achlan Mackinnon-Patterson is a busy guy. He's chef/owner (along with partner Bobby Stuckey) of Frasca, the restaurant at 1738 Pearl Street in Boulder that's one of the best in Colorado. And one of the busiest: He's running a killer crew in a kitchen that gets slammed night after night. He keeps getting called out of town to accept awards for his food, his restaurant, for having the longest name of any professional chef working today. And on top of all that, he's now pushing the first retail product to bear the Frasca name: the house's signature red-pepper jelly.
"Yeah, this started back in February," Lachlan explains when I catch him on the phone in his kitchen, just ahead of another fully committed night. "People were freaking out. They wanted to know what else it could go with, how they could serve it. Everyone wanted to know if they could take some home, so we started packing some up for people. You know, just like vacuum-packing it or sealing it in a little sterilized jar."
The jelly, which is served as a condiment on Frasca's cheese plates, is amazing. It has a haunting flavor -- sweet, peppery, sharp, astringent, salty all at the same time, tasting vaguely of the egg roll sauce at a good Chinese restaurant, a little like expensive port wine jelly, and solidly of red bell peppers. Once you start eating it, it's difficult to stop; you want it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, forever.
On the menu since day one, the jelly comes from a recipe that Lachlan got from his grandmother, Betty Mackinnon, and he remembers eating it every day of his life, with everything from cheese to sandwiches to turkey. And after they opened Frasca last year, it didn't take long for the guys to decide it might be a good idea to provide something that their customers could take home -- a little taste of Frasca for the road, as it were.
An even better idea: They could charge for it.
So Grandma's jelly is now available at Frasca for $9.95 a jar, and if that seems a little steep for nine ounces, it isn't. I'd pay double that if I had to, and the price certainly isn't keeping the stuff from flying off the shelves. It's only been on sale for a couple of weeks, but Frasca is already selling five, six, sometimes ten jars a night.
A bit closer at hand, chef Ian Kleinman has come up with a homegrown line of soups fashioned after the award-winning work he did at Golden's Hilltop Cafe, where rich, surprising, comforting soups were pretty much his stock in trade. "Soup has always been my passion," Kleinman says. "A few months ago, a friend called me up -- someone who knew me from my soups back at the Hilltop--and asked if I could do some for him. After that, word got out."
Word got out, and Kleinman went from making a couple gallons in his kitchen at home to producing a hundred gallons a week through Food Concepts, a production kitchen out in Lakewood that's using his recipes to do large-batch cooking for Kleinman's new company.
The company, called My Soup Bowl, already has a website (mysoupbowl.com) and a greatest-hits list of Kleinman's favorites, including pot-roast stew and pineapple-scallion soup, sweet-potato chowder and English pea with rosemary. Kleinman's also offering custom soups on request and working on new recipes all the time.
"This is a whole different ballgame," Kleinman tells me, way different from cooking for friends, and even from cooking for a restaurant. In four months, he's gone from a back-burner operation in his house to worrying about distributors and outlets and what he's going to do when his client list jumps from ten buyers to fifty and his production from a hundred gallons to a thousand.
Meanwhile, he's still on the roster as chef-patissière over at Emogene Patisserie, 2415 East Second Avenue. He also gets over to Nine75, another one of Jim Sullivan's restaurants, at 975 Lincoln Street, to work the line every once in a while, and he'll be helping out when a second Emogene opens in Lakewood's Belmar complex. When I ask how he does it all, he just laughs. "I had to do something, brother," he says. "Something for myself. I'm hoping this will be the nest egg that sends my kids to college."
Leftovers: While Frank Bonanno works out the kinks at Milagro Taco Bar (see review), he and partner Mark Haber have already opened the space next door as Harry's Chop House. Bonanno is doing classic Americana here, with a menu topping out in the twenty-dollar range and offering clams casino, oysters Rockefeller with Gruyère, creamed spinach and parmesan, an iceberg wedge salad, French onion soup, simple spaghetti and a deconstructed chicken pot pie. He's also got a choose-your-own-adventure thing going at the grill, with proteins (double-cut pork chops, fourteen-ounce rib-eye, ten-ounce filet, homemade meatloaf, burgers and some fish), sides (everything from goat-cheese creamed spinach to fontina mac-and-cheese to Lyonnaise potatoes) and six different sauces, including a truffled demi-glace that sounds wonderful.
Harry's had its public debut this past Monday, and while I have no illusions that everything will go smoothly this time around (no restaurant opening in history has gone off entirely without a hitch), Bonanno and Haber have had five months to get acclimated to the tastes of their neighbors, so this menu could have a slightly longer shelf-life than the opening menu at Milagro.
A couple of weeks ago, Dixons (1610 16th Street) lit up a new, late-night menu of straight-up midnight munchie cuisine, including pizza rustica, quarter-pound cheeseburgers, burritos, beef tacos, Chicago-style dogs with the works, and a whole spread of sticks, fingers and poppers that each run $4.99 and are available from 10 p.m. until last call. "You know, we get a lot of late-night restaurant guys in here after the restaurants close," explains Bruce Garrett, a floating manager for Dixons and its siblings, Racines and Goodfriends. "And they can get pretty hungry after they pound three or four drinks."
Preaching to the choir, Bruce.
Dazzle (930 Lincoln Street) is now slinging a twenty-item-strong, $5 night-owl menu from 9:30 p.m. until close Sunday through Wednesday. Chef Jared Cohen (or one of his lackeys) is doing goat-cheese-stuffed baby portobello caps, fried green tomatoes, shrimp cocktails, salads, burgers, a flank steak and -- all the way at the bottom of the roster -- a grilled brie sandwich with lingonberries and hand-cut fries that's what I now want to have every night as a final snack before I lay my pretty little head down to sleep. Dazzle remains a popular late-night spot Thursday through Saturday, of course, and for Sunday brunch as well. Elway's (2500 East First Avenue) also started offering brunch -- on Saturdays and Sundays -- a few weeks ago. Steak and shrimp cocktails for breakfast? Sign me up.
At Somethin' Else (1313 East Sixth Avenue), owner Sean Kelly has instituted a very literal happy hour -- 5 to 6 p.m. only -- Tuesday through Saturday, with a constantly changing list of food and drink specials for those lucky enough to show up early on his doorstep. He's also roasting whole suckling pigs every Tuesday. How cool is that? And while it might not be quite as exciting as a suckling pig, Kris Ferreri has just added a whole board of hot and cold subs to the menu at his Buffalo-centric pizza-and-wing spot, Luciano's (1043 Broadway).
There's a new man behind the lines at Solera (5410 East Colfax Avenue). Chef/ owner Goose Sorenson lost Romero Guzman, his most recent sous chef, to the siren song of humane hours and full medical over at Whole Foods, then responded by quickly nicking Eric Roeder's longtime right-hand man, Griff Sickendick, off the line at Bistro Vendome to fill the vacancy.
At Cafe Bisque (224 Union Boulevard in Lakewood), chef Alex Gurevich has rolled out a new dinner menu. Although Bisque made its bones as a breakfast and lunch spot, Gurevich's galley has been doing dinner for about four months now and, with this menu, it looks like it's a meal to reckon with. We're talking lobster and sweet-corn fritters with green-olive tartar sauce; ginger and lemongrass pork croquettes; dry-aged rib-eye crusted with espresso and pecans and served with a scratch-made sun-dried cherry and balsamic demi; and beef tournedos over a caramelized onion risotto tart -- a far cry from pancakes and cheeseburgers. Gurevich, a French-trained chef, is just back from two weeks in France, where he went to chill out and get some inspiration from the masters. He ate dinner at Ducasse (which ran him $850 for two people, including a single Grey Goose and soda that cost $45) and Taillevent (slightly more reasonable at just $450 for two), and plans to head out for Tuscany and Lake Como in May -- just in time to start thinking about a new summer menu.
Finally, I just got word that at Old Fashioned Italian Deli (395 West Littleton Boulevard in Littleton), Tom and Dave Panzarella are now serving beef on weck. For those of you uninitiated in the folksy food ways of upstate New York, a beef on weck is a hot roast beef sandwich, slathered in horseradish, served on a salted kaiser (known as a weck roll) and eaten almost nowhere outside the greater Buffalo area. I haven't had a beef on weck since leaving the Nickel City for that bug-infested, swampy, lizard-ridden hellhole that is central Florida, so you can bet I'm heading over to the Old Fashioned just as soon as this column is in the can.
But first, in case reading this column, a full review and Second Helping each week doesn't give you quite enough of me, you can now get this year's edition of Avalon Publishing's Best Food Writing at your local bookstore. Once again, the compilation's editors have been kind (or delusional) enough to include my work, in this case my review of Little India, at 330 East Sixth Avenue ("See Food," September 23, 2004). And if a charming little story of funerals, catfights and Indian food doesn't tickle your fancy, about fifty more of my fellow-travelers are featured this year -- everyone from Gina Mallet and Colman Andrews (who waxes rhapsodic about the joys of Bongo Bongo soup at Trader Vic's) to Dara Moskowitz, who I love like a fat kid loves pie.
It's great writing and a very cool collection, and worthy of a place of honor on your bookshelf. Even if you hate my guts.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Denver dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.