I don’t usually roll out restaurant reviews, but occasionally I will if the meal itself was truly exceptional. Also, if I remembered to behave like a gauche tourist and take pictures of each dish with my iPhone. This past Saturday, we enjoyed a meal that I feel deserves some bloggish accolades.
But first I’m going to show you pictures of our trip to Cottonwood Kennels in Boulder, CO. We were invited by our good friends Bex and Nate (who live in Boulder). They have a baby a few weeks older than Emmett, and said that they were going to go play with baby animals on Saturday afternoon. Given my love for manhandling immature livestock, I immediately said we’d join them. The kennel is part doggie bed and breakfast, and part farm animal sanctuary, and they’d recently come across a pair of lambs, both of whom had mothers who refused to care for them adequately. I’m picturing a sort of “Teen Mom 3: Sheep” situation. The lambs were DARLING, and Emmett was totally thrilled. Then we went outside the kennel, where we got to see an obese sheep named “Willie,” and an alpaca named “Nicholas” who we were told was aggressive and should be avoided.
But Nicholas had other plans. He took an immediate shine to Emmett, and followed him around licking and nuzzling him. And
And yet again
So I guess my baby is some kind of camelid-whisperer. Good to know. I’ll have to make sure his high school adviser helps him select the best college for textile production with a minor in Andean herding.
After exposing the young ones to barnyard allergens for their own good, we took them to Bex and Nate’s house, where a sweet girl with feathers in her hair, and wearing a hemp tunic, babysat them.
The Denver area isn’t exactly known for its fine dining options. Sure, we have a few Frank Bonnano restaurants that are very good, and we’ve got the Vesta Dipping Grill, which is either good or bad, depending on what day you go. And other good restaurants are sprinkled here and there. But it’s pretty weak compared to the bigger cities. Colorado is mostly like, “We’re too busy hiking and playing frisbee golf to be concerned with uppity food.” Even the most upscale places have people dressed in “Colorado Chic,” which includes jeans and cargo pants. Always. We have good grocery stores, though. It’s our saving grace.
But Boulder. Man, Boulder is like this little gourmet microcosm of organic ingredients prepared artfully and beautifully. There are great restaurants EVERYWHERE in Boulder, and they all use local produce and humanely-produced meat. I’m jealous. But it’s only 45 minutes away, so I can’t complain too much. And the restaurant we chose this time around was truly something else.
FRASCA. The restaurant was recently featured in Bon Appetit magazine, and is supposed to be the best dining in the Denver metro area. The restaurant focuses on the Friuli region of Italy, and closes its doors to take its entire staff to Italy for a learning trip each year. Lucky sons of bitches.
The meal consists of four courses, plus a salumi plate if you choose to order it. We did. Freshly shaved prosciutto San Daniele, speck, and house-cured salami. The order came with fresh grissini (skinny breadsticks) and a horseradish creme fraiche for dipping. I said “screw the creme fraiche” and just wrapped the different cured meats around my breadsticks and went at it. AMAZING. The prosciutto is shaved using a giant, cherry red, free-standing meat slicer near the entrance, and is fresh and sweet and ever-so-slightly floral. The speck was smoky and fabulous, and the house salami was rich and buttery. I didn’t take a picture of it, because we ate it in seconds.
Between the four of us, we then ate 16 courses of food. Each of us tried each dish, and they were all excellent (except I wasn’t thrilled at the cooked fish dishes). I’ll not wax poetic on each one, or this blog would be 40 years long, but I’ll post the pictures I have and the description per the menu:
Yellowfin tuna crudo, avocado, cucumber, ginger
This was mine, and was a play on the raw fish that’s served in Friuli, though I doubt avocado and ginger are typical accompaniments in the region. The server made it very clear that it was just inspired, though, so none of us could be like “What? You mean Friuli, JAPAN? SUCKA!”
Pigs’ head two ways, mostarda, frisee
Cure Farms duck egg, spring vegetable, veal sweetbreads
Tasty business, though I have no idea what fer vegetable that curly green thing is. Sweetbreads are glands. I’m proud to say I tried one. My very first offal EVER. It tasted like the fattiest part of a steak, and wasn’t bad. But it was still a GLAND, you know? So it was a little hard to wrap my brain around.
Berkshire pork, fresh chickpea, roasted pepper and romesco
I’d never had a fresh chickpea before. Very nice texture. And romesco is a nut-based sauce, for those who don’t know.
Buccatini, Cure Farms duck egg yolk, guanciale, pecorino
This was my second course. I love buccatini, and I love a good carbonara–bacon and egg pasta–so this was up my alley. Rich, decadent, and huge depth of flavor from the guanciale. Guanciale is kind of like a bacon made from pork jowl.
House-made pappardelle, Watson Farm lamb, and fava bean
Fried eggplant, tomato, and basil with house-made spaghetti
Tortelloni with jalapeno pesto, fresh peas, and smoked trout
Berkshire pork, rapini, cauliflower and mostarda
This was my third course, and the berkshire pork belly was just fabulous, as pork belly tends to be. Unctuous, porky, and very well paired with the rapini and mostarda. Cauliflower is not a friendly beast in my books, but I ate it anyway. It was nicely caramelized, and only in small little bits around my plate.
Sea Bream, peperonata, potato, and hazelnut
Halibut, morel, egg, and leek
Spring lamb, fennel, chickpea, and anchovy
TIME FOR DESSERT
Lemon mascarpone “cheesecake” parfait with graham cracker biscotti
Caramel buttercream, chocolate torte, valhrona ganache, and cashew stracciatella gelato
Brown butter hazelnut frangipane, banana, hazelnut crumble, toffee gelato
Passionfruit crostada with passionfruit glaze and custard gelato
Come on, who doesn’t love passionfruit? Don’t get confused between papaya and passionfruit like I sometimes do. Passionfruit is sweet and tasty. Papaya smells and tastes like vomit. If I have a few tropical drinks, then I also confuse guava into the mix. As for this dessert: the little slab was sweet and fruity, with floral notes. Very nice and understated.
That was the end of the meal. Of course, by this time we’d consumed two bottles of wine (I don’t remember the name, but it’s what the sommelier told us to get), and had to send another bottle back because it was “corked.” That means skunky, basically. I looked like a douche, too, because when he brought the bottle over for me to taste, I was laughing about how silly the whole song and dance of tasting wine seems (we’re not wine educated in any way). The sommelier said “you never know when you’ll get a bad bottle, though. It could be this one.” He then smelled the cork, winced, gave it to each of us to smell, and it smelled like a basement. It tasted awful. He was grandly amused at the timing of the bad bottle. He said it happened once before to people who didn’t think it was necessary to taste wine before accepting it. Wine karma, I guess.
The two good bottles, though, were very good. I think it was Villa Russiz sauvignon from Friuli.
So Frasca. Yeah. Great restaurant. Give it a try next time you’re in the Denver/Boulder area. And perhaps sell a kidney first, because the price of a dinner for four with wine is about the same amount you’d expect to pay for a single plane ticket to Friuli, Italy.
Or about five hand-spun Alpaca sweaters. I should learn to start explaining monetary things in a way that will make sense to Emmett when he’s older.