Charcoal’s Own Restaurant Week

Golden Triangle restaurant puts a bargain spark into summer

P1030826Despite its subtle location, Charcoal Restaurant has built a following among Golden Triangle condo dwellers who appreciate its sleek style and fine Swedish-influenced menu at dinner and weekend brunch and people from out of the neighborhood who have read the very positive reviews since it opened nearly two years ago. To help combat late-summer dining doldrums, it is offering its own Restaurant Week right now. Why wait until winter to enjoy a value-laden three-course dinner — in this case, just $29 per person through Sunday, August 11? My husband and I had theater tickets last night, so we jumped at the opportunity to visit a restaurant we hadn’t yet experienced.

Charcoal represents a multi-cultural influences: a Swedish chef, Patrik Landberg, has created an international menu in a Denver restaurant whose owner, Gary Sumihiro’s Japanese heritage shows in the décor and a distinctive cooking style. As Landberg told a reporter when the restaurant opened, “What makes our restaurant unique is using [charcoal made with] the specially-sourced hardwood that burns at a high temperature and is virtually smokeless and odorless…[a technique that] actually comes from Asia and is referred to as ‘bincho-style’ cooking…Meat is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and vegetables retain their flavor.”

Double-sided glass wall separates Charcoal's bar and dining room.
Double-sided glass wall separates Charcoal’s bar and dining room.

Years ago, LoDo boasted a highly honored restaurant called Adega, which in Portuguese refers to an above-ground wine cellar. That long-gone restaurant was built around a large, glassed-in temperature-controlled wine room. Charcoal’s double-sided glass adega is a divider between the bar and the dining room. Dark charcoal gray walls, big windows and wood and brick accents create a tranquil space. Pendant lights hang asymmetrically from the high, dark ceiling. Simple, clean-line chairs are pulled up to two-top, four-top and larger tables in the center of the dining room. Booths are upholstered in a striped fabric in shades of red and pink. A line of stools faces the kitchen behind glass for those who want to watch while dining at the counter. The effect is of Zen-like simplicity when the restaurant is empty and of elegant simplicity when people are in it.

Here’s what I selected from the Restaurant Week menu:

Crisp seared Brussels sprouts with a poached egg, duck confit,.pistaccihos and a red win vinaigrette.
Crisp caramelized Brussels sprouts with an egg poached in its shell, duck confit,.pistachios and a subtle red wine vinaigrette.


A trio of large sea scallops crusted with dukkah (rushed seasoned hazelnuts) The papdum shell, which is shaped like a tortilla shell but has a more refined taste, filled with a salad of baby arugula, grapefruit pieces, cherry tomatoes from the restaurant's roof-top garden and goat's milk Gorgonzola vinaigrette.
A trio of large sea scallops crusted with dukkah (rushed seasoned hazelnuts) The papdum shell, which is shaped like a tortilla shell but has a more refined taste, filled with a salad of baby arugula, grapefruit pieces, cherry tomatoes from the restaurant’s roof-top garden and goat’s milk Gorgonzola vinaigrette.
Salty Caramel Crème Brûlée generously sized to share. Perched on top, an olive oil cookie.
Salty Caramel Crème Brûlée generously sized to share. Perched on top, an olive oil cookie.

As so often happens, my husband was in the mood for a burger, so he eschewed the Restaurant Week menu in favor of Charcoal’s version of one of his favorite foods. Fortunately, big as the burger was, he did help me with the Crème Brûlée.

Colorado “Never Ever” Burger is a hefty beef patty topped with caramelized onion, black pepper-dijonaise, pencil-thin hand-cut fries, lettuce and pickles — and a choice of ketchup, aioli or presumably both if one were so inclined.

Price check: This weeks 3-course dinner for $29 is being offered every Monday. On any given week, it might be a limited menu or a choice of items from the regular menu.

Charcoal on Urbanspoon

Ramen Burger Newest Big Thing in New York

Is the CroNut already passé in the Big Apple?

Ramen burger.
Ramen burger. Photo: Ramen Burger on Facebook.

I recently wrote two posts about the CroNut craze (“New York CroNut Craze Spreads West” and “More About CroNuts“), but CroNuts are so last week. As the headline in the Hot Button blog announced, “Forget about the Cronut. The Ramen Burger is the latest decadent food sensation.” Already?

Keizo Shimamoto, once a Japanese blogger whose topic was ramen and who became a ramen chef first in Tokyo and then in New York, created the ramen burger, described as a juicy 3-ounce patty topped with a secret soy-sauce based sauce, scallions and arugula. It comes on a ramen bun somehow made from ramen noodles flavored with some sesame oil.  He sells a 100 of these  burgers at Smorgasburg, a weekly food market in at East River State Park in Brooklyn. I don’t know what part of this amazes me more: a state park on the East River waterfront.

Ramen burgers did debut in Japan at a noodle chain called Lotteria, and there have been lines, rain or shine, at the Sun Noodles stand at Smargasburg. As far as I know, not even one Colorado Japanese restaurant or burger joint is making them yet. I just have to wonder whether someone is working on a burger served on a savory CroNut pastry.


Food + Wine + Art at Snowmass Culinary Fest

Mountain resort hosts chefs, artists and an Iditarod winner  

SnowmassCulArtsFest-logoThe fourth annual Snowmass Culinary Festival coming up on Friday, August 9 and Saturday, August 10 features chef demos by Christy Roost, chef and host of the PBS Texas Cooking & Lifestyle series and Snowmass Village chefs Daniel Forster of Venga Venga and James Mazzio of The Edge Restaurant in the Timberline..Food and libations come together in the Palate of Pairings, where 20 small plates prepared by local and regional chefs are paired with beer, wine and spirits.

“The Perfect Day in Snowmass” includes Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s 33rd Annual Art Auction and Community Picnic along with the Snowmass Village Heritage Celebration—all set in the scenic mountain splendor of Snowmass Village.

The Snowmass Culinary Festival features Chef and host of the PBS Texas Cooking & Lifestyle series, Christy Rost and local chefs including Chef Daniel Forster of Venga Venga and Chef James Mazzio of The Edge Restaurant. The cooking demonstrations by Rost and Mazzio on Saturday, are  Tickets for the two-hour Palate of Pairings are only $45 ($10 discount with an Anderson Ranch auction paddle. Click here FoMoInfo onThe Perfect Day in Snowmass or to purchase tickets for the Palate of Pairings. The Community Reception begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by a live art auction and dinner in the main ballroom of the Viceroy Hotel from 7 to 9 p.m. FoMoInfo, call 970-929-9090. 

On Friday, before the art and most of the food, Krabloonik‘s free Adventure Series presents guest speaker Lance Mackey, four-time winner of the Alaskan Iditarod Dog Sled race,Yukon Quest champion and cancer survivor. Krabloonik is both a sled dog kennel and a notable restaurant with ties to racing in the far north.  FoMoInfo: 970-923-3953.

Farm to Barn Dinner to Kick Off Steamboat Wine Fest

Food, wine, beer, mountains and one great town

Steamboat's Larson Barn,  a gorgeous setting for a special dinner.
Steamboat’s Larson Barn, a gorgeous setting for a special dinner.

The Steamboat Wine Festival’s four-day celebration of gourmet food, wine and beer kicks off with a special pre-festival “Farm to Barn” benefit Wednesday, August 7 — a locale that distinguishes it from other fine food and wine celebrations in the mountains. Executive chefs Kate Rench of Café Diva, Jason Salisbury of Mahogany Ridge and Brian Vaughn of bistro cv plan a Colorado-inspired five-course dinner amid the beautiful setting of Larson Barn, located in the middle of the Yampa Valley near Haymaker. Master Sommeliers Sean Razee and Damon Ornowski pair each course with wine. It is pricey ($165), but proceeds benefit Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS), which assists handicapped residents and visitors in the Steamboat Springs area.

The Steamboat Wine Festival runs from Thursday, August 8 and through Sunday, August 11. Wineries, breweries, restaurateurs and chef showcase their products and talents in nearly 20 varied events including seminars on how to taste, pair and blend wines; mountain bike and hiking trips to Belgian-beer tasting. Prices range from $55 to $130; buy tickets online in advance.

More About CroNuts

Los Angeles area another hotbed of these trend-setting sweets

CronutTwo days ago, I wrote a post about the CroNut craze that started in New York in May and was making its way across the country. Knock-offs of these croissant-donut hybrids soon became available at The Broadmoor and elsewhere around the globe.

CroNuts were featured on “CBS This Morning” today (Friday, August 2), and of course, I made a point of watching. Dominique Ansel revealed that he has now escalated production to from 200 to 350 CroNuts per day, and that they sell out in about 1 1/2 hours. I don’t know whether more Broadmoor Donuts are being made yet. Other broadcast and print media in the U.S. and abroad have been reporting on the phenomenon, including Chef Ansel’s appearance on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”.

CroNut knock-offs are booming across the country, particularly (it seems) in the L.A. area. From the show, I learned about Tony’s Donut House seems to have been the first. It called them CroNuts until receiving a letter from Ansel’s attorney with a trademark alert. I don’t know what they are calling them now. I found other L.A. bakeries on the Internet. Spudnuts call its the doughssant (lower-case D). Semisweet Bakery calls its version crullants (also lower-case C) and sells them for $3.95, a relative bargain.

If you search for “CroNuts, recipe,” you’ll come up with several to make your own, but after Dominique Ansel who invented them said that making them is a three-day process, I’m waiting for some of the Denver/Boulder area bakeries to present their version so we can try them without traveling.

New York Cronut Craze Spreads West

Hybrid sweet puts SoHo bakery on the map & The Broadmoor leaps on the bandwagon

French-born, French-trained pastry chef Dominique Ansel traveled the world opening outposts of Fauchon, the ne plus ultra of French pastry, and then spent six years as the executive pastry chef at Daniel, a culinary mecca in New York. Earlier this year, he was a finalist for James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef honors. With such sterling credentials, he opened Dominique Ansel Bakery in the oh-so-trendy SoHo district of lower Manhattan, where he created the “Cronut,” a hybrid of a croissant and a donut. Each of these addictive sweets is made with thin sheets of pastry that are layered like croissants and fried like donuts, then dipped in sugar and filled with a sweet cream. And yes, there’s a hole in the middle.


Ansel introduced Cronuts on May 10 of this year. The date might eventually be sanctified as National Cronut Day, as they went viral in Manhattan, where cutting edge can devolve into passé in a very short time. While riding the Cronut crest, the bakery was sporting lines up to two hours before opening. After all, they only bake 200 a day for the retail trade. Scalpers soon occupied the head of the morning line, buying the limit of two Cronuts for $5 each and reselling them for $20 apiece.

The name Cronut has been trademarked, so that when The Broadmoor’s executive baker, Johann Willar, heard about it, began experimenting with it at a considerably higher elevation than Manhattan and finally came up with a rendition that he liked, he called it The Broadmoor Donut. It debuted earlier this month in two flavors, raspberry and cinnamon. The process is so labor-intensive that he makes just 24 a day, which are available in the Café Julie and at Espresso’s. The price is $5 per donut, the same price as in New York at Dominque Ansel Bakery. But unlike at the birthplace of the Cronut, there have not as yet been reports of anyone scalping the sweet treat in Colorado Springs.

The Broadmoor Donut, Colorado version of the Cronut.
The Broadmoor Donut, Colorado version of the Cronut.

I’m not kidding when I describe this phenomenon as a craze. It’s been Tweeted, Facebooked and even has its own online site.

Black Cat’s Eric Skokan Writing Cookbook

Chef, restaurateur and farmer Eric Skokan becoming an author

SkokanEric Skokan figuratively wrote the Boulder book on providing farm-to-table food — morphing his European-influenced Black Cat Bistro into Black Cat Farm Table Bistro and then, with his wife Jill, operating the 130-acre Black Cat Farm to supply it with organic produce and natural meats and poultry. Oh yes, there’s also is more o the Skokan story. Bramble & Hare is a newer, more casual eatery on 13th Street right next door to the Bistro, and just down the street, Black Cat’s stand is one of the biggest, busiest at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, with Eric, Jill and often a Skokan kid or two on hand selling and chatting with customers.

I was there this morning buying lettuce and other greens (mine are now finished for the season) when I overheard Eric talking with a woman about getting together to go over material for “the book.” Of course, I asked, and it turns out that he indeed is working on a cookbook. That means that he’s also literally writing the Boulder farm-to-table book. I don’t know when it is due out or exactly what it will be called, but I’ll bet Black Cat is somewhere in the title. And I’m looking forward to seeing and using it.

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.