Summer Tasting Tour

Local Table Tours was recently asked by the Boulder Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to bring a travel writer around town to some of our favorite spots for an evening dining tour. Sounds like fun!

As it was a Tuesday, we started at Cured to enjoy their weekly Tuesday evening wine tasting, and followed that with a delicious cheese and charcuterie platter prepared by their esteemed manager, Jessica.

Cured Cheese Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica knows her way around cheese and gave us a great taste of old world and new world cheeses and meats. We could have sat there nibbling and learning about cheese all evening, but we were heading over to Bramble & Hare for a few cocktails and local farm bites.

Bar manager Griffin Farro, widely acclaimed as one of the best bartenders in town, created three different libations for us to try: A beet cocktail with juice from Black Cat Farm’s beets,

Beet Cocktail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

one with carrot puree from their carrots, called Skokan’s Garden,

Skokan's Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and a bartender’s choice, which allows Griffin to play around behind the bar.

Bartender's Choice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next came a beet salad with house made ricotta cheese (and please pardon the lighting, as Bramble & Hare is a very dimly lit establishment).

Beet Salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then arrived some ridiculously good Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

followed by some of the most tender chicken wings ever. Period.

Chicken Wings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef/owner/farmer Eric Skokan came to greet us at this point and wouldn’t reveal a single secret about the mac & cheese nor the wings. It was worth asking, but didn’t get us anywhere close to figuring out his finger-licking-good secret.

And then it was time to walk a block away to Boulder’s highly acclaimed OAK at Fourteenth for our entree, or so I thought. OAK spoiled us with four courses of seasonal food and drink pairings. Sous Chef Bill Espiricueta started us off with a deconstructed gazpacho, served by pouring the tomato broth table side.

Deconstructed Gazpacho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The light and perfectly prepared gazpacho was appropriately paired with a Monk’s Garden, a tail of basil and tarragon infused vodka, Green Chartreuse, cucumber, lavender, and lime (which can barely be seen in the photo above, just behind the spout of tomato broth being poured into the bowl).

Next, we enjoyed some corn and ricotta stuffed ravioli and a rose from Provence. Perfect. Simply perfect, except for the fact that licking our platters clean would have been frowned upon.

corn and ricotta ravioli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our ravioli was followed by wood-fired oven roasted chicken on a fresh corn slaw and a corn cake, paired with a Firestone Walker beer.

roasted chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, there’s ALWAYS room for dessert, right? There was definitely room for a mini peach bourbon milkshake.

Peach Bourbon milkshake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was an incredible taste of Boulder. Ah… the life of a food tour guide is very tough.

 

Zeal- Food for Enthusiasts. Three Farms in Three Courses

Zeal has been a great addition to the east end of Pearl Street. Executive Chef Sean Smith, formerly of OAK at Fourteenth, runs a very busy kitchen serving diners who are looking for a healthier dining experience. The organic, non-GMO eatery also partners with Conscious Cleanse by offering daily dishes that are cleanse friendly and periodic three course meals so cleanse participants can enjoy dining out while not breaking the rules of their two week plan.

The August three course farm to table Conscious Cleanse dinner featured freshly picked produce from three great farms: Toohey, Red Wagon, and Munson Farms. Our first bite, or amuse, was deconstructed Toohey Farms Armenian cucumber and dill soup with avocado, dill flowers, and Himalayan pink salt.

Amuse at Zeal

This was a pretty, perfect bite.

Our appetizer was Red Wagon Farm chard wrapped around sautéed Hazel Dell mushrooms with either curried green lentils, the vegan option (left) or a chard wrap stuffed with duck confit (right).

chard wrap

duck confit chard wrap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two entree options were Munson Farms summer squash “pasta” with either roasted seasonal veggies and herbed shitakes (left), or squash “pasta” topped with bison meatballs and roasted carrots (right).

veggie summer squash pasta

bison meatballs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the dessert course offered two options as well: avocado and carob mousse (a strange concoction for vegans) or a Colorado peach and wildflower honey granita.

avocado carob mousse

Peach Granita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a really good, healthy dinner, especially when you consider Chef Smith had to abide by the highly restrictive cleanse guidelines that don’t allow gluten or many of the summer’s bountiful harvest, such as nightshades. And for non-cleanse diners, our only critique is we wanted more of that Himalayan pink salt on our plates.

Cured de France: Enjoy your cycling with cheese.

Just as the World Cup reaches its final days, competitors in another major international sporting event, the Tour de France, begin tearing over mountain passes and through city streets on their bikes. And Cured, Boulder’s premier cheese, charcuterie and wine shop, is helping Tour de France spectators in Colorado celebrate the epic race with food and drink that honors different stages of the race.

The Tour begins this year in Leeds, England, passing through a number of towns – among them, Harrogate, York, Sheffield and Cambridge – before crossing the English Channel for the race’s namesake country. For the English leg of the Tour, Cured offers Montgomery cheddar, the most legendary of English cheddar cheeses, and Robinson’s Old Tom Ale, a classic English ale with just enough power, funk and bitterness to pair gorgeously with the cheese.

“Montgomery’s cheddar and Robinson’s Old Tom Ale are made just down the road from each other, and it turns out when the flavors meet, they embrace,” says Will Frischkorn, a former professional cyclist and Tour de France racer who co-owns Cured with his wife, Coral. “Because there are few things better than a good cheddar with a good beer, we are taking a departure from the wines of France. There is something special about proper cheddar and beer pairings. In this case, maybe it’s that the beer and cheese grew up so close to each other – they share similar flavors and richness in profiles. In addition, the carbonation in beer helps create fantastic pairings. This one is especially wonderful.”

Each summer Cured hosts its own Tour de France, a trip much easier to complete than the 21-day trek around France. Will breaks down the Tour into eight stages, each corresponding to between three or four days of racing. Each stage connects the cheeses and beverages with the region the racers are pedaling across. As the riders make their way clockwise around France, Cured de France “racers” follow along with cheese and wine or beer.

The Provisions

Each stage, available individually or as part of the whole package, comes with a healthy chunk of cheese and a drink to pair. Most beverage pairings are wine, but given the English leg of the trip this year, exceptional beer figures into the Cured de France, too. Prices vary between $25 and $50, depending on the stage; the entire bundled tour costs $295. People who go for the gusto by participating in the entire tour receive the newly released Looney Bin bottle cage from Arundel, designed to hold a bottle of wine, beer, or just about anything else, loaded up with a bottle of Cured’s House wine as a thank you and a congratulations on your effort!

Cured de France boxes are available for pick-up at the store, or for $95 a box gets sent to your doorstep at the start of each stage.

Stages:

Stage One: July 5-7 (England)

Stage Two: July 8-10 (Northern France)

Stage Three: July 11-14 (Northeastern France)

Stage Four: July 15-18 (Eastern France and Southeastern France)

Stage Five: July 19-21 (Southeastern France and Southcentral France)

Stage Six: July 22-24 (Pyrenees)

Stage Seven: July 25-26 (Bordeaux)

Finale: July 27 (Paris)

“At the finale,” said Frischkorn, “we guiltily enjoy Champagne and a wedge of Fougerus while the riders finally get off their bikes and bid goodbye to the 101st Tour de France.”

Les Dames d’Escoffier Taste of Boulder Tour

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.

Les Dames at OAK

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.

OAK at Fourteenth Kale Salad

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 .

The Steph

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.

Cured Cheese Tasting

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.

Zeal Boulder

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).

Les Dames at Locale Boulder

Our dining experience at Locale was highlighted by a taste of their Budino, a perfect pudding that you MUST try.

P1050132

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…?

Stefano Ferrara Oven at Locale

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.

Pice Love & Chocolate

This was an incredibly fun afternoon, and we at Local Table Tours look forward to doing something like this again soon.

 

Pizzicletta Pedals its way into Boulder for Two Nights

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 Calabria had that amazing tomato sauce, calabrian chili, fresh ricotta, and oregano. 

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.

Cheers!

 

 

Pizzeria Locale- Pizza Dough To Go

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.

 

Three Leaf Farm, Lafayette, CO

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.

 

Private Tours and Events in Boulder- Some Tempting Photos

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…

Cheers!

Megan Bucholz

Founding Foodie

Devils on Horseback are done very well at Beehive.

A Taste of Latin America at Aji.

At the end of one tour, we walked into The Cup to find an entire carrot cake and half of a cheese cake, coffee, and a gluten free treat for one of our 14 guests.

Saltimboca con Nutella is always a crowd pleaser at Pizzeria Locale.

Black Cat Farm Table Bistro treated a group of 20 to house cured salumi, house made cheeses, vegetables from their farm, and crisp white wine.

A group of 30 enjoyed the best rooftop patio in town at Bacaro.

We tipped back at our first stop on noon lunch tour. So what? It was five o’clock somewhere…

Before our first course, we arrived to find Aperol Spritzers waiting for us on the table.

We started off with salumi, burratta, bread, and smoked butter.

When we visit Piece, Love, & Chocolate, we all get to pick a truffle that tempts us.

A French 75 on a Bachelorette Tail Tour

303 Vodka Presents Boulder’s Best Mixologist

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-

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.

5- Abrigado

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.

 

Tyler Anderson-

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.

 

Mike Depaolo-

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.

7- Evolving

 

Samantha Gutierrez-

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.

 

Jason Etheredge-

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.

 

 

 

 

Old Major

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.

Old Major

3316 Tejon Street

Denver, CO 80211

720.420.0622

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