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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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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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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Local Table Tours Expands to Ft. Collins

by Grace Boyle on November 2, 2016

Experiential food excursions are all the rage. And for good reason. From farm to table dinners, to culinary classes, to food tours, they’re a great way to see an array of food purveyors and create memories.

I’ve written about Local Table Tours before and it is one of my favorite way to show friends and family (especially from out of town) the local food scene, through a new lens.

Local Table Tours takes care in ensuring they stop by restaurants or shops that are inventive, high quality, and showcase a unique story. My favorite part is that at each stop you get some inside access you may not if you were just a patron dining on your own. With Local Table Tours you might chat with the chef, or owner, or learn about the bar from the manager. They spend a little time with you to ensure your questions are answered so it’s a well rounded experience.

These are walking tours as well, so you’re typically getting to see the general area and lay of the land in between each stop. Note: You don’t walk too far. See FAQ’s.

Having been on a handful of tours over the years with Local Table Tours, I can say that each one has its own unique flavor (no pun intended). Pending the group dynamics, perhaps the weather, and who you interact with that day on the tour, you can make it a bit of your own. There’s creativity to pick what you want off a menu, while they may also have something prepared for you to try the best they have to offer. The fluidity of this makes it enjoyable and a bit different each time.

Megan Bucholz (owner) and her team are doing so well they’re offering culinary tours in Boulder, Denver and most recently, Ft. Collins. I recently went on one of their Ft. Collins cocktail tours and loved getting to see our northern neighboring town that I don’t get to as much.

Ft. Collins’ Local Table Tours currently offers a coffee, waffle, and chocolate tour, Jessup farm tasting tour, cocktail tour, and artisans at Scotch Pines tasting tour.

Old Fashioned's Local Table Tours

Led by Josie, a Ft. Collins resident, food writer, and food aficionado we made three stops on this cocktail tour.

We went to The Whiskey, The Social, and Mobb Distillery. We tried a cocktail at each location over the course of two hours and learned fun facts along the way.

For example, did you know The Whiskey carries 1700 types of whiskey, which surpasses The Stanley’s library, making them the largest Colorado bar in terms of whiskey? I also learned they have a locker program in their back room, where regulars (Whiskey club members) who spend at least $3,000 annually on bottles, can get one of the 40 lockers to hold their favorite bottles, purchased at the bar.

The WhiskeyHere, we enjoyed a sazerac, a traditional cocktail originating from New Orleans after the Cognac used in the drink, Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils in the late 1800’s.

Our second stop was The Social, an underground speakeasy where we enjoyed Old Fashioned’s. I learned besides their robust cocktail and wine program, they have a dedicated charcuterie game and a large absinthe menu.

The Social

Finally, we walked through town to the River District where we made our last stop at Mobb Mountain Distillery. Started by four friends who make rye whiskey and rye gin (this is unique!) their focus is on community they emphasize the “people” part of their business, creating a unique home-like feel in their small and cozy tasting room. We tasted their gin and whiskey, then picked from their craft cocktail list.

Mobb Mountain

If you love food and drink and are interested in learning more and exploring, you should look up Local Table Tours. Whether it’s for a fun afternoon date, a group of girlfriends, or bringing your friends/family from out of town, it’s going to be worth your while. While you’re at it, head to Ft. Collins for their newest set of tours.

Find Them: localtabletours.com

 

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Zoës Kitchen Comes to Boulder

by Grace Boyle on October 28, 2016

Zoës Kitchen, a fast-casual Mediterranean chain out of Texas, has opened their fifth outpost in Boulder at the 29th Street Mall on October 13th. This year they’ve added their first set of Colorado locations in Littleton, LoDo, Ft. Collins, and Westminster.

Inside Zoes Boulder

The menu is inspired by chef, Zoë Cassimus and her Greek family recipes that started in the south in 1995. Fast forward to 2016 and they have 200 locations and Italian-born chef, Antonio Iocchi oversees their culinary and beverage program.

Antonio studied in Rome at Scuola Alberghiera Culinary Institute where he has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants, to Michel’s at the Colony Surf in Hawaii, to leading culinary innovation at Romano’s Macaroni Grill for 18 years. Since 2015, Antonio is the head chef and VP of Culinary Innovation at Zoës. Antonio has a larger-than-life personality (I’ve met him) and he’s always working on ensuring the menu is innovative, delicious, and scalable. I appreciate this authenticity that he brings to the restaurant group.

Having had their food a handful of times, I can say, this isn’t just any old chain. The food is made from scratch daily, they hand-wash every vegetable, and their focus is on healthy and Mediterranean living. It’s something I can very much get behind.

One of my favorite facts is that there isn’t a single microwave or fryer, in any of their locations. 

Their dishes cover all of the Mediterranean featuring the likes of hummus, farro, salads, kabobs, and piadinas. They offer catering and a pretty impressive and inventive kids menu. The Boulder location plans to offer beer and wine, there are some items in their take-away cooler, and the location boasts a beautiful indoor fireplace (this is unique to this location).

The colors are bright with retro orange chairs, bright hues of orange, green, and red, and multi-sized hanging white lamp fixtures.

Zoes Kitchen Boulder

Boulder residents will appreciate their flexibility around allergens offering gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan items, as well.

The Boulder space is 2,625 square-feet and seats 84 inside and 12 outside on their patio. We all know the 29th Street Mall also offers incredible Flatiron views – the best strip mall view you could find.

Fianlly, I want to give a glimpse into the vibrant and beautiful food they offer.

Live Med Salad, Zoes KitchenThis is my favorite dish of theirs – the Live Med Salad comes with thin ribbons of zucchini and squash, fresh spinach, red onions, farro, lupini beans, cherry tomatoes, parmesan, tossed with their Calabrian pepper dressing.

Protein Power Plate

This is their Protein Power Plate that is a great post-workout meal. It includes flat grilled chicken, and caramelized onions sitting over a bed of cabbage slaw.

Zoes Kitchen, Hummus Trio

What’s Mediterranean food without hummus? This is their Hummus Trio from their starters menu which is great to share. I particularly love the fresh cucumbers that come with the dish, to enjoy dipping with. They have red pepper hummus, basil pesto hummus, and classic hummus alongside the peppers and pita chips.

Zoes Kitchen Kids Menu

Recently launched, the updated kids menu at Zoë’s is meant to support the “no nuggets generation” as they call it for “wow small, yet sophisticated taste buds” at a really affordable price point. For age 12 and under, they can choose on entree and one side. The entrees include the likes of salmon kabob (shown above) or a ham and cheese piadina (Italian flatbread – shown below) and sides include the likes of greek salad, hummus, or fresh fruit. The max entree is just $5.99 for kids, making a great healthy meal at a good price point.

Ham and Cheese Piadina

The food is impressive and I appreciate the company’s overall focus on family, people first, and living a healthy lifestyle. Everyone I interact at with at Zoë’s seems to embody those values. It’s a good addition to Boulder so go ahead and bring in your family to try it for yourself.

 Find Them: Located at 1695 29th Street, Suite 1248. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. zoeskitchen.com

 

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