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Colterra Food & Wine lives in the quiet town of Niwot, surrounded by a beautiful garden full of herbs, eggplant, tomatoes, rainbow Swiss chard and other seasonal greats. This restaurant has the talent, drive and, most importantly, a love that can’t be compared to restaurants in bigger cities.  It is clear that each member of the staff is cared about and that each employee cares.  Everybody is happy to be there whether you are there for a shift or there to dine. It’s a devotion rarely seen in this business full of surly servers and bitter chefs. Aside from the steady adoration of both staff and patrons, Colterra is unique in its strong belief in farm to table.  Chef Bradford Heap is a pioneer and expert in the movement.  He has instilled his extensive knowledge into his staff and has paved the road for his executive chefs Michael Drazsnzak of Colterra and Kevin Kidd of Salt, his other successful restaurant on Pearl Street in Boulder.  I sat down with Chef Michael to talk about what this Colterra magic is.

Cooking for the past twenty-four years and growing up on a four acre farm in Northwest Arkansas made Chef Michael a perfect fit for Colterra’s overall food philosophy of local, organic, sustainable, and delicious.

What sets Colterra apart from other farm to table restaurants?

Our location–there is much more seclusion out here.  We also have a garden on premise.

What is your favorite local ingredient?

That changes from each season.  Right now, I’d say sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes.

What do you cook at home?

Simplified restaurant food.  I eat local vegetables and hormone free meats.  I love to grill in the summer–it simplifies things and doesn’t get the house hot.  I love grilled bread with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Very simple.

What is an under-utilized ingredient in restaurants?

Fresh herbs. My favorite is a sweet herb mix of chives, sweet basil and Italian parsley.  They could be used in a lot more places.

An over-rated ingredient?

Cracked black pepper.  Should be used more sparingly. It has a big flavor and should be used appropriately.  When it’s over used, it loses it significance.

Who do like to cook most for?

My wife.  Why wouldn’t I want to impress her?