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The Challenge | Indulgence Issue 2023

The Challenge | Indulgence Issue 2023


YS paired together nearly 50 restaurants to create several different multi-course tasting experiences – with a twist!

When we decided to pair together 10 different tastings across BOCO and the North Metro, enlist 10 writers, coordinate numerous chefs, and bring along photographers, we initially thought we may have bit off more than we could chew. With dogged determination, a flurry of scheduling, and plenty of incredible options across the area, it all came together more perfectly than we initially imagined. What resulted was a culinary journey taking us through a three course meal with drink pairings to boot.

Each menu was organized around a main dish or ingredient — from corn to beef loins, from fresh seafood to smoky cocktails — taking us on an indulgent trip across counties. Follow in the footsteps of this extraordinary collaboration or simply live vicariously through the descriptions and photos of some of our favorite spots to eat, drink, and simply enjoy what our area has to offer. We were blown away by what local chefs and mixologists prepared, and cannot wait to share it with you.

Pairing #1

BY: Deb Cameron

This tasting slate was custom designed to show the bounty and abundance available from chefs, winemakers, and mixologists at the top of their game in Boulder. While I was never surprised with the caliber of each piece of the meal, I was delighted by something else — how chefs connected with corn, one of the supporting ingredients in the featured dish.

I look forward to corn each summer, and I’m currently growing heirloom varieties in my garden. In this pairing, corn purée was the base for scallops and pork belly, toasted corn was a key component of the artisanal mezcal in my cocktail, and popcorn as part of panna cotta in my dessert. The wine selections complemented the flavors and ingredients while the appetizer contrasted the sweetness of the corn with vivid, dramatic flavors.

Toasted Popcorn Panna Cotta with Plums held by Andrea Uzarowski of Süti. Photo by Judi Morell

Roots | Longmont – Papri chaat
India is all about roadside snacks, and I’m representing only one, which is very popular in the northern part of India. It’s one of my favorite street snacks,” said Chef Madhoo of Roots, which has recently taken over the Dickens Opera House space on Main Street in Old Town Longmont and also operates a predominant catering presence in the state. She prepared a snack consisting of 12 components: spiced garbanzo beans seasoned with peppers, turmeric and roasted peppers, sweet and spicy tamarind, chopped cilantro, yogurt, mint chutney, fried garbanzo bean made in house from noodles, papri puffed crackers. After tasting, the spice of the flavors popped first, followed by the creaminess of the yogurt, freshness of the mint, and the crunch of the garbanzo beans. Light and satisfying, it made an exciting entry into the rest of the meal.

Farow | Niwot – Artisanal corn-based mezcal cocktail
Since opening two years ago, Farow has received a lot of attention for its commitment to creatively using hyper-local fresh and delicious ingredients. There are even hopes that Farow may be in contention for a green Michelin star, to be announced later this fall. While we love the restaurant’s approach to food, we’re also paying attention to its bar program. Mixologists Johnnie Adair and Noah Elkind have recently been asked to showcase their work in the Flor de Caña Most Sustainable Bartender challenge, as well as at the semifinals of the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience in San Francisco. Their creation for our challenge was made with mezcal infused with roasted corn. The drink was then rimmed with a brick-red lime pepper that was reminiscent of Tajín. Bright and beautiful in cut glass, it was possible to taste the corn in the drink, which contrasted with the lime and slight burn from the alcohol. The drink was the perfect choice, with spice that blends with both the main course and the heat in the appetizer.

SALT | Boulder – Pan-seared sea scallops and pork belly
As one of the highlights of SALT’s dinner menu, this dish is decadent and rich — what you’d expect from generous servings of scallop and thick, toast-sized portions of pork belly. The corn purée made a satisfying platform for both flavors and complemented the vegetables, including green beans, red peppers, and spinach. I requested some bread to sop up every last drop. I suggest you do the same.

Bookcliff Vineyards | Boulder and Palisade – 2022 Rosé and 2022 Syrah
Bookcliff has been at the forefront of Colorado-based winemaking for years. Providing options for two wines — either the rosé or the syrah, both of them matched with the main dish in different ways: The lighter rosé played much better with the seafood, offset the corn, and complemented the flavors of the dessert. The darker syrah made magic with the richer, smokier pork belly flavors. We don’t suggest anyone choose between them. Enjoy both if you can.

Toasted Popcorn Panna Cotta with Plums from Süti. Photo by Judi Morell

Süti & Co. | Boulder – Toasted popcorn panna cotta with plums
Andrea Uzarowski dove into this challenge, creating a complex but still light dessert that included corn panna cotta matched with plum, pistachio, and cacao nibs all dressed with bright edible flowers. The combination worked — the richness of the panna cotta acting as a call back to the corn, pork belly, and scallops in the main dish. But the bright plum with a hint of rich cacao, was a perfect finish to the meal.

Pairing #2

BY: Deb Cameron

It’s always exciting to explore options that are available in my hometown. I moved to Erie about six years ago and since then have delighted in watching how the food scene has evolved. For this challenge, I was able to access almost all of the locations on the list by foot or bike, except for Rumbo 52, which was just a short drive away. The proximity of this amount of community, entertainment, and culinary variety is one of the draws of the town. Area family and friends agree.

Ceviche from Rumbo 52. Photo by Paul Guise

Rumbo 52 Cochina and Cantina | Frederick – Ceviche Tuna Tartare
The appetizer was provided by chef and restaurant owner Fausto Felix who has shown a talent for bringing authentic Mexican and Latin American fare to the area. His most recent venture combines a location that previously housed both a diner and an Italian spot into a beautiful and comfortable destination for Latin American cuisine. His ceviche tuna tartare makes a fitting companion to Piripi’s seafood paella. It includes fresh yellow tuna, serrano peppers, grape tomatoes, shaved tomatillos, and mandarin orange in a light chipotle mayo. It was spicy but didn’t burn your tastebuds.

Smokin’ Scotsman & Green Tea dual cocktails from Erie Social Club. Photo by Paul Guise

Erie Social Club | Erie – Smokin Scotsman & Green Tea Cocktail
Erie Social Club also provided the cocktail, something which they gave so much thought to that they couldn’t decide between two of them, so they provided both. The first we tasted was a Smokin’ Scotsman, made with scotch whiskey, simple syrup, lemon, and rosemary. The smoke, in this case, came from charred lemon and rosemary on top of the drink. As it was being charred, it imbued the area within the glass with the heady campfire aroma that quickly reminded me of the fires under the paella, particularly the smoked sausages in Piripi’s mixta version. Alternately, the Green Tea Cocktail was made with housemade green tea, vodka, lavender simple syrup, and lemon. It’s the brightness that I could see pairing with either the vegetarian or seafood versions.

Paella from Piripi. Photo by Deborah Cameron

Piripi | Erie – Paella
Paella is luxurious, satisfying, and flavorful. It’s also not made quickly. Piripi’s chef owner Hugo Meyer told us it can take up to four days to prepare for paella nights at the restaurant, where they serve seafood, vegetarian, and mixta variations on the first Monday of each month. This rice dish is made better with high-quality ingredients including specialty grains, high-quality saffron, and the best seafood or meats possible. My favorite part of any paella is the socarrat, the caramelization of the rice at the bottom of the dish that occurs if the rice isn’t over stirred. It’s chewy, savory, and incredibly satisfying. To me, it’s the gold at the end of a pan of goodness, and Piripi’s is reliable.

Columna Albarino wine from Erie Social Club

Erie Social Club | Erie – Columna Albarino
The Spanish albarino suggested by Erie Social Club had a mineral quality that bartender Kelly Rahm felt would match well with the paella. She shared that this wine was grown in the Rias Baixas region of Spain, which is more inland, and it lent an earthiness to the wine. There was a lemony quality that made it an especially good choice to pair with paella. What was in the glass tasted rich, complex, and interesting. It not only held its own against the food, in turn, the food enhanced the flavors of the wine.

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake from Stacy’s Kitchen. Photo by Kenneth Wajda

Stacy’s Kitchen | ErieCinnamon Roll Cheesecake
I first heard about Stacy Gustafson online when her social media fans besieged her with orders for decadent pies at holiday time, so it was great news to hear that she had opened her own shop on Cheeseman Street. For this pairing, she made one of her signature desserts, a cinnamon roll cheesecake which is often featured at the shop. The cheesecake was as rich as I had expected, but the crunch of the cinnamon filling stood out. The texture and richness held its own rather than being lost in the cheesecake’s creaminess. With the body of the cheesecake and the richness of the flavor combinations, this is every bit a statement end to the challenge meal.

Pairing #3

BY: Chris Curtis

Lobster Ravioli from Boulder Cork. Photo by Chris Curtis

The Boulder Cork | Boulder – Lobster Ravioli
Perfecting the art of indulgence since 1969, walking into The Boulder Cork feels like entering your best friend’s house. An intricate floor plan of rooms, exposed beams, and antique furniture all contribute to the atmosphere while the friendly staff made me feel like a regular. With thirty years of experience behind every dish, the chef sent out the lobster ravioli appetizer. I didn’t need to know much more than lobster for my anticipation to soar, but hand roll them in house made pasta, cover them with sun dried tomatoes and fresh herbs from the restaurant’s very own on-site garden, and I knew I would be hooked. The fresh herbs provided texture to the dish and the pasta arrived at a perfect al dente. I could easily see and taste that my night of indulgence just set sail for this long anticipated evening.

The Boulder Cork | Boulder – The Last Ferry
The bar at The Boulder Cork draws your eyes right to it when you walk through the doors. Dark wood juxtaposed against a well lit backsplash of carefully laid cream colored flagstone, beckons you to come to it and sit for a moment. The masterful mixologist indulged my request for a cocktail to pair with my incredible lobster ravioli appetizer and what arrived at my table couldn’t have been more perfect. Made with a base of Drumshanbo slow distilled gunpowder Irish gin, lime, lemon sorbet, prosecco, a hint of maple, and basil from the on-site garden, this citrusy delight brought a bright, flowery nose that balanced out the rich lobster ravioli. Aptly named The Last Ferry as a nod to the coast, I found myself amused that this last ferry kicked off my evening of indulgence in a bubbly way.

Heirloom Tomato and Beef Loin from Bramble & Hare. Photo by Chris Curtis

Bramble & Hare | Boulder – Heirloom tomato and beef loin
Opening the front door of Bramble and Hare I’m met by black curtains hiding the interior of the restaurant which, when pulled aside, creates the effect of going down a rabbit hole. Dark wood and warm lighting reveal intimate tables and I’m quick to notice faux pelts adorning the backs of some of the chairs. Knowing that Bramble and Hare runs a four hundred and twenty-five acre farm just outside of Boulder makes my mind race as to what delight awaits me. Much to my enjoyment, a dish created around heirloom tomatoes, quite possibly picked that very day based on how they tasted, arrived. My eyes and nose could hardly process all that awaited me. Creamy polenta, braised celery, sautéed kale, beef loin, parmesan cheese crackers, and a side of marinated tomatoes composed this textural masterpiece. Acidic, creamy, light and rich all at once, I no sooner blinked and it was gone.

Élevé from Snowy Peaks Winery. Photo by Chris Curtis

Snowy Peaks Winery | Estes Park – Élevé
Offering award-winning, hand crafted wines made from Colorado grown grapes, Erik and Candice Mohr endeavor to bring a taste of Colorado to your glass. To enhance my heirloom tomato and beef loin entrée, I found myself sipping on Élevé, a blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah, and Mourvedre. It definitely lived up to its name, being high in flavor, complexity, and indulgence. A hopeless fan of red blends, I enjoyed the boldness and spice of the Syrahs while at the same time appreciating the dark berry flavors of the Mourvedre. I imagined it shaking hands with the beef loin and joyfully tussling a bit with the acidity of the fresh heirloom tomatoes, all tempered by the polenta and parmesan crackers. Snowy Peaks now lives on my list of wineries to try and I can’t wait to see what more they have to offer.

Sticky Toffee Pudding from Jill’s Restaurant and Bistro. Photo by Chris Curtis

Jill’s Restaurant and Bistro | Boulder – Sticky toffee pudding
Hurtling towards an indulgent food induced nap, Jill’s Restaurant and Bistro, located in the St. Julien Hotel and Spa and an easy walk from my main course restaurant, perked me right up! Tall ceilings, bright lights, and that bustling bistro vibe all came together to energize me. What awaited me made all my dessert dreams come true. Sticky Toffee Pudding. I’ve always been fascinated by this dessert because what appears on the surface to be so simple, reveals itself to be a complex process. A classic British dessert, it’s made with chopped dates and toffee sauce. A light sponge, a perfect bake, and a balance of flavors form the base of the desert. It’s then smothered in a caramel sauce and Jill’s tops theirs with a creamy whiskey brickle ice cream. What sets this treat apart, however, can be found in the very tiny and crunchy garnish that brings an additional and delightful texture to the dish. A perfect end to an incredible evening. 

Pairing #4

BY: Sam Gilstrap

Familiar flavors came together in unexpected ways to present a fresh take on a family meal reminiscent of Italy. The main course was Cimini’s Pesto Crusted Salmon, with everything else catered around that flavor profile.Fresh tastes of pesto, strong cheese, and a surprising desert all made for a fantastic culinary journey you should recreate on your own.

Burrata from Jax Fish House. Photo by Sam Gilstrap

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar | Boulder – Burrata
From their Charred Spanish Octopus with a lovely light tomato and red pepper confit to the Fried New England Calamari with sensational lime aioli to the Ahi Tuna Poke with serrano spice and fun mouth feel, the starter options at Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar are to be savored — especially this writer’s personal favorite, the Burrata. This version closes the summer with English pea gremolata and hibiscus reduction that synced up perfectly with the Pesto Crusted Salmon. The richness of these flavors is inspiring, especially as the smooth and creamy burrata cheese ties everything together atop a crispy pasta cracker! Hurry and try it before fall comes and the Burrata changes with the season.

Snowy Peaks Winery | Estes Park –  Mourvèdre
Mourvèdres make excellent pairings with strong cheeses – like burrata – or fatty meats – such as salmon. Snowy Peaks’ Mourvèdre is no exception. At first whiff, the cherry jam and spices take you to the vineyards of the Rhône. While this wine may be a bit more boozier than most, the bright berries, especially alongside the Pesto Crusted Salmon, hide that booziness and highlight the light pepper finish. There is a leathery quality to the tannins, which provide a rapturous mouth feel without distracting from the elevated tastes surrounding you. By the end you may even discover the lovely earthy notes of vanilla and chocolate. If you typically lean towards Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll find a friend in Snowy Peaks Winery’s Mourvèdre.

Pesto-crusted Salmon from Cimmini’s. Photo by Sam Gilstrap

Cimmini’s Italian Restaurant | Niwot – Pesto Crusted Salmon
The familiar elegance of Cimmini’s Italian Restaurant in Niwot makes for a relaxing and savory experience. With the Pesto Crusted Salmon at the helm of this main course, you are presented with a decadent slice of familiar comfort. The salmon flakes perfectly with just a touch of a fork and almost melts in your mouth. A piquant pesto cream is generously applied to the outside of a sheet-baked cut of salmon covered with a crunchy breading. The texture alone reminds me of home. Couple that with buttered asparagus spears resting on angel hair pasta, and the whole course sings. The craft behind building community through food is at the forefront of Cimmini’s mission. And makes this an excellent spot to visit regularly for a family dinner experience.

Reposado Old Fashioned from Dry Land Distillers. Photo by Sam Gilstrap

Dry Land Distillers | Longmont – Reposado Old Fashioned
With rich and savory dishes, one must cleanse the palate with more earthy tones. Dry Land Distillers in Longmont and their Cactus Reposado Old Fashioned does just the trick. At first sip, a sweetness greets the tongue, and soon the back of the throat is caressed by peaty overtones. With an eco-conscious focus at Dry Land, our desire to return to the earth is never more evident than in this cocktail. You want something spirit forward to cut through and elevate the velvety pesto and cheese already seducing your taste buds, but you also want something that grounds you. The knowledge and craft demonstrated by the staff here and Dry Land’s Cactus is that stabilizing force.

Landline Doughnuts | Longmont – Palisade Peach Donut
For dessert I hope you saved room for light, melt-in-your-mouth donuts! But not just any donuts, no sir. These are made with potatoes, which makes them fluffier than Landline’s counterparts. This donut in particular has a lovely cream cheese frosting that provides a delicate tang opposite the juicy Palisade peaches that adorn this confection like a noble crown. It is indeed the perfect cap to an excellent meal, and the OZO Coffee Company cold brew gives a little lift to get you home in spite of the food coma. These meals and pairings reminded me of my past and the importance food and drink have played in those memories. Here at Landline Doughnuts, that reverie is not out of place. Their donuts are a vehicle to a happier place in time in your life and remind you to call mom.

Pairing #5

BY: William Underhill

Lafayette offered a complete culinary adventure filled with surprising pies, perfectly poured wines and great ambience. Everything was based around the impeccable Pork Tenderloin from Community Supper Club. Every chef and mixologist was able to create a compliment to this tender, melt-in-your-mouth dish. Beginning and ending with pastry showed the versatility of what you can bake, whether its sweet or savory.

NZ Ground Beef Pie from Tip Top Savory Pies. Photo by William Underhill

Tip Top Savory Pies – | Lafayette – NZ Ground Beef Pie
I started my day of culinary touring around Lafayette at Tip Top, who had prepared a wonderful savory pie to pair with the entree we planned to indulge in later. I  was excited, as, like many of the restaurants in Lafayette, I  had always heard wonderful things about Tip Top and eagerly wanted to know more. After I sat down at the solitary plastic table just in front of the counter, I  dug in and nearly lost myself in the food. I was expecting charming little pies with simple flavors and a decent crust. What I got, however, exceeded expectations tenfold. The NZ Ground Beef Pie is a rich, saucy, deeply savory pie with a shatteringly crisp, buttery crust. The ground beef filling is incredible on its own, similar to the filling one might find in a sloppy joe but with more delicate flavors, a little less sweetness, and more pronounced tomato notes. I  intended to talk a bit as we ate, but found myself nearly unable to speak  as I  became engrossed in the deceptively small pies.  I did not expect to leave as full and happy as I  did, and I can confidently say that Tip Top is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever dined at.

Marzen Beer from Liquid Mechanics. Photo by William Underhill

Liquid Mechanics Brewery Co. | Lafayette – Marzen Beer
Walking in from the parking lot, with the hot sun on my back, I was able to see just how seriously Liquid Mechanics take their craft. There were barrels up to the windows, stacked alongside all sorts of brewery equipment that I couldn’t identify. For pairing with the pork tenderloin from Community Supper Club, they chose a Marzen, an Oktoberfest, or sometimes simply called a ‘Fest’ beer, with a rich, subtle sweetness that contrasted beautifully with the saltiness and slight bitterness of Community’s excellent dish. Though I myself have not had much beer before, the Marzen from Liquid Mechanics is so good that my inexperience posed no obstacle to my enjoyment. It is, as said before, slightly sweet and a bit caramely, light on the palate, and easy and refreshing to drink.

Pork Tenderloin from Community Supper Club. Photo by William Underhill

Community Supper Club | Lafayette – Pork Tenderloin
I sat down at Community Supper Club after a long day of dining at restaurants all around Lafayette and somehow felt immediately welcome. The lights were cool and calming, and our server was extraordinarily kind and accommodating. I indulged in some of the best food I  had ever eaten. The pork tenderloin, chosen for me by Community’s Culinary Coordinator JV Hernandez, is a harmonious symphony of textures and flavors, with perfectly tender pork and potatoes delicately balanced with crunchy chips, sour-yet-sweet cherries, and sprigs of parsley. When  I finished my meal  my energy had somehow gone from a bit tired, weary after a long day, to energized and happy, a testament to the quality of our food here.

True Story Pinot Noir from /pôr/ wine house. Photo by William Underhill

/pôr/ wine house | Louisville – True Story Pinot Noir by William Snowden
Last, I took the bus to /pôr/ wine house in Louisville, spying it’s wonderful decor out of a cloudy plastic window. Even from my questionably clean bus seat, I was able to tell that /pôr/ was a wonderful place — the sort of chic, modern restaurant that comes to mind whenever one thinks of date night or any sort of celebratory dinner. Of their absolutely incredible selection of wines and liquors, the one served to me — William Snowden’s True Story Pinot Noir — is absolutely delightful, sweet, and refreshing. It was a perfect contrast to the pork tenderloin from Community. Not only is the wine itself delightful but so is the story behind it. As I drank, the owner of /pôr/ told me how the name, True Story, is a reference to Mr. Snowden’s boisterous nature. He’s the sort of person to introduce all sorts of tales with, “True story, but ….” /pôr/ is a delightful establishment, with all sorts of liquors that, just like the one I enjoyed, are great to taste and rich with interesting stories.

Peach Palisade from Button Rock. Photo by William Underhill

Button Rock Bakery | Lafayette – Peach Palisade
Next, I headed over to Button Rock Bakery, a quaint restaurant that had prepared a desert to pair with the other dishes. Walking in, I  saw counters of  impeccably decorated cakes near the front entrance, the smell of baked pastries wafting over to us from the rest of the restaurant. The food at Button Rock not only smells and looks incredible, but has a taste to match. They  feature a whole variety of rich, sweet, comforting baked goods prepared with the utmost care. Among these is the Peach Palisade, an almost unbelievable dish: layers of thick, crunchy pastry balanced atop layers of cream and semi-frozen peaches, with cream and jam on the side. The dish presents a wonderful textural and flavor contrast, the crispness of the pastry pairing perfectly with the smooth creaminess of the filling, and sweetness with just a little bit of tart from the jam.

Pairing #6

BY: Rona Goody

Unwinding after a hot afternoon full of Boulder summer fun calls for complex yet uplifting tastes to mirror the area’s diverse recreational offerings, perfect for Mediterranean-themed cuisine. Whether you’ve been parasailing over the foothills or strolling Pearl Street after helping your youngest set up their first-year dorm room, Boulder’s culinary creatives are ready for you.

Steak & Raisin Dolmas from Spruce Farm & Fish. Photo by Kenneth Wajda

Spruce Farm &  Fish | Boulder – Steak & Raisin Dolmas
Next, head up to the Boulderado’s ground-level Spruce Farm & Fish for a totally different atmosphere. Need a spot for a career-changing dinner meeting? Yes! Looking for a place to relax with old friends? Also yes! The Steak & Raisin Dolmas are an ancient Mediterranean dish reconceptualized by veteran chef Mike Thom, one of Boulder’s most experienced local experts in delish. Thom’s dolmas are a revelation, very herb- and fruit-forward, with a light and refreshing take on tzatziki. You may or may not be able to go back to your favorite conventional deli dolmades after this, because Thom’s are in a class apart, but luckily, the recipe is available below!

Chameroon from License No. 1. Photo by Kenneth Wajda

License No. 1 | Boulder – Chameroon
First stop: the classic yet cutting-edge Hotel Boulderado, built in 1909, for a Hemingway masterpiece of a cocktail by head bartender Jonathan Morse at the swanky downstairs bar, License No. 1. The Chameroon (pronounced with a “k” sound), a riff on the Martinez and named for a cigar wrapper style, has a bouquet that whets the appetite. With ingredients such as Turkish tobacco bitters, the apple-based brandy known as Calvados, and Chamomile-infused gin, its finely balanced, long-lasting hints of earth, spice, and fruit engage every sense on the palate. You’ll want to take your time, not least because of the exquisite web of tastes connecting the Chameroon with the evening’s appetizer and main dish.

Lamb Shank from Gemini. Photo by Kenneth Wajda

Gemini | Boulder – Lamb Shank
Just as the sun begins to set, walk west along the mall to Gemini for one of the finest yet down-to-earth dining experiences you’ve had in a long time. Perfect for a special date or for taking the family out for no particular reason, everything about Gemini is infused with clear intentions. From its care in selecting local ingredients, to its ethically sourced wine list, a meal at the family-owned and -operated Gemini feels great, ethically and gastronomically. As the warm shadows lengthen in the sunset and you soak in the sounds of musicians and kids playing on the mall, treat yourself to a symphony: an osso bucco–style crosscut of mellow lamb shank harmonized with some tart Western Slope cherries, delicately roasted carrots, the groundedness of walnuts, and a subtle surprise of cilantro. This is an entree you will not want to end.

Redstone Meadery | Boulder –  Traditional Mountain Honey Wine
Yet, nothing lasts forever, which is why you will have already purchased a bottle from master brewer David Myers’s Redstone Meadery for a combination nightcap and dessert aperitif! Try the Rum Barrel Aged Traditional Mountain Honey Wine, a new addition to Redstone Meadery’s extensive list of handcrafted meads, both honey wines and nectars. With this drink, Redstone has taken its distinctive barrel-aging in a new direction by aging its award-winning Traditional Mountain Honey Wine in rum barrels. Come for the notes of tropical fruit at the front of your palate at first sip, and stay for the warm and spicy tones in the middle, all sustained by an atmosphere of oaky rum. An experience for the ages, in the comfort of your own abode.

Pairing #7

BY: Tony Firestine

The culinary landscape of Longmont and the surrounding areas has grown exponentially in the past few years. Visiting five area restaurants/bars in a single afternoon was the challenge, and I was up for the task at hand. Ready to indulge, I put on my loose pants and headed north. What I discovered were just a handful of the culinary gems that the Longmont area has to offer.

Pomegranate Salad from Raglin.

Raglin Market | Boulder – Pomegranate Salad
After taking a brief detour off the Diagonal Highway on the way to Longmont, I land in Boulder’s neighboring Gunbarrel, and my first stop on the tour d’indulgence is Raglin Market. This is where the team behind Boulder’s French cuisine staple, Mateo, serve up fresh salads, sandwiches, and snacks for lunch and happy hour in a comfortable fast-casual setting alongside a handful of artfully curated classic cocktails, old-world wine selections, and local craft beer. Raglin’s Pomegranate Salad starts the expedition off right with a bright display of farm fresh ingredients, all on a bed of freshly harvested greens from Esoterra Culinary Garden. Raglin does their best to source both produce and meat within 50 miles of the restaurant. The pomegranate seeds burst and intermingle with the pepperiness of raw red onion and the brittle crunch of candied pecans. Specks of lush feta cheese dot the dish and even out the array of vivid flavors.

Bada Bing Cocktail from West Side Tavern.

West Side Tavern | Longmont – Bada Bing Cocktail
Longmont’s West Side Tavern is the perfect definition of a gastropub: an eclectic menu in a lively and unique setting rounded out by an awe-inspiring spirits list and a crew of bartenders to mix you just the right cocktail. Raglin’s pomegranate salad needed bright and piquant flavors to work alongside it for a faultless pairing, and West Side’s Bada Bing cocktail did not disappoint. A base of vodka is married to a lavish cherry balsamic shrub, rosemary syrup, and topped with a flamed rosemary garnish. Take a sip before the smoke settles. The sprig of rosemary is still crackling, and you get the combination of bold scarlet fruit and campfire aroma. If you tend to go for the brown stuff, the colossal whiskey selection is sublime and stays under lock and key in an old curio adjacent to the bar.

Bistro Steak from Sugarbeet.

Sugarbeet | Longmont – Bistro Steak
Located in Old Town Longmont, Sugarbeet has become an institution over the more than a decade and a half it’s been a beacon of modern American cuisine. The current owners took over about seven years ago and continue in the tradition of high-quality cuisine in a welcoming atmosphere. Their Bistro Steak is the perfect centerpiece of my indulgence journey; an elevated take on the classic steak frites. The plate is lined with tender baby kale and dollops of sauce Colbert, enriched with egg yolk and demi-glace similar to a hollandaise. The shoulder tender steak is rich and succulent and cooked perfectly to your liking; I went for medium rare. The pommes paillasson are grated and pressed, formed and cut into frites, fried in duck fat until crisp on the outside and unctuous on the inside, and topped with a light grating of truffled pecorino cheese, which adds a subtle earthiness to the dish. With a divine and creative kitchen, the hospitality needs to match the food, and Sugarbeet does this well; co-owner Ari Kara greets guests from behind the bar and remembers recurring guests by name. Regular appellation-focused wine dinners are a highlight for Sugarbeet’s perfect amalgamation of warmth, creativity, and celebration of artisan food and drink.

Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano from Küper Wine Bar.

Küper Wine Bar | Longmont – Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano
Wine from every part of the world goes into the diverse and distinctive selection at Küper Wine Bar. Owners Doug and Julie Oldfield curate a cozy space where you can lounge over nibbles and discover all that the world of wine has to offer. We found the consummate pairing for Sugarbeet’s Bistro Steak in Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano, an appellation from southern Tuscany vinified 100% from the Sangiovese grape. The mouth-watering acidity and bright red fruit notes cut into the rich sauce, and the rustic character of the wine matches the savory and succulent quality of the steak. This wine also drinks great on its own. If you’re feeling adventurous, build your own charcuterie board to go along with your wine flight. Or, join one of two tiers of their wine club where membership includes invites to private and exclusive events.

Raspberry Cheesecake from Longmont Bakery.

Longmont Bakery | Longmont – Raspberry Cheesecake
Who doesn’t deserve a decadent treat every now and again (and again)? Longmont Bakery has been a mecca of everything sweet and indulgent in Longmont for the past two years, and the owners bring decades of baking experience to the table. I found a slice of their silky cheesecake to be the perfect ending to my indulgent excursion. This little bit of heaven is both fluffy and rich, topped with a vivid raspberry swirl and airy whipped cream. The cases are filled with pastries every day: eclairs, cannoli, cream puffs, cookies, macaroons, and too many flavors of cake slices to mention. Order ahead and have them create a custom celebration cake with the perfect design or have them bake the perfect pie for your holiday festivities. They not only deal in the sugary side of things, but they bake more than a dozen types of bread on site, supplying a few local restaurants and serving sandwiches on their fresh loaves for the lunchtime crowd.

Pairing #8

BY: Cristina Trapani-Scott

There are so many wonderful restaurants in Boulder County. Choosing one can be difficult, but perhaps there’s no need to make a choice. On a recent weekend I took a culinary journey — one progressive dinner, five great Boulder County spots.

Garlic Mojo Baked Crackerjax Oysters from The Post. Photo by Cristina Trapani-Scott

The Post | Boulder – Garlic Mojo Baked Crackerjax Oysters
I must admit, while I’ve had my fair share of oysters, I’ve had nothing quite like the Garlic Mojo Baked Crackerjax Oysters at The Post. They are less oysters and more silky-smooth bites of heaven on a half shell. It’s no wonder these were featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.” They made a perfect start to my Boulder County culinary crawl.  According to manager Garrett Parsell, the oysters are brought in daily from the Chesapeake Bay area to ensure their freshness. What I loved about these was not only how fresh they tasted but how their smooth texture allowed the light lime and garlic of the mojo to have their moment. Toasted breadcrumbs topped each half shell, adding a garlic butter crunch that left me savoring the dish for a while after.

Kneebone Pils from Cellar West. Photo by Cristina Trapani-Scott

Cellar West Artisan Ales | Lafayette – Kneebone Pils
With a beautiful open space and a friendly staff, Cellar West is a great spot to get a cold lager to pair with any of The Post appetizers, especially the oysters. Founder and brewer Zach Nichols suggested the Kneebone Pils, the brewery’s flagship pilsner, as a pairing. What a perfect choice. I was immediately taken by the flavor, the spicy bitterness rounded out by a refreshing splash of honey. It balanced well with the garlic and lime of the oysters. Eric Eckhart, who is on staff at the brewery, said Kneebone is a classic German pilsner, one of the closest to a traditional pilsner he has tasted in a long time. He said this is one of his go-to beers, and he always keeps cans of it in his fridge when it’s available. Nichols founded the brewery in 2016 with his wife, Rachel, in a garage space in Boulder. They opened their Lafayette location two years later. Kneebone Pils speaks to that location, as it is named after the Kneebone Open Space nearby. This particular pilsner definitely exhilarates my palate, and I’ll also be snagging some to keep in my fridge.

Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma, and Saag Paneer from Taj Mahal III. Photo by Kenneth Wajda

Taj Mahal III | Louisville – Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma, and Saag Paneer
If the constant flow of regulars coming on a Friday night isn’t proof enough that this is some of the best Indian food around, then trust me — it absolutely is. The thick classic curry sauce in the chicken korma was like a blanket of savory goodness on my tongue. The coriander and cumin balanced to give the dish a hint of sweetness at the end of each delicious bite, and the chicken was tender and packed full of flavor. How about that tikka masala? I’m a sucker for garlic and thick creamy tomato sauce. This definitely was a savory delight with more of that tender chicken, but I kept coming back to the creamy saag paneer with the pillowy house-made cheese. Never has spinach melted in my mouth so deliciously. Finally, I’m a dipper, and there was nothing better than dipping the perfectly crisp garlic naan in each of these wonderful dishes. It’s easy to see why people come back time and time again for these popular plates.

Orin Swift Locations New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from R Gallery + Wine Bar. Photo by Cristina Trapani-Scott

R Gallery + Wine Bar | Boulder – Orin Swift Locations New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
This is the perfect place to find yourself post-entree in a progressive food crawl. Owner Rob Lantz curates his wine and beer with the care he gives to the artwork in his gallery. He also has a wonderful way of knowing specifically which wines will pair with all kinds of foods. In my case, he thoughtfully paired my classic Indian main dish with a fresh and clean sauvignon blanc. This was the perfect choice with its light hint of grapefruit and essence of grass. The flavors balanced well with the creamy savory dishes I’d enjoyed. Lantz said that, in his experience, this particular wine not only enhances the flavors of the food, but it elevates it. I understood clearly what he meant after my first sip. The Orin Swift Locations wines are created by David Phinney, one of Lantz’s favorite wine makers. The grapes for this come from the Marlboro region of New Zealand, which is known for its sauvignon blanc wines. “This wine has more meat and substance than a lot of sauv blancs from that region,” Lantz said. “This one, in particular, is a step above, in my opinion.” I am sure to return for another glass soon.

Dessert Bento from Japango. Photo by Cristina Trapani-Scott

Japango | Boulder – Dessert Bento
Capping off my progressive crawl with a Dessert Bento at Japango felt like the perfect ending to my journey. After all the delicious food and drinks I’d taken in, I was ready for something sweet and light, and Japango delivered. The dessert bento offered a beautiful array of small and light sweet treats starting with the Akuma Cake, a devil’s food cake topped with Glacier’s sea salt ice cream drizzled with fudge and caramel and garnished with a savory sesame brittle. This was perhaps the most decadent part of the box but small enough to satisfy me without overwhelming me. The Thin Mint Truffles combined the creamy richness of a dark chocolate truffle with the sharp cool mint of those familiar cookies we all know and love. The box also came with a choice of different-flavored mochi from Mochidoki, including green tea, strawberry, habanero chocolate, black pepper, and lychee. I got the green tea, and it was my last refreshing bite of the crawl. The light sweet tea, the cool cream, and the tender rice dough made for a perfect ending to the perfectly delicious restaurant pairings.

Pairing #9

BY: C.R. Dallas

Out-of-this-world appetizers to down-to-earth comfort food, these flavors speak to the breadth of what Boulder County has to offer. Citrus, smoke, butter, and cream, this procession of ingredients was a symphony of flavors trumpetting atop a deep bassline of comfort and satisfaction — with ambiance to boot.

Moroccan Grilled Zucchini from Outworld Brewing. Photo by Dallas Dorman

Outworld Brewing | Longmont – Moroccan Grilled Zucchini
Outworld Brewing crash landed into the brewpub scene in early 2020, though hip creatives will find them anything but alien. Boasting a cantina-style private lounge, cosplaying customers, a science fiction book club, and an array of meals and microbrews that would make even a Vulcan blush with excitement, Outworld brings an experiential and collaborative flair to their dining experience. And flair is exactly what this appetizer had: The Moroccan Grilled Zucchini kicked off the challenge with a bang. A thick, lengthwise filet of zucchini marinated in balsamic vinaigrette atop a bed of creamy hummus, topped with chermoula, toasted garlic, ginger crisps, pepitas, and sweet pickled serranos had a delightfully firm and flavorful body sizzling with the complex flavors of citrus and acid, sweetness and spice, all with a smoky finish. The bright flavors cascading over the palate anew and complex — with every bite, a firework.

The ‘R’ in Squash from Spirit Hounds. Photo by Dallas Dorman

Spirit Hounds Distillers | Lyons – The ‘R’ in Squash
Spirit Hounds’ bright-eyed and bushy-tailed approach to fine spirits is immediately apparent in the waitstaff’s radiant smiles and the “doghouse”’s irreverently rustic decor. From the barrel top tables, the prominently displayed pride flag, to the bare barnwood bar and copper pot still, the tasting room is a modern saloon where everyone is treated like a local. Their pairing to the Moroccan Grilled Zucchini was a delightfully autumnal and earthy whisky cocktail, The ‘R’ in Squash, which grounded the firecracker dish acting as a smooth, delicately sweet palate cleanser. An herbal, citrus perfume leads the cocktail — with a curt nod to the chermoula preceding it — into a refreshing procession of pumpkin, maple, and honey. Notes of cocoa in the whisky are accentuated by the nutty flavor of walnut essence.

Combo Platter from Kalita Grill. Photo by Dallas Dorman

Kalita Grill | Boulder – Combo Platter
Kalita Grill is family owned, and they cook like family. Owner and Chef Armin Madoyan believes food is at the heart of community, and appropriately, his dish is the heart of this challenge. And, you can taste the love. The meat, both the chicken and the gyro, are succulent, savory — qualities accentuated by Kalita’s made-from-scratch rustic hummus. The tzatziki sauce leads each bite with a flutter of refreshing creamy cucumber that the hummus finishes with a richly nutty and vaguely bitter concomitant. The meal feels like a hug from a beloved relative even before you try the plush pita bread, which adds a buttery, satisfying bite, tying together the whole dish. Kalita Grill may be in the business of food, but they’re serving comfort.

Élevé Blanc from Snowy Peaks Winery. Photo by Dallas Dorman

Snowy Peaks Winery | Estes Park – Élevé Blanc
Snowy Peaks Winery has all the charm of a hike during a Colorado sunrise. Their tasting room is vibrantly yellow, lined with quaint artisanal offerings for the wine lover or local fan. Easy smiles line the bar as the knowledgeable staff selects our final pairing: 2022 Élevé Blanc, a delicate but complex network of flavors, at once refreshing the palette and echoing our procession of dishes and cocktails. It is a dry white but not without a hint of sweetness hiding after an initial citrusy punch that cuts through the rich flavors of this bespoke meal without contradicting them. The wine expands over the palate, lingering with the aromatic sweetness of apricot and wildflowers which begs the next bite or sip.

Cherry Cheesecake from Cherry’s Cheesecake & Delights. Photo by Dallas Dorman

Cherry’s Cheesecake & Delights | Erie – Cherry Cheesecake
Cherry’s Cheesecakes and Delights may be lauded from the NFL to The White House, but Cherry’s star power shines brightest locally: through her customer’s smiles. From the first bite, I couldn’t help smiling myself. Cherry’s cheesecakes are pure joy. Sold in single serving cups with over 170 signature flavors, cheesecake lovers — even those who are vegan or gluten free — will never want to leave. Her classic Cherry Cheesecake paired excellently in this challenge. Cherry’s cheesecake is a delightfully airy subversion of a typically heavy dessert: the feathery whipped cream, saccharine cherries, silken cheesecake, and rich, buttery crust all sang in harmony, no element of the cake outshining the other. The crust was surprisingly crisp, adding a nice textural bite to the smoothness of the cake and the juicy emphatic pop of the cherries.

Pairing #10

BY: Doug Geiling

A Pearl Street gem, an auto shop-turned hipster vibe pizza joint, a refreshing distillery, and a cozy neighborhood haunt team up for a delicious BoCo culinary adventure. Our editor is in Provence, France at this very moment, the region full of fresh fruits, seafood, and pastas that inspired some of the dishes in this feast.

Mateo | Boulder – Poulet Frites
Inspired by the Provence region of Mediterranean France and “slightly Americanized,” chef and restaurant owner Matthew Jansen calls this dish his “tried and true — something you could eat every day.” Indeed, after one bite I knew I would be back for more as a customer. The chicken, creatively prepared, is essentially flash seared and then slow baked. It is served over a beurre fondue with a mixed green salad in sherry vinaigrette and hand-cut, salted French fries. It’s the crispy-seared chicken with the tangy fondue that made this dish for me. It is absolutely delicious and simultaneously unpretentious. It is also Mateo’s signature dish and a local favorite. It’s comfort food you can be proud of. And it fits the Pearl Street ambience perfectly. Inside the restaurant Mateo presents a cozy, welcoming atmosphere imbibed with a sense of serious quality, just like the signature dish they are known for.

Photo by Kenneth Wajda

Mateo | Boulder – Contratto Sparkling White
My server Griffin said this is all he ever drinks. Whether that’s really true or not, I understand why. This is the Alta Langa Metodo Classico Pas Dosé Millesimato, vintage 2019 sparkling white. Do I know what all that means? Heck no, but in the words of Thomas Haden Church in the wine-based comedy Sideways, it tastes pretty good to me! That’s an understatement. It is fragrant and refreshing like a summer breeze over a Mediterranean orchard, and the bubbles are lively, like the Pearl Street bustle just outside my window at Mateo. Indeed, this wine hails from the Italian Piedmont which borders the French Provence region that inspired Mateo’s signature chicken dish, the Poulet Frites. It is a match meant to be.

Barchetta Pizza | Boulder – Curry Butternut Squash Soup
Chef Jesse Jensen must have checked the weather forecast because the Curry Butternut Squash Soup he served me was perfect for a rare cool and rainy August afternoon in downtown Boulder. Just as I delved into my amazing soup, the rain picked up as if on cue, dappling the abundant windows of this spacious corner eatery. For just a moment I thought I was in New York City in October. I’m thinking that the secret to this amazing dish must be the slow-cooked caramelization (30 minutes!) and topping of roasted nuts. It was the perfect blend of creamy texture, subtle curry flavor, and nutty goodness. The word Barchetta, Jesse explained, is slang for a little sports car or boat. Indeed, this corner hangout used to be an auto shop, and the old garage doors were retained for its throw-back décor. Bob’s Burgers reruns played on the television. “This is a cartoon bar, not a sports bar,” Jesse happily explained before showing off his wife’s amazing cartoon-themed artwork on the wall.

Abbott & Wallace Distilling | Longmont –  Rosé Dawson Cocktail
Inspired by the French 75, slightly fruity but not overly sweet. This is how Abbott & Wallace’s Steph Young described their Rosé Dawson, a perfect match for Mateo’s main dish. For some reason this tasty concoction reminded me of a perfect summer day. It is made with Alpine Dry Gin with lemon rosemary simple syrup topped with a sparkling dry rosé and finished with a garnish of rosemary and a couple slices of fresh strawberry. Friends John Abbott and H.K. Wallace were beer guys who fell in love with distilling a few years ago. Their wonderful establishment rests on a quiet Longmont corner a few blocks west of Main Street. It is open and airy but tastefully adorned with DIY salvaged materials like the giant “swamp pad” wooden beams hanging from the ceiling. As Steph described from behind the bar, they pride themselves on quality and source their grains locally, specifically from two Colorado farms. The enthusiasm and care with which they run this business is as refreshing as their Rosé Dawson, like a crisp sunny day in late September on the Front Range.

West Side Tavern | Longmont – Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake
There are places that claim to be neighborhood haunts, and then there are the rare gems that really are such places. I accidentally passed this restaurant because I saw nothing but houses, and then I realized that one of those houses was the West Side Tavern. Inside is a mix of quirky décor and deep texture of brick walls and dark wood tables. The walls are decorated with wine racks, totem poles, and a giant picture of an Easter Island head (I think). Hanging over the bar is a tiny human skeleton riding a stuffed snowy owl. My kind of place. Pastry chef Carie Sorensen whipped up a traditional strawberry rhubarb-swirled and layered cheesecake topped with a drizzle of chocolate ganache and garnished with fresh strawberry slices. I am a tough customer with cheesecake, but this one was just about perfect — not too rich but with flavor for miles. I polished off the dessert even though I told myself repeatedly not to eat the whole thing. I couldn’t help it. As I left, very satisfied and impressed, I took a closer look at the beautiful leafy side patio and noticed the tiki bar. A tiki bar in the middle of a quiet west Longmont hood? Oh, how I wished I lived closer to this place, like in the house next door.


Deborah Cameron
Deb brings a passion for community journalism and for the local food scene. She started out as an intern and over the years grew into our current Cuisine Editor. She has appeared in multiple publications including the Longmont Leader, The Left Hand Valley Courier, Ms. Mayhem, Finance101, and Ask.com. When not writing she's eating, road tripping, dog-parking, or watching high school softball. She moved to Colorado from Seattle in the early 2000s after spending a year traveling the U.S. in a teal Ford Escort hatchback. She lives with her husband, two teenagers, and a rescue dog named Charlie.

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