Friday, July 19, 2019

A Grazing Life dinners stylishly celebrate local farms and fine food and drink

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2019 at 12:56 PM


There are only four A Grazing Life dinners left this season at Frost Livestock Ranch that aren't already sold out, as of this writing. Eight dinners total were planned and two have already come and gone. The second of which, on Sunday, July 14, I attended on a comped media ticket as a guest of event facilitator Dionne Roberts (also editor of Indy partner Rocky Mountain Food Report and an Indy contributor).

That night's featured chef was Jacob Cheatham of Loyal Coffee, joined for drink service by Brass Brewing Co., Montana Horsfall of Craft Cocktail Inc., and Black Forest's Sette Dolori Winery. (Each event hosts a different chef and beverage makers, plus musical guest.) A respectably long list of local producers were represented, whose ingredients informed an awesome four-course family-style meal (read: feast) and a greeting spread of fine cheeses, meats and locally-baked bread. (See the above slideshow for a tour through who's who and what your money buys and supports.)


Read the above-linked article in this past week's Indy by Colorado Springs Business Journal Associate Editor Helen Robinson for an extensive look behind the scenes and missions of both A Grazing Life and Frost Livestock Ranch. Robinson speaks with AGL founder Mike Preisler about his mission to "reconnect consumers to their local farms and ranches" and rancher Jay Frost regarding challenges facing food producers today. On a positive note, Frost says, "We used to have this connection way back when. We’re coming back to the future.”

Rancher Jay Frost of Frost Livestock Ranch; 5 percent of A Grazing Life ticket sales also benefit the Palmer Land Trust. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Rancher Jay Frost of Frost Livestock Ranch; 5 percent of A Grazing Life ticket sales also benefit the Palmer Land Trust.

For my part as a guest who partook in all the bounty offered — yes I damn near overindulged, enchanted by the evening glow out in farm country as thunderstorms popped on the horizon all around us — I can vouch for A Grazing Life dinners feeling like a truly special occasion.

At $135 per ticket, they'd have to be to continue selling out, no?

So much of that money goes back into our local economy, direct to growers, ranchers and producers of all kinds; plus the Palmer Land Trust is the beneficiary of 5 percent of what's collected.

And there's of course the intangible part of the experience you can't quite hold a price tag to, but it's safe to say guests otherwise recoup a lot of their own costs with the abundance of food and drink offerings. The point isn't to pig-out, but good luck getting through hors d’oeuvres and all four courses plus just about as many adult beverages you wish to consume (responsibly, folks ... consider taking The Local Motive party bus down, operated by Preisler's wife Lacie) without feeling like a happy glutton.

Horsfall, for her part, designed lovely fruit-forward and/or herbaceous cocktails (a basil gimlet, whiskey cherry smash, and apricot brandy old fashioned); Sette Dolori Winery's samplings easily complemented the food courses (their Lora red table wine blend being my favorite) and Brass Brewing Co. brought some roundly bangin' beers.

Chef Cheatham showed that serving more than 100 guests in-style falls well within his and his crew's capabilities. It was the small culinary touches (that I overhead many other guests at the long community commenting on) that partly illustrate Cheatham's talent at letting the night's ingredients speak for themselves: light seasoning on the root vegetables, honey butter for the bread, hearty Bolognese with an initial pork punch, followed by a beautifully tender mojo-spiced Larga Vista Ranch pork loin, and grilled apricots and brandy compote on a concluding pound cake.

All in all, I experienced a pretty magical night. Just ask the dog driving the truck below — he gets it.
A night so special that even a dog drove the truck around for a farm tour. (Ok, not really.) - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A night so special that even a dog drove the truck around for a farm tour. (Ok, not really.)
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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Armadillo Ranch replaces Ancient Mariner in Manitou Springs

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2019 at 4:17 PM

screen_shot_2019-07-16_at_4.13.29_pm.png

The longtime Ancient Mariner spot at 962 Manitou Ave. in Manitou Springs has become a new restaurant, bar and music space called Armadillo Ranch as of the Fourth of July.

Former Manitou Springs City Administrator from 2014 until early 2018, Jason Wells, is the owner-operator, and it’s his first foray into restaurant life. He calls the move a “total left hand turn” personally, which he couldn’t have taken without the help of several others, including his girlfriend Jenna Gallas, who’s the special events coordinator for Visit Manitou Springs, in charge of the big town events like Carnivale. But Wells quickly credits bar manager Willis Gray, formerly of the Townhouse Lounge and Stagecoach Inn for bringing “valuable Manitou experience to the team,” and he rests most of the venture’s weight on the shoulders of Chef Lyn Ettinger-Harwell, formerly of Seeds Community Cafe and most recently with Border Burger Bar.

Harwell desired to “up the dinner menu game” says Wells, while still building an affordable menu that generally ranges between $9 and $11, topping out with a $14 shrimp scampi dish.
“Having worked here in the city, I saw lots of employees leaving Manitou for lunch — there wasn’t a quick, affordable deli-style lunch in town,” says Wells, noting an absence since Spice of Life closed years ago. “And there’s no Italian downtown, until you get to Savelli’s — and I love Italian food — so we filled two niches.”

The eclectic menu offers common starters like wings and a quesadilla, but also trendy plates like shishito peppers, while sandwiches made with Boar’s Head meats and cheeses include and Italian grinder, a “Manitou Muffaletta”, a BLT and more. Guests will also find burgers and barbecue plus familiar Italian entrées like chicken Parmesan, classic Alfredo and pasta Carbonara. A house signature dish, Braciole Neapolitan, rolls prosciutto, provolone and mozzarella with pine nuts, raisins, garlic, red onions and basil inside Callicrate Beef top round cuts, finished with tomato sauce over cavatappi pasta.

Wells notes late-night food-service hours, with the bar open officially 11 a.m. to close, often 2 a.m. on the weekends. He aims to have live music every Friday and Saturday night, to grow to Thursdays and Sundays too.

As for the name? “Well, there’s a story,” says Wells. “I tell people to come in and find me for a drink ... there’s a song behind it,” he offers, as a clue.
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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Lulu's Downstairs grand opens with style in Manitou Springs

Posted By on Wed, Jul 10, 2019 at 5:04 PM

Musician, producer and now Lulu's founder and owner, Marc Benning. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Musician, producer and now Lulu's founder and owner, Marc Benning.

Lulu’s Downstairs (107 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs) celebrates its grand opening on Thursday, July 11, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. (the hours it plans to be open year-round). The following night, Sasami plays the venue, along with Inaiah Lujan.

The venue already has concerts listed out to October, with more shows surely to be added. But don’t file it in your mind as just a music spot; it’s an earnest bar as well.

Owner Marc Benning — who most recently helped launch The Side Door venue south of downtown as well as co-start Ivywild Music’s program prior to that, and has run Hideaway Studios for the last 25 years and toured as a musician for 15 years — says “I want to have a great bar that even if there’s no show, it’s still a bar people want to go to.”
A revamped stage with new sound dampening in the overhead ceiling, for optimal acoustics. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A revamped stage with new sound dampening in the overhead ceiling, for optimal acoustics.
Benning says he’s seeking more of “events” than trying to pack out his calendar: “I’m opposed to being a place where we put a band in the corner and they play but there’s nobody there to see them, where they’re underpaid and undervalued.”
That said, he envisions some free shows, and he’s strategically walled-off the bar area from the concert area — mind you we’re talking about the former Castaways, most recently Vibes spot — so folks at the bar will be able to socialize without having to scream in each others’ ears.

“I’m focusing on the bar,” he says, “that’s what will keep the lights on.”
Fine spirits are on hand for those seeking a sophisticated cocktail, though there will be well drinks too. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Fine spirits are on hand for those seeking a sophisticated cocktail, though there will be well drinks too.

What that focus looks like, aside from ‘70s lounge inspiration? Firstly, hiring seasoned bartenders to design an original menu. Principal’s Office alumni are well represented; familiar faces like Ashton Longwell (also of the Wild Goose Meeting House, serving as lead bartender here), and Camille Stellar and Brandon Allen, both of Chiba Bar as well. Benning says they’ll create a “nice approachable cocktail bar that’s affordable, with some higher end options.” He clarifies he doesn’t wish for Lulu’s to become a “drinking person’s bar, looking for $2 shots,” and that he’s “not going to serve gut-rot — our well is solid.”

Sexy booths. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Sexy booths.
He envisions drinks averaging $6-$10, featuring “smaller brands and newer companies — Jameson my be our only big-name booze.” And for beers, expect 15 canned offerings at a given time, “just good beers from all over the world — we aren’t focusing on being a Colorado craft brew bar.”
A random, less-typical selection of beers. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A random, less-typical selection of beers.

For eats, since the restaurant space above remains vacant, Benning has planned to serve simple items like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, plus corn dogs and appetizers, with vegan options too, with a blue plate special from 4-6 p.m. at some point soon.
“If you want to have dinner we’ll have options that’ll fill you up,” he promises. “But our motto is: ‘We’re not a restaurant.’”

Here's a few more early looks at Lulu's — named for Benning's daughter — ahead of the opening:
From the opening cocktail menu, the fresh Sunray mixes Four Roses Bourbon with Lustau Vermut Blanco and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, plus OJ. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • From the opening cocktail menu, the fresh Sunray mixes Four Roses Bourbon with Lustau Vermut Blanco and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, plus OJ.

70s decor everywhere. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • 70s decor everywhere.
A wall of oddities. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A wall of oddities.
When there's no show, Benning hopes the bar will still "keep the lights on." - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • When there's no show, Benning hopes the bar will still "keep the lights on."
Cool hand-painted walls. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Cool hand-painted walls.
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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Pikes Peak Brewing Company Lager House to join South Tejon Street

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 10:05 AM

UPDATE:

Following the big announcement on June 26, Chris Wright sent a rendering of the new Lager House: 
COURTESY PIKES PEAK BREWING CO.
  • Courtesy Pikes Peak Brewing Co.
And here's a few more details from a press release:
The market, being developed by Niebur Development, will be a community of independent Colorado businesses collectively offering a place to eat, drink, shop and connect - a new and innovative concept for the growing community of Downtown Colorado Springs, and offer a
vibrant live music venue.

The Pikes Peak Brewing Lager House will feature a view into the age old process of creating unique and historical lager beers and include a 2500 square foot rooftop patio with amazing vistas of the Front Range and Downtown Colorado Springs.

—— ORIGINAL POST, 6:02 P.M., WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26 ——

This food news courtesy Indy partner Rocky Mountain Food Report:

Chris Wright, brewer/owner of Pikes Peak Brewing Co. in Monument, just announced the opening of Pikes Peak Brewing Company Lager House in early winter of 2019, on the burgeoning 500th block of South Tejon Street, a key part of a collaborative food, beverage and craft marketplace concept coming to Colorado Springs.

“We’re going to anchor this market,” says Wright. “It’ll be a food court type of deal with independent operators, similar to the Milk Market or Stanley Marketplace in Denver, and a live music venue with regular performances in the common area.”

The new location will present 15 taps (10 of which will be lagers), five signature beers (ales) courtesy of its Northern counterpart, large foeders to lager on oak and a sprawling 2,500 square-foot rooftop patio. Wright says that he is already “beginning to experiment with different lagers,” sharing the release of a Mexican lager at their recent 8th anniversary celebration — and says patrons can expect to “start seeing more.”

“I wanted something unique and special and I think craft lagers are going to be the next big thing in beer,” says Wright. “No one else in this area is focused just on lagers and it’s just another way to differentiate ourselves.”
Expanding from Monument to downtown Colorado Springs this winter. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Expanding from Monument to downtown Colorado Springs this winter.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar expanding into Springs

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2019 at 2:39 PM

COURTESY JAX FISH HOUSE & OYSTER BAR
  • Courtesy Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar

Boulder-based Big Red F Restaurant Group recently announced it’ll open (as of fall, 2019) its sixth Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar location — this one in Colorado Springs, in the former, longtime Il Vicino space at 11 S. Tejon St.

Big Red F, a 25-year-old assemblage, also operates Lola Coastal Mexican, The Post Brewing Co., The West End Tavern, Zolo Southwestern Grill, and Centro Mexican Kitchen. Jax also has locations in Boulder (the original spot), Fort Collins, Lodo Denver, Glendale, and Kansas City.

The eatery specializes in sustainably sourced seafood, and boasts of being the first restaurant in Colorado to be certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Executive Chef Sheila Lucero also serves on their Blue Ribbon Task Force, “working with other chefs from around the country to learn and share the very latest information on the state of our global fish stocks as well as the most progressive use of seafood in our restaurants,” according to her bio.

COURTESY JAX FISH HOUSE & OYSTER BAR
  • Courtesy Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar
Jax has repeatedly won Best Seafood Restaurant in publications like 5280 and Westword, and chef/founder Dave Query says he’s been waiting for the right Springs location for 20 years. “The Springs is a natural next progression for Jax,” he says. “We’re excited to have found a location we think suits the brand and allows us to do something in the way we do it well — which is small.”

By that, he clarifies that this spot has “almost the exact footprint as Jax in Boulder,” meaning room for 72 seats and tiny open kitchen — “small, functional.”

Jax’s menu is uniform across locations. Menu items include: a raw bar, hot oysters, starters like calamari and mussels, chowder, crab, lobster, caviar, jambalaya, entrées like bass, tuna, salmon and scallops with various alluring sauces, and an award-winning Niman Ranch burger.

“Our commitment to sustainability doesn’t come easy or without added expenses,” he adds. “We do oysters as well as anyone in the country, whether on the coast or not — we take a lot of pride in that. We’re excited about doing an oyster bar in a way that hasn’t been done prior in the Springs.”

As for whether we should expect more Big Red F expansions into the Springs? “It’s too early to say,” says Query, “we’ll start with Jax and see.”

Check out photos provided by Jax from other locations for a taste of what's to come:
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Friday, May 24, 2019

Bristol Brewing Company's Birthday Box #2: wheat gone wild

Posted By on Fri, May 24, 2019 at 11:37 AM

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
It's hard to believe that Bristol Brewing Company has been around for 25 years, but here we are. In 1994, Mike Bristol and company joined the then-burgeoning microbrew scene, debuting beers that remain iconic in this city. To celebrate, the brewery has and will continue to release mixed 12-pack birthday boxes celebrating its flagship beers.

Birthday box #2 spotlights Beehive Honey Wheat, a summer seasonal that the brewery simply kept brewing once summer was over. Each box features three Beehives, plus three bottles of Bristol’s wit, three of Bristol’s hefeweizen and three of a newly-created Simcoe hefeweizen.
We recently received a promo box of these beers. Here’s what we thought.

The Beehive honey wheat remains a reliable go-to summer beer. The honey adds a subtle dryness as well as flavor, and as easy as this beer goes down, it’s by no means thin or insubstantial. We’ve put more than a few pints of this one back over the years, but it’s nice to take a moment to reflect and appreciate the details in a familiar beer like this.

Bristol brews their witbier with coriander and orange peel, which both stand out in the beer. We’ve had more than a few wits wherein the citrus peel and lemony spice vanish, but not so here. Further, the Belgian yeast character stands strong and unmistakable on nose and sip, powerful but proportionate. Add in how this beer sips rich with substantial body, it could sell the box on its own.

Arguably, so could the hefeweizen. The beer articulates style-specific banana and clove notes well, with banana adding subtle fruitiness and clove notes standing out more in this unfiltered beer. It’s a good example of the style.

Adding Simcoe hops, though, changes things up. The Simcoe hefe bears grassy, dank notes on the nose. The yeast still plays a little, but the hops upstage it, a little sticky but not cloying and more piney than fruity. To be clear, we like this beer a lot, but — bear with us for a peculiar comparison — the best description we can find for its particular stickiness and substantial mouthfeel is to think about cleaning cannabis resin off of a pipe. Again, we like this beer. It’s weird and interesting in a far more modest way than even the most pedestrian of sours or farmhouse ales.

Of note, the circumstances of our tasting session left us with four opened, unfinished beers, so rather than risk wasting them, we threw them into a single growler for transport. The resulting four-beer suicide tasted pretty good too. (Don't hate us, Mike and team.)

Birthday box #2 can be found on liquor store shelves now. It’s limited edition, so once it’s gone, it’s gone. These beers are also on draft at Bristol’s taproom at the Ivywild School. Look out for two more birthday boxes to release later this year.
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Monday, May 20, 2019

Phantom Canyon's Game of Thrones finale banquet quite a feast, even if show disappoints

Posted By on Mon, May 20, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. hosted a Game of Thrones finale watch party and banquet on Sunday, May 19.

The brewery packed out its third floor for a feast that included a crispy and delicious suckling pig; rich, crab-cake-like cod cakes; piquant smoked rabbit and rattlesnake sausage; and tangy elk meatballs with blue cheese. Featured beers for the night included a dark and divine Take the Black Schwarzbier and a smart smoked Helles brew — both of which felt apropos given the final episode's thematics and plot points. (... a smoldering city, and "There's still a Night's Watch?")

Many fans were disappointed by how the show concluded, as more than one meme captures well. The crowd at Phantom Canyon grumbled through several scenes and plenty of cussing could be heard as the credits finally rolled. Still, everyone seemed to have a great time sharing their misery with company, over a fine feast.

If the wrap-up to one of the greatest TV shows ever produced is going to end up sucking, you may as well be sucking down some good beer over a plate of suckling pig. (Yes, that's about the best I can do here for a takeaway.)
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Monday, May 13, 2019

Phantom Canyon hosts Game of Thrones finale watch party, with banquet

Posted By on Mon, May 13, 2019 at 5:14 PM

IMDB
  • IMDB
No this is not another blog unpacking the latest Game of Thrones episode, fat with spoilers.

But the reality for all devoted fans: There's only one episode to go, on Sunday, May 19, before the epic TV show comes to an end after eight seasons.

Phantom Canyon is in on the action, for their part, hosting a finale watch dinner that begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour and buffet. (Tickets, $50 including gratuity and two drinks, here, 21+ only.) Costumes are encouraged, and prizes will be awarded for the best.

Here's the fantasy/period appropriate menu:
Pistachio kielbasa stuffed suckling pig (The South)
Parsnip mash (The South)
Beef + bacon pie (The North)
Cod cakes (The North)
Chilled fruit soup shooters
Smoked rattlesnake + rabbit sausage with fiery mustard (Dorne)
Flatbread, Naan, Olives (Dorne)
Blue cheese stuffed elk meatballs (King's Landing)
Melon and tea eggs (Across the Narrow Sea)
Assorted petite desserts from across the different regions (Sansa's Lemon Cakes, etc)

Now, you're probably asking, "What, no burnt toast?" to honor the second-to-last episode on May 12. ... Oh crap ... does that count as a spoiler after all?
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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Lucky Dumpling preview — Brother Luck's new spot set to open

Posted By on Sat, Mar 23, 2019 at 9:14 AM

Lucky Dumpling officially opens for service on Tuesday, March 26 at 11 a.m.

Ahead of that, chef Brother Luck, also of Four by Brother Luck, hosted a media/friends/family sneak peek we attended.
Legendary martial artist Bruce Lee's image greets guests approaching from the building's north side, a small taste of what's to come inside in terms of attitude and inspiration. As the first guests to see the new spot sampled a few items and cocktails, the 1985 film The Last Dragon played on a TV over the bar — another clear nod to some of the Asian culture that inspires Lucky Dumpling.

The space otherwise holds a bit of a dim-lit urban vibe, different but not too far a cry from chef Luck's previous venture in the same space, Brother Luck Street Eats. Steaming baskets play as decor above a spice rack on a focal wall of the open kitchen, here, and corrugated metal accents lend an industrial feel, as well.
We were able to sample a few cocktails, including one called Liquid Swords, a tequila and grapefruit drink that departs from becoming a Paloma with ginger and strong Lychee Liqueur elements.

The staff also plated a sample banh mi featuring some deliciously marinated pork, a beef stir fry with notable anise notes, and a few dumplings that included a tangy hot and sour beef. All nice teasers for what's to come.

The concept, as told to the Indy a few months back, centers around dim sum service, small bites to share with friends. Five style of dumplings will come in orders of six each for $9, and other small plates like bao buns and shishito peppers range from $7 to $10. Entrées will span $12 for a hamachi (amberjack) poke bowl thru a midrange price point for items like grill octopus ($16) and hoisin beef short ribs ($20) to a menu-topping $55 for a half pound of orange foie gras served with crackers and plum jam. (Save room for mochi donuts for dessert...)

We didn't get to sample them at the preview, but among many other items, we're interested to return for Luck's Not So German Egg Roll, a dish with a little history
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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Lost Friend Brewing eyes opening, and Slow Downz Texas Creole debuts chuck wagon

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 3:27 PM

COURTESY RYAN HANNIGAN
  • Courtesy Ryan Hannigan
Lost Friend Brewing Company plans to finally open its doors on Saturday, April 6, at 2458 Montebello Square Drive, following almost an entire year of unforeseen delays.

“We’re taking a lot of time to really make sure the beer is right,” says co-owner and brewer Andy France. “The quality wasn’t there just yet and now we’re really in the groove.”

Expect a “good mix” of beers that consists of eight flagships and experimental offerings with a strong focus on lagers and IPAs. France hopes his guests embrace their “coffee shop-esque” vibe. He says they’re “trying to go for a really homey feel where you want to stay, work, read a book or play a board game.”

An entire wall features built-in shelves that “will be jam- packed with books,” next to oversized couches, large tables ideal for big groups to gather around and a 20-foot horseshoe- shaped bar.

“We put a lot of work into the aesthetic things, but focusing on high quality beers, that’ll really be what makes us stand out,” says France.
COURTESY LAUREN REECE, AXE & THE OAK DISTILLERY
  • Courtesy Lauren Reece, Axe & the Oak Distillery
Meanwhile, Mark Soto, owner of Slow Downz Texas Creole, is stepping out at local food truck rallies to debut his “new age chuck wagon” complete with a Southern-sized smoker and a fusion menu that captures the flavors of southeast Texas. Barbecue, Cajun and Tex-Mex food options include a Yee-Haw Po-Boy, NOLA Loaded Potato, Bayou City Frito Pie and Cajun Elotes.

Soto, who was born in Austin, and grew up in Houston, Texas, says he plans to grow his food truck into a “French meets Frontier” cast-iron concept that’s inspired by his culinary education and cooking in kitchens in Cape Cod, the Caribbean and Montana.

“I wanted to open Slow Downz to give back to the community [culturally] and get food here that I grew up with,” says Soto. “My idea is about sharing that culture with everybody.”

The synergistic setup can be found on Wednesday’s at Brayla’s Wedding & Events (2165 Academy Place), Saturdays at the Square (in the Widefield Square Shopping Center) and, soon, on Thursdays at FH Beerworks downtown (521 S. Tejon St.).
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Friday, March 15, 2019

Save the Bees and Pair Up with AnnaPurna Mead

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 1:10 PM

ANNAPURNA MEAD
  • AnnaPurna Mead
Mead, often referred to as honey wine, is one of the oldest known fermented alcoholic beverages with ancient roots that span a multitude of cultural affiliations and across numerous continents. Yet in the past six years we've noticed this diverse product popping up in large, bi-coastal cities as a funky new ingredient in craft cocktails as well as carving out a niche in the gluten-free market, competing with conventional wines and appearing in different presentations with both still and sparkling varietals.

Rocky Mountain Food Report, which partners with the Independent, checked in with multiple local bars and restaurants welcoming the mead movement and currently carrying the locally based, AnnaPurna Mead.

We spoke to Patrick Dobbins, owner of AnnaPurna Mead, along with a few prominent culinary influencers to find out more about their attachments to the versatile vino-beer fusion, why it has a place in the land of libations and to discover more about it’s pairing potential.

“Using honey as our base we have real options to layer flavors on top of that,” says Dobbins. “Because of it’s high acid content and shelf stability we can move away from apple and pear-centric flavors, like in ciders.”

“At this juncture we’re using a one profile honey that’s custom blended but we can branch out,” says Dobbins. - ANNAPURNA MEAD
  • AnnaPurna Mead
  • “At this juncture we’re using a one profile honey that’s custom blended but we can branch out,” says Dobbins.

503W takes that concept and expounds upon it, utilizing AnnaPurna Mead to concoct low ABV cocktails that blends their creative approach with the brightness of AnnaPurna’s Sauvage Mead Blanc, a wild white mead with tropical undertones, which reads similar to the grassy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc it’s inspired by.

“I think it’s inevitable that mead would make it’s way into the craft world because it’s a nice liaison between ciders and cocktails,” says Emillio Ortiz, co-owner of 503W. “The honey acts as a gateway because it can be added as a sweetener, as opposed to using simple syrup or a heavy Demerara sugar.”

Pictured, front to back: Ashes to Ashes & Pineapple Cobbler cocktails at 503W, featuring Sauvage Mead Blanc. - ROCKY MOUNTAIN FOOD REPORT
  • Rocky Mountain Food Report
  • Pictured, front to back: Ashes to Ashes & Pineapple Cobbler cocktails at 503W, featuring Sauvage Mead Blanc.

Honey also serves as a natural carbonating agent in AnnaPurna’s sparkling mead which makes it an attractive substitute for champagne in mixology.

“I like the effervescence of it,” says Ortiz. “Any kind of fizz [drinks] you would add bubbles too, a gin fizz for example, I think you can use their mead in a similar fashion.”

AP is a perfect compliment to the Asian fusion cuisine served at 503W with suggested pairings from Ortiz that include accompanying the fruit and nut salad, the Thai noodle bowl or spicy poke.

“With every drink you’re going to get a palate cleanse,” says Dobbins. - ROCKY MOUNTAIN FOOD REPORT
  • Rocky Mountain Food Report
  • “With every drink you’re going to get a palate cleanse,” says Dobbins.


Just around the corner at Colorado Craft Tejon Street Social, known for their commitment to local sourcing, AnnaPurna was able to fill the void when they “were looking for something a little different,” says Mario Vasquez, co-owner and executive chef at Colorado Craft.

“Mead is really fun and interesting and it is similar to the wine and beer process,” says Vasquez. “It’s light, has lots of fruity notes and the honey really does shine. It’s all local as well so I felt it played with what we’re doing food wise.”

Vasquez recommends trying AnnaPurna products with their burrata dish, where the balsamic coupled with the mead harnesses a equivocal sweet to tart ratio. We also see a solid placement for AP alongside the savory pork bolognaise creating a balance that he says “cuts through that rich cream sauce.”

Pour some "honey" on me. - ANNAPURNA MEAD
  • AnnaPurna Mead
  • Pour some "honey" on me.

The wine-like elements of AnnaPurna’s mead carries across varying styles of food, seamlessly arriving on the menu at Bonny and Read Fresh Steak and Seafood, where “it’s becoming an employee favorite,” says Josh Kelly, corporate executive chef for Joe Campana’s restaurants.

“It’s kind of untapped, continues Kelly. “I think a lot of people are interested in it because of dietary restrictions and trends and for us it really works.”

AnnaPurna provides “mild, refreshing drinks that go well with the buttery flavors of the seafood,” says Kelly, and suggests the Sauvage Mead Blanc with their most popular dish, the Alaskan halibut with crispy red potatoes and grilled asparagus that subtly swims in a silky lemon beurre blanc.

“Normally I would recommend a nice white wine but now, I would recommend this,” says Kelly confidently.”

Standing out amongst the crowd at The Ute & Yeti.
  • Standing out amongst the crowd at The Ute & Yeti.

AnnaPurna is not just imitating traditional wine and beer offerings and produces thoughtful flavors in the form of Cherry Bee Dazzled with notes of vibrant cherries and floral hibiscus that Kelly predicts will be a “fun summer drinking flavor that I think we’ll see everywhere at picnics and parties.” For the Love of Ginger, which offers digestive benefits as well as it leans into sweet pineapple and zesty ginger that favors the feel of kombucha, and really pops with Bonny & Read’s coconut shrimp with red cabbage and pineapple pico in a blood orange sticky sauce. Even more adventurous seasonals like the pumpkin chipotle pave the way for a versatile combinations that includes, carrot and turmeric, as well as orange and basil, slated to debut this year.

“Using the honey as the back bone allows us to be really innovative in our profiles and makes them very food friendly,” says Dobbins. That gives us a wider palate to play from and to co-ferment with a bunch of really interesting flavors.”
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Friday, March 8, 2019

Lee Spirits Company debuts Winston Lee Whiskey

Posted By on Fri, Mar 8, 2019 at 2:56 PM

Look for the new Winston Lee whiskey to join Brooklyn's on Boulder's usual lineup of gin drinks. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Look for the new Winston Lee whiskey to join Brooklyn's on Boulder's usual lineup of gin drinks.
Lee Spirits Company announces the launch of their newest product, a North American blended whiskey, dubbed Winston Lee, with free entry to a lengthy happy hour from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, at Brooklyn’s on Boulder. Patrons can expect a specialty whiskey focused menu with bottles of Mr. Lee available to purchase, as well as a 20-percent discount on their pre-existing lineup of gins and liqueurs.

“This is a proud day for our team as we enter into a new spirit-based marketplace,” said Nick Lee, co-founder of Lee Spirits Co. “We have created a very delicious blended whiskey and we enjoyed the process of creating another transparent pre-prohibition style spirit. Winston Lee represents how this category was classically created close to 100 years ago and is how whiskey is often made across our nation today by many whiskey distillers.”
LEE SPIRITS CO.
  • Lee Spirits Co.

Winston Lee consists of five-year-old old Kentucky straight whiskey, rye, corn and registers at 94 proof. Lee Spirits continues to distribute throughout Colorado with expansion plans to incorporate additional states in 2019, beyond their current footprint that already includes Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Ian Lee, co-founder of Lee Spirits Co. adds that “as our company expands into new regions and develops new products we will continue to maintain our brand’s standard of creating high quality pre-prohibition style offerings and that is what we have done with our new North American blended whiskey,” says Ian Lee, co-founder of Lee Spirits Co. “We are excited to expand our portfolio while offering whiskey lovers and the bartending marketplace a fantastic tasting and high-quality blended whiskey, that is nearly unmatched in terms of price point, making it also a robust option for any backbar.”

— Dionne Roberts is the editor of Rocky Mountain Food Report, and a regular Indy contributor.
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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Grazing Life pops up with Local Relic/Immerse Cuisine beer dinner

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 3:34 PM

A GRAZING LIFE
  • A Grazing Life
On Tuesday, March 19, A Grazing Life hosts their first pop-up dinner of the season at The Carter Payne with Local Relic and chef Brent Beavers of Immerse Cuisine. It includes five never before brewed beers to pair with seven courses, live music from ​Roma Ransom and WireWood Station (voted “Best Acoustic Band in Colorado” at the Rocky Mountain Music Festival), plus, the incorporation of local artist demonstrations.

Rocky Mountain Food Report caught up with Mike Preisler, founder of A Grazing Life, to discuss why they’re incorporating the pop-up elements this season, what differentiates their approach from a pretentious “white tablecloth, tiny fork dining experience,” and where guests can find their farm dinners this summer.

“These are truly events, not just a meal,” says Preisler. “The centerpiece is still a ridiculous farm-to-table dinner from the best chefs in the area, but we also give everyone an education on sustainable agriculture, bring out live music  — dancing is mandatory — mix in local cocktails and just have a full on party.”

Line 'em up. Knock 'em down. - A GRAZING LIFE
  • A Grazing Life
  • Line 'em up. Knock 'em down.

The mission statement of AGL is still very much intact with the sentiment “to create authentic and unforgettable [nights] where our guests can reconnect to all the area’s local treasures, including their farms, ranches, chefs, restaurants, breweries and distilleries.”

For the first two seasons in 2017 and 2018, A Grazing Life held their farm focused dinners in partnership with Corner Post Meats on their picturesque Black Forest ranch, but 2019 ushers in new locations with eight dates from July 13, through September 28, at Frost Farm in Fountain, Colorado, as well as additional evenings and venues to be announced in Denver.

“We are so excited to be partnering with Frost Farm and Livestock Company,” says Preisler. “They are such great people, doing great things. We can’t wait to introduce our guests to their new rancher.”

"Home, home on the range." - A GRAZING LIFE
  • A Grazing Life
  • "Home, home on the range."

The concept of A Grazing Life speaks to us in a profound way and we can be sure that when we’re in attendance it always yields a unique connection that takes us back to the roots of our food. The back-to-basic backdrops of what is now a different, yet mindfully worthy rural setting, coupled with a rotation of notable, and always hyper-local, culinary influences from our craft food and beverage industries ensures a memorable and enlightening night, every time we spend it on the farm, or elsewhere.

Preisler confirms that AGL is “busy putting together this summer’s schedule of the best chefs, restaurants, breweries, wineries, musicians and anyone else we can get out there.”

Tickets for the Beer Dinner at Carter Payne are $125 and available to purchase here.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and seats are limited.

Taste all the things. - A GRAZING LIFE
  • A Grazing Life
  • Taste all the things.

*Disclaimer: Rocky Mountain Food Report is a media partner/coordinator for A Grazing Life. Dionne Roberts is the editor of RMFR, and a regular contributor to the Indy.
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Monday, February 4, 2019

Soil Cycle offers composting services for downtown Springs

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2019 at 9:52 AM

A map of Soil Cycle's current service area. - SOIL CYCLE
  • Soil Cycle
  • A map of Soil Cycle's current service area.
Downtown Colorado Springs just got a little greener.

Former Indy news reporter Nat Stein has founded a social enterprise called Soil Cycle, a subsidiary of Colorado Springs Food Rescue. Their stated mission is to “starve the landfill and feed ourselves” by offering zero-emission compost pickup around the downtown Springs area.

It works like this: Customers sign up for the service and receive a basic composting kit, including an outdoor bucket and a list of what can and can't be composted. Once a week, Soil Cycle employees bike to customers' homes to pick up the compost for transportation to local urban farms and gardens, where it's used to grow food.

Soil Cycle started as a pilot program in the Mid Shooks Run neighborhood, but it's since expanded to cover the whole downtown area.

“After we announced our expansion on January 7, 50 new households signed up within days," Stein says. "I think this is part of a broader cultural shift. People get, on a gut level, that extract-consume-discard is not a sustainable way to live."

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
Currently, Soil Cycle charges on a fee-for-service basis — customers pick what they pay, starting at $6 a week.

"Taking a different approach is hardly austere — it’s actually convenient, collaborative and kid-friendly," Stein says. "You can’t really say the same about trash.”
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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Hot pot: A guide to the one soup everyone needs in their life

hotpot2.jpg
Hot pot is a dish steeped in history, with cultural variations all over Asia and dating back to the Mongolian Empire. With that kind of footprint, it’s not fair to say there’s a single “traditional” hot pot recipe, according to Lilly Zhuo, owner of D-Station Restaurant in Colorado Springs.
Location Details D-Station Restaurant
13141 Bass Pro Drive
Pueblo
Colorado Springs, CO
488-8999
Asian
She should know; her restaurant has been dishing all-you-can-eat hot pot seven days a week since opening in Polaris Point in 2018, and she grew up learning how to prepare the dish from her mother in her family home.  Similar to fondue, hot pot is a communal dining experience. “It brings everyone together without keeping one person in the kitchen,” Zhuo says. At D-Station, each diner creates their own hot pot, but one large soup pot is perfect for entertaining guests at home.

A good, clean broth is key to preparing the perfect hot pot.
  • A good, clean broth is key to preparing the perfect hot pot.
A hot pot starts with a clean, delicious base soup (if you’re making from scratch, think fresh, filtered bone or vegetable broth). Adding a few more ingredients like vegetables, bones, herbs and spices to your base will define your hot pot broth. D-Station has four varieties made from one base soup made in-house. Their Hot & Spicy broth brings Thai and other chilies into play, while the pork broth’s rich flavor comes from a split pork bone and added onions. The “clear” and herbal broths are great choices for more timid pallets, calling for tomatoes and onions, or a mix of Chinese herbs, respectively. For no-meat eaters, vegan broths are nothing out of the ordinary either. (D-Station has vegan options available upon request).

The second step of any hot pot is fresh, raw ingredients. You name it and it’s probably hot pot appropriate. Meat eaters will want to start with thinly sliced proteins, shellfish, etc. that cook quickly and add flavor to your broth, or just skip straight to the veggies. The possibilities are endless — D-Station’s ingredient bar is a symbol of the range of flavors one can play with from fishballs, tofu and bean curd to leafy and root vegetables, mushrooms, noodles and more to make your hot pot one-of-a-kind. You can keep your hot pot simple, sticking to familiar flavors, but Zhuo recommends you try a little bit of everything you can. (Did we mention D-Station’s hot pot is all-you-can-eat?)

When preparing at home, your hot pot ingredients should be cut to bite-sized pieces to ensure quick cooking times, with meats sliced as thinly as possible, and heartier vegetables cut to chopstick-friendly bits. Take notes from D-Station — its quality is on full display with picturesque curls of sliced meats and gorgeous seafood, crisp veggies and freshly prepared meat and fishballs, tofu and more.
Prepare your hot pot ingredients to ensure quick cooking times.
  • Prepare your hot pot ingredients to ensure quick cooking times.
Now, you have the perfect broth and the freshest ingredients, there’s only one thing missing: Your dipping sauce.

The range of sauce options is limitless, and completely up to personal taste. D-Station makes it simple with quick recipes posted at the DIY sauce bar, including Zhuo’s signature (see recipe below). When hot potting at home, assemble enough fresh ingredients for your diners to create their own custom sauces, or prepare one or two of your favorites ahead of time.

Now we’re ready to hot pot! With your broth brought to a steady boil, add the larger, heartier items with longer cook times — like root vegetables, meat and fishballs, shellfish, etc. As you’re waiting for them to cook, dig into the remainder of your ingredients one by one, or layered to make the perfect bite. The size and type of ingredient will determine its cook time, but for newcomers, Zhuo says two minuets is a good rule-of-thumb. As your ingredients are cooked to perfection, pull each bite directly out of your broth, dip into your sauce and enjoy.

“It only gets better,” Zhuo says. The more ingredients you add to your broth, the more flavorful it becomes. “Don’t forget to drink the broth in-between bites!”

Whether you’re enjoying hot pot at home or at D-Station (open Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 9:30 p.m.), your friends, family and appetite will thank you.

Lilly’s Special Dipping Sauce:

- Barbecue sauce
- Fresh cilantro
- Oyster sauce
- Garlic oil
- Bean curd paste
- Vinegar
- Sugar

Add ingredients into small bowl; mix to combine.

Brought to you by D-Station Restaurant.
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