Immerse Cuisine, São Paolo Springs serve quality bites at Local Relic 

click to enlarge A deep and true delight is found in the pairing of beer and feijoada. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • A deep and true delight is found in the pairing of beer and feijoada.
Local Relic co-owners Jeff Zearfoss and Melissa Howard are playfully disappointed that we Indy folk rarely drop by for a pint after work, as our office is only a block from their tasting room. Lashes received, we learn they’ve gradually ramped up in the former Carter Payne Event Center and one-time AME church, recently implementing one of their goals — no, not highly visible signage, which they remain reluctant to incorporate for fear of growing too quickly.

But the space now hosts two food vendors, smaller businesses they hope to foster into stand-alone fooderies. Both vendors prep food at Zearfoss and Howard’s nearby kitchen that serves Common Cause Catering, their other business. So only reheating and assembly occur inside Local Relic.

Firstly, AspenPointe Café chef and former fine-dining face Brent Beavers operates Immerse Cuisine, a small-plate concept that gives his trainees more real-world experience, ideally building them a bridge to wider employment opportunities.

We start with the Salty Things appetizer, a wooden box full of mouth-amusers with many textures and flavor profiles: Parmesan crisps, candied nut and seed clusters dubbed “candied bird seed,” fried onions, tamari-roasted almonds, figs, and two tiny jars — one with pickled veggies, another with olives. The presentation charms, but the jars are skinny, necessitating deftness with provided chopsticks.

Immerse’s biggest hit: chicken korma tacos, served with a piquant but not spicy curry vinaigrette, topped with a rainbow of flavors and textures. Greek yogurt adds creaminess, cabbage adds crunch, and the tender chicken’s got a nice chew. It’s served on a tortilla big enough that there’s minimal spillage, though we’d love to have said tortilla warmed instead of fridge-cold.

We’re also happy with the Shoots and Greens salad of pea and sunflower shoots on a romaine leaf with smaller chunks of candied bird seed and feta. Its smoked tea vinaigrette — popular from Beavers’ days operating Sencha (now the Arby’s a block away) — adds just a hint of smoky essence from lapsang souchong tea leaf. A bison tenderloin gyro wants for typical seasoning from the traditional lamb-beef loaf, but the meat’s strong enough in flavor and cooked properly, so it’s not bad in a respectable tzatziki.
Location Details Local Relic at The Carter Payne
320 S. Weber St.
Colorado Springs, CO

Cheeky sliders, beef cheeks on black quinoa ciabatta with slaw and saucing choice, do fine. The meat’s tender but not as big a flavor/unctuous texture contributor as we hope. They’re offered with two sauces, one a cereza (cherry) sauce that only makes its presence known when one bites into a tart cherry. The other, creeping reaper, is smoky and only mildly spicy, a shock considering the presence of name-granting Carolina reaper peppers. That said, it’s the least spicy thing that’s ever made sweat bead on my forehead, so something’s going on there.

Something’s definitely going on for Jady Agard and her food biz, São Paulo Springs, a Brazilian concept named for her point of origin in that country. At the top of the menu’s entrée section, we find a dish both remarkable and unmissable: feijoada. It’s the national dish of Brazil, a product of culinary intermingling during the brutal era of Portuguese colonial rule. The stew’s composed with black beans, pork and beef — usually, scrap parts of the animals like feet and tails with cured bits like jerky.

For American diners, Agard’s sanitized it, replacing trotters with primal cuts and pancetta. She serves it with rice, collard greens and chimichurri, with a side cup of seasoned yuca flour, called farofa.

The late, great Anthony Bourdain put feijoada on a pedestal for me when he visited São Paulo on The Layover and sung its praises. So was I hyped for this humble bowl of stew, a peasant dish borne out of poverty and want, elevated through skill and love to something special? You bet your ass I was! But my dining companions’ non-Bourdain-tainted reactions to the dish had a similar magnitude of delight. So with input from three other diners, I’m confident in saying Agard’s feijoada bears a staggering depth of rich flavor, lightened by greens and bright chimichurri, fortified into a filling meal by the rice. Don’t miss it.
click to enlarge Immerse Cuisine's Salty Things appetizer.
  • Immerse Cuisine's Salty Things appetizer.
We’re also won over by Agard’s empanadas; we try both vegan options. Her Save the Greens tastes garlicky and rich, while the palm heart option bears a little texture and acidity. Both are refreshing and vegetal in sturdy-but-yielding crusts that don’t spill liquid into diners’ laps. We dip in a creamy avocado mayo and a surprisingly spicy sriracha mayo.

Galinhada mineira, the Brazilian version of arroz con pollo, gets non-traditional sausage for a bite that evokes Louisiana, packed with corn, peas and carrot shreds over rice. We’re happy also with the vegan yellow curry, underseasoned until we add leftover farofa though pleasant enough, with chickpeas and broccoli adding most of the flavor. It’s pretty mild overall — think Caribbean turmeric-heavy curry more than intensely perfumed Indian dishes. And while the carne louca sliders, marinated lean beef with onions and peppers, immediately spray liquid all over our shirts on first bite, they’re pretty tasty, rich and meaty though not too spicy.

If any of these dishes sound like they’d go down well with beer, be assured they do. Zearfoss says while Local Relic’s primarily a vehicle for social good, focused on community, that vehicle’s engine must be good beer. Head brewer Grant Goodwiler’s ambitious no-repeat-brews model (assisted by a CSA-like membership program) raises questions about what quality can be established without consistency through refinement and repetition. We’ve had some uneven brews from him in the past. But over four bottles and many flight samples, we find a high level of quality today.

A cherry rye ale bears a dry rye spice, and the cherry adds more tartness than overt fruit. And while I’m no fan of hazy IPAs, the blueberry lemon milkshake IPA’s mix of lactose, blueberries and lemons earns my affections, with clean and pronounced fruit flavors, the product of using only fresh fruit. We’re yet more impressed with a piña colada India pale saison, which manages a powerfully tropical nose with delicately balanced fruit flavors and a nice malt body — an impressive feat, given the mildness of the coconut and pineapple’s tendency to overpower other flavors.

We do notice, over those two beers and a Ceylon black IPA brewed with Sri Lankan black tea, that the IPAs are not so much focused on clearly pronounced hop flavors and bitterness. Hop-hounds will likely write these beers off as misnamed, perhaps not unreasonably.

The mesquite-smoked peach pale ale, similarly, doesn’t have a prominent hop profile. It does, however, hold a strong smoke flavor that’s overwhelming on first sip, then balanced with bright peach on the third and fourth sips, especially as the beer warms. Zearfoss says he’s noticed mildly smoky beers tend to lose all smoke character halfway through the glass if that first sip isn’t punchy. Further, he acknowledges that Local Relic’s beers are built more like wines, with considerations made more for travel over a single sip (i.e. unfolding flavors) and transformation as the glass warms.

But the goal at Local Relic only superficially resembles the brewery-and-food-truck or brewpub models the city knows well. This strong brewery, dual vendor concept indeed proves different, and special — something memorable that’s likely to inspire us to walk that block from work more often.


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