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…
Boulder is a notable town for imbibing… sipping, knocking back, or, er… consuming cocktails. But, who makes the best cocktail? Boulder’s local 303 Vodka Distillery holds an annual Boulder’s Best Mixologist competition to judge just who is out there each year creating the best tail, and we got to sip (or put away) a number of great vodka cocktails at this sold out competition.
Competing this year was-
- Tyler Anderson, The Kitchen [UPSTAIRS]
- Conor McDermott, SALT the Bistro
- Mike Depalo, Aji
- Samantha Gutierrez, Q’s
- Justin Caldwell, Pizzeria Basta
- Jason Etheredge, Riffs
- Adrian Sutevski Task, The Corner Bar
Each bartender brought someone else from their restaurant to help shake up cocktails en masse for the hundreds of people who converged upon the 303 Vodka Distillery for craft cocktails, food, and a great time.
I asked each bartender the following seven questions to get to know them a bit better, and hope this post inspires you to go sit at each of their bars-
1- How long have you been bar tending?
2- What do you enjoy most about being a bar tender?
3- Where do you go when you’re out for a drink?
4- How would you describe 303 Vodka?
5- What’s the name of your cocktail for the Boulder’s Best Mixologist competition?
6- What was the inspiration for your cocktail?
7- How would you describe the Boulder cocktail scene?
And here’s what they said:
Adrian Sutevski Task- 2012 winner
1- 6 years, 3 years in my home town Las Vegas and the last 3 years here in Boulder.
2- The opportunity of providing the patrons with an experience perfected to each individual’s desire, including a person ordering a Pepsi no ice!
3- A comfortable, inviting, fun, and quality driven place.
4- Boulder’s own potato vodka that provides so many benefits to the community and beverage scene.
6- Books, guests, Chef Shawn, Chef Rethe, Chef Alex, crafting a cocktail that utilized components I had never used before and my former mentor Evan Faber.
7- Forever evolving, exciting, and damn glad I moved here and became part of it.
1-I have been tending bar for 8 years.
2- I love to mix and create. In other words, it’s my kitchen.
3- Ha ha! The Pub. But seriously, if I can, I go to any speakeasy I can find.
4- Creamy, a little peppery, definitely a taste of potato.
5- The Black Dragon
6- I don’t really have inspiration for most my cocktails, they just come to me.
7- It’s on its way, I still think it needs some work, but it’s just a little behind places like Chicago, or New York.
Conor McDermott- 2013 winner!
1- I have been bar tending for about 2 1/2 years now.
2- What I enjoy most about being a bar tender is watching a guest that sat at my bar a day/week/month/year ago, return through the doors of Salt and ask me to make them a cocktail.
3- Uniquely textured.
4- It all depends on what kind of night I’m having. If I am just looking to sit down, relax, and enjoy a great cocktail it’s between The Kitchen Upstairs, and The Bitter Bar. If I’m looking to let loose, I’m going to the Walrus.
5- The name of my cocktail is “Until Next Time”
6- My inspiration came from a classic cocktail. I took a silver fizz, and put a spin on it (with a little help from another Salt bar tender Seth Caparelli.)
7- I would describe the Boulder cocktail scene as filled with talent.
1- 8 years
2- Entertaining & meeting new people
3- Aji, of course… I used to work at Tahona & I love tequila so I end up back there a lot!
4- Best Vodka in Colorado! It’s smooth & crisp and mixes well in drinks. Plus gluten-free is really important in Colorado these days!
5- The Ex-Pat, because I’d almost always rather be drinking on the beach in the Caribbean than whatever it is I’m doing.
6- Ernest Hemingway – that’s all we’re saying.
1- I have been behind the bar for 3 years now, the last 2 years have been at the Q bar.
2- I love when a guest comes in with only a flavor or concept in mind and lets me get busy! It is so rewarding to craft a cocktail that is not only pleasing to their palate, but surpasses their expectations. Nothing makes me happier than knowing the guests are leaving satisfied and excited for the next drink I pour them.
3- I still love going to the tiny hole in the wall dive bars. I like going out and getting away from the craziness of mixology, sometimes simplicity is the answer to relaxing. I still have not found THE bar for a drink when I need something special, so there are some pretty big shoes that a bartender needs to fill in my life!
4- A pleasure to work with! I love the significance they have on the community.
5- “The Cats Meow”
6- I’m a lover of classic whiskey cocktails, so “The Cats Meow” was inspired by the traditional Old Fashion, hence the name.
7- Thriving and growing! I can’t wait to see the amazing things that will continue to evolve out of our already amazing abilities!
Justin Caldwell -
1- Total of 8 years
2- The freedom to build and experiment with mixology. It plays to my artistic side.
3- The Kitchen Upstairs
4- Simplistic and to the point.
5- IBA – Imperial Basta Avenue
6- What goes great w pizza ? Beer. So, why not make a beer cocktail?
7- Impressive, competitive, and growing rapidly.
1- Just over seven years.
2- Being able to take care of people in a genuine way is very important to me. Hospitality is hard to come by in our world and I love the fact that I am able to make people happy all day long. It’s a very rewarding profession. I love every day of it.
3- Depends. If I’m with a date then it’s Kitchen Upstairs; incredibly sexy environment, beautiful people all around you and a truly great bar program accompanied by delicious food (their hand soap in the bathrooms is reason enough in and of itself). If I’m out with fellow industry people or close friends then we always go to Bitter Bar. I’ve gotten to know the staff there really well and I always feel welcomed and taken care of (Justin is the most passionate bar tender I’ve met outside of Atlanta). When it comes to a crazy night out on the town we head to the Downer. They have the entire range of Pappy bourbon and it’s DIRT cheap (it can get a bit stinky and crowded but it’s a classic dive bar experience).
4- Versatile, distinct, and mellow. Most vodkas fall flat in the taste department since it’s a neutral spirit. 303 uses potatoes as opposed to grain or wheat so the final product carries a very prevalent earthy, oily, deep flavor that we all love about potatoes. It makes a great dirty Martini, works really well in Bloody Marys, and was a lot of fun to work with for my competition recipe. It’s certainly more challenging from a mixing standpoint because of the imparted flavor but it’s a welcome challenge and truly a nice base for many great cocktail interpretations.
5- I haven’t nailed one down yet, actually. It may end up being a last minute decision. Some qualifiers are ‘hot n happy’, ‘grena-dream’, ‘pomtato’
6- I like spicy cocktails and originally wanted to do a simple black pepper infusion but I decided to dig a bit deeper and see what sort of trouble I could get myself into. I played with shrubs, different syrups, spices, barks, juices, etc and this is what came out of all of that. I love the sweet and savory elements of the final product and that little kick on the end is the happy finish.
7- Eclectic, vibrant, bountiful, and extensive. There are so many great places to go, something for every taste, style, or occasion.
When the word got out a few months ago that ciccerone Ryan Conklin, was going to lead the beer program at a soon-to-open restaurant called Old Major, I knew that this new place must be something special if he were to consider making the move from acclaimed Euclid Hall. After enjoying a private tasting last week, it’s clear to me that Conklin (and a number of other cocktail-rock-stars, such as Brian Melton of Off the Cuff Cocktails, Courtney Wilson, president of the Colorado Bartenders’ Guild, and Melissa Durant, formerly tending bar at The Green Russell) made a great decision. This lineup behind the bar tells me a lot about Old Major- It tells me that they treat their beverage program as equally important as their swine and seafood.
Old Major is the newest place to open in the Highland neighborhood of Denver. It is conveniently located just steps away from Williams & Graham, which means I will always visit both establishments when I’m in the neighborhood. The building had originally been a roller skating rink, and the original wood floors provide a unique foundation upon which a gorgeously repurposed, carefully resourced restaurant has been built. The farm house feel is evident, which I particularly appreciate because Old Major, as you may recall, is the wise pig from George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm. Old Major stirred a revolution against the farmer, by the way.
I was invited to Old Major for a chef’s tasting, led by chef owner Justin Brunson. Justin passionately described his approach to sourcing the best meat, seafood, and vegetables available while introducing us to plate after plate of soon-to-be signature dishes. An immediate crowd pleaser were the pretzel rolls with mustard butter. We sipped some red and white house blends, served on tap, that are made exclusively for Old Major by Infinite Monkey Theorem, and then explored The Smoked Fishplate.
Next came a Black Truffle and Pistachio Sausage over Potato Puree with an Escargot Vinaigrette, and by this point most of us had finished our wine, which was a perfect time for illustrious Courtney Wilson, formerly of Williams & Graham, to introduce us to the bar with a tasting of The Fair Deal, a Scotch cocktail featuring Pigs Nose Scotch, pear, Drambuie, and Cocchi Americano.
As a cocktail-tour-guide and self proclaimed cocktail-enthusiast (meaning I’ve been known to enjoy a cocktail or five…), I was glad to start sipping some of these new spiritous libations. They were, as I had expected, fantastic.
Chef Brunson followed the sausage with Pan Roasted Colorado Striped Bass on Lemon Risotto with Braised Leeks and Roasted Baby Turnips and Beets. As a diner who overwhelmingly prefers fish to meat, this dish was my favorite and I reluctantly shared it, as each dish presented, with my esteemed media companions..
Despite all of us starting to feel satiated, there was still one more round of food and drinks before dessert. We dug right in to Old Major’s Duck Fat French Fries and Braised Rapini as if our appetites had suddenly rebounded.
Courtney brought us another cocktail to taste- The Three Minute Rule, made with Cognac, Carpano Antica, and Pedro Ximenez Sherry.
The Luxardo cherry at the bottom was the perfect bite after tasting the Pan Seared 10 oz Pork Chop served with Parsnip Puree, Brussel Sprouts, and Guanciale in a pork demi-glace (poured table-side… a presentation which never seems to get old for me).
It was finally time for dessert, which is something Old Major takes very seriously. Dessert is not an afterthought here as it can be in some establishments, and that became clear upon tasting the Maple Bacon Creme Caramel with Maple Bacon Custard and Candied Denver Bacon Co. Bacon. Yes, bacon lovers- there’s a dessert for you at Old Major.
On the lighter side, we also tried the Baked Alaska with a Blood Orange Glacé, Meringue, and Olive Oil Sponge. Both desserts were addictively delicious and not a bite was left on our plates.
By the time we were ready to roll ourselves out of there, all six of us at our table agreed that Old Major was one of the best things to happen to the Denver food scene, ever. It’s so very casual– a de-formalized fine dining experience– Old Major is a restaurant not to be missed.
3316 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211