Monthly Archives: March, 2010

The James Beard Short List

March 31st, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

The James Beard Foundation whittled down its long list. Only two from Colorado made the final cut. Congratulations to Frasca Food & Wine for their Best Wine Service nomination and also to Ryan Hardy, chef at LA Montagna in the Little Nell, Aspen. Even though it’s disappointing that more Colorado chefs didn’t make the short list it is amazing to look at our state and the talented chefs and restaurants we have here.

Did you know that there are a good number of area chefs that have worked in New York, France and California with some very famous names? Jeff Musat at Black Pearl worked at Gramercy Tavern. John Davidson, chef/owner of the Crushery also worked at Gramercy Tavern and at Daniel. Lachlan Patterson, chef/owner of Frasca Food & Wine worked at the French Laundry as did Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey.

Frank Bonanno, chef/owner of Bones, Luca D’Italia, Mizuna and Osteria Marco staged at the French Laundry and at Boulud. Nelson Perkins from Colt and Grey staged with Dan Barber at Blue Hill. Darren Pusateri, chef at Izakaya Den worked at DB Bistro – Daniel’s Bistro in NYC. Wayne Conwell at Sushi Sasa worked with Morimoto. Jeff Osaka was the personal chef for Steven Spielberg for four years. Nathan Miller, pastry chef at the Kitchen worked with Johnny Iuzzini at Jeans George. Jen Jasinksi, chef at Rioja worked with Wolfgang Puck. Hugo Matheson chef/owner at the Kitchen worked at River Café and also with Jamie Oliver. Radek Cerny, chef at L’Atelier, worked with French great Paul Bocuse. Carrie Aili, sous chef at Table 6 worked with Nate Appleman when he was still at A16 in San Francisco. John Broening worked with Guy Savoy in Paris.

So even though we only have two on the James Beard short list, we can still be proud of the culinary talent in Colorado. Come May 3rd, you know I will be cheering for Frasca and for Chef Hardy!

Brunch

March 25th, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

I love Brunch. There is something very decadent about sleeping in on a Sunday and then making my way to a restaurant to celebrate Sunday “Funday”. While there are many cool brunch spots in Denver, my favorite at the moment is The Kitchen Café in Boulder.

The Kitchen Café is sunny and low key. Known for it’s eco practices and support of local farms and products, the Kitchen is simple and straightforward and a good place to relax before heading back to work on Monday.

Nathan Miller, pastry chef, has his hand rolled croissants on the brunch menu. They are fabulous – flaky, buttery and filled with chocolate. If you don’t get to The Kitchen early most likely the croissants will be gone. Consider yourself warned. Also on the menu is fresh coffee cake and canneles – a small pastry that is super crispy on the outside, creamy and doughy on the inside.

The tomato soup, the full English breakfast and the fries are all good choices for those of you who like a more savory brunch. A few mimosas or a bloody Mary makes your Sunday a very “Funday”. The next time you feel like postponing the week ahead brunch at The Kitchen Café is a good choice.

What We Hate About Dining Out

March 20th, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

In this months Bon Appétit magazine (on page 30 to be exact) was a list of 5 things we hate about restaurants. I read the list and then started my own. When dining out and spending our hard earned dollars what are the things that annoy us the most?

Food not being seasoned properly – this is my number one complaint. I believe that chefs should taste every dish. Kate Horton, chef at Black Pearl is a big proponent of this.

Front of house who say, “It’s my pleasure”. Can we think of anything else to say? This seems trite and obviously untrue. Try dining at Vesta Dipping Grill. Their servers are competent and casually hip.

Sommeliers who steer us towards the most expensive bottle of wine on the list. I love it when a sommelier truthfully tells me that the $45 bottle of Pinot is a fabulous find rather than sell me an overpriced California Cab. Aaron Forman at Table 6 does a great job of offering a variety of wines at a variety of price points.

The table not being marked before a dish is served. What I mean is – before a course is served the server should “mark” the table with the proper utensils. For example if you are having soup, a soup spoon should be placed on the table before the bowl is set in front of you. Also annoying is when you are pairing wine with your courses and the wine is served well after you have started the course it was meant for. Try Fruition Restaurant and experience an amazing level of service.

The dessert menu being an after thought. Isn’t dessert supposed to be the “icing on the cake?” I hate when a dessert menu reads like a chain restaurant. Yes, crème brulee and molten chocolate cake are classics but please try something new! Check out the dessert menu at the Kitchen Café in Boulder. Pastry Chef, Nathan Miller has won awards for his Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Am I a foodie diva? Hard to please? I don’t think so. I just know that when I am dining out I want to experience the best possible level of service, cuisine and wine.

Let me know your pet peeves. Please email me at Christine@culinaryconnectors.com.

Bowls, Jars and Spoons – more on Scott Parker, Exec at Table 6

March 15th, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

On what he would put on a menu if he didn’t have to worry about it selling: Scott says he puts anything he thinks of on the menu anyway. “Sometimes it sells, sometimes it doesn’t.”

When Deanna, his equally hot pastry chef wife was pregnant with their first child, Scott used her cravings as inspiration for menu items. During her pregnancy he added the crackerjack shrimp with caramel and popcorn dust that Table 6 regulars came to love.

On what inspires him: “What is in season and what I’m hungry for.” Apparently he was craving artichoke dip recently as he has added a knife and fork artichoke dish – a play on the ghetto cheesy artichoke dip (his words) you still find at American chain restaurants.

Favorite Dish on the Table 6 menu:
the pork rinds. “I had them at Publican restaurant in Chicago and I just had to put them on the menu. “

Another item that he is currently experimenting with: Housemade cheetos. “Cheetos are basically heat and pressure applied to grain. “ Scott comments.

On the Best dish he has eaten recently: the burger at Stuebens.

On spending time with other local chefs: When asked if he spends time with local chefs talking about food, he says, “No, I just want to talk about my kids.” Four weeks ago Charlie Wayne Parker joined the household. Juggling time with Olivia age 2 ½, newborn Charlie, and his wife Scott says that he likes time at home these days better than being in the kitchen. He and Alex Seidel from Fruition will often have a beer and talk diapers. (Alex has a newborn of his own).

On Molecular Gastronomy:
“It has its place. It’s another way to look at something. When the oven was invented people freaked out too. It exploded all at once.” Scott likes the less chemical approaches to molecular gastronomy – like popcorn powder. “There is no need to go all Willy Wonka”.

On ingredients: Scott likes using Asian ingredients singularly. He uses yuzu, or sesame or soy separately. He likes the flavor combination of miso and apples or using sesame oil to finish a vinaigrette. “Focus on each individual ingredient.”

On becoming a chef: Scott remembers the moment “he knew”. This one time at Boy Scout camp…Scott was asked to cook steaks for the Scouts on his boat. (His Boy Scout camp was boating in the Florida Keys). He made steaks seasoned with salt and pepper. They were good, so good that other boats turned up asking for the Boy Scout who cooked the steaks. Scott the Scout was hooked.

“The science of cooking intrigues me. I like to figure out why things work. Getting attention was never a part of why I became a chef.” Well said, Scott Parker, please stay on the line and make me those housemade cheetos!

Salt & Acid – the keys to seasoning

March 13th, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Seasoning is the art of imparting flavor to or improving the flavor of food. Have you ever made a recipe at home, followed the instructions to the letter, measured each ingredient, only to have the dish fall flat or be just so- so? We all need to learn more about seasoning.

“Salt and pepper goes further than anything else”, says Travis Vaughn, Executive Sous-Chef at Frasca Food & Wine.  Scott Parker, Executive Chef at Table 6 adds “Salt is number one and acidity is number two. “

“Most home cooks are not using enough salt.” says Deanna Parker, former pastry chef of Frasca Food & Wine, Fruition and Red Trolley.  “Just because you added exactly what the recipe calls for doesn’t mean your dish is perfect. Taste, taste and taste again.”

Another problem is not understanding the necessity of acid on a plate to balance a dish. Lemon juice, quality vinegar and even citric acid may all be used to brighten the flavors on a plate. Scott grinds kosher salt and citric acid in a spice grinder and uses this to season his French fries. Can anyone name a fast food chain that does the same thing?

At the same time all three Chefs cautioned me that chefs tend to taste things in tiny snapshots. It’s important to remember that diners eat an entire plate of, for example slow braised pork over polenta, while the chef is just getting a small taste. To that end all three chefs feel that it is important to back off just slightly on seasoning so that diners are not overwhelmed by salt or acid.

For information about seasoning, salts to use for cooking, and for finishing visit the Savory Spice Shop. For quality vinegars I recommend visiting EVOO Market.

Denver Dining – It’s the Food Oscars!

March 7th, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

I always look forward to reading the list of James Beard nominations. I scan the list and check off all the restaurants I’ve been to, and make a new “If I won the lottery and could eat anywhere list”.  This year I was astounded by the number of Colorado chefs that were singled out. Never before has Colorado had so many nominations.

Matt Selby, Executive Chef at Vesta Dipping Grill and Stuebens has a good idea why Colorado is starting to get more recognition. “Denver is catching national attention because of the perseverance, passion, creativity and focus of our local chefs and restaurateurs. Rather than dwelling on the lack of local and national attention, Denver chefs and restaurateurs have simply focused in on food that exceeds their personal standards and service that is created OUT of their own standards. By returning to what is so basic, and so primary, Denver is beginning to shine. “

Matt says, “The greatest thing about being a chef in Denver is the Denver diners themselves. Denver diners have weathered the storm of an unsure market for many years now, standing by their favorite chefs and restaurants, while supporting the new and innovative, with an emphasis on local and independent. Because of the Denver diners, the scene is beginning to flourish. “

Flourish indeed. I think that Colorado’s lack of local and national attention is at an end. Culinary Connectors would like to congratulate all of our Colorado chefs. Good luck!

Here is a list of our Colorado nominees:

Outstanding Restaurateur

Chipotle CEO Steve Ells

Frank Bonanno, executive chef-owner of Bones, Luca D’Italia, Mizuna, and Osteria Marco; Denver

Best Chef – Southwest

Colorado chefs nabbed six of the 20 nominee slots. “We dominated the Southwest category, which has never happened,” said Denver restaurant consultant John Imbergamo “It’s a clear indication of Colorado’s increased culinary visibility throughout the U.S. Perhaps this is a bit of the fruits of our labor, so to speak.”

Bertrand Bouquin, Summit at the Broadmoor; Colorado Springs

Mark Fischer, Six89; Carbondale

Ryan Hardy, Montagna at the Little Nell; Aspen

Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja; Denver

Kelly Liken, Kelly Liken; Vail

Alex Seidel, Fruition; Denver

Rising Star Chef of the Year

James Rugile, Venue Bistro; Denver

Outstanding Pastry Chef

Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, Duo and Olivea; Denver

Outstanding Service

The Penrose Room at the Broadmoor; Colorado Springs

Outstanding Wine Service

Frasca Food & Wine; Boulder

The James Beard awards are held the first Monday in May at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City.

For more information about the James Beard awards or the James Beard Foundation please go to http://www.jamesbeard.org/

It’s better than Denny’s

March 3rd, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

That may sound strange but let me explain. The sun streamed through the windows as I was seated at my table at Gaia Bistro. Gaia Bistro for those us not “in the know” is tucked into a little house on South Pearl Street in Denver. Currently, the bistro is open for breakfast and lunch. Back yard greenhouses operate throughout the summer and ensure that all produce; herbs and spices are organically and very locally grown. Both the owners and Chef Drew Middleton believe in farming their own produce, using Colorado natural beef, free range chicken, Colorado lamb, pork, eggs and dairy.

As I poured my French press coffee and bit into cinnamon coffee cake (baked fresh every day) I eavesdropped on the tables around me. There was a couple, probably on their first “after I spent the night” date having breakfast and getting to know each other better.  As they chatted at length about movies they had each seen, they stopped for a moment over their breakfast. “This is really good”, said the woman. “It’s better than Denny’s” chimed in her companion.

I ordered the baked eggs, a recommendation from the foodie I was breakfasting with. She was right on. The eggs were perfectly cooked, spicy from the homemade pico and tangy from the goat cheese. I dug in and I agreed most definitely with the table I was eavesdropping on. It is better than Denny’s .

Check out Gaia Bistro at www.gaiabistro.com, and Lori Midson’s, (Cafe Society Editor at Westword),  Chef and Tell interview with Chef Drew Middleton at http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2010/02./chef_and_tell_with_drew_middle.php.