Ají is consistently a delicious stop on dining tours in Boulder, but as someone who is frequently guiding tours, I don’t always experience restaurants during peak dinner hours for a sit-down meal. So, my esteemed guide Heather and I decided to indulge in one of their regional monthly meals.
Once per month, Ají offers a prix fixe regional dinner featuring cuisine from a different Latin American region. September’s region was Mexico, and I found myself wanting to speak Spanish as three fantastic plates of food paired with tequila cocktails were served.
- Para Picar
We started with Sopes de Jabali, which was a pinch masa cake, pinto beans, braised wild boar, salsa charra, and queso a mano. This came paired with a Corrido Blanco Margarita made with Corrido Blanco Tequila, lime juice, agave, and triple sec.
These little cornmeal cakes were the perfect vessel for pinto beans and wild boar because you didn’t end up with too much corn cake or too much topping. Heather and I discussed this nearly perfect ratio of corncake to topping and before we knew it, we were done with the first course.
- Algo Leve
Here’s what we found most interesting about this plate of tomato-based noodle soup and chili salad: The chili was stuffed with lettuce. I don’t recall ever having a chili stuffed with lettuce. They’re usually full of all kinds of cheese and high-calorie goodness, so after the initial surprise to find lettuce on the inside, it was quite delightful and light… which it should be if it’s called “Algo Leve” on the menu. “Leve” means “light” en español.
- La Cena
Neither Heather nor I had eaten a roasted quail before, so this was a fun first. The quail kind of tasted like chicken and had a decent amount of meat on those tiny bones. Chef Jaime Martinez’ mole was really flavorful and savory and tied the whole dish together. I will be back for his mole, for sure.
So, Heather and I gave two thumbs up to our dinner. Service was great, the food was great, presentation was great. We’re very proud to feature them on culinary tours and fortunate to have them in town.
As summer draws to a close, I thought I’d look back at some of the best tastes and food experiences of the past few months in Boulder and Denver.
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).
We’d like to thank Jayme Moye for her write up of Denver Cocktail Tours in the march issue of Sunset Magazine.
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.
Watch Vajra brew coffee. Want to see him do this in person? Join us on a Coffee and Pastry Tour!
Local Table Tours was recently listed amongst 10 great food tours/ foodie things-to-do for the fall. So, pack your bags for a food trip and explore these places listed on mainstreet.com.
It was exciting to hear that Cured opened, so I had to stop by and check it out on opening day right after finishing a downtown dining tour. Opening day. The very thought of those two words together elicits a nervousness… What’s going to happen on opening day?
Turns out it went well. Coral and Will were busy helping customers when I first got there, so I took a look around and snapped a few iphone photos. I got to say hi to Coral, and she immediately sparked my interest in one of Nathan Miller’s chocolate bar samples that were tempting customers right next to the register. I could stop right here and say go to Cured just to try Nathan Miller’s chocolate. But I won’t. I’ll play off of that… I’ll say to go to Cured because they are an artisan cheese, cured meat, and wine shop that is right downtown (1825 B Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80304). Go to Cured because, besides offering a thoughtfully amazing variety of cheese, cured meats, and wines, they support local food growers and artisans, such as the aforementioned up-and-coming Boulder chocolatier, Nathan Miller.
You know why I think you should go to Cured? Because it is an independently owned shop specializing in something you’re sure to need to finish the meal you have planned- cheese, cured meat, olive oil, vinegar, jams, crackers, specialty salts, fresh locally grown veggies, wine, and chocolate.
You know why I really think you should go to cured? Because you can walk out of there with your entire dinner- meats, cheeses, bread, wines, olive oil, vinegar, lettuce, lots of other local veggies… sounds like a great meal to me for late nights or simply “I don’t feel like cooking” nights. Might actually be most nights for a number of my friends.
Anyway- Welcome, Cured, to downtown Boulder. Can’t wait to visit with you on food tours!
The Colorado Cocktail project was a really fun cocktail competition held in Denver on June 26-27. 33 mixologists entered the competition to create an official cocktail for Colorado. 10 finalists were invited to compete, 2 of who represent great bars in Boulder.
Britt Henze from Mateo came in first in people’s choice, and Evan Faber of SALT came in third in people’s choice. So, July cocktail tours will feature 3 cocktails entered into the competition:
- The Western Slope by Caroline Johnson at the West End Tavern
- The Diamondback by Evan Faber
- The Bear Paw Palmer by Britt Henze
Come join us for this VIP cocktail tasting Thursdays at 3 pm.