Tag Archives: Troy Guard

Hawaiian Food on my Mind

One “Top Chef finalist, Hawaiian cuisine class in Denver and a new near-Waikiki restaurant revs up

Hawaii is all over my culinary consciousness these days. Here are three reasons:

Hawaiian Chef Rising on “Top Chef”

Co-host Tom Colicchio and Sheldon Simeon in his signature red hat on "Top Chef."
Co-host Tom Colicchio and Sheldon Simeon in his signature red hat on “Top Chef.”

Sheldon Simeon, the congenial “cheftestant” who grew up in Hilo and is now the honored executive chef at Star Noodle in Lahaina on Maui, is a finalist on Season 10 of “Top Chef.” Or at least I think he is anyway  –unless the second-chance curves the producers are now throwing at the two finalists by inserting some who had been told to “pack your knives” appear appear to compete again. There’s also an online second-chance competetion that I’ve never watched and some kind of people’s choice contest too in the increasingly convoluted “Top Chef” format. On camera, Sheldon says he started out as a dishwasher, but the show’s website identifies him as having attended the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and Maui Culinary Academy. He’s a two-time James Bear Award semi-finalist.

Hawaii-Born Troy Guard’s Island Influenced Cooking Class

Chef Troy Guard who is schedule to teach a Hawaii-heavy class at The Seasoned Chef.
Chef Troy Guard who is schedule to teach a Hawaii-heavy class at The Seasoned Chef.

Troy Guard, chef/owner of Denver’s TAG Restaurant, TAG Raw Bar and most recently TAG Burger Bar, is returning to his Hawaiian roots with a tropically inspired class called “Continental Social Food” (which is TAG’s slogan, having little to do with the class) at The Seasoned Chef cooking school on Saturday, February 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is part of the Denver’s Best Chefs series — and indeed he is. He’ll demonstrate Hawaiian Butterfish; Smashed Shrimp Shui Mai; Braised Veal Cheek; Thai Chicken; Maui Sunrise Shortcake and TAG’s signature “Palisade Peach Fizz” cocktail. Register online or call 303-377-3222.

Pre-Pèppoli Pop-Ups Near Waikiki

Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, California, a forerunnner of the new Hawaiian location.
Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, California, a forerunnner of the new Hawaiian location.

There are a lot of restaurants in Honolulu and the most touristy ones are on Waikiki. In truth, the vast majority are, to put it kindly, uninspired. Coming this summer, a new Italian restaurant is poised to join the gourmet parade. Pèppoli, a Tuscan restaurant from the renowned Antinori family of Italy, opens in the Lotus Honolulu, occupying space that was previously home to such notable restaurants as David Paul’s Diamond Head Grill and Bobby Magees. Prior to the Pèppoli launch, Lotus Honolulu is hosting a series of “pop-up” restaurants from two of today’s most renowned chefs during limited engagements in February and March. The series features the cuisines of chef Greg Profeta, former chef at Restaurant Marc Forgione, and Chef Koji Tanaka, executive chef of Hiroyuki Sakai’s highly anticipated Sakai of Hawaii. If Sakai’s name sounds familiar, you probably watched some of the original, made in Japan “Iron Chef.” Allez cuisine!

Oh My Guard! Denver Chef Opening in Boulder

A scoop of sorts on Troy Guard’s new upcoming taqueria on Walnut

Troy Guard

Note: You need a scorecard to keep track of the players. Less than a week after I wrote the post below, quite pleased that I thought I scooped other local food bloggers, Denver Eater scooped me (and I think everyone else) by reporting that Troy Guard had, in fact, pulled out of the T|ACO project.

Boulder Organic Pizza bit the dust not too many days ago, and a new sign in the window promises T|ACO (pronounced  “Tiaco”), an “urban taqueria.” — not just any urban taqueria but one joining the growing empire of Denver star chef Troy Guard. OMG! He cooked around a bunch of places before opening TAG (for Troy Atherton Guard) on Larimer Square in 2009, expanding it with the TAG Raw Bar in the basement and beoming a partner in Madison Street, a congenial hang-out in the Congress Park neighborhood.

Workmen are currently dismantling Boulder Organic Pizza in prepartion for remaking the place into T|ACO, which coincidentally or not shares a name with an island in the Philippines. I’m going to guess that Tiaco will be on the order of Pinche, an upscale, yuppie-ish taqueria on York Street near City Park in Denver. I say this with anticipation, not as a criticism, because much as I treasure “authenticity,” I also like the upmarket version. So far, Troy Guard’s Tiaco seems to be a bit of a secret, Nothing in any of the major Front Range food blogs, not even Westword‘s “Cafe Society.” That doesn’t often happen. It’s not even on TAG’s website or its press section — or on partner H Burger Co’s either. I’ll keep you posted when I learn more.

Tiaco will be at 1175 Walnut Street, Boulder.

Trendy TAG’s Terrific Restaurant Week Menu

Larimer Square restaurant’s innovative combos & sparkling tastes 

Denver Restaurant Week 2011 ended this evening after a two-week run. Chefs, waitstaff and everyone else at the participating restaurants is presumbly in recuperation mode, but I’m still coasting on the pleasure of dining at the last two restaurants I visited. On Wednesday, my friend and MileHighOnTheCheap.com partner Laura and I rendezvoused at TAG, the Larimer Square eatery that has coined the phrase, “continental social food.” With inspiration from cuisines of the Americas, Asia and Europe, the name is not restricted to one particular continent but implies a high degree of sophistication and cultural cross-fertizilation.

The name reflects owner/chef Troy Atherton Guard’s initials, but there’s a double meaning too becausetag is a game, and there’s also a playfulness both to the decor and the sprightly menu that contrasts colors, textures and flavors in every dish. Decor-wise, there’s a bulldog portrait hung on a brick wall, a toy bulldog over the front entrance, a bulldog with a crown on the menu and perhaps other bulldogs that I didn’t spot. It is hommage to Guard’s bulldog who is named (drum roll),  Tag.

Tables in the main part of the restauant wrap around a tall, slim double-glass-sided wine cellar. At Aureole in Las Vegas, “wine angels” ride up and down in bossun’s chairs to retrieve wine from an even taller cellar. At TAG, they do it the old-fashioned way, using a ladder. There’s an open kitchen, minimalist black  tables and interesting pendant lamps hanging from the very high ceiling.  

Denver Restauarant Week Menu

I had never dined at TAG before, so I can’t relate the special three-course DRW menu to the regular one, but the that might be irregular too because it’s not available on the website. which implies that it often changes. The restaurant week menu reflected a wide range of inspirations as well as Kreativity and Kourage, because one of the first-course options was Kangaroo — not your usual Rocky Mountain fare.

The first course was called Inclination. In addition to our two choices, Petaluma chicken confit empanadas with bruléed avocado, smoked goat cheese and Tag mole was available. I was tempted to try that if only to tast bruléed avocado. We did have:

Deconstructed salad of Hawaiian ahi, Jerusalem artichokes, Persian lime and smoked aioli -- many influences in one dish.


Slices of tender kangaroo loin, cooked rare, on a base of kabocha squash and lemongrass gnocchi with Chinese black bean jus -- another cross-cultural combination.

The second course, called Temptation on the menu, featured two meats and a fish offering. The one we did not order was the center cut Yorkshire pork loin with scallion potato mash, long beans and chile pasilla sauce. We did order:

Colorado bison shortribs with sweet potato puree, Brussels sprouts, TAG pancetta and king pao butter.
Columbia River steelhead (a species that in Colorado is called rainbow trout) with quinoa, soy beans (out of the shell - hooray!), sunflower seeds and a sea of pureed pequillo peppers-plus.

Dessert was called Seduction on the menu. I would have called it Satisfaction, because satistified describes our feeling after we had cleaned our plates. White chocolate bread pudding with beet raspberry gel, ancho chile-chocolate crumble and crushed hazelnuts was the dessert that neither of us ordered. It appealed to me on many culinary creative levels, but I had several bread puddings in Alaska just last week, so I went for the semi-freddo instead.  

A devilishly rich disk of nutella semi-freddo atop a black pepper cookie-like crust of the same size and a scoop of raspberry lemongrass sorbet were excellent but would have looked lost on the plate, were it not for the chocolate swoosh and the sprinking of nutella powder.
East meets West in this picture-pretty assemblage of citrus almond spongecake cubes with jiggly pear gele, micro shiso and miso caramel.

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