Tag Archives: happy hour

Meeting Meat Again

Years of minimal meat consumption + low energy + 2 meals with meat = energy restored

It is easy not to eat red meat in Boulder, and by and large, the only times I have in the last 15 or 20 years is when I have been a judge at a chefs’ competition (and that’s just a bite here and a bite there because there are so many dishes to taste), at a fixed-menu dinner with not options (hey, I ate kangaroo a few months ago) or when my husband orders a good sausage in Europe or a good filet mignon anywhere and I have a bite. I probably have eaten no more than two or three pounds of mammal meat a year.

My slide to red meatlessness was not a long-past “decision,” but was an evolution in my eating. I don’t miss the meat-in-the-mouth taste, and I feel environmentally virtuous because it takes many pounds of fodder to bring an animal to market weight in order to produce a single pound of meat. And here I do mean  mammals — beef, lamb, pork, farm-raised game meats and the like — because I never quit poultry or seafood. And we all know that too much red meat isn’t really healthy.

But lately I’ve been feeling really tired, and this past week, got a real protein craving. I ate red meat two nights in a row. The skies did not fall. I was able to digest them both. I perked up. I am unlikely to become a heavy-duty carnivore, but I realize that a protein hit once in a while is good for me. Some people need it all the time, some never and I’m now one who will eat meat as needed. Is it a fall from grace?

I had “big juicy burger” on the brain, when we went to Murphy’s South for happy hour, but I ordered a pair of lamb sliders instead. The meat was tasty and tender, and I did feel a slight power surge. The next evening, I still hadn’t gotten over the burger craving, and at Foolish Craig’s, I ordered a burger from their regular menu. It claimed to be a half-pounder, and it came on a toasted bun with a choice of cheeses (I picked mozzarella), lettuce, tomato and red onion, with good, crisp skin-on fries, a small ramekin of cole slaw and a pickle spear on the side. I really felt the protein hit, but I can’t pretend that I was ballistically happy with the taste combo that, back in the day, I once loved. So I’m comfortable eschewing red meat — till the next set-menu dinner or next protein craving. And as Edith Ann would say, “And that’s the truth.”

Colterra’s New Patio & Happy Hour

Niwot restaurant’s expanded menu & excellent new outdoor space

Colterra is a charmer in the center of Niwot —  a historic sugarbeet baron’s home that has been tastefully adapted to restaurant use. For the last five years or so, it has earned its reputation as one of Boulder County’s fine-dining destinations for dinner and lunch with ambiance that matches the food. Now with the seasonal opening of a wisely relocated and greatly expanded terrace complete with satellite bar and (soon) outdoor grill, it has added happy hour to its weekday lunch, dinner and weekend brunch service.

Owner/chef Bradford Heap  commutes by bike between home and his two restaurants, weather permitting, to stay in shape and train for Ride the Rockies. Perhaps he occasionally reminisces sbout the time he spent working with two- and three-star chefs in France and Italy following his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America. And perhaps he muses how he can continue to combine technique-driven French cuisine and market-driven Italian fare that he integrated into his formal culinary education and apply them Colterra.

Bradford Heap, owner/chef of Colterra in Niwot and SALT in Boulder.

Heap has been sourcing from local growers whenever possible both for Colterra and for SALT, the trendy bistro he runs in downtown Boulder, and now he is getting ready to plant edibles on his own retaurant’s property. As is the case with Colterra’s interior, his wife Carol designed the patio, which has enough solid space for tables with two broad strips of banked dirt planting seasonal vegetables, herbs and edible flowers — something of a challenge under the shade of enormous old trees. Heap has no delusions that the property will be able to supply more than a fraction of the restaurant’s produce needs, but he also says that cooks are inspired by seeing things grow so close to the kitchen. During happy hour or when a private party occupies the outdoor space, rolling planters will separate the patio from the walkway, and trellises arre going in along the perimeter as a privacy screen.

Colterra's expanded patio is ideal for warm weather.

The original plan was for a Monday evening patio preview party outdoors, but wind, cool temperatures and perhaps even sprinkles were forecast, so after cocktails, we moved indoors to sample items from the new happy hour menu. The happy hour menu is well balanced and appealing to Boulder County’s range of tastes, food philosophies and dietary restrictions (they have gluten-free everything for those who must avoid wheat). When taking photos of the dishes,  I didn’t use the flash after we moved inside but should have. Know that the plates were pure white and the food the colors you might expect. Just use the images below to suggest the simple but attractive presentations, and everything tasted even better than it looked.

Excellent breads, some herbed and/or grilled -- and also gluten-free when required.
Madras curried chicken salad on local organic greens.
A two-fer, curry-marinated chilled mussels on a pasta crisp (left) and hot-smoked salmon on crostini topped with local micro-greens.
Steamed mussels with tomato, vermouth, rosemary and white beans, with a spear of grilled bread on the side. This is a long-running Colterra house specialty.
Skirt steak sandwich with grilled onions and basil aioli, cut into small rectangles to be easily shareable.
The tenderest imaginable boneless short rib with flavorful procini-Maderia jus and triables of crisp polenta.
Pillow-light gnocchi with such tender spring vegetables as sugar snap peaks, Hazel Dell mushrooms and sweet red peppers in a light basil pesto sauce.

Price check: At happy hour, small plates, $3-$6; drinks $3 for beer or ale; $3.75 for house wine by the glass, $3.50-$6 for cocktails.

Colterra on Urbanspoon

Happy Hour at Alba

Tuscan restaurant in Boulder offers nightly happy hour with good food at good prices

Yesterday evening was rainy and a bit chilly, just the sort of evening that called for either hunkering down at home or going out someplace warm and welcoming. My husband, Ral, and I increasingly enjoy early-evening happy hours take  a light bite out of the budget and don’t leave us overstuffed. We hadn’t happy houred for a while, so that’s what we decided to do.

When it comes to being warm and welcoming, Alba Restaurant & Wine Bar fills the bill on all counts.  The restaurant is tasteful and pretty, inspired by the owners’ frequent travels to Tuscany. A divider separates the bar from the dining room. Even when almost all tables are filled, there’s a pleasant buzz rather than a din, and that scores big points. I feel compelled to point out that while Alba is a warm, welcoming cocoon in winter, its spacious patio is one of Boulder’s best spots once outdoor dining season is back.

But back to what we wanted on a chilly December evening: Pleasing ambiance? Check. Good food? Check. Very afforadable  happy hour pricing? Available Friday evening? Check. One thing I also really like about Alba is that owners Rick and Susan Stein are almost always there, which means they are paying attention. It might also be the reason that the waitstaff asks over and over how we were liking everything.  One wine, one beer, one salad, one order of arancini and one pizza to share and we were asked six times how the food tasted. Overkill of concern.Basta!  

 I ordered a glass of  Canaletto Montepulciano d’Abruozzo 2007 from the town of Montepulciano in southern Tuscany and my husband had a bottle of Moretti La Rossa, a big-foam, dark Italian beer (bottle shown below with bread). The “wine bar” part of the name means that even a happy hour-priced wine is good.

Good bread with herbed ricotta in olive oil is even served at happy hour -- and even with a pizza order.
The simple presentation arancini, crisp-fired orbs of risotto with smoked mozzarella, don't hint at how good they really taste.
Lightly dressed green salad with crisp-fried onions, a perfect counterpoint to arancini and pizza.
Pzza Margherita made with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and strips of fresh basil.

 Price check: At happy hour (nightly except Sunday until 6:30 p.m.), beer, $3; wines and apperitivi, $4; mixed drinks, $5; small bites, $4; pizza, $9.

Alba on Urbanspoon