Food & Drink

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The importance of local food hubs

Posted By on Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 11:04 AM

Hobbs Family Farm's Dan Hobbs has long been a familiar face on the area's agriculture front. 

The purveyor of organic seeds and early CSA participant explained his view of a "local food system" for the Indy in 2009, and he remains a key member of the Arkansas Valley Organic Growers

More recently, Hobbs and his AVOG cohorts established the Excelsior Food Hub in a former school district building outside Pueblo. 

High Country News wrote a piece here in April on the venture, and former Indy editor Kirk Woundy just contributed this feature for Springs magazine. 

“The idea,” Hobbs told Woundy, “was to build infrastructure in the rural area, close to the farms, where we could aggregate, distribute, market together — do together what we couldn’t do alone.”

Give the rest of the piece a read to gain a new appreciation for that produce you pick up at the Colorado Farm & Art Market

First generation Avondale farmer Dan Hobbs talks about the 'tightly knit' agriculture community, which makes a project like Excelsior possible. - COURTESY DAN HOBBS
  • Courtesy Dan Hobbs
  • First generation Avondale farmer Dan Hobbs talks about the 'tightly knit' agriculture community, which makes a project like Excelsior possible.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Caffeine Crawl returns to Springs/Denver

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2016 at 1:55 PM

On Saturday, Aug. 13, the Caffeine Crawl hits 11 local drink houses. Each of four different routes visits between five and six spots. (You must provide your own transportation for three of these routes; the fourth is a walking tour that begins at SwitchBack Coffee Roasters.)

The following day, if you're already hip to our scene but haven't headed north for coffee, Denver hosts 23 featured spots between six different routes

Here's who's participating down here:
Building3 Coffee Roasters
Copper Kettle Coffee
Loyal Coffee
Nourish Organic Juice
Ohana Kava Bar
Peak Place Coffeehouse
The Principal's Office
Story Coffee Co.
SwitchBack Coffee Roasters
Welcome Fellow
Wild Goose Meeting House
Tickets, $25 to $28, get you an event bag with Crawl schwag, plus entry to each place, which includes a drink or chocolate sample plus a short presentation. Also, each ticket comes with a free passport from The Passport Program, "a $20 value that provides two-for-one drinks at 34 local boozy venues around Colorado Springs, or 24 local coffee venues in Denver."
MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper

Now, an argument could be made that this is just another one of those events where someone outside of the immediate community steps in and organizes something where the money largely leaves Colorado Springs. And there's not even a local non-profit attached in this case.  

A simple retort might be, "Well, someone here could have organized something just like it and kept the money at each local business — but they didn't." And obviously, you could self-tour these same places on your own time and dime and likely chat with a friendly barista at each to glean their story. 

I asked event co-organizer Sadie Renee if the participating shops get any portion of ticket sales. She responded: 

The shops do not pay a participation fee unless they are interested in event sponsorship, and they receive a good deal of press promotion, local and national industry exposure, social media buzz before/during/after the event, and typically at least 5-20 new customers in exchange for the approximately 1-2 hours of hosting time and samples for each attendee. Check out the "Investment/ROI" section at the top of this page for more info on that.
That page, if you are too fussy to click the link, estimates this much return for shops:

Let’s be conservative, and say you gain 10 new year-round customers that visit once a week. That’s at least $3,000. Add another 15 individuals that start frequently 1 time a month more. That’s another $1,000. ...
So, that's the rough money trail. If you're still interested on hitting this particular coffee trail, get your tickets here
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Monday, July 25, 2016

Venetucci Farm suspends sales until water tested

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 1:45 PM

UPDATE:

After getting calls and emails over the weekend, the Indy has more information to share about the situation at Venetucci.


First is that Peterson Air Force Base, the primary suspected source of this contamination, has pledged $108,000 to supplying the most affected residents with bottled water until a more permanent treatment plan gets finalized. The select recipients include Venetucci Farm which got its first shipment on Friday. But, the bottled water is enough for the humans — but not the plants or animals — to drink.


Second is that people are pissed.


Brittany McCulloch, who puts in hours at Venetucci in exchange for produce, wrote to the Indy expressing discontent with PPCF’s decision. “To ‘suspend sales and distribution’ of the produce changes not just my dinner plate, but my life,” she said. “We are informed consumers: [farm manager Susan Gordon] has been clear and upfront about the water situation. With this information, we made the choice to continue eating Venetucci produce. Yet now, a few people have taken away our ability to choose for ourselves.”


A farm share member for 7 years, Amanda Gaden shares the sentiment. “We were, as members, fully aware of the situation, and had all the information presented to us as you got it - with the option to cancel our membership,” she wrote to Gordon. “And we didn't, for a whole host of reasons, all made by consenting and conscientious adults.”


And third is that jury’s still out on the beer front.


Bristol Brewing Co. marketing coordinator Steve Oliveri says the brewery will await test results too as it eyes its annual fall harvest of gourds for its highly popular Venetucci Pumpkin Ale.


He says the brewery harvested in the first week of October last year, so there’s plenty of time between now and then to figure out a strategy should the brewery need to replace its pumpkin source. Either way, he says the brewery remains committed to supporting the farm as part of its Community Ales series.


Bristol co-hosted a volunteer weeding session this past Saturday at the farm, which will be followed by more similar events. He says even if the pumpkins can’t be used for consumption, the farm can still grow them to be given away to children for jack-o’-lanterns come October.
The biggest and oldest working farm in the city will have to leave its produce in the dirt to rot for the rest of this growing season due to uncertainty around contamination of the groundwater



A press release from Pikes Peak Community Foundation on Friday afternoon announced that Venetucci Farm won't be selling or distributing anything until results from testing its water, soil and veggies come back. That won't happen for another month or two, hence the precautionary measure, according to PPCF CEO Gary Butterworth. "We wanted to take an abundance of caution," he told the Indy, adding that the nearly 200-acre heritage farm "is still an asset we can utilize in some fashion."

venetucci_farm_bb_09.jpg

For now, he says, there are no definitive answers for what will happen to the produce, finances or operations of the farm. No employees have been laid off. 

Flags were first raised on the farm back in mid-May when the Environmental Protection Agency lowered advisory levels of perflourinated chemicals, or PFCs — an unregulated toxin linked to low birth weights, cancer and heart disease. Because Venetucci irrigates with private well water drawn directly from the aquifer, its water was then found to contain PFCs above that new, lower threshold for what you may not want to consume. 

It’s unclear, at this point, whether vegetables uptake the contaminant.

But it is clear that the suspension will be a painful blow to everyone who looks to Venetucci for fresh, local food (which they've been reliably providing since 1936.)


Natalie Seales, manager of the Colorado Farm and Art Market where Venetucci has been vending for years, is disappointed that “all this produce is going to waste when it should be feeding the community.” Since July 6, Venetucci made $600 sales under the Double Up Food Bucks Program which lets food stamp recipients double their benefits. And considering the market is a co-op, losing that will hurt not just Venetucci farmers and customers, but all the other vendors too.


“Especially when the stuff at grocery stores is covered in all these chemicals, it’s frustrating to see a farm that’s been in our community for 60 years take a hit like this,” Seales says. 


Farm manager Susan Gordon chose not to comment on this story. 
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Friday, July 22, 2016

Distillery 291 releases High Rye

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 8:56 AM

Following its awards sweep earlier this year, nearly 5-year-old Distillery 291 has announced new, limited seasonal whiskey releases ahead on the calendar. 

The first arrives next week to the tasting room and select liquor stores in the form of the 291 High Rye Colorado Bourbon Whiskey. Owner Michael Myers describes it as "a unique grain bill of 67 percent corn, 32 percent malt rye and 1 percent malt barley." Flavor wise, that's supposed to yield "a hint of caramel and cinnamon on the nose and a finish of maple syrup." 

Myers shares that this new release was made on accident, when an assistant distiller and he miscommunicated, unintentionally doubling the rye in a recipe. But he's pleased with the result. 

Catch samples from 5 to 11 p.m. next Wednesday, July 27 in the tasting room, as part of 291's tasting flight. 

His Royal High Rye. - COURTESY DISTILLERY 291
  • Courtesy Distillery 291
  • His Royal High Rye.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

UPDATE: Colorado Native gets corny

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 2:30 PM

Good label, good beer. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Good label, good beer.

We got another surprise from AC Golden today — a bottle of Colorado Native Plum, the first sour beer under the brand. It’s made with Palisade Duarte plums and aged in Colorado whiskey barrels, with 14 months between brew and bottle. It’s a moderate 6.5 percent ABV.
The foggy brown ale pours with a fine tan head. Its nose blends acid with notes of plum and tamarind over no small amount of malt. It sips tart and dry, the product of the brettanomyces added in the bottle. There’s not a lot of body, and it reminds us of cranberry juice flavor-wise. We get little to none of the promised oak notes, and no whiskey whatsoever. For what it is, though, it’s good.

—— ORIGINAL POST 2:30 P.M. FRI., JULY 15, 2016——
Colorado Native's Olathe Lager has more going on than its yellow color might suggest. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Colorado Native's Olathe Lager has more going on than its yellow color might suggest.
MillerCoors' locavorous experimental arm, AC Golden, sent us a sixer of their new summer beer, Colorado Native Olathe Lager. It's brewed with ingredients that the included press release says were grown within a mile of each other in Olathe, Colorado. The malts are pale and Munich, with "Olathe Sweet" corn added as an adjunct. It's hopped to a mild 25 IBUs with Nugget and Crystal hops, winding up at 5.6 percent ABV.

All told, this is a pretty neat lager. The clear, golden brew belies nothing of the light toasty notes from the Munich malt. While I don't get much sweetness from the corn, it does add a certain depth of flavor to the beer. Unfortunately, there's no hop bitterness to speak of, and there's nothing interesting happening on the finish. It's just kinda there, mild and inoffensive.

That said, using local ingredients makes this beer just a skosh more awesome than it might otherwise be. And while it's not the sexiest thing on the market, it's pretty darn good nonetheless.

The press release assures us that Colorado Native's Winterfest beer will hit the market in a few months.
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Willamette Market lures investors successfully

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 3:00 PM

I reported in this week's Side Dish on the tentative mid-August opening of the Willamette Market & Deli, which reopens the historic Little Market & Deli after a few years closure. 

As part of that opening, co-owners Natalie Peck and Amy Emerson were calling for 18 investors to buy in at the $4,000 level, with a planned 10 percent return, 20 percent discount for life, and modest profit share until payoff.

At Wednesday night's community meeting at the shop, Peck says around 75 folks attended, many from the neighborhood but some from blocks or a car-drive away. She described the atmosphere as "super supportive" and didn't hear any grievances against the opening, as other proposals in the past had faced. 

But more encouragingly, Peck says that 16 of those 18 investor commitments came in yesterday, and by day's end today they may be fully booked up. Five folks had signed up pre-meeting, and 11 during, she says, while another 35 or so had signed a page expressing interest and requesting the business plan via email.

"It's awesome," she says. "It's the whole reason we went with this model, because we wanted the community to be involved.  

She says more investor opportunities may arise soon via the bakery component of the business, but her current business plan is written with the 18 in mind, so she's not likely to open up more shares for the market at this time. 
The former Little Market & Deli will soon reopen as the Willamette Market & Deli.
  • The former Little Market & Deli will soon reopen as the Willamette Market & Deli.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Public Market dangles 'exciting developments'

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 10:21 AM

In today's Indy we hear from newly appointed Colorado Springs Public Market board chair, also executive director of Cottonwood Center for the Arts, Jon Khoury

He says the group is now aiming for a Labor Day opening of the market, finally, after many years in the planning.

CSPM representatives were planning an informational session for tomorrow night at Cottonwood, but that has been postponed, according to a note on CSPM's Facebook page. 

It reads:
Due to exciting developments we are postponing this event. We will let you know our rescheduled date as soon as we can.
We'll update this posting as soon as we hear word from Khoury on exactly what these developments are. 

COURTESY COTTONWOOD
  • Courtesy Cottonwood

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Friday, July 8, 2016

PPCC drops Sodexo, gains food trucks

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 11:48 AM

Yesterday we noted the arrival of a new Cambodian food truck named Awaken, noting they'd be launching service today at Pikes Peak Community College's Rampart Range Campus. 

Well, there's a bigger story to that according to media spokespeople for PPCC, Warren Epstein and Karen Kovaly. 

The Heavenly Dessert Company will be one vendor on PPCC's campuses. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Heavenly Dessert Company will be one vendor on PPCC's campuses.
"We’ve not renewed our contract with Sodexo, instead going entirely local," Epstein told the Indy Thursday. "Rue Lyon, former majority shareholder of Kangaroo Coffee, will be doing our concessions on our largest campuses. And that will be supplemented by food trucks. Big move away from national corporate food to local, and Rue plans to source from regional ingredients whenever possible."

Today, Kovaly followed up with a press release which explains the new format in full:

“We’re excited about offering our students, faculty, staff and guests fresh, quality choices as well as supporting our local business community,” said PPCC President Lance Bolton.
The new food provider, Rue Lyon, had been the majority owner of Kangaroo Coffee. She plans to serve a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, soups, salads and snacks.
“I want to have outstanding food and a hip social space where students will want to relax and enjoy,” Lyon said.
Lyon says she will source local and regional ingredients whenever possible. She also plans to employ PPCC culinary students for special events and even foresees integrating business students, creating an environment to teach what it takes to run a small business.
Both concession areas are currently closed for renovation. The Centennial Campus concessions will open the week of July 11 and the Rampart Range on the week of July 18.
But Lyon sees this as a long-term evolutionary process, and will be making small adjustments to the spaces and the food over the course of a year.

Among the food trucks:
· Vore, specializing in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches
· Potato! Potato! specializing in French fries with various toppings
· Heavenly Desserts, specializing in gourmet sweets
· Mira Sol, specializing in New Mexican cuisine
· Awaken, specializing in Cambodian cuisine
· Smokinist Barbeque, specializing in smoked meats
· SuppenBar, specializing in German soups and salads

The trucks will serve 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Centennial Campus on the south side of town. The schedule for the Rampart Range Campus on the north end of town is still in the works. Schedules will be posted on the Pikes Peak Community College Facebook page.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Awaken Cambodian food truck launches

Posted By on Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 1:38 PM

Awaken Food Truck will hit the streets for the first time Friday, parking at Pikes Peak Community College's Rampart Range Campus at 11195 Interquest Pkwy. from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or sell-out. 

Vietnamese have the bánh mì sandwich and Cambodians make a similar, French-influenced sandwich called num pang. - COURTESY CHHAYA PHAT
  • Courtesy Chhaya Phat
  • Vietnamese have the bánh mì sandwich and Cambodians make a similar, French-influenced sandwich called num pang.
The truck is the Springs' first Cambodian eatery, to the best of our knowledge. Owner Chhaya Phat, 35, recently got out of the Army, where he was a cook. So he's well prepared for handling crowds of eaters. 

Phat has lived in the U.S. for 11 years, and he'll infuse some American culture into traditional Cambodian fare. He and his wife eat a lot of vegetarian and vegan food at home, so he'll also make veg/vegan options available on the truck for wider market appeal. 

One vegan option is a lime leaf curry with tofu dish (check out the alluring photos on his Facebook page), and another is a vegan "chick’n" marinated in curry, topped with red cabbage, cilantro and plant-based mayonnaise on a vegan French baguette.

Carnivores will appreciate num pang sandwiches, similar to Vietnamese bánh mì, on account of both countries being colonized and culinarily influenced by the French. Phat says one distinguishing feature is the Vietnamese tend to garnish with daikon and carrots, while Cambodians opt for shredded green papaya, like that which composes Thai som tum salads. 

For drinks, look for iced Thai tea, Cambodian iced coffee and regular or mint house lemonade. 

We'll have a little more info in next week's Side Dish column. 
Awaken's truck banner pays homage to Angkor Wat and Cambodia's Buddhist culture. - COURTESY CHHAYA PHAT
  • Courtesy Chhaya Phat
  • Awaken's truck banner pays homage to Angkor Wat and Cambodia's Buddhist culture.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Rita's Italian Ice to open C. Springs store

Posted By on Wed, Jul 6, 2016 at 2:51 PM

With more than 600 locations open, mostly along the East Coast, Rita's Italian Ice is no small chain. But the opening of the first C. Springs location at 7866 N. Academy Blvd. around month's end will mark only the third Colorado location. 

Aside from Italian ice, the store sells sundaes, custard, milkshakes and more. They offer sugar-free and "all-natural flavors" as well as lactose-free options.  

Rita's won't host its grand opening party until Sunday, Aug. 21, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., but expect a soft opening sometime prior. Here's why you may wish to mark your calendar early for that grand opening though: 
The event will feature FREE regular Italian Ice to everyone all day long, free samples to those waiting in line, and the first 50 people in line will receive free ice for a year ... During the event Rita’s will have retired Bronco players Randy Gradishar and David Treadwell signing autographs and will be giving away concert tickets through Peak FM. Rita’s will have live music by Hal Meyer, a live radio remote by Peak FM’s morning crew, a photo booth, ribbon cutting, and a magician along with other Rita’s giveaways.

A press release says Rita's plans to team up with a non-profit for its grand opening and also host fundraisers for local schools and organizations down the road. It's being opened by Kathy and Tyler Gehauf. Tyler is co-owner of Integrated Pest Management and a Colorado native, while Kathy hails from Pennsylvania, where Rita's was founded 32 years ago. 

COURTESY RITA'S
  • Courtesy Rita's

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lee Spirits releases two new gins

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 5:03 PM

We first met Lee Spirits Co. in early 2015, when cousins Nick and Ian Lee were focusing on a flagship dry gin, but discussing future releases such as a genever.  

A year later we thoroughly enjoyed the opening of Brooklyn's on Boulder, the speakeasy front for Lee Spirits, which touts leading local bartender and drink historian Nate Windham, among a seasoned staff. 

And now, Lee Spirits is poised to celebrate two new products: a cocoa gin and a lavender gin.

Tickets remain for two launch parties tomorrow night, July 6: one from 5 to 7 p.m. and the other from 8 to 10 p.m. Here's what the $50 entry fee gets you:

1 'Batch One' bottle of new Gin for you to take home, either Lavender or Cocoa ($45 value)
A punch glass to sample a few summer punches, all made with either Lavender or Cocoa ($20 value)
& other surprises that we can't share yet - you'll have to just be here too find out ($25+ value)
We'll also have a full cocktail menu using the Coca and Lavender Gins for you to check out and recipes for you to take home to use!
If you can't make either party, check out the products at Brooklyn's soon or nab a bottle from one of our fine local liquor stores. 
COURTESY LEE SPIRITS
  • Courtesy Lee Spirits

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Barista-owned Loyal Coffee soon to open

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2016 at 12:47 PM

Not to strike too superlative a stance on it, but potentially the most fancy schmancy, cool, hip, community-building, excellence-pushing, third-wavy thing to happen to the coffee world in Colorado Springs is just weeks away from happening.

Which isn't to say we're downplaying recent haps such as Springs native Charles Babinski winning the U.S. Barista Championship, or Principal's Office barista Tyler Hill finishing strong at this years USBC, or USBC judge Carissa Niemyer co-founding the fantastic Story Coffee tiny house trailer in Acacia Park.
Loyal Coffee GM Tyler Hill, who's coming from the Principal's Office and filed a fine performance at this year's U.S. Barista Championship in Atlanta. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Loyal Coffee GM Tyler Hill, who's coming from the Principal's Office and filed a fine performance at this year's U.S. Barista Championship in Atlanta.

But I'm talking about the opening of Loyal Coffee at 408 S. Nevada Ave., next to the Blue Dot Place and Iron Bird Brewing and just a block down from the Indy office building. 

There's so much energy and community overlap built into this project that chances are, if you've frequented any of our fine coffee houses, you've already heard whispers of this project. Of central importance to note is the ownership structure, which includes six local baristas. 

Tyler Hill, Eric Nicol and Seth Fuller most recently hail from the Principal's Office, but collectively date back to work stints at quality spots like Colorado Coffee Merchants, R&R Coffee, and Urban Steam. Bevin Cammell also came out of CCM, currently holding court at Switchback Coffee Roasters and Fifty Fifty. And Abigail Baum and Christopher Mueller should be familiar faces from The Wild Goose Meeting House, among a couple other postings. 

Your first taste of Loyal Coffee can now be had at the Principal's Office, where a few of Loyal Coffee's co-owners still work. Later in the fall, they'll open their roastery at Ivywild School (downstairs below the P.O.'s patio) where you'll also be able to purchase retail beans. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Your first taste of Loyal Coffee can now be had at the Principal's Office, where a few of Loyal Coffee's co-owners still work. Later in the fall, they'll open their roastery at Ivywild School (downstairs below the P.O.'s patio) where you'll also be able to purchase retail beans.
Now, that may sound like a lot of chiefs, thereby a recipe for control struggles, tension and disaster, but in talking with Hill at the building site yesterday, I quickly gathered that's something the team has discussed at length. He says they've worked out a clear hierarchy of sorts. For example, he alone is handling media right now, while Cammell and Fuller are focusing on Loyal Coffee's new roasting and barista training facility, which will open inside the Ivywild School (under the P.O.'s patio) later this fall. He says "very specific roles" should keep things on track, plus all six plan to be present throughout the week to staff the counter at Loyal Coffee — so regular communication and troubleshooting will be a given. 

Hill says the Blue Star Group's Joseph Coleman has been a tremendous supporter of the project, in-part allowing the guys to keep their bartending and barista jobs for as long as they need to as they get Loyal Coffee up and running. But Coleman has also supported the sale of Loyal Coffee beans inside the Principal's Office (you can go buy a bag today or try a cup of their product at the counter) and basically made it clear, "whatever it takes for you guys to succeed, I'll help," says Hill. 

He also gives a shout-out to Switchback Coffee Roasters' crew, who've allowed Loyal Coffee to rent time on their roasters until the Ivywild facility gets up to speed. Hill says there's planned collaborations in the future with Switchback, and generally says "our partnership with them is stupid cool." 

As to what should make Loyal Coffee special, beyond all the seasoned talent, Hill points to a very meticulous product lineup, and of course some expensive coffee gadgetry. They'll be roasting on a 15 kilo Probat drum roaster, and pulling shots off a La Marzocco Strada EP. And like Charles Babinski at L.A.'s Go Get Em Tiger and G&B, they'll be focusing on an extremely efficient service process, to include batch brewing and highly automated systems. To be clear: That's not to be lazy or remove barista skill, but to create a super consistent product that can be quickly delivered. It's like the third-wave version of a Starbuck's mentality — in the end it's all geared toward great customer service for those on the run and those with time to linger. 
The business partners and crew hard at work to open sometime around early August, tentatively. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The business partners and crew hard at work to open sometime around early August, tentatively.

Loyal Coffee, recently given national attention by Sprudge, will hold a full liquor license in addition to the drips, pourovers and espresso drinks, some utilizing Madcap Coffee. Hill says "We're a coffee company first for sure, but we love our booze." 

They won't seek to compete with the wide offerings on display at the Principal's Office, but will simplify hooch offerings, he says, focusing on some classics like gin and tonics as well as digestifs and amaros and the like. 

For food offerings, Hill says Loyal Coffee will focus on the toast trend, backed by "spiritual" (as in epic-excellent) breads baked by the upcoming Lincoln School baker David McInnis. He's envisioning simple items like toast and butter or jam or housemade Nutella, but also toast sandwiches like a Caprese or cream cheese and salmon sandwich. Pastries and charcuterie items will be purveyed from elsewhere (there's no full kitchen on site, just a prep area), but Hill hasn't finalized tastings and a contract with anyone yet. He says he'll aim for local companies first, but the best product at the end of the day if it means buying from elsewhere. 

We should expect a prolonged soft opening period around early August, says Hill, prior to some sort of grand opening throwdown closer to September. Meanwhile, here's a few more pics of the progress inside the buildout:

When the paper comes down from the windows, Loyal Coffee will capture abundant sunlight, facing Nevada Avenue. Guests will walk a perimeter around a dining area for grab-and-go. Hill says they designed that so folks would be very visible as they move through, encouraging interactions and community building. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • When the paper comes down from the windows, Loyal Coffee will capture abundant sunlight, facing Nevada Avenue. Guests will walk a perimeter around a dining area for grab-and-go. Hill says they designed that so folks would be very visible as they move through, encouraging interactions and community building.

A large bay door will open up to a patio leading to the Blue Dot Place. Groups will be able to congregate around a counter with both indoor and outdoor seats. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A large bay door will open up to a patio leading to the Blue Dot Place. Groups will be able to congregate around a counter with both indoor and outdoor seats.

Upon entry, you'll be staring directly ahead at a shiny new La Marzocco Strada EP machine and the service counter, past some booth seating and a small retail area. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Upon entry, you'll be staring directly ahead at a shiny new La Marzocco Strada EP machine and the service counter, past some booth seating and a small retail area.


Guests will be able to enter on the west side of the building as well, through a parking lot. The main door faces south. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Guests will be able to enter on the west side of the building as well, through a parking lot. The main door faces south.

While doing demo, the group uncovered vintage signage for Rainbo bread, which they've preserved. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • While doing demo, the group uncovered vintage signage for Rainbo bread, which they've preserved.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Six ways to serve Laws whiskey

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 8:18 AM

This past Sunday at Bonny and Read, I co-judged the A.D. Laws Cocktail Competition, largely organized by Wobbly Olive proprietor Sean Fitzgerald.

Beyond building community and camaraderie amongst local mixologists, the event served to highlight the very fine whiskey product. One of the first things you'll hear spoken about Laws is that it comes from distiller Jake Norris, original partner in Stranahan's. It's an exceedingly good whiskey. 


First place finisher Jason Sweeney of The Principal's Office. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • First place finisher Jason Sweeney of The Principal's Office.

Bartenders from the following spots participated in the comp: Supernova, The Principal's Office, Wobbly Olive, Cowboy Star, and TILL. 

As judges, we scored inside three categories: taste, mixology and appearance. In that first category, we sought balance and proper texture as well as flavor-enhancing aroma. In the second, our scorecard addressed post-presentation expectations as a taster, creativity and "wow factor." Appearance factored in garnishes and "sex appeal." 

Most of all, we looked for a drink that best utilized Laws whiskey, meaning it was accentuated, not masked, and played off of to pull out aspects such as its vanilla characteristic. 

In the end, it was Jason Sweeney of The Principal's Office who won the day with his Shroom cocktail — a brilliant use of a surprising ingredient like mushroom-ginger syrup. Its rosewater ice cube enhanced the aroma and sherry contributed to a slightly creamier texture, while the ginger delivered a nice zing across the tongue. Here's his recipe:

1.5 oz AD Laws Four Grain Bourbon
.5 oz Lustau Don Nuño Dry Oloroso Sherry
.5 oz Mushroom Ginger Syrup
Pinch of salt
Rose flower water
Stirred, rocks glass over rose water ice cube, optional peeled ginger garnish.

Fitzgerald's wife and Wobbly Olive co-owner and bartender Inez Fitzgerald earned a second place finish with her Breaking the Law cocktail. It's a fabulous play off a classic Old Fashioned, featuring house-made orange caramel Oleo-Saccharum. Here's her recipe:

2 oz Laws
.5 oz Smoked Caramel Oleo
.5 oz Lustau Don Nuño Dry Oloroso Sherry
Bitters (Ango and Vanilla)
Second place finisher Inez Fitzgerald of the Wobbly Olive. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Second place finisher Inez Fitzgerald of the Wobbly Olive.

Alejandro Sanchez
, formerly of Cowboy Star and now at the newly opened TILL, nabbed third place with his Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub. Here's his recipe:

2 oz Laws
.25 lemon
.25 simple syrup
.25 strawberry rhubarb syrup
.50 Cynar
.75 Amaro Montenegro
Orange bitters
Angostura bitters

Though the other three creations didn't place at the top, the bartenders still contributed recipes and I'd still happily drink any of these drinks again. So here's a few more options for how to use Laws if none of the above are immediately appealing to you: 

The Wobbly Olive (Adam Gasper)
2 oz Laws
1 oz Deep Eddy Sweet Tea
.5 oz Dancing Pines Cherry
.5 oz Mango Tea Syrup
.5 oz Peach Liqueur
Splash Fever Tree Tonic
Fee Bros Cherry Bitters
Muddle Peach and Basil

Supernova
2 oz AD Laws Four Grain Bourbon
.5 oz Dry Vermouth
.5 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1 oz jalapeño simple syrup
1 egg white

Cowboy Star
1 oz LAWS
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 oz oj
.5 oz lemon
.5 oz maraschino
Lastly, I should note that if you aren't a seasoned at-home bartender, these recipes above may be a bit tricky to pull off (especially since we didn't get mixing directions from each bartender). Normally, I'd suggest visiting them at their respective work places to request an off-menu drink. But not all of these have ingredients regularly stocked. So I'm adjusting that here to say go have a drink with them and while enjoying it, pick their brain about how exactly you could replicate the drink at home. Cheers. 

Adam Gasper didn't place with his Laws Bourbon of Proof, but it had the most interesting appearance by far. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Adam Gasper didn't place with his Laws Bourbon of Proof, but it had the most interesting appearance by far.


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Friday, June 24, 2016

Till restaurant to open Monday

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 4:30 PM

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper

Till
 
will host its grand opening to the public next Monday evening, June 27. We'll hear from VP and culinary director Sheamus Feeley in next week's Side Dish, discussing everything from the facility's commitment to supporting local food while producing some of its own food, to wider business beliefs and a little back story on he and his team. 

But today, we got a sneak peek of the menu and tour of the almost-completed facility from Feeley and co-owner Eric Allen of Altitude Hospitality Group, which operates Garden of the Gods Gourmet, the Pinery at the Hill and Taste at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. 

Here's a look at the opening menu:  Till
Take a look at all the vibrancy on display between the impressive facility and colorful food: 
Slideshow
A sneak peek at Till
A sneak peek at Till A sneak peek at Till A sneak peek at Till A sneak peek at Till A sneak peek at Till A sneak peek at Till A sneak peek at Till A sneak peek at Till

A sneak peek at Till






By Matthew Schniper

Click to View 16 slides

 
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UPDATE: COS cocktails: shaken, not fleeced

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 10:04 AM

I mention the Wobbly Olive at the bottom of the below posting as one of the places that I generally feel I get a great cocktail at a fair price. 

After reading the post, Wobbly Olive owner Sean Fitzgerald reached out with a response, not necessarily in defense of the Blue Star's pricing, but to provide a look behind the pricing curtain from the perspective as a both a bartender and bar owner. He's allowed me to share his response here, with the caveat that this is some rough math off-the-cuff. And for industry folk, he recommends the website SevenFifty for easy price comparisons and helpful metrics.

In breaking down the assumed cost of the spirits and general restaurant expenses, I can see why they are charging so much for these cocktails.

I don’t know their exact recipes so I went on the high side. I created a table assuming very high expenses across the board (I doubt that the rent is 20% of sales).

The Crushed Violette
Grey Goose (Pear) 2oz - $38.83 per bottle, $1.15 per oz
Crème de Violette (I used Rothman) .5oz- $21 per bottle, $.83 per oz
Lemon Juice .5oz- $.50 per oz
Voveti Pro 2oz- $13 per bottle, $.51 per oz

Total Cost- $3.98 / Should be charging $14.50
screen_shot_2016-06-24_at_5.04.45_pm.png







Colorado Mint Cooler

291 Whitedog 2oz - $45 per bottle, $1.80 per oz
St. Germaine .5oz - $33.00 per bottle, $1.30 per oz
Mint Simple .75oz - $1.00 per oz
Lime Juice .75oz- $.50 per oz

Total Cost - $5.37 / Should be charging $16.00
screen_shot_2016-06-24_at_5.06.13_pm.png








What this really shows (if even close to accurate) is that they are using ingredients that force them to charge more than the cocktail is worth. It would be better for them to buy a mid-shelf vodka like Snova and create their own house made Pear Infused Vodka where the ounce cost would decrease to around $.40 compared to $1.15. If they did that, they would be able to earn the same amount and charge $10 to $12 for the cocktail. The guest would be getting something of balance (cost vs. value).

We ran into similar problem at Wobbly Olive. We were making our Manhattan with Woody Creek 100% Rye. I’m a huge supporter of Woody Creek and their Rye made a delicious Manhattan. When we ran our cost analysis we discovered that we would need to charge $14 for the Manhattan. My pride said that it was worth that much but my heart contradicted. We switched to Redemption Rye and are making more money and charging the customer less ($10).

Another example, we were buying St. George’s Green Chile Vodka for $36.50 per bottle. Our Dragon Martini was priced at $10 but should have been $12 based on our expenses and the bottle cost. It is a fun martini but not even close to a $12 one. We decided to infuse our own vodka with local Green Chiles and was able to get our total bottle cost to $13 compared to $36.50. After running our numbers based on $13 per bottle we were able to lower the cost of the martini from $10 down to $9. It is worth $10 but we charge $9. When creating a menu and pricing items you have to balance the guest’s best interests and the business’ survival.

I think the solution for them is to get the creative juices flowing. If they want to have a $14 whiskey “mojito” on the menu, they need to make it special, do something out of this world, house made elderflower liquor, etc. If they think mint simple syrup is special they are headed down the wrong path. If you give more for less you create loyalty and your guests will never feel taken advantage of. It’s funny how this works; the more loyal you are to your guests the more loyal they become to you not the other way around.
 

—— ORIGINAL POST: 10:04 A.M., FRIDAY, JUNE 24 ——

Last fall, I raised an eyebrow or two around town with my rebuke of the cocktail prices at the newly revamped Stagecoach Inn. I essentially made the argument that if you are not at the skill level of a Williams & Graham bartender, or someone with the skill of Brooklyn's on Boulder's Nate Windham, you shouldn't be charging $12 for cocktails.

To be fair, the Stagecoach isn't the only offender around trying to run with the big dogs prematurely, and to be even more fair I haven't been back in since last fall to see if improvements have been made.

At many outings in recent memory my colleagues or friends and I have paid a little more than we'd have wanted for much less than we expected. The last of which happened to occur at The Blue Star, which we hold to a higher standard in part because of its many years as an Indy Best Of Winner, including for the Overall Restaurant category.
 
The delightful Spring Flowers cocktail: an absinthe rinse, St. Germaine, Hendrick's Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and a pour of Bristol Brewing's Compass IPA. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • The delightful Spring Flowers cocktail: an absinthe rinse, St. Germaine, Hendrick's Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and a pour of Bristol Brewing's Compass IPA.
Sorry for singling them out, but perhaps if we keep criticism strong with the industry leaders, they'll listen and others will follow suit with more reasonable pricing outside of just happy hours. 

The short story is this: We tried three drinks on the current seasonal cocktail list. None were poorly made or conceived, and we got great service at the bar, but two felt wildly overpriced. The one we'd have probably not thought twice about is the excellent Spring Flowers cocktail for: an absinthe rinse, St. Germaine, Hendrick's Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and a pour of Bristol Brewing's Compass IPA. It was $12 and tasted worth it. 

Then we got into $14 territory, which tops even cocktail prices at the nearby Summit restaurant at The Broadmoor, which has always executed great drinks. 

The Crushed Violette — pear Grey Goose, Crème de violette, lemon juice and Voveti Prosecco (not a pricey bottle that we're aware) — again tasted good, especially if you're a fan of sparkling wines, but off the cuff I wouldn't price it more than $10. 

More egregious, though I love Distillery 291 whiskies like I love my own dog, was the 291 Colorado Mint Cooler. It's made with 291's White Dog, St. Germaine, mint simple syrup and lime juice. Once again, a good drink — light, refreshing, not far from the realm of a great mojito. But $14? No. I'd go $8 on this one, or at least match the cost of a great cocktail made next door at 291 — $10 last time we dropped by

I won't continue this post much farther as a belabored dissertation, but I'll say many spots in town do seem to have fair prices dialed in. And a handful of others consistently hit enough high points to justify premium prices when they appear: Brooklyn's, The Warehouse, The Wobbly Olive, The Famous, Enoteca Rustica and 503W have impressed us recently. 

Feel free to post comments to share spots you think are doing it right, or others you think have too many dollar signs in their eyes. 
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