Monthly Archives: January, 2011

Oak at Fourteenth – It’s Where to Eat This Weekend

January 29th, 2011 Posted by Boulder, Chefs, Culinary Connectors, restaurants No Comment yet

Oak at Fourteenth may just be my new favorite restaurant. Is it because I worked with Chef Steve Redzikowski and Bryan Dayton, mixologist extraordinaire and now part of the Denver FIVE during my time at Frasca?

No.

It’s my new favorite because it’s really, really good.

“I just want one thing,” I told Chef Steve when I stopped in for a quick brunch. He started me off with a simple salad with seared tuna. It was perfect – dressed just right – which should be easy to do, but so many restaurants either under dress or over dress their salads. Next came the coffee cured hanger steak and eggs. The steak was beautifully pink, the eggs oozed their yolks and the cheddar fondue that was on the bottom of the plate was silky smooth. At this point my idea of stopping at a couple of other restaurants in Boulder vanished. I crushed that plate and then started anew on the cheese course that Steve sent for dessert. What I particularly love about Oak is that they use very seasonal and local ingredients. Their dessert menu in particular highlights Uncle Pete’s honey, Tommy Knockers root beer, goat cheese made in Basalt, Colorado and Boulder’s Heirloom popcorn.

During brunch I indulged with one of Bryan Dayton’s fun cocktails. I highly suggest his Morning Routine made with Domaine de Canton, campari, lime juice, Leopold’s peach bitters and tonic. My girlfriend who doesn’t drink was delighted to find some interesting non-alcoholic beverages on the menu. She tried the cucumber and mint soda. While we were eating the barkeep started shaving hand carved ice cubes into spheres that fit in low ball glasses. Really, really!

Oak at Fourteenth is a great addition to an already thriving dining scene in Boulder. After eating at Oak I immediately wanted to go back for more. There were many dishes just on their brunch menu that caught my eye, not to mention the house made potato chips, gioia creamery ricotta gnuddi and meatballs with anson mills grits. I’m planning a weekend trip with my fiancée to Boulder so that we can spend most of that time happily ensconced in front of the open kitchen at Oak.

Try Oak anytime during the week or weekend (they are closed on Mondays), but in particular, if you have time Tuesday, February 8th, Oak is hosting a wine dinner with winemaker Fabrizio Iuli. Chef Steve is creating a five course-tasting menu with paired wines for just $75 per person. Not only does Fabrizio make fabulous wine, the menu looks fabulous as well. Steve is planning on making cocoa braised boar, crispy pork belly and chicken live pate. Just reading the menu makes my foodie soul sing!  To make reservations please call 303-444-3622.

Oak at Fourteenth – 1400 Pearl St., Boulder. 303-444-3622. Weekdays: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm. Closed Mondays. Weekends: 10:30 am – 10:00 pm

Venue – It’s Where to Eat This Week

January 25th, 2011 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver No Comment yet

In that cute stretch of 32nd Avenue next door to Mondo Vino is Venue. Open for lunch, dinner and brunch on the weekends, Venue is Holly Hartnett’s (formerly of Table 6) baby.

I wondered into Venue yesterday to get some work done and have a quiet lunch. “What should I have?” I asked Holly. “The burger, I think it’s one of the best in town.” Now, that’s a bold statement. I love burgers and have tried them all over Denver. My favorite in the entire world is at the Spotted Pig in New York City – but I digress. The burger at Venue truly is one of the best in Denver. It’s simple, well seasoned and delicious.

That was just lunch, Venue also has a fun and affordable happy hour. Beer, wine and cocktails are ½ off and snacks range from $3.50 – $12.00. Try the individual shrimp with grits.

Tonight check out Venue’s “Tour of Italy” wine dinner. Holly is offering five courses with wine pairings for just $60 per person.

Venue – 3609 W. 32nd Ave., Denver. 303-477-0477. Monday through Sunday 11am to 10pm. Happy Hours 4:30 to 6:30. Sunday Brunch 10am to 3pm. Sunday Happy Hours 3:00 to 6:30pm. Sunday Dinner 5:00 to 8:00pm.

Answers to How Well Do You Know Your Chefs

January 19th, 2011 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, restaurants No Comment yet

In this weeks newsletter we asked the following questions.

  1. If he doesn’t change the daily menu enough, which chefs line cooks call him a p@$$y? Chef Andrea Frizzi from Il Posto.
  2. Who was the first chef in two years to finish all his prep on time everyday at a prestigious New York City restaurant? John Davidson from the Crushery. John worked at Gramercy Tavern.
  3. Who was the inspiration for a character in the movie “Big Night”? Chef Fabio Flagiello from Bacaro Venetian Taverna in Boulder.

Answers for the previous newsletter

  1. Which chefs drew plans for their restaurant on a cocktail napkin over drinks? Dakota Soifer and Eric Lee from Café Aion. Café Aion was just named one of the best new restaurants of 2010 by 5280 magazine.
  2. Which restaurant has grasshoppers on the menu? Zocalito in Aspen. Chef Mike Beary travels every six months to Oaxaca, Mexico to bring back sugars, chocolate, spices and peppers.
  3. Who said being a chef is like living in a state of madness? Martin Oswald, formerly of Syzygy. Martin just opened up Pyramid Bistro in Aspen.

Congratulations to our winners!

Il Posto’s Andrea Frizzi

January 18th, 2011 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver, restaurants No Comment yet

The kitchen is quiet and dark at Il Posto when I arrive for my interview with Andrea Frizzi. He makes us both a cup of espresso and then he begins to talk. I am immediately struck by his positive philosophy about life. This is a man who is deeply in love with his wife, a man who would give you the shirt off his back, a man with honor.

“My family owned a salumerie in Milan. I was obligated to be a chef because I had to work in the family business. After finishing culinary school my father sent me to a “Nazi” restaurant. I started there as a commis and left as a chef. I learned that I was good, and that I wanted to be the best. I call it a Nazi restaurant because when I made a mistake the chef locked me in the freezer for 7 hours. It was an old style restaurant where the line cooks took a lot of abuse. I vowed I would never be one of those mad chefs. I’m fair. It’s intense working for me, but I am respectful. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning.”

In 1993 Andrea moved to the United States and accepted a position as the Executive Chef for Bice Restaurant in Washington, D.C. “ When I left Italy it was the first time I saw my father cry.” he says. In 1994 Williams Sonoma named him one of the new rising best chefs in the USA for its Taste of Home publication. He was also named best new young chef in Washington, D.C. by Dining Digest.

Over the course of 12 years he has helped open over 20 new restaurants. In 1997 he stopped in Denver to help open Cucina Colore. “I loved Denver. I noticed that Denver was on the verge of getting really good food.  I came back a few years later to help open Via.”

On Opening Il Posto: The day I gave notice at Via, a friend of mine drove me by the space on 17th Avenue that is now Il Posto. I opened Il Posto using my credit cards. When you believe in something you have to go for broke. The universe will do everything it can to give you your dream as long as you jump in with both feet. You must have faith.  You must be honest, keep your word, treat people right and be passionate about your work.

Andrea is true to his word. In 2009 when the restaurant business suffered due to the economy, he didn’t fire his staff, he didn’t cheapen his ingredients. He stayed the course. In 2010 profits were up 20%.

“Il Posto was an instant success, although we did have growing pains, but that is to be expected. The vision for Il Posto was to offer a good price point for diners without anyone going broke.”

On Denver diners: The majority of people only make $40,000 a year. On that salary it is difficult to pay bills and still have money left over for dining out. Il Posto aims to create an experience for everyone. It is not an elite or special occasion restaurant. We offer great bottles of wine between $35-45 dollars. We welcome everyone with a small glass of prosecco as a thank you for choosing Il Posto for dinner.

We open for lunch even though we don’t make much money. There is a lovely elderly couple that comes in for lunch 2 or three times a week. They try everything, They drink wine. We love them.

What’s next: My goal is to have a farm and a wine importing company.

About me: I don’t do politics. I don’t want to be on Food Network. I want to provide a great experience for everyone. I have no fear of failure. I am not gun shy. If you fail, get up and do it again.

The best part of Il Posto: I love when guests compliment the line cooks.

Rules in my kitchen: I like it quiet, no yelling and very clean.

My line cooks: If I don’t change the menu by at least 60% everyday they call me a pussy. Your brain is like a muscle. When you change the menu everyday your brain adapts to that. Most line cooks couldn’t cope with so much change, but at Il Posto we do it right and in an efficient way.

On Denver: People are friendly. It’s genuine. People are not star struck. Here, everyone has a chance.

Favorite or least favorite ingredient: I “hate” butter. It compromises everything. I am a firm believer in pure flavor. Butter is a safe ingredient.

Chefs that I respect: Patrick at Z Cuisine. He is a crazy motherfucker. I love that he is just about the food, and not about what people think. He’s so French  – he only works about 36 hours a week (he pauses, smiles and says, please print that).

Where I like to Eat in Denver: Sushi Sasa. I know that Sushi Den is where everyone loves to go but at Sushi Sasa the ingredients are the star. Table 6 – they’re good people. I like the food and the ambience. Aaron is great and Scott is a sweetheart. Fruition – Alex is an intense human being and a good friend. I respect him and his commitment to his team. Masterpiece Deli – Justin crafts some great sandwiches. Saigon Bowl – they serve some really good Vietemese food and the owner is always there. For pizza I love Marcos Coal Fired. For Italian – Parisi. Simone is a good friend of mine. I also really love Parallel 17 – Mary Nguyen is a great person. She helped me when I needed it the most. She and Simone from Parisi believed in me.

Favorite Season for cooking: Summer. The best time to cook in Colorado is the end of July and the beginning of August. The porcinis, chanterelles, and heirloom tomatoes are so good.

Favorite Cookbook: Pellaprat l’arte Della Cucina Moderna.

Favorite kitchen tool: A wooden spoon.

If you could eat anywhere in the world: At a friend’s restaurant in Italy. He makes polenta with spinach, butter and sage and veal braised in red wine with mushrooms. I don’t need to go to a five star restaurant. Eating at those places just makes me stressed out. It’s like going on a job interview. I like to go to restaurants that remind me of my childhood.

Last words: At Il Posto we do the best we can. We work really hard for that. This is the love of my life. We will never skimp on happiness for a price point.

Every second Saturday Chef Andrea teaches cooking classes from 10:00 am – noon. For just $52.80 you can spend time in the kitchen with chef and learn how he makes his fabulous gnocchi.

Il Posto – 2011 E. 17th Ave., Denver. 303-394-0100. Mon-Thurs: 5:00pm – 11:30pm. Friday and Saturday: 5:00pm – 12am. Sunday: 5:00pm – 10:00pm. Lunch: 11:00-2:30pm.

Bácaro Venetian Taverna – new small plates menu

January 17th, 2011 Posted by Boulder, Chefs, Culinary Connectors, restaurants No Comment yet

Bácaro Venetian Taverna, an Italian restaurant located in the historic west end of downtown Boulder and specializing in Venetian cuisine, has announced a new concept and a new menu for 2011.

The new concept for the restaurant expands upon Bácaro’s true identity as a gourmet Venetian eatery. The new menu features 75 small plates of moderate portions meant for sharing, traditional Bácaro classics, and a variety of vegetarian and gluten-free options. “Bácaro is one of the only restaurants in the country to offer a full menu of small plate options,” said Executive Chef Fabio Flagiello. “We are very excited to introduce our new menu of small plates to our customers.”

Bácaro, known for its ability to make eating gourmet Italian food healthy, affordable and delicious, will offer a new selection of fresh, nutritionally-balanced meals to cater to the Boulder community.  The new small plate options range from assorted cheese and cured meat plates like Stracchino and Prosciutto di Parma, to seafood and pasta dishes such as Aragosta e Capesante and Gnocchi di Zucca, which, along with all fresh pastas, is made on site daily.  Chef creation specials, salads and traditional Bácaro classic entrees will still be available in full-size portions. “We know from the popularity of our Happy Hour small plate menu that our customers will enjoy the variety of options on our new dinner menu as well as the experience of sharing and enjoying their food,” added Flagiello.

A sampling of new menu items includes the following dishes: Piadina Speck e Caprino, a flatbread topped with smoked prosciutto, arugula, fresh tomatoes and dry goat cheese; Salsiccia di Anatra, pan-roasted duck sausage served with braised cipollini onions; Crema di Zucca, Capesante a Caprino, butternut squash purée with pan-roasted scallops, ragout, and goat cheese cream; Tortelloni di Gamberi e Granchio, shrimp and crab ravioli with saffron cream sauce; and Costicina di Agnello, grilled Colorado T-bone lamb chop served with brown butter gnocchi.

Bácaro will also be offering a new wine and drink list. The drink list will include signature cocktails from Bácaro’s award-winning bartenders. The extensive wine list features wine from around the world including Italian vintages carefully selected by wine expert Corrado Fasano, Bácaro’s general manager and co-owner.

The new menu will be made available to customers beginning January 10, 2011. The prices on the new menu items will range from $3.00 – $14.00.

Bácaro – 921 Pearl St., Boulder. Dinner starting at 4:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. with a daily Happy Hour from 4:00 P.M. to 6:30 P.M. (303) 444-4888

Ute City – It’s Where to Eat This Weekend

January 15th, 2011 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

The book Julie and Julia begins with Julie’s search for ingredients to make Julia Child’s classic potato leek soup. Ever since I read those opening paragraphs I have been on the hunt for a bowl of potato leek soup that would make me swoon.

I found it at Ute City. Located at 308 E. Hopkins Avenue, Ute City is a fun and casual restaurant where you can enjoy a relaxing lunch or dinner as you watch locals, celebrities amble by. You can also swoon over Chef Peter’s silky, creamy potato leek soup. Just a hint – if you order bacon on the side – it’s even better.

Ute City is competing in this weekends Soupskol. Make sure you check it out.

Ute City – 308 E. Hopkins Ave., Aspen. 970-925-2900. Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm. Dinner 5:30pm-10pm Monday -Friday. Dinner 5:30-10:30pm Saturday & Sunday.

Pizzeria Basta – It’s not just about the pizza

January 10th, 2011 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

This past weekend, Herb Eckhouse, the owner of La Quercia took time out of his vacation to visit Pizzeria Basta and slice proscuitto for Denver and Boulder chefs. Imagine my excitement when I walked into Basta to find Kyle from the Kitchen, Max from Squeaky Bean, Steve from Oak, Theo from Pinyon, wine reps, cheese reps and Chef Kelly Whitaker himself. Herb was sticking around that night to slice proscuitto for dinner service as well.

Herb sliced up his Green Label proscuitto, lardo and coppa. “Consistency is the key,” he said, “consistent breeding and feeding of the pigs produces a better quality product.” The pigs used to make Green Label are never fed antibiotics, they are never confined and no nitrates/nitrites are used in making this fabulous meat.

La Quercia looks at making proscuitto like making wine. The farms the pigs come from are like a vineyard. The pigs are the varietals. We tasted proscuitto made from Berkshire pigs. The flavor was strong, much stronger than the Italian proscuitto I was accustomed to – like the San Daniele we served at Frasca. It was delicious. High quality artisan dry cured meat is like high quality artisanal wine.  There are few, highly selected ingredients; they are attentively prepared for conservation, and aging brings out the highest expression and differences of the ingredients’ inherent qualities.

This is what I love about Pizzeria Basta. It’s not just a place to go and get a pie; it’s Chef Kelly Whitakers’s culinary vision. From the drip coffee he serves to being the first chef in Boulder to write a HACCP plan to hosting artisanal proscuitto makers, Kelly is one of most passionate chefs I have met. This Tuesday we are hosting the Culinary Connectors Supper Club at Basta. I hope you can join us.

Pizzeria Basta – 3601 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder. 303-997-8775. Hours: Monday through Friday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturday & Sunday 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.

To sign up for the Culinary Connectors Supper Club, please click here.

Gaetano’s – It’s Where To Eat This Weekend

January 7th, 2011 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver No Comment yet

Gaetano’s in North Denver has a long and interesting history. Stories of the Smaldone family’s mafia connections, murders, a front door made of bullet proof class, patrons eating pasta and red sauce upstairs while “loans” were given out downstairs,  three brothers with lengthy criminal histories and numerous headlines in the Rocky Mountain News – this is sensational stuff.

While the Smaldone family’s criminal enterprise is gone, the Wynkoop Family of Restaurants is proud to carry on Gaetano’s tradition of serving fine Italian cuisine. As you enjoy your meal, take a look around. The dining room looks much as it did 20 years ago when the three brothers (Checkers, Flip Flop and Chauncey) sauntered through on their way to do “family business” in the office.

Stop by this weekend for Gaetano’s traditional Italian cuisine like sausage and peppers, minestrone, antipasto plates, chicken parmesan, meatballs, pasta with clam sauce, pizzas and my favorite – spumoni ice cream. Don’t be surprised when you leave full and satiated if you have the urge to go and watch The Godfather.

Look for Gaetano’s to be featured on Culinary Connectors new walking tours on Tejon Street.

Gaetano’s – 3760 Tejon Street, Denver. 303.455.9852

Open Sundays from Noon – 9 pm
Mon. through Sat. at 11 am
Happy Hour Mon. – Fri. from 3 – 6 pm

Be The First to Know

January 4th, 2011 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver No Comment yet

Which famous restaurateur is opening a new wine bar this year?

If you said Richard Sandoval, you guessed right. In July 2011 Richard is planning to open A Lado, a Latin themed wine bar right next door to Zengo.

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Richard Sandoval grew up surrounded by Mexican culture and food. His father, a successful restaurateur, instilled in him a passion for the cuisine of his heritage and the art of hospitality. From the age of 12, Richard worked in his father’s highly regarded restaurants confirming his desire to be a chef. Richard Sandoval has been a pioneer bringing refined Mexican food to this country. By redefining this historic cuisine he has become a leader in the upscale Latin culinary movement.  His restaurants reach all across the globe from Denver, Las Vegas, Punta Mita and even Dubai.

Before A Lado opens be sure to experience the cuisine of Richard Sandoval at Tamayo and Zengo in Denver.

Aria’s Michael Long

January 4th, 2011 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver No Comment yet

“Michael is a whirlwind,” his staff told me as I sat down at the bar at Aria. Open for just one week, Aria is the second restaurant that Michael Long and Nick Gulotta have opened together. Michael admits he is tired after working a long string of doubles to get Aria open. “We didn’t know how many people would come on Christmas Eve so we prepped our holiday menu that day,” he says. From my perch at the bar, a couple glasses of wine and a delicious crab egg Benedict later, it seems as though Aria has been open for a long time. The staff is friendly and comfortable. The dining room feels homey and if brunch is any indication, the food is great.

I had met Michael on numerous occasions but when you interview a chef you always learn something new. Keep reading and find out why molecular gastronomy is like reggae, oysters in gelatin don’t sell and why Michael became a chef.

On culinary school: Michael Long attended the CIA in New York in 1999. At that time students worked front and back of the house at four different restaurants at the school. “We were judged by our peers, everyday. From day one of our classes we learned and then set up for service. We fed 50 students a day.”

Favorite class in culinary school: Guarde manger. We learned about pates and terrines.

Favorite teacher at the CIA: Arnold Baygna. I think he was actually mentioned in Anthony Bourdain’s book. He was an incredible tyrant and very demanding. He was famous for treating everyone like dogs. Either you got an A or you dropped the class.

Biggest influence: Norman Van Aken. I staged at his restaurant. He is the reigning influence in South Florida. His genre is world cuisine – as he put it – on a map my fingers can touch the Bahamas, Haiti, Cuba, New Orleans and the Yucatan. I still make a plantain-crusted grouper that is due to his influence.

In my kitchen: I use the “old fashioned” brigade system. Many of my line cooks are angry that they don’t get to plate their own dishes. In the brigade system cooks don’t stop cooking to plate things. I expedite but if need be I will step onto the line. In that case I work grill since I can work that station and still expedite.

On celebrity chefs: I am not immune to pursuing publicity. The more acclaim I get the more interesting dishes I can do. Chefs aren’t celebrities, they are cooks. I think it’s a measure of our society that we are “celebritizing” everything.

The best Chefs in the country: Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller. Neither one, by the way, is on TV.

My ultimate goal: to retire wealthy.

Favorite station: Butchering, even though it’s not really a station. I always seem to get one more portion out of a piece of fish or meat than any of my line cooks.

Favorite cookbook: Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard. White Trash Cooking and Art Culinaire.

Favorite Kitchen Utensil: the tool that takes the top off raw eggs.

Favorite season for cooking: Fall. I love the ingredients – butternut squash, cranberries and sage.

Advice for young cooks: Learn to subjugate all your own needs and desires to the betterment of your team. Show up, keep up and shut up.

Advice for home cooks: Get the heat up to sear things. Sharpen and maintain a professional chefs knife.

Worst kitchen disaster: Earlier in my career in a restaurant that will remain unnamed, the ansul system went off during dinner service. I hate to say this but we walked off the line and never went back.

What do you love most about being a chef: the energy, the stress and the craziness. It fuels you.

How many problems do you solve on the fly during one service: At least 30.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Denver/Boulder: L’Atelier. Fruition.

Favorite white trash food: It’s not white trash food but I love the Italian hero sandwich from Old Time Deli.

Why did you become a chef: I worked in restaurants at first because I wanted to party and chase girls. Line cooks and chefs were the kings of the restaurant world.  When I first started professionally cooking the more covers you did, the bigger the bad ass you were. You wanted to work at the largest restaurant so you could brag about how much food you could put out. Now, the best part of being a chef is making people happy, seeing them smile when a plate arrives at the table.

What is the hardest part of being a chef: managing people and getting customers to accept your dishes as written on your menu. I am, therefore, more ambiguous, on how I word things.

If could put anything on the menu and not worry about it selling: it would be Raymond Blanc’s dish – oysters, with sorrel and citrus caviar encased in oyster liquor gelatin. I’ve put it on several menus and no one orders it.  I think the gelatin scares people away.

Rules in my kitchen: rules apply to everyone. Don’t cut the protein until the starch and veg are on the plate. I’m also not found of whistling.

Is Denver the next food city: we have to remember that our guests will make Denver the next food city. We can’t make it one. Instead of trying to make Denver something it’s not, why don’t we do something clever that people will like?

Molecular Gastronomy: I do a few things. I make Tabasco caviar. I use tranglutamate. Molecular gastronomy is like reggae. There is only one Bob Marley. Everything else is a copy. There is only one Ferran Adria. Remember all art is plagiarism or revolution.

If you could eat anywhere in the world: a meal with Michel Bras.

Your last meal: a bushel of oysters.

How do you relax after work: I watch Sports Center. I also play golf. I broke 80 three times last year.

Last words: I’m not as crazy as you may have heard.

Why eat at Aria: I was in Littleton doing fine dining for a long time. I heard many times that if Opus were in Denver more people would come. Now I’m in Denver Come in.

Aria – 250 Jospehine St., Cherry Creek. 303-377-4012. Lunch: Monday – Saturday: 11:00am – 3:00pm. Dinner: Sunday – Thursday: 5:00pm – 10:00pm, Friday- Saturday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm. Sunday Brunch: 5:00pm – 11:00pm