Les Dames d’Escoffier of Colorado are a lovely group of ladies, or dames, if we dare declare, who are a women’s philanthropic organization that raises money for women entering the culinary field. Local Table Tours was honored to bring them on a tasting tour to a handful of Boulder’s best establishments.
Our first stop was OAK at Fourteenth for a “healthy” start to our afternoon. OAK has been known for a couple years now for it’s kale and apple salad. Chef Steve Redzikowski started serving this salad well before kale was cool, and it’s been a staple on their menu since they opened. No culinary excursion to Boulder is complete without a taste of OAK, as it continues to be listed among the top restaurants in Colorado.
We enjoyed the kale salad with a taste of a cocktail, as OAK is lauded not just for it’s fantastic food, but for it’s beverage program by co-owner Bryan Dayton as well. We enjoyed a light tail called The Steph, which is named after a frequent customer of Dayton’s bar .
We had a nice table in their private dining room, The Acorn Room, and as with many tours, just as soon as we were comfortable, it was time to move on… to cheese. Cured was our second stop and one of their managers and cheese aficionados, Jessica, offered us some tastes of her absolute favorite cheeses- a Kunik, Dunbarton Blue Cheddar, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve. My personal highlight of this tour was when she told us we were tasting a brand new wheel of Kinsman Ridge that she herself had not yet tasted. This wheel was made by the Landaff Creamery and aged at Jasper Hill, which means a WHOLE LOT to you if you follow artisan cheese. If you don’t, all you need to know is it’s a delicious cheese and you’d like to buy at least a 1/2 pound.
From Cured we went to Zeal- Food for Enthusiasts, for a nice chat with Culinary Director Arik Markus and a taste of a cold-pressed juice cocktail, falafel (which features carrot pulp from the juicer) and hummus. Zeal is Boulder’s newest restaurant, and has quickly become an excitingly popular place for healthy, clean food on the east end of Pearl Street. We could have sat at their community table all afternoon talking about food, but it was yet again time to move on.
By this time we were running a few minutes late, but our next stop, Locale Boulder, was luckily right next door. We arrived to a table of ten Aperol Spritz cocktails, which undoubtedly caused ten smiles. A spritz, arancini, and pizza allowed us a nice time to relax, eat, drink, and talk about the Colorado food scene. It became clear at this point that Local Table Tours’ guides have a VERY difficult job (smile).
Our dining experience at Locale was highlighted by a taste of their Budino, a perfect pudding that you MUST try.
After our first dessert, we were invited to visit the Stefano Ferrara oven, a 1,000 degree wood burning oven that is relatively cool to the touch on the outside. This is always a surprise to tour guests. How could something thats SO HOT be approachable…?
After a tour through the immaculate kitchen of Frasca Food & Wine, an introduction to their glass polishing room, and exiting through the formal dining room, we continued on to our second dessert at Piece Love & Chocolate. Sarah Amorese, owner and chocolate expert, not only introduced us to her chocolate boutique, but offered us tastes of baked goods, truffles, chocolate covered candied bacon, and sipping chocolate.
This was an incredibly fun afternoon, and we at Local Table Tours look forward to doing something like this again soon.
Last year Pizzeria Locale featured guest chef Chris Thompson of San Francisco’s A 16 for two nights here in Boulder. Some friends and I had an exceptional dining experience that I documented on A Bolder Table. This year Caleb Schiff of Pizzicletta in Flagstaff, AZ, came to Boulder to be featured for two nights at Locale. Last year I had the privilege of dining in the Caffe rather than the pizzeria, and it was so much more quiet and intimate, so I requested a six top in the Caffe again, found five special guests, and arrived with an appetite.
Pizzicleta offered a prix fixe menu at $18 per person for three courses. Just as the A 16 dinner last year- this was without a doubt the best deal on dinner in town.
Pizzaiolo Schiff offered a Contorno (veggie side dish), a choice of two pizzas, and a choice of two gelati. Amongst the six of us, we tried everything plus a couple bottles of wine.
Our contorno was Melanzana alla Diavola- tomato, chili, eggplant, ricotta, lemon zest, and basil.
This rolled slice of eggplant stuffed with cheese on top of one of the most delicious tomato sauces I’ve ever had left all of us wanting more as we pretty much devoured every morsel on our plates. We were off to a great start.
Next came le pizze and we had a choice of red or white.
The Amore Oi Marí pizza had marscapone, pecorino romano, prosciutto di parma, arugula,and queen creek meyer lemon olive oil.
As I frequent Locale both on culinary tours and as a hot spot for dining with friends, I’m pretty familiar with the manager and servers. That was a real bonus for my group of friends and me because Dan, the manager, asked guest chef Caleb Schiff to greet us. Caleb didn’t just come and say hello- he introduced each course to us and answered all kinds of questions from my group. It was truly educational and delectable. Caleb explained to us that his dough is a sour dough that he makes with natural yeast. He arrived in Boulder a couple days early to make and proof his dough, and it was such fantastic dough that were money not an issue I’d travel to Flagstaff at least once a month just for a taste of his pizza. I was so completely satiated with his pizza at Locale that it warrants a trip to AZ to taste this pizza made in Pizzicletta’s own oven to experience the blistery “leopard-spotted” crust Caleb is known for.
I could go on to talk about dessert, but at this point I’d like to say the private dining experience in il Caffe is one not to be missed. Frasca and Locale will rent the Caffe for small gatherings, and it’s a very intimate, fun experience. Be careful though- The servers can hear everything, so if your quirky friend Matt starts talking about the whale jerky someone sent him from Japan, the pizzaiolo might come by to hear all about it.
After learning all about this mysterious whale jerky (which I got to try a few days later, by the way) Caleb introduced our final course, Gelati.
I got to try both desserts. I ordered the Roasted Almond Gelato which had a fine texture of almond nibs. My chef companion Sean went for the Olive Oil Gelato.
Pizzicletta features extra virgin olive oil from Casa Pau Hana Olive Oil Farm in Paso Robles, CA. I don’t recall ever tasting olive oil ice cream, and the few bites I had set the bar really high for any future olive oil ice cream. Chef Caleb explained to us that he gets very fresh olive oil (freshly pressed), and he enjoys cooking with it because it imparts a very sweet, fruity taste not necessarily found in olive oils that were bottled months before being opened.
By the end of the meal, we were all full, satiated, and quite happy to have enjoyed each others’ company in the private space offered by il Caffe. I’m already looking forward to Pizzeria Locale’s yet-to-be-announced next pizzaiolo.
There was no plan for dinner. Then, the plan was to order two pies from Pizzeria Locale to go, but I had just stocked up on produce at the Boulder farmers’ market, so ordering pies felt wasteful. And then the lightbulb went off- Why not buy their dough and make pizza at home? I tell almost all of my tour guests who get a taste of Locale that you can buy their dough to make pizza at home, yet I’d never tried it for myself. The results- a successful experiment in home cooking that I highly recommend.
I picked up two perfectly mixed, kneaded, and proofed balls of pizza dough that Locale sells for $2.50 per ball. Each is measured out to make one pie at Locale, so I decided to make two different pies.
Locale provides you with some simple instructions, so even novice pizza makers can make a pie at home. The biggest difference in your pie versus their pie is the oven temp. The Stefano Ferrara oven at Pizzeria Locale burns around 1,000 degrees and cooks each pie in 75-80 seconds. That was NOT happening in my house, so I turned my oven as high as it goes (450) and let it and a pizza stone heat up for an hour.
Meanwhile, I caramelized a yellow onion, crumbled Humboldt Fog cheese, sliced a local pear and apple, grilled an eggplant and garlic, and nibbled non-stop until I was ready to roll out the dough.
And let me tell you something about this dough- It feels amazing in your hands. I used to pride myself on making pizza dough from scratch at least twice per month for years and it never felt like this. Granted, I wasn’t using Caputo brand 00 flour, so if I REALLY want to experiment, I suppose I can pick up a bag of that at il Caffe and start from scratch… but I’ll leave that until another day.
I made two pies- The first was caramelized onion, kale, apple, pear, and Humboldt fog. It baked for close to ten minutes, and though not “wet” in the middle like at Locale, the crispy crust was perfect for slicing.
The second pie had a layer of heirloom tomatoes with grilled eggplant, garlic, and parmesan cheese. I can’t say which I preferred, as they were both really good, simple pies.
This was a fun and easy dinner, and I’ll definitely repeat it. Living around the corner from Locale actually makes it a little too easy on me now that I know I can make a fantastic dinner in a snap.
I was recently invited to a farm dinner at Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette, CO. For those of you familiar with popular stops on my tours, Three Leaf Farm is owned by Lenny and Sara Martinelli of Leaf and Aji in downtown Boulder. As I’ve been featuring both Leaf and Aji since I started Local Table Tours four years ago, I was excited to visit the farm they purchased, which is starting to supply their restaurants (seven in total) with local, organic produce and eggs. The Three Leaf Farm, besides being ground to grow almost every fruit and vegetable possible to harvest in the front range, is home to chickens, goats, pigmy goats, horses, donkeys, and bees. The evening started off with Bellinis and farm animal admiration- especially of the donkeys and goats.
We were invited on a tour of the farm with Chase, the head farmer, and came to understand the gravity of the recent flood: We were asked not to touch, and NOT TO EAT, anything growing in the fields. Three Leaf Farm was entirely under water for some time, and the flood waters had chemicals, oils, and potentially lots of nasty stuff in them. Consequently, the Martinellis have been instructed by authorities to leave all crops to rot in the fields and not practice any farming until the soils have been tested and they receive notification it is safe to start planting. The implications of this are clearly enormous.
Our farm dinner in honor of the tomato by the staff from Zucca was delicious. Sara let us know they brought in veggies from other local farms that weren’t flooded, and as the evening grew dark, we dined al fresco, made new friends, and appreciated our local farms and this year’s harvest more than before. Please enjoy some photos I took before the sun set and we dined by candle light.
We’ve been having a fantastic time entertaining guests on private tours. Our groups this year have so far been as large as thirty and as up-close-and-personal as two, and all have been unique and memorable dining experiences.
Here are a few photos of what we’ve tasted along the way…