Colorado has upped the yum-factor on farm-fresh dining. Find out how local ingredients, south-of-the-border influences, outdoor on-the-go dining, beer pairings and celebrity chefs are making the state’s cuisine tastier than ever.
Livin’ the Local Life
Colorado does farm-to-table better than just about anywhere else. Restaurants across the land strive not only to source vegetables and meats from local farmers, but many are also starting to grow backyard gardens and purchase farmland to fill out their menus (see Denver’s Fruition, Aspen’s Montagna and Boulder’s Black Cat Farm to Table Bistro, among others). Colorado’s abundance of homegrown ingredients has hit its stride, and restaurants can’t resist featuring them as the daily special.
Gourmet on the Go
Where burritos and hot dogs were once the only foods sold in mobile food trucks, a spate of "gastro carts" in Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins now proffer such delicious bites as homemade biscuits (Denver Biscuit Bus), Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches (Manna From Heaven), cucumber jalapeño crema salsa (Comida), and cupcakes infused with locally brewed beer (The Cupcake Cruiser).
The trend — which is not likely to be a short-lived one given the creativity and deliciousness it has inspired - fits in naturally in Colorado, where a surplus of sunny days and mountain views lend themselves to the outdoor dining experience.
Home to more than 100 craft breweries, Colorado produces more beer annually than any other state. Many restaurateurs have teamed up with local brewers to hold beer-pairing dinners that show off the culinary versatility of small-batch brews. In Fort Collins, where many of the state’s most notable craft breweries are found, a handful of restaurants have embraced this trend. Choice City Butcher & Deli was among the city’s beer-pairing pioneers, followed closely by Canyon Chop House, Moot House, El Monte Grill and Lounge, Sunny Lubick Steakhouse and others.
These dinners have also popped up at Freshcraft, Duo Restaurant, Argyll Gastropub and Rackhouse Pub in Denver; Pumphouse Brewery in Longmont; The West End Tavern in Boulder; and Another Pint in Colorado Springs. Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing Company holds beer-pairing events in cities all over the Front Range several times a month.
Fare From South of the Border
Colorado’s Southwest location means Mexican cuisine is a major influence. The state has taken the best parts of this cuisine and made it is own — with the star being green chile. This pork-filled stew, often smothered over burritos, is a must-taste for visitors.
The city of Pueblo was recently named one of the 10 most surprising food cities in America by Livability, largely because of its devotion to delectable dishes featuring the fire-roasted chile, which is grown in the area and roasted until the skin falls right off. Puebloans serve their pride and joy at breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a true taste of local tradition, try it atop a Sicilian sausage sandwich, a delicacy that was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” in 2010.
Celebrity Chefs Live Here
Gourmands the world over are tipping their hats to chefs making magnificent food in Colorado. To name a few:
Denver’s Frank Bonanno has won two Food Network challenges, and in 2010 and 2011 he was nominated for the James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur award.
Alex Seidel of Denver's Fruition was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs in 2010.
In 2011, Liken and Seidel were nominated alongside Rioja's Jennifer Jasinski, Summit at The Broadmoor’s Bertrand Bouquin for James Beard Best Chef Southwest award (Seidel, Jasinski and Fischer repeated that honor in 2012); Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson of Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine won that honor in 2008.
Keegan Gerhard, host of “Food Network Challenge,” opened his D Bar dessert cafe in Denver in 2008.
Kevin Taylor’s Denver restaurants have been winning national awards since 1987.
Photo: Courtesy of the Denver Biscuit Bus.