Fresh Thymes Eatery employs a different funding concept
Fresh Thymes Eatery, anallergy-conscious, ultra-natural foods restaurant scheduled to open in June in the former Elephant Hut Thai space at the Boulder Steel Yards, is a “community-supported” enterprise whose funding, in addition to traditional financing, is to come through member shares of $250 to $5,000. Is this a first?
According to the Boulder County Business Report, “The funding model is similar to that of ‘”community-supported agriculture,’ or CSA, in which people buy a ‘share’ of vegetables from a farmer before the growing season and get them delivered – usually weekly – during the summer months. Fresh Thymes members will get special deals, meals and other goodies once the restaurant opens…[focusing] on healthy takeout items such as ‘ingredient-conscious’ salads, sandwiches and hot items. Customers will be able to pick up items or eat at the restaurant.”
Owner Christine Ruch plans to open Fresh Thymes in June. She has had her own issues with food allergies and autoimmune disease, and in fhe process of her own struggles ultimately became the head culinary instructor of Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Boulder and also has served as head chef for the Growe Foundation, a fresh vegetable food program in the Boulder Valley School District. Fresh Thymes will be located at 2500 30th Street in Boulder.
Although PastaVino, just west of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, has been in business for several weeks, the official grand opening was Sunday evening, May 6, and that was the first time I set foot inside. The stylish new restaurant promised free food samples and live music. Tables had been pushed aside, and it was S.R.O. around the tasting station, the wood oven area and the gorgeous bar. The food kept coming out — pizza, pasta, lasagne, gnocchi, salads, calamari, sweets.
Chef Fabio Flagello uses natural and organic ingredients. The menu is in Italian with English “subtitles” and an indication as to whether each dish is gluten free, gluten free option and/or vegetarian. The food was good and provided incentive to return to try more — and a table to savor it in comfort. I was taken aback when a modest pour of red or white wine cost $8. At the time, I thought that least happy hour pricing ought to have applied. But as I look at the online menus, I see that PastaVino, despite its name, seems to be promoting beer and spirits, with large lists of both and a happy hour discount on both. Surprisingly, there is not even a wine list on the website.
Riffs Urban Fare an appealing replacement for beloved Book End Cafe
For years and years, some of my Boulder Media Women friends and I would meet every Friday morning for coffee and conversation at Boulder’s Book End Cafe, next to the Boulder Book Store. The cafe got grubby, but we loved it anyway for its good coffee, better house-baked goods, south-facing patio, even the leaky bi-fold front windows but mostly just because it was our once-a-week cafe. Tom Christopher, one of the regulars who always arrived earlier than the BMW group, would save the front center table for us until we had a “quorum,” which meant just two women. It was what German-speakers would call our Stammtisch.
We regulars were sad when the Book End closed and have been semi-homeless, trying to find an equally congenial replacement, but Riffs Urban Fare, the restaurant that now occupies the space, has retained a few treasured artifacts, notably the big ball of string and the architectural cornice high on an exposed brick wall. It’s a nice nostalgic touch.
The scene on a recent Friday evening with an impending C.U. home game was energetic, both at the bar and at the tables. It already seems to be a new Boulder hotspot. Opened recently by the talented John Platt of Q’s at the Boulderado, Riffs on the Pearl Street Mall calls itself a “foodbar” and serves attractive and well-conceived small and semi-small plates. (Apologies for photographing my own shadow. The lighting tended to trick the camera — or at least the photographer).
Gold potato gnocchi with similar-sized kabocha squash, chanterelles, sage and Parmesan foam. A few more gnocchi and several fewer cubes of squash would have been a better balance. And I guess that foam is back!
Wonderful salad of flash-cooked Brussels sprouts with leaves off peeled off the heads and served in a soup bowl with brown butter, hazelnuts and crisp shallots.
Price check: In the evening, small plates, $6-$11 plus Denver Bread Co. boule with white bean purée and sea salt, $2; salads and soups, $5-$11 plus antipasto plate, $15; vegetables, $4-$5; “Pasta & Such,” $10-$15; sandwiches, $8-$10 including fries or salad; “Other Fun Stuff,” $13-$15 (fun including steak and duck confit; desserts, $8.
Trendy & edgy restaurant opens in Boulder today after yesterday’s preview
The Kitchen [Next Door], the much anticipated pub-style restaurant just west of and connected to The Kitchen in downtown Boulder, opens to the public today at 11:00 a.m., but Boulder has been buzzing about it for weeks. It’s run by the same team as The Kitchen, namely co-owners Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Musk and talented and dedicated cast of supporting players. When that restaurant opened more than six years ago, it was a pioneer in sourcing from local purveyors and farmers, composting/recycling, zero waste purchasing practices and in many ways large and small conserving energy and resources. Now, its practices have gone mainstream, in Boulder anyway.
Yesterday was preview opening for [Next Door], which takes the original Kitchen’s environmentally aware practices and enhances them. According to a pre-opening press release, this “casual, farm-to-table community pub that will serve super fast, slow food (in other words, farm fresh food will come in less than 10 minutes). The new restaurant will also introduce a zero plastic, aluminum and glass waste program. All beer and wine will be served directly from the barrel (unprecedented in any other Colorado restaurant and perhaps one of the first in the nation to do so!). Also, part of the proceeds from [Next Door] will go to building gardens in local schools.” Overly precious name with those annoying [square brackets] aside, it has the earmarks of wonderful food, a successful future and positive community involvement.
The space is pared-down and functional with gunmetal gray walls, white ceiling and simple furnishings. Gray metal backless stools at the community table, hightops and bar, and retro supperclub booths in the dining area. The floor is covered in beetle-kill wood, and the lighting is a combination of drop fixtures and indirect light, plus, of course, daylight. Only one small shabby chic, distressed washstand softens the overall edginess.
Local wine writer Bruce Schoenfeld likened the back bar to that at St. John Restaurant in London. He travels way more than I do, and either Hugo or Kimbal, to whom he made the observation, confirmed that the trendy, pricey London restaurant served as the inspiration. When I looked at photos of the St. John and compared them with [Next Door], the main resemblance I saw was in the ceiling fixutres with their dark metal shades. There seemed little commonality between St. John’s white walls and white tablecloths and [Next Door]’s bare wood tables and (mostly) darker walls.
I suppose it’s not unreasonable to call [Next Door] a gastropaub — a healthy, locavore-oriented gastropub with a a small, light-on-meat lunch menu printed on plain brown paper. Some dishes have been adopted from The Kitchen, but others are brand new, creative and tasty too. There are six items in each of four categories: plates to share, sandwiches, salads and sides, plus four soups and three desserts. The beverage list features eight wines wines and ten beers, all organic and sustainably produced, and tapped directly from the kegs, thereby further cutting down items to recycle.
The offerings — at least at this time of year — are primarily meatless, part of the co-owners’ commitment to keeping the menu as local as possible. There’s a roast lamb sandwich and a pulled pork sandwich, but a beet burger rather than a beefburger and a mushroom loaf rather than meatloaf. The buns deserve an award. Firmer than supermarket burger buns but softer than most whole-grain rolls, they combine wonderful texture with good, unaggressive flavor.
Tangerine, new breakfast/lunch spot, coming next door to Arugula in April
Chef Alec Schuler likes to name restaurants after items from the produce bin. The chef/owner of Boulder’s awesome Arugula Bar e Ristorante is partnering with Phil Armstrong, who created Hush Denver, to open Tangerine, a new breakfast and lunch spot slated to launch in April. First came Arugula and on the horizon is Tangerine right next door, where Fully Belly/Radex were most recently. Tangerine promises to be “fresh, playful, affordable, warm, simple and distinctive” with great service and good food, according to a press release. Schuler knows all about great service and food, but I’m guessing that Armstrong is bringing the playful part, for the Swiss are not exactly known for playfulness — and grew up in New York but of Swiss parentage .
Schuler’s culinary training was nutrition-oriented, so he has created a menu rich with natural, high-quality and healthy dishes. The menu will balance between typical American brunch fare with lots of eggs, variations on the theme of Benedict, pancakes, waffles and side dishes with a Mediterranean accent and and healthy flare. Schuler also promises to “focus on seasonal, natural products, house-made bacon from Long Farm pork bellies, freshly squeezed orange and tangerine juice, fresh pastries, muffins and breads baked daily,“ says Schuler. Mix ’em all together and you get items like cassoulet and poached eggs, polenta and Romesco and caprese frittata.
The plan is for Tangerine to be open daily serving breakfast from 7:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and lunch from 11:00 a.m. to -2:30p.m. I’m not clear on this, but it also seems that from 4:30 to 11:00 p.m., the Tangerine space can also service as an adjuct to Arugula, either daily or as need, with a small plate menu, salumi, cheese and dessert. 2779 Iris Avenue, Boulder.
Hot new Boulder restaurant has good genes but still some kinks to be ironed out
A few Mondays ago, my husband and I headed to the then-quite-new Oak at Fourteenth (or OAK at Fourteenth, as they write it), but it was closed for a private party. I finally got there for lunch this week with three gal-pals. In the meantime, I’ve personally known or heard about several people who fell head over heels for it and have already been there two or three or more times. It’s always that way with someplace very new and very cool, but those latest-and-greatest enthusiasts often have short attention spans. A few have already shifted their focus to The Pinyon, an even newer (one week old today) Boulder restaurant. Sic transit loyalty.
From the old 14th Street Grill, it inherited a wonderful location, pleasantly sized space, big windows facing 14th Street that bring in the light but not too much foot traffic and a small patio seating area. Oak’s own changes are a reutilization of the open kitchen and the talents of creative team, Steven Redzikowski captaining the kitchen and Bryan Dayton helming the bar. Dayton is known as one of the best mixologists around, and it seems that much of the lunch crowd had no hesitation to imbibe in his creations. If I had, it might have taken the edge off my observations and I would most likely have slept all afternoon.
There’s a lot to like about Oak, and once it completely finds its footing, I have no doubt that this good place will become even better. Partners Dayton, Redzikowski and GM Annie Polk have immaculate credentials, so expectations were sky-high and the buzz deafening even before the doors were open. Perfection is a great challenge for a brand new place.
The food has some innovative twists and the wine list is imposing, but overall, the lofty expectations and relentless local foodie buzz still present a dilemma. While Oak is mostly very good, excessive anticipation magnifies even small flaws. The waitstaff is still a bit under-trained. During our first 15 minutes, there were at at least four loud flatware fumbles when someone dropped forks and/or spoons and/or knives on the wood floor while setting or clearing a table. At least there were no glassware or crockery crashes.
The lunch and dinner menus list dishes either as “shared plates” and “large plates,” but these categories seemed somewhat random to a quartet of writers and editors like us. The mac and cheese, for instance, is listed as a “shared plate,” while the soup and salads are among the “large plates.” The four of us were given two different lunch menus, and of course, the grilled toast with wild mushrooms that we wanted as a starter turned out to be no longer available.
The oddball bread service seems both chintzy and wasteful. One piece of very good bread is placed on each bread plate, and a cube of perfectly soft and spreadable butter sprinkled with a bit of salt (left) is placed in the middle of the table. However, once a slice of bread is finished, no one offers a second slice and worse, someone swoops over and removes the plate. And the partly used butter is whisked away too. A request for another piece of bread therefore means not only soiling one more plate, but delivering a fresh cube of butter.
The cheese-avoider among us spotted a salad on the menu that listed the key ingredients, except for the cheese. She’s too nice to have sent it back, but she spent a good part of the lunch picking cheese out of the greenery. In a place like Boulder with more than the usual percentage of vegans, the omission was surprising.
Lunch — at Last
Now that you’ve read about matters that would be minor in a new restaurant had there not been so much spin about this one, here’s what we had for lunch:
When it came to coffee and dessert, the service got weird again. We ordered two coffees and one tea. We had a choice of medium or dark roasts, which is wonderful. The tea didn’t come and didn’t come, and when the tea-drinker asked to cancel the order, a server apologized, brought a fine selection of teas and did not charge for them. That wasn’t the weird part though. The sugar bowl came with large-crystal turbinado sugar — and dinky little salt spoon. No white sugar or sugar substitute was even offered.
Of course, we decided to share a dessert, and of course, this took much deliberation. We settled on a espresso mousse topped with a layer of dark chocolate and a unbuttered, unsalted popcorn. I’m afraid I was the only one who liked it. I’ve had popcorn as condiment with ceviche, soups and other foods in Ecuador, and I kind of like that mild crunch contrast to soft foods. One of my friends dug under the popcorn to reach the sweet stuff, and another who “thought” the dark chocolate would be “different” ate very little.
When all was said, done and devoured, I found Oak at Fourteenth full of promise that would already been kept if the opening profile had been lower and word-of-mouth had gone along with ironing out early snags. At the end of lunch, we shared out observations with Annie Polk, who I think genuinely was interested in the feedback. While Oak’s lunch prices are a few dollars higher than at most downtown Boulder restaurants, the house was full of happy eaters who seemed content to be paying off the renovation as well as paying for the innovation. And I certainly have no issue with that seal of approval.
Price Check: At lunch, there’s a bit of price overlap between the ‘shared plates” ($5-$13, with most $8-$10) and “large plates ($9-$15).
New American restaurant opening on Boulder’s Pearl Street & more Boulder eatery news
Tomorrow or sometime this weekend, whenever The Pinyon opens to the public, Oak at 14th, which debuted less than a month ago, will no longer be the newest restaurant in town. Theo Adley, whose Colorado credentials include the Flagstaff House, Frasca and Radda Trattoria in Boulder and Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen, is serving American food in the upscale mountain mode. He told Westword restaurant critic Laura Shunk, ” “I’m like Jeremiah Johnson with a terrine pan.” He and GM/beverage boss Leorah Young are promising seasonal and local products — in this case including a strong Colorado beverage list. Beers and wines, of course, plus a US-oriented spirits program.
The Pinyon is opening in the former Bimbamboo space at 1710 Pearl Street, 720-306-8248.
Update Note: We drove by on Friday evening (December 10) and the place looked busy. It was either a soft opening or full-on service. I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to trying yet another new kid on the Boulder restaurant block.
While Oak at 14this up and running and The Pinyon is in the starting blocks, just waiting for the gun and the “go,” Jordan Wallace’s Pizzeria Locale, just two doors to the west, has hit another sort of block — namely import roadblocks. It appears that this offshoot of Frasca is still waiting for its pizza oven from Italy, which has reportedly been held up in Customs. Pizzeria Locale was slated to open in November. Now, the owner anticipating a January premiere.
Happenings on Arapahoe
I was driving down Arapahoe Avenue this afternoon and spotted an “Opening Soon” sign for Pizzeria Da Lupo in the Village Shopping Center (1515 Arapahoe Avenue) in the same strip as Changes in Latitude and Tokyo Joe’s. Also, a couple of blocks away, the former Dolan’s space at 2319 Arapahoe is becoming something. The trim on the white building has been painted Blockbuster Video blue and yellow. I have no idea what it is going to be.
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.