This is part two of my interview with Brian Laird, exec chef of Barolo Grill. You can read part one of my interview with Laird here.
Best food city in America: San Francisco. It's all about what I love most: fresh ingredients, seafood, farm-raised animals, vegetables, cheese, wine and beer, dairy of all kinds...and on and on. It's all right there at your fingertips. My new favorite place there is the Rand G Lounge, a Chinese restaurant that has the best salt-and-pepper crab. And I've always loved the Slanted Door and Swan Oyster Depot. I love the city because there's just so much variety. I had my first shark fin soup in San Francisco; it wasn't cheap.
Favorite New York restaurant: Le Bernardin. This place just does it right, from top to bottom, every time. I probably had one of the top three meals I've have had in my life here. They have this yin-yang dish of hamachi and salmon that's incredible, and their tableside sauces are amazing.
Favorite music to cook by: Bob Marley, dude. His music makes me feel good in the morning because it's so tranquil and positive.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: More food markets and late-night food stalls. All those warehouses north of the downtown area should be full of food and open to the public, just like in any other big city.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Big money, non-local restaurant chains. They only belong in places like the far suburbs, were people go to feed themselves into oblivion. When companies are putting the same big restaurant three blocks from each other, there's something really wrong. Please support local restaurants with local owners; there are plenty of us to go around.
Culinarily speaking, Denver has the best: Mexican food, especially street tacos. I love Real de Minas, El Taco de México, Tacos y Salsas and Tacos Tijuana.
Culinarily speaking, Denver has the worst: Baristas. I'm not talking about a barista in a coffee shop, but a barista at a restaurant. A great after-dinner espresso in a restaurant is really hard to find -- sometimes you wonder if you're even getting decaf. And it's really frustrating, because I love having a nice coffee after dinner. I don't think we have very good pastry shops, either. I can get a pastry from a coffee shop, but there's really nowhere to get handmade éclairs or croissants or great breads throughout the day.
Favorite cookbook: Culinary Artistry, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. I use it on a day-to-day basis. It's not a book of recipes, but a reference book, and a great place to look for ideas when I'm having a brain freeze. I also love the French Laundry cookbooks.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network? Okay, so I travel all around the world to all these exotic places, where I eat the local cuisine and get drunk on local booze. Wait. Isn't that show being done already? We all want Anthony Bourdain's job. I don't know...maybe there are enough food network shows and stars already.
Current Denver culinary genius: I'm fortunate to work with a lot of great guys, not only in my kitchen, but at the charity functions and fun social events we put on around Denver. And honestly, all those guys are my faves, although I have to say that when Sean Yontz is cooking a special dinner, you've got to be there. That guy is doing some of the best food out there. I also think the local farmers that I use -- Green Earth Farms, Grant Family Farms, Verde Farms -- have done an amazing job of figuring out the direction that Colorado cuisine is moving, and they're doing a great job of listening to restaurants and coming through for us tenfold. The fact that someone is raising our ducks now could have happened ten years ago.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Prosciutto, porcini and arugula.
You're making an omelet. What's in it? Asparagus, fresh truffles and robiola cheese.
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You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Avocados, limes, twelve-packs of Corona, and whatever Darius, my four-year-old son, wants, which is usually prosciutto.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: Learn to use your knives. It will make your life a lot easier and your job a lot faster.
After-work hangouts: Tambien, Highland Tavern and home.
Favorite Denver restaurant other than your own: It really depends on my mood, and to be honest, I have a lot of favorite restaurants: El Taco de México, Pho 75, Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria, Sushi Sasa and Elway's. They're all the best at what they do -- and they're all really good to my son. I probably eat at Marco's the most. What can I say? It's my love for Italian-style pizza, and Marco's is the closest to Italian-style pizza that we've got in Denver. Favorite celebrity chef: I don't have one. I don't watch any Food Network shows. Everyone is so wrapped up in the Food Network, and it's just not all that. Celebrity chef that should shut up: Maybe all of them. No, that's mean. Emeril, Tom Colicchio -- you know the ones.