3 Upcoming Food/Drink Fests

Beer pairing in Broomfield, burgers in Denver & winefest on the Western Slope.

Colorado and visiting foodies, pull out your calendars for three terrific food/beer/wine events in the next few weeks.

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Pairsine

Whether your passion is food, beer or both, the upcoming Pairsine Chefs Fine Food & Beer Pairing Competition provides an unsurpassed opportunity to taste the best the Front Range has to offer. This event on Wednesday, July 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. pairs gold medal award-winning beers from the recent Denver International Beer Competition with outstanding culinary creations prepared by 10 top Colorado chefs. In addition to evaluations by  professional judges who vote for the “Best Chef” and “Most Creative Chef,” attendees vote for “The People’s Choice Chef.”

The chefs, each of whom prepare two dishes to pair with specific beers, are Joe Troupe, Lucky Pie Pizza and Taphouse; Brandon Muncy, The Lobby; Elijah Odell, Highland Tap & Burger; Chris Cina, Breckenridge-Wynkoop; Jonathan Power, The Populist; Drew Watson, Executive Chef, Hops & Pie; Kyle McCune, The Meritage at The Omni Interlocken Resort; Jose Guerrero, Viewhouse; Lucas Forgy, Executive Chef- Fresh Craft, and Jon Mendoza and Jamey Freeman, Bad Apple.

Here’s a deal via MileHighOnTheCheap.com: Order tickets online and use the code Cheap40 to get the $50 tickets for just $30 each, a 40% savings. Having been involved with MHOTC since the beginning, I pay attention to values, and I’m stoked that $30 buys 20 food pairings with 20 award-winning wines, and because there is no tipping and no parking fees, of the three, it’s unquestionably the best value. It takes place at the Omni Interlocken Resort, 500 Interlocken Blvd., Broomfield.

Denver Burger Battle

DenverBurgerBattle-logoFour chef-judges at the annual Denver Burger Battle winnow down Colorado’s abundant burgers to from places that they consider the 12 best in an intense evening of chowing down and drinking up. It takes places this year on Thursday, August 7 at the Sculpture Park (Champa and Speer, beside the Denver Center for the Performing Arts).

The contenders are Old Major, Park Burger, TAG Burger Bar, Crave Real Burger, Highland Tap & Burger, Williams & Graham, Humboldt Farm Fresh Wine, Ste. Ellie, Drifter’s Hamburgers, The Populist, Larkburger and Acorn. Judges are Elise Wiggins, Panzano, Paul Reilly, Beat + Bottle; Justin Cucci, Root Down and Linger, and Theo Adley, Squeaky Bean.

Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice awards are on the line. In addition to an open bar with four Colorado brews and Cupcake wines, all attendees get unlimited 1/4 samples of all competitors’ entries and unlimited desserts. Regular admission tickets ($69) are valid from 6:30 to 9 p.m.; VIP entry ($99) begins one hour earlier and includes unlimited wine and beer and other extras. Click here to buy tickets. Aged 21+ only; get a sitter for the little ones, who are not admitted.

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Steamboat Wine Festival

The Steamboat Wine Festival combines wine, food, indoor seminars and outdoor sports into four fabulous days, August 6 to 10. Click here for the schedule. Among the presenters are no fewer than three master sommeliers, wine makers and top local chefs. The signature events are Thursday’s Wine on the Mountain beginning at 5 p.m., Friday’s Stroll of Steamboat at 4 p.m. and Saturday’s Toast of Steamboat at 3 p.m. All events are priced à la carte ($65 to $165 per event); click here for the list and prices for each.

 

Stellar French Bakery Near Aspen Airport

Franck Thirion bakes the best croissants.

002The best croissants I’ve had outside of France came from Aspen’s Franck Thirion French Pastry & Café  — not downtown but in a modest space at the Aspen Airport Business Center maze of streets. We met a local friend there and lingered over breakfast and coffee. Everything was so outstanding that we returned the morning we were leaving and also brought some more croissants, an apple turnover and a baguette to take home. Some of the items didn’t make it to Boulder but ended up as roadfood.

At one time, there was a location on East Hopkins in downtown Aspen, but now there is just one for eat-in, take-out and catering. For my part, I wish there were a branch in Boulder. Franck said, “non” when I told him my wish. He prefers a smaller town than Boulder.

A chocolate croissant and an almond croissant, along with a cappuccino, are my idea of an ideal breakfast.
A chocolate croissant and an almond croissant, along with a cappuccino, are my idea of an ideal breakfast.
A breakfast sandwich on a sliced croissant  contains eggs, a choice of cheeses and perhaps some ham.
A breakfast sandwich on a sliced croissant contains eggs, a choice of cheeses and perhaps some ham.
The café is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday. 111 Aspen Airport Business Center, Aspen, 970-925-3569.

 

La Choza Gets a Brick-and-Mortar Home

After a couple of moves, Mexican hut set for “lucky” space.

LaChoze-logoAs we’ve discovered through two locations in dirt parking lots (first on the west end of the Diagonal Highway and currently behind the ReBay pawn shop on North Broadway), La Choza has aced the preparation of down-to-earth Mexican food at down-to-earth prices. When we stopped there a few days to refuel after a hike, we saw an encouraging sign that La Choza was moving around the corner.

The sign of things to come.
The sign of things to come.
Meanwhile, customers are always waiting around the hut for their orders.
Meanwhile, customers are always waiting around the hut for their orders.
The food is cheap and good. Here is a puffy quesadilla.
The food is cheap and good. Here is a puffy quesadilla.
Burrito wrapped in foil and ready. Customers select their red or green chile sauce.
Burrito wrapped in foil and ready. Customers select their red or green chile sauce.
The space that launched Pupusa's and Julia's will next house La Choza.
The space tucked in next to ReBay at 4457 Broadway that launched Pupusa’s and Julia’s will next house La Choza.

My hopes that La Choza would alight at 4457 Broadway are coming to pass. Both Pupusas Sabor Hispano and Julia’s Kitchen started simply there and moved onto to bigger, better spaces. I think of his little storefront as “lucky.” I hope the luck continues for the hard-working owner of La Choza.

Looking in on Lindsay’s Deli Remodel

Pearl Street Mall classic looking good & expanding menu.

HaagenDasz-logoThere is no shortage of places to buy frozen treats in downtown Boulder. Ice cream and frozen yogurt shops and carts abound in the Pearl Street Mall and on adjacent blocks to the east, west and south. One long-timer is on the southwest corner of Broadway and Pearl. When a Häagen-Dazs shop opened in 1981, little Lindsay Shaw helped her parents. She gave out samples and dipped the popular ice cream — one of the first boutique brands. A decade ago, she became a Häagen-Dazs and became a franchisee a decade or so ago. She transitioned into the deli realm, first adding soups and later sandwiches, baked good and breakfast. She also added the words “Lindsay’s Boulder Deli” to the awning.

LIndsay's Boulder Deli sports a clean new look, with all the seating up front near the Pearl Street windows.
Lindsay’s Boulder Deli sports a clean new look, with great wood finishes and lighting.

The ice cream/shop deli had enjoyed immense popularity, but the place was nothing much to look at. Shaw put covered the windows paper and embarked on a total renovation and expansion to nearly 3,000 square feet that took the better part of spring. The wraps are off now, so I popped in for a look. The layout has been reconfigured, and the floors, walls, counters, seating and lighting are new, as are the restrooms that I didn’t check out. The soup and sandwich menu offers both deli classics and modern combos of ingredients. As for ice cream, Lindsay’s is still dipping.

Lindsay's Boulder Deli on Urbanspoon

3 Tasting Rooms = Boulder Wine Studios

North Boulder boasts the city’s new “winery row.”

boulder-wine-studios-logoBookcliff Vineyards, a family-run operation that makes wines from grapes grown in its own Western Slope vineyards, has operated a tasting room in North Boulder for several years. Two newer wineries have now joined it. Settembre Cellars, founded in 2007 and now graduated from being a home operation, prides itself on hand-crafted, Old World-style wines. What We Love Winery is just the opposite — a non-traditional winery founded on the Aussie-born, Kiwi-trained winemaker’s love of chardonnay and offbeat diversion into bottled sangria under the Decadent label.

The trio now have wineries and tasting rooms within a few feet of each other, and today was the grand opening of the Boulder Wine Studios, as they promotionally call themselves, at 1501 Lee Hill Road (at US 36). Just as Colorado Winery Row at 46th and Pecos creates a wine destination in Denver, the Wine Studios are now doing so in Boulder. The grand opening was, well, grand, with $10 buying five tastes at each of the three wineries, a quality wineglass and a coupon for $5 off a single bottle. My husband and I were there and took full advantage. If you weren’t there, here’s a bit of what you missed.

Bellying up to the tasting bar at Settembre Cellars.
Bellying up to the tasting bar at Settembre Cellars.
Winemaker Michael (whose last name I don't yet know) offered a bonus barrel tasting.
Winemaker Michael Hasler offered visitors a bonus barrel tasting of his chardonnay.
Bookcliff Vineyards are the veterans at Wine Studios. Ulla Merz and her husband John Garlich established the vineyard and winery in 1992.
Bookcliff Vineyards are the veterans at Wine Studios. Ulla Merz and her husband John Garlich established the vineyard and winery in 1992. At her side is Justin, whose last name I don’t know, a sommelier and John’s assistant.

Weekends are tasting times at the Wine Studios. Click on the individual wineries’ links for hours. They overlap, but they are not identical.

Boulder Italian Eatery Shuffle

Arrival of Sforno is one of the changes on Pearl Street.

006 If you haven’t kept up with news about Italian restaurants in Boulder for a year or so, you’ll find a lot of changes. Bácaro Venetian Taverna is closed. When that was announced, the owners indicated that a new restaurant would replace it at 921 Pearl, a few block west of the Mall. None has yet materialized, and with the disruptive streetscape renovations and the bulding demolition and current construction on the corner of 9th and Pearl, it is not an attractive location at the moment. It is currently for lease. A couple of blocks away at PastaVino seems to be picking up some of Bácaro business, largely because of chef Fabio Flagiello former executive chef at Bácaro and now captains the Pasta Vino ship. On the east end of the Pearl Street Mall, Trattoria on Pearl closed abruptly. It was an unpaid taxes matter, and a sheriff’s sale emptied the place out. It too sports a For Lease sign.

All owners have maintained the look of a Roman courtyard with all its charm.
Several restaurants the preceded Sforno at 1308 Pearl Street over the past 20+ years have maintained the look of a Roman courtyard with all its charm.

But a bright new restaurant has opened on the Mall across from the Boulder County Courthouse: Sforno Trattoria Romana occupies a lovely place — the interior a recreation of a Roman courtyard that has housed a couple of Italian restaurants: Antica Roma Cucina e Piazza, Roma Trattoria and perhaps one more whose name escapes me. I understand that Sforno is operated by the group that runs Bacco Trattoria & Mozzarella Bar, a North Boulder fave.

Crusty bread with seasoned oil for dipping.
Thickly sliced crusty bread with seasoned oil for dipping.
Cannelloni stuffed with spinach, ricotta, and lump crab meat, baked in a truffle- pancetta cream sauce. The truffle taste is so subtle as to be undiscernible.
Cannelloni stuffed with spinach, ricotta, and lump crab meat, baked in a truffle- pancetta cream sauce. The truffle taste is so subtle as to be undiscernible.
House-made meat lasagna, swimming in tomato sauce. The red sauce, glimpse of pasta and chopped herbs on top give it the colors of the Italian flag.
House-made meat lasagna, swimming in tomato sauce. The red sauce, glimpse of pasta and chopped herbs on top give it the colors of the Italian flag.

My husband and I rarely eat in downtown Boulder during the dinner hour, preferring happy hour portions and prices, and hardly ever on a weekend. But we scored an outdoor table and truly enjoyed Friday night’s energy: jugglers, a marimba group and a passing parade of summer traffic. It is good to see Boulder through visitors’ eyes and see why our city remains so captivating. North of downtown, Radda Trattoria has closed and will be replaced by Ella, described as an upscale diner. Restaurateur Edwin Zoe, who with his mother co-owns Zoe Ma Ma, is opening it.

Price check: At dinner, Formaggi e Salumeria (cheeses and meats), $7-$13 (plus $18 for choice of three items); antipasti, $5-$11; bruschetta, soups and salads, $5-$9; pasta, $13; house-made pasta, $16; entrées, including meats and seafood, $15-$15; pizza, $11-$16.

Sforno on Urbanspoon

Modis Remains One of Breck’s Best

Happy hour at this Main Street restaurant more than satisfies.

Modis-signModis-signModis-sign025Since it opened, Modis in Breckenridge has been place that  serves several functions: local hangout with a great bar with two daily happy hours, a smoker in place for house-smoked specialties, fine-dining restaurant upstairs and in the warm months, a dynamite deck for eating, imbibing and hanging out. I hadn’t been there for several years — not since Justin and Teryn Guadagnoli bought it in the fall of 2013.

The bar is better than ever, with a robust wine list, a big selection of craft beers, innovative cocktails and a continuation of the vibrant menu selections for which it was always known. Four of us were strolling Main Street when the “happy hour” sign caught my eye. We went in for drinks and ended up making dinner from the excellent happy hour food selection.

The soup of the day -- thick and filling -- though I didn't order it and can't recall the flavor.
The soup of the day — thick and filling — though I didn’t order it and can’t recall the flavor.
A mountain of linguine-thin shoestring potatoes with two dipping sauces.
A mountain of linguine-thin shoestring potatoes with two dipping sauces.
Beautiful mixed green  salad with a sensational black garlic vinaigrette.
Beautiful mixed green salad with a sensational black garlic vinaigrette.

Continue reading Modis Remains One of Breck’s Best

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.