Many of Payne's dishes are vegetarian, mostly to make the produce the star of each dish, but Colorado lamb, pork and beef also make appearances. "We're trying to highlight transparency," the chef explains, so he'll talk about the source of every ingredient with those who are interested. "But we're trying not to preach, because it turns people off."
Instead, the ingredients speak for themselves in simple, straightforward presentations. One dish on the opening menu, a three-pea salad, gives love to one of Colorado's most fleeting ingredients in a medley of snap peas, snow peas and English peas, all dressed with a pea coulis and tangy bites of Haystack Mountain goat feta. "Peas are only around for about three weeks," Payne points out, adding that the peas, along with many other vegetables, were a few weeks behind this year because of the cool, rainy weather. "The delays we had [in opening Avanti] were a blessing in disguise for me. Everything is starting to explode from the farms."
The goal for Farmer Girl is primarily "supporting the local farm system," he adds. The name Farmer Girl comes from "honoring strong female farmers" in the region; Payne includes Jackie Monroe of Monroe Organic Farms and Anne Cure of Cure Organic Farm among them, as well as his wife, Melissa Newell, who has her own vegetable plot and resembles the farmer girl with the long dark hair in his eatery's logo, he says.
Sourcing and transparency are important enough to Payne that while he relies heavily on local farms through the growing season, he turns to Grower's Organic, a Colorado company that provides organic ingredients year-round, mainly from California, during the winter months.
The chef's suggestion for what to try on the new menu? A carrot "nose-to-tail" dish that uses the entire carrot in a carrot pancake with carrot hummus, pickled carrot, a carrot-top salsa verde and even a topper of fried carrot crisps made from cleaned carrot peel.
Payne also runs the Tasterie Truck in Boulder County, which he plans to rebrand to match his Farmer Girl eatery, and also hosts regular farm dinners at local farms. Before opening the Tasterie Truck and Farmer Girl, he worked at Z Cuisine with chef-owner Patrick DuPays; he also owned Terroir in Longmont from 2007 to 2012 with his wife.
This week we're spotlighting the seven fast-casual food counters inside the brand new Avanti Food & Beverage building, which just opened on Monday. Here are our other Avanti close-ups:
Souk Shawarma from Jon Robbins of Bistro Barbes
Poco Torteria from Pinche's Kevin Morrison
Brava Pizzeria from Dave Bravdica