Monthly Archives: June, 2010

Culinary Connectors at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic

June 30th, 2010 Posted by Aspen, Chefs, Culinary Connectors No Comment yet

It was one of those Cinderella moments as I descended Independence Pass into Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic. I had dreamed of going to this event for years and I was finally here. After checking into my modest hotel with Becky we wondered over to the patio at Ajax Tavern. Snuggled against Aspen Mountain and part of the Little Nell, Ajax Tavern is the place to people watch. Within minutes Chef Matt Selby from Vesta Dipping Grill and his beautiful wife Gina joined us. Also hanging out on the patio was Kelly Kingsford, chef from Mateo in Boulder. We snacked on pate, truffle fries and mussels and watched Mario Batali amble by. Could it get any better than this?

Apparently it could. Later that evening we enjoyed at pig roast at Jose Andres house. We moved on from that fabulous party to the magnum party at the Little Nell. Here we met Caleb Foster, winemaker at Buty Winery in Seattle. We drank his amazing Syrah and then met up with local chef Ryan Hardy for the caviar party. Housemade blinis’ and potato chips tasted amazing with the salty caviar they were dishing up. We ended the night with Becky’s favorite beverage, mezcal at Jimmy’s.  What would be in store for us in the morning?

More to follow about Aspen Food & Wine – a tramp stamp sunburn, Giada De Laurentiis and an impromptu dinner with the chefs from Lark.

Venue Bistro – It’s Where to Eat this Weekend

June 25th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver, restaurants, Uncategorized No Comment yet

After having lunch on the sunny patio at Venue I swore I would go back for multiple visits. This small but charming restaurant in the Highlands is located on 32nd Avenue next to Mondo Vino. Venue sports a rock star chef and Holly, the owner and front of the house who earned her stripes as a manager at Table 6 for a number of years. Chef James Rugile was on the James Beard Rising Star long list earlier this year. He didn’t make the cut to the short list but he did score a Beard dinner in New York this October. After dining at Venue, I understand why.

Lunch at Venue features seared salmon, shrimp and grits, sandwiches, spinach salad and potato leek soup. I split the salad and the salmon with a girlfriend. Both items were delicious. The salad was beautifully dressed, served with candied walnuts, onions and goat cheese. Simple and perfect. The seared salmon was SEARED. I love when a chef can get a good, hard sear on a piece of fish while leaving the inside beautifully done and not overcooked. The salmon is served with a panzanella salad. I could have licked my plate. The dinner menu is equally as beautiful. Brunch is served on Sundays.

Stop by Venue this weekend for dinner, or lunch or brunch. Venue Bistro – 3609 W. 32nd Ave. – 303-477-0477.

Brandon Biederman – I Can’t Cook Mexican Food

June 23rd, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver, Food Cart, Uncategorized 3 comments

I love tattooed badass chefs. Even better is a tattooed badass chef that drives a food truck. Brandon Biederman fits the bill perfectly. Brandon is the executive chef at Steubens Restaurant. This summer you will find him behind the wheel of the Steubens food truck.

The Steubens Truck serves a small menu made up of burgers, fries and deep fried pork rolled in powdered sugar. I call the pork crack but Steubens, being more PC, calls them Steubie Snacks. For dessert the truck offers cookies and cupcakes. You can follow Brandon and the truck on Facebook and Twitter. Lately they’ve been dishing up eats at Civic Center Park.

Brandon Biederman graduated from culinary school and immediately went to work at Tommy Tsuami’s. He became an executive chef at age 22 which he acknowledges was young and very overwhelming.

At the time he was getting seafood from the same supplier as Vesta Dipping Grill. “I had enough at Tommy’s and someone told me that Matty (Matt Selby) was hiring a line cook. I went for an interview, quit Tommy’s and started the next day at Vesta. That kind of stuff happens more often in the industry than you would think.”

“The Grill is my favorite station because you are in control of the kitchen It’s the power station. I used to strive on the stress of service. Now I stress about what is coming off my line cook’s stations.”

Brandon stayed at Vesta for 6 years before he “jumped ship” to Steubens. “I left Vesta because I needed to do something new. Steubens has been open 2 plus years now. It’s amazing that it’s been that long. I still remember doing tastings at 8 a.m. in the morning at Vesta because that’s the only time any of us had to come up with the menu for Stuebens.”


On being an Executive Chef:
I try to talk with all my cooks to make sure that everyone is happy. I currently have 32 employees in the kitchen and four Sous chefs. They are my right hands. Last week we broke the record number of covers in one day at Steubens. We did 1,182!


How has the menu at Steubens evolved?
It really doesn’t change much. I will change the sides and the braise but other than that it’s pretty much the same.


On Steubens:
Steubens is one of those restaurants that have a huge dynamic of guests. It’s a diverse group of people, younger, older, families, people on dates, people wanting to try Sean’s cocktails. I like cooking accessible food. It’s a take on the food we grew up with. People like to criticize us because we’re cooking the classics and sometimes that doesn’t translate exactly the way they had it as kids. That’s challenging. I like to take dishes we had growing up and put a little spin on them, stylize a bit. I think that the fusion influence from Vesta is obvious. Sometimes I come up with a new menu item and then realize I can’t put it on because it’s just too out there for Steubens. It gets too fancy quickly.


Challenges
: I can’t cook Mexican food. You will never see Mexican food on the menu at Steubens because it’s done better at other restaurants in Denver. My dishwashers will make Mexican food for staff meal and I just wish mine would turn out as well as theirs does. (more…)

Where to Eat this Weekend – Table 6

June 18th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Denver, restaurants 3 comments

For those of  us not in Aspen at Food & Wine the question is where will we eat this weekend. For me the answer is simple. Table 6. On Tuesday I accompanied the kitchen crew of Table 6 to Williams Sonoma for a book signing with Thomas Keller. TK, as he is known in kitchens around the world, is an iconic chef having started the French Laundry in Napa and Per Se in New York City. For cooks it’s the equivalent of a basketball fan having face time with Michael Jordan.

Scott, Carri and the other line cooks carried books, hats and oven mitts to be signed. They waited impatiently for over an hour, as they knew there was much to be done before the doors at Table 6 opened at 5:30.  The chefs had prepped hard and fast earlier in the day so they could meet Thomas and get back in time for service. They were cutting it close, but missing an opportunity to meet Thomas Keller was unthinkable. Finally it was their turn. A few brief moments with him, a few photos and it was done. They walked away smiling and inspired. They are a dedicated and passionate crew of cooks that make food with love and vision; which makes Table 6 my recommendation for dinner this weekend.

Try the Green Goddess soup, the tots, the knife and fork artichoke dip and don’t miss pairing your meal with wines from Aaron Forman’s list. If you can’t make it for dinner check it out for Sunday brunch. Table 6 – 609 Corona Street – 303-831-8800.

A Foodie Friday Afternoon

June 15th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, restaurants No Comment yet

Last Friday we took a stroll down South Pearl Street on an alternately rainy and sunny afternoon. Luckily we missed the showers in between jaunts from restaurant to restaurant. By we I mean the group of foodies I was leading on our weekly Friday walking tour.

Each Friday Culinary Connectors introduces guests to four stops on South Pearl Street. This week we began at the Crushery. Chef John Davidson fed us pork belly confit with pickled apples followed by a dessert of peach lavender ice cream. John makes his ice cream in a mixer using liquid nitrogen. This technique of freezing the ice cream base so quickly gives the ice cream a very smooth and creamy consistency.

From the Crushery we walked over to Pajama Baking Company. We toured the busy kitchen, smelled the starters for the bread that is baked fresh everyday, glanced into the $40,000 oven that continually rotates what is baking inside for a beautiful, even finish and watched the pastry chef prepare her lemon curd butter cream. Russ fed us blueberry scones made with plugra (butter with a higher fat content) that keeps the scones moist and not crumbly. We drank espresso and finished up with chocolate ganache brownies.

Our next stop was Kaos Pizza. Pizza here is made like it is in Naples. Pizzas at Kaos are baked in their wood-burning oven at 650 – 750 degrees. We watched as the chefs pulled out pie after pie, cheese bubbling from the high heat. The chefs make their pizza dough every 24 hours using “00” flour, just like they do it in Naples. The pizza is delicious. The crust is crisp on the outside but nice and chewy on the inside. Toppings range from homegrown arugula to san marzano tomatoes. As we sat on the patio eating our pizza the sun peeked out. By now all of us were fast foodie friends. It was difficult to round up the group for the last stop on the tour.

We finished at the Village Cork where Chef Samir showed us how to prepare a tomato salad with housemade ricotta. Next was a plate of crab cakes with a delicious white wine. By that time the tour had officially ended but no one wanted to leave. Our group was still gathered at the bar listening to Samir talk about cooking. We ordered more wine; his roasted vegetable macaroni and cheese and traded foodie stories. It was the most pleasant of afternoons.
Please come join us for a tour.

Hush Denver – It’s Where to Eat This Weekend

June 11th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Denver 1 comment

I am intrigued with underground supper clubs, secret locations, by invitation only events that are for foodies “in the know”. Hard core gourmands in New York and Boston have been doing this for some time and finally Denver has joined the party.  Hush, started by Phil Armstrong and his partner Chance Humphrey feature the most passionate rising stars of the Colorado culinary scene cooking dinner in different locations in Denver and Boulder. From the rooftop of the Art Museum residences to an urban winery the locale and chefs change from event to event.

“It’ll be a forum,” Armstrong explained, “where rising chefs have a chance to develop their cuisine. You know, when you’re staging or working for a chef, it’s all about doing what the chef wants. Cooking his cuisine. A lot of these guys don’t even know what their cuisine would be.”

Kate Horton, James Mazzio, Ian Kleinman and the chefs from Sweet Basil in Vail  have all cooked for HUSH. This Sunday it’s Chef Jeff Osaka’s turn.  Hailing from Twelve Restaurant, Chef Osaka is known for his modern American farm to table cuisine. Will he do the same thing at this HUSH dinner or will he get back to his Asian roots? I’ll be there to find out.

While HUSH is semi secret you still need an invitation to attend. See what all the fuss is about. Click here to learn more.

Chef Jeff Osaka from Twelve Restaurant

June 9th, 2010 Posted by Boulder, Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver, restaurants 1 comment

As I walked into Twelve Restaurant for my interview with Jeff Osaka the dining room was dark and quiet. He poured me a cup of french press coffee as we sat at the bar talking. This was one of those interviews that could have lasted all day as Jeff is an accomplished chef and eater. I was enraptured listening to him speak about why he became a chef.

Jeff began his career in Los Angeles, before moving to Denver. “I was a foodie for so long. When I was younger I used to work at Vons grocery store. I actually made money and I liked to spend it dining out. I loved trying the newest and trendiest restaurants in LA. One day during a meal I walked by the kitchen and saw a whole brigade of chefs working. It piqued my interest and I asked the hostess for a job application. I don’t know what came over me. Later, the Chef sat down with me for two hours. He hired me right on the spot. I thought that I would just do prep but I ended up working with a Sous chef for private dining. I did this part time while I still worked at Vons. Finally I decided to go to culinary school. It came easy to me. I had a passion for it. I never took notes in class and I passed with a 4.0.”

From there Jeff worked with the greats in L.A. including Wolfgang Puck, Joaquim Splichal and Bradley Ogden. While Jeff was working with Bradley Ogden he was introduced to the Farm to Table concept. This was back in the 90’s. Even though One Market, Chef Ogden’s restaurant, was huge he would close for lunch on Saturdays and visit the farmers markets. He also worked a coop deal with farmers in the Napa Valley so that he could bring in the freshest produce.
Twelve Restaurant gets its name and its concept because the menu is entirely different each month. For those of us without kitchen experience this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. No dish is repeated even from year to year. It takes creativity and foresight to be able to change a menu so frequently let alone do it flawlessly and make it delicious. “It’s challenging,” Jeff says, “but it keeps my staff excited. My Sous chefs have input now into changing the menu and they like that. ”
Chef Osaka prefers to have a small restaurant although that can be challenging as well. “Business has been good and steady, “ he says “but I would like to see my dining room full each night. I think Denver thinks that Twelve is a high-end restaurant, expensive and with small portions. But that’s not true.”

Having eaten at Twelve a few times now I also don’t understand why it’s not cranking every night. It’s in a super location – right by Coors Field and the Ballpark Lofts and with his $35 three-course prix fixe menu on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays Twelve, in my opinion is primed to become the best restaurant in Denver. (more…)

Twelve – it’s Where to Eat This Weekend

June 4th, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

The Rockies were playing the last time I went to Twelve Restaurant. The neighborhood was full of fans walking the streets, dressed in purple and black ready for a dog and a beer. I was going to have a more spectacular dinner by far. Parking was easy to my surprise. I love it when the parking space Gods are kind.
I walked a block from my parking spot to the cool space that is Twelve Restaurant. Why is it called Twelve? Chef Jeff Osaka changes his menu 12 times a year. Twelve features Osaka’s interpretation of “Modern American” cuisine using food that is globally influenced but locally and seasonally available. “I don’t want to use ‘global’ but that’s the best way to describe it. Or maybe modern American. America is unique. Your last name is different from my last name, but we occupy the same country. I grew up in Los Angeles with Japanese food at home. At the restaurant, I might use prosciutto. But that doesn’t make it an Italian restaurant,” says Chef Osaka.
Like most better restaurants in Denver Chef likes to use as many local ingredients as possible. The farm to table concept is nothing new to Osaka as he learned from Bradley Ogden, a well known chef in L.A. Chef Ogden was working with farmers in the Napa Valley back in the 1990’s to supply produce to his restaurant at the time, One Market.
During dinner that evening I had the most amazing carrot soup. The puree was silky and sweet. I followed that up with scallops that were perfectly cooked over lentils. Sweetbreads, house made pasta and crab salad over avocado were also part of my meal. It was exquisite. Now mind you what I had is now off the menu, as it changes monthly. I looked at Jeff’s current menu today and immediately made a mental note to stop by this week. I want to taste the veal sweetbreads, with Mache, cherries and almond crumble. I want to experience the Atlantic char with roasted tomatoes and English pea puree. And when it comes to desserts I know I am going to have a hard time choosing between the chocolate trio – chocolate pot de crème, Mexican ice cream and bittersweet cake versus the financier – almond cake with mascarpone and strawberries.
The space at Twelve is small and relaxing. You can watch Josh (a great mixologist) work his magic at the bar. You can see Chef gracefully finish dishes and push plates to the pass. Service is low key and efficient and the wine list is full of hidden treasures.
When you are thinking of where to eat this weekend Twelve is one of the best options in town. Twelve is located at 2233 Larimer Street. Reservations are recommended. Please call 303-293-0287.

Chefs are Sexy

June 1st, 2010 Posted by Chefs, restaurants No Comment yet

What is it about chefs that make me go weak at the knees? Is it their crisp, starchy white jackets, the tattoos, the confidence they exude as they strut through their kitchens or the way they can slice an onion? A chef’s hands are battle scarred but precise and watching a chef brunoise a carrot is like foreplay.

Chefs are warriors. They command their kitchens during the battle of service. They solve problems in a wink of an eye. They’re bad boys who drink whiskey to relax and their potty mouths can be shocking to those who are not used to the heat and pressure of working in a kitchen.

They are generous, always ready to cook you a meal and share a glass of wine. Although they can be moody, egotistical and demanding their passion for their craft is contagious. They are flirty and suggestive; open to making out in the walk-in and drinking with you until early in the morning. Sigh. Some of my best memories involve hanging out after hours in a kitchen with a chef, drinking moscato d’asti, sitting on the kitchen counters, making hamburgers and eating truffle honey. Cheers to all you sexy chefs!