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Challenging Elements


It’s the year 371 B.C. and all the Italians are feasting on artichokes. The edible perennials are being cultivated and devoured all over the Mediterranean to such wide acclaim that even Greek philosophers are journaling about them.
Since their first discovery, the artichoke has been considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac—making them a fitting choice for Valentine’s Day.

Choosing artichoke hearts as the ingredient for this month isn’t exactly challenging in the usual way these things are. After all, artichokes are incorporated in many dishes that we often eat—pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, salads … the list keeps going. But what makes artichokes more of a challenge is the prospect of crafting them into a meal fit for Valentine’s. Affordable, delicious, and romantic enough.

Steven Carlson, owner of the Sun Rose Café, knew exactly how to incorporate artichoke hearts into a meal fit for two. Already, for the past five years, he has added a cuisine dimension that downtown Longmont lacked. His food is free of GMOs, chemical additives, and modified food starches. And, the dishes are still robust, which is something made clear to me when I sit down for their concoction.

Carlson and his team choose dishes that play up the powerful artichoke flavor and accentuate its acidity. The artichoke and lemon soup they prepare is, er, hearty, and creamy without weighing you down.

Next up is the roasted red pepper cream pasta. With a Valentine’s-appropriate reddish hue, Sun Rose incorporates smoked chicken into the dish with fresh spinach, goat feta, and most importantly artichoke hearts whose flavor permeates it all. Both components of the meal—the soup and pasta—balance each other perfectly and are easily shareable between two.

Beyond wholesome food, the Sun Rose Cafe provides a warm backdrop for enjoying such a meal. Local art and poetry hang from their sun-yellow walls, and a giant skylight gives way to the blue sky or, more likely at this time of year, falling snow. Food and otherwise, the restaurant is skilled at taking the ordinary and switching it up to make the familiar even better.

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