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Challenging Elements: Arugula at Flagstaff House


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I recently pondered arugula. What does one do with arugula besides tossing it on a plate with dressing? How does one make the peppery green really shine outside of the salad realm?

In an ode to spring, we challenged the masters of high-end, luxurious Colorado cuisine to create an inspired dish that puts arugula at the forefront.

“At first, I thought, ‘Well, we do an arugula salad. We have items on the menu that include arugula,’” said chef and co-owner Mark Monette. “But then we realized that it needed to be creative and out of the box, that’s when we really got thinking.”

Monette and his sous chef brainstormed over text and didn’t have the dish finalized until 30 minutes before our photographer and I showed up. But when we arrived, the dish was ready: Three dainty glasses filled with oyster shooters (yes, shots!) bathing in a tomato puree and an arugula-infused vodka. The whole plate was laced with  bright green arugula dust and accompanied with cucumber, celery and Kalamata olives as accoutrements.

It was a far cry from any iteration of arugula I had every seen. Monette said—as soon as they started thinking of all the ways of preparing arugula—they began tossing around ideas about spring, about Mother’s Day, of vodka and how arugula would work with it, about fresh flavors. They thought of brunch, and then the conversation went to oysters…and then to cucumber-wrapped Wianno oysters. They then added the tomato, and infused Kettle One vodka and arugula.

Together, it’s a beautiful little bite—a whirlwind of fresh flavors and textures. The cucumber-wrapped Wianno is a piece of heaven, bringing a nice, subtle texture of the cucumber to the slightly sweet, salty oyster. With the peppery vodka and a splash of tomato, it’s lovely, and oozing of spring. And the arugula flavor lightly coats it all.

My only suggestion (yes, I’m gonna offer culinary tips to the Flagstaff House) is to add a hint of spice: A tiny splash of Tabasco or finely chopped jalapeños on the side. I’m a heat-seeker, so it may just be my sedated taste buds, but I felt the flavors were calling for a spicy punch.

With that said, this dish is delightful, a spring awakening, downed in the natural beauty of Flagstaff’s setting.

Flagstaff House is located at 1138 Flagstaff Road in Boulder. They will serve up their oyster and arugula-infused vodka through April. flagstaffhouse.com

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email no info send march17th/09

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