Peanut Butter Almond Bites

by Grace Boyle on March 6, 2018

Now that I’m in a new job and I work from home, I have been making sure more than ever to have plentiful home-cooked food in my fridge and kitchen.

One such energy snack that I love are these quick-t0-make, peanut butter, honey, almond bites. I usually have one in the afternoon when I need a pick-me-up and they’re easy to travel with when I’m on the road. 

Sometimes (like above) they don’t roll into perfect balls because they can be sticky, but despite how they might look, they’re tasty and healthy.

The ingredients are simple:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup diced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed

Put all ingredients together in a bowl, mix well.

Roll into small balls and place into refrigerator. They will harden a bit over night and can be stored in the fridge, as well.

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Stem Ciders Opens Acreage on 12 Acres in Lafayette

by Grace Boyle on February 28, 2018

Acreage, by Stem Ciders, opened on Saturday, February 24th. The 30,000 square-foot-space sits on a 12-acre hilltop behind a tech park in Lafayette. Part cider-house, part thoughtful wood-fired restaurant, part production facility and offices for the Stem Cider team.

The Space: Upon entering the space, the views are spectacular from inside the tap room, to outside on the patio as you view the mountains to the west. The interior is filled with an open kitchen, a long wooden bar filled with their cider taps, and picnic style community tables and booths in the back that invoke community and gathering as a group over food and cider.

The combination of materials from wood, to steel, to white subway tile is really warm and rustic. It doesn’t hurt that the entire space is literally warmed by the wood and smoky flavors.

In addition, when you walk to the bathrooms they majestically overlook the large production facility, which gives patrons an opportunity to be tied to the whole process and labor of love they’re supporting.

The Food: Stem Ciders pulled in local culinary superheroes, Kelly Whitaker of Id Est Hospitality and Basta and Daniel Asher of Boulder’s River and Woods, and formerly of Edible Beats Restaurants. The food is Basque-inspired and all wood-fired. Every menu item is gluten-free (except for the burger buns) which is impressive and a nice touch for a cidery.

I love how they incorporate Stem cider into some of the menu like the house aïoli made with Big B’s apple cider vinegar from Hotchkiss, and the mussel broth which has Stem’s Real Dry Apple Cider in it.

The menu ranges from the grill items – pasture party, gone fishing, and sausages – to a preserved section, a vegetable utilization plan (Asher has always been vegetable forward), to en frites, and burgers. There’s really a little something for everyone and you notice that each dish pairs well with cider.

Be sure to try the illegal poutine with Wisconsin cheddar curds, shitake gravy, and roasted anaheim peppers, the wood roasted whole market fish stuffed with citrus and herb, gluten-free cast iron cornbread with pimento cheese, apple-cider donuts, and the venison sausage with port wine served with warm cider sauerkrat. The menu elevates their food game and truly makes it a destination.

Another big benefit of this space is that Stem Ciders is able to rapidly grow their production as they can now expand to 70,000 barrels of cider a year now. On tap, they have 24 ciders which is far more than their RiNo location.

For the future, Acreage plans to plant an orchard and farm, where they can grow the food, be an apple source for their cider, and of course a wonderful place for families and even hosting private events. This is a great addition to the Lafayette area and I know it will be well loved.

Find Them:

acreageco.com

1380 Horizon Avenue, Unit A, Lafayette, CO 80026

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East of I-25, in Weld County, sits the burgeoning community of Frederick, Colorado. With 12,000 people strong, it’s not exactly a foodie destination, but it’s in proximity to many areas and recent development efforts make it an up-and-coming Front Range community.

One thing I found fascinating is that Frederick was incorporated in 1907 by three women who named the town after their father, Frederick A. Clark, the landowner of the site. It was a mining town and was home to almost exclusively Italian immigrants (my people)!

All that to be said, I’ve never been to Frederick, until I heard of Peel Handcrafted Pizza.

And I’ll be back. Again and again.

Here’s the thing: I run into a lot of trendiness. Denver and Boulder are well sought after and we’re lucky to have the food we have there, because it puts us on the map and it’s undoubtedly impressive (especially per capita in Boulder). But those cities have been forged for years.

Peel and the entire family that created it, cared about this local community and developing it into something much more. This takes gumption. And you know what? When you’re a driver and innovating, someone has to do something first. And that I greatly respect. I also learned that the developer helped bring Georgia Boys BBQs second location to Frederick across the street, so it’s much more than just the restaurant itself. It’s the community and the thread they care about weaving.

As owner Jason Hepp shares, “We’ve been involved in the community for a long time and on the heels of the Georgia Boys Smokehouse project we saw the opportunity available to add another layer of revitalization to the downtown area. Helping to breathe new life into the downtown would hopefully give local residents a downtown they could enjoy even more with their families and create a destination they’d like to share with others.”

Another favorite component is that this is truly a family affair. The owners are: Josh Jacobsen who is the Executive Chef (brother/son-in-law), Kevin Hepp is their wine aficionado (cousin/nephew), Jason Hepp is the local developer (son/cousin), Patrick Hepp is their systems expert (son/cousin), Angel Hepp is the marketing lead (wife/sister-in-law/daughter-in-law), and John Hepp has been an entrepreneur for 25+ years (father). They all have their hands in the restaurant.

It all feels very, if you build it, they will come.

The Space:

The interior is cozy and warm with a bar and the open kitchen/pizza oven as the focal point of the restaurant. To me, this feels like putting your heart on your sleeve – you show what you’ve got and everyone sees the ins and outs.

The bar and tabletops are made from repurposed bowling alley floor and a big part of the rest of the wood interior comes from a 100-year-old building (Douglas fir wood) that was next to this building, that they salvaged as it was coming down. There’s exposed steel beams and white subway tile encompassing the pizza oven and kitchen.In the summer months, they open the garage door windows out to their patio filled with Colorado-made Adirondack chairs, twinkle lights, and their own herb garden.

Their wood-fired pizza oven came from Italy and glows from the embers inside.

The Food: 

The team focuses the majority of their food on local and each server easily rattled off the local, nearby farms like Grateful Hearts Farm and other purveyors each item of food came from. The menu has starters, salads, pizza, paninis, and a kids pizza menu option for kids under 12. They plan to rotate the menu for seasonality around twice a year.

There’s a board with rotating specials with meat, cheese, and then a pasta special, salad special, and their desserts of the week. This kind of flexibility shows the stand-bys stay on their menu but they focus on seasonality where locals can still find something new and inventive.

The thin, hand-crusted pizza is a focal point of their menu. The pizza crisps in 60 seconds as the oven is 800 degrees. They have around nine pizzas, including a weekly rotating staff-made special, and even a make-your-own section to craft your favorite. They also offer gluten-free pizza.

I loved their pepperoni pizza particularly because they use Parmesan (instead of a more traditional mozzarella) which makes for a nutty flavor and lets the sauce and crust shine – see the look in photo above.

It has the perfect crispy thinness. On one wall they have the BPT (best pizza time) which reflects who can prepare the pizza from scratch and cook time. Currently, the best time is one minute thirty-eight seconds.

Pizza prices range from $12-16 per pie. It’s probably worth noting that their prices look more like Boulder prices (which at first surprised me), but because of the high quality local ingredients, I was happy to pay the price. It’s well worth it.

Their charcuterie plates rotate frequently – there’s a specials wall featuring their meat and cheese – including the likes of North Denver sausage, house made pickles, Moon Hill Drunken Higby cheese from Steamboat, house made mustard, and bread made special for them from (James Beard Nominated) Moxie bread. This particular plate was adorned with delicious, delicate micro greens.One thing I always wonder about with meat and cheese plates is that you pay a lot but you get one cheese and one meat. I like the range Peel offers from their Poplar plate ($8.50 – one meat, one cheese, accompaniments, sliced bread) or like their Mahogany plate ($17 – three meats, three cheese, etc. etc.).

The pasta dishes they offer are topped with their homemade sauce with pasta sourced from Pappardelle in Denver. The pasta dishes are rustic, simple, and hearty.

For dessert, we tried the pie in a jar and this seasonal creme brûlée with citrus. I loved the delivery of the dessert and also how fun it was. They also have a seasonal cheesecake and seasonal crisp that rotates on the menu.

Peel represents what a lot of heart and dedication can do, no matter the location. The food was so impressive it was one of the better meals I’ve had out in months. I can’t wait to go in the Summer to sit on their patio and enjoy the seasonal food they offer. Go for a little drive, to try them out!

Find Them:

peelhandcraftedpizza.com | 214 Fifth Street, Frederick, CO 80530

Happy hour Monday through Friday from 2:00-5:30 p.m. Open seven days a week until 8 p.m. (9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday)

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Johnny Curiel comes from a proud family of chefs – his mom, dad, and sister are all executive chefs. He joked with me, however, his parents didn’t initially encourage being a chef because they knew firsthand about the long hours and immense hard work it requires. Nonetheless, it was in his blood and he couldn’t turn away from it.

Thus, he started young in kitchens. At age 14 he began washing dishes in his dad’s kitchen in Mexico. At age 18 he traveled across Mexico to learn the time honored food traditions from each state of his home country. When he turned 21 he joined Richard Sandoval, where his cooking brought him to D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, and Aspen. Next, he joined Troy Guard where he worked at Guard + Grace, Los Chingones, and Mr. Tuna. He did a quick consulting stint at Bar Taco (new neighbor to Centro) and then he joined the Big Red F team as the Executive Chef of Centro on November 1st, 2017.

Centro (950 Pearl Street) has been a downtown staple since 2007. It’s been a longtime favorite happy hour location of mine – that amazing indoor/outdoor patio, margaritas, fresh salsa, and chips do the trick. I even wrote about them in 2011

Johnny’s new salsas: Salsa on the left is Macha (hails from Veracruz) where it’s actually very creamy and is peanut and chiopotle based. 

However, it’s gone through an evolution of its food and since I’ve lived here (2008), this is the best refresh and upgrade I’ve tasted at Centro with Johnny’s creations.

When asked how much of the menu he changed, he said, “99 percent.” He notes he kept the avocado salsa and that’s about it. You can also see the menu has expanded with far more options which include more seafood than before. Just like Johnny – ambitious and pushing the envelope.

When asked about how much creative freedom he was given, he smiled and said although he was open to guidance and feedback, they wanted to see what he could bring to the table (no pun intended) and gave him the reins. He dug right in. Because of his connections in Mexico he is able to bring in fresh herbs and otherwise difficult-to-find ingredients in regular shipments to the restaurant. His focus was infusing very special regional cuisine from every state of Mexico across the menu, up-leveling the cuisine, while being creative yet approachable.

Johnny shared that he wanted to be sure to include interesting sides on the menu because he wants to encourage sharing and family-style eating; just how he grew up in Mexico. The sides are hardly a throw-away – like their esquites dish (below): sweet corn salad, with limo aoili, dehydrated mole negro and cotija cheese or their pan-seared carrots which look like a carrot castle when they come out with greek yogurt (one of Johnny’s favorite ingredients) candied walnuts, and fresh fennel.

There are six tacos on the dinner menu, all of which are under $5. For lunch, there are tortas and bowls – which are not on the dinner menu. The two meal services vary quite a bit in the food they offer, to cater to different styles.

Johnny and his team cook everything from scratch and often many of the dishes are lengthy to prepare (to be done right) like his mole negro which takes 1.5 days to make, or the achiote pork collar is smoked for 8 hours, and one of their vegetarian dishes, the banana leaf tamal, takes two hours just to thoroughly clean the large leaves.

Tumbada (arroz la tumbada, a traditional Mexican dish prepared with rice and seafood – also known as the Yucatan’s ‘hangover cure’): Pan seared octopus, gulf shrimp, bay scallops, roasted garlic, guajillo peppers, lime, over a red pepper sofrito rice.

When asked about his favorite dish on this diverse and sophisticated menu, Johnny doesn’t hesitate when he shares it’s the slow roasted lamb taco made with chile guajillo, pan-seared tortilla and tomatillo-chile de arbol salsa. It’s a simple taco and he suggest squeezing the lime over the taco for the right taste. When asked why it’s his favorite, he shared it reminds him of his childhood and it’s exactly how his mother made it for him after church every Sunday.

Bottom Left Taco: Pork belly carnitas, black bean refritos, salsa oaxaca, avocado. Top Right Taco: Slow Roasted Lamb (the Johnny fave).

Finally, I was surprised to learn he has no pastry chef and he also makes all the desserts everyday. He insists he keeps it simple but upon trying his tres leches cake (below) it’s anything but straightforward in the best way possible. Instead of traditional milk, he uses mezcal eggnog, goats milk caramel, strawberry chile di ablo preserves, and whip cream integrated with greek yogurt atop a sugar cookie. I suggest pairing with a glass of Mezcal while you’re at it.

I encourage you to try this completely overhauled menu under the new chef direction.

Finally, Centro has many weekly specials that can’t be missed. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Monday all night happy hour – 3 to 6 p.m. and dishes are $6 or less, beer cans for $3, $5 margs.
  • Sunday is family night and kids eat free (plus at night, they feature different live bands).
  • Tamale Tuesdays (they get taco tuesday is played out) so try seasonal tamales for $2.
  • They also serve brunch Saturday and Sunday with weekend specials.

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The Plant Collective – Digital Cookbook

by Grace Boyle on December 17, 2017

The Plant Collective is an e-cookbook featuring more than 50 plant-based recipes from 32 leaders in food + wellness compiled and created by a friend I grew up with, Emily Rose Shaw.

The e-cookbook donates 60% of all sales to Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard Project which helps build school gardens and teaches sustainable food practices to students.

The contributors range from Amanda Chantal Bacon of Moon Juice fame, Thea Baumann  of Goop, PLANTLAB and many more which makes for an eclectic and robust community. As Emily shared, “I have such respect for every single contributor in this book, who show up daily expressing their passion for the culinary and healing arts.”

When asked about the e-cookbook Emily shares that the book is about “community as it unites leaders in food and wellness who believe food is medicine, creatively demonstrating how delicious, pleasurable, and beautiful healthy foods really are.” The focus is on finding new, creative ways to use fruits and vegetables and healthier versions of holiday favorites.

The e-cookbook has sections in: small bites, small plates, mains, sweets and drinks rounding out options for everyone. This book appeals to the “vegetarian superfoodie”, but Emily believes that anyone could find a healthy recipe they would enjoy.

The photos in the recipe are vibrant and bright making for a beautiful digital resource.

Some of the recipes are unique and ones that may not be in your everyday cooking (I love a little reach) like the matcha cheesecake truffles or golden bechamel spaghetti squash with pine nut parmesan and some are simple and healthy like the lemon garlic beans or olive oil mashed potatoes.

This digital cookbook is available for $20 in an online format/PDF for easy consumption. Perfect for the holiday season, especially given the charitable effort of this beautiful cookbook. You can purchase the book here.

Happy holidays! Happy eating.

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Vacation: Ambergris Caye, Belize

by Grace Boyle on November 1, 2017

Earlier this year we went to Belize for some much needed R&R.

I hadn’t been to Belize before but was intrigued because there’s a direct flight from Denver (yes, Southwest!) and the flights are essentially as short as a flight to the East Coast for us. Price wise, it allowed us to really get away and to another country, but they were really reasonable. We went in July which is the beginning of their rainy season, but we had sunshine almost everyday and the rain at night cooled it off. Pro tip: Be sure you pack your mosquito spray, that will be needed.

Besides the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Belize has the second longest reef in the world. Although we aren’t divers, we love the ocean and snorkeling so it was a huge plus.

Belize is an English speaking nation, as well. They’ll take US dollars most anywhere, but their currency is the Belize dollar (about $0.50 US = 1 Belize Dollars is the current exchange rate).

We decided on Ambergris Caye (pronounced “key”) which is one of the islands off the coast of mainland Belize. There’s just one town there, San Pedro which does have a small airport.

Transportation: 

We flew into Belize City which has many flights on the mainland. Many tourists travel to the islands which are most commonly: Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. You can take a cab from the airport to the ferry and ferry to the islands or you can take a small plane from Belize City to the islands. We took the ferry because it’s a bit cheaper, but next time we’ll take the small plane.

On the island of San Pedro there really aren’t any cars. Most everyone drives golf carts and they’re available for rental by many different providers. If you stay at a hotel they’ll likely be able to arrange for rental.

Stay:

We stayed at Matachica, a small, remote, boutique resort and spa north of the hustle and bustle of San Pedro.

Matachica Casitas

Matachica Deck

There are just 32 thatched casitas and then there’s the main lodge, restaurant/bar, pool, and spa. Instead of opting for a generic hotel room, the bungalows were private, spacious, and very serene. Some casitas were oceanfront but even the ‘further away’ ones, were probably just 200-300 feet from the beach.

Our casita had a spacious bathroom with double sinks, a front room with a couch, luscious king size bed with hanging canopy mosquito net, and front porch with hammock. They’re all named after fruit, ours was Dragonfruit.

Casitas

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Photos Courtesy: Matachica Resort

We researched a lot of hotels and resorts on the island. We tend to stray from large and all inclusive and we wanted something more intimate and special. It’s also kid free. Matachica really exceeded our expectations and I couldn’t recommend it more.

It was luxurious, peaceful, oceanfront, and everything was very personalized. Even when we arrived by boat, they had our favorite drinks waiting for us.

Besides the beauty, the service was perhaps the most impressive. Everyone knows you by name, they’re so committed to ensuring your stay is seamless, and there’s a lot of thought and care into the resort. Speaking to and become friends with so much of the staff, they also share it’s one of the best places to work on the island. We hugged them all one by one as we left, they made our stay so wonderful.

We loved how there were no clocks, wireless, or even television in the casitas. We truly unplugged and in the connected world we live in, a week free of technology was blissful. Don’t worry, the main lodge has wireless if you so require it.

The restaurant and bar, Mambo, made it easy for us to eat there a good amount of the time (breakfast was included in the price). Since you’re north of the island by a few miles, you would have to traverse a bit to eat which we certainly did, but again our M.O. was to relax and not have to do much of anything which was perfect. I must add, in some ways the food felt a little overpriced for what it was and it felt Americanized to me but I understand they’re catering to their audience. Overall, it was good and if you stick to the more Belizean dishes and fresh seafood, you’ll be good.

I’ll also add – order the coconut mojitos – they’re dangerous, as you’re laying on the beach they keep bringing them to you with seemingly perfect timing just as your drink runs out. Even if you don’t stay at the resort, you can go there for dinner and/or drinks which I recommend just to see it. Often their own boats will pick you up from your said resort to bring you.

Belize Beach

 

We booked a couples massage one day and they also have many daily activities they can book for you. We went reef fishing, snorkeling and flats fly fishing (Belize is very well known for its fly fishing).

Belize Fishing

All the snapper we caught from reef fishing, was brought in right to the chef of the restaurant, and they cooked it for us. It was probably one of the best meals of the trip. Can’t beat the freshness.

fishing

fish caught

Snapper Four Ways

The Food + Drinks: 

Here were our favorite restaurants and bars on the island of Ambergris Caye.

El Fogon: This firewood style Belizean restaurant is in the town of San Pedro off a side street. It was one of our favorite meals of the trip. I ordered the coconut curry shrimp with coconut rice – they’re known for their stews like this that simmer all day in the hearth, so definitely order something akin. The whole snapper (below) had been grilled over an open fire and was incredibly fresh.

Whole Snapper at El Fogon Belize

Estel’s Dine by the Sea: They serve breakfast all day in this cute beachfront house in San Pedro. Order the fry jacks and ask for a drizzle of honey – Belizean deep fried dough. The menu is written on a chalkboard and combines traditional Belizean breakfast alongside your standard omelets and french toast. I recommend the large breakfast burrito or the huevos picture below next to the fry jacks.

Estel's

Rojo Beach Bar: This is near Matachica so it’s north of the island if you stay in San Pedro. We only had snacks here, but I loved the infinity pool, the dogs running around, the casual vibe, games, and ocean front bar. Great place to hang and have drinks and to get away from the bustle of San Pedro. Here’s a view of my giant rum punch off the side of the pool.

View from Rojo

The Dive Bar: We only went here for late night eats but I think it’s a great ambiance for live music and to enjoy the open air bar.

The Dive Bar

Truck Stop: This felt pretty touristy to me, but it’s still a cool ambiance. They’re a shipping container food park and beer garden. There are different stations for food, dessert, and there’s a bar. We stopped by after dinner on our way home from San Pedro and enjoyed a movie out back over the water as they often host movie night. I love how the addresses are often as descriptive as: “1 mile north” in San Pedro (as in, The Truck Stop). They’re only open Wednesday through Sunday until 9 p.m.

Truck Stop

Sun DeckAbout a five minute walk north from Matachica, is a tiny hole in the wall beach shack. This will be the least touristy place you visit in Ambergris Caye. There are just a few plastic table and chairs inside, and picnic table seating on the deck. Don’t be daunted by it’s outward appearance. It’s a few steps from the water and it was some of the best jerk lobster we had the whole trip alongside some plantains and rice. The owners is so kind and I’m so glad we stopped in. If you want an adventure and try something off the beaten path, make a stop.

Belize Sun Deck

Bonus:

  • We love the hot sauce that’s made in Belize – Marie Sharp’s. It will be everywhere you eat but we brought so much back with it. I personally love the Original Hot – it’s a carrot based blend and the perfect amount of spice and tinge of sweetness.
  • Belikin Beer: We enjoyed the light, easy to drink Belizean beer, Belikin. Be sure to try it.

We would definitely go back to Belize. There was a lot of warmth in the people and there’s so much to do and see, not to mention their rich history and culture.

And no, none of this was sponsored. These are just genuine recommendations from places we really adored.

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