The last time OAK had a Pig Roast dinner I was busy guiding a private tour, so, I can’t say I was totally disappointed to miss it because I was showing some lovely ladies a fantastic night out on the town. But, I did wish I could have been there. When I heard they were having their fourth seasonal pig roast on December 5th, I made sure it was on my calendar. After attending the Milagro Tequila event it was more than clear to me that OAK knows how to hold a feast of an event.
I was dining alone that evening and walked in to the cocktail hour to find a lot of people standing around and chatting, snacking on OAK’s famous fried pickles, and sipping a Blood and Sand. A server immediately brought me one made with Johnnie Walker Red Label, Cherry Liqueur, Punt E Mes, and Orange Juice. This was a great start. I’d only ever had one Blood and Sand and it was on one of my cocktail tours, actually. It was nice to be reintroduced to a cocktail I enjoy very much.
The evening’s pig roast was a four-course Berkshire and Whiskey dinner. Master of Whiskey Robert Sickler selected five whiskeys to be paired with Chef Steve Redzikowski’s pig-centric menu. I looked around, saw my friend Jessica of Mountain Sun, and sat down at her table. I had intended to take photos and write about the meal. That’s all. It turns out I feel like I made new friends with the lovely couple across from me. Alex and Kate were seated at the same table as my friend Jessica. I sat across from them and we quickly got to know each other over a good meal, and conversation really got interesting when they mentioned they own a wooden Chinese pig roasting box called a Chinabox, which I’m assuming looks like THIS.
Soon after being seated our first course arrived. I snapped a photo of the kitchen just before being served Pork Head Terrine, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Rye Toast, Golden Raisin and Apple Jam paired with a taste of Bulleit Rye and a Holiday on the Bayou- Bulleit Rye, All Spice Dram, Apple Juice, Lemon, Honey.
So… it turns out I don’t really like terrine. At least not at this point in my life. After 18 years of vegetarianism, terrine is a little far out there for me. But I did eat at least half of it, so.. baby steps. The gourmands at my table spoke very highly of the terrine, whereas I don’t have a history of terrine tastings to compare, so I’m taking their word for it and saying it was a really nice terrine.
I did, however, love the cocktail (what a surprise:). I’m a big fan of Rye and always keep Bulleit Rye in my home bar because, in my opinion, it is one of the best bangs for your buck when it comes to rye. Especially when you drink as much rye whiskey as I…
But, back to the Berkshire and Whiskey dinner…
Next to our cocktail was placed a tasting of Bulleit Rye. It soon became clear to me what owner Bryan Dayton meant when he greeted us all and told us a substantial amount of alcohol was going to be served to us that evening and that we didn’t need to drink it all. This was, in fact, quite true.
Our second course was fantastic- Housemade Chorizo, Steamed Mania Clams, Pork Belly, Fingerling Potato Salad, Harissa paired with one of OAK’s signature cocktails: a 14th Street Soda of Bushmills Black Bush, Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur of the Alps, and OAK Ginger Beer. OAK makes really interesting, flavorful house made sodas. Some are alcoholic, others not. But, they’re bottled and served like a soda should be served- they pop the top for you like the good old days.
Allow me to introduce you to Alex and Kate- You’ll see them behind the soda.
I really enjoyed this dish. I’ve been experimenting at home with Harissa after my dad suggested it to me, so it was a nice surprise to taste one of my favorite chef’s use of this Saharan spice blend.
Next came a Thanksgiving-sized family-style feast of Bourbon Glazed Pork Ribs, Cheddar Grits, Rancho Gordo Baked Beans, and Sweet Potatoes with Roasted Banana. We got to pass bowls around the table and take seconds if we wanted. That was very cool. Very cool indeed. It was also great that the food was gourmet-homestyle-delicious-fall-seasonal-BBQ. I sure hope that’s enough words to describe this part of the meal.
To quench our BBQ-ribs-thirst we tasted some George Dickel Barrel Select with a cocktail of that whiskey called a Cascading Ribbons, which was made with Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur, Cherry Grand Marnier, Mirto, and Orange Bitters. We were getting drunk, I think…
And then came dessert. Brown Sugar Caramelized Brioche, Avalanche Creamery Blue Cheese, and Pecan Ice Cream paired with Oban 14 Year. Please and Thank You.
Now, there were some bartenders out in Portland Cocktail Week who referred to Oban as a “gateway Scotch.” Oh well- so be it. It’s a really nice Scotch. Pair that with Brioche, (which, by the way, I’ve officially banned from my kitchen due to zero self control), Avalanche blue cheese, and pecan ice cream, and you have a sweet and savory dessert accompanying a fine Scotch.
This particular evening was so deliciously fun at OAK that I’m already looking forward to their next Roast. In 2013, actually, there will be four Roasts at Fourteenth:
- March 26th- Rioja Roast
- July 9th- Bubbles Roast
- October 9th- Beer Roast
- December 4th- Mezcal and Cider Roast
I already have those dates on my calendar.
Anyone who spends time with me knows how very much I love Oak at Fourteenth. The food, libations, owners, and staff make this one of the best places in town for a cocktail, small plate, happy hour, formal sit-down dinner, late night… It’s always great, but somehow, I think it managed to move up a notch.
I attended a Milagro Tequila make-your-own cocktail “class” and dinner, led by Gaston Martinez, a brand ambassador of Milagro Tequila. As a weekly guide of my own cocktail tours, I’ve tried a fair share of tequilas. But, this was my first in-depth experience with Milagro.
When I say the “class” was led by the brand ambassador, that means that a real tequila aficionado came to Oak, set up the Acorn Room with all things Milagro, and spent two hours or so introducing us to the Milagro brand of tequilas. As a note: I paid the $40 to attend this event and was not asked to, nor offered anything free to write a glowing review.
The attendees met at 5:30 in the Acorn Room, Oak’s private dining room, which was all decked out in Milagro Tequila swag.
There were Boston shakers, muddlers, ice buckets, and all the ingredients needed to make three signature tequila cocktails, such as blackberries and sage, pineapple and basil, cucumbers and jalapeños, cilantro, bitters, freshly made sour mix… I hadn’t actually been expecting to be muddling, let alone to be amongst a group of twenty muddlers, so, let’s just say I was stoked upon arrival.
Oak’s esteemed staff started passing their signature Crispy Fried Pickles & Green Goddess Aioli, Key West Shrimp and Grits with Tabasco Butter, and a welcome cocktail called “The Freshest Margarita” made with Milagro silver, lime juice, and agave nectar.
After a couple welcome beverages, we gathered around the table for a nice greeting by Oak owner and crafter-of-all-things-cocktail, Bryan Dayton. Then, Bryan set us loose with Gaston who got us right to work making our first cocktail: The Mercadito (You’ll find all cocktail recipes at the bottom of this post).
Midway through making my Mercadito (a cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro cocktail), I switched settings on my camera… as a side note…
The Mercadito was paired with our first course- Chicken Tacos with Guacamole.
One tip we learned from Gaston about our first cocktail, which had jalapeño, was that a cocktail that is spicy on the lips is too spicy. Apparently, that’s a fact, and it created some great conversation with those around me. By the time we had muddled, measured, poured, shaken, strained, and sipped our first cocktail, it felt like we had gathered around a table with old friends. It was clear the evening was headed in the right direction.
Then it was time to move on to cocktail #2- The Veracruzana. This one was particularly fun because we had to muddle pineapple, which quickly turned into pineapple juice after a few moments muddling. I shared in some giddy-as-a-schoolgirl enthusiasm with the women across the table from me.
We sipped The Veracruzana while enjoying Braised Short Ribs with Jalapeño & Peanut Relish.
Moving on to the third course… it was time once again to get muddling. Blackberries and a pinch of sage turned into a gorgeously fragrant jam-like medley in our glass.
The Carpe Dia was our third and final cocktail, paired with Grilled Chicken Tenders & Shishito Pepper Skewers with Pomegranate Molasses. Yum.
I had the honor and privilege of sitting next to one of Oak’s bartenders, Audrey, and I assure everyone at the table had a similar smile upon seeing Oak’s presentation of the skewers stuck into a log. It’s one of the coolest food presentations I’ve seen and hope to see it again at Oak.
But anyway… back to the booze. We weren’t done drinking our third cocktail (fourth if you count the welcome drink, and I had two of those, so… uh oh…) We were presented a tasting of three award-winning select barrel reserve tequilas- a silver, resposado, and añejo.
Gaston dusted the reposado with cinnamon, the añejo with cocoa, and brought out a plate of fresh mint that we got to slap (or spank) before adding a leaf to the glass of silver tequila.
I had such a good time that evening and look forward to Oak’s next culinary event. You can find out more about special events on the bottom right side of Oak’s website oakatfourteenth.com, or on their Facebook page facebook.com/oakatfourteenth. I’m going to do my best to attend their next event and hope to see you there, too.
THE FRESHEST MARGARITA
2 parts Milagro Silver
3/4 part Milagro Agave Nectar
1 part fresh lime juice
Combine all three ingredients in a Boston shaker glass. Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a slice of lime and salt (optional).
2 parts Milagro Silver
3/4 part Milagro Agave Nectar
1 part fresh lime juice
4 cucumber slices
1 pinch cilantro
1 thin jalapeño slice (or 2 if you’d like it spicy)
Muddle lime and cilantro in a Boston shaker glass. Add remaining ingredients, shake vigorously with ice, and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and a sprig of cilantro.
2 parts Milagro Reposado
3/4 part Milagro Agave Nectar
1 part fresh lime juice
4 pineapple chunks
2 basil leaves
3 dashes angostura bitters
splash of ginger beer
Muddle pineapple and basil in a Boston shaker glass. Add the remaining ingredients (except the ginger beer), shake vigorously with ice, and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Top off with ginger beer and garnish with a basil leaf.
2 parts Milagro Añejo
3/4 part Milagro Agave Nectar
1 part fresh lime juice
2 sage leaves
Muddle the fruit and herbs in a Boston shaker glass. Add the other ingredients, shake vigorously with ice, and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish the cocktail with a blackberry and a sage sprig.
A farmhouse kitchen and pub… I dig the sound of that and I loved the food I tried during the industry soft opening on July 1. New restaurants need to ease in to their rhythm, but for a first night of service, you’d be surprised to discover Bramble & Hare hadn’t been around for quite some time. Everything was on point, and our waiter- the esteemed Tyler Nemkov, former executive chef of Mateo Restaurant Provencal and part-time chef of Black Cat Bistro- delectably described all 14 items on the menu in a way that made me want one of everything.
In good company, of course, we started out with the cocktail menu. I ordered A Welcomed Pause.
What’s in A Welcomed Pause? I can’t recall. Bourbon or Rye… I didn’t snap a photo of the cocktail menu, but that’s OK for a couple reasons: 1. The cocktail program, overseen by Dev Ranjan (Sommelier of The Black Cat Bistro and Beverage Director for Black Cat and Bramble & Hare), is clearly one of the best in town. It’s so good, I’m excited to announce Bramble & Hare will be a new stop on my Boulder cocktail tours.
After clinking glasses and saying cheers, we moved on to food. Tyler recommended we order one of everything on the menu. But, we limited it to 5 plates and a dessert.
A quick note on the menu: It’s the coolest menu in town, and definitely one of the coolest I’ve ever seen. You get a mini pencil so you can write the quantity of each plate you desire to explore- it’s a sushi-style-menu. Also, the top is hand perforated so you can tear it off and keep that “portion for your records.”
A plate of seared greens arrived first. I could eat these every day. I have three words that highlight this dish: crispy fried garlic.
Next came a beet stuffed steamed bun and a doughnut with duck liver mousse. I didn’t try the duck liver mousse… Not a big fan of liver… But the steamed bun is quite a unique vegetarian option. I’m hoping they play around with all kinds of steamed buns.
Since I was dining with Molly Browne, my Cheese Tasting Tour guide, we tried Bramble & Hare’s grilled cheese sandwich. Let me just say it was the best grilled cheese ever and I’d go there any day for a grilled cheese rather than make it on my own… It was THAT good. This particular night they used a cheese called Les Freres, a European style farmstead cheese.
We also shared the chilled roasted turnips with were served with broccoli florets.
Dessert was definitely in order, so we indulged in a sour cherry pie.
Chef/Owner/Farmer Eric Skokan has definitely introduced Boulder to a new style of restaurant and we’re very fortunate. On his Black Cat Farm, Eric raises the animals and grows many of the vegetables served at both of his restaurants, so this is definitely farm to table. But, the price point for each plate is really reasonable (in some cases quite low), which encourages ordering multiple small plates and sharing- a style of dining I prefer.
I’m looking forward to returning to Bramble & Hare. Looks like I have a new favorite spot in town.
1970 13th Street, Boulder CO
Open 7 days a week. Lunch. Dinner. Late night (til 2 am).
The newest restaurant in town recently opened, and after hearing a number of positive comments about their pizza and pasta, I decided it was time for Heather (my trusty tour guide) and me to check it out. Pasta Vino now proudly sits in a space once known as Juanita’s- squeezed between Salt and The Kitchen- and is a nice addition to the west end of Pearl Street. While you’ll still hear some folks lament the closing of Juanita’s, I think after enough hungry diners walk in and satiated guests walk out, Pasta Vino will become another esteemed Pearl Street establishment.
Heather and I sat at the funky, lit-up, striped bar and started with cocktails. We were pleased to learn that Pasta Vino features house-made limoncello, so after asking for a taste, I ordered the West End Moustache- a cocktail with limoncello. Heather went for a barrel-aged gin Last Word. Two excellent choices.
Pancetta wrapped scallops came next, followed by house made bread and a salad. We also switched over to house white wine.
There’s something on the menu for everyone just as you’d expect at an Italian restaurant- salads, pizza, antipasti, pasta… and Pasta Vino features different specialty pastas each day. We were there on a Wednesday and had the choice of a spaghetti with prawns, a greens-filled ravioli, or vermicelli pasta with pancetta.
I tried the Bucatini and Heather went with the Ravioli. These were two more excellent choices we made that evening… (Maybe Heather and I are on to something here…) After a little freshly shaved parmesan we got to work on our pasta.
At this point, I must dare to say that the pasta at Pasta Vino was perfectly cooked. My vermicelli dish was so delicious that, despite feeling full by the third bite or so, I finished the entire bowl of pasta. Heather’s ravioli were also very well done. The greens for the filling maintained their identity and weren’t some wet mushy mess, and the chef seemed to have finished the dish in the oven because there was a crispiness to the edges not often found on ravioli. After much talk of bringing home the leftovers, both plates were licked clean.
Overall, I highly recommend Pasta Vino and can’t wait to start featuring them on both cocktail and dining tours. In the meantime, check them out and give their pasta a try. I’m already eager to return for another taste of hand-crafted Italian food.
1043 Pearl Street, Boulder
We’re proud to have been listed in the Yellow Scene 2012 Best of the West list for our Thursday cocktail tours in Boulder. A number of great places in town also won Best of the West titles, like Frasca, Cured, The Tasterie Truck, OAK at Fourteenth, Pizzeria Locale, and Mateo.
Check out the full list here: Yellow Scene Best of the West 2012
Turning 21 is an exciting time, and it was a lot of fun to bring a group of college friends around town on a private birthday tour celebration for a taste of great food, libations, and delectable desserts.
We started at Tahona Tequila Bistro for a flight of tequilas- blanco, reposado, and añejo, as well as a taste of a coin-style margarita made with the three different tequilas.
We then walked to Aji for some Latin American appetizers: ceviche, blue corn dusted calamari, an empanada, and a mojito.
Our third stop was The Pinyon for fried chicken (of course), trotters on a house-made english muffin (The Pinyon is the only place in town serving trotters, by the way), and some 48-hour brisket. We sampled a couple beer cocktails while watching the esteemed chefs prepare each course.
Finally, we went to OAK at Fourteenth for a cocktail by Boulder’s illustrious Bryan Dayton, paired with a sample of their desserts.
As a tour guide, I must say that birthday tours are exceptionally fun. The group doesn’t just sit at one restaurant for a few hours- we progressively eat our way through town on a culinary exploration with friends. Happy 21st! I hope Local Table Tours made it memorable.
We’ve been having a great time on Boulder Cocktail Tours this month. Thanks so much to West End Tavern, Tahona, SALT, and The Pinyon for serving up some great libations along with a mini lesson on spirits, distillation, oak and aging, adding carbonation… there’s so much to learn, which is why I’m thrilled to have been guiding cocktail tours since April 2011. If you haven’t yet joined a cocktail tour, I encourage you to register for a Thursday tour in Boulder or a Saturday tour in Denver. I like to think of these tours as continuing education for anyone who enjoys going out for a good time.
If you have been on a cocktail tour, I encourage you to register for another one. They’re always different and always fun. Here’s an idea of what we’ve tasted this month. Cheers!
Caroline from West End Tavern knows her bourbon and can tell you everything she knows while offering sips of different spirits and samples of her signature cocktails, such as the Ron Burgundy (left) and an Old Fashioned (right).
Tahona has been a fun stop on some tours and we’ve been sampling a variety of blanco, reposado, and añejo tequilas. If you have questions about the differences between blanco, reposado, and añejo, it’s probably time you join us on a cocktail tour…
Tina offered us a blanco Republic Tequila as well as some Republic that they had barrel aged in house into a reposado.
On a different tour, Ally offered us a tasting of Gran Centenario plata, reposado, and añejo as well as a tasting of her coin style margarita.
Connor at SALT treated us to a sweet creation of his, the Barry White and a classic- The Aviation.
The Pinyon was also a featured stop on a couple tours and we drank a Hops not Tonic (left), a beer cocktail created by Dan Mirsky, and a soda bottled cocktail with some dangerously good chicken wings.
Chef owner Theo Adley likes hanging at his own bar, so we’re often very well entertained at The Pinyon.
Boulder cocktail tours run every Thursday. We visit 3 great local bars and get to ask the experts all of our cocktail questions. It’s the best way to bar hop in town.
It has been many, many months, but OAK at Fourteenth has finally reopened, returning to Boulder one of the best dining experiences available, period. As a hungry local, I’ve had the sensory pleasure of sitting at a table, the bar, and the chef’s bar on a somewhat regular basis and it is often difficult for me to leave because I’m enjoying myself so immensely.
Chef owner Steve Redzikowski and libations expert and owner Bryan Dayton orchestrate a food and drink symphony that is each time equally perfect yet uniquely different. Pictures may say thousands of words, and they’ll hopefully tempt you to be treated to an almost fantastical culinary experience.
Check out these larger photos of Bryan Dayton playing with an ice ball he set on fire as he perfected the ice “cube” for a cocktail at our table.
OAK at Fourteenth- 303.444.3622
1400 Pearl Street, Boulder CO, 80302
Photos courtesy of Giovanni Castillo.