Monthly Archives: November, 2010

Bistro One – It’s Where to Eat This Week

November 27th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver, restaurants No Comment yet

When Chef Olav departed from Bistro One I worried that it wouldn’t be as good. I am happy to report that I needlessly caused myself more need for botox. Becky Creighton called me the other night raving about her dinner that she got “to go”. “So I don’t have to cook,” she explained. After cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd of people I think it’s a great idea to grab dinner to go, or even better sit at the bar at Bistro One. Take a break from scouting out Christmas deals, explore the fun boutiques on Broadway and relax before the wear and tear of the holidays descends.
Especially good on the menu are the baked beans, which were sweet, and delicious. The tomato pie with its smoky buffalo mozzarella literally melted together in my mouth – it’s like heaven in a pastry cup. The baby back ribs are so tender. They are “fall off the bone goodness” in a vinegar based BBQ sauce.

I plan to check out happy hour, eat more of the ribs and continue my love affair with Bistro One this week. See you there?

Bistro One – Lunch Tuesday thru Friday 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Dinner Tuesday thru Thursday 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Sunday 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Happy Hour Every Day 4:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Just Say No to Green Bean Casserole

November 22nd, 2010 Posted by Culinary Connectors No Comment yet

Thanksgiving is upon us and as I walk through the aisles of the grocery store I cringe when I see the big displays of canned green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and French’s onions. It kills me that a majority of Americans are going to consume such processed ingredients and love it.

Years ago, my mother brought “her” green beans to my in-laws house for Thanksgiving. Instead of making the Campbell’s version of green bean casserole my mother used fresh green beans. She simmered tomatoes and peppers with red pepper flake. She topped the green beans with this sauce and some melted cheese. They were divine. “Where is the green bean casserole?” gasped my mother-in-law? Apparently my mother had committed the cardinal sin of Thanksgiving – no usage of canned ingredients.

In this age of farm to table, organic and sustainable trends why are so many folks still serving this tinny, mid western dish? Instead of using canned green beans – why not use fresh? Instead of soup – make your own mushroom gravy. Instead of French’s onions – fry up some fresh shallots.  There are a multitude of recipes on the web that can help you create the (dare I say it) “traditional” casserole.  Or even better use vegetables that are in season like sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, leeks, butternut squash and parsnips.

I know that there are some die-hard green bean casserole fans out there, but this year I challenge all of you to either make it from scratch or try something new.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tony’s Market – It’s Where to Eat, Shop and Get Your Turkey This Weekend

November 19th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver No Comment yet

Located in four retail spots in Denver, Tony’s market, formally Tony’s Meats, was founded in 1978 by Tony Rosacci and is a locally owned specialty foods market in the metro area. Tony’s motto is ‛Treat every customer as if he or she is your best friend.’

Tony’s offers fresh and aged meats; hormone free, pesticide free, antibiotic free all natural beef, pork, chicken, fish, lamb, bison (buffalo) and wild game. They also feature USDA prime aged beef, certified premium grade pork, all natural fresh chicken, poultry, fresh farm-raised and wild seafood, natural Colorado lamb, an old world deli, world class cheese, fresh produce, organic foods, homemade desserts, meals & catering to go, fair trade coffee, recipes and cooking tips.

It’s a one stop; get everything you need, kind of place. Do you need help preparing a turkey? Check out Tony’s website for a step-by-step guide to roasting. Do you feel like not cooking for the holiday? Tony’s will prepare an entire Thanksgiving feast just for you. There is even a pantry list on their website so that you can be sure to have everything on hand if you are entertaining.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Tony’s on Broadway also has a bistro so you can satiate your hunger and your thirst while you shop. Throw down a beer or two and see why Tony’s was voted “Best Happy Hour in a Market” by Westword.

Tony’s Markets – Original Dry Creek Market, Bowles Village Market, Castle Pines Market and Broadway Market.

Trattoria Stella’s Nick Abeyta – I want you to leave with a full belly

November 16th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver, restaurants No Comment yet

Trattoria Stella is cold and dark. It doesn’t seem at this point in the morning – 8:00 am to be exact – that this restaurant is going to turn into the packed, energetic bustling dining room that folks in the Highlands expect. Then Chef Nick Abeyta begins to talk and you can feel the passion and warmth of this chef, who has been at the helm of Stella’s for the last six years.
Tall, dark, handsome and single Chef Nick is bouncing between Stella and Stella Too – the second Stella location on Colfax and Steele in the old Café Star space. Last week he worked 94 hours. “There has never been a sous chef position at Stella – until now. The menu at Stella Too is 25% the same however, the kitchen there is much bigger and is conducive to doing a few different dishes that won’t work in this kitchen.” The kitchen at Stella’s on 32nd is quite small. Just three chefs work the line during service where they sometimes do upwards of 200 covers a night.

Nick worked in restaurants doing front of the house jobs since he was a teenager. When it was time to either apply to CU Boulder or go to culinary school, Nick picked the latter. He attended Johnson and Wales. After culinary school he honed his skills as a line cook at restaurants like IHOP, Tom’s dinner and P.F. Changs. He started at Stella as a host and then began picking up pantry shifts.

On the menu: The menu at Stella is a history map of all the chefs who have worked here. Everyone has left their touch on it.
On specials: I call our cuisine “Shock” Italian food. My line cooks come up with nightly specials. I do not allow them to do pasta specials. That’s an easy out. Neither do I allow them to “use up” ingredients for a special.
On making things in house: We make pasta in house 3 times per week. The original name of Stella’s was actually going to be Passion Pasta. We have a big extruder so we can make big batches – we’ve been using the same pasta recipe for the last 10 years. We also make our sausage and our chorizo in house. It’s more cost effective that way.
On “the calamity we know as Stella”: It’s organized chaos but it works for us. I thrive on the intensity of service. I love a loud, boisterous and energetic kitchen. This is an advanced kitchen. I can’t have someone work sauté who is not super experienced. We are just too busy for that.
On what sells the best: The best selling pasta is the 32nd street pasta. It has black tiger shrimp, goat cheese, dried cherries and pecans in a lemon olive oil sauce. This is our signature dish. The chocolate bread pudding is our most popular dessert. Other best selling menu items include the truffled asparagus spaghetti and the ravioli with pumpkin and gorgonzola cheese.
On being a chef: My first year of being an executive chef I had to learn how to manage people. I couldn’t be friends with my employees anymore. I was a soft-spoken, nice guy and it was a challenge for me to become more of an asshole. That said I always take care of my staff. If someone needs a ride to work they call me and I’ll pick them up.
Rules in my kitchen: Have fun. Have passion. Be serious. Get stuff done. Make the customer happy. Be clean. Work hard. No egos. Don’t place blame on others.

If a guest doesn’t like a dish I always send the chef to the table so he can find out why. A customer will tell you exactly what didn’t work for them. This way you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. We always make a guest who didn’t like something a special dish so that they go home happy.
Biggest Kitchen Disaster: On a super busy Friday night a little kid broke the sink in our only bathroom by hanging on it. Water started spurting everywhere. The drains backed up in the kitchen and on top of that a shelf that held our plates fell. Luckily we held it together and no one in the dining room realized what was happening. We had a plumber install a new sink during service and I just kept the plates coming out of the kitchen. Needless to say we drank a lot of wine at family meal that night. At Stella the staff gathers after service to enjoy a glass of wine and a meal to review the night.
On Days Off: Stella is closed Tuesdays. On Tuesdays you will find me doing laundry, running errands and indulging in my white trash snack of beef ramen with A1 and a package of airhead candy. Or you may find me eating at Yahala’s or the Squeaky Bean, two of my favorite restaurants.
Denver Chefs I respect: Frank Bonanno, his restaurants are amazing. I also like Scott Parker from Table 6.
Favorite Kitchen Tool: a mandolin, I love the danger that comes with it.
Favorite Cookbook: Silver Spoon.
Favorite ingredient: Shanks or any tough cut of meat. It’s such a science to make it tender.
If you could eat anywhere in the world: Rome.
At home I’m cooking: I try out new items I want to put on the menu.
On current trends: Obviously I am trying to source as locally as possible. The food truck thing – I think it’s great but sometimes I just want to be waited on. Full service dining is on the decline but there is still a place for fine dining.
Last words: Come to Stella’s. Join our family. I’m not trying to get in a magazine. I just want you to have fun, enjoy some good food and leave with a full belly.

Trattoria Stella – 3470 W. 32nd Ave., Denver. 303-458-1128. Closed Tuesdays.

El Camino – It’s Where to Eat This Weekend

November 12th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver, restaurants No Comment yet

El Camino is a Mexican restaurant located in the Highlands neighborhood (the old Swim Club space). This “community tavern” serves up tacos, enchiladas and burritos, offers live music and features local artists.

El Camino prides itself on being a “green” restaurant. They recycle all bottles, cans and cardboard. Additionally they use 100% wind power. They source locally, use all natural meats and make their sauces, guacamole and desserts from scratch daily. During the summer they grow vegetable in their rooftop garden. I’m glad El Camino is doing these things but that is not why I am suggesting you eat there this weekend. Sourcing locally and making menu items from scratch is expected.

I’m suggesting you eat at El Camino this weekend because it’s a fun, casual spot where you can get a good meal and not break the bank. They even have a good kids menu. Each time you walk through the door the servers at El Camino will treat you as “family”. You can even email a picture from your meal at El Camino and they will post it on-line in their family album. On Sundays enjoy their brunch and football. I double dog dare you to try a “manmosa”, their take on a mimosa.

As it says on El Camino’s website – you should come – it’s super fun.

El Camino – 3628 West 32nd Ave., Denver. 720-889-7946.

I “heart” Kaos Pizza

November 9th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver No Comment yet

I love pizza. I especially love artisanal pizza baked in a wood fire oven.  Right now I am having a love affair with Kaos pizza on South Pearl Street. This little shop is turning out some of the best “za” in town. There are many excellent pizza places in our city but why has this one has captured my heart?  Does it have anything to do with me knowing the owner, having heard the story of how the pizza oven got delivered – an event so nerve wracking that once it was installed everyone involved did a vodka shot? Is it because they make their crust with double 00 flour – flour so fine it feels like talcum powder? Is it because they use San Marzano tomatoes in their sauce and Fiore di latte fresh Mozzarella cheese? Or that they have one of the best patios in all of Denver? That they serve Italian wine in these funky plastic wine glasses? That the pizza is close your eyes good? The answer is a resounding yes!

Last Saturday night I took my 13 year old for a pepperoni pie. He is always skeptical about going out to eat with his “foodie” mother. He’s sat through many multi-course meals with a look of impatience on his face. How pleasant was it to watch him not only devour his pizza but also declare that he wanted to come back. High praise indeed.

Kaos Pizza – 1439 South Pearl Street, Denver. 303-733-5267.

Il Mondo Vechhio, Slow Food and Primal Cuts

November 5th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver No Comment yet

Just in – Il Mondo Vecchio – about whom I wrote last week –  will be hosting a Slow Food event this Sunday. This Primal Cuts book release party will feature local chefs including Mark DeNittis, Elise Wiggins, Jason Lee, David Bravdica and Joe Beggs. From the line up of chefs for this event I am sure the food will be fabulous.

For information or to RSVP go to:  http://slowfooddenver.org/events/events-upcoming.html

The Crushery – It’s Where to Eat This Weekend

November 5th, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver No Comment yet

The Crushery is a comfortable unpretentious place on South Pearl Street where Chef John Davidson, who has done stints in fine dining in Chicago and New York, creates his infamous crushed kitchen sandwiches. Open six days a week, the Crushery is a great place to take your family, a date or even just to grab something to take home.

The menu features delicious home-baked breads, New York style boiled bagels and paninis filled with quality ingredients that are “crushed” – smooshed, smashed, flattened – you get the point.  I particularly like the shredded pork, bacon, green chilies and queso fresco with chipotle aioli.

Make sure to leave room for dessert. John makes liquid nitrogen ice cream to order. Take a look at his list of ingredients and put together the perfect combination of flavors. Salted, chocolate caramel or honey lavender or just plain vanilla – John estimates that there are over 10,000 different scoops he can make . It’s also fun to watch him make the liquid nitrogen ice cream. He does it in a mixer as mist billows around him freezing the ice cream so quickly that ice crystals stay small giving it a very creamy texture.

The Crushery just received its liquor license, so now while the kids enjoy their sweet treats, you can enjoy an adult beverage. Check out their “adult” ice cream flavors as well. When I popped in last week they were making mimosa smoothies. Yum.

The Crushery – 1579 South Pearl St., Denver. 303-733-4117. Open Tuesday – Wednesday 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursday – Saturday 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Sundays 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Closed Mondays.

John Davidson from the Crushery

November 3rd, 2010 Posted by Chefs, Culinary Connectors, Denver No Comment yet

John Davidson’s bright eyes twinkle as he sits down at the Crushery, the restaurant he opened in December 2007. John’s idea for the Crushery came from hours spent cooking on the line at restaurants in Denver, Chicago and New York, including the prestigious Gramercy Tavern. How did a fine dining chef come to open a sandwich shop in Denver? And how did he end up making ice cream with liquid nitrogen?

John Davidson’s aha moment came when he was 22 years old. “I had just catered an event for my mother in-law “to be” for her 50th birthday party. The look on people’s faces as they tasted the food I created made me want to become a chef. Everyone at that party encouraged me to go to culinary school.”

“I did cook as a child. In my Montessori school I was sometimes responsible for cooking for my class. I remember the local paper publishing a picture of me in a chef hat. In high school I cooked for myself, as my mother was working and very busy. I made good spaghetti with the really thick noodles, and beef wellington.”

John went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales in Vail. After culinary school he worked with Jamey Fader and Sheila Lucero at Jax in Denver. Later, John moved to Chicago to work as a line cook at Rushmore. The chef there was a big influence on John. “I learned a great deal. I showed up early and stayed late. I got to see many aspects of a kitchen that I would have normally missed. I saw the butchering of meat and fish and the ordering process.”

John worked at Rushmore for a year and a half. Then he opened Mac’s American Gastropub, before the term “gastropub” existed. After a short stint back at Rushmore John moved to New York City.

“I had a list of restaurants where I wanted to work. I interviewed at Restaurant Daniel but it wasn’t my style of food. Also on my list were Gramercy Tavern, Bouley Bakery and Gotham Bar and Grill.” Ultimately John ended up at Gramercy Tavern.

“I was a line cook at the Tavern. I worked every station in the kitchen except for pastry and garde manger. I showed up early to watch the butchering and the produce coming in.  Gramercy was an extremely intense kitchen  – every day is like a Friday and Saturday night. There was no joking, and no talking. I took it very seriously. In my mind I was in the number one kitchen in NYC and I had to be focused and directed. I worked hard and they noticed. I was the first person in two years to get all my prep done before service every shift. On my days off I staged at restaurants in the city, including WD-50.  I was working 65 hours a week and only getting paid for 40.”

Eventually John decided to leave Gramercy and work at a gastropub in New Jersey. This new position allowed him to spend more time with his wife.  It was then that they decided to move back to Denver to start a family. When he returned, John worked at the Manor House and then decided to open the Crushery.

On the Crushery space: We looked at so many places. The Crushery space was vacant and used as storage. There was no electricity, a drop ceiling, plaster over the brick and dirt floors in the basement. I did most of the renovation myself.

Concept for the Crushery: The Crushery is based on the idea of a kitchen sandwich. As a line cook there was rarely time to eat so I took whatever ingredients I was working with, two pieces of bread and then grilled my snack with a heavy pan on top to “crush” the sandwich.

On my life: I love my job, although some days I miss “just” cooking. I find peace in cooking and in doing dishes.  Running a business takes me out of the kitchen. Business is good. We’ve been profitable since day one. The best part is going from working 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. to now. Some days I’m home as early as 2:00 p.m.

On fine dining: At some point I want to get back there, I keep up on all the trends. My style of food is home style. It’s rustic, not super refined, which is why I decided not to work at Restaurant Daniel. It just wasn’t me.

On molecular gastronomy: It’s o.k. in doses. I’m not a molecular chef even though I make liquid nitrogen ice cream. Liquid nitrogen is just an alternative method of freezing. I got the idea for liquid nitrogen ice cream from an article in a trade magazine. Richard Blais, of Top Chef fame, was doing liquid nitrogen milkshakes and I thought, I need to try this.  Molecular gastronomy is nothing new. Candy companies and businesses like Hormel have used it for a long time.

On liquid nitrogen ice cream: Using liquid nitrogen I can make ice cream to order. (After eating one of John’s delicious sandwiches be sure to order ice cream. He has a list of flavors and ingredients so you can pick exactly what you’re craving. I particularly like his honey lavender combination or the salted chocolate caramel.)

My favorite station: Sauté.  This is the station where you have the most control over the food. It’s also the most challenging station. I love the adrenaline and intensity of service.

Favorite cookbook: Elements of Taste by Gary Kunz.

Favorite Kitchen Tool: My Gary Kunz spoon and my micro plane. A micro plane is one of those kitchen tools that actually work very well. And a silpat …..let’s not forget about that.

If I could eat anywhere in the world: Korea. I like ethnic food. My experience with Asian food is very limited. When I go out in Denver I always like to eat at ethnic restaurants. I don’t want to go to a restaurant that uses French technique. I’m always disappointed.

When cooking at home: I cook for my two small children. I do lots of pasta and Mexican. I took them for Persian food this week but they didn’t really like it.

Chefs I admire in Denver: Steve Ells from Chipotle. I would like to follow in his path. Goose Sorensen at Solera has been doing very progressive stuff for a while. Alex Seidel at Fruition is awesome. Jamey Fader and Dave Query are very successful restaurateurs.

Biggest Kitchen Disaster: While trying to clean a stovetop I set the stove on fire. I had to use a fire extinguisher to put the fire out. The kitchen was a mess. Thank God the ansul system didn’t go off. I had two hours before service to clean up and get everything ready. I made it.

My guilty pleasure: Reece’s pieces. I can eat a whole bag by myself.

Trends: I like all the trends. Anything that brings more attention and awareness to food and dining is good.

If I could put anything on the menu and not worry about it selling: I would really like to do a foie gras BLT. Mostly I don’t worry about this too much. I put a chicken liver sandwich on the menu once and it sold just fine. My customers trust me.

Best Meal in Denver lately: Steubens, Colt & Gray.

Do you encourage your kids to be chefs: NO!  I encourage them to cook but I’m not sure I would encourage them to be chefs.

Advice for culinary students: Anyone can be a line cook. It’s those extra things that make you a chef. Eat with other chefs. Do as many stages as you can.  Never burn a bridge. Knock on many doors.

Advice for home cooks: Learn patience.

Last words: When I left to cook in Chicago there was nothing progressive about Denver dining. The restaurant scene has changed an extraordinary amount. Goose was at the pinnacle of that change, so was Michael Long at Opus Restaurant. Frasca, Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Patterson have also influenced the scene. Dining in Colorado has definitely changed for the better.

The Crushery is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursdays – Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Sundays from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.