Farmers' Markets

Farmers' Market Finds: Bow Wow Chews Are for Dog Foodies

Cristi Lujan created Bow Wow Chews in 2015, but didn't pursue it full-time until the pandemic in 2020.
Cristi Lujan created Bow Wow Chews in 2015, but didn't pursue it full-time until the pandemic in 2020. Bow Wow Chews/Instagram
It’s peak season for farmers’ markets. No matter your neighborhood, you can find local produce and handcrafted goodies near you. In Farmers’ Market Finds, recipe developer and freelance writer Ashlee Redger highlights some standout local farmers’ market vendors. This week, we're offering a treat for our four-legged friends created by chef Cristi Lujan.

Vendor:
Bow Wow Chews

Where to find it: Aspen Grove Woof-O-Ween on October 8, South Pearl Street Farmers Market on October 16, Discovery Tap House + Bow Wow Chews Halloween Dog Costume Contest on October 22, and the Joyous Chinese Cultural Center Holiday Bazaar on November 12. You can also find Bow Wow Chews in local restaurants and markets, including HOJA, Flatirons Natural Pet Market and Denver Central Market.

For more info: Visit bowwowchews.com
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During the pandemic, Lujan made the jump from "human" chef to dog chef.
Cristi Lujan
About the business:
Before she became a chef for dogs, Cristi Lujan had already climbed to the height of most traditional culinary careers. In 2015, she was the executive chef of a food-focused wine bar, an achievement she earned after years of being overworked and underpaid in a relentless industry. Even today, the back of house in many restaurants can be one of the most shockingly misogynistic work environments, and Lujan dealt with the name-calling that comes along with that. She was even told once, "I don't take orders from females."

Up to that point, Lujan had had a vision of the career path she was "supposed" to be on, she says. Her sixty-hour work weeks were "like a badge of honor," she remembers. But the long hours and demanding work eventually started to take its toll. It was then that she started to invest in another dream, one where she could cook innovative bites for a whole new set of clientele: the four-legged kind. In August 2015, Lujan purchased a domain and registered Bow Wow Chews LLC.

She didn't jump from a chef for humans to a chef for dogs right away, though. Lujan stuck around in the food industry for a few more years and had gotten a job in a cheese shop for a change of scenery. "I was having a really hard time stepping away from what I thought I was supposed to be," she says. Like many other entrepreneurs, it was the global shakeup caused by the pandemic that offered her the courage to quit her day job in 2020. Now, Bow Wow Chews has its own commercial production space and sells dog treats across six states.
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Bow Wow Chews' menu includes dog-friendly versions of dishes like ramen, fish and chips and Margherita pizza.
Bow Wow Chews
In the regular Bow Wow Chews lineup, Lujan has reimagined dishes like fish and chips, fish tacos (complete with whole dried anchovies) and dehydrated veggie "tempura" to be dog-safe and shelf-stable. Real, tasty ingredients are incorporated into each treat, like Parmesan and sundried tomatoes in slice-shaped Margherita pizza biscuits. Pups can even enjoy doggy ramen, complete with noodles, mushrooms and seaweed, that can be rehydrated with hot water and added to their kibble.

Lujan emphasizes the use of familiar and often organic ingredients to make nutritious treats. She says this stems from growing up in a household where her family's pets were strictly fed kibble. After a few years of working as a chef and paying attention to food waste, Lujan would come home and find her mom throwing produce, like spinach, in the trash rather than giving it to their dog. "I was like, oh, my gosh! How many other people think this way?" she recalls.
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A custom dog cake or Barkuterie Board can be a great way to celebrate your dog's birthday or adoption day.
Bow Wow Chews/Instagram
The Bow Wow Chews menu doesn't stop at treats. One of Lujan's specialties is creating dog cakes, which can be customized from the flavor down to any allergies your pet might have. If you want to go even bigger and host a whole pup party, Lujan will create a themed pop-up menu and cater the event. A foodie-themed "gotcha day" party with dog-friendly tacos, Bolognese and pot stickers? Check, check, check.

You can find Bow Wow Chews as a featured maker at the South Pearl Street Farmers Market on October 15. Check out the rotating selections of treats, as well as new Halloween-themed treats like Howl-O-Ween cake cups and peanut-buttery Boo Berry Pies. If you can't make it to the market, Lujan also distributes her chews at local businesses, including Denver Central Market and HOJA restaurant.
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Apples are in season right now, so stock up for baking and snacking.
Boulder County Farmers Markets/Instagram
Bonus farmers’ market finds:
It's official, folks: Autumn is in full swing. The leaves are changing, and pumpkin patches are open for business. Most farmers' markets will wind down this month, so go this weekend to grab the last few bites from our local bakers and produce vendors. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for while you're there:
  • Apples, apples, apples. Honeycrisps taste like downright candy by the slice this month, while Cripps Pink apples are great for both snacking and baking. Of course, Ela Family Farms has a good selection, but stop by any fruit stand at your market and ask the vendor what variety they suggest. Pro tip: Get some extra to peel, slice and throw into a slow cooker. Leave it on low for a few hours until the pieces are soft, then mash to make your own apple sauce.
  • Winter squash and veggies like carrots, cabbage and greens are in the spotlight. Ever heard of a roasted salad? Grab a few hearty vegetables and some sliced kale, then bake everything in sections on a sheet tray at 400°F, removing each component when it's tender and lightly browned. Toss it all back together when it's done and dress with a little mustard and maple vinaigrette for an autumnal side or main.
  • Fill your freezer with local protein before the weather starts to turn. Lazy-J raises heritage pork, Sunrise Bison Ranch's meat is 100 percent grass-fed, and Centennial Cuts beef cattle are fed brewer and distiller byproducts for a sustainably marbled texture. The farmers' market meat stands are often run by the ranchers themselves, so talking to them directly is one of the best ways to learn about and support small, family-run farms around our state.
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Ashlee Redger is a recipe developer and food geek with strong Midwestern roots. When she’s not cooking & baking, you can find her obsessing about podcasts, acting busy in coffee shops and searching for fancy cocktails around town.
Contact: Ashlee Redger

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