Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Till Kitchen to move, Vegan Restaurant Week includes 26 locations

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Till Kitchen and parent company Altitude Hospitality recently announced that it will relocate to a new spot in the Broadmoor area in summer 2020, while repurposing its existing location into a yet-to-be-named, “family-friendly, open-air dining experience and entertainment complex, featuring pickleball courts, bowling, shuffleboard, a high-tech beer wall and plenty of outdoor games.”

The third annual COS Vegan Restaurant Week runs Nov. 1-7, with 26 participating restaurants offering vegan plates — only three are typically all-vegan spots. Visit tinyurl.com/CS-Vegan-Eats to see menus.
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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Left Hand Brewing Company debuts mixed eight-packs... on nitro

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 2:20 PM

Left Hand Brewing Company's nitro beer eight-packs will feature a rotating seasonal beer. For autumn, they'll offer this chai spiced version of their signature milk stout. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Left Hand Brewing Company's nitro beer eight-packs will feature a rotating seasonal beer. For autumn, they'll offer this chai spiced version of their signature milk stout.

Longmont, Colorado-based Left Hand Brewing Company has released mixed eight-packs of its nitro beers, available on liquor store shelves nationwide. Left Hand and nitro beer fans can pick up eight 13.65 oz. cans, with two each of the brewery's signature Milk Stout, Sawtooth amber ale, Flamingo Dreams blackcurrant-raspberry blonde ale and a rotating seasonal beer. For autumn, they're including Chai Milk Stout Nitro.

"Nitro is part of who we are, and we're driven to continue to be the innovators and leaders of the style" says JiIll Preston, Left Hand Brewing Company director of marketing, in a press release.

We recently received promotional cans of both the Chai Milk Stout and Sawtooth amber nitro beers. The former, a mellow 5 percent ABV, pours deep brown-black with a foam the color of Irish cream liqueur, matching its flagship progenitor. On the nose, we get the cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper from Left Hand's house-blended chai spice mix. When we sip the dark brew, we get cinnamon and cardamom again, but ginger supersedes pepper. The spices pair nicely with the roasty, coffee-like notes of the smooth stout. Fans of dirty chai will dig this beer.

As for the latter, it's the same hoppy 5.3 percent ABV amber ale that they've sold for a long time. We're fans of the balance between nutty malts and bright hops this beer has always had, but for my taste, the creaminess of the nitro version takes away from the crisp finish of the beer. Still, good beer, and nitro fans have and will continue to enjoy this version.
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Monday, October 21, 2019

Chew-Chew Gastrotruck expands with upcoming Black Forest Bistro

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2019 at 2:50 PM

Chew-Chew owner Deanna Johnson at a recent event. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Chew-Chew owner Deanna Johnson at a recent event.

Three-year-old Black Forest Chew-Chew Gastrotruck will as of January, tentatively, have a new commissary and sister eatery, to be called the Black Forest Bistro. Owner Deanna Johnson will be purchasing the former Descar’s Roadside Bar & Grill at 6750 Shoup Road and plans to overhaul it and open Thursdays through Sundays, including for Sunday brunch service.

Once Black Forest Bistro opens, Johnson says she'll part the truck onsite for a few months, at least, to get the bistro going. The benefit of that is it'll be able to act as a second kitchen or snack bar, as planned for future music events on the location's patio. Johnson says not to worry though, that she will put the truck — proudly all-female-staffed — back on the road come late spring and summer, for festivals and weekly events like the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum's Food Truck Tuesdays, if she's once again accepted.

As for the bistro's menu, Johnson says "the food will evolve into some items we can't do on the truck ... we’re known for our international street food with a twist — so we’re going to definitely have that. But we’re going to have seafood and lamb and pasta, burgers, sandwiches just a little bit for everyone. We are going to keep our menu changing like we do on the truck."

One of her bestselling items, her Korean bulgogi steak, for example, will become an entrée with the added side of the truck's popular sticky street noodles. She says she'll likely keep the menu in the $15 to $25 range for top items.

That steak, by the way, is what won the truck the first round of Food Network’s Food Truck Fan Fight, which Chew-Chew went on to win for the Rocky Mountain region, beating out several Denver and Boulder entities.

Johnson says to expect cocktails and 13 craft Colorado beer taps as well at Black Forest Bistro. The location will serve as the Chew-Chew truck's new commissary, and Johnson says she'd like to open it up to be a commissary for others as well during off hours.   
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Bread & Butter Neighborhood Market launches Kickstarter ahead of May 2020 launch downtown

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2019 at 7:25 AM

Bread & Butter Neighborhood Market recently launched a Kickstarter page to help fund its planned May 2020 opening at 602 S. Nevada Ave., in what’s currently the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’s Colorado Springs Vet Center building through January’s end.
Stacy Poore (left) and Aubrey Day, co-owners. - COURTESY STACY POORE
  • Courtesy Stacy Poore
  • Stacy Poore (left) and Aubrey Day, co-owners.
“When we look around the downtown area where people are working and living, plus the adjacent neighborhoods... we think it’s needed ... we feel like it’s the perfect time,” says co-owner Stacy Poore.

She notes several nearby residential units both existing and underway, from Blue Dot and Casa Mundi to new apartments on Cascade Avenue plus Kinship Landing, a small hotel on the way across the street, and the upcoming Olympic Museum complex and expected build-outs. As well, there’s the Mill Street and Hillside neighborhoods not far away.

Poore and co-owner Aubrey Day see Bread & Butter as serving both the downtown resident or worker and parts of the underserved community who live in near-food deserts. Inventory in the 1700-square-foot grocery store won’t include “six different brands of toothpaste,” but rather a wide, both boutique and affordable offering of staple products, from dry goods and Colorado produce and meats and cheeses to frozen and pre-prepared items, plus flowers, greeting cards, coffee, and “nicely curated wines and spirits” from an attached 800-square-foot liquor store. (That’s how they’ll make up for the typical “razor thin” margins on retail grocery items, says Poore.)

Another important feature to their market, says Poore, is free on-site parking, noting that’s partly if not largely why an attempted market on North Tejon Street around a decade ago failed to take root — that, and it was just ahead of its time in terms of enough residential rooftops downtown.

As for what the owners (who both hold Masters degrees) bring to the table for directly relevant work experience, Day “has been involved in food systems and health related work throughout her career at El Paso County Public Health,” while Poore spent seven years with Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, most recently as its chief operating officer. 
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Four drinks to be drinking now: Axe and the Oak Whiskey House releases new fall menu

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 9:35 AM

The Editor's Fizz. It's the first time house gin has appeared on a menu here. This one's barrel-aged and not yet available in bottles. This fizz, inspired by the classic Ramos Gin Fizz, subs out the orange blossom water for orange bitters. It also contains apple bourbon, roasted butternut squash simple syrup, egg white and cream. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Editor's Fizz. It's the first time house gin has appeared on a menu here. This one's barrel-aged and not yet available in bottles. This fizz, inspired by the classic Ramos Gin Fizz, subs out the orange blossom water for orange bitters. It also contains apple bourbon, roasted butternut squash simple syrup, egg white and cream.

Axe and the Oak Whiskey House released its new fall menu on October 15, featuring 16 freshly created drinks — a collaborative effort by the staff. The new menu will run through February most likely.

Hosting bartender for our preview tasting, Maggie O'Leary, says the “guiding flavors” for team inspiration were “tea, squash, cognac, and pomegranate.”

Those came through in various ways in the drinks we sampled, with liberal spice usage a familiar nod to the arrival of colder weather. The use of cream and egg white also adds a heavier texture to many drinks as well, feeling fortifying for winter.

View the captions under each photo for drink details.
The Penrose Vault starts with Axe's Incline Rye. Then comes pomegranate juice, an Earl Grey simple syrup, bergamot oil, cardamom bitters and a pour of Korean yogurt soda (carbonated water and milk and cream). - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Penrose Vault starts with Axe's Incline Rye. Then comes pomegranate juice, an Earl Grey simple syrup, bergamot oil, cardamom bitters and a pour of Korean yogurt soda (carbonated water and milk and cream).

The Little London Fog features vanilla bourbon, lavender liqueur and garnish, cream and Earl Grey simple syrup. A little hot water thins the heavy cream and it's a rich drinkable dessert or nice drink to share sips of. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Little London Fog features vanilla bourbon, lavender liqueur and garnish, cream and Earl Grey simple syrup. A little hot water thins the heavy cream and it's a rich drinkable dessert or nice drink to share sips of.

Bartender Maggie O'Leary and the Millionaire City. That drink starts with a cognac barrel-aged bourbon (which tastes remarkably like scotch on its own), to which ginger liqueur, toasted allspice dram and bitters is added. The allspice shows up prominently. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Bartender Maggie O'Leary and the Millionaire City. That drink starts with a cognac barrel-aged bourbon (which tastes remarkably like scotch on its own), to which ginger liqueur, toasted allspice dram and bitters is added. The allspice shows up prominently.

It's a cool logo. 'Nuff said. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • It's a cool logo. 'Nuff said.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Happy Belly Tacos releases bright new menu to mark first anniversary

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 6:00 PM

Nobody will notice the humans in this photo since they'll be focused intently on the two-month old Pomeranian puppy. That's Chef Mark Henry's new doggie (Mark's in the middle), visiting his dad at just the right time for this reporter to snap a pic. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Nobody will notice the humans in this photo since they'll be focused intently on the two-month old Pomeranian puppy. That's Chef Mark Henry's new doggie (Mark's in the middle), visiting his dad at just the right time for this reporter to snap a pic.
Happy Belly Tacos just celebrated its first anniversary, inspiring Chef/Owner Mark Henry, also of Rooster's House of Ramen, to release a new menu to mark the occasion. Everything's overhauled save for the popular carne asada and pastor tacos.

When I ask if this is a seasonal menu that we should expect to change again in a few months, he says, no, "I'm so happy with what's on this menu I don't want any of it to go away. But we'll do some daily specials, things like flautas and crunch wraps."
From left to right, three new menu items: a buffalo cauliflower taco; bulgogi carnitas; and the Happy Belly Taco with mojo pork belly. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • From left to right, three new menu items: a buffalo cauliflower taco; bulgogi carnitas; and the Happy Belly Taco with mojo pork belly.
Henry invited me to sample some of the new offerings, including the above taco trio — all constructed with Denver-made Raquelitas Tortillas, regarded for its use of Colorado-grown corn, all non-GMO and organic.

On the left is a gluten-free and vegan-optional buffalo cauliflower taco, inspired by his New York roots, says Henry. Before frying, Henry brines the cauliflower with salt, sugar, cumin and chili powder then breads it with corn starch. For plating it's dressed with house chipotle ranch sauce in addition to the house Frank Bonanno Sauce fortified with butter. That's a playful jab at the Denver celebrity chef, whose concept restaurants Henry respects, and who Henry says he defeated at a Pony Up French Dip cook-off event. The awesome,  spicy sauce, set in bottles on tables for self dispensing, is made with chile de árbol peppers, garlic, vinegar, water and salt. 
New tacos for a new year — Happy Belly just reached its first anniversary. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • New tacos for a new year — Happy Belly just reached its first anniversary.
Next up is the bulgogi carnitas taco, obviously Korean-cuisine-inspired. "We're known for big, bright flavors and fusion," says Henry. "But I have to make sure that's balanced. Because one wrong bite on a six-inch tortilla and a taco can be fucked. It's a small artist's palate to work with."

He braises the Korean barbecue beef-carnitas style, but it's actually pork shoulder, slow-roasted and shredded. He takes the same kimchi he makes for Roosters and purées it with xanthan gum to thicken it a bit, to basically a ketchup consistency. The idea's to even out the pungency that whole kimchi cabbage leaves can lend to a single bite. Pickled onions and jalapeños as garnish lend nice, complimentary acidity and bite to the tangy meat — it's a delicious taco.
A trio of the house salsas: a verde, ranchero and chipotle. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A trio of the house salsas: a verde, ranchero and chipotle.
Lastly for the tacos, and my personal favorite, the Happy Belly Taco features badass mojo-marinated pork belly slices, à la a Cuban cuisine but with a soy twist and an assist from Henry's wife's garden (thyme and oregano). The combo of that mojo pork and a chipotle salsa rojo, plus pickled carrots and jalapeños, make for a symphony of smokiness punctuated by acidic notes and a respectable spice that helps cut the fat. If you are going to name an item after your eatery, it better taste this good; a year was worth the wait.
A newly added, gluten-free and vegan green chile (pork belly addition optional). - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A newly added, gluten-free and vegan green chile (pork belly addition optional).

Another new item: a gluten-free and vegan green chile, unless you elect to pay extra for that same mojo pork belly to be added. For it Henry uses a roasted tomatillo base, with Hatch chilies, yellow onions and jalapeños plus annatto seed and cumin for seasoning. He thickens the soup with crumbled pieces of corn tortillas, which float about offering some chunkiness sans toothsomeness, and garnishes with Mexican crema and queso fresco. It's a spicy bowl, unique from every other green chile in town.

Yucca fries tossed in chimichurri, with queso fresco garnish, also on the new menu. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Yucca fries tossed in chimichurri, with queso fresco garnish, also on the new menu.

The final dish for my sampling, yucca fries, offer their textbook starchy bliss, with a zesty edge from being rolled in chimichurri. Queso fresco garnish adds a little counterpoint. As fat fries, basically, they're always a treat, well handled here.

In closing, and before I can steal his stupid-cute dog, Henry says that because there are so many taco shops in town, he really has tried to stand out by "getting away from the traditional." Anyone who knows the chef knows that ever since he's been on the Springs scene, he's shown himself to be anything but. 
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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Midtown Grill closes for restaurant service, is up for sale

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2019 at 11:45 AM

Along with a "Gone Fishing" photo, the following note appeared on Midtown Grill's Facebook page yesterday:

As of today, Midtown is closed for public service. We will host private functions only now through the holidays. We can accommodate 100-150 easily. Party basic and Extensive menus available!! Call or text Phil for appointments!! 719-338-9394

Oscar's Tejon Street and Midtown Grill owner Phil Duhon. - COURTESY MIDTOWN GRILL
  • Courtesy Midtown Grill
  • Oscar's Tejon Street and Midtown Grill owner Phil Duhon.
The Indy spoke to owner Phil Duhon this morning, who was quite forthcoming about his reasons for closing the business down. Duhon confirmed the business and property are now for sale.

Duhon originally launched Oscar's Tejon Street in April, 2003, rebranding the business to Midtown Grill earlier this year.

"I may have opened Midtown too early for the downtown renovations underway and it just didn't stick," he says. "I think people still wanted a local hangout bar, and I'm not a drinker anymore. I haven't drank in three years — I just don't want to be in that industry anymore."

Duhon says that after running some numbers, he realizes he can sell everything and bank what it would take him 10 years to make if provided the same annual revenue Oscar's made. "I can be done. I can retire. I can do little things on my own. Invest, remodel, renovate, take time off, be with my kids — just cash the chips in," he says. 
"Maybe remodeling was a bad decision," he continues. "But owning the property was a great decision. I bought if four years ago at 1/4 the price it's currently worth."

Duhon says he believes the business dynamic both at-large and downtown has changed a lot over the years. He cites factors ranging from social media influences to legal marijuana. "The dynamic change so much, faster than I'm accustomed to."

In the end, he says, "I could have pulled through the rough time, but I just don't wanna."

Duhon got his start at The Ritz and Mackenzie's Chop House. He says he's grateful for what downtown has given him over the years. "My biggest thanks is to the general public who has accepted me and forgiven me for my past ... I wasn't a very anonymous alcoholic. But I don't do that anymore. I've grown up. ... When I made this decision, I felt the weight lifted off. ... I've had a wonderful last couple years, I'm grateful to be a part of the Springs."
The fine house Reuben served at Midtown Grill. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • The fine house Reuben served at Midtown Grill.
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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

La Carreta replaces Lemongrass Bistro

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2019 at 8:10 AM

The Molcajete Duranguense plate at La Carreta. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • The Molcajete Duranguense plate at La Carreta.

Lemongrass Bistro closed its doors this past week at 6840 N. Academy Blvd., to be replaced just days later by a second La Carreta location.

La Carreta has been open on 35 Iowa Ave., just northeast of Memorial Park, for 23 years; Blanca Reyes and her mom Lorenza Galvan have owned it for the last five of those years.
"We appreciate the neighborhood that has been supporting us all this time," says Reyes, noting many regular customers who'd drive from the north side of town. So this new location is partly meant to place an eatery closer to those loyal customers, she says.

Though she had dreamed of a second location some day, Reyes said the opportunity to branch out now came when Lemongrass Bistro's owner recently approached them about a sale. What enabled La Carreta to open doors just days after Lemongrass closed down is how good of shape the spot's in, she says. The front-house decor was already fairly "plain," she adds, meaning it's an easy transition from Vietnamese to Mexican service, and her crew mainly just needed to reorganize the kitchen area.

Reyes says the menu at this new north location will be exactly the same as at the original, and Galvan will do the prep at both to ensure consistency.

"This is authentic Mexican food, the same way we cook at home," says Reyes, noting their Durango, Mexico roots. "Everything is from scratch: no cans, nothing frozen." 
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