I did not do push-ups.
I did not clean latrines.
Nobody called me "Maggot." (At least, not to my face.)
Yet I did complete boot camp.
Think: less whine, more wine. Education without so much effort. More sniffing than heavy breathing.
Basically, it's a weekend jammed with six relaxed, 101-level classes, two special meals and more than 30 individual wine samples. (None of them skimpy pours — a lot of good wine was lost to the bucket thanks to this guy. Sorry grape gods.)
My goal is to pen a short series of blogs this week to share experiences from the thorough grape smack-down, beginning with this one, in which my aim is to share some broad tips and principles that might inform your next liquor-store purchase for a meal pairing.
The most direct way to do this is simply by posting a cheat sheet supplied to us by the Penrose Room's sommelier staff.
Here's a PDF version you can print out:
Beyond that, I'm simply going to do a "note-dump" of sorts, trying not to steal too much of the Broadmoor's thunder. (In case you should care to attend next year's boot camp, there's price info at the bottom of this story.) Instead, I hope to share some of the key concepts to know and other worthwhile comments made throughout the weekend.
During our "Language of a Sommelier" session, we first talked about primary, secondary and tertiary aromas in wine.
The term "bouquet" refers to the multitude of aromas one perceives all at once when smelling wine.
Broken apart, the primary aromas refer to the smells generated by the grape variety in its environment. You'll often hear the term "terroir" to refer to what the land imparts on the grape.
Secondary aromas enter the picture via the winemaking process. So anything related to barrel-aging, most commonly in French or new American oak, speaks to a secondary aroma.
Also most wine flaws will show up in this aroma category, including Brettanomyces (a good component in craft beer, when properly controlled, and also acceptable in very small doses in wine) and Trichloroanisole.
Tertiary aromas develop as a wine ages, sometimes becoming quite pronounced over a long period of time. Examples include the olfactory detection of leather, cigars, mushrooms and earth.
Quick fun-fact: Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado executive director Jay Fletcher says there are more master sommeliers in Colorado (Aspen in particular) than anywhere else in the world.
As for how smart wine guys like him are able to blind-taste a wine and pick out the grape varietal, growing region and often an exact vintage, he says it's no parlor trick.
"It isn't rocket science," he says. "It's a game of logic. And I know the rules better than you."
Sommeliers will first look at color. Whites grow darker with age, for example, and sulfered wines will look shiny. Color can indicate if a wine has seen oak or not, or if it's been blended with its skin.
Variation around the rim of the wine can indicate whether it is a thin-skinned grape or not, as well.
Next, they'll "read" the alcohol by a couple methods: You're probably familiar with checking the "legs" of a wine, in which you run the liquid high up in the glass then steady it level again, watching how quickly the syrupy film runs back down.
Then, a deep nasal inhale into the chest will tell you how strong the alcohol is: The more your eyes feel like they want to water or you are tempted to cough, the higher the alcohol, obviously.
This test alone will weed out an Old World wine from a New World. Most oldies range between 10.5 percent and 13 percent, says Fletcher, while many new worlds hang between 12 and 17 percent. ("Good date wine," he jokes.)
"We are homicide detectives trying to convict someone on circumstantial evidence," he adds.
Rounding out that evidence is, of course, the aforementioned trio of wine aroma categories.
That's a lot more info, but a quick example: If you detect banana or mango, you're likely dealing with a wine from a hot climate. If you detect a bloodiness, it's high-iron soil. (To really study up and become a real sommelier, you'd be memorizing all the environmental qualities of particular growing regions.)
The types of flower you detect can indicate seasonality and geography as well.
With the actual drinking portion of a tasting session, one would check sweetness versus dryness, the acidity and how tannic a wine is. Running it up over your top teeth into your gums quickly indicates a tannin level — you'll quickly know just how drying the wine can be.
All sounds pretty fun and educational, right? But we are at our city's five-star destination, so you're probably now wondering how much this boozy boot camp will set you back, should you wish to attend Year No. 3.
Well, the bad news for à la carte lovers is that only the final dinner at the Summit this year was open to non-boot-campers, at a cost of $95 per person.
Otherwise, the weekend is designed to attract guests to stay on property. Lodging packages this year ranged from $330 to $720 per person, which included classes and most meals. (Big disclaimer: I did not lodge, and only participated in the classes and special pairing dinners on a media comp pass.)
For all the details, check out this boot camp breakdown:
And for your Friday food and drink roundup:
The first Ivywild market will be held June 12, while a couple of pre-season markets will be held June 1 and 8 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the regular CFAM Saturday market space: the Margarita at PineCreek.
• The Royal Gorge Route Railroad kicks off its touring season Saturday, March 9, with new "first-class lunch and dinner menus" that will feature Colorado-grown and -raised products like local chicken and wine. Visit their website for more on special rides such as an Easter Lunch and Mother's Day Brunch.
• Blue Sage Cafe has announced a number of special events in March, including a Cabin Fever Secret Supper, Saturday, March 9; a "Cooking in Provence: French Cooking Class" Friday, March 15; a St. Patrick's Day Brunch Sunday, March 17 and a Spring Break Secret Supper Friday, March 22. Call 332-1397 for prices, menu descriptions and other details, and sign up for its newsletter for the early word on future offerings.
• The Margarita at PineCreek will release a new brunch menu on Sunday, March 10.
Among the featured items: Creole Style Biscuits & Gravy, Eggs Benedict Cubano Style, Croque Madame, Eggs Sardou with Shrimp, Buttermilk Waffles with Blueberry-Ginger Compote, The Margarita Burger (Slopper Style), Shrimp and Grits, and Ben's Bacon-infused Vodka Bloody Mary.
Call 598-8667 for resos and info on a Thursday, March 21 Spring Wine Dinner plus an updated lounge menu as well.
Here's a look at the beers that'll be available:
Cascara Quad: A dark and strong ale brewed with dates and coffee cherries
Heavenly Feijoa Tripel: Collaboration with Dieu du Ciel in Belgium, brewed with hibiscus and pineapple guava
Fall Wild Ale: Dubbel brewed with Schisandra berries, slightly sour, and a touch of Brett yeast
***Hoppy Bock: The first beer in the Hop Kitchen series, this is an easy drinking beer with some fun hop character to it!
Rampant Imperial IPA: A brand new huge IPA with citrus and berry hop notes and a light colored, but big, malt bill
Ranger IPA: Already a classic New Belgium IPA, should be fun to try side by side to the new Rampant IPA
Frambozen: A fruity brown ale made ruby in color with the addition of raspberries
La Folie: The quintessential sour beer in the United States. A Flanders-style beer aged in wood for 1-3 years
Transatlantique Kriek: Collaboration with Brewerij Boon of Belgium, spontaneously fermented lambic with Polish cherries
• Bristol Brewing Company unveils its annual Smokebrush Porter community ale next week, hosting a release party from 5 to 9 p.m., Thursday, March 14. All proceeds from the beer's sales go toward the Uncle Wilber Fountain in Acacia Park.
Here's the three-course menu:
Take a second and try to remember what you ate in your school cafeterias growing up.
Sad Tater Tots, sickly fried fish sticks, grossly sweet fried-apple sticks, who-knows-what-meat corn dogs and the like?
Yup. Me too, before I started bringing a lunch more often.
Then take a look at this spring chef's menu for School District 11.
Holy crap, right?
That's like ... real food.
Actually, it's just good food.
All I can say is that I wish it was around when I was a little monster.
That is all on that subject.
But one more tidbit for today: the welcome announcement of yet another area CSA program, this on the heels of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens' highly in-demand new salad-sprout shares (89 on the wait list at last count) and Grant Family Farms' truly sad situation.
The Arkansas Valley Organic Growers (AVOG) is launching a unique multi-farm, 25-week CSA for 2013.
Shares are limited to 250, so I wouldn't wait much longer than reading this to book if you're interested, because these will likely go quickly.
It's Bach vs. Bristol in a shuffleboard showdown!
Well, sort of.
And it's more of a media photo op than a real match, which isn't to say the mayor doesn't have his heart in it. I mean, look at the guy after this less-than-awesome shot:
Meanwhile, Mike Bristol, with home-field advantage, is bringin' his B-game. (For a Bristol, a B-game is kinda like an A-game, but it just starts with B, dig?)
In fairness, both guys — just about everyone in the room for that matter — had been drinking (a few sips). They'd just tapped a ceremonial cask together. At this point, the mayor's strength was still in check, as it took him two swings with a wooden mallet to start the amber-colored flow of some aged Red Rocket:
I could of course continue with my narrative, making up rude captions about things people actually didn't say (fun!), but instead I'll leave off there and invite you to tour this slideshow from the grand opening of the airport's new taproom.
You can also initiate that slideshow by clicking this photo. (Do it now — don't make me come after you with that keg mallet.)
So, back to what actually occurred in the new Bristol Taproom and adjoining Novo Coffee spaces, which we first told you about in Side Dish last September.
Speeches were made to christen the new venture and I'm pretty sure I heard the phrase "gateway to the city" again once or twice, plus a promise to soon validate parking for guests who just want to dine and drink at these two fine places that sport true Colorado flavors.
I didn't actually sample any of the food menu (hey, there's an idea for a future Dine & Dash) but I'm intimately familiar with Bristol's beers. Enough so to say that having them greet tourists versus a lesser-brew is undoubtedly a good thing for the city.
I did however take a moment to meet and sample coffee with Novo's head roaster, Erich Rosenberg.
Which explains the coffee photos in said slideshow.
Rosenberg made me a cortado, then a latte (no, I did not fall asleep before nearly 1 a.m., forgetting to have asked for decaf, but it was worth it), and both were stupid good, highlighting a very lovely Central American/Ethiopian blend.
You're going to hear the name Novo more and more I predict, as new stores are soon popping up in Denver too (formerly the company only sold wholesale), plus a coffee arm of the soon-to-open Ivywild project will likely also feature their beans, in part.
So, in conclusion, what we have all learned today:
1) Shuffleboard, not so easy, particularly when drinking and being watched by the media
2) Quality drink at the airport makes travelers happier people — we're guessing, but confident
3) Bristol, between the airport, Ivywild and upcoming-expansion-related growth, they're a Juggernaut
4) Novo coffee — I want more
I'll leave it to Bristol beer marketeer Matt Ward and UpaDowna front-man Steve Hitchcock, goofballs in arms, if you will, to take us out:
Let us pause this Thursday and think of lettuce. Lettuce lets us live out our healthier leanings while still leaving lesser leaves for Lilliputian living things.
So it's with letters of thanks we greet the news that Pikes Peak Urban Gardens — of which our food editor Matthew Schniper is a board member — is about to get all green up in this house. The organization recently acquired the use of a large greenhouse near Colorado College, a press release says, and is dedicating it to the creation of comestibles: specifically to varieties of lettuce, herbs and broccoli sprouts.
"We are selling weekly member shares to the public," the release says. "The cost is $10 per week for 10 weeks for a total of $100. Each week the member will come to our greenhouse (days of the week and times to be decided soon) and pick up a freshly picked bag of at least 5 medium heads of lettuces (may include buttercrunch, romaines and a variety of leaf lettuces) and a bunch of herbs (mostly basil types). Most weeks will also include a sandwich size baggie of fresh organic broccoli sprouts."
There's something of a problem, though, and it's that by 8 this morning there were only 60 slots left, and by noon, the 70 total shares were all taken, with a 30-person wait list. As well, in 10 weeks, those that initially bought-in will have first dibs on renewing their shares.
I guess the good is that there's a large desire in the community for quality food. The bad is, and thinking of the recent demise of Grant Family Farms, there's not enough of it to go around. Still, it lets us leave with lettuce-leaning hope.
The ninth annual Firkin Rendezvous cometh, and that right soon: at 1 and 2 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 23, to be precise.
Like last year, the sessions have been split up to ease the ass-to-ass congestion in the back of Bristol Brewing Co., with general admission costing $35 and VIP bumping that up to $50. Nonetheless, there's a wide array of all-you-can-taste cask beer created specifically for the event by the best brewers in the state — see previous recaps here and here — so it's hard to argue against the price. (Plus, it comes with food; supports the Colorado Brewers Guild; and offers one of the nicer commemorative cups you'll get from an area festival.)
So, with all that said, here are the breweries that will be pouring:
• Boulder Beer Co.
• Breckenridge Brewery
• Bristol Brewing Co.
• Carver Brewing Co.
• Dry Dock Brewing Co.
• Elevation Beer Co.
• Elk Mountain Brewing
• Great Divide Brewing Co.
• Hall Brewing Co.
• Hogshead Brewery
• Kannah Creek Brewing Co.
• Left Hand Brewing Co.
• New Belgium Brewing Co.
• Odell Brewing Co.
• Oskar Blues Brewery
• Pagosa Brewing & Grill
• Palisade Brewing Co.
• Paradox Beer Co.
• Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.
• Pikes Peak Brewing Co.
• Prost Brewing Co.
• Rockslide Restaurant and Brewery
• Strange Brewing Co.
• Ska Brewing Co.
• Three Barrel Brewing Co.
In last week's Side Dish, I told you about a new oomph on display with the Colorado Springs Independent Restaurant Cooperative.
See it yourself at the next IRC dinner at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 27, at TAPAteria. Drag your mouse over the mini menu below and enlarge it to see chef Jay Gust's planned presentation.
Only 30 seats will be available for this meal, so book soon if you're interested at 471-8272.
Tickets are $25 in advance (at spots like Jake and Telly's and The Famous Steak House) and $30 at the door to sample from more than 65 area food and drink vendors.
Then there's the Iron Chef battle between area restaurants, a silent auction, prize wheel and newly created bartender competition.
Lastly, it wasn't long ago that I advised you to sign up for Coaltrain Wine and Spirits' newsletter to get the early jump on cool stuff like a free scotch tasting with a master distiller.
I'll reiterate that recommendation now, because the latest newsletter edition features listings of wine and beer dinners extending out into April. Here's a look:
Odell Beer Dinner
Save the date: Wednesday, February 27th, join us at Springs Orleans for a paired tasting featuring some of our favorite Odell beers. Brewery representative, Matt Pomeroy, will be on hand to tell us all about them an answer all your questions.
Antler’s Hotel Old World/New World Wine Dinner
We have a neat treat for everyone who’s wondered about the friendly rivalry between aficionados of wines from the Old-World and those who insist on wines from the New-World. Come to the Antler’s Hotel Restaurant at 7pm on Friday, March 1st and decide for yourself!
Martin Arndorfer Wine Dinner At Black Bear
What a special treat! We are honored to announce that Austrian winemaker, Martin Arndorfer, will be with us on Sunday, March 10th . He will be in Colorado for just two days, hosting one wine dinner at Boulder’s illustrious Frasca, and one with us at the Black Bear in Green Mountain Falls. For wine connoisseurs with a penchant for Old World style in their wines, this is an event not to be missed.
Wine Dinner Featuring Chile & Argentina
We’ve had many successful events at The Warehouse and are excited to invite you to our first wine dinner there, featuring the wines of Chile and Argentina at 7pm on Thursday, March 21st.
Barolo Busters: April 3rd
We are pleased to see that this tasting has become an annual event. We taste the best Barolos in the store and Pete Moreno, MacKenzie’s Chophouse godlike chef, prepares a few goodies to elevate the event to unforgettable status.
Last weekend brought the Broadmoor's 11th annual Salute to Escoffier, a three-day focus on food that benefits both the Colorado Restaurant Association Education Foundation, and the Broadmoor’s culinary-apprenticeship program. All told, it's packed with enough butter and booze that you'll be craving an apple at the end of it. (See here for previous coverage of the event in year's past.)
It started Friday night, with a reception in the Lake Terrace dining room, where small-plate offerings from the hotel's various restaurants — including the newest, not-yet-opened spot Play, in the new bowling alley — were consumed with varieties of champagne and jazzy renditions of "Cast Your Fate to the Wind." Guest-of-honor author N.M. Kelby introduced her book White Truffles in Winter, a fictional account of the life of famed chef Georges Auguste Escoffier.
"I have to tell you that Escoffier is a man I love," she began, with a grin. "When I was a young girl my mother used to always pull down the Escoffier cookbook. She was from Paris, and she was shot during the war, and she would be transported back to the Paris of her youth by cooking his wonderful, wonderful recipes.
"And so I grew up in the shadow of Escoffier, but I knew nothing about him. And when my mother died I inherited the cookbook; and I started to read the cookbook. And if you’ve ever read Ma Cuisine [or his other books], they’re very funny — he’s kind of a rake. And when you read them in French, they’re actually a little, you know, dirty. I mean, some of these descriptions — I mean, seriously? “The Breasts of a Virgin”? This is my dessert tonight? How do you explain that when you deliver it to the table? It’s, like, who is this guy?
"And I started doing some research, and it turns out that Escoffier was a very short man. He was so short he couldn’t even reach the stove, and he actually had special shoes created for him so that he could safely cook. And I thought, ‘Oh my God: Here’s the guy who couldn’t reach the stove, and he became the greatest chef of all time. Really?’ OK, he got really interesting then."
From there, the weekend continued with a cooking demonstration early in the morning, a wine luncheon at the Penrose Room, and a cocktail class later, all capped off in the evening by the Granddaddy of Them All: the grand buffet in the International Center across the street, attended by local food folk like Franco Pisani of Paravicini's Italian Bistro, and Dave Brackett of Pizzeria Rustica and TAPAteria. Eater Denver said "the selection of food was overwhelming." Westword called it a "culinary odyssey." As some of the photos below show, it was just a hell of a time.
If you've got a few nickels to rub together, maybe stow 'em away for next year.
Here's a little teaser for next week's Side Dish column:
I'll share my interview with co-owners Todd DeRemus and Scott Jones of the upcoming Ute Pass Brewing Company.
Look for the outfit to open sometime around early March, tentatively in the former Maximillian’s Café space.
Next week, I'll tell you about their limited food menu, planned tap offerings and a little background on the brewer/owners.
Laura Stamp says exact fundraising numbers are not yet available, but that "it's safe to say the event raised over $20,000 (net!) for the three beneficiaries we highlighted this year.
"Needless to say, I am thrilled with this outcome."
The 2014 Glass Slipper Ball date has already been set, again hosted by the Crowne Plaza Hotel: January 25.
——-ORIGINAL POST, 5 P.M., TUESDAY, JAN. 29 ——-
... we sold out and filled the room with over 400 people. The Live Auction sold twice as many items as last year. And we increased the number of awards to our chefs from two to three. We are looking into the option of adding a couple more foodie awards next year with celebrity judges. We are sooo excited with the results of this event that we are thinking only the sky is the limit on what we can do next time to raise more funds for local women's causes.
That's Laura Stamp, co-organizer of this past weekend's seventh annual Glass Slipper Ball, providing a little insight into the success of this year's event, ahead of fundraising totals yet to be calculated and released.
The 2013 festivities moved from the Crowne Plaza Hotel to the Double Tree by Hilton, still benefiting The Zonta Club of the Pikes Peak Area but also The Cinderella House by Restore Innocence and Trampled Rose.
For my part each year, I attempt to concisely document the generous contributions of the participating eateries and drink houses competing for awards.
The fantastic flavors on display, including a multitude of wines organized by The Wine Seller, are the main draw, making the $85-to-$100 tickets quite fair considering the great fundraising cause and musical entertainment (Gentle Rain) that runs through midnight.
Here's a rundown of this year's contributors and their creations:
View my slideshow (again, just a small tease of the whole affair) by clicking here or on the photo below:
Among those pictured in that slideshow are: chef Nathan Dirnberger (pink coat) of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo; Amy Sufak of Red Energy with chef Greg Soukup of Blue Sage Catering; Michelle Marx of Coquette's Bistro and Bakery and her daughter Turu (last photo); chef Robert Brunet of The House Chef and his staff; artist Douglas Rouse, who did an awesome speed-painting using culinary equipment as his brush, for auction; chef Jay Gust of TAPAteria with his fiancee Dora Cole and restaurant owner Dave Brackett; Tracy and Steve Carlson of The Melting Pot; and Samantha Bruner and Karen Kelley of Colorado Springs Food Tours(the best expression).
Lastly, a big congrats to the winners of the People's Choice Awards:
• Best Appetizer: Ott Mathias and Jake Topakas of Jake and Telly's.
• Best Dessert: Joshua Pallardy of Aragon Dining at Peterson Air Force Base.
• Best Overall: Carl and Alaine Nolt of Serranos Coffee Company.
Friday food roundup, go!
• Just in from Focus on the Beer's Eric Steen: Another Pint will sadly shut down as of this weekend. The Gleneagle outfit's superior tap selection, just featured in our Bites guide, will be missed on the north side.
• New-to-town vegan lifestyle coach and author JL Fields will offer a three-part class throughout March titled "Beyond Meatless Mondays with JL: Diving Deeper into Plant-Based Living." Everything you need to know about it can be found in this attachment: Beyond_Meatless_Mondays_March_2013.pdf
• Marketing director Jessica Barsotti of the Craftwood Inn says the restaurant's Saturday, Feb. 23 Gunfighter wines and Selby Winery guest event will be "THE WINE DINNER to be at in February," featuring 3Finger Wine Company winemaker Michael Loykasek and Selby winemaker Susie Selby. Performing her job with further gusto, Barsotti remarks that this is "one of the best menus from Brother [Luck] I've seen yet!" You be the judge: Selby_Dinner_022313.pdf
• And in a similar vein of unavoidably self-promotional forewarned awesomeness, chef Victor Matthews of The Black Bear says he has the honor of hosting "Austrian genius" Martin Arndorfer for a five-course wine dinner on Sunday, March 10. (Registration can be done through Coaltrain Wine & Spirits.)
Matthews says he's still finalizing his menu, but it should look something like this:
Course 1. Fresh Shucked Oysters and American Sturgeon Caviar with Roasted Red Pepper Oil.
Course 2. Lobster Consomme with Crab Gelee.
Course 3. Hearts of Palm and Austrian Cheeses with Olive Oil Poached Tomato and Arndorfer Riesling Vinaigrette (we made artisan white wine vinegar out of his wine)
Course 4. Jaeger Schnitzel (pounded breaded veal with mushroom cream sauce on white truffle mash).
Course 5. Individual homemade cherry tarts with ice cream of Cassis.
As I mentioned in Side Dish a few weeks ago, a new liquor store called Downtown Fine Spirits & Wine has opened in the former antique market space at 103 S. Wahsatch Ave.
Owner Gregor Huesgen (a consultant on upcoming eco improvements on our Indy offices) has promised to differentiate himself with a couple very noticeable factors.
The first, a 30-kilowatt solar array on the rooftop that powers most of the building, sets the store up to fulfill a promise on an outdoor banner (new LED signs haven't yet arrived) that reads: "the greenest liquor shop in town."
The second is an array of imported antique cabinets and shelves that create a very upscale feel and unique shopping setting.
Take a quick stroll through this slideshow to view the fine wood works (most from India), LED-lit beer coolers (which use 25 percent as much energy as regular lights), Colorado craft beer and spirits selections and replica statues of the first emperor of China's Terracotta Army.
Huesgen offers a 3 percent discount on purchases if you're paying with cash, and otherwise has set his prices to be very competitive — I noticed in passing that one craft spirit I'm fond of was marked for $3 less than the most recent store at which I purchased it.
Store manager and buyer Sarah Evans says that by Huesgen's mandate, she's focused on purchasing as many organic, sustainable and biodynamic products possible, as well as a wide array of Colorado products.
Evans, by the way, comes from many years in the restaurant industry locally, including recent bartending at Crystal Park Cantina — she made the awesome margaritas I raved about here — and a few years at La Petit Maison back in its heyday.
Huesgen owes his current liquid worth (get it?) to many years as an investment banker.
And last week we updated you on the plans at the transitioning eatery for launching bistro-style dinner service soon, preceded by a series of three-course pop-up dinners.
Chef Ainsworth and owners Matt and Kimberly Carlson invited me to the first of these dinners this past Friday, Feb. 1 (as their comped guest), where sous chef Michael Fullwood was given lead to design a menu inspired by his culinary upbringing in Charleston, S.C. (He worked under respected chef Frank Lee at Slightly North of Broad for several years.)
To skip right to the sexy food photos (and a few more photos than pictured below), go ahead and view this slideshow.
For a brief play-by-play, read on.
Fullwood preceded the meal with some super-snackable, quickly addictive, house-spiced almonds and walnuts (tossed with a little oil in salt, pepper, chile powder, paprika and nutmeg) and a complementary greeting wine — either a solid 2009 Clos du Bois Chardonnay or 2011 Folie á Deux Ménage á Trois, a great Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend.
(Canyon isn't yet selling alcohol, but Carlson is allowed to essentially give it away for free at special events such as this.)
Next came a beautiful amuse bouche of a deviled egg constructed with horseradish, smoked salmon and herbs.
In order for us to try everything on display for the evening, Fullwood presented us both the meat-eater and vegetarian plates for the following course.
The vibrant vegetarian plate was a poached pear salad with bleu cheese and Craisins in a sherry vinaigrette; the pear was poached in marsala wine with citrus and more nutmeg and clove, plus cinnamon, then got a sugar dusting for a quick caramelization prior to hitting tables.
The out-of-the-park carnivores plate featured a fatty cut of pork belly doused with a pork jus and served with roasted asparagus and a fried quail egg. And the garnish? Crunchy crumbled almonds and crispy duck skin.
I never complain when a chef opts to double-down on swine, so was perfectly thrilled to see a cold-smoked pork chop (brined to tenderness, smoked, seared, then oven-finished) appear next with barley risotto and sautéed spinach, pear chutney (another welcome double-down) and a highly reduced (i.e. thick) maple-pork jus.
Its counterpart for the main course was a perfect pescatarian treat of crisp-skinned red snapper with asparagus and haricot vert and an excellent mashed potato-esque, creamy cauliflower purée with a garlic edge.
For desserts, both exemplary: a zesty lemon pound cake under macerated berries and whipped cream, and crunchy fried doughnut pieces with a tri-saucing of espresso chocolate, whiskey caramel and raspberry puree.
Included in the meal's price ($50 per couple in this case) was a coffee, cappuccino or espresso with dessert.
Canyon obviously wants to spotlight its direct-trade Dillanos Coffee Roasters products, reminding guests that at least at this point, the establishment is known more as a coffee cafe.
But the restaurant's planned expansion would certainly change that dynamic, creating both a quick sandwich and java destination and a fine (though still outwardly casual) sit-down gourmet dinner spot.
The high quality of this dinner indicates that the chefs are certainly ready.
Fullwood, Ainsworth and crew deserve extra kudos for pulling this whole thing off minus a commercial gas kitchen; everything was executed with an electric hotplate duo, small toaster oven and small flat-top griddle. Impressive, really.
Once thing is unquestionable since the Carlsons took over in late 2010: Canyon's trajectory is heading upward quickly. This dinner overall rivaled many fine dining destinations in this city. Take the coffee shop setting away, and the food could have hit a white tablecloth anywhere.
The impression we got from our tasting was that this was certainly much more than a glorified snack bar, bearing some nice gourmet treats for zoo-goers.
Leading us for the purposes of this blog to last night, when Dirnberger hosted the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Culinary Federation for its (late) holiday party inside the incredibly scenic Lodge at Moose Lake.
Chef Dirnberger sent me a comped invite to document the evening. He was also receiving the ACF President's Award "for dedicated service above and beyond" in 2012 during a short presentation ceremony.
And though I'm fully aware that the general public doesn't have access to this type of gathering, I figured there'd be value in at least showing you what the capable zoo staff can pull off in terms of a fine dining meal. (Be it for your next special occasion banquet or snack during a zoo tour.)
Here's a handful of photos that illustrate the overall excellent food and atmosphere:
The Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cook-off in Manitou Springs' Soda Springs Park is one of the best times of the year, mainly because there are peppery roux, boiling crawfish, and bowls of rice aplenty. And as somebody who has served as judge for the event in years past, I can tell you that, like everything the city does, it's a very Manitou time: colorful characters; unique sights and sounds; and all the Louisiana State University swag you can stomach. (Oh yeah, and gumbo tastings two for $1.)
And though the event's coming up right quick, on Saturday, Feb. 9, there's still time for folks to enter the amateur division (as opposed to the professionals cooking from area restaurants). There is no entry fee, though pre-registration is required, and you could take some cold, hard trophy (or, you know, cash).
"After the Gumbo Cook Off the Annual Mardi Gras Carnivale Parade will begin up Manitou Avenue starting at Memorial Park," reads a press release. "This years [sic] theme is 'Lucky 13.' Participation in the parade is free ... Just arrive at Memorial Park starting at noon. No Motorized Vehicles Allowed!"