover in You

Local reporter highlights favorite street food from a recent trip

If you love Asian street food as much as Kelly Yamanouchi and I do, be sure to pick up today’s Denver Post and read her long feature in the food section called “From the Street to the Table.” You can link to it from this blog, but do get today’s paper so you can see the photos too. Fresh from a trip to Asia where she crammed one last “steaming bowl of noodles topped with fresh vegetables, slow-cooked beef and ladles of broth” in her final half-hour in Taipei before leaving for the airport, she sought similar tastes in Denver.

I remember my own last-minute food frenzies — scooting around the corner from a fancy hotel in Shanghai, where my bags were packed and ready to go, for one last portion of dumplings from a stand, or making time for one more order of chicken skewers with a divine peanut/chile dipping sauce before leaving Bangkok. Unlike me, however, when Kelly, a Post staff writer, returned to Denver, she researched places to get similar food here.

She wrote, “Taipei is known for its night markets, which bustle with tourists and locals jostling for food sold from dozens of different stalls. Street food throughout Asia appears in an array of places – at storefronts along the sidewalk, at festivals and in outdoor markets. While the American notion of street food tends to focus on hand-helds like hot dogs and pretzels, in Asia the selection runs the gamut — almost anything that can be prepared quickly and simply, from noodle soup to deep-fried stinky tofu to oyster omelets. In metropolitan Denver, street stalls aren’t prevalent and there’s no Taipei-style night market or Singapore-style hawker stand, but I found some selections at Asian restaurants and groceries that reminded me of the originals.”

She recommended:
Lao Wang Noodle House, 945-D South Federal Boulevard, Denver; 303-975-2497
H Mart, 2751 South Parker Road, Aurora; 303-745-4592
Spice China, 269 McCaslin Boulevard., Louisville; 720-890-0999
J’s Noodles & New Thai, 945-E South Federal Boulevard, Denver; 303-922-5495
US Thai, 5228 West 25th Avenue, Edgewater; 303-233-3345

A further resource if you love ethnic foods is The Gyro’s Journey (left)by Clay Fong. This guide to ethnic eateries on the Front Range is new from Fulcrum Publishing. I haven’t seen it yet, but it is described as “guide to authentic and affordable ethnic dining experiences in the Front Range. Written for the adventurous diner, this book describes family-owned businesses found off the beaten track that hold true to the traditions of their native lands.” Fong is now a restaurant and food writer for the Boulder Weekly.

Be A Colorado Kitchen Snoop

The next few weeks bring at least two opportunities to visit other people’s kitchens and benefit good causes as well. You might be looking for ideas for your own kitchen remodel, or you might just be a masochist who enjoys the pain of kitchen envy when comparing your own cooking area with gorgeous designer kitchens furnished with the finest — exquisite cabinets, over-the-top granite countertops and the highest-end appliances.

Boulder’s annual Kitchens on Fire (right, June 1-2 , 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) is, to quote the organizers, “a self-guided tour of inspiring kitchens of every size and shape.” Tickets are only $15 and benefit the Dairy Center for the Arts. They are available at the Dairy Center (2590 Walnut Street), on-line or by phone (303-444-SEAT).

Denver’s fourth annual Kitchens That Cook! tour (left, June 10, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) features nine show-stopping kitchens in the Park Hill, Country Club and Washington Park neighborhoods. The tour is also self-guided. Tickets are $20 in advance (on-line) or $25 on tour day (available at all stops). Proceeds benefit the Junior League of Denver. You can also preview these kitchens on the JLD’s website. These gorgeous kitchens make any enthusiastic cook drool. I often wonder, however, how many people with such magnificent showplace kitchens actually cook.

Many years ago, when Corian was the trendy countertop surface and SubZero was just coming onto the scene as the first designer appliance (the first I knew about, at any rate), a friend an I went on a tour of fancy kitchens in New Jersey’s fashionable exurbia. We were living in then-unfashionable Hoboken. We both loved to cook (and she’s a terrific baker as well). We were managing quite nicely with kitchens that we fixed up only slightly from the 1950s updates we inherited from the previous owners when we bought our 1870s brownstones — icky salmon-colored Formica countertops (in both houses), forgettable cabinets (mine were knotty pine and mounted for someone 6 inches taller than I; hers were simply cheap and mounted for someone shorter than she), merely functional appliances (neither of our kitchens came with dishwashers; I bought a roll-to-the-sink model; she settled for a half-size under-the-counter machine). We walked through these pristine kitchens where only one had any evidence (i.e., a few cookbooks on a small shelf) that anyone actually cooked, and then went home and whipped up dinners in our considerable more modest settings.

‘Chocolate and Zucchini’ Author’s Book Tour

Clotilde Dusoulier, a young woman whose captivating Chocolate and Zucchini blog about food and cooking in Paris has been a foodie favorite since it eased into the blogosphere in late 2003, has written a cookbook. The American edition of Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Paris Kitchen has just been published by Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House. The reviewers who have seen it have been swooning: “”Dusoulier has contagious enthusiasm for her local Montmartre markets. Reading “Chocolate and Zucchini” is like going on a slightly frenetic shopping spree — in other words, irresistible” enthused Paris-Match.

Born and raised in Paris, Dusoulier lived in San Francisco for a couple of years after college and it was there that she developed her passion for food. She learned about cooking from her mother and is also self-taught, a perfect melding of her French roots overlaid by her American experiences. Her blog is full of her carefully indexed recipes (mercifully and pragmatically given both in metric and American measures), as well as her observations about food, restaurants and related topics that intrigue her. I have blog envy; hers attracts 4.5 million visitors a month, and I’ve been a lot of them.

Dusoulier is embarking on an American book tour. Alas, Denver is not on it, but here are the US cities scheduled thus far (book signings are free and begin at the time indicated; cost for others is given):

New York – Tuesday, May 15. 12:30 p.m.
Dean & Deluca (560 Broadway, SoHo)
Book signing, free meet and greet, 12:30 p.m.

Boston – Wednesday, May 16, 7:00 p.m.
Chez Henri (1 Shepard St., Cambridge)
Book signing and dinner, $75 for glass of wine, three-course dinner and signed copy of the book); reservations required (617-354-8980)

Boston – Thursday, May 17, 6:30 p.m.
The French Library (53 Marlborough Street)
Catered luncheon, talk and book signing; $15-$20 (I’m not sure why this price range);reservations required (617-912-0400). Chef Jean Claude Carvin of La Riviera Gourmet will prepare three recipes from the book.

Chicago – Saturday, May 19, 12:00 noon
Froggy’s French Café (306 Green Bay Road, Highwood)
Book signing and luncheon; cost TBA; reservations required by calling call Lake Forest Bookstore (847- 234-4420)
Chicago – Sunday, May 20, 1:30 p.m.
The Book Cellar (4736-38 North Lincoln Avenue)
Book signing and free meet and greet

Seattle – Monday, May 21, 7:30 p.m.
Impromptu (4235 East Madison Street)
Book signing and food-and-wine event, in collaboration with Shauna and Dan of Gluten-Free Girl; $45 including copy of the book; reservations required (206-860-1569).Admission: $45

Seattle – Tuesday, May 22, 7:00 p.m.
University Bookstore (4326 University Way NE)
Book signing and free meet and greet

Sonoma County, CA – Wednesday, May 23, 7:00 p.m.
Bovolo (106 Matheson St., Healdsburg)
Book signing and three-course dinner; $25; reservations required (707-431-2962)

Berkeley, CA – Thursday, May 24, 7:00
Cody’s Books (1730 Fourth Street)
Book signing and free meet and greet
San Francisco – May 26
Book Passage (Ferry Building, 1 Ferry Plaza #421)
1:00 p.m.
Book signing and free meet and greet

From-The-Heart Thai Food Prepared in a Home Kitchen

A few weeks ago, when I wrote about the Denver family that introduced Thai restaurant food to the US, I didn’t know that I would be privileged to enjoy a home-cooked meal by Nita Chittivej (left), who runs Chada Thai with her son, Peter. The home where Chef Nita performed her magic belongs to Holly Arnold Kinney, owner of The Fort. The Arnolds and the Chittivejs, two foodie families, have been friends for a long time, beginning when the Holly’s parents took their children to the ChittivejsChao Praya Thai Restaurant. Holly recalls the her favorite childhood dessert was Thai custard prepared by Nita’s late mother-in-law, Lilly.

Nearly 10 years ago, my husband and I spent two weeks in Thailand. The dishes that Nita prepared were the equals of those we oohed and ahed over at a dinner in the fanciest Bangkok restaurant we went to, and better than any others we had in the country and at Thai restaurants here. The reason that I was able to sample Nita’s fantastically fresh Thai fare in a matchless home setting setting is that Holly, the current president of the Colorado chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a group of culinary professionals, invited the chapter to her home. Holly’s husband, Jeremy Kinney, poured champagne, and we watched Nita cook.

In Holly’s spectacular kitchen, Nita prepared the following dishes:

Appetizer
Roll-your-own green lettuce leaves to be filled with a selection of dried shrimp, fresh garden mint, fresh lime pieces and fresh Thai ginger, with a tangy-sweet vinegar/chile dipping sauce

Second Course
Lemon Grass Soup (the best I’ve ever tasted)

Main courses
Chicken Thai Curry
Mee Crop Thai (crispy rice noodles with a deep fried crispy shrimp and a tangy tamarind sauce, right)
Rice

Dessert
Thai Jasmine Custard (which Holly remembers so well)

Nita cooked specially for Les Dames on Tuesday evening, her one night off. One of my good LDEI foodie friends and I plan to go to Nita and Peter’s restaurant, Chada Thai (2005 East 17th Avenue; 303-320-8582).

Nita, the food was a-roi. Khawp khun kha.

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.