June 23, 2013
This past Friday my husband and I had the pleasure of attending a farm dinner at Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette. Three Leaf Farm is owned by Lenny and Sara Martinelli, owners of Three Leaf Concepts, which is responsible for an array of great restaurants in Boulder County (Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, Aji Latin American Restaurant, the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, Zucca Italian Ristorante, the Huckleberry, the Naropa Cafe, and now the Chautauqua Dining Hall). The farm was established to provide local produce to the Three Leaf Concept restaurants. But the farm doesn’t just grow produce — they have several goats which provide milk for cheese, a large number of chickens for eggs, several bee hives on the property, and even a newly built barn with farm-owned as well as boarded horses.
The farm tour is one of my favorite parts of farm dinners. I love hearing about the different tactics used to control weeds and pests without pesticides, and how Colorado farms deal with the dry climate. Farm manager Chase Morris shared a wealth of information as well as some pretty amusing anecdotes about the day-to-day operations at the farm. It’s always very cool to hear how passionate the farmers on smaller farms are about their product. And the chefs at each restaurant have really embraced the produce from the farm as well. I loved hearing about a day when there wasn’t enough time to harvest what the chef from Zucca wanted for that night, so he harvested it himself! And you truly can’t beat the opportunity to hold a pygmy goat! (The picture above is of one of the owners of the farm holding the goat. As soon as I got the goat into my arms, he took one look at my hair and said – hey! STRAW! – and began eating it, therefore not providing a good photographic opportunity.)
The chef for this farm dinner was Rachel Best, of Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant (one of our favorites in Boulder). The food began with some wonderful appetizers: Avalanche Lamborn Bloomers Cheese on Flax Crackers with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote, Raw Broccoli Shooters with Macademia Nut Cheese, and Raw Sweet Pea Hummus on Baby Red Romaine with Radish Sprouts. The cheese was unbelievably good and the broccoli shooters were fantastic as well.
After appetizers and the farm tour, we and our fellow diners moved to the table for dinner. The table was beautifully set, and there was even a trio playing live music throughout dinner. I’ve mentioned this before when reviewing various dinners we’ve gone to, but it’s always so fun to have dinner with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, to talk and laugh through dinner, and then find that three hours have gone by in what feels like half that time. The group where we sat covered a wide range of food topics, as well as the Midwest climate compared to Colorado, water rights, college majors and dining halls, and travel.
But on to the food! The first course was Zucchini Fritters with Carrot-Hempseed Pesto and Pickled Golden Beets. The entire dish was great, but I couldn’t get past how awesome the pickled beets were. Yes, they seem simple, but I really think they were the best ones I’ve ever had. Very, very thin, with the perfect vinegary taste.
The bread served was Gluten Free Teff Rolls with Colorado Honey Butter. The rolls were so good that I bought some teff flour the next day to see how easy it was to bake with (haven’t tried it yet, though). I’ve actually been amazed lately with the great quality of a lot of gluten-free products I’ve tried, and these rolls were great as well.
The salad course was Farm Greens with Quinoa, Haystack Mountain Cracked Pepper Chevre with Basil Vinaigrette and Tempura Pearled Onion.
For the main course we had Seared Trumpet Mushrooms, Turnip-Cauliflower Puree, Roasted Radishes, Sautéed Kale, and Rosemary Pistachios. I thought this course was especially attractive.
By the time dessert arrived, it was so dark that I had pretty much no hope of getting a decent picture. So you’ll have to put some imagination into viewing the picture of the Brandy Custard with Apricot Puree, Lemon Pound Cake, Toasted Almonds, and Cocoa Nibs.
Three Leaf Farm has four additional dinners scheduled for this year. The price for the dinner we attended was $80, and included wine pairings for every course. This is considerably less than a lot of local farm dinners are lately, so was quite a great deal, in addition to being a wonderful time.
March 9, 2013
This past week a group of food bloggers/writers/media members were treated to some rather substantial samples of the food at Boulder’s Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria. The small order-at-the-counter restaurant is managed and co-owned by Cuban-born, Miami-raised Lourdes Sanchez, formerly of The Cream Puffery (a now defunct pastry shop/eatery near Liquor Mart, which my husband and I visited on occasion). Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria is associated with Cuba Cuba in Denver, and will be opening a new branch in the City Set development in Glendale this summer.
Lourdes was a very gracious host, bringing out a variety of sides, sandwiches, and a dessert I was a little devastated to find out wasn’t on the standard menu (but is a recurring special, fortunately). Many of the recipes for the food served at Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria are tweaked versions of family recipes, with the exception of Grandma’s flan, which needed no modification.
We started out with delicious Veggie Empanadas and Croquetas, but the Beef Empanadas that followed were my favorite of all the sides. I’m not a big red meat eater, but this was just too good not to fall for. The beef filling, while not spicy (Cuban food is generally not as spicy-hot as many other Latin American or Caribbean foods), was a wonderfully flavorful complement to the crispy pastry.
Next was the vegetarian Boulder Cuban Sandwich, served with a side of garlic mojo, also quite tasty.
The Cubano sandwich, with pork, ham and cheese led me to eat a bit more than I had intended to. There was something rather addictive about this one. Lourdes indicated that the authentic Cuban bread is an important factor in their sandwiches, and the pork they marinate overnight and then slow cook doesn’t hurt, either!
Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria also serves pork, beef, chicken, seafood, and vegetable plates with rice and beans, as well as other sides such as sweet plantains (which are fantastic), plantain chips, and Cuban fries. Their beverage selection is fairly extensive for a smaller establishment, with Cuban sodas, beer, mojitos and sangria, fountain drinks and several Cuban espresso drinks.
And then we closed with dessert. We each got a small piece of the creamiest Bread Pudding I’ve ever eaten. I’ve tried many a bread pudding, and I think this ties for top honors with the Chocolate Bread Pudding at Tortugas in Longmont, holder of the title for well over a decade. A gluten-free member of our group was given a piece of Grandma’s flan. Luckily for me, she couldn’t finish it, so I got to try some of it as well. And I couldn’t agree more with Lourdes — it would be pretty hard to improve on its beautiful texture and the taste, which was a sublime caramel. Later in the week, my husband and I got a piece of chocolate Tres Leches to go, and we can attest to that one being outstanding as well.
September 21, 2012
I love farm dinners, but they tend to be fairly expensive, so we usually limit ourselves to one or two a year. But when I happened upon a link to a farm dinner at Lone Hawk Farm featuring pizza baked in a portable wood-fired grill for just $40 a person, it seemed like a no-brainer – I immediately sent an email asking if there was still space.
Lone Hawk Farm is west of Longmont in a very picturesque landscape. Produce is sold at the farm, and space is available for weddings and special events, as well as horse boarding. It was in the 50s and rainy the evening of the dinner, but the hosts were gracious enough to let us dine in their home in a wonderful room with picture windows on two sides. The area is very secluded, so it feels quite pastoral (and the peacocks wandering by the window at one point certainly reinforced that feeling).
The food was orchestrated by Crust Mobile, based in Nederland (but portable!), using several ingredients from Lone Hawk Farm and other local providers. A few of us headed out to look at the oven and talk with Dawn, the owner. The oven is a gorgeous clay creation from France, covered in copper from an artist in Maine. The temperature used for making pizza is around 750 to 800 degrees, and they fire it using hardwood, which burns hotter, cleaner, and for a longer time than softer woods. Dawn told us that most of the wood they would be using during the evening (which was a pretty small pile) was fruit wood, obtained from a friend who is a tree trimmer. (Great reuse!) They use Colorado milled organic flour, pepperoni and sausage made in Denver, and local produce when it’s in season.
After we headed back in, a stream of fairly substantial food appeared at regular intervals through the back door. We started with a nice bowl of tomato soup finished with olive oil – perfect for a cool, rainy evening.
Following that we had a salad of field greens with local cantaloupe, walnuts and orange thyme vinaigrette.
And then began the pizza courses. I think the unanimous favorite at the table was the Apple Bacon pizza with mascarpone, bacon, Lone Hawk Farm apples, blue cheese and maple syrup drizzle. The sweet mascarpone and maple syrup, the tart apples, umami blue cheese and salty bacon were phenomenal together.
Next was Adult Pepperoni: Il Mondo Vecchio hand-cut pepperoni, Lone Hawk Farm peppers, crushed tomatoes (canned at Lone Hawk), and mozzarella. Since it had peppers and pepperoni I started referring to it as pepper2oni (that was your bad math joke for today, and I apologize profusely (but I’m going to leave it in anyhow)).
Third up was Squash-Room: Hazel Dell crimini mushrooms, herbed ricotta, Lone Hawk Farm squash, roasted garlic, and fresh thyme.
And the final pizza was a simple, classic, and totally delicious Margherita with crushed tomatoes and basil from Lone Hawk Farm, and fresh mozzarella.
Then, as if all of the wonderful pizza wasn’t enough food (there were second pieces had by all (thirds by some)), we finished with an outstanding apple cake made with Lone Hawk Farm apples.
If you’ve wanted to try a farm dinner, but have been put off by the steep prices, I highly recommend checking out a dinner at Lone Hawk Farm!
August 10, 2012
It wouldn’t be a proper foodie summer without a farm dinner. (It’s fun to see where you food comes from, and great to meet local farmers.) I perused the local offerings, and was intrigued by one that was to be put on by Five, a group of (five) superstar Denver chefs who put on events in different locations. This particular farm dinner was to be hosted at Two Bear Farms in Wheat Ridge. Two Bear produces organic eggs, so the dinner was to heavily feature eggs. Works for me – I rarely eat eggs at home, so bring them on! I signed us up, and on an evening in July that was providing some pretty menacing looking rain in Boulder, we headed down to Wheat Ridge.
Fortunately, the rain hadn’t yet made an appearance that far south-east, so once we arrived at the farm (which is quite tiny – but you don’t need as much room if you’re not growing a lot of crops), it was nice and dry. We walked over to the enclosure for the chickens, who were all out enjoying the early evening air. Well, honestly, I have no clue if that’s what they were doing – who can really get inside the mind of a chicken? But it sounds nice and poetic. Let’s just say they all seemed pretty relaxed, content, and were just walking around pecking at the ground. I always love to see chickens on a farm that truly has an open area for them to move around in. (Partly because sometimes one or two will just burst into a run for 20 feet, which I find highly amusing to watch (of course I’m sure people could say the same thing about my running style, but I digress)). Contrary to the aroma one might find at over-crowded chicken farms, the three smaller organic farms we’ve gone to which had chickens had pretty much no adverse smell.
The first food served was hand-passed appetizers. My favorite overall was the mini fried-egg sandwiches (made with quail eggs). Seriously – aren’t they adorable? And they were delicious, too. I kind of wanted about five of them. (Five? Get it?)
I think the gorgeous award for the evening probably went to the red beet-pickled Two Bear Farms hen’s eggs with horseradish egg salad and golden beet caviar.
The dining area was three long rows of tables under a tent (fortunately, since it did actually start raining later in the evening!). You’ll notice my currently open and in the process of being enjoyed bottle of Dry Lavender Soda. I normally don’t drink caloric beverages (opting instead for artificially sweetened ones, in brazen contrast to my bent on healthy eating), but this stuff had significantly fewer calories than regular soda, and really was quite good.
One of the things that I really love about going to various dining events is the people you meet. You might find yourself sitting across the table from the chef of a budding new restaurant in Denver, a couple who does design and planning for new restaurants, or a former contestant on Master Chef. It’s fun to talk about food with others who are as into it as you are. Even if your expertise only extends to dining out or being a home cook, you can still talk about foods you’ve tried, different preparations, or the food you are eating at the dinner. It’s also a great opportunity to ask someone who works in the industry questions you’ve always had about restaurants or catering, or what have you.
My favorite main course of the evening was Hosea Rosenberg’s Homemade Cavatelli “Carbonara” with Two Bear Farms Egg Yolk and Pancetta. Most of the courses were served family style, so I didn’t get quite as much pasta on my plate when I passed it down as I would have liked, but it was still very enjoyable. Rich without being overwhelming, it made great use of the farm’s eggs.
There were several other main courses, but unfortunately I didn’t get good photos of any of them. They included Pickled Colorado wild striped bass by Mark DeNittis, Chicken fried beef tongue by Samir Mohammad, and coq au vin blanc by Jenna Johansen.
Oh, but then there was the unbelievably delectable element of the dessert course by Jessica Scott. She made three desserts, but the purple velvet cupcakes with jalapeño cream cheese frosting were hands-down the best. I know that no description I give will do them justice. Yes, jalapeño cream cheese frosting might sound a bit odd, but having eaten and enjoyed quite a bit of gourmet chocolate with chilis, I knew how well that worked together. The cream cheese frosting had just the flavor aspect of the jalapeños without the heat, and for some reason, when mixed with the chocolate cupcake taste it was complete bliss.
I had to include a picture of the red and black brownies, because all lined up on giant serving trays, they just looked too pretty not to share.
November 7, 2011
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending another great dinner put on by Hush Concepts, with my husband and our two dining buddies. It was held in the gorgeous Mise en Place in Denver, which offers hands-on cooking classes and demonstrations for groups. It’s a beautiful location with a large open kitchen and dining space in the Denver Ice House.
This particular Hush dinner featured season five Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg, formerly of Jax Fish House in Boulder. I was very excited to attend this one, since my husband and I have always loved Jax, and I’m a huge fan of Top Chef, and was thrilled when our local representative won in season five. There was a great turnout, and the food did not disappoint. My photos don’t come close to doing justice to how gorgeous the food was, but my excuse is that it’s hard to surreptitiously take eight photos of a dish before eating it when you’re in public!
The first course was an oyster with horseradish dipping dots (which had melted by the time I took a picture, so just imagine little pearls on the oyster).
The next course was a divine butternut squash bisque with Alaskan king crab and apple. The butternut squash was from Boulder county’s Isabelle Farms. I love butternut squash soup, and this one was particularly tasty.
Following the bisque was wild king salmon and pork belly, with Brussel sprouts and pomegranate brown butter — a great combination of flavors.
Course five was porcini crusted venison loin with sunchoke puree, chokecherry, and sage. I think this was my favorite course of the evening. It was very boldly flavored, and absolutely delicious.
Course five was a wonderful pumpkin Napoleon with honey crisps and cocoa nibs. Gorgeous on the plate, and a perfect ending to the meal.