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.

LOW Bar

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.

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The Art of Cheese

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.”

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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.

Giveaway:

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.

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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

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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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4th Annual Foodie Gift Guide

by Grace Boyle on December 2, 2016

It is officially December and the holidays are upon us. Welcome to Grace(full) Plate’s holiday, foodie gift guide.

Happy Holidays

I’ve picked nine foodie gift items that I think your food-loving/home chef/in-law/wife/bestie/daughter/son will love.

These are items that I really love and use in my kitchen. I’ve been sure to include links to where you can purchase these items and no, I don’t get kickbacks or referral fees. I just love sharing and the giving season (in the kitchen)! In some cases I may link to an affordable place to buy the product (e.g. Amazon) while also listing the brand that makes the product, as well.

Foodie Gift Guide 2016

  1. Chef’n Kale, Chard, and Herb Stripper $3.27 | Chefn: This tool is so little it fits easily in your drawers (or pocket). It has different hole sizes pending what green leafy item you may want to ‘strip’ the leaves or herbs off of. This helps me with my smoothies and also cuts down some chopping time with herbs and pesky stems.
  2. Oenophilia Large Slate Cheese Board $16.99 | Bed Bath & BeyondI received this slate cheese board as a gift years ago and because I love cheese plates so much, I use it every month. You can write in chalk on the board next to the cheese and the handles make it easy to transport. I think this is also a really fair price for the beauty of this piece. Great for entertaining; you can place anything on this beauty.
  3. Zojirushi Rice Cooker/Steamer $44.99 | Macy’s: This gets used almost weekly in our home. You drop in your 2:1 ratio of water to rice, and flip the switch. It turns to warming when it’s done (in about ~15-20 minutes) so you can eat it well after it’s cooked and it’s still good. I have the three cup version (but there are other sizes if needed).
  4. Acetaia Cattani White Balsamic Vinegar $14.95 | Sur La Table: Produced in Italy, online julietta casino and made from sweet, white Trebbiano grapes this vinegar is light and golden in color. It’s made from fifth-generation family-owned producers using only indigenous grapes from Cattani’s vineyard. It’s great with vegetables or fish and is best when reduced. My (very Italian) mother introduced it to me. She always has it on hand, and now I make her homemade salad dressing with this and olive oil as the base (just add crushed fresh garlic, salt, and pepper, and voila).
  5. Stainless Steel Stovetop Popcorn Popper $54.99 | Target: I grew up with popcorn as a primary snack in our lives. We even have our own seasoning. For those reasons, my brother and I take popcorn seriously, even though we’ve lived away from home for years now. My mom bought us each one of these so we could have perfectly popped popcorn. It comes with a hand crank for proper evenness but it pops within five minutes.
  6. Kyocera, Ceramic Mandolin $15.65 | Amazon: We use this for most meals. The mandolin slices anything paper thin and with swiftness. It’s great for carrots atop a salad, string onions to caramelize, to slicing thin apples to snack on. Please note, this blade is razor sharp and I’ve had a few friends get too close for comfort, so purchase some kitchen-grade gloves with it as you slice for safety-sake.
  7. Loredana’s Balsamic Vinaigrette $12 | Loredana’s: Local to Colorado, I first laid eyes on Loredana’s marinades, spreads, and vinaigrette’s at the farmers market. They’re a true artisan company and everything is handmade in small batches. My mom now bulks up when she visits, or orders online, and freezes the thick, slightly sweet and delicious, balsamic vinaigrette. We use it in her pine nut, lemon pepper chicken bake and it makes the dish. You would be good ordering any of their products, but try the balsamic. When you get it, drizzle it over fresh mozzarella.
  8. Yeti Stainless Steel Rambler $39.99 | YetiWe’re big Yeti consumers in our house. From the cooler that keeps ice cold for days, to their rambler for our morning coffee commute, their products are top notch. The 30 oz. tumblr keeps your coffee hot all day, or your after dinner drink cool filled with ice. It has double-wall vacuum insulation and their patented, “no sweat design”. I love how they call it “over-engineered”. This thing is legit.
  9. Universal Cover – A Lid for Every Pot $14.99 | Bed Bath & Beyond: This one is simple. It’s a lid that has many grooves so it fits on most sizes of pots. I keep it at the top of my drawer if I can’t find a lid and drop it on any pot. It’s so convenient.

Note: These are often timeless. For further inspiration, you can refer to the rest of the foodie gift guides I’ve curated over the years here.

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Spuntino: Delivered with Love and Hand Crafted Detail

by Grace Boyle on November 11, 2016

Spuntino is a cozy, neighborhood Italian restaurant in the Highlands of Denver that’s owned by wife and husband team, Chef Cindhura Reddy and General Manager, Elliot Strathmann. The two had managed the restaurant together since 2013, but they purchased it from the previous owners in September of 2014.

Elliot Strathmann and Cindhura Reddy of Spuntino

I have a soft spot for husband-wife restaurants because running a restaurant is hard enough, let alone with your partner. Not only does it impress me, but it shows such gumption and commitment to the love of their craft. Spuntino is no exception – it’s incredibly well executed. Their seamlessness is like watching an effortless, beautiful dance they do together with thoughtful food and menu building from Reddy, to personalized front of the house service and an inventive beverage menu from Strathmann. There’s a gentleness and graciousness from both of them that I don’t always see in restaurants, but don’t confuse that for softness, they don’t skip a beat on any detail and are both sharp.

The Decor:

The space itself is long and narrow with just a handful of tables flanked by the reclaimed wood bar and open kitchen. In the back, there’s a room for larger parties. Hanging Edison lightbulbs make for rustic and delicate lighting and I love all the wooden decor from the tables to walls.

Spuntino Interior

With the small kitchen they have, I loved watching Chef Reddy’s calm and cool demeanor while she smiles and cooks with focus.

Spuntino Tables

The Food:

When it comes to their Italian inspired menu the attention to detail and focus on doing everything themselves from scratch, is obvious. From hand making pasta everyday like pappardelle and bigoli, to Strathmann’s house-made amari liqueurs (more on these later), to making their own ricotta and baking their own bread, to their dedication of working with local farmers, to growing their own urban garden out front.

Food at Spuntino in Denver

Set like a traditional Italian menu, they start with antipasti, spuntini, primi (traditionally pasta, and never the final course if you’re a true Italian), to secondi which is more traditional entrees and proteins. The menu changes seasonally, based on the produce but falls about four times a year to reflect their local approach.

There is also a holistic thoughtfulness to their approach. For instance, for their risotto and arancini (fried risotto balls) they’ll use the whey from their cheese making to help add a creaminess to their risotto. There’s also the dedication to time. For their polpo (octopus) carpaccio style, they  poach the tentacles for four hours and then use a cheese cloth, to almost create a head-cheese like texture, to come out as carpaccio with potatoes, chorizo, celery and bright sweet peppers. It’s also worth noting the incredible value, for their food.

With the addition of their Fall menu mid-October, these are the dishes you must try on their new Fall (2016) menu.

Elk Tartare – Rocky Mountain elk, preserved lemon aioli, ginger garlic, shallot, and cured yolk. Alongside their house-made bread. I was floored to learn this was Colorado elk and not farm raised, but through a program with one of their providers this is actually Colorado hunted wild game. So often when you see elk (if you do at all) it’s going to be all the from Australia or New Zealand. Furthermore, if you’ve tasted wild game this may not be as gamey as you expect. This interesting tartare is mild, yet creamy in texture and the tangy aoili is a delicious addition.

Elk Tartare

Arancini – fried risotto with cauliflower, fontina, tumeric fried pickles, and marina. You could just serve arancini because who doesn’t love fried food, but their thoughtful plating and unique addition of creative elements make it special.

Arancini

Bigoli – Wild mushrooms, aged balsamic cream, and toasted pine nuts. Bigoli, is a type of pasta made into a long thick tube. All pasta is house made and prepared perfectly al dente. This dish exuded fall and I love how with well-made pasta, you can still feel light after. Afar Magazine named them as one of the 12 best places to enjoy pasta in the country. 

Wild Mushroom Bigoli

Risotto – Butternut squash, prosciutto brown butter, Thai basil and Pecorino. This has that creaminess from the risotto whey they make, but the crunchy of the prosciutto was a great texture addition.

Risotto

Amaro: 

There needs to be a whole section on their house made liqueurs. Amaro is an herbal liqueur from Italy that’s known as a digestivo, which you drink after dinner to help digest your food and settle your stomach. It’s also known to help reduce that “I ate way too much and I’m full,” feeling. It’s not as if Strathmann has enough on his plate co-owning a restaurant, but he took the time to develop a house-infused amaro program where he has landed on 11 infusions in the last few years. These infusions are made from herbs that he grows either at his house or at the restaurant garden.

Amaro at Spuntino

Sitting above his bar, you see the barrels aging where he has infused the likes of saffron, basil, marigold petals, fennel, anise, and chokecherries. The basil amaro (first one on the left), was made out of seven types of basil from their garden!

I love that they’re available traditionally as a digestiv for sipping on after your meal, or they’re also used in their cocktails like my favorite, Gardener’s Collins which is CapRock Gin, citrus, and Spuntino’s garden liqueur topped with marigold petals (top photo, below).

Cocktails at Spuntino

The bottom drink is the Sgroppino di Spuntino Redux which is Mell Vodka, sorbet, lemon, prosecco, and their own choke cherry syrup. I loved the frothiness of this drink.

Their wine program focuses on small production vineyards and it’s about 80-85% Italian wines and it rotates about 80 bottles. Their bottle list “The Off List” showcases their current favorites and rotates with frequency, beyond their standard wine menu.

Strathmann admits he lets Reddy own all of the food, besides a few snippets of his won, but the one food item he does own are his house made truffles he infuses with his liqueur. He uses 72% dark chocolate via Boulder’s Fortuna Chocolates.

The previous owners were well known for their gelato, and the gelato program has continued with freshly made house-gelato. I recommend the olive oil gelato. It has that savory creaminess of extra virgin-olive oil that’s drizzled on top of vanilla gelato. Zeppole, what I like to call “Italian fried-dough” is a traditional Sicilian dessert they offer.  Of course, don’t forget to end your evening with an amaro

Olive Oil Gelato Zeppole and Truffles

 

If you go to Spuntino, I know you’ll feel welcomed, comfortable, and be wowed by their attention to detail, the locally seasonal food, and the charm of the space and people.

Find Them: spuntinodenver.com | 2639 W. 32nd Ave, Denver, CO

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