Justin’s Cucci’s Fifth “Opus”: El Five

by Grace Boyle on June 28, 2017

I’m a fan of whatever Justin Cucci does. He always pushes the envelope with his concepts, design, and food and El Five is no exception.

In what he’s calling his “opus” and fifth restaurant in his impressive restaurant group, Edible Beats, El Five opened to the public on May 3rd in their LoHi location (above Sushi Ronin). Just north of their sister restaurant, Linger, El Five resides on the fifth floor overlooking the Denver city skyline to the East and around back, also boasting mountain views to the West.

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The restaurant is inspired by Mediterranean inspired tapas from Spain to Greece, and even focusing more on Israel, Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon curating “tapas de Gibraltar”.

El Five Denver Interior

Only available by elevator, you enter the space to an open kitchen in the middle filled with retro Egyptian cinema posters from the 40’s lining the wall, antique Moroccan lamps hang from the ceiling, kaleidoscope mosaic mirrors line the wall, and vibrant bright Turkish carpets fill the floor from fuchsia to mustard yellow.

El Five Retro Egyptian Posteres

The space has a complete 360 degree view with the city skyline deck to the East and on the back side, a lounge area with couches, small wooden tables, and mountain views. It’s likely the best views in the city based on having both sides of our beautiful Colorado landscape.

West Side El Five

When you do go, because if you haven’t, you must here’s what you should try: matzah ball soup dumpling, the crispy cauliflower yufka, charred baba ghanoush with eggplant, lemon goat yogurt, pomegranate molasses, and smoked almonds, and their amazingly unique ash roasted carrots.

It’s fabulous. Grab a seat out on the patio facing the city, enjoy a fresh cocktail, and dig into the unique food and scene. You won’t be disappointed.

Find them: 2930 Umatilla Street, Suite 500 | elfivedenver.com




FishSki Provisions

by Grace Boyle on June 23, 2017

When I found FishSki Provisions I was intrigued by their story.

Husband and wife duo, Rob and Tania met in college and found their way to the SouthWest as fellow adventurers. As Tania shared, “Our mac and cheese comes from my love for boxed mac, my husband’s love for Hatch Chiles, and our combined love for backpacking and needing an easy dehydrated meal.”

Thus launched FishSki Provisions and their GMO-free mac and cheese that’s made with peppers, real cheese, and delicious Hatch Chile.


Rob and Tania 

Why FishSki? “Because there is nothing funnier than a fish on skis.”

After talking to learn more about the business, we realized we were all fellow fly fishermen, snow mountain lovers, and even had close, mutual friends!

Even as a small business, they give back to causes they care about. A portion of every purchase goes toward conservation and recreation; currently they’re donating to the Boulder Flycasters.

Part of their portability for your outdoor exploration is that the package is packable and not in a box; much easier to pack up and waterproof. Additionally, because of the real cheese they use, when you’re out camping it only requires two cups of water to prepare. No need to take milk or butter with you.

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After trying their Mac and Cheese my favorite was their green chile and garlic. They also have a cheddar, red chile, and red peppers flavor.

It’s quick and easy to prepare so whether you’re at home after a long day at work or in the back country that is a win in my book. Furthermore, I was surprised by how flavorful the mac and cheese was. It was creamy, bursting with garlic and it’s flecked with Hatch Chile.


You can find them in Lucky’s Market (Boulder and Longmont), Hazel’s Beverage World and Niwot Market. Don’t live near those locations? You can purchase the delicious Mac and Cheese online.

I love supporting local food businesses and know their Mac and Cheese will surprise you in the best possible way. Go ahead and give them a taste.

All photos from FishSki


LOW Country Kitchen Opens Second Location in Denver

by Grace Boyle on April 27, 2017

LOW Country Kitchen has been holding it down strong in Steamboat since they opened in 2014. After much success, owners Katy and Brian Vaughn followed their dream to expand to Denver’s Lower Highlands neighborhood and opened this February 27th.

Homesick for the food they grew up on (Brian from New Orleans and Kentucky, Katie from Tennessee) LOW is a homage to time-honored country cooking cuisine from the South coupled with that family-friendly Southern hospitality.

LOW Denver

LOW Mason Jars and Plates

Sweet Tea LOW

Chef Brian Vaughn focuses on high quality ingredients but puts his own modern spin on comfort food classics such as their open faced BLT that comes with a slab of pork belly, fried green tomatoes, house-made pimento cheese, and avocado dressing.

As Brian noted to the New York Times“It’s the twists and plays on traditional ingredients with new modern techniques that I love.” His meltingly tender ribs, for example, combine the best of Memphis dry rubs and Carolina-style spicy sauce on local Yampa Valley pigs, cooked sous-vide, ingeniously.

It’s probably worth noting their infamous, buttermilk fried chicken. Served with five pieces in a bowl it comes piping hot, the skin is perfectly crunchy while the inside is moist and tender. I would go as far as to say, it’s the best fried chicken I’ve had in a long time. Maybe ever.

Fried Chicken

To satiate your Southern palate, I encourage you also try their buttermilk biscuits, their shrimp & grits, and the Mississippi jambalaya that comes with andouille, duck, blue mussels, roasted tomatoes, Carolina gold rice, and creme fraiche. While you’re at it, order the hush puppies and boiled peanuts for your side.

Shrimp grits

Shrimp & Grits with Carolina pink shrimp, tomato and bacon gravy, and Anson Mill antebellum grits topped with aged white cheddar. 

Deviled eggs

Deviled eggs – egg mousse, nitro mustard seed, fresh herbs

Behind the bar, they sling some serious spirits and the menu shows they aren’t messing around. The cocktails include the likes of a mint julep, aptly served in a Julep cup with crushed ice, a classic sazerac, the infamous cocktail of New Orleans that includes absinthe, a pickled whiskey sour, and my personal favorite: the strawberry and rhubarb smash with Four Roses bourbon, charred strawberry and rhubarb shrub, lemon, and amaro sfumato. All their beers (on tap and canned) are from Colorado.


From the warm hospitality, to the inventive comfort food you’ll feel comfortable in their beautiful LoHi location and leave feeling good with your full belly.

Find Them:

LOW Country Kitchen is located at: 1575A Boulder Street in Denver and is open seven days a week for happy hour, dinner, and brunch on the weekend. You can learn more about their Steamboat location here.


The Art of Cheese Cheesemaking School

by Grace Boyle on April 23, 2017

Kate Johnson knows her cheese.

Kate Johnson, The Art of Cheese

Kate feeding one of her kids. Photo Credit: FarmHer

She’s an award-winning cheesemaker, she lives on a dairy farm in Longmont where she raises dairy goats (among other farm animals) with her family and she’s the owner of cheesemaking school, The Art of Cheese. The amount of milk she gets from her goats and cheese she subsequently makes each week, is a lot.

After being asked to mentor Kate as part of the Colorado *CHAMP program I couldn’t believe my luck that I was paired with a cheesemaker in Longmont (my neighbor). Cheese is one of my favorite foods.

Kate has a lot of energy and is really involved in the community which I respect. She runs Briar Gate Farm with her family where she has anywhere from 15-20 goats, horses, a llama, a dog, many cats, and chickens. She co-leads a 4-H club, serves as Superintendent of Utility Goats for the Boulder County Fair, and is a member of the Colorado Dairy Goat Association. She teaches her cheesemaking classes every week and she’s always promoting visiting Colorado and in particular, Longmont. She’s also a great promoter of local dairies and businesses because she just genuinely cares about supporting local and great products.

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Some of Kate’s goats on Briar Gate Farm (isn’t her view of the Foothills great?)

I can tell she’s in her element in front of students. Her latest space is at Haystack Creamery in Longmont and she always emphasized to me her business is called “The ART of Cheese, not the science of cheese.” Her aim is to show how cheesemaking can be fun and actually isn’t that daunting or challenging (despite popular belief). They’re hands on classes, that always involve a lot of cheese tasting and making, usually some wine or beer, and a plethora of walk away material and learnings.  Any class I’ve attended of hers, I walk out with cheese I helped make which is fun and rewarding.

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Recently, Kate launched a series of online cheesemaking classes, Cheesemaking Made Easy in conjunction with Countryside Network. Her in-person classes are booming and she hosts students from around the country (even the world) but obviously you’re limited to being local to attend them. As she calls it, she wanted to “spread the cheese love.”


Her three series of online classes are on-demand and meant to be easy to access or to have with you in the kitchen, while you’re making cheese and want some further guidance. It’s almost like having her in the kitchen with you. The classes are available in DVD format, as well.

Fun fact: Kate shot all the classes in her own home kitchen, which gives you a true sense of the cheese she makes every week and her space.

The three online classes are:

Each online class comes with free downloadable recipes and other useful bits of information such as cheesemaking supply resources, good cheesemaking books and tips. It’s setup like a classroom and you can pause each section to go back and make sure you’ve got it down. You also have access to these classes forever once you purchase them.


Guess what? For Grace(full) Plate readers I’m also able to offer 20% off each of these classes. When you go to register (links above) just enter: TAKE20

Learn More:

If you’re interested in seeing lots of cute goats, cheese tips, and farming life in Colorado follow Kate on Instagram @theartofcheeselongmont and like her Facebook page.

If you are local you can check out her great in person classes here. Pro tip: Her mozzarella, ricotta and burrata classes are amongst the most popular. She also hosts monthly cider and cheese pairings at St. Vrain Cidery where she brings her baby goats!

*Disclaimer: I worked with Kate and The Art of Cheese through Colorado Tourism Office’s Heritage & Agritourism mentor program (CHAMP). I was compensated for participating in the mentorship program. All opinions, as always, are my own.


Blume Honey Water Comes to Colorado

by Grace Boyle on March 17, 2017

The story begins in a gym with a high school wrestling team.

Joe Ross, a Pennsylvania boarding school coach, approached Michele Meloy Burchfield about his honey water he had been creating for his team to help foster natural hydration and energy. Michele, a longtime beverage expert, was intrigued. This is when she brought on her friend and global brand strategist, Carla Frank.

These two power house women studied honey for two years. They learned of the benefits and drew them to creating Blume Honey Water, their line of naturally energizing, hydrating waters that help build awareness around bee sustainability.

Blume Honey Water


I recently got to meet Carla and Michele, both of which are inspiring women leading their business. Michele spent nearly 15 years at Boston Beer Company where she built out the Sam Adams brand before launching her own consulting business. Carla was design director of O, The Oprah Magazine, was creative director of Cooking Light Magazine and Glamour Italy.

Their three flavors are vanilla citrus, wild blueberry, and ginger zest. My favorite is the vanilla citrus. Not only are they quenching, but for their launch party, I tried these delightful drinks alongside alcohol in cocktails. They’re quite versatile.

One of my favorite parts about this business is how they partner with humane beekeepers and have a focus on sustainability. I was floored to learn that bees are responsible for providing at least 30-50% of the world’s food supply. And in our world, we rely on their pollination. They ensure we have fresh produce, flowers, and of course, honey. If honeybees were to disappear, the human population wouldn’t exist for more than four years. Unfortunately, bees are in danger. Due to causes like pesticides, mites, and stress for the bees, up to 42% of the earth’s bees have been wiped out.

Blume Honey Water is not only providing this health syrum of honey as a nutritious product (so much more fun than water, but just as hydrating) but also creating posterity for the bees that fuel us. Did you know that the first Olympians used honey for their competitions in Greece?

They just launched in Colorado at gyms (Colorado Athletic Club), coffee shops, and local grocery stores (Alfalfa’s and Lolita’s). You can’t miss the packaging, it’s beautiful. I think of this akin to coconut water or smart water, but with the main ingredient being 100% natural honey, it’s different than anything else I’ve tried.

I’m excited to watch them grow in Colorado. My suggestion is to have them as an afternoon pick-up during the work week or even right after a workout to help as fuel.

Find them: blumehoneywater.com | Check out their store locator here to find them in Colorado


I’ve been writing about Bradford Heap and his restaurants for seven years.

What always stands out to me is how incredibly dedicated Bradford is to his culinary craft. He’s also unabashed he is about his staunch commitment to organic, non-GMO and sustainable food and it’s no gimmick or marketing ploy. He takes extra steps to ensure all three of his restaurants are stewards of the earth and adhere to serving the most local and organic food. This is no small feat.

When I first wrote about Wild Standard opening in 2015, the concept was akin to dim-sum style where in addition to the standard menu, small bites/plates would rotate on a tray and/or rolling cart that you could scoop up if it tickled your fancy as it came by your table.

Fun in theory, but this concept proved to be problematic for the kitchen to manage and for patrons. Personally, I found it difficult as I remember being interrupted every few minutes. Furthermore, the small plates really were such a small bite and because of the high quality food they were a high price point leaving me less satiated.

Long story short, they canned the concept.

Bradford is actually back in the kitchen at Wild Standard, full time. This was his restaurant and desire from the start, and post-concept change, the sustainable seafood restaurant has been flourishing.

The dishes are more focused, they’re fresher than ever and I love their updated, inventive cocktail and wine menu. Their bar features eight taps, for kegged wine due to its sustainability and solidified taste, as well as rotating beers on tap. The taps feature Colorado beers.

In a partnership with Jack Rabbit Hill (out of Hotchkiss, CO), Bradford has co-created a “Wild Red” and “Wild White” wine, blended just for the restaurant. I love when restaurants go this extra step to make it special and paired with their food style.

I also love that his featured cocktails are named after influential women. That is something you don’t see everyday. From Alice Waters, to Florence Nightingale, to Michelle Obama, to J.K. Rowling.

Wild Standard Cocktails

The space was incredible from the get-go but it’s worth mentioning again because it’s really stunning and thoughtful.

Bradford’s wife, Carol Vilate, transformed the space. An interior designer by trade, she focused solely on recycled or used materials. Every piece in the restaurant has a story about where it came from. What she calls the “barnacle bling,” emulating the ocean on the outside of the bar, was crafted from old belt buckles. The hand-milled hemlock wooden beams boldly exposed throughout the ceiling come from a 100-year-old barn in the Midwest and are covered with ornamental iron straps bolted into place for an industrial look. An antique golden frame hanging on the white washed brick wall came from her friend’s garage and the bar is made of smooth cottonwood from a fallen tree in Boulder County.

Wild Standard in Boulder

Wild Standard Entrance

Wild Standard Interior

One of the more notable newest updates is the partnership with an Alaskan fisherman that is sending king salmon exclusively for Wild Standard. The story is personal as Bradford has been a longtime fisherman and has spent a lot of time off the coast of Yakutat Bay (about 100 miles north of Juneau in the panhandle) with his brother.

Wild Standard Crispy Salmon

During these fishing trips, Bradford connected with a local fishing guide who wowed him with his attention to sustainability and care for the environment. Bradford created a unique program with him through an agreement where the guide exclusively fishes for king salmon, just for Wild Standard.

King SalmonPhoto Credit: Wild Standard’s King Salmon Shipment

Furthermore, unlike the majority of salmon you eat, this fish is sustainably caught with hook and line (not in mass, via net). They’re gilled and gutted in Alaska, then placed in cold packs that replicate the temperature of the waters in Yukutat Bay. These packages are then overnighted to the restaurant and used in their daily king salmon specials. You can just taste the freshness.

Bradford even shares “the fish are so incredibly fresh that they’re actually in rigor mortis when the restaurant receives them. This is unheard of in a landlocked state like Colorado.”

Bradford Heap, King Salmon From AlaskaPhoto Credit: Wild Standard. Bradford Heap (L), Chef Derek Baril (R)

Just like any sustainable program, their shipments may fluctuate based on the weather in Alaska and fishing conditions but Bradford is proud of the program for offering such freshness, and creating a mutually beneficial sustainable fishing partnership. Their salmon dishes often sell out which is no surprise because they are such a standout on the menu.

Lobster Ravioli

House made lobster ravioli with spot prawns and mussels in a white wine sauce. One of the best dishes I’ve had in a long time.

I also loved learning that their Virginia high-brine oysters (Chunu) actually were renamed the “Wild Standard” oysters by the purveyor. Thus, that’s what they’re named on the menu.

It’s worth noting that the seafood selections in the raw oyster bar, menu samplers, and their fish-centric entrees meet the strict standards of the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council). Wild Standard is the only restaurant in Boulder to hold the MSC certification.

I think two years in, Wild Standard is hitting their stride. They’ve got things dialed and are providing the freshest, innovative seafood dishes around. They’re living and breathing their mission of sustainability, while also giving back. Located right on Pearl Street, next to Salt one of his other restaurants, they’re in a prime location and I feel wowed whenever I step foot in their restaurant.

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