Under the Sun, Mountain Sun’s Entree-Driven Dining

by Grace Boyle on September 27, 2016

The original Mountain Sun (in downtown Boulder) opened their doors in 1993. That’s 23 consistent years of serving beers and delicious pub food in what I believe to be, one of the most iconic Colorado breweries and restaurants.

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Over the years they’ve expanded their restaurant list to: Southern Sun Pub & Brewery, Vine Street Pub in Denver, Longs Peak Pub in Longmont, and their latest concept, Under the the Sun Eatery and Pizzeria in South Boulder.

Under the Sun Interior

Slightly different than the rest of their concepts, Under the Sun is their “entree-driven dining destination,” that focuses on what they call “hearth and home”. With a fireplace in their main living room and their wood-burning oven, they bake bread, smoke meats, char food, and roast vegetables from scratch. Furthermore, with Nick Swanson, their French Culinary Institute-trained chef at the helm, the food is even more elevated since his joining in June 2015.

When Swanson first joined the menu offered a little bit of everything and was “all over the place,” he shared. In May of 2016 he launched a new, more seasonal offering of dishes that included revamping their weekend-only brunch offering. He plans to do major menu overhauls in the Winter and Spring, with seasonal tweaks throughout the summer and into the fall.

Some of their elevated dishes include the likes of his braised short ribs (braised for hours) served with fingerling potatoes, kale, shallots, and a mustard seed vinaigrette or the Scottish grilled salmon served with asparagus, snow peas, spinach, salsa verde and lemon.

under the sun food in Boulder

By the way, top right hand-corner is their wood-oven fired oatmeal chocolate chip cookie served with local Sweet Cow vanilla ice cream and their Stout beer drizzled with caramel!

Given they have a pizza oven as a beautiful part of their open kitchen, they also do wood-fired pizza and you I recommend you try their eggplant parmesan pizza topped with sundried tomatoes, grilled eggplant, mozzarella, Grana Padano cheese, toasted panko and fresh basil.

My favorite dish though? Their fried chicken. Only available on Wednesday’s, they prepare 24 hours before, brining the birds in buttermilk and a conglomeration of secret spices. Everything from legs, thighs, and breasts are twice dredged and then cooked to order. For $11.99 per plate, you get three perfectly crispy, fried pieces of chicken. Make a Wednesday date, really.

Fried Chicken Under the Sun

We can’t forget the beer. Under the Sun features 21 taps of crafted Mountain Sun Ale and 8-10 rotating guest beers. The guest beers vary on a seasonal basis. They also have sustainable wines on tap.

Under the Sun is open daily for dinner from 4pm – midnight and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 9am – 2pm. Happy hour is offered every day from 4– 6pm and again from 9pm – close. Please note: like the rest of their locations, they’re cash only.

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River and Woods: Boulder’s Newest Restaurant

by Grace Boyle on September 23, 2016

Tucked away on Pearl Street in central Boulder sits a cozy, little 100-year-old cottage that housed John’s Restaurant for forty years. After John’s closed, the space remained dormant for years. Fast forward to August 2016, the space now invigorated, has new life with the opening of River and Woods.

River and Woods

River and Woods is the brainchild of Josh and Kate Dinar, of DiningOut Magazine and T|ACO and Daniel Asher, previous culinary director for Root Down, Linger, and Ophelia’s in Denver. I love how these three “found” each other – both parties had interest in the space and the listing agent pointed Asher to the Dinar’s as they were looking for a partner and had already solidified their interest right before him. Serendipity?

Put best in their own words, they share their vision for the restaurant: “We are working to honor that legacy, striving to build a true community restaurant that will serve an elevated taste of Colorado Comfort Cuisine. Like our food, the space itself offers modern whimsy wrapped in tradition.”

The Space:

Original beams from John’s Restaurant remain intact in the old miner cottage as does the building’s shape itself, but it also underwent a facelift. Ceilings have been raised, the carpet was removed and were replaced with beautiful wood floors for a clean and modern look. You can either sit at the front bar, in the main dining area, or there’s a chef’s table that seats eight people in the back where you can watch the action up close. The interior seats 68.

River and Woods Boulder

River and Woods Interior

Every component of the interior is thoughtful. Yes, even the bathroom which has adorable woodland creature wallpaper with warm yellow hues.

River and Woods Bathroom

My favorite element is the new, outdoor patio (former parking area). It has been completely transformed in to what they’re calling the “backyard” because they really want it to feel like someone’s backyard.

Backyard Patio River and Woods

They added reclaimed artificial turf from an athletic field, fencing is built from milling logs, lined with blue and red wooden birds, they installed a rotisserie oven, outdoor kitchen, additional bar, yard games, and hanging twinkle lights all of which make for a whimsical patio fit for kids to run around and enjoy, as you eat under the stars.

The Food – Community Driven:

The eclectic menu, is listed by provenance – River, Woods, High Plains, and Fields. The unique piece? One third of the menu is community-sourced. Guests are encouraged to submit their most beloved recipes to the restaurant and each month the culinary team reviews submitted recipes, selects a few favorites and then interprets them in a way that reflects the River and Woods approach to natural, organic, and sustainable eating before it grace’s the menu. This combines true collaboration and storytelling infused through community, via the cooks at River and Woods.

I love how they invite the owners of the original recipes to a tasting dinner and then a story of their dish is prepared and shared with River and Woods diners. You can also find those stories on their website.

For their opening menu, one such community menu item is Aunt Penny’s Mac & Cheese submitted by Laura Bloom, who lives in Gunbarrel. She uses Cougar Gold cheese, a cheese in a can that she orders every fall from Washington State University (they’ve been canning it since 1940)! The dish comes with orecchiette pasta, Cougar Gold cheddar, hazel dell mushrooms, Olathe organic corn, and onion-potato crunch.

Asher’s own creations like the the heirloom blue corndog or the woodlands Montreal duck wings shows his inventive twists and the food we know and love. The corndog is made from elk cheddar bratwurst, grateful frits heirloom blue cornmeal, wildflower honey mustard, served along sea salt fries and the wings are Maple Leaf duck, dry garlic sauce, Point Reyes blue cheese dressing and organic celery.

Their bar and cocktail program includes some cocktails and wine on tap, and the wine list aligns to geographical feature just like the food menu.

It’s a wonderful addition to Boulder adding elevated cuisine, but bringing great experience and influence between the Dinar’s and Asher. I’ve always been wowed by Asher’s food and River and Woods aims to impress.

River and Woods is located at 2328 Pearl Street. They serve dinner daily and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. They’re closed on Monday. Find them: riverandwoodsboulder.com

 

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Gary Silverman of Fresh Catering in Boulder

by Grace Boyle on September 21, 2016

Editor’s Note: I love profiling local culinary influencers in Boulder County to showcase the great people we live amongst. I had the chance to meet Gary and eat at one of his farm dinners recently and was delighted to learn about his story, and how much of an impact he has had on the food scene locally. 

Gary Silverman is no stranger to the Boulder culinary world. He spent almost 30 years at the Boulder Cork Restaurant where he worked his way up from a dishwasher, to line chef, to front of the house where he was a waiter, bartender, to the assistant to the GM which he held for almost 20 years. He’s also owned a food truck, Bumper Crop, and ran a food stand at the Boulder Farmers Market.

Silverman grew up in rural Idaho near the Tetons. He grew up cooking organic and he fondly recalls walking around his neighborhood selling fresh, organic vegetables from his garden with a wagon and a scale.

He started cooking for himself and his brother in the 4th grade since both of his parents worked, and his first restaurant job in high school let him be a prep cook and busboy in a steak house. As a sophomore in high school, he moved to Santa Fe which is where he fell in love with red and green chile, and much of his food is influenced by the Southwest.

Now he owns Fresh Catering, where as a caterer he focuses on fresh ingredients from local farms. He works alongside his wife, Kirsten, who was the pastry chef at Boulder Cork for the past 30 years, as well. He notes him and his staff have worked together for years, making their work together seamless and streamlined.

Gary and Kristen Silverman

Gary and his wife, Kirsten

His catering business focuses on intimate, farm to table, and every menu they build will be tailored. Whether it’s a wedding, birthday party, office event, etc. he cares to concentrate on the food as a focal point. As he says, “we don’t mess around.” Furthermore, with his background in service and putting customers first, he is able to emphasize that front of the house experience in his delivery.

Boulder Fresh Catering Team

Gary’s Fresh Catering Staff

When asked about his favorite type of food, it’s no surprise that New Mexican food, especially from Santa Fe is at the top of his list. With his food truck, Bumper Crop their signature dish was a smothered burrito “Xmas” style, smothered with red chile and green chile.

Back in the 90’s when he had his farm stand, his food was so well loved, he would trade produce from the local farmers in exchange for his tacos and burritos every Farmers Market. Silverman shared a nostalgic story with me about the late, great Bob Munson of Munson Farms. He shared, he [Munson] “would stand in front of my grill eating a burrito for both breakfast and lunch every Saturday going, ‘Mmmmmmmm,’ the whole time. It still makes me laugh.”

When asked about his signature dish he said it had to be his duck enchiladas with Haystack Mountain goat cheese smothered in red chile.

Here’s a sampling of his menu from the farm dinner, at my favorite farm, the Lyons Farmette:

Flat Bread with Lynch Family farm rabbit sausage, roasted peppers and Haystack goat cheese

Flatbread with Lynch Family farm rabbit sausage, roasted peppers, and Haystack goat cheese

Tostada with Cure Farm pork adovada with a black bean dip, Haystack Fetta and cilantro

Tostada with Cure Farm pork adovada with a black bean dip, Haystack feta and cilantro

Fresh Idaho trout with rock shrimp and a chipotle BBQ cream sauce

Fresh Idaho trout with rock shrimp and  a chipotle BBQ cream sauce

Farm Dinner Gary Silverman Fresh Catering Boulder

Gary is amicable, energetic, and excited about food. It’s evident spending time around him and he’s still at it, all these years later. Having been in Boulder and involved locally with food for so long, you’re bound to learn something from him. I encourage you to check him out at Boulder Fresh Catering.

PS. Don’t take my word for it. Eat Drink Boulder included him in a round up of Boulder’s best caterers.

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BrewHop Trolley

by Grace Boyle on June 27, 2016

Colorado is no stranger to craft beers. The Brewers Association has ranked Colorado 3rd in the number of craft breweries, and 6th per capita with 154. On the Front Range specifically, I’ve been watching in awe as breweries are popping up in unique, warehouse-like locations each with their own style and impressive brews.

Just North of Boulder, in Longmont there are nine breweries alone. To support this growing industry in the also growing community of Longmont, David Lewis and his wife decided to launch BrewHop Trolley.

Brewhop

 

Lewis, a Longmont native (2nd generation) and lover of beer, had been thinking about doing private tours to breweries in Longmont. His wife made the suggestion of dropping them off and going onto the next brewery to keep the route going. They cared about getting people to other breweries and promoting the local (maybe lesser known) breweries in town.

Davis, who last worked in oil and gas and collections with no prior food experience, began researching trolleys online to make this dream happen. They traveled to Philadelphia to look at trolleys to find the perfect one for their endeavor. Purchased for $25,000 the purple, 1997 trolley was sent out on a flatbed.

In effort to stay local, he worked with Longmont Digital Printing who created a vinyl wrap of the vehicle and he came up with the logo himself.

Brew Hop Trolley

The trolley has been running since Memorial Day Weekend (2016) on Saturday and Sunday starting at Noon and running until 9 p.m. They start at 300 Suns and will stop at every brewery in town. You can get off and on the trolley whenever you want through the wristband you wear for that day. Wherever you get dropped, they’ll always be back in an hour.

The breweries include: 300 Suns, Wibby, Pumphouse, Long’s Peak (Mountain Sun), Shoes and Brews, Grossenbart, Lefthand, Skye, and the Tasty Weasel (Oskar Blues).

Tickets are $15 for a one day pass, which is good for nine hours, or $25 for two days. You can purchase them right on the trolley, or in advance online.

The trolley seats 24 people and there’s more room in the aisle for standing. They also have room for 6-7 bikes if you want to bike to the location, then bike home eventually at the end of your tour.

Dogs and families are welcome on the trolley (most breweries on tour allow dogs, but those that are restaurants do allow you to keep your pup on the outside patio/sidewalk), and they have storage on the trolley for the growlers you pick up along the way.

When I asked what was next Lewis said they’re also available for private events, which would allow you to drink on the trolley (you can’t on public tours though).

They’re also rotating Friday night tours between Gunbarrel, Niwot and Lafayette, playing with that tour so they can stop at the likes of Powder Keg, Bootstrap, Finkel and Garf, Avery and more. This VIP tour would be $35, and you would get $1 off your first pints. It would leave Longmont at 4:15 p.m. on Friday and are testing out the routes.

They also hope to get four trolleys eventually and do weddings, new venues, and even go to places like Red Rocks (although he jokes the trolley tops out at 50 m.p.h. as he chuckles).

This is an incredibly fun way to learn about these local (and some nationally recognized) breweries, while cruising along the trolley around town. I’m a fan. I was also happy to learn they plan to cruise year-round. I’ll be a regular passenger, I’m sure.

Note: All photos from BrewHop Trolley

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A Reinvigorated Arugula

by Grace Boyle on April 25, 2016

Open since 2009, Arugula Ristorante has been a North Boulder staple offering Northern Italian inspired cuisine alongside its sister restaurant, Tangerine (delicious breakfast) and in between the two, their extra private dining extension bar space, Amaro.

Arugula Ristorante

To refresh, a spring cleaning if you will and to celebrate seven years in Boulder, Arugula has recently updated its menu to focus on seasonality and the general aesthetics to their dining room.

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Chef/Proprietor Alec Schuler’s was born in New York by immigrant European parents and he attended Manhattan’s nutrition-oriented Natural Gourmet Institute. He originally wanted to open a vegetarian restaurant, but his wife’s extended family is Italian and he soon fell in love with Italian food and went that direction. Still driven by eating healthy and holistically, his time spent at L’Atalier and Niwot’s Treppeda’s Italian Ristorante, drove him to combine his two passions and open Arugula.

The father to four sons, he has recently stepped down as head chef to let Swedish-born, Executive Chef Sven Hedenas take the helm. Hedenas is charming, gentle in his speech, and no stranger to the restaurant business. His family owned 14th Street Bar and Grill (where Oak now resides) for 22 years and he led the charge as executive chef. French cooking is his passion, but he too shares the sentiment of seasonal, fresh, and healthy like Schuler. Hedenas also emphasized the 100-year old recipes he was building off of, sharing that tradition with a modern, healthy twist was important to their menu.

The space that Arugula occupies – an unassuming strip mall in North Boulder – has a lot of Italian history, as it used to be where Laudisio’s Restaurant resided (a favorite of Schuler’s, and where he would bring his parents when they visited him in college at CU years ago). Not only is Italian food a passion of Schuler’s but the space has personal history to him.

One impressive, new change is what Shuler calls,  “inspired by the moment, inspired by farmers” twice a week menu changes. Every Tuesday and Friday diners will enjoy a change in menu featuring fresh menu items, to keep the menu personalized and healthy.

Seared Rocky Mountain Elk At Arugula

Seared Rocky Mountain elk sirloin topped with sun-dried tomato, house-made lemon and herb infused extra virgin olive-oil, crispy baked fennel, and Taleggio cheese melted over roasted fingerling potatoes and spinach

To be seasonal, the menu is driven by the availability of local ingredients from Boulder County’s farmers and purveyors. Eco-conscious, they also serve seafood that complies with the sustainability standards of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Salmon Gravlax Salad

House cured King salmon gravlax over butter lettuce with grapefruit-apricot vinaigrette, asparagus, Marcona almonds and dill creme fraiche

As Schuler says, “The heart of every menu continues to be pleasure of the palette with fresh, beautifully colorful, health-inspired dishes.” It’s no small feat to change your menu for seasonality, twice a week. Although freshness is something we might take for granted in Boulder, this is impressive.

Schuler has been collecting antique, kitchen tools for years. It started when he visited a corkscrew museum in Provence, France and as he joked, he couldn’t stop collecting all this “junk”. Eventually the inspiration for his collection was put to life from artist Javan Stackley who hand-crated art installations on the wall, compiling these beautiful kitchen pieces from old corkscrews to sifters to grinders. Some are hanging from the wall, some are built into the wall itself and I’ve not seen something quite like these pieces before. It’s some of the most notable and interesting art I’ve seen in a restaurant.

Corkscrew Art

The fact that Schuler collected the pieces over the years, an homage to his old world European heritage, and then commissioned the art makes it incredibly personal.

Kitchen Wall Art at Arugula

A new wall was also built by local artist, Bryce Widom. Featuring chalk art of original food and wine is a beautiful black slate, with white etched wine bottles, fresh vegetables, and bounty of the earth as you enter the restaurant. You might recognize Widom’s style from the infamous chalk art at Mountain Sun, and since he’s a friend of Schuler, the personalization is another touch I love.

Arugula's New Dining Room and Chalk Art

Also unique to Arugula, is their emphasis on the beverage program, particularly wines, where it’s all thoughtfully paired with their food. Led by GM and Wine Director, Ari Karra, (who spent 10 years at L’Atelier prior), Karra ensures Arugula’s menu always offers two or more special dishes created specifically to pair with a feature wine that is available by the glass. These by the glass options may be expensive, unique bottles that you may not have the opportunity to buy, by the bottle. Schuler tells us that they’ll first taste the wine, then let the dish inspire them from there (versus the inverse).

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Two Pro Tips: Look for these options indicated on each menu by a little wine icon with the varietal next to the menu item. Wednesday they have a 40% off bottles of wine special.

Mas Tequila Cocktail at Arugula

Mas Tequila – Tanteo jalapeño tequila, triple sec, fresh strawberry, cucumber, house made sour, lime Cocktail Punk cherry bitters

Finally, I recommend their wine pairing dinners that are hosted every six to eight weeks, featuring five courses centered around a unique theme or region, with an exclusive menu created just for that evening. They insist, you will never see the same dish twice. Each dinner also includes an educational component where they share a behind-the-scenes look into the history and wine making techniques from a local distributor or winemaker.

In addition to these changes, Schuler hopes to open another restaurant in Denver later this year. Keep an eye out, if it’s anything like Arugula or Tangerine, it’s sure to impress.

Learn More:

arugularistorante.com | 2785 Iris Ave., Boulder, CO

Upcoming Special Dinners: 5/17/16 with Chester Osborn and d’Arenberg Wines and 6/21/16 Summer Beer Dinner with Louisville’s Gravity Brewing.

Amaro is available for private parties or dinners, in a beautiful intimate space between the two restaurants: arugularistorante.com/amaro

 

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The Squeaky Bean’s Farm Dinners at Acres

by Grace Boyle on April 4, 2016

The Squeaky Bean Farm + Table restaurant in Denver has long been adored – first from their start in 2009 in their lower highlands space, and then their transplanted, latest location in lower downtown that reopened in 2012. Known for the innovative cuisine and funky style, they’re pushing the envelope again, with a new venture focused on agriculture.

For the past year, the Squeaky Bean has worked in collaboration with Warren Tech High School in Lakewood, to operate their organic, bio-dynamic farm, Acres. Josh Olsen, Squeaky Bean partner/chef and farmer manages the three acres of organic farmland, which includes two 6000-square-foot year-round greenhouses.Acres Greenhouse

Warren Tech is a well-known vocational school in Jefferson County offering a range of programs from audio production to culinary arts. Rooted in what they call SSTEM curriculum (science, sustainability, technology, engineering and mathematics) the partnership with Squeaky Bean is inspiring. Both parties get hands-on experience in science and culinary education. Squeaky Bean cares to educate people of all ages about the journey from soil to plate, and Acres is a prime sounding board for doing just that.

Squeaky Bean Johnny Beans and Josh Olsen

L-R: Squeaky Bean Co-Founder, Johnny Ballen’s hand-printed, vegetable Squeaky Bean suit | Squeaky Bean Co-Owner/Chef/Farmer of Acres, Josh Olsen | Sprouting produce at Acres

I was surprised to learn the Warren Tech greenhouse program was long defunct prior, and the revitalization between business, agriculture, and culinary programs, is a great addition for both parties. The new program they’re reinstating also helps the Warren Tech students build greenhouses as local elementary schools, where they will teach the younger students to plant and grow their own harvest.

Farm Dinners at ACRES:

Started this year, on the first day of Spring in March, the Squeaky Bean is now offering year-round farm dinners every couple of months, featuring the produce grown right there. Warren Tech culinary students help setup, cook, serve and clean. And although all the other programs are for credit, for these farm dinners, the Warren Tech students that participate, are doing it because they love it (volunteering their own time) and the exclusive experience they get with great local chefs. This work also helps focus on the community, “to marry industry and education.” We even learned Squeaky Bean have hired a few grads from Warren Team to work in their restaurant’s kitchen – bringing it full circle.

Disco Ball Farm DinnerL-R Vibrant tomatoes | seating for the farm dinner inside the greenhouse | in true Squeaky Bean fashion, a disco ball alongside Hall & Oats music spins in the corner next to the hanging shovels in the greenhouse

Even in winter (they have a farm dinner scheduled in November) you can sit in the middle of the farm, inside the greenhouse, alongside the towering tomato plants, and eat food that was just picked that day which is undoubtedly a special experience.

The farm dinners are Sunday in May, July, September, October and November at 5:30 p.m. and are $60 per person, for four courses of “vegetable forward” dishes served family style, paired with non-alcoholic, but innovative “mocktails” (it is after all, a high school campus).

Breakfast Radish CrostiniCrostini (from Grateful Bread) of breakfast radish with cultured butter paired with nasturtium bitters, lemon, and cucumber soda “mocktail” at their first March farm dinner

Charred Kale SaladCharred kale salad with green house tomatoes with Broken Shovels goat cheese paired with a roasted green tomato virgin mary

In addition to the farm dinners, The Squeaky Bean restaurant and other local Denver chefs will be using the produce from the farm to serve their hyper-local menus. They’re also going to have a booth at the Union Station Farmer’s Market in Denver. Any vegetable scraps from Squeaky Bean will even be transported back to the farm and composted, which saves hundreds of gallons of scrap from the landfill. Olsen plans to release hundreds of praying mantises to manage the grasshoppers that ravaged last year’s bean harvest.

Chef Chris MacGillivray of the Squeaky Bean calls what they do: “transfarmative cuisine: big, authentic flavors from organic, non-GMO plants, grown right here in our own backyard. Plus, our bar and our kitchen share ingredients to make the ultimate food and drink pairings.”

Partner Johnny Ballen also calls what they do as being:”dirt driven.” The connection to food is something that takes work to preserve, but that effort and dedication comes through full blast from the Squeaky Bean and Warren Tech partnership. Their farm dinners let you be part of that connection.

Acres at NightLearn More:

  • Acres Farm Dinners by Squeaky Bean Farm + Table: Sunday at 5:30 p.m. May 15th, July 17th, September 18th (*annual fundraiser), October 16th and November 13th.
    • 60 guests per dinner, $60 per person, four-courses “vegetable forward” dishes and paired mocktails
    • Warren Tech: 13300 W 2nd Place, Lakewood, CO 80228.
    • Farm dinner reservations: 303-623-2665.
*Annual fundraiser is $85 per person, plus tax. Benefit of proceeds to benefit Warren Tech.

 

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