Cafe Society

Chef and Tell, part two: Black Cat's Eric Skokan dishes on his required reading list, blood sausage and knives

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Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Pizzeria Basta. Kelly's a helluva good cook, and I love where he buys his ingredients -- some from me. He does a great job making sophisticated but simple food that both my wife and I love, and he makes a pizza that my kids call "killer."

Favorite music to cook by: Music isn't allowed in our kitchen; it's too distracting.

Biggest kitchen disaster: The hot night, two summers ago, when the exhaust fan on our hood vent broke at 6:30 p.m., right in the middle of service -- and a rush, too. Talk about great timing. The kitchen smoked out quickly, and the dining room got so hot that we were making "tableside cooking" jokes. We were trying to repair it with shoelaces. "Disaster" is the most generous description for what it was like. MacGyver would have been proud.

What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? Friends and customers who bring fruit from their backyard trees: Audrey's Meyer lemons; Bill's friar plums; apples from Becky. I usually make a dish with them using their name. I originally fell in love with cooking because of the connection it forges between what I'm creating and the friend, neighbor or guest at the table. It's hard to feel any more connected to those I cook for than when they share from their backyard trees. Like smelling the roses, it's one of the important things I stop to appreciate.

Favorite dish to cook at home: One-eyed Susan -- an egg fried in a hole and cut into a slice of bread. We raise our own chickens, so the eggs are great. I have three little boys, but they didn't like the name of the dish very much, so they've renamed it pirate toast -- you know, because pirates only have one eye.

Favorite dish on your menu: We raise our pigs in a grove of walnuts at our farm, and I add walnuts into the pigs' organic feed. So I've been pairing slow-cooked pork shoulder with black walnut cream, leeks and pickled pears. This dish says a lot about what I'm trying to do at the restaurant. Like Michel Bras in his locale, I'm trying to create dishes that speak to mine.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson