Fine Brunch at The Nickel

Restaurant in the Hotel Teatro shines on a weekday morning.

008I attended The Nickel’s opening party last summer. The restaurant in the Hotel Teatro was jam-packed. I could tell that it was interesting-looking, the bites and sips I was able to sample were promising, but I had no real sense of what it looked like or how day-to-day food tasted. In fact, I didn’t know enough to write a coherent post for this blog. But a friend and I had brunch there this past weekend, and now I have a true idea of what it’s like, and it’s all good.

Contemporary elegance includes both new and repurposed materials.
Contemporary elegance includes both new and repurposed materials.

The hotel is located in the 1911 Tramway Building, and the restaurant is named after the streetcar’s nickel fares from that era that were stored in the building’s vault. Today, the place is attractive with light streaming in from windows on two sides, lofty ceilings, commodious but unfussy tables, wood floors, large lighting fixtures and a choice of seats (banquettes, long communal tables surrounded by stools and upholstered chairs with winglets — not quite wingchairs but not straight ones either). Barrel-aged spirits are done in-house, and the barrels decorate the bar. The cocktail program looks divine, but it was too early.

Much is house-made, and many ingredients come from Colorado. Telluride-raised Chris Thompson is the talented executive chef who has a way with meat and brings  butchering and charcuterie/salumi to the restaurant. Our waiter was professional, efficient and knowledgeable. And he didn’t address us as “You guys,” which is all too common these days, especially in the college town of Boulder where I live, and which always gets my back up.

The house-cured meats, cheeses, pickles such “goodies” as marcona almonds and  house-made jams appear on a sushi-style menu and are priced by the 1-, 2- or 4-ounce portion.

The sushi-style charcuterie menu is held to a metal plate by a nickel to which a small magnet has been glued.
The sushi-style charcuterie menu is held to a metal plate by a nickel to which a small magnet has been glued.
Our selections beautifully presented on board included jamon Iberico, Midnight Blue cheese from Colorado's Avalanche Ranch. Grana Padano Parmesan and jam, along with bread from Grateful Bread.
Our selections on beautifully presented on board included jamon Iberico, Midnight Blue cheese from Colorado’s Avalanche Ranch. Grana Padano Parmesan and jam, along with bread from Grateful Bread.
Neither of us had room for a full sandwich, so we shared a Porchetta sandwich. Its star was pork belly, rotisserie-roasted for six hours to delicious crispness, and stuffed into a Grateful Bread ciabatta roll along with fresh greens and Castelvetrano olive aioli. Fine-skin-on fries are in a paper cone alongside.
Neither of us had room for a full sandwich, so we shared a Porchetta sandwich. Its star was pork belly, rotisserie-roasted for six hours to delicious crispness, and stuffed into a Grateful Bread ciabatta roll along with fresh greens and Castelvetrano olive aioli. Fine-skin-on fries are in a paper cone alongside.

Price check: At brunch, “To Start,” $8-$13; sandwiches, $13-$18; plates, $13-$16; sides, $3-$5; charcuterie, priced by the ounce.

The Hotel Teatro is at 1100 14th Street, Denver; 303-228-1100.

 

The Nickel on Urbanspoon

A Tasty Oil & Vinegar Shop Visit

New shop for gourmet condiments, pasta and gifts at FlatIron Crossing Mall.

001I have met the folks from Oil & Vinegar at food events in the last few months. They were congenial and enthusiastic, and they kept urging me to come visit their new store at Broomfield’s FlatIron Crossing Mall. Although I tend to prefer real downtowns to indoor malls, I promised that I would stop by — and now I have. And I was impressed. This light, bright store is filled with kegs of some 50 interesting olive and other oils and vinegars on tap, plus bottles of the exotic expensive stuff. Condiments, artisanal pastas, sauces, herbs, spices and beguiling tableware are temptingly displayed.

Liquid deliciousness from stainless steel kegs fills bottles of customers' choices.
Liquid deliciousness from stainless steel kegs fills bottles that customers select.
Tasting station for a variety of olive and other oils. The first thing you notice are the different colors and shades of oils. Spear small pieces of bread on toothpicks, dip and taste away.
Tasting station for a variety of olive and other oils. The first thing you notice are the different colors and shades of oils. Spear small pieces of bread on toothpicks, dip and taste away.
Pasta, sauces and plates to serve them on are grouped in one section of the store. It sparks ideas for the foodies on our gift list.
Pasta, sauces and plates to serve them on are grouped in one section of the store. It sparks ideas for the foodies on our gift list.

To further tempt, everything that comes in a jar or bottle is available for tasting. In fact, customers are urged to sample whatever they’ve stopped to look at. My downfall was the first item I tasted: Delizia al Barolo e Tartufo, a blend of vinegar made from Barolo grape, which many think makes Italy’s greatest wine, and blended with summer truffles. One seductive taste and I was in love with this vinegar that is as thick as syrup, a little sweet and has two of the finest flavors on the planet in one pretty little bottle. The Oil & Vinegar website suggests using it in salads, sprinkling it on grilled meats and adding to hearty vegetable dishes. I’m thinking more that I’ll use it with next summer’s caprese salad and pouring a bit on vanilla ice cream. It’s that good.

The current object of my vinegar affection -- or perhaps obsession.
The current object of my vinegar affection — or perhaps obsession.

Olive & Vinegar is a Dutch company with hundreds of retail locations on the Continent. There are only about 20 in the US, and the FlatIron Crossing Mall location is currently Colorado’s only one. It is on the mall’s upper level, across from Williams-Sonoma, which is a bonus for foodies or those who are shopping for foodies for the holidays. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 12 noon to 6 p.m. It will be closed on Christmas, as it was on Thanksgiving. The franchise-holders want employees and customers to spend holidays at the table, not at work.

1 West FlatIron Crossing Drive, Unit 2253, Broomfield, 303-404-1762.

Yo Mama! YAMA is Opening at Steamboat

Slopeside modern Japanese, sushi and ramen bar opens today.

Steamboat-logoWhen I was at Steamboat early in fall, chef/owner Brian Vaughn of bistro c.v. and LOW Country Kitchen and his wife Katy welcomed a group of food journalists to their downtown Steamboat Springs restaurants and then gave us a tour on the slopeside space that was then being remodeled into YAMA, a cutting-edge Japanese restaurant, sushi bar and “rameneria” (my word, not theirs).

YAMA is opening today, just steps from the esteemed Café Diva and within view of Gondola Square at the ski area’s main base. At bistro c.v., Brian Vaughn became known for serving exquisite composed dishes that taste as fabulous as they look. He promises the same with sashimi , sushi and ramen, linchpins of Japanese foods. The Vaughns have invested in top-line kitchen appliances including the stunning fabulous Jade Custom Suite that chefs drool over. Here are what the restaurant looks like — and it is a beauty:

YAMA is a glittering addition to the Steamboat apres-ski and dining scene with a hyper-contemporary Japanese-inspired menu.
YAMA is a glittering addition to the Steamboat apres-ski and dining scene with a hyper-contemporary Japanese-inspired menu.

The Vaughns invited us to a preview of the YAMA menu at bistro c.v. . Click here for my post from that occasion, including images of such divine dishes as Hamachi tartare, carpaccio of Waygu beef and steamed buns. The new restaurant has an open kitchen, so guests can see where the magic occurs. For the moment at least, YAMA is open for après-ski starting at 3 p.m. and dinner.

. Yama on Urbanspoon

Lower 48’s Multi-State Toast

New heights for humble food.

ToastWhen I read the headline, “Best U.S. Toast” as Food & Wine’s most recent “top” list, Garrison Keillor’s frequent references to toast came to mind. But no, F&W didn’t find any top toasts in Lake Woebegone but rather in top eating cities — including Denver. Here’s how the site described Lower48 Kitchen, its Colorado selection, and it’s a lot more elaborate than the slices shown here:

Lower48 Kitchen; Denver

Chef Alexander Figura wanted to create a toast to honor the bounty of the Lower 48 states. The base is sourdough house-made with flour from an organic mill in Utah. Figura tops it with ham sliced as thinly as possible, which he sources from The Hamery in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where it is aged from 18 to 24 months. Colorado ingredients are piled on next, including ricotta made with milk from a dairy in Longmont; and pickled peaches made from highly sought after fruit from Palisade; this impressive base is topped with three varieties of basil from an organic farm in Brighton.

Lower48 is one of just 15 toast purveyors on the list. Being listed was a nice gift, coming just a few days after its first anniversary.

Denver Has One of America’s Best New Restaurants

Work & Class on Thrillist.com’s top 21 list.

Thrillist-logoThrillist.com loves lists, and I love it when a Colorado restaurant or other enterprise makes it onto one of the site’s “top” or “best” lists. Work & Class is the latest, just having been named one of “The 21 Best New Restaurants in America 2014.” It’s the last on the list, but since the list is alphabetical, no ranking is implied — and as one whose last name is near the end of the alphabet, I get it.

Thrillist wrote:

Denver, CO

Work & Class

There are no mysteries at Work & Class. You pick a meat, you pick a side, and you should probably also pick a beer, because it’s Denver. Simple right? But when you’re making a choice between red chile-braised pork and coriander-roasted colorado lamb or chipotle-tomato mac & cheese and Brussels sprout, apple, and bacon hash, things get pretty damn stressful. Oh, and there are apps like the Peppers Five Ways, a fiery mixture of fresno chile poppers and bacon-wrapped jalapeños, and pepper jam with toasts, and, well, two others, but you’ll get distracted again by the fact that you can add extra poppers or bacon-wrapped numbers. Which you should because you’re a smart person. The on-the-surface-simplicity extends to booze with a mix-and-match style set-up where you choose a liquor and choose a house mix, but just try and stay level-headed when opting for the spicy basil sour versus the spiced cran-apple cider and when picking which of the 10 tequilas you should add in. The answer here is obvious, though: treat it just like that choose-your-own-adventure book where you totally went with every option and go back again, and again, and again.

The chef is Dana Rodriguez, who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and came to the US with her three children. She climbed up the Denver restaurant ladder, working with Jennifer Jasinski, then at Panzano and now partner in Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall and Stoic & Genuine in Union Station. Rodrigquez spent two years as executive chef at Bistro Vendôme, but years earlier, when she was Panzano, Tony Maciag was behind the bar. Rodriguez and Maciag are partners in Work and Class, opened in a cool complex of repurposed shipping containers on the fringes of the Ballpark Neighborhood. She is the executive chef, building her menu on the foundation of family recipes. The revies have been glowing, and crowds began coming as soon as it opened in January. I’ve seen it, but haven’t eaten there yet. It’s on “the list.”

A New Aspen Avalanche of Great Food

Avalanche Ranch spawns from-the-farm market & restaurant.

033Avalanche Cheese Company’s exemplary goat cheese burst on the Roaring Fork Valley culinary scene in 2008 and quickly became a major player on the Colorado artisanal cheese scene. Fast forward to 2014, and owner Wendy Mitchell opened Meat & Cheese, a combination restaurant, farm market and gourmet food market on the order of Alex Seidel’s Mercantile Dining & Provisions in Denver’s Union Station and Hosea Rosenberg’s Blackbelly in East Boulder that are restaurants plus something else.

At Meat & Cheese, the “something else” comprises Avalanche and other cheeses, salume and sandwiches fill the glass cases near the front door, while a long, skinny dining area along the left side of the space is for eat-in guests.

The cheese counter right at the front door features Avalanche and other cheeses.
The cheese counter right at the front door features Avalanche and other cheeses.

Even in the off-season between Thanksgiving and Christmas when i it’s mostly locals in town, the restaurant was buzzing, and with good reason. Locals know what’s good, whether a long-time favorite or, even more so, when there’s a new place. Meat & Cheese has a Continental air about it — what with the farm shop component, the superb artisanal cheeses and cured meats, house-made deli meats, seasonal produce, imported or America gourmet  foods in cans, packages or jars on a tall shelf.  And of course, there are craft beers and interesting wines by the glass and bottle.

Stylish informality means flatware in mason jars is on the reclaimed wood tables.
Stylish informality means flatware in mason jars is on the reclaimed wood tables.

Meat & Cheese is also a terrific place to go for lunch (order from the counter) or dinner  (table service), which I truly enjoyed with two companions. We happily shared “boards” and other items, just the way the menu was designed.

We combined items for the meat and cheese boards -- in a sense honoring the eatery's name. Country pate, pork terrine, saucisson rouge, mortadella, triple-cream brie, Apppalachian tome, cornichons, Herlocher's mustard, pear chutney and Avalanche's own levain bread.
We combined items from the meat and cheese boards — in a sense honoring the eatery’s name. Country pate, pork terrine, saucisson rouge, mortadella, triple-cream brie, Apppalachian tomme, cornichons, Herlocher’s mustard, pear chutney and Avalanche’s own levain bread.
Three grain salad is a healthy heap of black ride, faro and bulgur with roasted winter squash, red peppers, blue cheese, pine nuts and house vinaigrette.
Three grain salad is a healthy heap of black ride, faro and bulgur with roasted winter squash, red peppers, blue cheese, pine nuts and house vinaigrette.
A trio of Wagyu meatballs with hoisin sauce and pureed sweet potatoes with toasted cumin.
A trio of Wagyu meatballs with hoisin sauce and pureed sweet potatoes with toasted cumin.

051

Winter spice cake with lime whipped cream encircled by honey.
Winter spice cake with lime whipped cream encircled by honey.

Price check: At dinner, “boards,” $6 (bread board), then $12-$40 (single to double) and local rotisserie chicken ($24 for half and $48 for whole); dinner, $-$28; desserts, $7.

I just alerted urbanspoon.com to Meat & Cheese. Until they add their graphic, know that it is at 319 East Hopkins Avenue, Aspen; 970-710-7120.

America’s ‘Most Eco-Conscious’ Eatery Is in Boulder

Bramble & Hare tops national list.

CultureTrip-;ogo-jpgWhen I read the headline, “The Top Ten Eco-Conscious Restaurants in The United States,” I knew that one would be a Colorado restaurant (and probably Boulder, and I immediately thought: The Kitchen. But I guessed wrong. The Culturist selected Boulder’s Bramble & Hare, like the original Kitchen in downtown Boulder, to top the list. Perhaps it was not intended to be a 1-t0-10 ranking but rather a roundup of the top 10, But still….. Here’s what the site posted:

Black Cat Bistro

Chef Eric Skokan is one of the most ambitious farm-to-table chefs in the United States. He farms and ranches more than 130 acres in Boulder County, Colorado, to support his two restaurants – Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare, in addition to his farm stand at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market and his Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Nearly all of the food at his restaurants comes from his very own fields: carrots, lentils, corn for polenta, lovage, lamb, eggs, heritage pigs, beef, goose and much more. From the menu, try the farm vegetable curry, which includes ricotta, beets and basmati rice cakes.

Black Cat Bistro, 1964 13th Street, Boulder, CO, USA +1 303 444 5500

Also, Colorado writer Douglas Brown, late of the Denver Post, did a Q&A with Skokan that appears in the current issue of Origin magazine under the title “Restaurateur Eric Skokan: Farm to Table the Skokan Way.”

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.