Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Farm to Table in Boulder

D and I traveled to Boulder, Colorado for the second annual Grand Masters Ultimate Frisbee tournament. He was competing with a team from Atlanta called Ball and Chain. During my research for stuff to do on our trip, I searched for restaurants featuring locally-produced food. I was thrilled to find out that one of D's teammates has a cousin who, along with three other partners, runs Cafe Aion, a farm-to-table restaurant in the university area of Boulder and invited the team to a private dinner party at the restaurant on Sunday night after the tournament. Cafe Aion's website says it perfectly:

We aspire to cultivate this tradition in our own local soil. We gather our ingredients from farmers, ranchers and fishmongers we know and admire, and we draw upon the time-honored practices of the osteria and tapas bar as we cook for our friends and neighbors.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves here, the decor and ambiance; the food and drink; and the professional and resposive waitstaff were all lovely.

We started by sampling some local beer, and I settled on a New Belgium Fat Tire from Fort Collins. The staff set out tasty hummous, bread, and really delicious oysters wth homemade horseradish. At the table, we found dishes of vegetable anti-pasta (green pepper, onion, and olives) and marinated lentils.

I enjoyed the way the staff did the party for us: they just sent stuff out and we didn't have to choose from the menu. I have a very hard time making restaurant decisions, particuarly with a new place, and it was nice to sample a variety of things sent from the kitchen. I read a review of the restaurant online after the meal, and I love the way the chef creates little treats for the table from kitchen leftovers: :

Dakota Soifer's chicharrones, seasoned with a dash of chile oil and salt, are crispy puffs that crack between the teeth and dissolve on the tongue almost instantly, leaving behind nothing more than the sweet smokiness of pork. They're not on the menu at Cafe Aion, but they're sent, along with other scraps-turned-tapas, to diners as thanks for their business, and as a way to use every part, even the skin, of the pig the chef buys to make sausage and ribs and pancetta.

The house-cured meats were delicious. We sampled some sausage and a pate that was served with bread and olives.

For our main courses, the kitchen staff sent out a nice paella with squid, shrimp, and chorizo. For me, the dish was a bit heavy on the rice and a touch bland--but I like fiery dishes. I might have put a dash of hot sauce on it, but I didn't ask for hot sauce and none was on the table. They also brought us plates of rare and medium-rare strips of beef, perhaps a london broil or a flank steak, with roasted vegetables. Best of all was that I recogznized the baby white turnips on the plate as those I saw on display at the farmer's market the day before. I so wanted to buy a bunch and prepare them back in our kitchen hotel, but we didn't have the time.

Dessert was a slice of fresh strawberry tart with a luscious cream base. They also brought us a plate of biscotti, iced ginger snaps, and caraway-seeded shortbread to go along with coffee or espresso.

What a wonderful find in Boulder. I definitely recommend putting Cafe Aion on your agenda if you visit the Boulder area.

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