Monthly Archives: August, 2010

The Generosity of Chefs

August 26th, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Being a chef is about making people happy, satisfying cravings and sharing your talent to feed and nourish others.  So when a good friend of the culinary community needed some help, check out how our Denver chefs stepped up to the plate.

Moose Koons is a single dad raising a great 6th grader named Gavin.  Gavin has severe dyslexia, and attends Denver Academy because it’s the best school in the metro area for the treatment of dyslexia.

Gavin’s tuition is $22,500 a year, and, while our community is all the richer thanks to Moose following his dream of helping out local breweries, distilleries, farmers and a brand new soda company, Moose isn’t quite ‘all the richer’ just yet.

On Tuesday, August 31st at 6pm, Benny Kaplan, chef/owner of Shazz is opening his restaurant at 44th and Lowell to host a benefit dinner to bridge the gap between Gavin and Moose’s dreams and a shortfall in this year’s tuition.  Only about $5,000 is needed.

In addition to Benny Kaplan, Bob Blair from Fuel Cafe will be serving up some scrumptious apps, Brendon Doyle from Jonesy’s EatBar is making homemade gnocchi, Matt Selby from Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben’s is doing the main entree with duck breast, and D bar’s Keegan Gerhard is fixing dessert. Local wineries and distillers will be on hand to keep us diners “watered”.

Details:

  • Tuesday, August 31st
  • Cocktails and passed appetizers will begin at 6pm.
  • Dinner will begin at 7pm sharp so that we can get Gavin to bed by 9:30 to be up for school the next day!
  • Only 50 seats are available, I’m predicting they will go fast. A $75 dollars donation toward the dinner is suggested, although feel free to contribute more if you are so inclined.

Please call Shazz for reservations at 303-477-1407.

If you can’t make it and would still like to contribute, please send checks to Chris Koons, 7271 Teller St., Arvada, CO 80003. Please write Denver Academy tuition on the memo line.

Indulgence

August 23rd, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Food Cart, restaurants No Comment yet

I didn’t realize that August was going to be so hard on my waistline. This month has been full of foodie events and I have no will power to resist them. This weekend I attended four!  Friday afternoon I kicked off the weekend by doing a Culinary Connectors Highlands walking tour. We started at Happy Cakes, gorging ourselves on red velvet cupcakes. We made our way down the block with stops at Stella for housemade pasta, Bang! for grilled pork tenderloin with sweet corn and ended with paninis and sangria at Highland Cork and Coffee.

Saturday evening I braved the hot sun and walked in heels (wedges) in an unpaved parking lot to experience the Justice League of Steetfood. Over 2,000 people joined me to feast on Pinche Tacos, dogs from Biker Jim, biscuits from the Biscuit bus, the most amazing pork and pancake dish from Gastro Cart and Steubie Snacks from Pearl, the Steubens truck. Infinite Monkey Theorem and Great Divide provided beer and wine for the parched crowd.

Later, on the patio at Jonesy’s Eat Bar, I attended the Two Rivers Winery dinner in celebration of Harvest Week. Chef Brendon Doyle grilled melons, roasted lamb, fed us cherries from his father’s back yard and dished up bread pudding as we watched the sunset and delighted in the cool summer breeze.

I ended the weekend at the Summer Seafood Dinner at Infinite Monkey Theorem. This sold out event was put together by Alex Seidel of Fruition, Scott and Deanna Parker from Table 6, Justin Brunson from Masterpiece Deli and Jeff Osaka from Twelve. I mingled with fellow foodies and feasted on smoked sturgeon, oysters, shrimp, heirloom tomato salad, clams, housemade andouille sausage and seared scallop and pork belly skewers. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better Deanna Parker served her shortbread with peaches and whipped cream fraiche. Oh my!

I woke up this morning feeling slightly guilty…I had indulged all weekend long. I told myself it was time for a long run to make up for eating all week. I vowed to eat nothing but chicken and broccoli, do double cardio workouts and abstain from wine – but then I realized it’s Harvest Week and wouldn’t it be nice to have dinner somewhere tonight like Venue or Encore or Duo? So much for my waistline and my budget (but that is a subject for another day).

Just in case anyone wants to keep indulging with me click here for a list of the restaurants that are participating in Harvest Week. This is the third annual Harvest Week, a celebration of Colorado’s exceptional produce. Each participating restaurant creates a menu that features food grown in Colorado so get out there and savor it.

Summer Seafood Dinner – It’s Where to Eat This Weekend

August 17th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver, restaurants No Comment yet

This Sunday I am going to foodie heaven. Five of my favorite chefs in Denver are cooking for me. Well, they’re not just cooking for me. They are hosting an event at Infinite Monkey Theorem to benefit Revision International, an organization that helps low income families build gardens and cook with fresh produce.

Alex Seidel from Fruition, Scott and Deanna Parker from Table 6, Jeff Osaka from Twelve and Justin Brunson from Masterpiece Deli are going to do what they do best – cook. Dinner is $50 per person and wines by the glass and flights are available for an additional cost.

I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us. This is no ordinary chefs dinner where everyone just shows up with their dish. These chefs all congregated at Jeff Osaka’s home to write the menu together. I can’t wait to try it.

For reservations and to pre-pay for this event, please call the Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery at 303.736.8376.

Zocalito’s Mike Beary – Grasshoppers and Peppers

August 17th, 2010 Posted by Aspen, Chefs, Culinary Connectors, restaurants No Comment yet

I sat down with Mike Beary on a Saturday night right before Zocalito opened. He seemed relatively calm even though a busy night of service was in front of him. We sat outside his charming restaurant and chatted about grasshoppers, peppers and why he opened his own place. Later in the evening I descended on Zocalito with four of my foodie friends to experience it for myself.

Zocalito means “the little center of the town” and that definition fits Aspen’s Zocalito perfectly. Chef Mike Beary opened Zocalito because he didn’t want Aspen to be without an ethnic restaurant.  To keep everything authentic he travels every six months to Oaxaca, Mexico to bring back sugars, chocolate, spices and peppers. Pasilla de Oaxaca, taprich and chilhuacles are just some of peppers that Mike uses on his menu and he won’t hesitate to tell you what makes each flavor unique and why it’s essential to the dishes that come out of his kitchen.  After having dinner at Zocalito, my favorite dish was the chicken breast and mozzarella. Wrapped in a santa leaf, topped with Iberico ham and served with a chamoy vinaigrette and tomatillo salsa we literally swooned as we ate this.

Before Zocalito Beary worked for 10 years as the Executive Chef at Cache Cache. Today he uses French cooking techniques from the Cache Cache kitchen and his extensive knowledge from traveling through Spain, Argentina, South and Central America to bring the tastes of the region to Aspen.  “We try to feature a little of everything — we’re just trying to show people how good this cuisine can be, on the rustic edge of Central and South America,” he says. “We’re trying to heighten awareness.”

Any rules in your kitchen: Taste everything

If you could eat anywhere in the world: All over Provence

What would you put on the menu if you didn’t have to worry about it selling: Grasshoppers. They’re actually on the menu and they do sell.

On grasshoppers: “I brought back a couple of scoops of them from Oaxaca as an experiment, and the reception was just crazy — my supply was gone in a few weeks. In Oaxaca, they’re even sold in the stands at baseball games,” he says. The United States is one of the few countries in the world whose citizens do not routinely eat insects.

What trends are you loving right now: I have a garden at my house, which I use to supply produce at the restaurant. Currently Mike is using his own kale, radishes, carrots, raspberries, peaches, currants, cherries and peaches.

What makes a good food city: If the people in a city are good eaters, then it’s a great food city.

What next: I would like to open up a few more Zocalitos and start an import company from Oaxaca.

Hardest part about being a chef: To get people to believe in you and get on board with you. Motivating my chefs every day is a challenge, but it’s necessary.

Best part of being a chef: The creativity. The art of doing anything you want in a kitchen.

Do you work on the line: Yes, I work on the grill. I do all the entrees.

Favorite kitchen utensil: Damascus knives. I love Japanese steel.

Favorite ingredient: something you haven’t seen before. I love using grasshoppers and worms of the agave.

Zocalito is open 5:00 – 10:00 p.m. nightly. Order from the tapas menu and be sure to try the cocktails. The mojitos are especially good and are made with mint from Mike’s own back yard. Keeping with the theme of the restaurant, all the wines are Spanish or Central American.

Zocalito – 420 East Hyman Ave., Aspen. 970-920-1991.

Syzygy – It’s Where to Eat This Weekend

August 13th, 2010 Posted by Aspen, Culinary Connectors, restaurants No Comment yet

Syzygy means the alignment of three or more celestial bodies or should I say heavenly bodies? I had the pleasure of touring the kitchen at Syzygy during a Culinary Connector’s Aspen Top Restaurant Tour a few weeks ago. From the chefs in their gleaming white, starchy coats to the lobster stuffed squash blossoms there are many things that are heavenly at Syzygy.

Located downstairs from Ute City, Syzygy draws you in with its sleek décor and then mesmerizes you with its menu. Chef Martin Oswald has created an interesting mix of classic cuisine and molecular gastronomy which the chefs at Syzygy execute very well. A good example is the beef tenderloin, which is served with porcini crumble, stilton powder, bone marrow, crispy béarnaise and mousseline potatoes.  “I want each dish to have a unique element,” says Chef Martin. Also good on the menu is the pistachio schnitzel with lemon spaetzle and the buffalo carpaccio with spring garlic panna cotta. “I especially like the use of a savory panna cotta as you don’t see it very often,” says Sous Chef, Daniel Silver. I agree with Chef Silver and I am anxious to eat at Syzygy again.

Try Syzygy this weekend and experience the heavenliness for yourselves.  Syzygy is open 7 nights a week for dinner starting at 6:00 p.m. Syzygy – 308 East Hopkins Ave., Aspen. 970-925-3700.

The Cookbook I Can’t Live Without

August 10th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors No Comment yet

I am a cookbook addict. Give me a gift card to Barnes and Noble or Amazon and you know what I am going to buy. When I’m in New York, Kitchen Arts and Letters is always on my go to list. I have many titles in my kitchen but there is one cookbook that has saved my life many, many times. Let me preface my story by saying that I am a pastry chef not a savory chef. Last night the gorgeous man in my life made these amazing scallops with pasta and fresh corn from the farmers market. In an attempt to repay his generosity I decided to poach eggs, for the first time ever, for his breakfast. Was I nervous? YES! This guy is a serious foodie. He talked about sous vide preparation on our first date for pity sakes. I reached for the “bible”, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by kitchen goddess Julia Child, and commenced with the poaching. I got the water to a perfect simmer and slipped my first egg in. Using my wooden spoon I pushed the white up over the yolk and set a timer for 4 minutes. Everyone says making a perfectly poached egg is difficult but mine turned out just fine. A little crispy pancetta, strong coffee, some sourdough toast and my breakfast on the fly was complete. Thank you, Julia!

What cookbooks are on your go to list?

Pizzeria Basta – It’s Where to Eat This Weekend

August 6th, 2010 Posted by Boulder, Chefs, Culinary Connectors, restaurants No Comment yet

This Saturday Pizzeria Basta is hosting a three course wine dinner with Infinite Monkey Theorem, Denver’s urban winery.  For just $39 per person this is great way to drink some interesting wines and experience the cuisine from Chef Whitaker.

Chef Kelly Whitaker has drawn from his experience in Naples, Italy and at Hatfield’s and Providence in Los Angeles to bring his culinary journey to life. Basta, which means “enough” in Italian embodies the philosophy of the restaurant – simple, properly prepared food and a good bottle of wine are all you need for a satisfying meal.

I’ve had several of those satisfying meals at Basta since they opened in January. Chef Whitaker is a firm believer in farm to table. His roasted vegetable salad with grilled balsamic is a beautiful use of market flavors. The wood fire oven is the centerpiece at Basta. It is used to impart a unique flavor to the pizza and for finishing entrees that were just recently added to the dinner menu. I love snacking on their housemade breads and charcuterie before eating a bubbly pie hot from the oven. The daisy with tomato sauce, hand stretched mozzarella, grana padano, basil and e.v.o.o. is my favorite. Also recently added to the menu are house made ice creams. Alan Henkin, formerly of Frasca Food & Wine, is the beverage director and it shows when you read his artfully crafted wine and beer list.

Even if you don’t make the wine dinner, try Basta for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, and for dinner on Saturdays. They are currently featuring a fixed lunch menu of seasonal soup or a romaine heart salad with either a pizza, sandwich or calzone for just $10.

Pizzeria Basta, is located in the Peloton at 3601 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder. Call 303-997-8775 for reservations.

Sous Vide

August 4th, 2010 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Most foodies have heard of the term Sous Vide, but what does it really mean? French for “under vacuum,” this technique involves cryovacking food and then cooking it in a circulated temperature-controlled water bath for an extended period of time. The sous-vide method is used in several gourmet restaurants by world renowned chefs such as Heston Blumenthal Paul Bocuse, Thomas Keller, Ferran Adrià, Joël Robuchon, and Charlie Trotter. The Sous Vide technique allows chefs to perfectly cook a variety of foods that can then be “picked up to order” during the pressure of a busy service. Case in point – a beautiful short rib that is cooked in a circulator and then kissed on the grill before being plated and sent out of the kitchen.

This cooking technique, wildly popular in New York, is being used in Colorado kitchens as well –but under the radar. Clostridium botulinum bacteria can grow in food in the absence of oxygen and produce the deadly botulinum toxin, so sous-vide cooking must be performed under carefully controlled conditions to avoid botulism poisoning. Unless you have a HAACP plan in place, using Sous Vide is a health department violation.

That is unless you are Chef Kelly Whitaker of Pizzeria Basta. Kelly is the first chef in Boulder to write a HAACP plan and submit it for approval. There is no stove in the Pizzeria Basta kitchen and when Chef Whitaker decided to add entrees to his dinner menu he needed a way to do them well and finish them in the wood fired oven. His logical choice? Sous Vide. While his plan has not been 100% implemented yet, like I said it’s still pending approval, Chef Whitaker is turning out delicious pizzas, a short rib and a series of pastas that will keep you coming back for more.

Check out Pizzeria Basta on Saturday August the 7th, as they host a wine dinner with Infinite Monkey Theorem. Enjoy three courses with paired wines for just $39 per person. Call 303-997-8775 for reservations.

Pizzeria Basta – 3601 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, Colorado. 303-997-8775.

Chef Radek Cerny of L’Atelier

August 3rd, 2010 Posted by Boulder, Chefs, Culinary Connectors, restaurants No Comment yet

Sitting with chef Radek at his bistro in Boulder I can see the impatience in his face as he answers several phone calls, looks at his watch and asks me how long this interview is going to take. Chef Cerny currently has two restaurants in Boulder – his bistro and his flagship L’Atelier. In 20 minutes (the fastest interview I’ve ever done) I was able to learn quite a bit about this passionate and busy chef.
Radek was born in Prague, where his grandmother’s cooking influenced him to become a chef. He finished his regular schooling and did a four-year program at the Czech Cook’s School. His real passion, however, was writing and performing blue grass music. Eventually Radek left Czechoslovakia and headed for Nashville, but music was not to be his career.
“The minute I saw the 10- and 15-year-old kids playing music outside the bus
station, my dreams were shattered,” he says. “You have to have it in you and I do, but not like that. I said, ‘I should go back to spatula.’”

His travels took him from Nashville to Chicago to New York where he cooked at Le Francais and LaFayette, with Jeans George. Finally Radek ended up in Vail working for another Czech chef, George Jaku. It was here that he learned about French style cooking.

A couple of trips to France and some time spent working with Paul Bocuse and Roger Verge finally convinced him to open his first restaurant in Boulder, The European Café. The success of the European Café put Radek on the map. Since then he has opened Al Fresco, Papllion, Radex and Le Chantecler. In 2003 he opened L’Atelier and in 2009 Radex Bistro.
For as long as he has been in the business Radek still writes both his regular and dessert menus, works on the line and is a stickler for having a clean and well-organized kitchen. His signature dish is lobster ravioli in buerre blanc and from personal experience, it is amazing.

 

Favorite kitchen utensil: Mandolin

Best thing about being a chef: You can always invent something new. There is so much versatility in a kitchen.
If you could eat anywhere in the world: Noma in Copenhagen. I actually have a reservation for September 15th.
Why did you open the Bistro: I was bored with just L’Atelier.
Favorite Food Cities: Chicago, San Francisco and New York.
What do you cook at home: I love to grill a good piece of fish or a steak.

Advice for home cooks: Keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying.
Advice for culinary students: Don’t count so much on culinary school. Go figure it out in a kitchen.
Favorite Ingredients: Asian spices. I learned about those when I worked at LaFayette, with Jeans George.
Favorite Station: Sauté
Favorite Restaurants: Sushi Sasa
Favorite Local Chef: Michael Long of Opus
Favorite Food Movie: Babette’s Feast

Favorite White Trash Food: KFC