BruFrou: Colorado food and drink collaborations

Tomorrow I’m headed to the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum for Culinary Pairings’ third annual Brufrou. I’ve never been before and can only imagine what an event showcasing 40 Colorado breweries and 40 Colorado eateries looks, sounds, and tastes like.

I have a lot of “favorite” breweries and restaurants in Colorado. If you ask me for a recommendation for a favorite spot in Denver, I’ll give you a list with at least 5 breweries/distilleries and 5 restaurants because I like to give people options, and I can’t really pick a favorite.

Right now, at this very moment, my favorite breweries are Great Divide Brewing Co., Lowdown Brewing, Call to Arms Brewing Co., and Cerebral Brewing. My favorite places to eat in Denver are Euclid Hall, FreshCraft, Argyle, and Root Down. In two weeks, this list could change.

Brufrou’s pairing menu this year makes me think I’ll have some new favorites to frequent this spring and summer. Here’s a very small sampling of what to try tomorrow:

Beryl’s Beer Co. and Morgan Handmade Rations: Logan’s Barrel Reserve with Housemade Duck Pastrami, Ethiopian Shiro spread on a blue corn Johnny cake with citrus pecan dust.

Black Shirt Brewing Co and The Kitchen Next Door: Dry Hopped Mango Sour with a Spicy Salmon Croquette (wild coho salmon and avocado croquettes fried a la minute).

Brewery Rickoli and The Rib House: Social Lubricant Scotch Ale or Oats McGoats Oatmeal Stout with Tracy’s famous illegal hickory smoked baby back ribs.

Colorado Cider Company and Baur’s: Ol Stumpy Hard Cider with braised lamb meatballs with tomato ginger fondue and tzatziki sauce.

Four Noses Brewing Company and Elevated Catering: Vier Nuezen Belgian Tripel or ‘Bout Damn Time American IPA paired with Colorado Fritter, a wood-grilled rabbit confit, crispy rye flour donut, Palisade peach and Four Noses honey glaze with 10X powdered sweet corn.

Great Divide Brewing and Osteria Marco: Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout paired with Oak Aged Yeti Braised Short Ribs with Prosciutto and English Pea Arancini.

The event is not just a food and beer tasting festival. Also scheduled are Q&A sessions, dubbed “TastyTalks” with brewmasters, chef partners and industry experts. The topics for this year’s TastyTalks are “Change Menus. Change Lives”, “Craft + Culinary Made In Colorado: Innovation & Collaboration”, “Big Beers. Big Trends”, “Pairings: Pairing Partners” and of course, a panel of judges choosing the inaugural Golden Pair award.

I love celebrating Colorado food and drink — I’m incredibly biased, but I think we have some of the best chefs, brewers, and distillers in the country here — and I’ve never been to an event in a hangar before.
For tickets and more information: http://www.culinarypairings.com/2016-brufrou-details/

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Punch Kings Final Competition Comes to Denver

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Over 50 bartenders participated in the bartenders’ competition at Cochon 555 events throughout the year for the chance to show off their skills at the final competition on Sunday, June 29 at the Curtis Hotel in Denver. Punch Kings, in its second year, is a competition within the Cochon 555 competition. Cochon 555 is a celebration of heritage breed hogs.  In each city (LA and Chicago, to name a few), five chefs are given a whole heritage breed pig. Each chef is tasked with creating nose to tail dishes for a panel of judges. The winner in each city goes to the Grand Cochon competition at the Aspen Food & Wine Festival every year. 

At Sunday’s event, Chefs Rich Byers (The Corner Office), Jeff Bolton (Kachina), Jason Brumm (Second Home) and Jae Lee (The Curtis) will also prepare 500+ pounds of heritage pigs — so show up hungry.

Punch Kings will showcase the 10 winning bartenders including Denver’s own Justin Lloyd of Star Bar.  Each contestant will create their own punch using a bottle of Breckenridge Bourbon. 

Before single-serve cocktails became popular, mixed drinks were made in large-format style, called punch and served in bowls. The classic version of a punch contains a variation of: spirits, sugar, water, spice, and citrus. 

The winner will serve their punch at a Heritage BBQ event later this year. The event, modeled after the World’s BBQ Fair is a tasting where five chefs will prepare barbecue pork in their favorite style — Hibachi (Japan), Braai (Africa), Asado (Argentina), Char Siu (China), Satay (Southeast Asia), Mangal (Central Asia), Luau (Islands), Regional American (Kansas City to Lexington to Lousisiana), and Barbacoa (Mexico). 

“This will be the most notable punch-themed celebration to hit the country since prohibition was lifted in 1933,” said Cochon 555 founder Brady Lowe. “I’ve always wanted to host a national event that celebrates the barkeeps that keep the boom of the cocktail culture alive and vibrant. There’s nothing better than a fine punch made with a whole bottle of bourbon to complement the philosophy of whole animal utilization and the flavor packed benefits of eating heritage pork. And, who better to bring the Punch Kings Competition to life than our great friend Bryan Nolt, founder of Breckenridge Distillery!”

Tickets are still available at http://events.cochon555.com/punch_kings.

Photo used with permission from Cochon 555.

(Twitter Takes The) Olive Oil Cake

I learned about olive oil cake a couple of years ago, and have always been intrigued by various descriptions. I’ve never been someone who craved dessert. I’m happy with a piece of fruit or nothing at all after dinner. Olive oil cake isn’t overly sweet, and the sweetness you do experience is bright and laced with citrus.

I looked for awhile until I came up with a recipe I was willing to put any effort into. I was especially drawn to recipes calling for citrus zest and almonds. I tried a few out, and liked The Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe the most.

While I was baking the first two tries (different recipes) I was also tweeting about my experience and frustration with the cakes. (Tweeting and baking go hand in hand…all this spare time on my hands waiting for my cakes to bake…what else was I going to do?)

Neither an avid nor particularly good baker, I knew I had to be doing something wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly. I retraced my steps. Did I forget anything? Did I add something I wasn’t supposed to?

In my flurry of frustrated tweets came a possible answer, in the form of “unsolicited advice”. It was truly a godsend. The owner of Hi*Rise, a locally owned bakery near the ballpark was offering me advice. You better believe I took it. They bake hundreds of bagels a day. Their biscuits are to die for. (I like the one with spicy chorizo.)

He suggested I halve the baking powder. That’s it. I have to admit I was skeptical. There is no way that could make such a difference. I am here to tell you there is a way, and it is the right way. I’ve made this cake about six times in the past month, and it is perfect every time.

Remember, I am not a “dessert person”. So I just have a slice of this for breakfast with coffee.

If you have a chance, go say hi to the nice people at Hi*Rise.

And one more thing, halve the baking powder! (You just need one teaspoon, trust me.)

The photos top to bottom are the cake cooling; the cake right before serving dusted with powdered sugar; and the batter (I’d recommend following the recipe and actually chopping the almonds, I spaced out and it was too late!).

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Hog Wild….Cochon 555 comes to Denver

Save the pigs…eat them! I’m headed to Cochon 555 Denver at the Ritz-Carlton this Sunday, April 3, for Kitchen Raised – eating, drinking and writing my way through a pig lover’s paradise.

Five Colorado chefs: Alex Seidel of Fruition Restaurant, Denver; Kelly Liken of Restaurant Kelly Liken, Vail; Frank Bonanno of Osteria Marco, Denver;  Lachlan Mackinnon of Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder; and Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja/Euclid Hall, Denver will take part in a friendly competition preparing a five 175-pound heritage breed hog from head to toe.

Head to toe cooking is not a new concept. It is however, becoming more well-known as butchers, chefs and consumers are looking for ways to waste less and bring new tastes to the table. By consuming heritage breed hogs, the demand for these animals will go up, helping farmers continue the animal’s bloodlines and continue providing for the consumer.

The breeds we’ll taste on Sunday are Swabian Hall, Hereford, Berkshire, Mulefoot and Red Wattle. I have never tasted heritage pork before, so the information I am presenting to you is based on what Cochon 555 provides on their website.

Later this week, I will be talking to Shannon Duffy of Tender Belly, the company providing all the pigs for this Sunday’s event. Shannon and his brother, Erik, are Berkshire pork purveyors and make some amazing bacon! I can’t wait to share with you what Shannon has to say about this event.

Swabian Hall is a breed from Germany and has a good reputation among foodies for its dark meat and a strong distinct flavor.

The Hereford breed is rare, but also well-known. These hogs resemble Hereford cows, with a reddish brown coat and white face. Herefords are known for their calm dispositions and their ability to thrive in pastures. It is a slower growing breed, and yields a rich colored marbled meat.

Berkshires come to us by way of Britain, and are the most popular of the heritage breeds. It is a black pig with white legs and is known as “Kurobuta” in Japan, and is a favorite breed among chefs because of its intramuscular marbling. The meat is brighter than most others and features a thick, delicious fat cap. (Um, is anyone hungry yet?) The meat is sweet and creamy with hints of nuttiness.

The critically rare Mulefoot breed is a black hog named for its solid hoof, like a mule. The Mulefoot recently won a blind taste test against eight different heritage breeds. The Mulefoot’s disposition is docile, and its weight gain is between 400 and 600 pounds before age 2. This breed is known for its premium hams and superior tasting meat, which is red with freckled marbling.

Last but not least is the Red Wattle, named for its red color and the fleshy skin that hangs under its jowl. This extremely rare breed adapts to climates well and is an excellent forager. Prized for its tender meat and hams, the Red Wattle is lean and juicy with its meat’s texture and taste similar to beef.

Attendees will get to sample pork dishes from the chefs as well as wines from five wineries. They’ll also get to help choose the “King or Queen of Porc”, watch a whole pig breakdown demonstration, and taste a whole roasted heritage breed pig and dessert.

Brady Lowe, event founder said, “…Pork-avores from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco get a chance to discover incredible breeds of pigs and family-run wineries.” Lowe created the event in response to a lack of consumer education around heritage breeds. He believes that by educating the consumer about heritage breed pigs, they’ll in turn make more-informed decisions around food purchasing and their overall health.

If you love pig – and all of you bacon freaks know I’m talking to you, then this is your event. Tickets to this Sunday’s event are $125. If you’re interested, purchase tickets here.