Monthly Archives: March 2014

Series on Creativity : John DePierro of Bones

Great chefs are artists.
This is why we typically revere them.
They create art with food, and we get to eat that art.
You can’t do that with a Picasso.
I asked John DePierro, Executive Chef at Bones – a celebrated Denver restaurant – his take on creativity and how it influences the way he works.
On the notoriously small space he and his staff work out of, John says, “People think we have a magic kitchen downstairs or upstairs. They can’t believe we do what we do on the line they see in our open kitchen at Bones.”
It’s a sign of ingenuity – which is a big element of creativity – to be able to work with what you’re given, and have it attain self-generated standards of excellence.
“I can really be an intolerable person when the food’s not right”, he says.
He has a tight-knit group working with him, including his Sous Chef, Michael Nevarez, or Sweet Michael, as he’s called.
Together, along with owner Frank Bonanno, they conceptualized a fifth anniversary dinner that was stunning in its presentation and taste.
The 7-course dining extravaganza was filled with countless creative choices and artistic touches that made it mindful and memorable.
From the Bo Ssam served on a platter with bamboo steamer basket, in a do-it-yourself, interactive style – to the foie gras torchon served in an Asian sardine tin, sided with perfectly crisp toasts on which to spread it – the chefs allowed themselves playfulness alongside their discipline, which allowed us, as the guests, to have more joy in the experience than we otherwise would have.
I’ve already written about this splendid creativity, of which you can read more here:
I eat out a lot and it was the single most definitive dining experience I had in 2013.
But, that was one night, albeit one very special night.
What goes on there on an average, say, Wednesday night?
Last year, John boldly and publicly proclaimed his goal was to get Bones into a coveted spot in 5280 Magazine’s annual Top 25 Restaurants list.
What has resulted from that goal, is a kitchen putting out such exciting food as Confit Octopus with squid ink splattered plating.
Wagyu with sous vide turnip, Easter egg radish, black sesame puree and tamarind vinaigrette.
Roasted Bone Marrow with gremolata, seasonal jam and crostini.
These are the level of dishes you’d expect at a fine dining, white-tableclothed restaurant, not an unassuming noodle house.
And even the noodles have a level of excellence in their conception – lobster with a beurre blanc broth; brisket [!].
The expected Potstickers are a menu staple, but with the absolutely unexpected filling of escargot.
John and Michael at Bones are proving that environment doesn’t dictate result, and if anything, the diner is more wowed and impressed when this kind of delight comes from a place they just anticipated getting a great bowl of ramen.
When I ask John how he’s able to keep the unsavory arrogance and ego, so sadly associated with some chefs, at bay, he tells me it’s because he knows he’s lucky to be there; that he has such gratitude and appreciation for that.
“I just want to cook and be happy”.

Protein Bar + Colorado = Happiness!

Protein Bar – the beloved Chicago fast-casual concept – has made its way to Colorado.

Mornings can begin right – and healthy – with:
7 Breakfast Bowls
3 Breakfast Burritos
Boulder Organic Coffee [Sunrise Blend]

Lunch & Dinner options include:
9 Protein Bar-Ritos – all made with their signature whole wheat-flax tortilla, and filled with high protein ingredients like chicken, organic quinoa blend, black beans and more – these pack a serious protein punch.
2 Chilis [one chicken, one veggie]
1 Soup [Tuscan white bean with kale and pesto]
5 Signature Salads
6 Quinoa Bowls

Add to this,
8 Signature Drinks [you choose your protein, milk and free optional boost]
4 Raw Juices

It’s like Chipotle meets Jamba Juice, in the healthiest possible way.

3 Colorado locations:
1855 29th Street – opens on Wednesday, April 2

1755 16th Street [Union Station] – projected opening: late April/early May
1390 S. Colorado Blvd. – projected opening: mid-June

View complete menus at

Chefs Up Front / April 6 / Ticket Proceeds Benefit Cooking Matters [program of Share Our Strength]

Sunday, April 6
Reception – 5:30 pm
Dinner – 7 pm

Cooking Matters – a program of Share Our Strength – raises funds to sustain its cooking and nutrition education for low-income individuals/families.

Interactive cocktail demonstrations kick off the evening at 5:30 p.m.
Denver bartenders will be working with top-shelf liquor, creating signature cocktails.
The star power includes:
Nick Touch from Williams & Graham featuring Tequila Ocho Plata.
Anika Zappe from Central Bistro & Bar featuring St. George Repo Gin.
Brian Smith from Squeaky Bean featuring Death’s Door Vodka.
Randy Layman from Ace featuring Del Maguey Vida Mezcal.
Ryan Layman from Steuben’s featuring EH Taylor Rye.
Rob Corbari from Populist featuring Black Grouse Scotch.
Alex Parks from Acorn featuring Elmer T Lee Bourbon.
Stuart Jensen from Green Russell featuring Zaya Rum.

Confirmed restaurants to-date include:
Acorn – Avenue Grill – Beast + Bottle – Beatrice & Woodsley – Black Pearl – Café I Bar – Coohills – Edge at the Four Seasons Denver – Elway’s – Euclid – Jax Fish House – Linger/Root Down – Lola – Lower 48 Kitchen – Luca D’Italia – The Matador – Mizuna – Old Major – Parallel Seventeen – Populist – Second Home – Squeaky Bean – TAG – The Kitchen Boulder – Twelve Restaurant – Vesta Dipping Grill – Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro

Share Our Strength Founder and CEO Billy Shore will be speaking at this event.
Individual tickets are still available at $300 per person and can be reserved by calling 303.801.0326 or visiting

The live auction is flush with luxury experiences including:
· Seven night vacation – with airfare – to one of Inspirato’s 3-bedroom luxurious villas in Punta de Mita, Mexico. Choices include Las Olas, Arena Blanca, Puesta del Sol, Las Terrazas, Las Mareas, Punta Vista or El Tesoro (4 bedroom villas and can accommodate up to 8 people). Each family-friendly residence includes daily housekeeping and dedicated Inspirato concierge services.

· Five course, in-home dining experience for up to 12 guests. Five of Denver’s best chefs will create a sensational wine-pairing dinner in your home.

· Three day trip to Napa including airfare. Two guests will enjoy a wine country experience including overnight lodging in Napa.

Colorado Brewer’s Guild Announces Economic Impact of Colorado Craft Beer on State Economy

Colorado has emerged as the state of craft beer, at the very forefront of the craft brewing industry. We rank among the top states for number of breweries, per capita production, and economic impact. The Colorado Brewers Guild (CBG) identified 232 craft brewers in the state in 2013 – a whopping 109% growth in the number of breweries since the recession ended in 2009. When asked to encapsulate the Colorado brewing scene, John Carlson, CBG Executive Director, says “The great thing about the Colorado craft brewing industry is the artful blend of manufacturing prowess, pure soul, agricultural ties, and innovative technology. Colorado is the state of craft beer and this study shows it with academic precision.”

[Record Economic Benefit]
Colorado craft brewers recorded total economic benefits of $704 million in 2012, growing to $826 million in 2013. Converting mostly raw materials like malt, hops and water into the craft beers sold domestically and internationally, the industry tallied $249 million in direct value added in 2013. In 2012 and 2013, an estimated 4,493 and 5,014 people respectively, worked in the brewery and restaurant sides of the business.

[Brewery Growth in 2014]
The majority of Colorado brewers project growth in excess of 20% in 2014. Despite massive growth, brewers ranked factors that could influence even more responsible growth. The factor that brewers indicated would most encourage business expansion today is lower taxes, followed by financing, increased market access, and less regulation.

[Brewers Build Community and Give Back]
Colorado brewers reported giving more than $1.4 million in gifts, a $200,000 spike in reported donations from the previous survey. Nearly, 93% of brewers reported giving to charity organizations, 91% reported participating in fund-raising events, and 62% reported engaging in volunteerism. Survey responses show overwhelmingly, that craft brewers and brewpubs are highly active philanthropists in their respective communities. They volunteer or give money to a wide variety of causes and groups. Other charitable activities included sponsoring community art groups and local dinners for the homeless, organizing a Turkey Trot, fundraising for local civic groups, and donating to local food banks.

[About the Colorado Brewers Guild]
The Colorado Brewers Guild (CBG) is a non-profit trade association representing the leading Colorado craft breweries and brewpubs. CBG is dedicated to the improvement of business conditions and serves as an advocate for its members. CBG itself sponsors a variety of beer events each year designed to increase the awareness and appreciation of Colorado-brewed beer. For more information about the Guild, visit

Lucky [for us] is Truly the Right Word When It Comes To Boulder’s Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery

“I’m ready”.
These were the only two words in a middle-of-the-night email Jen Bush, now co-owner of Lucky’s Bakehouse, sent to Lucky’s Market owner Bo Sharon.
The two had been talking about the possibility of opening a bakery together, but Jen just wasn’t ready.
She was coming off of an arduous personal experience – and though her love of baking is as natural to her as breathing – was daunted by the prospect at first.
Bo happened to be up at the same ungodly hour and immediately responded saying he’d just signed the lease on the proposed space that very afternoon.
A former video rental shop, sitting a literal stone’s throw away from Lucky’s Market in north Boulder, he knew he wanted the space no matter what.
The Bakehouse has the feel of an East Coast bakery, which is the highest compliment I can give it.
As you enter, to your right is a long marble countertop filled with the largest variety of pastries – both sweet and savory – I’ve ever seen in one independent bakery in Colorado.
Straight ahead, a refrigerated case trumpets cream puffs, entire cakes and cake slices, that make you want to throw a party just to have a reason to bring a whole cake home.
They also do custom cakes – regular, gluten-free and vegan [gluten-free as well].
To the left of the counter, which is to the left of the refrigerated case [to the left, to the left], are their housemade ice creams.
With a rotating array of flavors, like Justin’s Peanut Butter Cup [a local legend company] and Madagascar Vanilla, you can get your fix here.
From the expected cupcakes, brownies [salted caramel, no less] and chocolate chip cookies, to the unexpected S’mores cake [by the slice and whole], savory galettes and white chocolate enrobed marshmallow [whose flavors change regularly; on the day I visited, it was blackberry] – it’s an overwhelming experience of choice, in the most delightful way.
Not that any of the expected items are staid.
For example, the chocolate chip cookies are made with generous chunks of Callebaut chocolate and brown butter.
“Bakeries are a place you go to feel good”, says Jen and it’s true.
It’s hard not to when you’re being stared down by a 3″ tall cream puff.
When they opened almost a year and a half ago, less than 1/4 of their offerings were gluten-free, and now almost 1/2 are.
But, instead of relying only on gluten-free flour to make her creations, Jen likes to find other options to punch up the flavor.
Like using almond meal for her GF lemon ricotta cake – a pastry even the gluten-tolerant will enjoy.
Jen is loving this opportunity and experience, noting that being a pastry chef suits her – a job she’s held in many iterations throughout her career, from 14 years in San Francisco restaurants to executive pastry chef of the Big Red F restaurant group, owner of Blue Fine Pastries and Ice Box Bakery, to now co-owning Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery.
She says her staff is incredible and that makes them a team that cares deeply about each other and what they do.
Sitting out in the dining area with me – which, for a bakery, is a generous 24 seats – she proudly proclaims, “When I look at them back there, they’re all so committed to pastry”.
“It’s much different than being a savory chef”, she says.
The energy is different.
Focused, but decidedly less intense.
The hours are also much different.
“You can’t be a partier when you have to be up at 4 a.m.” says Jen.
In restaurant kitchens, most pastry chefs work in a small corner of an artificially lit space, creating throughout the day and they never get to see the guests enjoy their desserts come evening.
Staring into her open kitchen at Lucky’s, she says, “There’s huge satisfaction with an open pastry kitchen, the sunlight streaming in, and getting to see people enjoy your work.”
It’s clear that Jen herself feels Lucky.

Lucky’s Bakehouse
3990 Broadway Street

Tour de Croques! Croque Guidelines, Category Winners + Overall Champion.

A friend and I got into a discussion about Croque Monsieurs [no egg] and Madames [egg], as these are the kinds of things my friends and I like to talk about.
We’re both food-lovers and writers, and we decided a discussion wasn’t enough; we needed to embark on a Tour de Croques in Denver [Boulder will get its own TdC].
We narrowed the field to 3 spots – 1 new, 1 classic, and 1 known for their croque.

1. Olive & Finch [new]
2. Bistro Vendome [classic]
3. Le Grand Bistro [known for]

The term croque is inspired by the French verb croquer – to crunch – and this makes the grilled part absolutely necessary.
To me, there’s no question regarding adding an egg, and my friend felt the same way, so each of the ones we got were Madames.
Here are 6 key elements of the classic Croque Madame [5, plus a bonus category], notes, and the winner of each category:

1 / Bread
For any sandwich, anywhere, the bread makes it or breaks it.
That’s just the sandwich bottom line.
Of the three we sampled, each had a different bread.
O&F’s was on baguette, Vendome’s was on brioche and Le Grand’s was on sourdough.
The bread should be grilled, or at the very least toasted, which all three were.
The baguette and deft application of the mornay and cheese, allowed us to eat the O&F croque out of hand, which you normally aren’t able to do.
Not only was the bread itself fantastic, but the handheld aspect was surprisingly great.
The baguette won this round, so the bread round goes to Olive & Finch.

2 / Ham
Le Grand hit this out of the park and they did so because not only do they make their own ham in-house, but it’s rosemary ham.
And, they slice it thin, which makes all the difference.
I want a good ham to bread to mornay ratio.
The others’ ham was sliced thicker, and while tasty, took away from the overall balance of the sandwich.

3 / Cheese
It has to be Emmental or Gruyere, and while this is found in the mornay sauce itself, some also add a layer of cheese, as both Olive & Finch and Le Grand did.
O&F spread a generous layer of mornay on the baguette, followed by a generous layer of ham, then melted Emmental cheese, with the poached eggs on top.
O&F’s cheese was gooey and melty and delightful and wins this category.

4 / Egg
I think absolutely the egg has to be poached.
You simply need that runny, gooey yolk.
Some would say a fried egg is fine, but in my world a fried egg, on this kind of dish, is most definitely not fine.
Each attempted poached eggs, with varying degrees of success.
Bistro Vendome’s egg was the most perfectly done poached egg, and once the yolks were broken, they swam over the sandwich itself, with extra mixing with the mornay on the bottom of the plate, pooling into the most delightful enriched sauce, that we kept dipping forkfuls of the croque into.
It makes a big difference whether you can get that yolk to run.
Have I made my point that a runny yolk is key?
Ok, let’s move on.

5 / Mornay Sauce
Mornay is a classic béchamel, with all gruyere or all emmental, or a combination of the two added.
Vendome does a Dijon mornay that’s interesting.
In this dish, I typically want a straight moray, but I do love Dijon, so it wasn’t off-putting at all; just unclassic.
Both O&F’s and Le Grand’s were classic mornay.
Now, let’s talk mornay distribution – or MD – for short.
This is key.
You must be generous with the mornay.
If you’re not, it makes me angry, and I don’t like to be angry when I dine.
You don’t want the sandwich swimming in it, but you don’t want any semblance of dryness either.
Bistro Vendome wins this category for both flavor and MD.

6 / Side[s]
Sides count.
This is a bonus category, because they aren’t a component of the actual croque itself, but the whole plate is either exciting or not, based on the croque AND side[s].
Though traditionally served with frites – not to be confused with normal French fries – these are not as thick as a traditional fry, but not as thin as a matchstick fry.
They’re somewhere gloriously in between.
O&F offers a side salad, which was a fresh take.
Vendome does sweet and savory frites that they dust with both salt and sugar.
Le Grand had the most traditional frites, which helped them lead the category, but they took things a few steps further with their accoutrements.
They offered thinly sliced housemade pickles, vinegary red onion with thyme, as well as aioli to dip the frites in. [Vendome also offered aioli with their frites]
Le Grand wins.

Bread: Olive & Finch
Ham: Le Grand
Cheese: Olive & Finch
Egg: Bistro Vendome
Mornay: Bistro Vendome
Sides: Le Grand

A true 3-way tie.

The Croque and side[s] matter, of course, but what makes an Overall Champion includes hospitality, service and environment.
Le Grand won this absolutely hands down.
They engaged us on social media as we were planning our TdC.
They greeted us warmly and generously with a glass of rose when we arrived.
The Sous Chef, Edwin, personally delivered the croque.
The atmosphere was convivial and lively.

Note: As of this writing, Olive & Finch no longer has the croque on the menu, though let’s cross our fingers that they’ll bring it back.
It would be the right thing to do.

You can read more about Le Grand in this post:

You can also read my TdC partner-in-crime, Emily’s, take on the Tour here:

Denver FIVE + Seattle Fish Company Created a Seafood Lover’s Dream Lunch [and a recipe]

Denver FIVE – the brainchild of industry veteran Leigh Sullivan – unofficially kicked off their 2014 season last week, teaming up with Seattle Fish Company to host a 5-course meal at one of the FIVE chefs’ ‘home’ kitchens, Elway’s at Cherry Creek.
The first official Denver FIVE event will be on April 20 at Old Major.
Each chef will host an event at their home restaurant, plus show their culinary prowess at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic June 20-22.
The season will culminate with the annual Denver FIVE trip to New York to cook at the esteemed James Beard House on September 17th.
Along with the meal, Seattle Fish Company provided a presentation on debunking seafood myths, which was fascinating.
As though the whole experience wasn’t exciting enough, Aaron Forman – Owner and Sommelier of Denver’s beloved Table 6 – made the wine selections.
A sparkling, gruner and pinot noir – each so incredible and perfectly paired – I will not soon forget them.
Here’s the menu, and if you scroll down, you’ll also find an easy ahi recipe from the Hungry kitchen.

[Passed Appetizer]
Grilled Swordfish with parsley pesto and roasted lemon zest
Aniedra Nichols, Elway’s Cherry Creek

[First Course]
Gravlax Crespelle with shaved asparagus-pea shoot salad, horseradish cream and crispy shallots
Nadine Donovan, Old Major

[Second Course]
Pastrami Cured Tuna with gruyere cracker, kraut and Russian dressing
Carrie Shores, Table 6

[Third Course]
Korean Roasted Tilapia with sautéed baby bok choy and kimchi aioli
Aniedra Nichols, Elway’s Cherry Creek

[Fourth Course]
Seared Albacore Tuna with pork belly [gild the lily!], grapefruit vanilla caramel, black pepper sauce
Elise Wiggins, Panzano

[Fifth Course]
Miso Glazed Chilean Seabass with buckwheat noodles and crispy shiso
Jenna Johansen, Epicurean Group

More on Denver FIVE here:

And here:

Also, visit to download their Sustainability Handout [lower right on main page].

{ Recipe }
Bucatini with Ahi + Preserved Lemon

1 package bucatini [or spaghettini/angelhair/spaghetti]
1 Ahi tuna steak
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T butter
4 T breadcrumbs
2 T micro dice preserved lemon
1 sliced garlic clove [if from preserved lemon jar, all the better; rinse first]
Salt + pepper to taste
Shaved pecorino romano

Cook ahi steak to medium / medium well, whatever your preference.
Cook pasta, drain and add back to pan with heat on low.
With a fork, chunk tuna, add to pasta, along with the rest of the ingredients.
Serves 4-6.
Be happy.

All I Have to Say About Old Major [but it’s major]

Happy Hours.
Oysters on the Half Shell.
Pork Fat [!] French Fries.
Pretzel Rolls.
Kimchi Pork Burger.
Infinite Monkey Theorem Merlot.
Old Old Fashioned.
$2. – $7.
3-6p, 7 days a week.

There’s more on the Happy Hour menu, but these are the things I’m beside myself about.
[So much else has already been said about Old Major, so I’ll leave it at this]

Meet Your Maker [Your Tequila Maker, That Is]

La Biblioteca, known for all things tequila, is doing the right thing and bringing makers in to educate – and as importantly, provide tastings – on their range of tequilas, mezcals and sotols.
One class each month on the first Thursday beginning in March and going through July, with the kickoff this week.
A fun way to spend a couple of hours [especially on a first date!].

March 6th / El Tesoro
April 3rd / Patron
May 1st / Centinela
June 5th / Agave Underground
July 3rd / Suerte (a Boulder company)

Cost is $5.

La Biblioteca
1610 Little Raven Street, Suite #200
Riverfront Park, Facing 16th Street
Denver, CO 80202
Tel 720.904.0965


One day I got inspired to make ramen and threw this recipe [loose] together.
It turned out to be delicious.
[that kind of luck isn’t always the case in the kitchen, as all you home cooks know!]
Someone asked for the recipe, then someone else did, so thought it best to post here.
Like béchamel, homemade biscuits or tiramisu, there’s a certain mystery that surrounds ramen, but once you have the basics down, it’s a pleasure to make and eat.

Some people cook the noodles in the broth, but I’m a purist and think they must be cooked separately; you don’t want that added guck [official term] in the broth itself
I get my noodles – organic – at World Market and love their texture; 3-4 min and voila!
I use veg broth – a whole container [the soft pack; 32 oz I think] – but you can also use beef for a richer flavor
If using fresh shallots, sauté first, along with diced leeks or onions to soften
[I keep a jar of dried shallots on hand, so just add 1 T of those directly to broth]
Probably 1/4 c soy sauce – technical!; I eyeball it
Squeeze of sriracha [or more to your taste; we don’t like it too spicy]
Can of corn, or fresh in season
Simmer everything together and once noodles are cooked, add to broth
At this point, you can really add anything else you like* – other vegetables, pulled pork, beef, lobster [would add knob of butter in that case], a poached egg – though I’m still perfecting the poach
But it is also wonderful as is
You just want any elements you add to the broth to already be cooked
Feeds four
Eat – Be warm – Be happy

*A chef friend said fish sauce or fish powder is always a nice addition.