Bradford Heap is one of the top chefs in the region, meaning he is extremely demanding when it comes to the types of ingredients he’ll put on his menu at Colterra in Niwot. That’s why he had one stipulation when agreeing to participate in this month’s Challenging Elements:
The ingredient we surprised him with had to be local. Nearly everything on his menu is from local vendors and he didn’t want Yellow Scene Magazine screwing that up. A few days later, we gave him ground buffalo and 24 hours to wow us. When we returned, he offered a Buffalo Bolognaise.
Buffaloes used to roam the plains of the Front Range as wild as any other animal in the region. That’s hardly the case anymore.
These days, there are few places to find wild buffalo; instead there are plentiful farms dedicated to raising natural herds for consumption.
So ground buffalo passed Bradford Heap’s stipulation that we surprise him with something local. Nearly everything on his Colterra menu is local, seasonal and in many cases organic.
He specializes in food of the French and Italian countryside and has become one of the it chefs on the Front Range.
Tasting the dish he created for this challenge is to understand why his restaurant has received accolades from virtually every media source in the region.
His Buffalo Bolognaise, which will be on the menu throughout June, is one of the best family-style Italian dishes you’ll find on the Front Range. It succeeds as a simple, filling dish that bursts with flavor.
The simplicity and freshness are hallmarks of Bradford’s menu.
His dish starts with a bed of gnocchi (the main ingredient in our 2007 dish of the year; doubt that’s a coincidence) that is topped with an ample serving of his freshly made bolognaise with large chunks of braised ground buffalo mixed in it.
The sauce includes Long Family bacon, Hazel Dell oyster mushrooms and black truffles from France (hey, truffles don’t exactly grow on Colorado trees). It’s topped with shaved Parmesan-Reggiano and served aside a bed of sautéed spinach that will be from either Colterra’s garden (if you are really lucky) or a nearby farm, depending on the evening.
It’s the kind of meal that you can imagine being served on the table of a close-knit Italian family while sharing bottles of robust Chianti.
That is to say it succeeds without razzle dazzle, just wholesome ingredients that pare perfectly with one another.
Taste it for yourself through the end of June at Colterra Food & Fine, 210 Franklin St., Niwot. Call 303.652.0777 for reservations.