Before chef/restaurateur Dave Query made a name for himself in Boulder and Denver with his string of Jax Fish House restaurants, before folks jumped on his Post Brewing Co. fried chicken bandwagon, even before the launch of Zolo Grill in 1994, which formed the foundation for his Big Red F restaurant group, a tiny mountain town was the site of Query's early culinary adventures.
Back in 1989, Query became chef/owner of the Lickskillet Cafe in Gold Hill, just west of Boulder. The town wasn't an easy place to run a restaurant, the chef recalls. "It was a fucking pain in the ass, man," he shares, noting that he had to truck most of the food up the canyon himself, since purveyors were unwilling to make the drive, and the restaurant's water came from a 2,500-gallon cistern. For much of the produce, the Lickskillet relied on Boulder County farms, such as Chet Anderson's Fresh Herb Company. "We would just stop by on our way out of Boulder and raid the farm for herbs and vegetables," Query recalls.
The fun only lasted a few years; Query eventually let his business partner take over the place. "We flipped a coin to see who would keep it. I don't remember if that meant winning or losing, but I was ready to get out by then," he remembers. But while it lasted, the Lickskillet was immensely popular, especially for weekend brunch. The chef says the restaurant, with only sixty seats, would serve 400 to 450 people brunch in a day, vexing many Gold Hill residents, since the influx of "mountain bikers and hipsters" would triple the population of the town.
Long before Query set up shop in Gold Hill, chef Janos Wilder was delighting guests of the Gold Hill Inn with Colorado-style cuisine in the 1970s and ’80s. Wilder had left Gold Hill by the time Query moved in, but the two met when Wilder, who has since earned recognition from the James Beard Foundation for his Tucson restaurants, was visiting Boulder. "Janos was one of the early rock stars of the Southwest," Query notes. "I got to cook for him, and we've stayed friends ever since."
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Wilder and Query both return to Gold Hill regularly, Wilder for summer foraging trips and family vacations, and Query for weekly bike rides and occasional dinners at the Gold Hill Inn. But fans of Colorado cooking will be pleased to know that the two will be back at the same time, sharing the kitchen at the Gold Hill Inn for one night of cocktails, music and food on Tuesday, October 22. Query says they'll be cooking a few old favorites, such as fried rabbit livers with pickled red onions, Haystack Mountain goat cheese polenta, pumpkin soup with smoked Colorado trout, and mushrooms foraged from nearby hillsides. There will even be dessert made with apples from the chef's back yard in Boulder.
The evening begins at 6 p.m. with hors d'oeuvres and drinks, with dinner served at 7 p.m. Tickets are available on Tock.com; the four-course dinner is $150 per person ($115 plus taxes, service fees and gratuities), with proceeds benefiting Gold Hill Elementary School. Although the Gold Hill Inn is located in Gold Hill, the official address is 401 Main Street, Boulder.