Earlier this week, Westword's Juliet Wittman spoke with goat rancher Bob Stocker of El Regalo Ranch about raising goats and using the meat in recipes. Stocker explains that, depending on the cut, goat should be either cooked long and slow until it's "falling-apart tender" or cooked quickly on the grill at high temperature. Goat is gaining popularity in Colorado as an alternative meat source and it pops up as an occasional special on menus — at Troy Guard's Los Chingones or the Sugarbeet in Longmont (where Stocker provides meat from his ranch), for example. Still, it's not exactly a hot new trend or a common menu item yet. But it you're looking to try something new or if goat is a favorite but you can't find it anywhere in Denver, here are a few places we love where you can get your goat.
Work & Class
If any place can make goat a popular choice among Denver diners, it's Work & Class. Roasted goat, or cabrito, has been on the menu since the joint became almost an instant classic when it opened at the beginning of 2014. Work & Class buys from Buckhead Beef, a meat purveyor that sources its goat from ranches near Boulder, Greeley and Evans. "Dana [chef Dana Rodriguez] says that it is important to brine the goat for twelve hours, and then braise it for twelve hours," explains co-owner Delores Tronco. "We marinate with guajillo peppers, but any number of different flavors can be used. The key is taking adequate time to brine and braise the goat before serving.
"We also use the leftover bones and pieces of goat to make a goat consommé, which is a clear broth that we serve on the side with our goat," she adds "It can be sipped between bites, or used as a dipping sauce — either way, it enhances the flavor of the meat."
Leña opened on Broadway last summer with a menu spanning the range of Latin American cuisine from Mexico down to Argentina. Goat is a much more common protein source south of the U.S. (and in fact in most of the world outside of our country), so it's not surprising that chef Toby Prout would include it in some form. Leña's tacos barbacoa de cabra are served with squash slaw and roasted green chile crema, offering a mouthful of flavors without the gaminess that some expect.
Prout sources his goat from Lombardi Brothers Meats, which buys meat from ranch land near Greeley. "We break it down and then do a wet rub and inject the meat," explains the chef. "We use a mix of some Peruvian peppers, aji amarillo and aji panca, citrus and oregano. We roast the goat wrapped in banana leaves with some Negra Modelo."
The time and effort are definitely worth it; those goat tacos helped earn Leña our Best Late-Afternoon Happy Hour this year.
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Inside this quaint neighborhood eatery lurks some serious Italian cuisine. Chef Cindhura Reddy recently rolled out a spring menu that includes handmade gargati pasta, a tubular Venetian specialty, with braised goat sugo topped with pecorino cheese. General manager Elliot Strathmann says they go through a whole Colorado goat, which they purchase from Tonali's Meats, about every two weeks. Spuntino's goat sugo should be on the menu through mid-June and goat may continue in some other form for the summer menu.
You won't find goat on too many Vietnamese menus in town, but if you're looking, you'll find it labeled lao de, or goat hot pot. Viet's, in the northwest corner of the Far East Center on Federal Boulevard, cooks up one of the finer examples of lao de in town. The goat in the soup is mostly rib meat and has a distinctly goaty flavor, but there's so much else going on that the gamey, mineral qualities of the meat blend in well with the exotic spices of the broth and the sharp, bitter flavors of the turnip greens, Chinese celery leaf and garlic chives that accompany the bubbling hot pot. Chunks of taro and lotus root add additional savoriness to the pot. It's a meal for three or four and a fun way to experience something new.