Cafe Aion chef/owner Dakota Soifer has been showing up at the food court of the Boulder County Farmers’ Market with his super-sized paella pan on Saturday mornings all season, and he’s looking forward to the first Wednesday market on May 4 — and anticipating a slightly different atmosphere. “The Wednesday market feels like a little bit more of a local market,” he says. “People go there after work. The Saturday market can get pretty packed; with all the accolades, it’s become a tourist destination of sorts. Wednesday is a little mellower, with people coming by and looking for an actual happy hour or dinner, maybe a glass of wine or beer with some good food.”
The Wednesday market will run weekly from 4 to 8 p.m. beginning next Wednesday and will continue through October 5 at its traditional location on 13th Street between Arapahoe Avenue and Canyon Boulevard. In addition to farm stands, purveyors of packaged foods and vendors selling prepared food, there's also a beer garden featuring local craft beers and local bands performing weekly.
Soifer’s paellas, prepared with fresh ingredients and threads of saffron, are among the most popular items on the food court, and the chef himself is always present, presiding over the preparation. “Running a business can feel a bit grueling,” he says of his popular and critically acclaimed cafe on the Hill. “I wanted to get back into cooking outside, doing something fun, something that doesn’t have to do with costing an entree or managing payroll. I thought the farmers’ market would be a perfect opportunity for that. I’m cooking paella and getting to chat with people and check out the scene. And it was a good excuse to invest in some fun new toys like the big market paella pan.” Though Soifer has always tended to source his food locally as much as possible, he’s also discovered new producers at the market, like “a guy who does awesome dry chili flakes.”
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The market is also a way to explore life beyond Cafe Aion. Future plans are “something I struggle with,” Soifer says. “Just what am I doing? Seeing other chefs and owners in Boulder-Denver who have been in the game about as long as I have opening two, three, even four or five restaurants, part of me wonders: Am I not pushing myself hard enough? Am I not as professionally successful? I don’t have a Tesla.” He laughs.
“I think this kind of market project is really satisfying, cooking and figuring out new systems but avoiding the scary brain damage of opening another restaurant. I got into owning a restaurant in the first place because I love cooking.”