Last week Niwot restaurant Colterra graciously (and deliciously) hosted several local food bloggers other food media people for a talk about the restaurant, as well as several delectable small plates. Colterra has long been a favorite of mine in Boulder County, but gained even more esteem points after I had the chance to find out a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes.

Executive Chef Michael Drazsnzak spoke extensively about the philosophy espoused by both Colterra and Salt (both created by chef Bradford Heap), their relationship with local farmers, and the wonderful dishes that were provided for us to sample. The restaurants strive to provide food that is local, healthy, sustainable, and promotes humane animal husbandry. Recycling and composting are both near and dear to my heart, so more points were scored with me when I heard that Colterra has only one trash can-sized container for landfill, but multiple containers for recycling and composting.

I’m always thrilled to see restaurants sourcing their food from local farms and ranches, and Colterra definitely makes this a high priority. They acquire produce and meat from Full Circle Farms, Dooley Farms, Munson Farms and Long Family Farms (to name just a few), as well as from the small garden spread around the Colterra property. They have recently partnered up with a farmer to raise eight Berkshire hogs, contributing edible compost from the restaurant for feed. I love that! Another thing that impressed me was the fact that they visit the farmers quite frequently, allowing them to get an idea of what is growing and will be ready to harvest soon, so that they can plan new menu items.

The Patio at Colterra in Niwot, CO

On the Patio at Colterra in Niwot, CO

Now on to the lovely small plates we sampled. The first was Pork Rillettes (a dish similar to pâté) and quick pickled cucumbers with a bit of mint, on toasted bread and a bed of lettuce. The Rillettes was wonderfully rich, and perfectly complemented by the light, fresh pickled cucumbers. (As Chef Drazsnzak described the process of making the Rillettes, talking about the addition of butter, bacon fat, and extra-virgin olive oil, I had a quick mental image of my posterior expanding, but that didn’t stop me from finishing both pieces! All part of splurging one night a week, and eating healthier at home the rest of the week.)

Salad with Pork Rillettes and Quick Pickled Cucumbers on Toast

Salad with Pork Rillettes and Quick Pickled Cucumbers on Toast (You can barely see the Rillettes, but trust me, it was delicious!)

As good as the Rillettes was, the second course was actually my favorite. This was a salad made of local organic tomatoes and fried bread with sweet corn and green beans. Add to that some olive oil, wonderfully vibrant aged balsamic and a bit of basil, and I was really blown away by the clean, fresh, gorgeous flavors. This kind of dish really underscores how locally harvested produce can elevate food to new levels, because it’s packed with so much more flavor.

Tomato and Fried Bread Salad with Sweet Corn and Green Beans

Tomato and Fried Bread Salad with Sweet Corn and Green Beans

The final dish was a melon salad with prosciutto, mint, and peashoots. The cantaloupe and honeydew were local, and the prosciutto even counted as more local than most, hailing from La Quercia, makers of artisan cured meats, in Iowa. La Quercia (translated as ‘The Oak’) was the first to bring the tradition of acorn-fed pigs to the United States with their ‘Acorn Edition’ meats. Completely delicious!

Melon Salad with Prosciutto

Melon Salad with Prosciutto

In addition to providing wonderful food at both Colterra and Salt, the Bradford Heap Restaurants brand also does catering, as well as offering cooking classes. I think I may just have to attend one of their classes in the near future!

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