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To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we visited 15 local restaurants to sample a dish and a drink at each, and to talk to a chef.T

By Jim Burrus, Brett Callwood and Ryan Howe

24 Carrot Bistro
As we highlight some of BoCo’s most prominent and delectable eateries, we decided to play the fortuneteller and highlight a restaurant we feel will be around for years to come. As Erie’s historic downtown continues to blossom, the newest addition to Briggs Street, 24 Carrot Bistro, has made a name for itself in the few short months its doors have been open. Mark our words, this little gem will be around for many years.
The new bistro has filled a void in Erie, offering farm-to-table food and house- made sodas, 24 Carrot made a splash their first couple of weeks forcing them to reevaluate their schedule to prepare for the evening rush. If it’s a precursor to their success, then it’s a damn good sign.
Kevin Kidd, owner and head chef, has been in the restaurant industry for 17 years. Starting when he was a teenager, Kidd used his cooking talents to put his way through college. A while back he left the industry and did the corporate thing for a while. Then his itch to cook came back. When he found the location in Erie, he knew he wanted the space.
Luckily, the owner wanted a chef run restaurant and pursued Kidd, and fellow owner Bianca, convincing them to take on Briggs Street.
“Everyone has been so fantastic,” Kidd said. “There’s nothing like this in Erie, so we are filling a void. The people here need something like this.”
Sitting on the 500 block on Briggs Street, just a few doors down from the new ice cream shop Sweets, the restaurant is welcoming. A well-stocked bar and tables with paper tablecloths, that also doubles as a canvas for children, or child like adults, brings something for the whole family. The atmosphere is friendly, with servers that are more than happy to help explain the menu, and offer suggestions.
Speaking of the menu, 24 Carrot seems to hit all angles. Want a delicious salad? Got it covered. In the mood for some crispy calamari? Let them help you out. Looking for a juicy burger with some french fries and some tangy ketchup? Grab a seat.
When we sat down to give the newcomer a try, we were overwhelmed by the possibilities. First thing first, we wanted to try one of their non-alcoholic beverages the server was raving about. We settled on cucumber lemonade, and we were not disappointed. Lemonade on a hot day is the perfect remedy for most things, but the little hint of cucumber mixed in made this drink incredible. Neither of the flavors were overwhelming, and were mixed together superbly. ??Although the burger was looking mighty delicious, our server suggested we try the steak frites, which is comprised of all-natural flatiron steak, local greens, romesco sauce, and a side order of fries. We weren’t disappointed. The steak frites were perfectly cooked, and well seasoned. The fries were, for lack of a better word, amazing. The thin, crispy slivers of potato were so perfectly presented that taking a picture before inhaling every bit of them was the only difficult part of the meal.
Eating at 24 Carrot and not getting some of their carrot cake would be a cardinal sin, right? That’s how we convinced ourselves to indulge and top off the meal with the dessert which is topped with cinnamon whipped cream, toasted hazelnuts, coffee anglaise and strawberry. After the desert, the only thing to say is that 24 Carrot shouldn’t change their name, or go anywhere anytime soon.
“We want to be the go to restaurant in Erie,” Kidd said. “We don’t want to be the only restaurant like this in Erie, we want to see this fun little town develop. I want to be a part of that.”

NorthEnd at 4580
Way off Pearl, over in North Boulder, sits the North End at 4580 bistro. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to be the greatest location for a restaurant of this type, but recent developments and renovations have meant that the locale has been crying out for a classy eatery. A recent redesign to the restaurant has upped the ante too – 4580 is beautiful, all dark wood and rustic stone, plus friendly staff and a well-stocked bar.
Executive chef Jeffrey Barbour told us that the place was opened in 2006 by previous owner Martin Hammer, who lived a short walk away. That and the high rent prices on Pearl probably explains the location. “The area has grown a lot,” Barbour says. “Down the road, there was a trailer park but that has been cleared out for new developments. There are condos above the restaurant too. There aren’t a ton of new businesses – a barbecue joint came and went – but we’re doing extremely well here.”
Looking for something refreshing on a blistering day, we picked a cocktail called the Absinthe Lemon Drop, composed of vodka, fresh lemon, and a splash of absinthe, shaken and served with lemon. The absinthe gives the drink that strong aniseed flavor which, coupled with the citrus, would be too tart for some. It’s certainly a strong tipple. But if you like bitter drinks, this is a gem.
The Crawfish Po’ Boy made for a delicious lunch. Fans of this famous New Orleans sandwich will be delighted with the fresh yet firm hoagie roll, packed with crispy, breaded crawfish (light and not overly greasy), fresh lettuce and tomato, complimented with a tasty cajun remoulade. It’s a strong sandwich, filling but not too big. Larger appetites can be satisfied with the perfectly-cooked fries on the side.
OK, it’s not the healthiest dish (although those fries can be switched for a side-salad), but there are plenty of other options on the menu for Boulder County’s large health-conscious community. It’s very important to Barbour. “Our new owner, James Cimino, came in two years ago but the previous owner, Martin, and his family were celiac so a gluten-free diet was very important to them,” he says. “We always keep that in mind. Farm-to-table is also very important to us, and we work with a few different farms in the area like Sol Ysombra, Munsen Farms, and Cure Farms. This is a great time of the year for local produce.”
To finish, Barbour told us that the future continues to look bright. “We’re just rockin’ and rollin’,” he says. “We’re full to capacity most of the time, even on Sundays. This place is kind of like my baby.”

Comida
Standing behind the counter at Comida, Serena Romeo’s face lit up as she ran through the ingredients on each taco, salsa and tortas. She highlighted her favorites first, then moved on to the customer favorites, but her excitement, and pride, for each dish shined through. Romeo knows how to make a taco, there’s no doubting that, but she wasn’t always a master taco chef.
Romeo’s career took a dramatic turn five years ago when the school board decided to close the private school she taught at. At first she looked for a new teaching job, but with no luck Romeo joined the Comida team when the restaurant was operating from behind a steering wheel.
The former teacher grew up in the kitchen. Her Italian father passed on his passion for producing delicious food, and when the opportunity arose Romeo decided to follow her passion.
“It’s not your typical culinary story,” Romeo said. “But I thought if I couldn’t teach then I really wanted to cook.”
When Comida moved off of four wheels and into a brick and mortar building in Longmont, Romeo took over a corner in colorful Prospect, which couldn’t be more fitting for the colorful menu Comida offers.
The menu is stacked, and the dishes can be mixed and matched to give visitors the opportunity to try an assortment of tacos.
Start the meal off right with chips and salsa, or house made guacamole. The chips are, for lack of a better word, delicious. Romeo served them with an assortment of salsas ranging from spicy to mild, and a side of the gluten free guacamole. The salsa’s provided a kick of taste, but the stand out was the pineapple habanero salsa. It’s also dangerous. The mixture of spicy with a hint of pineapple will have the basket of corn chips, fried in non-GMO rice oil, empty in seconds.

As you shovel chips into your mouth, the heat might take you by surprise. Counter the spicy nature with one of the freshly squeezed or juiced citrus margaritas. The Comida Margarita, which is filled with Monte Alban Plata, agave, orange, lemon and lime, is one of the more popular drinks. But the standout on the menu is the Watermelon Jalapeno Margarita, packed with jalapeno infused tequila, watermelon, agave and lime. The touch of spice is outweighed by the watermelon, reminding costumers that summer may be coming to close, but nothing is better than watermelon on a hot day.
Don’t bulk up on chips and salsa, because the tacos are going to blow your mind. Mixing and matching four different tacos into one plate, is the best way to fill up and keep your taste buds interested. Try one with chicken. Try some with shrimp. Try the pork. Try the steak. But most importantly, try The Situation. The Situation, a slow cooked sirloin in Negro Modelo over smoked gouda sweet potato mash with roasted onions and house crema, is a surprise. The sweet potato mash makes this taco a stand out, don’t pass up on it.
“It’s hard to name a favorite among customers,” Romeo said. “My suggestion would be to come in and be adventurous.”

The Leaf
Many a non-vegetarian will turn their noses up at vegetarian restaurants, and that’s a shame. The general consensus among the meat-eating members of the community is that it just isn’t a proper meal if there isn’t some animal in there somewhere. Leaf challenges those preconceptions, and we urge everyone to give it a try.
We kicked off with a cucumber and grape juice, which seemed perfectly appropriate. Non-alcoholic, but delicious and extremely tasty, this very green drink was refreshing and packed with flavor. It is gulp-able, which makes a nice change after all of the ultra-strong cocktails we’ve been trying for this feature. It’s also relatively thick, and positively spilling over with vitamins.
Our main meal was a startlingly tasty mushroom burger, portabella mushroom and walnut is minced and combined into a loose patty, on a vegan bun with avocado mousse, caramelized onion and pepper jack cheese on top. The whole thing makes for a moist and mouth-watering treat, not at all dull and dry. We suggest the upgrade to sweet potato fries on the side – they’re crisply perfect.

The restaurant opened around seven years ago, according to executive chef Rachel Best, who has been at Leaf for about five years herself. “Before that, I worked at the Dushambe Teahouse when I was in college,” Best says. “Then I stopped cooking – I was in the Peace Corp, then I did some farming. I worked at Ahi Latin-American Restaurant. I also worked for Green Chef. I was a research & development chef.”
When Best first arrived at Leaf, the restaurant was serving up a lot of raw cuisine. “After a couple of year, that trend was fading out,” she says. “Then gluten-free got really popular, and people want to see organic farm stuff now. We have our own farm so that helps. We try to use as much local produce as possible.”
Best says that she enjoys the challenge of cooking for non-vegetarians. “There’s always the vegetarian that brings a friend or boyfriend in with them,” she says. “We have two sets of customers. We have a lot of regulars, and then there are people who have no idea what half the words on the menu mean. I think it’s really fun, trying to satisfy the meat-eater, and I get a lot of enjoyment from them being satisfied with our food.
We certainly were.

Empire
As the Cohens hit the home stretch of their seventh year as owners of The Empire Lounge and Restaurant in Louisville, there are changes afoot.
A new chef, Carlos Ortiz, is looking at ways to bring new, international flavors to the Empire’s menu while keeping the signature dishes intact.
“We haven’t changed much in the past year and a half, but we’re getting ready to shake things up again,” said Lexi Cohen, Director of Hospitality for the Empire and eldest daughter of founding chef and owner Jim Cohen. “Our three signature dishes will remain the same forever, but you’re going to start to see some new salads and entrees and pastas.”
The big three favorites among customers are the House-ground Empire Burger, the Crispy Calamari salad and the Coal Miner’s Mac and Cheese. But specials featuring local, fresh ingredients can be found dressing up the menu on a daily basis. Like a cold corn soup featuring Munson Farms sweet corn.
Anyone who’s picked up a dozen ears from the iconic farm stand at 75th and Valmont east of Boulder knows that the tender kernels of Munson corn hardly need cooking and are sweet enough to be considered dessert. In the Empire’s cold soup, the juicy kernels have been turned into a thick, velvety concoction garnished with a drizzle of chili oil, scallions and sunflower seeds, the latter lending this otherwise smooth, sweet dish a nutty al dente texture.
The Empire burger (made with hand-ground Wagyu beef) is a carnivore’s treat. Skip the blue cheese add-on; you want this premium beef’s rich, meaty flavor to shine through unobstructed. And the hand-cut fries have that perfect, crispy exterior and the fluffy, Idaho potato interior that you’d expect to accompany a burger of this caliber.
For a subtle array of rich flavors, it’s hard to beat another customer favorite, the Pork Ricotta Meatballs, served on a bed of polenta, wilted greens and topped with a garden fresh tomato sauce. The understated pork and ricotta combination allows the tomato flavor to shine without being overbearing.
And it’s a good thing that Chef Carlos is keeping his hands off the Mac and Cheese. This creamy, cheesy comfort dish, with its mix of 3-year-old cheddar, Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses, eggs and cream is as close to perfect as you can get.
In addition to a slow evolution of the menu, patrons can expect to see some fresh paint, new light fixtures and upgraded chairs in the coming months “for a more refined look and feel,” Cohen said.
One thing that won’t change is the bar, but what’s served there is another story. “I’m working with our current bartenders on their favorite drinks and I try to include some new and novel selections in each type of spirit, beer and wine we offer,” Cohen said. “And when I find a craft spirit I like, I bring it in. But honestly, I find we have more success with the classic brands with our crowd in Louisville.”
And she’s not worried about the new, upscale restaurants opening up around town either. She says it’s good for business.
“I feel very lucky that we and Waterloo have become the anchor restaurants in Louisville,” Cohen said. “With every new opening, it’s been great for business. It just solidifies our reputation as a fine dining town.”

The Post
It’s just not fair. Most restaurants would kill to have an award-winning brewmaster with the pedigree of Bryan Selders (formerly with Dogfish Head). And most craft breweries would die to have a menu by Chef Brett Smith of fried chicken, fixin’s and pies that would make your mama weep openly with unabashed jealousy. But to stack the deck with beer and food from both of these unassuming heavy hitters under one roof is just not fair.
But that’s what The Post Brewing Co. — brainchild of serial restaurateur Dave Query — has been serving up for over a year in the old VFW Post 1771 hall at 105 W. Emma Street in Lafayette.
The spacious and homey Post has an inviting mix of booths, bar seating, community tables and patio seats. The bar fills up early and stays full on most nights because the Post rarely lacks a wait; up to two hours on weekends.
But what you get for your time is some of the Best. Fried. Chicken. Ever. Smith has eaten his way across the country and tested dozens of recipes looking for the end-all and be-all fried chicken and it turned out to be a combination of time, process and pressure. The fried chicken is brined for a day and then dredged through a seasoned, gluten-free mix of potato, tapioca and rice flour from Lillabee’s in Boulder and finished in a pressure fryer at about 500 degrees F.
The end result is fried chicken that is not greasy, and whose fabulous, snappy crust is welded to the tender, perfectly cooked meat inside.
Brewmaster and partner Bryan Selders has assembled a quiver of beers that pair perfectly with the fried chicken and other offerings.

“For me, brewing here at the post is about ensuring that our guests have a totally holistic experience of comfort and pure enjoyment,” Selders said. “We have great comfort food and we have a very comfortable atmosphere and the beer should really fit into that story 100 percent. Having beers that are drinkable, balanced and approachable and that taste really awesome with chicken is very important for me.”
You can’t go wrong with a pint of crisp, clean Howdy Beer pilsner, silver medal winner in the 2014 Great American Beer Festival American/International Style Pilsener category. If you’re looking for something with a little more body, the Elkhorn Lager is a stellar American lager. This amber beer has a smooth, toasty malt nose balanced with the faint, spicy aroma of Sterling hops that lend a peppery bite to the rich malt flavors. If you like a smooth, well-balanced, flavorful beer that goes down like a summer breeze, this is it.
And for those of us up in Longmont, the Big Red F Restaurant Group is opening a “little-irreverent-younger brother to The Post Brewing Company” at 1268 Hover Road (at Clover Basin Drive) later this fall.
Called the GoodBird Kitchen, the menu will feature Smith’s to-die-for fried chicken along with Selders’ chicken friendly beers and the fantastic side dishes that make Lafayette’s POST worth the wait. There’s also a full bar with chicken friendly wines and hand shaken cocktails. And don’t be surprised to see more GoodBirds opening up along the Front Range and beyond in the months and years ahead. Good, hot chicken and award-winning cold beer has a bad habit of multiplying like rabbits.

Coltera
Nestled in a corner of blossoming Niwot is Colterra, the brainchild of celebrated local chef Bradford Heap. With a beautiful dark wood interior and a gorgeous, relaxing garden, Colterra offers a little bit of European culture here in Boulder County. According to executive chef Michael Drazsnzak, that was the idea from the get-go. “Originally, before this was Colterra, this was a restaurant called Le Chantecler,” Drazsnzak says. “When they decided to close the doors, this property came up for sale, and it’s a real rarity. It’s a mortgage not a lease, which is hard to find. Bradford, through his time in France and Italy, some of his favorite places were the countryside restaurants. Still fine-dining, so still very nice, but out in the country. When this became an opportunity for him, he saw this place along the lines of what he found out in the countryside of the south of France and the north of Italy, and he thought, “This is perfect. I can do farm-to-table concept, I can do the food I want to do, and it will fit in with the motif of this community. We’ll be able to keep it very much in that vein and make it feel that way.”
For him, it was a really great opportunity. Its an ideal spot. Our lamb and beef comes from less than seven miles away, Oxford Gardens is two miles down the road. We’re right in the heart of this killer agriculture.”
We were seated in the garden and given a Strawberry Pimms Crush, a refreshing drink made up of blanco tequila, fresh lemon, fresh lime, pimms #1 and strawberry ginger syrup. Despite the fact that we were driving, the drink was delicious enough to tempt us into chugging the whole thing. Tangy and light, we heartily recommend this tipple.
Food-wise, we were treated to some of the best tuna we’ve ever had. The Coriander-Crusted Ahi Tuna Steak features seared tuna cooked to perfection – still very red in the middle. The bed of zucchini and blistered cherry tomatoes set it all off, and the crispy polenta offers a tasty toast-mop. The local tomato coulis, with just a hint of red pepper, if the finishing touch of a dish that has been carefully concocted. Nothing is an accident.
It’s also a very healthy dish, something that Drazsnzak says they think about all of the time. “One of the big things we see are things along the lines of a gluten-free diet,” he says. “That’s a huge trend. There are people who have intolerance and that’s a serious thing. That’s easy to accommodate. There are also people making it a health choice. We can accommodate that too. The tuna is a healthy dish. We’re using pastured beef, non-GMO food. We’re sourcing organic. Cream, cheese and pasta isn’t particularly healthy, but at least it’s organic. We’re also a luxury restaurant. We have those items that you’re only gonna eat at a restaurant.”

Sugarbeet
Located off the Main Street drag in Longmont, Sugarbeet is still one of that city’s finest eateries, not least because of chef/owner Seth Witherspoon who opened the restaurant in 2006 and has seen plenty of change since.
“There’s a lot more development,” Witherspoon says. “Developers have been buying almost abandoned properties in super-commercial spots and converting them. The turkey plant on Main Street was an eyesore for a long time and source of contention with a lot of people, so that’ll be nice to have a lot of residential space in there.”
Witherspoon and his staff have transformed the space into a gorgeous, open and relaxing venue for wonderful food and drink. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with a Vieux Carre cocktail, which proved to be perfectly refreshing on a hot day. Composed of Knob Creek Rye, Remy Martin 1738, Benedictine, Sweet Vermouth and bitters, the drink is decorated with orange, and the bitter, citrusy bite pairs beautifully with the strong alcohol. Not for the faint-hearted, the drink is fantastic.
Chef whipped us up a salad that isn’t on offer yet, as he prepares next season’s menu. It’s a winner – baby arugula with Rocky Ford cantaloupe, Alto Adige Speck (beautiful cured ham) and pistachio, with a reggiano and mango-bergamot vinaigrette. The salty, chewy ham proved to be the perfect foil for the sweet, soft melon.
For Witherspoon, it’s all about fresh, local food. “There are so many farms here now,” he says. “We also have one of the biggest farmer’s markets in the country so that helps. It’s been great for us. The people that are attending the farmer’s market have the same approach to food as we do. It’s a pretty good dynamic. The farmer’s market sets up down the street, at the fair, so it’s about a mile away. We also have our own garden that we started this year. We purchased a piece of property that adjoins our property at the back. So we’ve been doing that this year, trying to get that organized. It’s in its infancy right now, but next year I have big hopes for it to be a little more productive. We got a late start this year. Its a nice, sizable piece of property, so we’ll be pretty self-sufficient. We’ll have a greenhouse out there too.”
It’s also typical of Sugarbeet to change the menu around regularly. “We really don’t keep dishes,” Witherspoon says. “We have a signature salad that’s a house salad that is really the only thing that stays on every menu. It depends on availability of products. Somebody will bring me something and we’ll see if we can sell goat, we’ll run it for a special for three weeks. If we can sell it, it goes on the menu and usually our menus run for three or four months. Every menu has one or two steaks on it, and then whatever fish is available. We have good suppliers in Denver. Our main focus is fresh food, never frozen meats. We do a lot with organics but we’re not exclusively organic. The garden that we’re doing over there, we use organic practices. That’s what drives our menus – what’s available. Whatever tastes the best. We have a lot of talented chefs and we just play off each other. We’re stimulating ourselves and hopefully stimulating customers at the same time.”
That’s as a good reason to keep going back as any.

Zoe ma ma
It’s been five years since Zoe Ma Ma opened it’s doors on 10th Street in Boulder, and the reputation, the smiling face behind the counter, and the small little shop keep people coming back day after day. Not to mention it is some of the most authentic, delicious home-style Chinese food in the Boulder, and Denver, area.
Walking up to the little restaurant just off of the Pearl Street Mall, it doesn’t look like much. In fact, it looks out of place in comparison to all the patio restaurants lining the edge of Pearl Street. There’s not much to the quaint spot, just an outside bar with chairs facing the street, and less than a dozen tables crammed into long, hallwayesque inside.
Food is ordered at the counter and yelled out when ready, which takes no longer than 15 minutes during the busiest of times. A chalkboard hanging behind the counter lists the daily specials, alongside some of the more popular items on the menu. But, if you’re overwhelmed in the small space, grab a menu from the counter, try and find a secluded corner, or step outside, and find what works best for you. ??The restaurant is the brainchild of Edwin Zoe and his mother. Zoe moved to the states when he was nine from Taiwan, and then Boulder in the early 1980s as a student at CU. Fast forward 30 years when Zoe and his mother opened the Pearl Street adjacent restaurant with a simple mission. Give customers good food. Inspired by his mother, Zoe wanted to share her signature dishes and delicious home cooking. But, unlike most Americanized Chinese restaurants, he freshly prepares Ma Ma’s dishes with high quality ingredients that include homemade organic noodles, cage-free eggs, and all-natural meats. His mother approved.
“I’m into simple food that tastes great, and I needed to do something that reflects my food sensibilities and tells a story,” he said.
The man is doing something right, because everything about the little space is simple, but packs a powerful punch. Right down to the self serve, house-made green tea. Even for a non-tea drinker, this little cup of pure happiness is the perfect thing for the last remaining days of summer, and even into early fall.
Upon request, we ordered the gluten free Ma Ma’s Chicken Soup Noodle, comprised of Chicken, pickled greens, sprouts, ginger, and rice noodle in chicken broth with lots of love. The menu didn’t lie, it tasted much better than the soup our own mother would bring to us when we stayed home sick from school. It was also much larger than mom’s sad little bowl, making the dish cheap and filling. The extra ingredient of love might be what makes this dish so delectable?
For selfish reasons, we ordered three of the pot stickers, filled with a top-secret family recipe made with pork, shrimp, garlic chive and vegetables. Make no mistake, these were the best dumplings we have devoured in Colorado. The burst of flavor packed in every bite, made it difficult not to go back and order 15 more, or force the top-secret family recipe from Zoe’s mind.
Zoe Ma Ma is not a restaurant to overlook. It’s great value. It’s fun. It’s delicious.

Rosalees
James Ross loves pizza, there’s no denying it. Of course, he would have to as he runs the best pizza shop in our neck of the woods, Rosalee’s in Longmont.
Rosalee’s is the brainchild of James and Amy Ross. The couple met in culinary school and always talked of opening a restaurant. They just couldn’t figure out what type of restaurant. Then a few years ago they were driving back to Longmont from visiting family in South Dakota when it came to them.
“It was like a light bulb from the cartoons, and we knew exactly what we wanted to do,” he said. “Pizza.”
But James and Amy didn’t want to do anything before doing their research. So they hit the east coast, eating pizza from Boston, Maine, New Jersey and most importantly New York City. Staying in south Brooklyn, the couple tried more than 15 pizzerias throughout the five boroughs of NYC.
Sticking with the classic cheese pizza, they took index cards and wrote down what worked with the pizza, and how the environment influenced customers.
But they didn’t just draw inspiration from the East Coast, but also here in Colorado. Visiting restaurants, bars and pizzerias in the area to find what was missing in the pizza scene, and what type of atmosphere Coloradans were drawn to.
The result: a pizzeria along Longmont’s Main Street with a relaxing atmosphere and an overwhelmingly friendly staff. We haven’t even mentioned the food. Shredding and grating their own cheeses, making sauce from high quality tomatoes, and grinding their own pork sausage in house sets Rosalee’s apart.
We decided to sit down and try the house sausage pizza, and the margherita. The house sausage pie is plum tomato sauce, house-made sausage, whole milk mozzarella and Pecorino Romano. The margherita is topped with fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, whole- milk mozzarella and Pecorino Romano.
But first, we munched on their sausage knots, house-made sausage meatballs wrapped in dough knots and tossed in garlic, butter, parsley and cheese. It was an explosion of flavor-delicious flavor. The crispy dough complemented the meatball inside that seemed to melt with the slightest touch of the tongue. We could have easily ordered four more and made that our meal.
Luckily, the pizza was just as surprising. Forget the fancy presentation, Rosalee’s doesn’t need it. The food stands on its own. The house made sausage was the highlight of the meal. Littered on top of a pie with the perfect ratio of cheese, crust and sauce made this pizza the best we’ve had in Colorado.
“We want the place to be relaxing, fun and enjoyable,” Ross said. “Nothing is more enjoyable than a delicious pizza.”
We can’t agree more.

Frasca
Frasca Food and Wine is not unlike the Flatirons in Boulder. The iconic 290 million year old conglomeratic sandstone slabs, tossed up in the air somewhere between 35 and 80 million years ago during the Laramide Orogeny, are an inseparable element of Boulder’s brand.
The longer you live in and around this college town, the more those sandstone faces become just part of the backdrop, increasingly taken for granted. That is until the day your sister comes to visit from back home in Kansas City and you see those majestic red rock faces through new, excited and awestruck eyes. And it all returns in a rush; the realization that you do live in a drop dead gorgeous place on earth and the view you have in your back yard 365 days a year is so much more kick-ass than what 95 percent of everyone else in the world wakes up to every day.
Unlike the Flatirons, Frasca has only been around for a little over 11 years. But it, too, is that rare and amazing place where food, and the wine that goes with it, is raised nightly to an art form. And, like the Flatirons, it’s not until you take mom out for her birthday or surprise your sweetie for a special occasion that you see and taste this amazing local treasure through fresh eyes and taste buds.
And because dinner at Frasca – for the majority of us – is a special occasion, the question becomes: What to order? You only get one shot. How to make it count?
Certainly, if you’re a fan of lamb, beef or fresh fish, you can order any of the half dozen Secondi menu items as a full, a la carte meal. But unless you’re lucky enough to have a babysitter until late and are just popping by for another course from another great Boulder restaurant, cast your net wide and go for the Friulano Tradizionale, a seven course meal that will take you on a flavor safari not soon forgotten. And if you can swing it, opt for the accompanying wine flight, too.
If owners Bobby Stucky, a master sommelier, and Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson know anything, it’s how to transform their exquisite food into a religious experience by pairing it with stellar wines.
Each course is like a gastronomic one-act play delivered with precision and aplomb by an attentive and knowledgeable staff. On a recent Saturday, my Primo was a sashimi-like slice of fresh, raw American Red Snapper with a simple drizzle of basil oil. Light and firm and faintly sweet, the snapper found new dimensions as the basil oil brought out the fish’s mild, nutty flavor. No single one of these delicate flavors emerged triumphant over the others and instead melded together for a unique taste combination I’d never had before. And just as perfect was the glass of Bereche M.V. Brut Reserve Champagne from Terres deMontagne et Vallee. Crisp, light and, yes, faintly sweet, the Champagne offered a bright, palate-cleansing effervescence making my mouth ready for another bite as fresh and rich as the first.
And on it went with each successive course, flavors and textures growing in complexity and robustness. The absolute best of them all was the Terzo round of Riso Marinara, a risotto of scallop, shrimp, clam and mussel with heirloom tomatoes and a dash of lemon. This heavenly pairing is a classic for Frasca and one you’ll find on many of their tasting menus. The distinct flavors of the seafood risotto and the acidity of the tomatoes melds seamlessly with the slightly tannic, but not overpowering Primosic 2013 Malvasia Istriana it is paired with.
The best thing about eating this way — several, smaller portions of expertly prepared food each paired perfectly with a complimentary wine — is it slows the process down. You can’t rush a meal like this, and you wouldn’t want to. Each new dish demands the full attention of your senses and the more you give into this, the greater the reward. This is the magic and artistry that makes Frasca a truly iconic restaurant; an epoch in Boulder’s emergence as a foodie mecca.

The Med
Walking into The Mediterranean, or the Med for short, is akin to walking into a resort. The first thing we noticed was the sheer size of the naturally lit space and sporadically spaced plants throughout the restaurant. This gives the Med its Mediterranean feel, even though it’s located in downtown Boulder on Walnut Street. It’s welcoming and friendly, which is part of what makes the eatery a Boulder favorite.
Of course, atmosphere isn’t the only thing that makes or breaks a restaurant. The most important thing is the menu, obviously. But don’t worry, the Med has a voluminous assortment of southern European pastas, sandwiches, tapas, salads and main plates. This means that anyone’s dietary restrictions or even plain old pickiness can be easily accommodated.
As we sat down, Paul, our server, was quick to hand us the lunch menu and a basket of sourdough bread. Wasting no time, we dove into the bread and ordered the red sangria for a lunchtime cocktail. The bread, littered with black olives, was the perfect start to our Mediterranean lunch. The olives gave the bread a punch of flavor that set it apart from the typical courtesy bread at restaurants.
The sangria rojo Paul recommended hit the spot. Comprised of Spanish red wine punch, blood orange, strawberry and passion fruit pruées, the lunchtime cocktail was strong, yet delectable. It complimented the sourdough bread and the Polenta Con Costola Tapa (braised short rib, caramelized shallots, crisp polenta, gorgonzala). The tapa was delicious, yet confusing. It tasted similar to a moms roast beef. It was a blast from the past and we could have easily eaten three more, making it our entire meal.
Luckily we didn’t. We could have followed Paul’s suggestion and ordered pasta, but decided on Med Burger, beef brisket and sirloin, gorgonzola, red onion, romaine, harissa aioli, house-made brioche roll, and fries. Even Paul joked about us ordering a hamburger at a Mediterranean restaurant.
“It’s a bit of an odd thing to be on the menu, but it’s surprisingly pretty good. A lot of people really enjoy it,” he said.
We were pleasantly surprised with the decision to break free from the pastas and salads and try the burger. The Med Burger, was the best burger we’ve had in BoCo. The meat was tender, juicy and cooked to perfection. The toppings gave it the Mediterranean feel, and a surprising crunch that at first took us by surprise. The fries were equally as good, rounding off the best lunch we’ve had in a long while.
There simply wasn’t enough room for desert.

Kachina
Tagged onto the side of Westminster’s Westin Hotel, Kachina is lucky in that it has a captive audience, and yet the space is beautiful enough, the food great enough, that people also come from far and wide.??The drinks are pretty good too. We started with a Bird of Prey cocktail, composed of Bacardi eight year rum, Campari, lime, pineapple, and maraschino liqueur. While the drink is very bitter, it’s also refreshing, light, and very strong. The rum is a hard flavor, but it blends with he cherry and pineapple beautifully.
We kept it simple with our meal, choosing the Grilled Romaine Salad. A dish like this, though deceptively simple, is oh-so-easy to get wrong, but no such problems here. The leaves themselves are crisp despite the irresistible blackened edges, and everything sits delicately together to create a gorgeous cacophony of flavors. Separately, the smoked trout, cornbread croutons, poached egg, shaved parm and cherry tomatoes are nice enough but, if you ensure that you get a few mouthfuls containing a little bit of everything, your head will near-explode. It’s the salad equivalent of the Beatles. On their own, pleasant. Together, perfect.
Executive chef Jeff Bolton joined up with Kachina two years ago, shortly after it opened. “We’re a Southwestern restaurant,” Bolton says. “We focus on Native American, Spanish and the European influence on the Southwest. We’ve been growing about ten percent year-on-year since we opened.”
Besides that growth, Bolton has introduced programs to the “living, breathing restaurant” like the successful “chef and the butcher.”
“What’s cool about that is, every single thing that’s on that specials sheet is from whole animals,” he says. “I have a full-time butcher in-house, and he hand-cuts every single one of our steaks, he hand-cuts all of our chickens. But we also bring in special stuff, like I’ll bring in an entire side of bison. I’ll bring an 800 pound bison and we’ll butcher that together, and then it goes onto that night’s specials sheet.”
When it comes to the health-conscious nature of Boulder County, Bolton says that they keep their eye on it but don’t have to do a lot. “Everybody wants to be healthy, and he have lots of different salads,” he says. “We have quinoa on the menu, and bison is a substantially more healthy meat than beef.”
With a new location due to open in downtown Denver soon, more and more people will have a chance to sample it all for themselves.

Oak at 14th
Oak at Fourteenth has been around the better part of five years and has a comfortable and compelling feel, making it a go-to choice for lunch or dinner in Boulder that never disappoints.
With its prime corner location on 14th Street at the Pearl Street Mall, it’s great for people watching, night and day. But the food, cocktails and service are the best reasons for putting it high on your list of places to eat.
In many respects, Oak at Fourteenth is the sibling restaurant of Frasca just a few blocks east. Its chef and co-owner, Steven Redzikowski, was one of the kitchen staff hand-picked to open Frasca in 2004. It was there that Redzikowski met Oak co-owner and Beverage Guy Bryan Dayton. In the years following, the two took off for other top-shelf jobs before reuniting in 2010 to open Oak.
The look and feel of Oak – bottled spirits displayed along most of the back wall and the open kitchen, with the wood fired oven and grill that serves as the center of activity – gives it a distinct identity.
The cocktails are superb, featuring both alcoholic and non-alcoholic choices, including a selection of flavor-packed house made sodas. Among the booze-free options is Oak Tea Time, an aromatic refresher with a black tea foundation. Inclusions of lavender, ginger and Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters, give the icy drink a compelling aroma that delivers a grape fruity sweetness and a mild, tart finish. It’s so good and goes down so easy, you’ll look like a lush as you dispatch each glass with long, satisfying swigs.
And while the cocktail menu changes up as often as the food menu does to fit the time of year and to highlight available fresh ingredients, the Across The Atlantic is one that Redzikowski considers a signature Oak cocktail.
Made with Bulleit Rye and lesser additions of Benedictine, Lillet Rouge and Cocktail Punk Aromatic Bitters, this substantial drink is served in a hefty rocks glass over a baseball size, hand chiseled sphere of ice. Somewhat sweet and almost rich in its depth of flavors, the rye bourbon lends an edge to the finish, reminding you that this is a fully loaded drink.
On the food side, the dinner menu is chock full of shared and small plate offerings that are a great way to assemble a varied, flavorful dinner with your date or companions. From the signature Tomato Braised Meat balls served with burrata cheese on a bed of Anson Mills grits to Oak Grilled Munson Farm Green Beans, the small plates show off what’s in season.
“We’ve had the meatballs and the kale salad on the menu since day-one,” Redzikowski said. “We put that together at my house before Oak was even being built. We just kept taking out more and more bread — so it just barely holds the meatball together — until it was mostly pork and beef. That way it stays nice and juicy.”
Another new addition to the staff is a first for Oak at Fourteenth: A pastry chef. Michael Conti from Chicago is putting together desserts that Redzikowski calls “phenomenal.” “He does a chocolate cake that is…. oh… it’s sooo good (eyes roll back as he slowly shakes his head). I don’t eat sweets, but I ate three in the last four days.”
Injecting fresh people and their recipes and ideas into Oak is how Redzikowski plans on making sure his restaurant is here for the long haul. “You can’t do anything without a good staff and we have a great staff,” he says. “We’ll keep favorites on [the menu] that the locals in the neighborhood enjoy, but then we’ll also change things up, because we [cooks] can get stale, too.”

Black Cat Bistro
Eric Skokan climbs down from his red tractor with the blissful look of someone climbing off of a massage table. He speaks slowly and thoughtfully, still savoring the cleansing clarity that only comes from the concentration and accomplishment earned at the wheel of a tractor.
“When you feel overwhelmed, just drop the tiller on a bunch of weeds and it all goes away,” Skokan says, as the glaze in his eyes starts to clear.
Of all the purported “farm-to-table” chefs and restaurants in and around Boulder County, Skokan has immersed himself more thoroughly than most in the cultivation and production of the food he serves at Boulder’s Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare.
Born in San Diego, he paid for a history degree from the University of Virginia working as a short order cook and, later, cooking for and running the Silver Thatch Inn outside of Charlottesville. That led to bigger and better cooking jobs at noted restaurants around the country, which continued to feed Skokan’s addiction to learning. But like any addict, without a fresh, new drug to stoke his appetite for a new learning high, he was on the verge of burning out.
“I cooked for 15 years solid – six to seven days a week – to where mentally, restaurants were no longer a big challenge,” Skokan said. “So I started gardening; researching how to grow carrots and basil. Now, all of this feeds my learning addiction,” he says with a sweep of his hand that takes in the vista of 130 acres planted in tomatoes, onions, various grains and muddy, week-old piglets.
Skokan, 46, pulls out his smart phone to look and see if his $75 bid on a vintage Allis-Chalmers Gleaner combine (made in Independence, Missouri) is still holding up. Skokan has never operated a combine, but he plans to use it to harvest the acres of buckwheat, millet and other grains he’ll be planting next year at his thriving Black Cat Farm out near 63rd and Oxford Road. What started as a backyard garden more than a decade ago is now a 130-acre farm that supplies fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and herbs for his restaurants — Black Cat Bistro and Bramble&Hare — as well as a booth at the Saturday Boulder Farmers’ Market and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.
The bounty from the farm is best experienced through the Black Cat Bistro Chef’s Tasting Menu, a fixed price sampling of hors d’oeuvres, appetizers and entrees that changes daily. Among the recent offerings were Mulefoot Pork Loin medallions served over a smoked eggplant and parsley puree. The pork was cut-with-a-fork tender while the smoky puree gave the homegrown meat a delicious dimension of flavors.
Amazingly, Eric and his wife, Jill, have made a successful go at two of the hardest business models in the world: farming and restaurants. And Skokan pins his success on his naturally inquisitive nature, his willingness to experiment and fail, the generosity of experienced neighbors (farmers, vets, growers and others who have shared their knowledge and helped Skokan smooth out the bumps in his learning curves) and most of all his ability to surround himself with excellent people.
“I’m not a micro-manager,” Skokan says. “I surround myself with brilliant people and paint a clear picture of what I want it (the restaurant, the day’s menu, the farm) to look like and they execute. If you put talented people with elastic imaginations together, anything is possible.”

Author

Brett Calwood
Brett Callwood is an English journalist, copy writer, editor and author, currently living and working in Los Angeles. He is the music editor with the LA Weekly. He was previously a reporter at the Longmont Times-Call and Daily Camera, the music editor at the Detroit Metro Times and editor-in-chief at Yellow Scene magazine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Callwood

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