Cafe Society

In Season: Three Colorado Peach Dishes in Denver

The best way to eat a Colorado peach is straight off the tree or from a roadside stand, still warm from the sun. Just dust off the skin, take a bite and let the juice run down your chin as you savor the sweetness. After that, the pros can have a go at capturing that flavor in their own culinary creations. Restaurants around town are bringing in peaches by the crate for salads, cobblers and crisps; here are a few samples of some great peach plates from Lower48 Kitchen, Spruce in the Hotel Boulderado and Flagstaff House -- plus a recipe for Flagstaff House's baked peaches in brioche.

See also: The top ten doughnuts in Denver

Spruce has only been open for about as long as the best peaches have been ready for harvest this summer, but the restaurant in the Hotel Boulderado is already taking advantage of the sweet fruit. Spruce presents Palisade peaches simply, warmed through on the grill with a touch of caramelization to emphasize the natural sugars. A little arugula, a prosciutto "tuile" and a breaded chevre fritter balance out the plating. The warm, tart juices of the peach mingle with the tangy goat cheese to form a savory dish accented by a thick balsamic vinegar, honey and black pepper reduction. It's part of chef Shawn Murrell's goal of showcasing the freshest Colorado ingredients. Lower48 Kitchen takes a slightly different approach, using a seemingly savory preparation of peaches in a complex dish that still manages to evoke childhood memories of late-summer home-cooked desserts. Chef Alex Figura explains the process of pickling the peaches, which he likens more to an Italian mostarda, since the fruit itself never feels direct heat. Over a five-day period, the peaches are macerated in sugar, drained and recombined with the juices, which are cooked down a little more each day. At each stage, the peaches are tasted and champagne vinegar is added a little at a time. The resulting fruit has a firmer bite than typical preserved peaches, since the juices are drawn from the fruit -- almost dehyrated, according to Figura -- before the liquid is added back.

We ate the pickled peaches in a dessert from the ever-changing menu that combined bright green basil ice cream, a dollop of foamed yogurt Anglaise and a thin and simple oat crisp. If serving preserved peaches during a month when the fresh fruit is so abundant seems strange, one bite reveals the freshness of the season captured in Lower48's preserve. The vinegar is subtle, accenting but not overwhelming the natural tartness.

This exact dessert may not appear on the menu if you decide to seek it out, but Figura says that the pickled peaches will make other appearances -- on a sourdough and American ham open-faced mini-sandwich (not quite a bruschetta) with Parmesan cream, and during Denver Restaurant Week on a pork belly dish with black grits. And he assures that it will appear on another dessert before the season ends.

Keep reading to see Flagstaff House's peaches in brioche, with a recipe...

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation

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