Superstorm Sandy smashed into the east coast, including my home state of New Jersey, and destroyed many things in her path. Having spent so many summer days on the boardwalks at the Jersey Shore, I felt a huge feeling of disappointment seeing the images online. If you know me, or have even met me just once, you know I make an interesting face and have a certain tone of voice when I tell you I’m originally from NJ. But, this superstorm destroyed so much- it made me feel sentimental for parts of Jersey, and my parents still live there, so I felt quite connected to the storm and its aftermath.
Chef Theo Adley, also from New Jersey, coordinated a benefit dinner at Mateo Restaurant Provencal in Boulder. Chef Adley assembled eight of the best chefs in Denver and Boulder, one of the craftiest creators of all things cocktail, and a uniquely Boulder baker, who, together, performed a nearly perfectly orchestrated culinary symphony. I attended this nine course feast and enjoyed it so much more than I had imagined.
This was a superstar line up: Kyle Mendenhall of The Kitchen Community, Hunter Pritchett of Luca d’Italia, Kelly Whitaker of Pizzeria Basta, Max MacKissock of The Squeaky Bean, Theo Adley, Jen Jasinski of Rioja, Bistro Vendome, and Euclid Hall, Jenna Johansen, Steve Redzikowski of OAK at Fourteenth, and Sean Kenyon of Williams & Graham. Tee & Cakes provided a delectable cupcake to finish up the meal and make for one of the largest dinners I’ve had in quite a while.
I had the honor and privilege to dine with Z Cuisine chef/owner Patrick DuPays and his lovely wife Lynnde, which, besides offering great company, provided me an interesting perspective to dining. I really don’t dine out with chefs- I feature them on my tours. So, as each of the nine courses arrived, it was quite an experience for me to taste them with Patrick and Lynnde.
Each course at the Battle of the Pans was fantastic, so rather than offer a detailed critique or review, here are some photos of the evening. Please note- these were shot in low light (except Chef Redzikowski’s dish because I wandered into the kitchen for a few minutes), and I’m no professional… but, you’ll get the idea.
Thanks so much to all of the chefs for coming out (many on their day off) and providing a fantastic feast, and thanks to all of the guests who, through ticket sales and an auction, raised money for victims of Superstorm Sandy. It’s unfortunate that a major storm brought them all together in one kitchen, but we diners all felt very fortunate to taste a dish from so many acclaimed local chefs.
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.
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
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.
I was really excited to jump right in and write about the four goat cheeses I bought at Cured. But, that has to wait a bit so I can tell you how very happy I was upon leaving Cured. It felt like a movie, or like I was magically somewhere else- walking through downtown Boulder with a small brown paper bag full of wine, plums, cheese, and a freshly baked baguette. This baguette was teasing me with a freshly baked aroma as I ducked into Topo Ranch to buy a birthday present for one of my favorite people in the world. I had a great conversation with the girl working at Topo Ranch about the baguette I got at Cured, my blog posts about cheese, the aroma of the baguette… and more about how I could hardly keep myself from biting right into the tip of the bread that stuck out of that slender brown bread bag.
Ahh… the baguette- it changed things that day. After an unnecessary splurge on my new bracelet (which I justified since I was so excited about the fresh bread) in addition to the important bday gift, I kept walking towards my car. It started to rain. My umbrella saved the day as the most important thing was keeping the baguette dry. A woman asked me if I had bought the bread at Panera bread. Oh, no ma’am. I went to Cured because I’m a food blogger on a mission to explore cheese and wine. And this baguette- well, it’s freshly baked by some guy named Steve who uses a local restaurant space to bake breads. This is no Panera bread baguette.
And so, I got home and unpacked my brown bag.
Coral Ferguson, co-owner of Cured, sent me home with four goat cheeses (beautifully wrapped like little cheese presents), locally grown plums, a bottle of Spanish rosé, and my baguette. Time to explore some goat cheeses.
I had a taste of Capriago (bottom left), Garrotxa (bottom right), Covered Bridge (upper right), and Goat Cheddar (upper left).
But, before I even unwrapped the cheeses, I tore off the top of that baguette and stood in the kitchen, silently enjoying my bread. I didn’t even put on music yet. Just ate the bread. It felt so good to devour the beautiful section of bread that had been teasing me for so long. I poured a glass of Borsao Rosé made from Spanish Garnacha grapes. I’m Spanish wines’ biggest fan, and I really enjoy rosé, so this was perfect for me. It was also light and fruity, which helped cut the fat from all of my cheeses.
So, I just sliced right into those cheeses. A little cheese and bread, sip of wine, bites of plum here and there. It was fun.
Capriago comes from the Bohemian Creamery in Sebastopol, CA. It’s a moist cheese that’s just slightly sweet, and I had no problem eating slice after slice. Yum. I would get this again.
Garrotxa (pronounced ga-ro-cha) comes from Catalonia, Spain. It’s mild, despite a moldy rind, with a delicate goat flavor- so, it didn’t taste too much like a barnyard. However, I tend to enjoy the barnyard in cheese while others do not, so that’s something to keep in mind with goat cheeses. It’s also the only cheese from this sampling that I found in The Murray’s Cheese Handbook, so I’ll quote. “This aged wheel is a brilliant expression of goat’s milk at its best.” I especially enjoyed this one.
Covered Bridge comes from Pholia Farms in Rogue River, OR. This cheese comes from Nigerian dwarf dairy goats. That’s unique. There was something different about this cheese, and it might be because the milk comes from dwarf goats. I know of a number of people who would find it too farmy, or too barny. When I compared it to the Capriago and Garroxta, I didn’t enjoy it as much. A friend actually spit it out, but that’s just rude, gross behavior, now isn’t it?
And finally, Goat Cheddar from Avalanche Goat Dairy in Basalt, CO. This is one I’m still unsure of. I had a problem with the mouth feel of this cheese. I felt a sensation of wet chalk or something, but the flavor was nutty and sweet. This cheese was also spit out by my friend- not once, but two or three times. I kept insisting on trying things over and over to really get an opinion. We both agreed that the texture of goat cheddar was a bit odd for us that evening. I’m open to trying it again, or something like it.
And so, my adventures in cheeses have officially begun. I’m so glad Cured is in town.
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!
Lacy Boggs from Yellow Scene magazine came on a Coffee and Pastry tour. Here’s her story…
March 18, 2011
The first coffee and pastry tour was a lot of fun. I learned so much about coffee- a favorite morning drink that I’ve been consuming ever since my first day living in Spain at age 21… 10 years ago.
I’m excited about my Coffee and Pastry tours because they are a great opportunity to learn about coffee from people who know coffee. It’s not just a tour where you taste a little coffee, walk to another coffee shop, taste a little more coffee, and repeat the process. This is an educational event on the art of coffee. That’s right- the ART of coffee. It turns out that everyone has a different way to brew this beautifully delicious bean.
Our first stop was The Cup, a local coffee shop/bakery/lunch spot/work-away-from-home office, owned by Wendy and Chris. The Cup features Conscious Coffee, and while Chris was talking to us about why The Cup serves this particular local coffee roaster’s coffee, he introduced us to Mark, the owner and socially/culturally/environmentally conscious coffee roaster himself. Wendy’s baked goods (made from her personal recipes) graced the table, and we were completely absorbed in coffee, beans, roasts, grinds, brews, geography, seasonality of beans, and good company.
The Cup gave us a sample of the Bolivian roast we were drinking, and after a nice morning nibble and coffee tasting, we walked over to The Unseen Bean.
The Unseen Bean is aptly named. Owner Gerry Leary is the blind master roaster and business owner who, with the assistance of London, his super obedient (and super nice!) guide dog, roasts coffee to perfection based on sound and smell. He was open to sharing his coffee roasting experience with us as we tasted two coffees from his freshly roasted beans.
After a really nice chat with Gerry, some quality time with London, and some great coffee samples, we walked over to Tee & Cakes.
Brian Wood, owner and self-proclaimed coffee junkie, serves NOVO coffee at his shop. He served us some of NOVO’s Amaro Sun Dried coffee along with a nice write up of the beans, including info on the origin: Ethiopia, and nuances: strawberry and spiced apple on the front, cocoa and unripe banana on the finish. Let’s remember, folks- we’re talking about coffee, not wine. You really need to try this particular NOVO coffee and I promise you’ll taste flavors that you don’t usually associate with coffee.
In the end, I’m really hopeful that as a guide I will start to learn a lot about coffee on these tours. Listening to Wendy, Chris, Mark, Gerry, and Brian talk about the coffees featured on this tour really opened my eyes to the distinctly different flavor profiles of these distinctly different brews. So, register for a coffee tour and enjoy a caffeinated lesson. Fridays, 10 am.
On a recent dining tour, Greg, the esteemed beverage manager at OAK at Fourteenth, made a unique new cocktail for us called a Valentine Fizz (it is February, after all).
You’re definitely going to have to get over to OAK for this cocktail because, even if you have all of these ingredients at home, it’s nice to have an expert do all of that shaking!
OAK’s just sweet enough and too complex to really describe Valentine Fizz has: Gin, Campari, Rose Water, Egg White, Lemon, Cream, and Peychaud’s Bitters, sweetly drawn in the shape of a heart.
And the sweetest detail of all- when we finished our cocktails, the heart shape remained at the bottom of the glass.