June 29, 2010

Cocktail Cakes at Kim & Jake's

Last week, we learned about the tiny shop Kim and Jake's Cakes, tucked into the shopping center at Table Mesa Road and Broadway. Word had it that the southern-themed spot had a knack for tender, boozy sweets, like margarita and dark-and-stormy cakes. So we quickly dropped all we were doing and headed south from the office.

Indeed, the bakery, run by two ex-professional cyclists, serves up generous, luscious slices of cocktail-inspired cakes, as well as more traditional offerings, like carrot cake and moon pies. All the options have nuanced, finely developed flavors, influenced by the southern recipes of the owners' pasts. And one forkful of cake provides an escape to slower times and places. Kim & Jake's is a Simple Refuge from our busy, highly wired lives--and it's a great example of how expansive the cocktail movement has become, as well as how classic beverage flavors are Breaking Free of their conventional forms.

If you have a chance to drop by, plan your trip for a Wednesday (happy hour with $1-off slices runs from 5 to 6 p.m.) and watch out for the margarita cake. Based on the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant's famous cocktail, the dessert layers tequila-laced cake with sweet strawberry puree and lemon curd.

641 S. Broadway, Boulder, 303-499-9126

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director

June 22, 2010

The Kitchen Cafe Steps Out into the Community

Since it opened its doors more than six years ago, the Kitchen Cafe has worked closely with the Boulder community. Walk by early morning and you might see a chicken farmer dropping eggs off at the restaurant. Or simply read the Kitchen's menu: John Long pork, Monroe Farms beets. It reads like a directory of local farmers. This summer, though, the Pearl Street restaurant is pushing its community involvement beyond its four-walls. Which is a good reminder that as chefs increasingly look to connect with their diners, they are doing so both on their premises and beyond.

This summer, specifically, the Kitchen is joining forces with members of the Boulder food community and chef Ann Cooper. The group is raising money for The School Food Project, an organization dedicated to better equipping Boulder Valley school kitchens.

If you're interested in getting involved in the Kitchen's summer activities, here's how:

Peggy Markel and Chef Hugo Matheson "A Night in Morocco"
When: Sat., July 10th, 2010
Cost: $75 per seat
Details: Please Join Peggy Markel and The Kitchen at the gardens of Rebecca DiDomenico and Stephen Perry for "A Night in Morocco.” Enjoy Moroccan-inspired food and cocktails and listen to the Tk sounds of north African music. All proceeds benefit The School Food Project. For more information and reservations, click here.

Meadow Lark Farm Dinners and Chef Hugo Matheson
When: Sat., July 17th
Cost: $175 per seat
Details: Cure Organic Farm hosts a special Meadow Lark Farm Dinner, in which all of the proceeds will go directly to Boulder Valley School District’s, The School Food Project. For more information and reservations, click here.

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director

June 14, 2010

What's Up in Chicago

Last month, we turned our trend-spotting radar on Chicago. The city hosted the 21st annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) show--and as we walked the floor of the exhibition halls, we noticed that several of the presenting companies and speakers were expressions of Culinary Shifts. Mobi Munch, a consulting company for mobile food trucks, explained the practicalities of street food--the hottest trend in fine, casual dining (Luxury Re-valued). Chicago chef Rob Levitt, of Mado, showed how to butcher a whole cow (an example of getting More with Less). Twist Potatoes, a Korean company, served up elaborate, spiral-cut potatoes, dipped in bulgogi seasoning, a powdered version of the popular marinated, Korean beef dish (and reminded us just how important Korean flavors are to the Cultural Curiosity shift).

But NRA was only the beginning. The streets of Chicago--and the restaurants on them--were even better examples of how the city's food is evolving. Actually, Chicago was such a contemporary culinary hot spot, that we created an entire list of restaurants that play into Culinary Shifts. This way, you (and your clients) have a year-round resource for understanding the city in SRG Culinary terms. Keep reading for more information. Or wait until later today, and we'll send out a map of Chicago and the Shifts restaurants.

Nightwood Community Connected The savvy staff at this Pilsen restaurant starts every day with farmer meetings and a trip to the market. Then, they sit down to write the daily menu. Rest assured: You’ll get seasonal produce (such as rhubarb or ramps) and local proteins, like smelt (small, dark Michigan fish).

Mado More with Less
Waste is the antithesis of this popular Bucktown spot. Sustainable bamboo tables line the airy dining room. Chefs butcher the meat in house (and use head-to-tail cuts). And the owners adopted a BYOB policy to avoid high alcohol prices for their diners.

Karyn’s on Green Dr. Me Holistic health guru Karyn Calabrese has filled her menu with both nutrients and gourmet flavors at this contemporary vegan restaurant. Try dishes, like coconut curried cauliflower and wild mushroom risotto.

Belly Shack Cultural Curiosity The husband-and-wife pair that runs this spot put its cultural heritage into the menu. He added the ever-more popular Korean flavors, and she dropped in a touch of Puerto Rico. Order eats like kimchi and kogi and tostones and boricua.

The Publican Luxury Re-Valued This go-to spot has no white tablecloths or secluded dining nooks. Instead, it serves gourmet beer (microbrews) and bar food (European cured meats) on long wooden tables.

Big Star Always On This ├╝ber-popular, taco stand-style, Mexican restaurant has built its relationships with diners via Facebook and Twitter—instead of a conventional website. Follow its social media sites and you’ll get updates on Big Star’s menu, patio, and more.

Violet Hour Simple Refuge
Sink into a plush chair here and you’ll return to the bygone era of English clubs and French salons. The space is dark and intimate, and the lengthy cocktail list offers classics like negronis, mai tais, and sidecars.

Alinea Break Free In the United States, Alinea is the beacon for molecular gastronomy. Its chef-owner Grant Achatz is known for using science and art to push the boundaries of food. His PB&J, for example, is a single grape encased in peanut butter.

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director

June 7, 2010

Cooking Channel Offers TV for the Unpretentious, Modern Foodie

Last week, as you were gearing up to put the Memorial Day burgers on the grill, the Food Network was making its most valiant attempt in years to ensure that next Memorial Day (or even the 4th of July), you turn to its recipes for your holiday needs. On May 31, the network launched a sister station, the Cooking Channel--22 daily hours of programming for the contemporary foodie.

The Cooking Channel shirks much of the vanilla, well-manicured style of the Food Network in favor of programs that capture the true grit, flavors, and lifestyles of modern eating. "Food Jammers" follows three, young, Canadian guys who build taco vending machines. "Indian Food Made Easy" and "Chinese Food Made Easy" explore the authentic flavors of those ethnic cuisines. And "Drink Up" celebrates the modern obsession with cocktails.

This is programming (and cooking instruction) for the 20- to 30-something-year-old that brews his own beer, has experimented with veganism, or is curious to see how to make his own ketchup for his next at-home barbecue. This young foodie wants information, but not pretentiousness. Which is why the Cooking Channel only has a handful of the more typical, Food Network shows, like "Everyday Italian" with Giada de Laurentiis and "BBQ with Bobby Flay."

From a Culinary Shifts perspective, the Cooking Channel is a very unique expression of the transformative changes we are seeing in the world of food. Certainly, the individual shows tap into specific Shifts. (The ethnic shows tie into Cultural Curiosity. "Drink Up" plays into Luxury Re-valued. Etc.) But perhaps even more interesting is what the station, as a whole, means for our future food information. Looking at the Cooking Channel through the Always On Shift, we recognize that the Cooking Channel has the potential to bring a new kind of food information to the masses. This information will teach a more grassroots, get-your-hands-dirty approach to food. And we suspect that might be good things for your next Memorial Day barbecue.

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director

June 1, 2010

Zoe Ma Ma: A New Kind of Chinese Restaurant

Sesame chicken. Orange chicken. Chicken lo mein. So read the average Chinese-restaurant menu five or 10 years ago. And in spots where modernity is slow to take hold, you might still find this stodgy list. But you won't find it in new Chinese restaurants. As U.S. culture has become more familiar with authentic foreign foods, new Asian spots have popped up offering more honest versions of traditional Chinese dumplings, soups, and more. And Boulder now has a particularly interesting example: Zoe Ma Ma (pronounced like yo mama, but with a z).

Early last month, Edwin Zoe, a restaurateur from Northern China, opened an informal eatery on Pearl Street to showcase the authentic flavors he grew up with. He put his mom in charge of the kitchen, and she uses old family recipes (and local and organic produce) to make hearty noodles; tangy, peppery hot-and-sour soup; savory noodle bowls with fresh vegetables; and seasoned dumplings. Her food is wholesome fare that has none of the cloying sweetness or fatty batters of classic American Chinese food.

Like much of the new Asian food, Zoe Ma Ma's dishes taste of fresh ingredients and light sauces. But unlike the food in many of these spots, Zoe Ma Ma's dishes are definitely not chef driven. The meals are simple in their presentation and flavors--and they teach the flavors of Chinese home cooking, not Chinese restaurants. Which means that Zoe Ma Ma has a culinary edge even within the realm of new Chinese restaurants: Here, its not just traditional Chinese recipes, but also home-cooked ones, that define contemporary Chinese.

Zoe Ma Ma, 2010 10th St., 303-545-6262

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director