While Steuben's (see review
) has that whole American regional thing going, scores of other restaurants focus on foods of even more precise regional specificity. Corn Belt picnic cuisine? Done. Japanese mountain peasant food and North Vietnamese party grub? Done and done. And when Frasca first opened, it swore by the cuisine of Friuli in northern Italy -- a place that probably 99 out of a hundred people setting foot in the Boulder restaurant for the first time had never heard of. Friuli is where San Danielle prosciutto comes from, where some of the best, hardest white wines in the world are made -- a near-legendary Elysium where the people do nothing all day but eat and drink and eat some more and live forever on salami sandwiches and wine. And while these days the ever-changing Frasca menu may not be entirely
Friulian, you can trust that when chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson
goes all weird and does something, oh, maybe Slovenian -- like the zlikrofi ravioli with shell beans and mortadella I had there last week -- it's going to be the best, truest version of a Slovenian delicacy you're likely to find anywhere outside of Slovenia. I also ate the salumi platter -- filled with San Danielle prosciutto, speck and Italian coppa -- because I'm never going to miss a chance to eat the best prosciutto in the world, served by one of the best restaurants in the country (Gourmet
magazine just put Frasca at 33 on its annual list of the top fifty in the U.S.). And when that was done, I had amazing carnaroli risotto topped with wilted spinach and a lace of pickled green tomato gazpacho; a rack of veal with carrots, chanterelle mushrooms and housemade ricotta that was the softest, most tender, richest veal I've ever tasted; more wine than I care to admit to; and -- because both Lachlan and partner Bobby Stuckey are veterans of the French Laundry and the Laundry was famous for items like this -- a dark-chocolate brownie with a froth of chocolate-studded chocolate malt on the side. All cooking is about copying -- copying flavors, copying names, copying memories. It's all about moving a person from where they are to the place where the chef's inspiration is coming from. And lucky for us, Frasca excels at that trick.