Food and Drink

Friday, April 17, 2020

All Together (IPA) Now + more food/drink news

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 1:17 PM

On tap as of 11 a.m. Saturday, April 18 at both breweries.
  • On tap as of 11 a.m. Saturday, April 18 at both breweries.

Ahead of the weekend, here's a grab bag of current food and drink news:

Cerberus Brewing Company and Metric Brewing are releasing the collaboratively brewed All Together IPA this weekend to support employees at both companies. (All profits will go directly to them.) The idea hails from Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn, New York, and according to a release put out by Cerberus, nearly 600 breweries across 41 states and 39 countries are making this beer.

“There is an inextricable link that binds together everyone in the hospitality industry. Brewers, servers, bartenders, bussers, dishwashers, GMs, buyers, chefs, owners — we are all in this together," reads a statement by Other Half Brewing. "In this industry, when one of us struggles, the rest of us pick them up. It's baked into who we are.”

The New England-style IPA features a blend of Apollo, Mosaic, Wakatu, Simcoe and Citra hops and comes in at a more than sessionable but less than imperial 6.5 percent ABV. The beer's recipe is open source and its name and artwork are free to use for any brewery wishing to participate.

"As much as this is about raising money, this is also an exercise in awareness so that local communities can understand how daily life has been upended for those that rely on social gathering to make a living," the release notes.

Crowlers will be available on Saturday with limited-edition stickers gifted to buyers as a small gift of appreciation. Relatedly, Metric recently collaborated with local graffiti artist Paes164 on some slick new crowler labels — check these out:
Awesome crowler art by Paes164.
  • Awesome crowler art by Paes164.

• Also in beer haps: FH Beerworks has launched neighborhood deliveries via a new online ordering system. See details on their Facebook page, and check out this below graphic to match your neighborhood with delivery days:
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• In Side Dish, we recently reported on Red Gravy chef Eric Brenner's newly conceived Meals to Heal program, aimed at feeding frontline healthcare workers while stimulating restaurants financially. Other local restaurants have launched some cool community efforts as well; here's just a couple that we've noticed recently: Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. created Extra Helpings, which allows buyers of one meal to gift another to someone else in need for free. And the recently opened ViewHouse has conceived the 200 Meals a Day program, to donate as many meals each day to "local organizations in need that are affected by COVID-19."

Edelweiss Restaurant has joined a handful of other eateries we know of thus far to offer family meal packs and much more beyond their normal menu of fine German cuisine. You can now order online items like: flour, eggs, German rye bread, toilet paper, "culinary essentials" (celery, onion, carrots, potatoes, etc.), nitrile gloves and mixed, cryovaced variety steak packs. 
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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Slinger's Pit Stop set to open, get the Smokehouse back in the marketplace

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2020 at 10:19 AM

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Slingers Smokehouse & Saloon had only opened in early December, 2019, before opting to go dark recently when the state issued its temporary on-site dining ban. Co-owner Greg Howard explains: “The problem with a full wood smoker is it requires 16 hours of smoke time that has to be manned by a person. Whether smoking 5 or 500 pounds, it still costs us the same amount of time and money aside from the meat cost. Trying to figure out what our daily sales would be was going to be a nightmare in the beginning of this new market. We decided to sit back and watch.”

Until now. Slinger’s Pit Stop is staging to open as early as Friday, April 10, but no later than Monday, April 13, says Howard. Slinger's Pit Stop takes over the former Bikini Xpresso kiosk out front the Smokehouse. (No, employees won’t be scantily clad, but Howard says the El Paso County Public Health Department did thank them.)

In addition to espresso drinks and drip coffee, the Pit Stop will serve grab-and-go egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches (with brisket and pork belly options) and a fruit parfait during breakfast hours. Come lunch, get grab-and-go sandwiches: pulled chicken or pork, brisket or burnt ends. Additionally, call ahead or pre-order online for smoked meats by the pound, including wings, plus sides like potato and macaroni salads.

The drive-thru nature of the kiosk makes it easier for staff and customers to limit contact during the COVID-19 pandemic; the main eatery will remain closed for now. But Howard says they expect to keep the kiosk running in this same fashion even after things get back to normal. Regarding prior ghost kitchen plans for additional cuisines out of Slingers, Howard says they’re still developing a vegan menu, but still anticipate respective Nashville Hot Chicken and mac ‘n cheese menus (the latter replacing a prior-planned Italian menu) later as well. 
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Friday, April 3, 2020

UPDATE: Red Gravy launches Meals to Heal to feed healthcare industry, keep jobs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2020 at 2:08 PM

Red Gravy chef Eric Brenner and crew prepare 60 pans of lasagna (capable of feeding 60 families) for the first Meals to Heal donation, this one going to UC Health workers. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Red Gravy chef Eric Brenner and crew prepare 60 pans of lasagna (capable of feeding 60 families) for the first Meals to Heal donation, this one going to UC Health workers.

Chef Eric Brenner reached out with an update on Meals to Heal, which now has a dedicated website.

Brenner says on that site, "people can raise their own money, choose their neighborhood restaurants to provide the food, and decide where the need in their community is greatest."

He says four states around the country have thus far gotten on board to deliver meals, with 15 more planning to participate this upcoming week.

For its part, Red Gravy has now sent out more than 400 meals inside two weeks, says Brenner. With next week's upcoming distribution to UCHealth, Kangaroo Coffee plans to join in with coffee donations.

**** ORIGINAL POST: 5:43 P.M., THURSDAY, MARCH 26 ****

"We are trying to survive and help everyone at the same time. Putting our oxygen on ourselves  before we help others ... chefs are innately problems solvers, we're savvy and we can get stuff done."

That's Red Gravy chef Eric Brenner, telling me how Chef José Andrés' book We Fed an Island in-part inspired him to launch Meals to Heal, a local GoFundMe initiative to aid two frontline industries at once: the (overwhelmed) healthcare and (beleaguered) restaurant industries. 

"This effort is designed to provide food for our healthcare workers, first responders and emergency services personnel while simultaneously supporting our restaurants and foodservice business community," he explains on the page. He hopes to pioneer the model, then "try and export it to other interested restaurants."

Red Gravy remains open for pickup and delivery service and Brenner's taking every precaution he can to keep staff and consumers safe. He limits staff to no more than 10 at a time in the building, and prevents the public from entering at all — they bring food out to delivery people and takeout guests. They also try to maintain as much distance as they can from one another while on site. Even before the on-site service shutdown orders came last week, Brenner had begun seating guests at every other table to spread them out.

Since the shutdown, Brenner's been able to hire back some of the workers Red Gravy had to initially lay off, though most are working only about half the shifts the previously would have. And some have shifted roles; for instance I met a server who's jumped to back-of-the-house and was helping prep lasagna for Meals to Heal. (Shout out to DARS Supply Inc. for donating the aluminum pans and some supplies.)

In addition — and this is just one more example locally we've seen of how restaurateurs have stepped up in awesome ways to help their staffs during this time — Brenner has told his staff that they (and their direct family members) can come in to eat for free during this shutdown period, even (or especially) those laid off. He's also giving them free paper goods such as toilet paper to take home.

Getting back to chefs being problem solvers, Brenner says he's been through this type emergency situation before, first after 9/11 and then with the 2008 recession, both at restaurants he formerly operated in St. Louis. He says he had one advantage here in that he'd recently scaled up his POS system for online ordering, which allowed him to move rather seamlessly into that comprising the majority of his business now: "If that wasn't lined up we couldn't have pivoted as fast."

Donations to Meals to Heal are separate from Red Gravy's regular service now, but if you wish to help the entity as a whole, consider a donation to the GoFundMe and order some food from Red Gravy.

Brenner says he's trying to keep the cost to around $10 a person on his menu, and one current Family Meal Deal consists of any pasta and any salad plus lemon ricotta cookies for dessert, for $50 — it feeds between four and six people. (A bottle of wine or other spirits can be added on.)

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
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Thursday, April 2, 2020

The French Kitchen offering COVID-19-convenient drone delivery, and more

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 1:15 PM

Can you believe it? Drone delivery! How about that?! - COURTESY THE FRENCH KITCHEN
  • Courtesy The French Kitchen
  • Can you believe it? Drone delivery! How about that?!

****UPDATE: 1:07 P.M., THURSDAY, APRIL 2****

Since yesterday's April Fool's Day post, we caught back up with TFK owner/chef Blandine Mazéran to see how the spoof went over as a whole.

She reports one big highlight: getting a call from the Federal Aviation Administration due to a complaint made that someone was selling baguettes by drone. The FAA apparently made it clear that this isn't allowed, prompting the TFK staff to let them know it was a joke.

Among other calls and messages received, Mazéran says there was a request for a big birthday delivery for some children and another from a neighborhood in a more remote area asking for drone delivery of cookies. Another call came internationally, from a company that apparently delivers medical supplies in Africa, who was asking about TFK's drone specs or something, she says.

So, yeah, um ... guess we can say this was a successful prank.

****ORIGINAL POST: 3:08 P.M., WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1****

Ok, the shelf life of this joke won't last much past April 1 anyway, so let's go ahead and acknowledge The French Kitchen's April Fool's joke as a well-timed and welcome reprieve from constant, heavy COVID-19 news lately.

Yes, many people were fooled, says TFK owner Blandine Mazéran, noting many phone calls to the business with folks saying they can't find the button online for ordering drone service. "It's going great and getting us new clients," she says. "We're inviting people to like our pages and hoping to increase our customer base."

One commenter on the Culinary Distancing Facebook group, where Mazéran shared the joke, wrote, "This is great, what is the delivery distance for the drone? I’m in Monument..."
The former retail bakery and cafe space has been converted into a staging ground for to-go orders for baking supplies and more. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The former retail bakery and cafe space has been converted into a staging ground for to-go orders for baking supplies and more.

But, joking aside, it's been serious business lately for Mazéran and her crew, pivoting the business to address the laws of the COVID-19 shutdown and needs of her clientele.

TFK was forced to cancel all TFK’s cooking classes, their main staple, and take a huge financial hit with upcoming class reimbursements. And since the retail bakery and cafe too had to cease on-site service, she had to investigate pickup and delivery options.

So, virtually overnight, TFK began selling baking supplies along with baked goods and Mazéran and visiting instructor/chef Shane Lyons (Nosh, Distilled NY) created to-go family meals, becoming so busy that Mazéran actually had to hire for new positions (during a time of tremendous layoffs everywhere). “The parking lot is full of cars and I’m super happy,” says Mazéran, “we’ve had a big response.”

New family meals include Beef Bourguinon, Coq au Vin, shepherd’s pie, and chicken pot pie. - DAVE+SONYA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • dave+sonya photography
  • New family meals include Beef Bourguinon, Coq au Vin, shepherd’s pie, and chicken pot pie.

Among other baked goods and products, TFK now sells boutique high-fat butter and high-protein unbromated and unbleached flour which yields much better baking results that commercially available flours, she says. Family meals include Beef Bourguinon, Coq au Vin, shepherd’s pie, and bestselling chicken pot pie, plus sides like mac and cheese and cauliflower gratin. “If Shane hadn’t been here, I’d have probably shut my doors,” she adds.
Consulting chef Shane Lyons, now adding to his resume the title of "modern-era French resistance fighter." - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Consulting chef Shane Lyons, now adding to his resume the title of "modern-era French resistance fighter."
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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Drink at home, tip a (furloughed) service industry worker anyway

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 4:36 PM

Be your own bartender, but help another professional one weather their current unemployment. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Be your own bartender, but help another professional one weather their current unemployment.

Though Colorado's allowing the sale of to-go liquor as an economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, many bartenders are still out of work due to the cessation of on-site consumption of food and drink.

A local guy, Aaron Maynard, has helped launch a platform where we can assist some of those folks, called Help the Colorado Springs Service Industry.

How it works is a random industry worker's name will appear as you pull up the page, and you'll have options for tipping them. From the page:

Every time you have a drink at home during social distancing, consider tipping a local service industry worker through Venmo or Cash App.

Right now, service industry people are severely impacted by social distancing and quarantine. Lower amounts of patrons and restaurants closing will be tough on everyone. Every little bit helps.

If you are a service industry employee in the area who's lost work, there's a form at the bottom of the page to become one of the beneficiaries.

I emailed a bit with Maynard to find out more about the effort. Here's what he had to say:

Indy: What’s your connection to the industry? Are you just a faithful diner/drinker or did you have friends who lost jobs?

Maynard:  I was in the restaurant industry for almost 15 years as a server, bartender and manager. I now work in restaurant technology at Synq3 Restaurant Solutions here in Colorado Springs. My wife has been in the industry as long as I have and was managing at Old Chicago until she was laid off last week.

Indy: What gave you this particular idea for this model?

Maynard: A friend of mine in Chattanooga, TN (where I lived for 13 years until we moved here six months ago — my wife grew up here.) came up with the idea. I jumped at the chance to bring it out here. In just over a week, they have added 70 cities and have had over 3 million views!

Indy: So the selection of who to tip is random, folks can't choose their favorite person, right?

Maynard: Yes, it is always a random server to spread it out to as many as possible. In the past five days, we have added over 500 bartenders and servers here in COS.
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Monday, March 16, 2020

Culinary Distancing: Take-out, Cook-in quarantine survival guide

Posted By on Mon, Mar 16, 2020 at 3:03 PM

We saw it coming with the limited capacities and closures of restaurants and bars in major cities, and earlier today Denver announced the ending of on-site restaurant/bar service until May 11. You can read that order in full here: 
The clock's probably ticking for Colorado Springs and many cities to follow suit, and it's fair to say that unease and uncertainty are the flavor of today. I've already been contacted by restaurant employees who're reporting wide layoffs — I don't want to name businesses because it's undoubtedly a tough decision for them and they shouldn't receive flack for trying to stay afloat in the face of major revenue loss while following state and federal guidelines.

Many places are doing what they can to quickly pivot into pickup and delivery models — some are already contracting with Grubhub and Uber Eats or providing their own delivery service, but others will soon get in the game, which might mean turning service staff into delivery drivers, for example.

Change is happening fast and nobody in our town wants to see our local businesses shutter or be taken out by COVID-19 economic fallout. As a community, we can clearly support them by ordering food from them in the coming days/weeks to keep money flowing and jobs intact. We're aware of many wonderful efforts underway by neighborhood and business groups and city and county agencies, and applaud everyone's hard work and concern.

All that in mind, I created an open Facebook group — everyone welcome — called Culinary Distancing: Take-out, Cook-in quarantine survival guide, with the goal of creating a platform for restaurants to post their takeout and delivery deals and other timely info for the community to easily find. As well, we're encouraging chefs or anyone to post recipes to inspire folks at home. (Drink establishments like coffee shop and breweries are welcome too.)

Several eateries (and a couple cooking class institutions) have already posted, as well as agencies like the Small Business Development Center (who has shared a Disaster Recovery and Continuity Guide), and membership has grown to more than 530 people inside the first 24 hours. We invite you to join us and participate, share info on specials you see around town, or post a favorite recipe.

We'll all get through this together, and hopefully we can maintain some normalcy and eat and drink pretty well along the way.

If you're self-isolating, it's a great time to bring out some recipes and cook. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • If you're self-isolating, it's a great time to bring out some recipes and cook.
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Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Fighting 69th Irish Whiskey releases ahead of St. Patrick's Day

Posted By on Sun, Mar 8, 2020 at 8:31 PM

COURTESY FIGHTING 69TH WHISKEY
  • Courtesy Fighting 69th Whiskey

Right up front I should tell you there's no direct Colorado Springs tie for this new whiskey on the market — The Fighting 69th Irish Whiskey — other than it's now being distributed here — a timely release ahead of St. Patrick's Day.

But we are a military town, and a dollar of every bottle sold will be donated to the 69th Infantry Regiment Historical Trust, which helps veterans and their families. And we are a whiskey town, based off the successes and major awards won by our local whiskey makers such as Distillery 291 and Axe and the Oak. And the brand reps behind The Fighting 69th will be participating in the Colorado Springs St. Patrick's Day Festival, I'm told.

Click on the first two links above to learn much more about The Fighting 69th "Irish Brigade" regiment, "one of the oldest and most honored military units in the history of the United States ... founded in 1849 as a New York State Irish Militia ... now a U.S. Army infantry regiment [that's fought] in major engagements from the Civil War to modern day Iraq and Afghanistan."

As for the spirit itself, it's made solely from barley and malted barley and sees a triple distillation in copper pot stills before getting at least three years to rest in "once used Bourbon casks." The company then does a secondary aging on "a variety of other casks," including single- and double-char barrels as well as rum, port and Oloroso sherry casks.

The final whiskey is blended from a mix of all those, but for all that diversity, the flavor doesn't speak to any individually in terms of something like vanilla or caramel notes. From our sampling, we noting a pretty hot nose for an 80-proof spirit but it drinks smooth and sweet. We didn't get to testing any cocktails with it yet, but should you pick up a bottle soon, here's four suggested cocktails provided by the brand:
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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Lee Spirits Distillery and Tasting Room opens in Monument

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2020 at 9:12 PM

All the same cheery faces you know from Brooklyn's on Boulder downtown will be operating the bar in Monument as well on a rotational basis. Robin Jones (second from right) has been named head bartender in the new tasting room. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • All the same cheery faces you know from Brooklyn's on Boulder downtown will be operating the bar in Monument as well on a rotational basis. Robin Jones (second from right) has been named head bartender in the new tasting room.

Lee Spirits Company has opened a second tasting room at 303 W. Hwy. 105 in Monument, attached to its new, expanded distillery space.

Not only can it fit around 20 more people than Brooklyn's on Boulder downtown, but it has a  different menu focus as well. Just one new item to Lee product fans: lavender lemonade and strawberry lemonade on tap. As well, both lemonades have just been launched as a canned product available within days in area liquor stores; you can purchase four-packs on site here as well, along with Lee's dozen other bottles. 

Available on tap in Monument or in cans in liquor stores very soon, Lee Spirits Co. just released non-carbonated Lavender Gin and Strawberry Gin canned lemonades that weigh in at 9-percent ABV. The organization says they are the first in North America to offer non-carbonated gin cocktails to the marketplace. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Available on tap in Monument or in cans in liquor stores very soon, Lee Spirits Co. just released non-carbonated Lavender Gin and Strawberry Gin canned lemonades that weigh in at 9-percent ABV. The organization says they are the first in North America to offer non-carbonated gin cocktails to the marketplace.

But the main difference guests will notice up north is a simple, one-page menu (versus Brooklyn's flip-book) with easy offerings like Champagne spritzes (infused with house creme de rose or creme de violette), flavored Lee Spirit vodkas, whiskey and colas, and shots such as a Mexican Chocolate, made with house Ginfuego and creme de cacao.

The menu does still lead off with a dozen classic cocktails for $10 each, but Ian Lee says the goal with this tasting room is more to highlight the raw materials here, in a way that can be easily replicated at home. Whereas Brooklyn's highlights bartender creativity with complex seasonal menus, here many of the items are left to shine in a more singular, spotlighted way.

Lee Spirits Co. founders and cousins Ian (left) and Nick Lee. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lee Spirits Co. founders and cousins Ian (left) and Nick Lee.

Having become well acquainted with Lee's classic cocktails at Brooklyn's over the years, I focused on small samplings of the new products during the soft opening night. I sipped the 80-proof vodka, which earned a silver award at the 2018 Denver International Spirits Competition. Lee Spirit cola syrup makes for a pretty fantastic whiskey and cola to put any Jack-and-Coke pour to shame.

Lee Spirits long ago developed a corn-based vodka and has sold it on other states in white-label form for several years. Now, the company has re-labeled it for local release as an affordable "upscale well vodka" that'll be available in bars as of March 1. Liquor stores should also have it on shelves by late March. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lee Spirits long ago developed a corn-based vodka and has sold it on other states in white-label form for several years. Now, the company has re-labeled it for local release as an affordable "upscale well vodka" that'll be available in bars as of March 1. Liquor stores should also have it on shelves by late March.
In total there's about 20 more seats at this tasting room compared to Brooklyn's on Boulder downtown. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • In total there's about 20 more seats at this tasting room compared to Brooklyn's on Boulder downtown.

I try the creme de violette Champagne spritz with a lemon rind garnish that makes for a fabulous aroma all concocted and a fine bubbly sipper that wants only for warmer weather. The new lemonades — off tap, on ice — also scream for summer; they're on the sweet side, slightly viscous from the gin body, and very expressive with their respective lavender and strawberry-ginger flavorings. Ian Lee tells me it wasn't as simple as making lemonade and pouring the house spirits in — that the lemonades had to be reverse engineered to achieve the right balance to be kegged and placed into cans as batched cocktails. 

For the soft opening, the crew put a Pink Squirrel on as the special of the week. It's made with Lee Spirits' creme de cacao, creme de noyaux and heavy cream. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • For the soft opening, the crew put a Pink Squirrel on as the special of the week. It's made with Lee Spirits' creme de cacao, creme de noyaux and heavy cream.

The trio of available shots for $5 each are all more of quick liquid desserts, which is to say delicious. In addition to the aforementioned Mexican Chocolate, look for a Frostbite made with creme de violette and Lee Peppermint Schnapps, and the Peppermint Patty, made with the same schnapps and creme de cacao. (Yes it tastes like the cookie.)

The tasting room occupies 1,340 square feet of the larger 5,600 square-foot complex. There's the same number of seats at the bar as at Brooklyn's then an array of four-top tables leading back to a mural wall, as well as a rail for standing room opposite the bar near the entryway.

Mural by Rachel Dinda; dreamscape_r on Instagram. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mural by Rachel Dinda; dreamscape_r on Instagram.

The distillery won't actually be operational until sometime around summer. To give the whole building more curb appeal, the team put a copper-colored metal roof accent around the whole building, plus a wall of wood boards to support the Lee Spirits logo near the customer entryway. The structure was formerly a collision shop, hence three bay doors on the distillery side.

South-facing signage near the tasting room entryway. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • South-facing signage near the tasting room entryway.
East-facing signage on the distillery portion of the building, not open to the public. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • East-facing signage on the distillery portion of the building, not open to the public.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Wobbly Olive - Old Colorado City becomes Happy Belly Tacos - West

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 4:24 PM

COURTESY HAPPY BELLY TACOS
  • Courtesy Happy Belly Tacos
Following the successful transition just before the new year at 7702 Barnes Road from The Collective to Happy Belly Tacos - East, co-owners Mark Henry (also of Rooster’s House of Ramen) and Sean Fitzgerald (also of The Wobbly Olive and Allusion Speakeasy) have turned the Wobbly Olive Old Colorado City location at 2611 W. Colorado Ave. into Happy Belly Tacos - West.

Happy Belly Tacos - West hopes to soft open Friday, Feb. 21 — but short of that mark will open on the 22nd says Fitzgerald.

In turn, the former and original Happy Belly location at 125 N. Spruce St. has become a commissary kitchen they’re tentatively referring to as The Kitchen. Company Chef de Cuisine Chad Henry (Mark’s younger brother) will oversee prep and consistency out of that kitchen to supply both Happy Belly locations, while Fitzgerald says the space (liquor license to come) will also allow for pop-ups and incubation space for other chefs to try out concepts before leveraging themselves to brick-and-mortar space.

Fitzgerald says the original Wobbly Olive location at 3317 Cinema Point will refocus on its creative roots (undistracted by a second location) under executive chef Justin Edgar, and that the reason he’s decided to turn the west location into Happy Belly is because underperformance during non-tourist seasons, making for fluctuating staffing levels and not exactly a thriving business situation.

By contrast, since its opening, Fitzgerald says Happy Belly - East has seen five times the traffic as The Collective did, spawning wait times and even running out of food during unexpected rushes as they settle into the new flow. Under the new merger of sorts, Fitzgerald oversees front of the house and drink programs, while Henry puts his energy strictly on the back of the house and menus, “focusing on our strengths,” says Fitzgerald.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

16 pretty views of the ViewHouse

Posted By on Wed, Feb 12, 2020 at 6:21 PM


The ViewHouse is now open with its Colorado Springs location, the fourth currently in parent company Lotus Concepts' portfolio of eateries. The first location opened eight years ago in Denver, with Centennial and Littleton locations following; a Thornton store's planned for 2021 as well.

We took a tour on Tuesday, Feb. 11 and were treated to a limited menu and drink sampling. Read the captions of the below photos for more info on the outfit.
The upstairs patio sports the best, unobstructed mountain views. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The upstairs patio sports the best, unobstructed mountain views.
Big big TVs, everywhere for your sports viewing pleasure. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Big big TVs, everywhere for your sports viewing pleasure.
Local, organic lemon-thyme grilled chicken over butternut squash, garlic mashed potatoes, kale and microgreen and fingerling potato chip salad. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Local, organic lemon-thyme grilled chicken over butternut squash, garlic mashed potatoes, kale and microgreen and fingerling potato chip salad.
Look for 35 local taps and bottles total plus 15 area distilleries on display. ViewHouse has its own beers as well, currently being brewed for them by Denver Beer Company. I sampled a flight: the 1858 IPA (mosaic and citra hop, bitter and easy drinking), Ballpark Pale Ale, Rockpile Red Ale, Que Pasa Mexican-style Lager (made with cucumber purée- yum), and Peach Buzz Blonde. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Look for 35 local taps and bottles total plus 15 area distilleries on display. ViewHouse has its own beers as well, currently being brewed for them by Denver Beer Company. I sampled a flight: the 1858 IPA (mosaic and citra hop, bitter and easy drinking), Ballpark Pale Ale, Rockpile Red Ale, Que Pasa Mexican-style Lager (made with cucumber purée- yum), and Peach Buzz Blonde.
Pineapple mahi mahi tacos. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pineapple mahi mahi tacos.
Outdoor cabanas are available just off the game turf. In total, the space, off Woodmen Road, occupies around 18,000 square feet. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Outdoor cabanas are available just off the game turf. In total, the space, off Woodmen Road, occupies around 18,000 square feet.
The California Burger, made with grass-fed beef from Frontiére Natural Meats. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The California Burger, made with grass-fed beef from Frontiére Natural Meats.
Cornhole boards galore, with a killer view. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Cornhole boards galore, with a killer view.

The ViewHouse also serves sushi plates; one of the chefs formerly worked at Sushi Den in Denver, lending the expertise. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The ViewHouse also serves sushi plates; one of the chefs formerly worked at Sushi Den in Denver, lending the expertise.
The upstairs sports pretty awesome mountain views. Catch 3-6 p.m. happy hours, Monday through Friday, for select $3 drinks and $6 bites. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The upstairs sports pretty awesome mountain views. Catch 3-6 p.m. happy hours, Monday through Friday, for select $3 drinks and $6 bites.
The spicy salmon friend rice bowl with sriracha-glazed salmon. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The spicy salmon friend rice bowl with sriracha-glazed salmon.
In total, there's about 24 different beer taps, plus 70 varieties of canned beers. Five taps are devoted to ViewHouse beers. Sometime in the nearish future, they plan to open their own brewery and tap room in Fort Collins. Also look for a new Lotus Concepts spot called My Neighbor Felix in LoHi Denver come May. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • In total, there's about 24 different beer taps, plus 70 varieties of canned beers. Five taps are devoted to ViewHouse beers. Sometime in the nearish future, they plan to open their own brewery and tap room in Fort Collins. Also look for a new Lotus Concepts spot called My Neighbor Felix in LoHi Denver come May.
A newly added item: Nashville Hot Chicken and Waffles. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A newly added item: Nashville Hot Chicken and Waffles.
Wait for your party around the cozy upstairs fireplace or enjoy a whole meal fireside. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Wait for your party around the cozy upstairs fireplace or enjoy a whole meal fireside.
This sign speaks for itself — ViewHouse is clearly trying to support Colorado growers and ranchers "when possible." And they're working toward sustainability. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • This sign speaks for itself — ViewHouse is clearly trying to support Colorado growers and ranchers "when possible." And they're working toward sustainability.
A Nutella dessert pizza. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A Nutella dessert pizza.
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Friday, February 7, 2020

Huge gaming complex North Side Social a week from opening at former Till

Posted By on Fri, Feb 7, 2020 at 10:35 AM

Mascot Marvin the Marmot - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mascot Marvin the Marmot
The new signage. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The new signage.
You may recall my reporting last fall on the closure/relocation of Till Kitchen to make way for a gaming concept. At the time we didn't know where Till was moving exactly, and the gaming concept didn't yet have a name.

Today, we now know Till will join Garden of the Gods Gourmet at its 26th Street location for fine-dining evening service (to begin around May, tentatively) while its former space has been morphed into North Side Social, an already huge building that'll continue to grow with attached outdoor features as well as an ancillary structure if all goes according to plan. (Relatedly, another holding in parent company Altitude Hospitality Group's portfolio, Sprig, has also closed on the north end with plans to reopen in the former Zeezo's location downtown around mid June, tentatively.)

The below renderings show part of the scale of North Side Social after the next phases. The pictured pickleball courts and entertainment features will go where the current, west-facing parking area is.

The grand plan. - COURTESY NORTH SIDE SOCIAL
  • Courtesy North Side Social
  • The grand plan.
Plans call for outdoor performances. - COURTESY NORTH SIDE SOCIAL
  • Courtesy North Side Social
  • Plans call for outdoor performances.

Ahead of the February 14 opening day, I took an interior tour on February 6 at the still-in-construction North Side Social with Altitude Hospitality Group Founder Mitch Yellen. The entrepreneur feels so confident about the potential for pickleball in particular, as the fastest growing sport in the U.S., that's he's also underway with two locations of another concept called Pickle Republic; one in Lone Tree, another in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He calls them "a country club for people who don’t belong to country club."

Ambitious Altitude Hospitality Group Founder Mitch Yellen - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Ambitious Altitude Hospitality Group Founder Mitch Yellen

As we toured through North Side Social, I asked Yellen about what didn't work with Till that precipitated the move to the gaming concept. He proved pretty forthcoming with lessons learned.

"If you're thinking you're building something too large, talk to Mitch," he joked. "Once I knew it, I didn't wait. I called an audible. ... The vision was too big for a single concept. But this building makes sense for this concept."

It's actually not the first audible he'd called for this space, which shifted focus not too long after opening. Yellen says he wasn't exactly losing money, and described what sounded like a break-even situation, where Till was bringing in good money, but putting it largely toward bills, with simply too much overhead. If you've been in, you probably have the visual of the 80-foot long open kitchen inside of more than 17,000 square feet; the initial construction cost topped $13 million.

Dining tables have been cleared to make way for shuffleboard tables near the bar. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Dining tables have been cleared to make way for shuffleboard tables near the bar.

"Overall, not enough people were willing to pay for good quality food," he said. "And I'm not going to serve crappy food. At North Side Social, we're going to serve bar food in a healthy way." (Till Chef Philip Griffen will launch and stabilize North Side Social before moving to his new location; he's designed the opening menus, which you can view here.)

Back to our tour: Yellen takes me through what was formerly The Roost at Till on the building's north end, which will now be called The Burrow, and still cater to coffee drinkers, while also selling alcohol. (After 9 p.m., "family-friendly" North Side Social will be age 21 and up until midnight closing hours.) The Burrow will host dart boards as well as vintage 80s and 90s arcade games.

Moving south toward what was the bakery and one-time grab-and-go market, he points to an area that will now host a dozen pinball machines in another arcade zone. He mentions plans for pinball tournaments and many other gaming tournaments to be hosted on site as well.

Duckpin bowling balls at a two-lane bowling court. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Duckpin bowling balls at a two-lane bowling court.

In addition to bowling and pinball, paid games will include: 8-foot Battleship, Killer Queen (a 10-player strategy game), bubble hockey, shuffleboard, 4- and 8-man foosball and skee-ball. Free games on site include: ping pong, cornhole, giant Connect 4, and ladder toss.

The outdoor games coming in phase two, sometime around June, tentatively, are pickleball (including a pro shop and private cabanas for groups), bocce ball, giant Jenga and more. Phase three, which could break ground as early as October if all's going well on the first two phases, would include indoor pickle ball courts inside a new building for winter play, as well as an outdoor ice skating rink.
Dining booths remain near the open-kitchen counter, but some 50 large TVs have been added all over the building for sports viewing. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Dining booths remain near the open-kitchen counter, but some 50 large TVs have been added all over the building for sports viewing.

As for Griffen's "approachable" food and drink, you can see from the menus that pizza remains a fixture in the space; Yellen's still proud of their San Francisco sourdough starter that's always informed the pies at Till. The prices will generally range from $9 to $14, he says, noting again that it'll stay "consistent with Altitude's quality."

Look for upwards of 50 beers plus other wines and drinks on the taps, as well as the cocktail list. Some popular drinks are holdovers from Till, but with new names. Depending on where you sit in the facility, you can either go for counter service (near the pizza kitchen) or full service (closer to the bar), so it may take a couple visits to fully figure out the lay of the land.

70 total taps are being installed. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • 70 total taps are being installed.

Till and Garden of the Gods Gourmet's former baking operations have moved to the Focus on the Family campus, where kitchen space was available; plus, they're a client, Yellen notes. That leaves open room in North Side Social's rear kitchen, which Yellen hopes to rent out to other businesses as commissary space. Much refrigeration space is open along with ample baking equipment.

The former private-dining area on the building's far south end will remain in use to host parties now, as well as tournaments, opening up to a patio area when needed. 

Some neon near the bar. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Some neon near the bar.

Seemingly never content to be doing just one giant project at a time (hence the Pickle Republic idea), Yellen teases a couple future plans he and his wife and his investors have in mind.

The first relates to taking Till to the next level at its new location, where construction's also underway to expand the facility and redecorate it. (Garden of the Gods Gourmet will still serve breakfast and lunch, turning over the space to Till in the evenings.) Yellen says Griffen worked at a Michelin starred restaurant, and he believes Griffen could bring a star here.

And if all that's not enough, Yellen concludes by saying he has his eye on space at Gold Hill Mesa, which in a few years, given success on the north side, could see another concept like North Side Social.

Many mini Marvins. The design comes via a Minneapolis firm, says Yellen. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Many mini Marvins. The design comes via a Minneapolis firm, says Yellen.
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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Blue Star Group to open Stellina Pizza Cafe in former Willamette Market & Deli

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Coming around May, tentatively. - COURTESY BLUE STAR GROUP
  • Courtesy Blue Star Group
  • Coming around May, tentatively.

After 22 years in business, including 19 at its South Tejon Street location, The Blue Star shut down in late 2017 to open again somewhere downtown by sometime in 2019. That was according to The Blue Star Group at the time, and today by way of update, chief of brand and strategy Sarah Mishler says they’re still not sure when “version 3.0” will occur.

Meanwhile, they have plans to add a new entity to their portfolio, which includes the Principal’s Office and La’au’s. Look for Stellina Pizza Cafe to open around May, tentatively, in the former, short-lived Willamette Market & Deli and longtime Little Market & Deli spot at 749 E. Willamette Ave. BSG owner Joseph Coleman co-owns the building, and the name, says Mishler, translates to “little star” and “pays homage to the Little Market and Blue Star Group.”

Construction is underway — and hey, they even found a matching dumpster. Who knew? - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Construction is underway — and hey, they even found a matching dumpster. Who knew?

Former Blue Star chef Will Merwin will create and consult on Stellina’s menu, as well as train its staff, says Mishler, noting Merwin and Coleman spent time in Italy recently to study up. They fell in love with square-shaped, Roman-style pizza, and are working to perfect a dough recipe. “It’s something people here won’t be used to,” she says, adding “the goal is the authentic, simplicity of Italian food, with fresh and few ingredients.”

Disaffected youth please apply. ... I'm kidding, but bothering to illustrate this employee down to the tattoos is hilariously awesome. Kudos. ... Anyhoo, expect counter service. Ahem. - COURTESY BLUE STAR GROUP
  • Courtesy Blue Star Group
  • Disaffected youth please apply. ... I'm kidding, but bothering to illustrate this employee down to the tattoos is hilariously awesome. Kudos. ... Anyhoo, expect counter service. Ahem.

Stellina will also serve homemade pasta, gluten-free risotto, seasonal soups, salads and appetizers, with gelato (not house-made) for dessert. It will offer counter service, and has a liquor license. Look for half a dozen wines and three or four cocktails and beer varietals each, all on tap, as part of a sustainability effort to avoid packaging waste. To that end, they plan to compost (in support of the nearby Middle Shooks Run Community Garden) and install solar panels. In respect of the residential area, Stellina plans to close by 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 on weekends, and encourage biking and walking in.

Note page 8 on the renderings below, where this red door gets reused as an overhead fixture. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Note page 8 on the renderings below, where this red door gets reused as an overhead fixture.

See more renderings of the business here:
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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

“Upscale dive bar” The Block Bar & Grill opens in former Oscar’s Tejon spot

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2020 at 8:06 PM

COURTESY THE BLOCK
  • Courtesy The Block

The former Oscar’s Tejon Street at 333 S. Tejon St., which briefly operated as the rebranded Midtown Grill towards its end, has reopened under new ownership as The Block Bar & Grill.

Co-owners Benjamin Pate and Derek Sunde are leasing the space from Oscar’s founder/chef Phil Duhon, with an option to later buy. Duhon’s longtime head chef Steven Quinones has stayed on, and with Derek (a faithful Oscar’s patron) and his wife Stacey’s input, co-designed an all-new menu save for oysters that honor Oscar’s’ legacy. It features burgers, tacos, sandwiches, apps, soups and salads, and a few entrées like fish and chips.

“We aren’t trying to be a restaurant,” says Pate, who also owns and engineering consulting firm that he operates in Texas in three-week-on-three-week-off cycles. “We’re more of an upscale dive bar with a diverse menu.” The team has added more big-screen TVs, another pool table, a juke box, and given the place a significant decor face-lift to distinguish it from its predecessors.

Former Wobbly Olive co-owner Philip Arana is designing the bar menu. - COURTESY THE BLOCK
  • Courtesy The Block
  • Former Wobbly Olive co-owner Philip Arana is designing the bar menu.

Lead bartender Philip Arana, celebrated mixologist and former co-owner for Allusion Speakeasy and The Wobbly Olive, has designed The Block’s cocktail menu, noting that their concept is “to pay homage to the Springs of our youth... the late 90s and the turn of a millennium... the classics of a dying time... the downtown experiences of yesterday.”

Arana says he's launching with a remedial craft cocktail menu to train the staff up but once they're comfy and dialed in, he'll do a spring and summer update that'll be "all new and exciting." In addition, look for 20 beer drafts ranging from domestics and imports to local craft labels, plus daily 4-7 p.m. happy hours.

As for the spot's name, Pate says "it's down the block from the rest of the bars, and our logo depicts our corner orientation on the block."

The Block's owners did a fairly extensive cosmetic remodel to revamp the former Oscar's space. - COURTESY THE BLOCK
  • Courtesy The Block
  • The Block's owners did a fairly extensive cosmetic remodel to revamp the former Oscar's space.
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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Paradox Beer Company to open downtown Paradox Outpost location soon

Posted By on Sun, Jan 12, 2020 at 9:44 AM

A phenomenal Wiley Roots Brewing beer in collaboration with Paradox: a pineapple upside down cobbler IPA. Sadly, it may be all gone by the time you read this. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A phenomenal Wiley Roots Brewing beer in collaboration with Paradox: a pineapple upside down cobbler IPA. Sadly, it may be all gone by the time you read this.

Paradox Beer Company has announced plans for its first Paradox Outpost location at 522 W. Colorado Ave., across from Benny’s Restaurant & Lounge, tentatively set to open around March.

Brewer, blender, jack-of-all-trades employee Jeffrey Airman says there won’t be any brewing or aging at this satellite spot, that it’ll be a tap and tasting room with some live music offerings and a small kitchen for limited food service, supplemented by food trucks at times.

“You won’t be getting the full Paradox experience unless you come to Divide,” he says, “but we’ll do different productions for the Outpost and tailor the beer for the neighborhood.” For example, a collaboration with Cerberus Brewing Company’s already planned.

Paradox's facility in Divide host stunning views, and should be visited for the full Paradox experience says brewer/blender Jeffrey Airman. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Paradox's facility in Divide host stunning views, and should be visited for the full Paradox experience says brewer/blender Jeffrey Airman.

Paradox originally opened in Woodland Park in 2012, moving to (and significantly expanding in) Divide four years later. They’re nationally and internationally distributed, specializing in ambitious and experimental wild and sour beers, barrel-aged and blended into limited, totally unique production runs.

On our recent visit, we followed the advice of friends who said the pineapple upside down cobbler IPA collaboration beer with Wiley Roots Brewing at Paradox is a beer to behold. It's made with caramelized pineapple, cherry juice, vanilla, cinnamon and lactose, leading with cake icing in the aroma yet magically manages not to taste cloying. A trusted friend who samples widely said it was probably the best beer she had in 2019, commending the pure flavors. We concur and were simply stunned.

Here's some background on the beer from Wiley Roots Brewing Co.'s CEO and head brewer Kyle Carbaugh:

The Cobbler Series (County Fair Cobbler, State Fair Cobbler, and the Bi-County Fair Cobbler) is a Milkshake Sour IPA series pioneered by Wiley Roots since late early Fall 2018. The idea for a collaboration [with Paradox] came from tasting their Skully No. 40 Pineapple Upside Down Sour, and enjoying the pineapple and cherry aspect of that beer.

Pineapple Upside Down Bi-County Fair Cobbler was brewed by our team in Greeley, Colorado using our Cobbler Milkshake Sour IPA recipe with Paradox's input on processing and treating the pineapple component of the beer. After the beer was brewed, we sent kegs and cans to Paradox.

Wiley Roots also brewed a beer in Divide with Paradox, called "Koji Bros" which was released in July 2019. This [is a good] example of a Paradox beer with our input, whereas Pineapple Upside Down Bi-County Fair Cobbler is a Wiley Roots brand and is much different from what they are known for.

Views west face the back side of Pikes Peak. When you aren't facing that way, you'll likely be nosing a snifter. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Views west face the back side of Pikes Peak. When you aren't facing that way, you'll likely be nosing a snifter.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

A Colorado Springs Chef's Guild has formed to elevate our scene

Posted By on Tue, Jan 7, 2020 at 4:41 PM

The Colorado Springs Chef's Guild organizers: Chris Lerdall (left, chef, TAPAteria), Justin Castor (executive chef, Urban Egg) and Hannah Cupples (former chef de cuisine at Four by Brother Luck, current chef at Wobbly Olive, and restaurant consultant). - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Colorado Springs Chef's Guild organizers: Chris Lerdall (left, chef, TAPAteria), Justin Castor (executive chef, Urban Egg) and Hannah Cupples (former chef de cuisine at Four by Brother Luck, current chef at Wobbly Olive, and restaurant consultant).

This is going to be a fairly informal post, as I'm not going to directly quote from my meeting on January 7 with the organizers of the recently formed Colorado Springs Chef's Guild (best connected with publicly for now via their Instagram page). Rather, I'm going to pluck the best bits from our two-hour sit-down and paraphrase the gist of what we talked about.

They called the meeting to get me up to speed on their goals, and have invited me to speak at their next meeting in late January (not open to the public; it's more of a networking, tip-sharing, productively shoot-the-shit kinda thing).

The chefs (19 so far, representing places ranging from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to Lucky Dumpling to the Broadmoor) describe themselves on their private Facebook group page as: "A group of determined professionals coming together to bridge the gap in the service industry of collaboration versus competition, with the aim to grow ourselves personally, professionally, and as a community." 

Relatedly, the Springs already has a bartender's guild, actually a nonprofit with membership fees, with some events open to the community by donation. Presently, the Chef's Guild costs nothing to join.

Anyway, pretty much the first thing the Chef's Guild organizers — see names and titles in the photo caption above — said to me upon sitting down with them over coffee was that they'd taken note of my recent review of the The Roswell and the broader questioning inside it about the direction of the Colorado Springs food scene at-large. Thematically, it's something they've been discussing also, as they look to elevate our scene. They say they're hungry for more criticism in the wider interest of inspiring chefs to be their better selves. (I confess this sounded good to hear, that they understand and respect the role of critical writing, which in part offers chefs honest feedback and a chance to improve, while also guiding readers to worthwhile spots as a utilitarian public service.)

They too are noticing regional expansions and/or chain places coming in from Denver and beyond (see: Denver Biscuit Company, Dos Santos, Snooze, Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar) and have a gut feeling those types of openings locally will continue if the Springs doesn't bolster itself with enough really quality home-grow stuff. To be clear, many of these expansions are awesome, welcome and certainly have a place in our scene as options that may not be a mom-and-pop one-off, but are still keeping money relatively local compared to mass-market chain places. And they're showing a level of excellence proved in bigger and more persnickety marketplaces like Boulder. We're better with them. 

Our Guild's not looking to cut chefs from those places out of the discussion, or talk shit about anyone, they tell me; in fact, quite the opposite, they say one of the discussions in their first meetings centered around everyone's favorite spots in town, and why, basically championing what the Springs is doing well at present. The meetings are town halls for the industry, they say.

To me, they sounded genuinely constructive and well-intended, grasping broadly at how to figure out things like employee retention and best wage practices, best-educating the line cooks coming up, and communicating well between restaurants to share knowledge and tips such as great purveyors of items like locally grown microgreens.

Simply put, they want to see better food all around, to place the Springs as a destination market, not secondary place. To further clarify this point, they talk about how real foodies regularly drive to Denver to eat at top spots, but not enough traffic's going the other direction. Yet we have deserving eateries here, now. (We digressed briefly to point out how Urban Egg has actually grown northward into Denver, and how Bingo Burger was popular enough to hop from small-market Pueblo to the Springs.)

These chefs feel they don't need to be in competition with one another, that the town's easily big enough for everyone, and growing to support even more spots. So ahead of that growth is the vital time to have these discussions, while a supportive framework can be laid to set the table, so to speak.

My takeaway: With enough chefs on board (they're spreading the word now to gain new members) and active participation, this guild should be a force for good. Though their effectiveness might largely be hidden behind closed kitchen doors as day-to-day matters go, a span of years will ultimately determine the Springs' path toward (or...groan...away from) greatness as destination spots go. The word "middling" came up in various contexts in our discussion (yeah, I guess that counts as a direct quote after all, damn), and that's not a place where any chef or scene wants to linger. So, let's not.

—— UPDATE: 8:17 P.M. TUESDAY JAN. 7 ——

Shortly after posting this blog, I heard from area grower Dan Hobbs of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, who saw the post and offered a mini history lesson about another earlier attempt to unite chefs in some capacity.

From his Facebook comment:
"We started doing this with the chef's collaborative in 1999 and it seems that, at least with respect to local food procurement, Springs has been in culinary decline for some time...
I may not know the whole story, but here is what I remember from 1999-early 2000s: Chris Adrian at La Petite Maison was the driving force, working closely with Carrie Carter Balkcom from Denver, who I think was with Chef's Collaborative at the time. I think Brent [Beavers] was cutting his teeth at La Petite at the time, and there was a fellow named Marcus at Walter's Bistro who was getting some notoriety, maybe for working with Bison meat. He left the area early on and the main chef group that was working with the farmers and seemed to have higher culinary standards and appetite for innovation were John Broening of Primativo, Chip [Johnson] of Briarhurst, James Africano at the Warehouse, and of course David [McDonough] at Adams [Mountain Cafe], but I don't remember him engaging much with that chef's collaborative/Club 9 group."

If I hear from some of the other chefs from that era with more info, I'll update this post again. Credit where it's due, and all. Clearly these new Guild members aren't the first to be examining our scene (it's done over beers between a few chefs here and there all the time) but perhaps they'll prove to be the most organized — and, if they meet their mission, the most effective. 
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