When it comes to finding the best of the summer harvest, sometimes we must go all the way to the source, especially if we want to show a soon-to-be-three-year-old city kid where vegetables really come from. With that in mind, I accepted an invitation from chef Eric Skokan, chef/owner of Boulder's Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare, to bring my son Gunnar to his farm in Niwot to pick some produce.
A stop at Black Cat Farm is like visiting the farmers' market, but without the actual market. Instead of sparkling stands packed with colorful collards, towers of tomatoes and piles of peppers, we had to stomp through mud, get our hands dirty and dodge beetles and bees to seek out these vibrant veggies. Think of it as an edible treasure hunt with a bonus round of baby pigs perfect for petting and cooing at (and, yes, Skokan also raises swine for the restaurant).
While you might not be able to stop by Skokan's farm on a whim, he peddles the same great produce at the Boulder County Farmers' Market each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. This array of produce can also be seen transformed into the delectable dishes at Skokan's restaurants. There the menus change constantly to reflect the harvest, and on the last visit, that included blistered shishito peppers; braised Tunis lamb with basil pesto, quinoa salad and pickled onion; field-green salad with summer squash; and a summer vegetable curry with roasted broccoli.
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Not only did Gunnar get a true hands-on farm adventure, but after he picked a sack full of carrots, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and corn, he got to head to Bramble & Hare to see just what the chefs could do with the goods and how to turn a pepper he picked in a field into something scrumptious for dinner.
As long as farmers keep bringing fresh product to market, we'll keep tagging along with Denver and Boulder chefs to see what they're buying and cooking. See our previous visits with chefs Ty Leon of Mizuna and Kevin Grossi of the Regional.