Monday, November 25, 2019

Happy Belly Tacos expands, takes over The Collective: A Social House

Posted By on Mon, Nov 25, 2019 at 11:59 AM

COURTESY RMFR
  • Courtesy RMFR

The Indy reported in October on Happy Belly's new menu to mark its first anniversary downtown.

Now, just a month later, Rocky Mountain Food Report and Indy contributor Dionne Roberts broke the news on Happy Belly Tacos taking over The Collective: A Social House.

Here's Roberts reporting via RMFR:

Mark Henry, president of Elevated Carnivore Group (Rooster’s House of Ramen and Happy Belly Tacos) brings his Mexican cuisine to the rapidly growing Eastside of Colorado Springs and teams up once again with Sean and Inez Fitzgerald, owners of The Wobbly Olive and Allusion Speakeasy (the revolving pop-up bar inside of Rooster’s) to expand the concept and debut his third brick and mortar — set to officially open Thursday, December 12.

“I need to focus on my strengths and I’m a bartender at heart,” says Sean Fitzgerald. “So this partnership made a ton of sense because I can manage the front of the house, what I’m good at, and Mark, as the chef, can handle the back of the house. This way we can divide and conquer.”

The united front also benefits the original Happy Belly (125 N. Spruce Street) and finally puts the constant questions and outcries from patrons, who desperately (and rightfully so) desire margaritas and beers with their tacos, to rest. Fitzgerald confirms that “as soon as we get the change over completed in a successful way we will apply for a liquor license for the Westside.”

Beyond the appreciation for solid food and bev pairings, the lateral movement across town offers Eastsiders more variety of the local kind with an additional homegrown establishment amidst the layers of franchise restaurants in the general vicinity.

“It’s not necessarily better but I think it’s different,” says Henry. “Opposed to having an alley of chains we are representing the clientele, the community and bringing people the food they’ve asked for.”
MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
Give us what we want. The ultimate hand-held comfort foods.
The menus at both Happy Belly’s will read similar, with some additions at part two, but the transition appears to be seamless as, according to Fitzgerald, tacos already rank as the best selling food items at The Collective.

“This shows a need and we can play in the same sandbox with them,” seconds Henry. “They want somewhere they can sit down and have great margaritas and fast, good tacos. A place to call home.”

Fitzgerald and Henry both want Happy Belly to be a culture that reaches across Colorado Springs, an open forum whereas it’s very involved and committed staff can share suggestions and grow together to create heightened dishes and provide better service. During our recent podcast with Henry — “Livin’ that Chef Life” — he speaks directly to the importance of overall company morale and the dire need for constructive commentary saying, “I work on inspiring my staff, not motivating them… inspiration lasts longer.”

“Mark is really cultivating this idea that he doesn’t care where the idea came from,” says Fitzgerald. “He wants to listen to [his staff] and let them try things that are fun while staying in the mantra of what Happy Belly is.”
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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Happy Tap takes over former Smiling Toad Brewery under ownership of Springs-born Major League Baseball pitcher

Posted By on Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 6:38 PM

15 weekly rotating taps. - COURTESY HAPPY TAP
  • Courtesy Happy Tap
  • 15 weekly rotating taps.

Happy Tap has taken over the former Smiling Toad Brewery location at 1757 S. Eighth St. The new taproom, open daily, features 15 weekly-rotating, diverse beers on draft, wines and seltzers, and food trucks at least Thursdays through Saturdays, plus prepared foods otherwise available in-house, and Sunday pot lucks. Renovations include a new sports room with ping pong, darts and TVs with all the sports channels.
Sunday pot lucks. - COURTESY HAPPY TAP
  • Courtesy Happy Tap
  • Sunday pot lucks.

Why the sports leaning? Owner Bret Helton, 26, has pitched five seasons in the MLB, having been drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015. He’s currently a free agent, hoping to sign around Christmas, and he plans to run Happy Tap personally during his off seasons. Helton graduated from Cheyenne Mountain High School, where his little brother still attends, and his father, Barry Helton played football in the NFL, helping the 49ers win two Super Bowls, in 1989 and 1990.
MLB pitcher Bret Helton on the field. - COURTESY HAPPY TAP
  • Courtesy Happy Tap
  • MLB pitcher Bret Helton on the field.
Happy Tap owner Bret Helton off the field. - COURTESY HAPPY TAP
  • Courtesy Happy Tap
  • Happy Tap owner Bret Helton off the field.

“This is something I can focus on in the off season to keep me busy,” says Bret. “This is my favorite place in the world, and I lived in a lot of places. But to stay here and build my reputation outside of baseball... maybe expand to another bar later... I saw the opportunity here, so I made the leap.”
The new game room. - COURTESY HAPPY TAP
  • Courtesy Happy Tap
  • The new game room.
Food truck service. - COURTESY HAPPY TAP
  • Courtesy Happy Tap
  • Food truck service.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The French Kitchen announces collaboration with Denver's La Belle French Bakery

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2019 at 9:44 AM

Chefs and new business partners Blandine Mazéran and Julien Renaut. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Chefs and new business partners Blandine Mazéran and Julien Renaut.

Indy
2019 Best Of gold winner in the category of Cooking Class, The French Kitchen (who also won a bronze nod for Best French), just announced a new collaboration and partnership.

TFK owner and chef Blandine Mazéran will now host cooking classes from owner and executive pastry chef Julien Renaut of Denver's La Belle French Bakery. Renaut has also begun providing dessert pastries for TFK's retail market and cafe. To begin, he'll regularly teach Monday croissant classes, which Mazéran says have been requested by clients ever since she opened, though this is the first time TFK is offering: The first is Nov. 25, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., for $159, at TFK's instruction kitchen attached to the two-and-a-half-year-old cafe.

"His food is quality — and I'm very picky," says Mazéran. "He brought me some sample cakes a while ago and I was like, 'Holy cow!' ... His design is simple, but modern; not everything has to be fancy pulled sugar."
DAVE + SONYA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Dave + Sonya Photography
Renaut has 15 years experience in the industry, beginning with obtaining his pastry and chocolate master degree and doing culinary competitions in France; he's from the northern city of Lille. He spent several years in the high-end hotel arena, also working closely with another chef who trained under three-star Michelin-star chef Paul Bocuse. He has also consulted and done product development for other businesses and done event-center work prior to launching La Belle three-and-a-half years ago. (La Belle doesn't have a retail front; it's a wholesale outfit that provides for coffee shops and other restaurants.)

"It's exciting to be working in the same industry as Blandine but in a different area," says Renaut. "The drive for both our businesses is the same quality, authentic French culinary experience. This partnership makes sense. I love to teach. This is the perfect setup."
DAVE + SONYA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Dave + Sonya Photography
Mazéran says that adding a new chef to her team and cooking class roster benefits clients because it offers more class variety. Her current lineup of teachers also includes Kristi Tutt and Anne Doan in addition to Renaut and herself. Sebastien Mullebrouck is still TFK's resident baker and pastry chef, making items like the true-to-French-style baguettes and other flaky pastries.

From Renaut's kitchen, look for items in the retail market now that include and an array of cakes like a triple chocolate mousse, yule logs, and the "Le Crunchy," made with milk chocolate mousse atop a crunch layer, coated in more chocolate with nuts and a whipped cream cap. It, and a few more items are pictured below:
The Le Crunchy dessert. - DAVE + SONYA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Dave + Sonya Photography
  • The Le Crunchy dessert.

DAVE + SONYA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Dave + Sonya Photography
DAVE + SONYA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Dave + Sonya Photography
DAVE + SONYA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Dave + Sonya Photography
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Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Joint Food Truck creates collaboration between Odyssey Gastropub and The Bench

Posted By on Sat, Nov 16, 2019 at 10:03 AM

COURTESY THE JOINT FOOD TRUCK
  • Courtesy The Joint Food Truck

The Joint Food Truck recently launched as a collaboration between five-year-old Odyssey Gastropub and year-and-a-half-old The Bench. Charlie Wofford, business development manager for the eateries, says the truck offers an avenue for testing out new menu items and allowing a little experimentation while getting out into the community more. Executive Chef Doug Pitts designed the menu and sometimes mans the truck along with owners Tyler and Jenny Sherman — all have ample brick-and-mortar experience but cooking on a truck’s new to everyone.
COURTESY THE JOINT FOOD TRUCK
  • Courtesy The Joint Food Truck

Pitts has placed spins on popular items found at the eateries, like a hand-held chicken and waffle cone with guajillo butter and smoked syrup that plays off the plated version. The Joint-exclusive items include South Dakota-inspired Chislic Cheesesteak Fries, topped with fried sirloin pieces, caramelized onions, bell peppers and queso.
COURTESY THE JOINT FOOD TRUCK
  • Courtesy The Joint Food Truck

Wofford says the truck eventually plans to be on the road four days a week or so, but for these initial months, it’s mainly hitting events like the upcoming Festival of Lights Parade, plus school events like football games and some brewery engagements. They’ve already tested a brunch menu as well with items like a biscuit waffle breakfast sandwich and Fistfull-O-Vegfast Burrito made with tofu scramble.
COURTESY THE JOINT FOOD TRUCK
  • Courtesy The Joint Food Truck
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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Altitude Hospitality Group battles itself in knife and bar fight — and ... wins!

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 9:11 PM

The winning girls team: Larissa Vendola from Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe (right), Kelsey Horwitz from Pinery at the Hill (left), and Ariel Bilyeu from Sprig. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • The winning girls team: Larissa Vendola from Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe (right), Kelsey Horwitz from Pinery at the Hill (left), and Ariel Bilyeu from Sprig.

Altitude Hospitality Group
hosted an internal Knife & Bar Fight on Tuesday, November 5, which is to say chefs from TILL, Garden of the Gods Gourmet, Sprig and The Pinery at the Hill faced off in friendly competition, with an invite to guest bartenders from Distillery 291 and Brooklyn's on Boulder. The event was free, and a small group of attendees, including me, acting in a judging role.

Wisely, Altitude couldn't really come off looking bad since one of the their chef teams was bound to win ... I mean, I suppose they could have goofed a course and risked bringing the whole empire crumbling down, but that did not happen. Not even close, as the three food courses — challenged by mystery ingredients of Dr. Pepper, goat cheese, blackberries and PSMO (full beef tenderloin) — completely kicked ass.

My favorite course of the evening, from the boys: coffee rubbed tenderloin with sunchoke, bacon, leeks, red potato hash and a sauce consisting of Dr. Pepper, English mustard and blackberries. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • My favorite course of the evening, from the boys: coffee rubbed tenderloin with sunchoke, bacon, leeks, red potato hash and a sauce consisting of Dr. Pepper, English mustard and blackberries.

Teams for the food fight were dividing into boys and girls: Respective head chefs Larissa Vendola from Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe, Kelsey Horwitz from Pinery at the Hill, and Ariel Bilyeu from Sprig. And TILL executive chef Philip Griffen, his sous chef Josey Boyd, and chef de cuisine David Platzer on the Altitude catering side.

TILL chef Philip Griffen, left. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • TILL chef Philip Griffen, left.

The girls ended up winning the night overall. Here are both teams' menus, utilizing the mandatory challenge ingredients in no particular order:

Girls:
1) Beet green salad with Dr. Pepper orange vinaigrette, goat cheese cream and honey candied pecans and baby beets.
2) Chile-rubbed tenderloin over sunchoke and celery root purée with roasted cauliflower and a Dr. Pepper-blackberry-jalapeño sauce.
3) Chevre and thyme mousse with roasted blackberries and strawberries topped with a brown sugar crumble cookie. 

Boys:
1) Roasted beets with beet leaf pesto and cashew nuts, beet crisps and a fennel-orange- pomegranate salad with chile vinaigrette.
2) Coffee rubbed tenderloin with sunchoke, bacon, leeks, red potato hash and a sauce consisting of Dr. Pepper, English mustard and blackberries.
3) Goat cheese honey mousse with blackberry chile jam and Dr. Pepper powder cinnamon crisps.

The chefs present to the judges, explaining their courses and intentions. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • The chefs present to the judges, explaining their courses and intentions.

For the bar fight, Brooklyn's on Boulder came up victorious in the end, utilizing challenge ingredients of rhubarb liqueur, spice cranberry Pinnacle vodka and Sipsmith sloe gin over three courses.

Brooklyn's on Boulder bartenders Philip Taylor, left, and Carlos Garcia. The won the bar fight. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • Brooklyn's on Boulder bartenders Philip Taylor, left, and Carlos Garcia. The won the bar fight.

Bartenders Philip Taylor and Carlos Garcia made the following recipes:

1) A sloe gin aperitif cocktail with Leopold Bros. Aperitivo, lemon and pomegranate juice, simple syrup and a lime garnish. (Garcia says it was an Aperol riff.)
2) Giffard's Rhubarb Liqueur with a split base of Michter's Rye and Weller Bourbon, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, bitters and hand-squeezed green bell pepper juice, garnished with orange peel pierced with clove spikes. (Taylor says it was partly inspired by a Martinez cocktail.)
3) Pinnacle spiced cranberry vodka split with Lee Spirits Dry Gin, plus Grand Marnier, Benedictine, Creme de Rose, Sauterne dessert wine and orange bitters, garnished with maraschino cherry and cranberry.

Distillery 291 bartenders Philip Rawleigh and Kande Warf. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • Distillery 291 bartenders Philip Rawleigh and Kande Warf.

Distillery 291 bartenders contributed my single favorite drink of the evening in their second round. Here's what they concocted:

1) A rye gin fizz with sloe gin, 291 rye, pink peppercorn infused 291 White Dog, orange and lemon juice and a candy garnish.
2) A strawberry rhubarb Old Fashioned with rhubarb liqueur, 291 bourbon, black walnut bitters, plum bitters and strawberries soaked in 291 Fresh, with Luxardo cherry and a lemon honey stick garnish. (Wow!)
3) "Christmas in Your Mouth" made with 291's Decc, spiced cranberry vodka, lemon and orange juices, ginger beer, earl grey tea, and cardamom bitters.

The guest judges sample spirits during a cocktail round. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • The guest judges sample spirits during a cocktail round.

All in all, the Knife & Bar Fight proved enjoyable as sort of a random election night one-off chef showcase with a booze back. (Special thanks to photographer Amanda Lamb for the free photo usage here.)

Head to TILL soon if you want to see it as it stands. Remember, come summer time, it'll be relocating to a spot in the Broadmoor area, and this location will be repurposed into a “family-friendly, open-air dining experience and entertainment complex, featuring pickleball courts, bowling, shuffleboard, a high-tech beer wall and plenty of outdoor games," according to a recent release. Here's a rendering:

COURTESY ALTITUDE HOSPITALITY GROUP
  • Courtesy Altitude Hospitality Group
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Friday, November 1, 2019

GoFundMe started to help O'Malley's recover from fire

Posted By on Fri, Nov 1, 2019 at 9:56 AM

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
News travelled quickly earlier this week about a kitchen fire that has temporarily put O'Malley's out of commission.

The beloved steakhouse in Palmer Lake, popular in-part for its grill-your-own-steak concept, has already seen a wave of community support.

Among that support, a loyal patron has started a GoFundMe page to help owner Jeff Hulsmann reopen as soon as possible. The goal is a modest $2,500.

O'Malley's has stood for over three decades in the area, open daily year-round until 2 a.m., usually.

On the Indy's last formal visit in 2016, I commended the awesome staff for handling a loud Broncos game-day crowd with grace, as well as some great drink pricing. Not that I don't cook enough at home, but I recall enjoying the novelty of prepping my own food at a large hibachi-table-like setup, and enjoying my buffalo burger.

Here's hoping Hulsmann reopens quickly. 
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