April 26, 2010

Break Free Meets Community Connected in Hush Dinners

Imagine this: It's Saturday night. You want to try a new restaurant--and your choices are 1) the neighborhood bistro for its intimacy, 2) the downtown, new spot for the scene, or 3) both. Your answer's number three, right?

This scenario isn’t just stuff of day dreams. Denver’s newest restaurant, Hush Dinner, drops up-close-and-personal chef dinners into hip cool spots (design galleries, art museums, exotic car dealerships). Which means that this month you can enjoy a five-course meal of an up-and-coming chef while testing out sleek chaise lounges. And next month you can try the molecular gastronomy recipes of a chef, like Ian Kleinman, while checking out Ferraris.

This location-less restaurant is the hard work of Phil Armstrong, who most recently worked at SugarToad in the Chicago area and was a partner at the now-defunct Seven on Pearl. The duo currently hosts about five of its donation-only dinners a month in both Denver and Boulder and plans to expand into Aspen and Vail in the next year. Their restaurant is an invite only experience. You can’t simply walk in off the street and join. Instead, you must sign up via the website and await the sign-up.

But the experience is worth it—both for the experimental food, cool locale, and as a rare local expression of both the Break Free and Community Connected Shifts. Hush ignores the convention of a traditional restaurant with a standard address, in favor of offering its diners a chance to meet a chef and try his food uncensored. (No demanding restaurant clientele has shaped the Hush menus. This is a night when a young chef gets to be completely creative.)

Next chance to try one of these unique dinners will be in late May or early June. (The mid-May event is completely reserved.) Word on the street is that the early summer dinner will take place on a Boulder cattle ranch with Longmont’s Terroir restaurant manning the burners. Sign up for the invite list now, if you want to ensure a chance to go.

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director

April 19, 2010

Always On: Food Photography Shapes Technology

Social media has found a new celebrity. Ashton Kutcher and Twitter, please step aside. Kanye and your blog, too. Food is the latest starlet, and it is driving online conversations--as well as the technology that records them. To give a sense of the growing presence of food in our wired lives, here are a few impressive facts.

1) Since 2008, the number of photos on Flickr tagged as "food" has increased ten-fold to more than six million.

2) The most active Flickr photo group, "I Ate This" has more than 300, 000 photos that have been contributed by more than 19,000 members.

3) Nikon, Olympus, Sony, and Fuji now all make cameras with "food" or "cuisine" modes, which allow for up-close shots with enhanced sharpness and color and texture saturation.

4) Grant Achatz of Alinea, Chicago, says that, on average, diners who take snapshots of their food take five minutes longer per course.

5) One of the hottest sites at this year's South by Southwest Interactive conference was Foodspotting.com, a website and mobile app, that allow users to exchange and rate food photos much like the social media site, Foursquare.

So confession time: How many of you snap shots of your meals?

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director

April 12, 2010

Community Connected: Denver Chef Gets National Nod for Local Cooking

Last week, Food & Wine magazine released its list of the country's 10 best new chefs. In the world of food, garnering a spot in this annual story is akin to winning the NBA's rookie-of-the-year award. So it was quite an honor that Alex Seidel, the chef and owner of Denver's Fruition restaurant, snagged one of the few accolades.

Food & Wine was particularly interested in Seidel's commitment to local food. The chef has his own farm in Larkspur, Colorado, where he grows greens for his restaurant and 24 others. He also raises chickens and is working to pull together a sheep dairy so that one day he can make own cheeses.

Seidel's farming efforts stem from a deep commitment to serving his dinners the freshest, most true-to-Colorado food. Eating at Fruition is like eating at a lovely French, countryside restaurant. At both, you can taste the terroir, or the earthy characteristics, of a certain region. In Fruition's case, this means very brightly and precisely flavored dishes of chicken spring vegetable soup (confit chicken legs and chive dumplings) and bacon-wrapped scallops with a bright, spring-y English pea emulsion.

These delicious dishes certainly do set apart the Fruition menu--but interestingly, the farm-to-table philosophy behind them doesn't. Increasingly, chefs and bartender across the country are planting their own gardens or foraging for food. In Boulder and Denver alone, chefs like Eric Skokan of Black Cat, Amy Vitale of Tables, and Goose Sorenson, of Solera, all have farms or serious gardens. So what Seidel is doing at Fruition simply represents the best of a trend that's sweeping the nation.

Fruition, 1313 E. Sixth Ave., Denver, 303-831-1962

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director

April 5, 2010

Cultural Curiosity: Does Boulder have real Mexican food? Finally, yes.

Given its prime Southwest location, Boulder is surprisingly devoid of authentic Mexican restaurants. Sure, there's the Rio, Zolo, and Centro. But each of those has a twinge of Americana that makes it too college-y or too upscale-international for true, south-of-the-border cuisine. This is a real shame, because it means that neither we, nor our visiting clients, get to experience the real Mexican flavors that are penetrating contemporary U.S. cocktails and cuisine.

Bars nationwide have taken on tequila and mezcal as their star spirits. Mayahuel in New York City serves only those liquors. Similarly, modern Mexican chef Richard Sandoval (of Denver's Tamayo and Zengo) just opened the East Village bar La Biblioteca de Tequila, which staffs a tequila librarian. Mexican street food has also risen in popularity. Lines outside Santa Barbara's Super Rica Taqueria frequently extend down the block, and the chef of Minneapolis' Barrio Tequila Bar--a hot-spot for tacos, empanadas, and sopes--received a James Beard's Best Chef Midwest award in 2009.

As our nation has expanded its relationship with Mexican food, Boulder--with one expectation--has sat back and watched. The exception, though, is a notable one. Our town's newly opened
Agave Mexican Bistro and Tequila House brings to life many of the traditional dishes and flavors that are inspiring chefs across the country. The spot, on 28th street, serves up red chile-stewed cactus, tequila-glazed catfish, shrimp tacos, and much more. Cathryn gives the menu, down to the coin-style margaritas, her two thumbs up--and we recommend that if you, or your clients, need a dose of true Mexican food, not to mention a fun lesson in food trends, this is the place to go.

2845 28th St., Boulder, 303-444-2922

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director