While I might pass by Salt the next time I'm meeting friends in Boulder for dinner, I'd happily get in my car and drive twenty minutes in order to eat again at Colterra, Bradford Heap's restaurant in Niwot that's celebrating its fourth anniversary this month and is clearly well seasoned.
The fine-dining establishment inhabits a stunning house on the town's main drag. In the summer, diners flock to the patio, which is draped with glittering strands of white lights. In the winter, the simply decorated dining room has the air of a cozy mountain cabin, with patrons tucked into private nooks in different rooms for dates and special occasions.
Colterra's upscale New American menu displays Heap's heartfelt desire to source great local ingredients. It changes seasonally, and almost every dish I've had here has been nearly flawless.
210 Franklin Street, Niwot
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., 5-9 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-8 p.m. Sunday
Our dinner at Colterra last week started with rich corn chowder, made from the last of Munson Farm's summer stock. It was as sweet as candy and dense enough that thick lardons of bacon could rest in the center without sinking. From there we moved into two meditations on duck confit. Tender and indulgently succulent, it contrasted well with the strawberries and blackberries over crisp field greens in a salad; the duck also harmonized with hearty gnocchi bathed in a stew of tomatoes so decadent that it rendered the addition of truffle butter unnecessary.
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The true standout, though, was my entree: pork tenderloin from Long Family Farm, roasted a perfect medium rare and served over buttery polenta, creamy corn coulis and sweet roasted carrots and snap peas. On one of the first cool nights of fall, there was nothing in the world I would have rather eaten.
With Colterra, Heap didn't construct a restaurant based on the neighborhood's criteria. He had a clear vision for what he wanted to create, and he was uncompromising in executing that vision, bending the rules of dinner as needed to give diners the exact experience he intended them to have, giving him room to surprise and delight patrons within the confines of a relatively simple concept. And it made his Niwot restaurant, several miles off anyone's beaten path, worth the trek.
Colterra has the X factor. Now Heap needs to pass it along to Salt.