This is the fourth in a series of pieces profiling Colorado-grown products...and what some local restaurants do with them.
"I want to have a relationship with someone who's cooking my food," declares Paul Cure, co-founder of Boulder's Cure Organic Farm. One handshake at a time, Paul and his wife, Anne, have labored to do just that: from passing out organic produce to over a hundred CSA members, to holding pig cookouts and Easter egg hunts, to hosting farm dinners among their rows of beans and beets, to the intensely close partnership they have with the staff of the Kitchen franchise.
It's a match made in foodie heaven, really -- the two doting farmers with their organic wonderland of a farm, and the four minimalistic, local-focused Kitchens (that's [Next Door], [Upstairs], Denver, and the original) with their army of devoted followers.
"Seasonally, and as we go through the year, we have ups and downs," says Kyle Mendenhall, who oversees the menus for all four Kitchen eateries. "We live the successes and the disappointments together."
Ever since the day the Kitchen's executive chef, Hugo Matheson, stuck out his hand and introduced himself to the Cures, the farmers and chef have collaborated on much of the Kitchen's ever-changing menu. After one phone call, Mendenhall will have the next day's harvest on a plate by dinner service; if you see a veggie on the menu, more often than not it's been plucked from Cure's soil. On a recent night, for example, [Upstairs] featured wood-fired green beans dressed in a whole-grain mustard vinaigrette, with pickled shallots and sherry vinegar accenting the tenderly wood-fired beans. A fritto misto of lightly battered Cure cauliflower and broccoli, with a ramekin of chile-flecked aioli on the side, washes away memories of a hundred limp, re-thawed sprigs of restaurant roughage. More than any splash of harissa yogurt or garlic butter, the simple freshness of Cure Organic produce is the vital ingredient on the boards at all four Kitchen restaurants. "There is a common thread, but we want every place to be its own unique thing," says Mendenhall. If Anne calls with news of a snow pea harvest, the Kitchen will be using them in a risotto with mint and Fresno chiles, while the Denver outpost might pair them with a char-grilled ribeye.
The Kitchen and Cure are united in their desire to collaborate on -- and not just consume -- the fruits of each other's efforts. "These days, you have chefs who just call up and say, 'Do you have this, how much is it?,' rather than having an actual working relationship," says Mendenhall.
Paul Cure is scathing on the subject of these hands-off chefs: "Those guys aren't getting a call back."
Arriving at the Cure farm is like pulling up to culinary paradise. Over a hundred different varieties of vegetables grow on the ten acres. Chickens and ducks are raised for their eggs; pigs -- big black Berkshire hogs, no less -- for their tender meat. You almost expect a gaggle of tittering gnomes to be just around the corner, weeding the salad greens or watering the wax beans.
But there are no gnomes here, just the Cures' gang of young, hardworking farm interns, who've come from all over the country to get their hands dirty at Cure Organic. When the median age of an American farmer is 65, says Cure, the future of farming "doesn't look good."
Paul says that when the Cures hang up their trowels, "We want to know that Anne and I didn't just raise salad for fifty years, we taught other people to continue on what is the basis for civilization." Many Cure interns have indeed spread the good word of organic farming, fanning out across America to start their own farms and co-ops. The couple's mission to plant the seeds of sustainable farming extends to workaday cubicle dwellers, who are encouraged to attend Volunteer Days on Thursdays, and the kids who come to the camp that the Cures hold every summer.
"It's like being given the keys to the zoo," Paul Cure says with a laugh. "That's the mantra of childhood, being told, 'You can't touch that!' So they're finally being told, 'It's okay! you can touch it.'"
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After fifteen years of organic farming, and with a four-year old daughter and another child on the way, the Cures are emphatic about teaching where food comes from. "What we're doing has only been disrupted in the past fifty years or so," Paul says. "When you're raising a family, it's like, 'Yeah, this is exactly what I'd like to introduce my four-year-old daughter to.'"