Denver’s James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Seidel opens new healthy fast casual chicken joint

In case you don’t speak Aussie lingo, chook means chicken. So if you were wondering what to expect at James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Seidel’s new fast-casual restaurant, Chook, there you have it.

It’s chicken.

Along with partners Adam Schlegel (Snooze) and Randy Layman, Seidel opened Chook to provide healthy, delicious, fast food at an affordable price — most meals are in the $9-13 range. It’s a simple menu of chicken cooked over a charcoal rotisserie, along with salads, veggies and mac and cheese.

The inspiration came from Schlegel, who lived with his Australian wife, Sarah, just outside of Melbourne in an area called the Mornington Peninsula. He frequented the neighborhood chicken shops, which are ubiquitous in Australian suburbs, picking up rotisserie chicken for dinner on nights when he was short on time.

“When we moved back in 2014, we missed our local weekly or more shop and thought it just may fly in Denver,” Schlegel said.

Seidel liked the idea of making healthy, responsible food more accessible, as well as Chook’s mission of promoting employee ownership and giving money back to its community. One percent of sales will be donated to a rotating group of local charities.

Ready to get all Chooked up? (Sorry, we really like puns.) Try every trick in the Chook (See?) starting Friday, Dec. 7.

Chook Charcoal Chicken: 1330 S. Pearl St., Denver, 303-282-8399; chookchicken.com

Weld County retail food inspections for Nov. 29 to Dec. 6, 2018

Weld County evaluates restaurants, schools, grocery stores and other facilities that handle food on a scale of five categories, from unacceptable to excellent. As part of the county's scoring index, officials evaluate facilities on factors such as cooling, reheating, cooking refrigeration and hot-holding equipment, cross-contamination between raw foods and ready-to-eat foods and employee hygiene, according to the county.

  • An "excellent" evaluation means the facility had no violations. Secondary critical and non-critical violations could exist.
  • Facilities that received a "good" evaluation could have one serious violation or one or more secondary violations.
  • A "fair" evaluation means the facility could have three serious violations or secondary violations.
  • A "marginal" evaluation means the facility could have four serious violations or secondary violations.
  • An "unacceptable" evaluation means the facility could have more than five serious violations or secondary violations. If an imminent public health hazard exists, the facility would be required to take immediate corrective action or close.

The following restaurants and facilities were evaluated from Nov. 29 to Dec. 6, 2018.

GREELEY

Dec. 4: Arby’s, 4413 Centerplace Drive — Excellent

Dec. 5: Butters AM Eatery, 2170 35th Ave. — Marginal

Dec. 4: Cattlemen’s Steak House & Saloon, 2600 11th St. Road — Marginal

Dec. 4: Cazadores Mexican Grill & Cantina, 2140 35th Ave. — Good

Dec. 5: Chil-fil-A, 4555 Centerplace Drive — Excellent

Dec. 4: Dairy Queen, 4401 Centerplace Drive — Excellent

Dec. 5: El Charro Restaurant, 2109 9th St. — Excellent

Nov. 30: Epic Egg Restaurant, 2305 27th St. — Fair

Dec. 4: Goodtimes Burgers & Frozen Custard, 4359 Centerplace Drive — Excellent

Dec. 4: King Soopers, 2100 35th Ave. — Good

Nov. 29: La Fiesta Express, 901 16th St. — Fair

Dec. 4: Moreno’s General Store, 322 13th St. — Fair

Dec. 4: Panda Express, 4542 Centerplace Drive — Excellent

Dec. 5: Panera Bread, 4533 Centerplace Drive — Good

Dec. 5: Pollo Feliz, 921 36th Ave. — Fair

Dec. 4: Prairie Heights Middle School, 3737 65th Ave. — Excellent

Dec. 5: Pupuseria Restaurante Salvadoreno, 1020 9th St.  — Good

Dec. 3: Red Lobster Restaurant, 2885 23rd Ave. — Good

Nov. 29: Rodarte Center, 920 A St. — Good

Nov. 29: Rodarte Community Center Food Bank, 920 A St. — Excellent

Dec. 5: State Farm Insurance, 1555 Promontory Circle — Excellent

Dec. 4: Taqueria Michoacan, 1301 9th St. — Fair

Dec. 4: TCBY, 4530 Centerplace Drive — Good

Dec. 3: The Olive Garden, 2285 Greeley Mall — Excellent

Dec. 3: Union Colony Preparatory School, 2000 Clubhouse Drive — Excellent

Dec. 3: West Ridge Academy Charter School, 6905 8th St. — Excellent

EVANS

Nov. 30: Mi Gallo Gira, 3721 Service Road — Excellent

GILCREST

Dec. 4: Gilcrest Elementary, 1175 Birch St. — Excellent

Dec. 4: La Cocina Mexicana, 605 Railroad St. — Good

Dec. 4: Valley High School, 1001 Birch St. — Excellent

FORT LUPTON

Dec. 5: Great Wall Restaurant, 1200 Dexter St. — Fair

Dec. 5: Wendy’s, 11 First St. — Excellent

EATON

Dec. 3: McDonald’s, 55 Oak Ave. — Good

Dec. 3: Steven’s Grill, 131 1st St. — Excellent

Dec. 3: Taco Bell and KFC, 110 Collins Ave. — Excellent

Give the gift of a Denver experience by eating bugs with Frank Bonanno or having a Meow Wolf pizza party

Each Friday for the last couple weeks, a modest but attractively designed wooden cart has rolled out at Milk Market, the Denver micro-district that aspires to turn its Ballpark-adjacent block of Lower Downtown into a model food hall and social hub for the 21st century.

Its wares? Unique experiences.

No, not holiday gift certificates that invite you to get high and paint mediocre pictures in a room full of strangers, nor ones that allow baby goats to climb on you while you struggle to complete yoga poses (also in a room full of strangers). Those experiences, once novel, have become common in Colorado — and, increasingly, everywhere else.

We’re talking about custom, one-off sessions with some of the region’s most notable cultural leaders: chef Frank Bonanno, Denver Art Museum curators, internationally known designers, architects and gallery professionals, scientists, bartenders, vintners, classic-car collectors, pilots and writers.

With titles such as Meow Wolf Experience Tube Pizza Party and Buggin’ Out with Food Science, there are 15 experiences in all, with prices ranging from $15 to $1,500.

“Everyone is talking about the experience economy, but what does that look like? What’s the role of retail in that economy?” said Brian Corrigan, creator of the F.U.N. pop-up cart at Milk Market. “Commodities you can just get on Amazon. For those, it’s about what’s the cheapest, most convenient and fastest delivery method. But when you start to think about how you can compete with that in brick-and-mortar retail, experiences are your competitive advantage. These are things you can’t get online.”

Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Corrigan, the creative strategist behind the OhHeckYeah street arcade, Clyfford-Still Museum’s opening gala, and numerous other art, design and economic-development projects with the city, first hatched F.U.N. thanks to Denver Startup Week, where he’s co-chairman of the Design Track.

He and co-chairman Castle Searcy met Jacqueline Bonanno, creative director at Bonanno Concepts (the minds and money behind Milk Market and its Dairy Block), through Startup Week. Jacqueline began wondering about retail possibilities at the collection of 13 eateries and three bars, and Corrigan conceived F.U.N., which stands for Futures United Network.

The name is particularly meaningful to Corrigan because he sourced and created most of these experiences from the personal and professional network he’s built since moving to Denver nine years ago.

“The Bonannos have been amazing partners in their support for trying something creative and different,” said Corrigan, 38, a former teacher at Washington, D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art. “And that’s important, because they’re the first clients of F.U.N.”

Of course, the Bonannos seemingly have little to lose if F.U.N. tanks. With businesses ranging from fine dining’s Mizuna and Luca to the Vesper Lounge and faux speakeasy Green Russell, they can afford to experiment here and there. But as part of F.U.N., chef Frank, for example, is contributing his time and cooking skills to things he’s never attempted — such as collaborating with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to cook a full dinner based on insects.

“Frank has all of these really great ideas he wants to explore, so he’ll be cooking with everything that’s found in the garden. And I mean everything,” Corrigan said. “Insect cuisine is a trend right now. It’s on the wild side of farm-to-table.”

That experience takes place at Milk Market on March 9 and costs $50 per person, with a limit of 20 people. More traditional (and pricey) is Tailor-Made, a $300-per-person experience at Mizuna during which Bonanno will cook dishes based on recipes from legendary designer Christian Dior’s little-known cookbook, “La Cuisine Cousu-Main.”

“That includes a visit from Florence (Müller), the curator behind the new Dior exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, who will be talking about the connection between food, fashion and design,” Corrigan said.

Feeling couch-locked? For $150-$300, curator Deanne Gertner from Hey Hue will visit your home with a pop-up gallery of locally made, original pieces. She’ll give you a one-hour consultation (available only in the seven-county metro area) and let you pick out something to put on your wall before she leaves.

On the other end of the spectrum is Planes, Tastings and Automobiles, a custom experience in the tiny town of Paonia, about 200 miles southeast of Denver in Delta County. For $750 per person, you can tour the city by airplane and, after landing, explore its wineries and agricultural heritage while being chauffeured around in a 1928 Buick, then dine and carouse at Leroux Creek Inn, which will serve a five-course, organic dinner sourced from local farms and ranches.

For a few dollars extra, you can add various other custom, one-on-one experiences — such as artisanal jewelry making or DJ’ing at the local radio station.

“I’ve been working in experiences for such a long time, and there’s just this kind of bubbling up that’s happening with them in society right now,” Corrigan said. “I overhear people saying, ‘I don’t want or need any more stuff. I want to do things. I want to make memories.’ So this is about rethinking what we put value around, and how we can connect with people through that.”

A few small products from Meow Wolf and renowned typographer/designer Rick Griffith (of Denver’s Matter; he also designed the F.U.N. cart and its logo) round out the offerings. But F.U.N. is mostly about food, art, architecture, drawing classes, history lessons, private museum tours, and pastry and booze celebrations.

For the full menu, visit Milk Market (1800 Wazee St. #100) during the pop-up shop’s operating hours, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23. denvermilkmarket.com

The ABCs of cheese: A talk with King Sooper’s cheese whiz-ard

King Soopers Division Cheese Specialist Jimme Mares and Vennesa Sauceda oversee the cheese shop at the King Soopers on West 10th St. in Greeley. (Emily Kemme)

There is a classic Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch about an English cheese shop that has no cheese in stock. As comedian John Cleese runs through the gamut of cheese types, from the common (Cheddar) to the esoteric (Bresse-Blue), Cleese becomes increasingly frustrated with the shop proprietor's repetitious, "No, we don’t have that cheese."

But walk into any Front Range King Soopers store and you will have no similar frustration. The cheese selection is ample and the cheesemongers well-educated. In fact, there are several who are Certified Cheese Professionals, having passed an exam offered by the American Cheese Society. After studying the science of cheesemaking, learning country of origin, wine pairings, and how cheese is shipped to the US — in essence, learning how cheese becomes cheese, these professionals are cheese whiz-ards. There are around 1,500 cheese professionals worldwide. Kroger, King Soopers' parent company, employs seven of them.

How is cheese made?

Cheese production begins by utilizing enzymes to separate the curd from the whey in animal milk. It traditionally begins with rennet, a combination of enzymes produced in the fourth stomach membrane of ruminant mammals — cows, sheep, and goats — which curdles milk, separating the protein contained in the curd from the whey, milk's watery element, explained Jimme Mares, a Certified Cheese Professional, and the Denver-based Division Cheese Specialist for Kroger. Cheese can also be produced with microbial lab-created enzymes or a vegetable rennet derived from the thistle plant, among others.

But how curd is processed and treated determines the type of cheese produced. Cheddar, for example, drains the whey and stacks curd on top of each other to remove as much moisture as possible, producing a dense, dry cheese with sharp flavor. Salts are added at varying times, depending on the recipe.

"Think of salt in terms of mummification," Mares said. "Cheesemaking is milk's link toward immortality. It's a very clever way to preserve milk for years."

The next step is "affinage” — or aging, performed by the "Affineur." Depending on the type, the Affineur regulates temperature and humidity, anywhere from 3 months to 10 years. "The Affineur flips the cheese and babies it. Using a coring tool, he pulls out samples to check readiness, then repairs the plug, smoothing it to present a solid cheese wheel," said Mares. "Cheesemaking is a huge process. It begins with the farmer who milks and nurtures his cows with the correct nutrients, all to make unbelievable cheese."

The last step in the process is the cheesemonger — “monger” is French for salesperson. "Cheesemongers explain the story and create delicious pairings."

Jimme Mares is a Certified Cheese Professional, one of only 1500 worldwide. Ask Mares a question about cheese. He can easily answer it. (Emily Kemme)

Create an enticing cheese plate — Something old, something new, something blue

Cheese plates are the most popular appetizer at a party, and can easily make a meal. Pair with charcuterie — salami, prosciutto, and other cured meats — and you have a feast.

Jimme Mares, a Certified Cheese Professional, and the Denver-based Division Cheese Specialist for Kroger advises designing cheese plates along the same lines as dressing the bride: something old, something new, and something blue. Don't worry about the borrowing part.

Here are Mares' guidelines for creating enticing cheese plates. Experiment and delve into the fascinating world of cheese.

Old Cheese:

  • Parmigiano Reggiano: aged for two years, the sweet, nutty flavor pairs perfectly with charcuterie
  • Aged Manchego: this Spanish sheep's milk cheese has been made for over 2,000 years. Its butterscotch flavor is derived from the high fat content of sheep's milk.
  • Cave-aged Gruyère is aged for 12 months in Switzerland. Onion flavored, serve with cippolini onions soaked in balsamic vinegar for a riff on French onion soup.
  • Aged Gouda Robusto from the Netherlands, this sweet cheese with caramel flavor is aged for 12-14 months.

Wine pairings: avoid robust wines like Cabernet. Pair with lighter reds like Pinot Noir, Chianti, or Zinfandel, whose peppery profile complements the complex flavor of aged cheeses. Chardonnay is always a winner, with a smokiness that complements cheese. And check out the beer pairing ideas, below.

A selection of cheeses at a Greeley King Soopers store. (Emily Kemme)

New Cheese:

  • Fresh chèvre (goat log) has a sour cream complexity that combines with almost anything. Goat cheese balls are trending in Europe. Mix goat cheese with garlic and dill. Or roll in oat cakes and drizzle with Mike's Hot Honey, a pepper-infused honey, to add a crunchy, sweet, spicy note to a cheese plate.
  • Slice fresh mozzarella and create a caprese with tomatoes and thinly sliced fresh basil leaves. This summertime darling is popular year round.
  • Queso fresco is texturally pleasing. Dry and a bit rubbery in texture, crumble it or slice.
  • Boursin, the traditional party standby, is authentic and reliable. Look for new flavors like bourbon maple to match the holiday season.

Wine pairings: again, stick to lighter wines so the grapes don't overshadow the cheese. Or bring on the bubbly — new cheese like Brie is high in butterfat. It's perfect paired with champagne. The bubbles cleanse your tongue. Are you a beer lover? An IPA pairs well with goat cheese, and the ambers are perfect with both aged and younger cheeses, thanks to their sweetness.

A selection of cheeses at a Greeley King Soopers store. (Emily Kemme)

Blue Cheese:

  • While blue cheese can be intimidating because of its strong flavors, try a beginners' blue like Cambozola. A portmanteau of Camembert and Gorgonzola, this triple crème from Germany has 75 percent butterfat. Bring it to room temperature to make it spreadable and oh-so-eatable.
  • Saint Agur, a French blue triple crème is likewise soft, blue-veined, and spreadable. Try it stuffed into a peppedew pepper for a smooth, creamy bite with a bit of zip.
  • Stilton, the traditional English blue, is cave aged in barrels, giving it its earthy flavor. Cylindrically shaped, English tradition scoops out balls of Stilton, replaces them in the cylinder and fills it with Port wine. Dip in and devour the cheese balls. The Port's sweetness offsets the salt.
  • Roquefort is the authentic classic blue. Spicy and zippy, this cave-aged blue is made from raw sheep's milk in France.

Wine ideas: Pair blue cheese with sweeter wines like Riesling, Moscato, or Port to balance the salt.

When contemplating your presentation, Mares recommends, "Have some fun — top cheeses with interesting partners like preserved pumpkin or walnut, which has the texture of an olive but with cinnamon and clove flavors."

Extra Credit:

Are the rinds edible? That depends on the cheese, said Mares. With the exception of wax rinds found on Gouda and a few others, most rinds are digestible but are not always eaten in the cheese community. Rule of thumb: don't eat it unless you like it.  

Award-winning author Emily Kemme — Musings, recipes, and a touch of satire. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished or on Twitter @emilykemme

Fancy frosting decorations too difficult? Here are some holiday cookie recipes for the rest of us.

If you’re easily intimidated (or just short of time) to tackle fancy cookie decorating, Denver Post staffers and friends have compiled some of our favorites for you. Happy holidays!

Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge holiday cookies by ...
(Photo by Eric Lutzens, The Denver Post)
Peanut Butter Fudge holiday cookies by Alison Borden.

My grandmother made wonderful peanut butter fudge. She’d send us a tin of the stuff for Christmas and my brothers and I would devour it. For years, I would ask her for the recipe. She always demurred and changed the subject. But I was persistent. The truth was, this is an easy recipe. Laughably easy. And she wanted us to think it took more time and more effort. Nice try, grandma. — Alison Borden

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pound (about 3 1/2 cups) powdered sugar

Combine the butter and peanut butter in a glass bowl and cover with plastic. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir to combine — the mixture should be smooth and creamy. Microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Add the vanilla and slowly add the powdered sugar, stirring until combined. Spread it in an 8 by 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Fold the parchment over the pan and chill for at least 4 hours before cutting.

Soft Molasses Cookies

Eric Lutzens, The Denver Post
Soft Molasses holiday cookies by Alison Borden.

This is just a holiday classic. The spices just make me want to break out in carols. And this recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies, so you’ll have plenty to give out with an assortment of other Christmas treats as gifts. From the 2015 We Energies Cookie Book. we-energies.com/recipesAlison Borden

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
  • ½ cup dark molasses
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 2¼ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1¼ teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and eggs. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add to the creamed mixture. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape the dough into 1-½-inch balls. Roll top in sugar. Bake for 10-11 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Rosemary, Almond and Parmesan Cocktail Cookies

Eric Lutzens, The Denver Post
Rosemary, Almond and Parmesan Cocktail holiday cookies by Lee Ann Colacioppo.

This recipe by Dori Greenspan, author of “Around my French Table,” makes a delicious, savory cookie and since the dough needs to freeze, it’s a great make-ahead recipe. The best part might be rubbing the sugar with the rosemary. The recipe appeared in the November 2011 issue of Food and Wine. — Lee Ann Colacioppo

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350°. Toast almonds for about 10 minutes, until golden. Turn off the oven and let the almonds cool.

In a bowl, rub the sugar with the rosemary until moist and aromatic. In a food processor, combine the rosemary sugar with the almonds, flour, cheese and salt and pulse until the almonds are coarsely chopped. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the egg yolks and pulse until large clumps of dough form.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead gently until it just comes together. Divide the dough in half and press each piece into a disk. Roll out each disk between 2 sheets of wax paper to about 1/4 inch thick. Slide the wax paper–covered disks onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour, until very firm.

Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one piece of dough at a time, peel off the top sheet of wax paper. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out cookies as close together as possible. Arrange the cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make Ahead

The rolled-out frozen cookie dough can be wrapped in plastic and kept frozen for 2 weeks. The baked cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods

Eric Lutzens, The Denver Post
Lori’s holiday Pretzel Sticks by Lori Punko.

Sweet and salty. What’s not to like? For years, I have put together baskets of Christmas treats for our friends and neighbors. And every year without fail, the pretzels are plucked from the just-delivered baskets before they hit the table. I’m a purist and just do simple chocolate, but you can have fun with different toppings too.  — Lori Punko 

Ingredients

  • Pretzels
  • Chocolate chips
  • Vanilla candy melts
  • Sprinkles, nuts, crushed candy canes (optional)

Directions

Melt chocolate chips in microwave or double-boiler. Dip pretzels one at a time into the chocolate using a spatula to help cover about 3/4 of the pretzel. Roll in topping if desired. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment to dry.

For vanilla drizzles, melt candy melts in microwave. Spoon into small freezer bag. Cut off corner of bag and drizzle over tray.

Let harden for up to 24 hours.

Pecan Clouds

Eric Lutzens, The Denver Post
Pecan Cloud holiday cookies by Bill St. John.

I hesitate to include myself in the fellowship of bakers, in truth, because not only do I rarely bake, but also I certainly do not fancy myself one either. I am a good home cook, but I neither enjoy nor am skilled at home baking. So, the Pecan Clouds recipe is for you non-bakers out there. These cookies from allrecipes.com by Chef621 are so simple that I could have baked them in my Little Tikes play kitchen some many years ago. (In fact, its incandescent bulb might have put out all of the 250 degrees heat the recipe calls for.) — Bill St. John

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups pecan halves

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until whites form stiff peaks. Stir in vanilla and pecans. Drop mounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven. Turn off heat, and allow to remain in oven at least another 30 minutes, or until the centers of cookies are dry.

No Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

Eric Lutzens, The Denver Post
No Sugar Oatmeal holiday cookies by Bill St. John.

This one is for those few of us who’ve banned cane or processed sugar from our pantry and diet. Sweetness in these cookies comes by way of the natural sugars in applesauce and very ripe bananas. Raisins and their sweetness are optional, but who ever heard of an oatmeal-based cookie without raisins? From allrecipes.com, by Gene Payne

“When you have a sweet tooth and want to stay on track. Sugar is not an added ingredient. No flour or lactose either.”

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir oats, bananas, applesauce, raisins, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon together in a bowl until evenly mixed; drop by the spoonful onto a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are golden, 15-20 minutes.

Grandma Montesanti’s Date Nut Drop Cookies (makes 3 dozen)

 

These are my Grandma Montesanti’s favorite cookies, and since she’s my favorite person, they’re extra favorites. She told me she found the recipe in a newspaper or magazine long ago — before I was even born. Sure enough, she procured the original, clipped-out recipe from a September 1973 issue of “Better Homes and Gardens” and texted me the photo. (Grandma has mastered the iPhone!) So thank you BH&G — and Mrs. Ken McClarnon of Sun Prairie, Wisc., for submitting the recipe — for giving my grandma these little drops of glee.

The cookies themselves aren’t overly sugary; it’s the frosting that gives them the perfect level of sweetness. Throw in the crunch from the nuts and the chewiness of the dates, and you’ve got a balanced, unique cookie that’s sure to be a favorite for you, too. — Allyson Reedy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Frosting:

  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine dates and water in small saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Cool and then set aside 2 tbsp of the date mixture (for the frosting).

Beat egg, sugar, butter and milk with date mixture.

Stir together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add to egg mixture. Stir in walnuts.

Drop teaspoon-sized (or whatever feels right for you) mounds of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely, then frost.

For the frosting:

Beat butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and reserved dates. Add a tiny bit of milk, just enough to make the frosting spreadable.

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How to bake a better batch of cookies every time

Making holiday cookies can bring joy and happiness — unless it doesn’t. If you bake only a few times a year or think you’re missing “the baking gene,” consult these alphabetically ordered tips.

BUTTER

Good grocery store packaged brands (in sticks) typically have a fat content of at least 80 percent. Premium, European-style butter brands have a higher fat content, up to 86 percent. Cookbook author Lisa Yockelson likes to use premium butter for bar cookies and dense cookie doughs, like shortbread, and the national packaged stick brands for rolled cookies.

When the recipe calls for melting butter, think about infusing it with a bay leaf as the butter cools. This will add a nice flavor.

BAKING POWDER vs. BAKING SODA (for cookies)

Baking powder (sodium bicarbonate plus tartaric acid) helps cookies expand or puff up. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) helps tenderize the dough and also provides a bit of leavening. Sifting or sprinkling these ingredients into the mix will help ensure an even interior crumb, says Joy the Baker. If either has been in your pantry for a while, buy fresh.

DISHER (#40)

This cookie scoop is popular with bakers because it yields consistent, 1 ½ tablespoons-size mounds of dough. You can find the tool in kitchen stores and online for less than $10.

EGGS

When you need to separate whites from yolks, do so when the eggs are cold. It will reduce the chances of yolk breakage.

— Eggs for beating into cookie doughs will incorporate more readily when they are at room temperature. Yolks = fat and richness; whites lighten the texture.

— Crack an egg open on the counter, not the edge of the bowl you’re working in; this will help prevent any tiny bits of shell or broken yolk from getting into the mix.

— Most U.S. recipes rely on large eggs for baking, says Joy the Baker, even if they don’t specify the size. A large egg translates to about 3 ¼ tablespoons; if you were to use extra-large or jumbo eggs instead of large, you would be adding substantially more liquid to the dough. (Yes, we know the Barefoot Contessa likes using extra-large eggs.)

GLUTEN-FREE

Two of the biggest concerns with gluten-free baking are cross-contamination and the use of ingredients with hidden gluten. If you are using a stand mixer that has had gluten flours or potentially contaminated ingredients in it, be sure to first properly wash and sanitize the machine’s entire exterior. The same goes for measuring cups, baking pans and cooling racks.

If your utensils are wooden or plastic and are well worn, consider buying new ones to use specifically for gluten-free baking.

Gluten-free cookies should be packaged and plated separately from cookies containing gluten.

MISTAKES

Failed cookies are almost always edible. Reduce them to crumbles and freeze for topping ice cream, sundaes and for creating parfait layers.

MIXING

A mixture of butter and sugar that is overbeaten can result in cookie dough that spreads, says cookbook author and Paris food blogger David Lebovitz. Even when a recipe says to beat until fluffy or “cream the butter and sugar together,” mix those two ingredients only until thoroughly blended.

NUTS

Toasted/roasted nuts have more flavor than raw ones. When you bring home fresh ones from the store, toss them on a baking sheet, roast, cool and stash in a container in the freezer until ready to use. This will save you time when you are baking in multiple batches. Bonus flavor: Drizzle them with melted butter before toasting; be sure to freeze or refrigerate once they have cooled.

OVENS

Make sure your oven temperature is accurate. Oven thermometers are inexpensive and helpful for monitoring. Consider getting the oven professionally calibrated before a big baking session if you are not able to adjust it yourself (check the manual).

Hot spots and uneven heating are common in many home ovens, especially as the appliances age. That’s why rotating baking sheets full of cookies halfway through the baking time is generally a good idea even when you are baking them one sheet at a time. A telltale sign: Cookies on one part of the sheet are browning faster than the rest.

For convection, the rule of thumb is to set a convection oven 25 degrees lower than for a conventional oven.

SHEET PANS (BAKING SHEETS)

Use heavy, light-colored ones when you can, or stack two lightweight pans on top of each other.

SILICONE LINERS

These are a washable, reusable alternative to parchment paper (read below), and are now available in some supermarkets as well as kitchen stores.

STORAGE

Put a slice of fresh bread into the container with your cookies. That’s the best way to keep them nice and moist, says Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi. It will breathe new life into your cookies for three or four days.

When you are defrosting baked/frozen cookies, open the lid, bag or wrapping slightly so condensation does not form.

UNBLEACHED or BLEACHED FLOUR

Unbleached all-purpose flour has more protein and weighs slightly more than bleached flour. So if you are able to use bleached flour for cookies, which will help make them more tender and may make colored doughs brighter, do so.

To measure amounts of flour accurately (without a kitchen scale), fill the dry-measure cup, then level it off.

WAX PAPER vs. PARCHMENT PAPER

Both are nonstick, but they are not interchangeable. Wax paper should not be exposed to direct heat, such as using it to line pans on which you are baking cookies. Use it for rolling out and wrapping doughs, as a protective surface when you are decorating cookies, and to separate layers of cookies stored in containers. Use parchment paper for baking or a silicone liner (see earlier entry).

Seven places to grab slopeside food while skiing in Colorado

By Kelly HepburnSpecial to The Denver Post

A full day on the slopes can cause your body to burn though some serious calories. Staying fueled and hydrated are key to being able to make it to the end of the day. Gone are the days of cups of noodles and smashed PB&Js. Here are a few spots to really satisfy those snack attacks, without taking too much time off the hill.

Taco Beast

The Taco Beast debuted on the slopes at Steamboat this year. (Provided by Steamboat Ski Resort)

Mountain: Steamboat
Where to find it: Roaming around the mountain. Follow it on Instagram using hashtag #tacobeaststeamboat to find its current location.

Street tacos, or shall we say “trail” tacos, made their winter debut for the 2018/19 ski season. The taco-equipped snowcat remained stationary at the base of the mountain this summer, but began roaming the mountain on opening day, taking “slopeside” dining to the next level. The Taco Beast features a variety of tacos, including beef barbacoa, elk chorizo, pollo asado and a veggie option, Esquites (Mexican street corn, off the cobb), as well as a variety of Mexican sodas.

Waffle Cabin

Waffle Cabin at Winter Park Resort offers Liège-style Belgian waffles, plain or drizzled with creamy smooth Belgian chocolate. (Carl Frey, provided by Winter Park Resort)

Mountain: Winter Park Resort
Where to find it: Three locations: in the village, next to the Olympia lift and next to the Gemini Express lift

Take a mouth-watering journey to Belgium without leaving the ski resort. Waffle Cabin offers Liège-style Belgian waffles, plain or drizzled with creamy smooth Belgian chocolate. Grab one in the village before getting on the chair at the base, or ski in to scoop one up next to the Olympia Lift. Wash it down with a hot cocoa, coffee or cider. A sugar high may just give you that extra energy boost you needed to get a few more runs in.

Koko’s Hut

The deck of Koko’s Hut offers views of the Ten Mile Range. (Tripp Fay, provided by Copper Mountain Resort)

Mountain: Copper Mountain
Where to find it: At the top of the new Kokomo Express Lift

Kokomo is no longer kokoslow — the new express lift will zip you right up to Koko’s Hut for a quick snack in four minutes. Offering traditional favorites such as grilled cheese, hand pies and (unsmashed) PB&Js, this beginner-friendly lodge is a great option for newbies to recharge and take in the incredible views of Copper Mountain and the Ten Mile Range.

The Coop

People grab food from The Coop. (Cody Mendoza, Breceknridge Ski Resort)

Mountain: Breckenridge Ski Resort
Where to find it: Walk-up window outside of Sevens restaurant at the base of the Imperial Chairlift on Peak 7

They say you are what you eat, but no one wants to be a chicken on the mountain. However, you can now get your protein fix at the grab-and-go express window at Sevens at the base of Peak 7. Ski in, stash your skis, grab your chicken and then fly the coop. Now we know why the chicken crossed the road… to get back on the chairlift.

Labonte’s Smokehouse BBQ

Labontes Smokehouse BBQ’s pulled pork sandwich. Mallory Van Zyl, Vail Resorts)

Mountain: Keystone Resort
Where to find it: At the base of North Peak and the intersection of the Santiago and Ruby Express lifts, accessed by skiing or snowboarding down.

Take a trip to the Outback, Keystone’s farthest and tallest peak, to — no, not have a Bloomin’ Onion — earn your turns for a real barbecue treat. Hike to incredible terrain or even take a snowcat to some of the best stashes, then ski or ride down to the base of the North Peak to grab some of the best bbq around. The secret is always in the sauce, but the house-smoked brisket, pulled pork, turkey and brats might spill the beans to your taste buds. Grab an Adirondack chair, soak in the sunshine and enjoy the tunes on the snow beach. As long as the lifts are running, Labonte’s will be open for business.

The Ice Cream Parlour

Beaver Creek’s Ice Cream Parlor also chocolate chip cookies. (Jack Affleck, provided by Vail Resorts)

Mountain: Beaver Creek
Where to find it: Inside the Ranch at the top of Haymeadow Park (via the Haymeadow Express Gondola, which is free to ride on foot)

Sometimes you may want to chill out after doing hot laps all day. Travel back in time to this vintage ice cream shop, where you will find single-scoop ice cream. Don’t blow this popsicle stand without trying their signature Cookie Time Milkshake, which boasts Beaver Creek’s famous chocolate chip cookies and a small-batch flavor from Boulder Ice Cream (find just the cookies for free at the base of Lift 6 at 3 p.m.). The Parlour also serves sandwiches and soups.

6th Alley Bar & Grill

Mountain: Arapahoe Basin
Where to find it: Base Area in the Mountain Goat Plaza

Liquid lunch? Why not? The infamous Bacon Bloody is like a meal in and of itself. The bacon-infused vodka is accompanied by most of the major food groups: a house-spiced tomato juice, a strip of bacon (that somehow it remains at attention and crispy until the end), a zippy pepperoncini pepper and topped off with an olive. There’s a reason why it has won best Bloody Mary in Summit County for the past six years. Grab one from the bar and head out to the deck, where you can get an epic shot of your Bloody Mary in front of the slopes. (Pro- tip: We would not advise posting this to your insta story if you called out sick that day…)

We have our answer to the most popular brunch in Denver, according to where you’ve been Lyfting

The annual list of Denver’s most popular Lyfted-to destination is out, and it’s settling a heated debate.

Snooze was the most Lyfted-to brunch spot in 2018, the ride share company found. Sorry Jelly, Sassafras and, well, just about every other restaurant that serves brunch. There’s always next year.

Yes, we know. The science is flawed. Capitol Hill is more densely populated, so more people walk to Jelly, right? And everyone who goes to the Lower Highland neighborhood’s Linger is just already there from the night before? No matter the reason, we’re just happy to hear that Denverites are ride-sharing to all those bottomless Bloody bars.

The Lyftie Awards, as the company likes to call them, recognizes the most popular destinations in cities across the country.

Here are all the 2018 Denver Lyftie Awards winners:

Most Visited Bar: Avanti Food and Beverage. That number is only sure to go up as it hosts the Miracle pop-up Christmas bar this season. Get a look inside here.

Most Popular Concert Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Here are all the 2019 shows we know about so far.

Most Visited Restaurant for Brunch: Snooze an A.M. Eatery

Late night: Lodo’s Bar & Grill

Most Visited Fitness Studio/Gym: 24 Hour Fitness

Most Visited Late Night Neighborhood: LoDo

Only In Denver: Union Station

Note: New users can use the code LYFTIES18 for $5 off of the first two rides to one of the winning destinations or anywhere across Denver

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11 places to get warm, boozy drinks around Denver, Boulder and beyond

Now is the winter of our discontent. Or not, if you have a hot, boozy cocktail in hand to keep you warm. (And, yes, content.)

Bars and restaurants along the Front Range are celebrating hot cocktail season by steaming up some delicious creations, and all you have to do, you lucky drinker you, is sip them. Because when it’s 12 degrees outside and the snow is falling, a margarita just isn’t gonna cut it.

Here are some spots to cozy up with a warm cup of spiked hot chocolate, loaded coffee, intoxicating toddy and mulled wine. They’re not going to drink themselves, people.

Avanti Food & Beverage has heat lamps on its patio to keep you warm, but you probably won’t even need them given all the body heat radiating off the cool kids crowded onto it. Throw in a couple hot drinks — such as the Finnish Hot Chocolate with vodka, milk chocolate, mint and whipped cream, or the Chamomile Hot Toddy with bourbon, honey, angostura and rosemary — and you’ll be downright sweltering. 3200 Pecos St., Denver, 720-269-4778; avantifandb.com

It’s possible that life doesn’t get any better than spiked hot horchata. Made with the comforts that are cinnamon, vanilla, milk, rice, almonds and Patron XO Café, Tamayo’s Spiked Horchata is pretty much Mexican hygge, if that were a thing (which it’s not). If you need a jolt of caffeine with your Mexican hygge (we’re making it a thing!), try the Cappuccino Tamayo, a frothy blend of espresso, Patron and Tuaca. 1400 Larimer St., Denver, 720-946-1433; eattamayo.com

After dealing with Interstate 70’s nightmarish traffic up and back to the slopes, you probably need a good laugh Comedy Works has an entire menu section devoted to hot, boozy drinks. The Nutty Irishman (St. Brendan’s Irish Cream, hazelnut liqueur, coffee and whipped cream) and Death by Chocolate (Godiva white chocolate liqueur and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream) will have you back in good spirits. (See what we did there?) 1226 15th St., Denver, 303-595-3637, and 5345 Landmark Place, Greenwood Village, 720-274-6800; comedyworks.com

Your go-to PSL (pumpkin spice latte for the un-basic) will look forever bland after drinking The Great Hot Pumpkin Cocktail at The Family Jones. Besides pumpkin, this lovely, warm concoction mixes up house-made rum, cherry bark vanilla bitters and amaretto. If that’s not cold weather-y enough, it’s topped with toasted pecan whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg. 3245 Osage St., Denver, 303-481-8185; thefamilyjones.co

Could there be a more ubiquitous hot cocktail than the hot toddy? Check out Pony Up‘s version, which blends local citrus clove liquor from Distillery 291, lemon, rye and agave. Wash it down with one of Pony’s spins on the French Dip. Because yes, you can definitely wash down a drink with a sandwich and, yes, we said spins, plural. 1808 Blake St., Denver, 720-710-8144; ponyupdenver.com

The Tatarian is a tree-themed bar (why the heck not?) and its Dragon’s Blood cocktail is a hot drink inspired by the Dragon’s Blood Tree. In case you’re wondering, is native solely to the island archipelago of Socotra off the coast of Somalia. The Dragon’s Blood (the drink, not the tree) is made with Navy-strength gin, apricot liqueur, lemon oleo, lemon juice, cinnamon tincture and dried fruits, and it will surely give you a lift. 4024 Tennyson St., Denver, 303-416-4496; thetatarian.com

The Bitter Bar is a Boulder favorite for its extra-long weekday happy hour (5-8 p.m.!), but its fireplace and hot drinks warrant a wintertime look. The Hot Buttered Rum, made with grass-fed and organic everything because this is Boulder, and The Bitter Bar Hot Toddy will get you nice and toasty. 835 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-442-3050; thebitterbar.com

On your way out or back to the mountains (or on your way out and back; who are we to judge?), stop at The Fort. The setting is pretty darn warm and magical even without the array of hot bevs (an array of teas to coffee-based cocktails) on its menu, including the Bear Hunter’s Tea with hot black tea and Barenjager honey spirits. 19192 CO-8, Morrison, 303-697-4771; thefort.com

Mulled wine was the original zero-waste drink. It got its start because the ancient Greeks (or Romans, depending on who you ask — Since they’re all dead, you’re out of luck) didn’t want good wine to go to waste, so they heated it up and added some spices to extend its life. Be a good, life-extending wine steward and grab a glass of mulled wine at Golden’s Miners Saloon. 1109 Miners Alley, Golden, 303-993-3850; miners-saloon.com

Over the years, Social in Fort Collins has served more than 20 different hot cocktail recipes, and its current riff on a Hot Buttered Rum may be one of the best yet. Called the Sleepy Hollow, it’s made with local spiced rum, pumpkin puree and pumpkin spiced butter batter. It’s rumpkin-rific. 1 Old Town Square #7, Fort Collins, 970-449-5606; socialfortcollins.com

The Block Distilling Co. changes its menu quarterly, so if you want to try The Cocktail Formerly Known As — a blend of the RiNo distillery’s autumn gin, spiced pear juice, lemon juice and cardamom bitters that’s magically heated with an espresso machine steam wand — get there before the first day of winter (the solstice is Dec. 21 this year). However, we’re confident whatever they conjure up for winter will be just as warm and tasty. 2990 Larimer St., Denver, 303-484-9033; theblockdistillingco.com

14 of the best Colorado holiday markets for handcrafted gifts

Though we’ve all become accustomed to lightning-fast shipping and the ability to order literally anything online, there’s something to be said for hand-picking a totally unique, even quirky gift to give to your loved ones this holiday season.

Sure, it takes more time and effort on your part. But you’ll also be supporting real small businesses in Colorado and you may even enjoy the perusal process. Lucky for you, you don’t have to go hunting down every artist or maker in Colorado on your own — there are tons of holiday markets featuring handmade, homemade and local goods from an array of vendors, all in one place. Even better? Most of them feature live music, entertainment, booze and food, so you may even trick yourself into thinking you’re just enjoying another Colorado weekend instead of shopping.

To view the best Colorado holiday markets to visit now through Christmas, click here.

Weld County retail food inspections for Nov. 17 to 30, 2018

Weld County evaluates restaurants, schools, grocery stores and other facilities that handle food on a scale of five categories, from unacceptable to excellent. As part of the county's scoring index, officials evaluate facilities on factors such as cooling, reheating, cooking refrigeration and hot-holding equipment, cross-contamination between raw foods and ready-to-eat foods and employee hygiene, according to the county.

  • An "excellent" evaluation means the facility had no violations. Secondary critical and non-critical violations could exist.
  • Facilities that received a "good" evaluation could have one serious violation or one or more secondary violations.
  • A "fair" evaluation means the facility could have three serious violations or secondary violations.
  • A "marginal" evaluation means the facility could have four serious violations or secondary violations.
  • An "unacceptable" evaluation means the facility could have more than five serious violations or secondary violations. If an imminent public health hazard exists, the facility would be required to take immediate corrective action or close.

The following restaurants and facilities were evaluated from Nov. 17 to 30, 2018.

GREELEY

Nov. 20: 65th Avenue Wing Shack, 1815 65th Ave. — Excellent

Nov. 29: Blackjack Pizza, 3810 10th St. — Excellent

Nov. 26: Carl’s Jr., 720 10th St. — Excellent

Nov. 28: Chuck E. Cheese’s, 2309 Greeley Mall — Good

Nov. 27: Clarion Hotel, 701 8th St. — Fair

Nov. 20: Coyote’s Southwestern Grill, 5250 9th St. Road — Excellent

Nov. 20: Fox Run Senior Living, 1720 60th Ave. — Excellent

Nov. 29: Frontier Academy, 6530 16th St. — Excellent

Nov. 29: Little Caesars, 3487 10th St. — Good

Nov. 19: Lucky Fins Greeley, 4530 Centerplace Drive — Marginal

Nov. 28: Old Chicago, 2348 29th St. — Excellent

Nov. 27: Outriders, 5750 10th St. — Excellent

Nov. 27: Roma Restaurant, 5750 10th St. — Excellent

Nov. 27: Starbucks, 2604 11th Ave. — Excellent

Nov. 19: Subway, 2000 35th Ave. — Excellent

Nov. 29: Sushi 1, 3820 10th st. — Excellent

Nov. 20: Tatonka Deli and Grill, 227 8th St. — Excellent

Nov. 19: The Blue Mug Coffee Bar, 2030 35th Ave. — Excellent

Nov. 27: University Middle School, 1717 65th Ave. — Excellent

Nov. 28: University Schools School Kitchen, 6525 18th St. — Excellent

Nov. 19: Village Inn, 921 30th Ave. — Good

Nov. 20: Winchell’s Donut House, 1503 8th Ave. — Excellent

9: Cancun Mexican Grill, 5415 11th St. — Fair

Nov. 5: Catering By Kenny’s, 421 15th Ave. — Good

Nov. 9: Food King, 3635 10th St.— Good

Nov. 6: Honey Baked Ham Company, 3766 10th St. — Excellent

Nov. 8: La Tarahumara Market, 1101 8th Ave. — Good

Nov. 2: Royal Nepal Restaurant, 908 8th Ave. — Excellent

Nov. 14: San Luis Market, 300 11th Ave. — Excellent

Nov. 5: Taste of Philly, 829 16th St. — Good

Nov. 7: The Country Inn, 1415 8th Ave. — Fair

Nov. 14: The Dugout Bar-B-Q, 2509 11th Ave. — Good

Nov. 9: The Penalty Box, 822 9th St. — Excellent

Nov. 6: University of Northern Colorado Holmes Dining Hall, 1225 23rd St. Road — Good

Nov. 5: University of Northern Colorado Tobey-Kendel Dining Hall — Excellent

Nov. 8: Walmart, 3103 23rd Ave. — Good

Nov. 6: Wonderful Inn, 3605 10th St. — Good

EVANS

Nov. 19: Green Mill Tavern, 3419 State St. — Excellent

WINDSOR

Nov. 26: Arty’s Underground, 1130 Southgate Drive — Excellent

Nov. 20: Burger King, 1615 Main St. — Excellent

Nov. 26: Chimney Park, 406 Main St. — Good

Nov. 27: Main Street Catering, 1039 Main St. — Excellent

Nov. 26: Water Valley Senior Living, 805 Compassion Drive — Excellent

JOHNSTOWN

Nov. 26: Ajuua Junior, 257 Johnstown Center Drive — Marginal

MILLIKEN

Nov. 26: Milliken Elementary School, 100 Broad St. — Excellent

Nov. 26: Milliken Middle School, 266 Irene Ave. — Excellent

Nov. 26: Sodexo at Knowledge Quest Academy, 705 School House Drive — Excellent

LASALLE

Nov. 20: Valley Packing, 705 1st Ave. — Excellent

AULT

Nov. 21: Cinnsations, 103 1st St. — Excellent

Nov. 21: El Dorado Mexican Grill De Vallarta, 215 1st St. — Excellent

Nov. 21: Pizza Plus, 224 1st St. — Excellent

Get Cooking: Sunshine is packed into dried fruit

Try cooking savory dishes with dried fruit, such as raisins. (Thinkstock by Getty Images)

One fine way to smuggle some of summer into winter is to cook with dried fruit.

Sunshine is packed into dried apricots, grapes (raisins), dates, currants, figs, plums (prunes), any number of both red and dark berries, pineapple, apples, mango, peaches and pears, even ginger. Did I miss anything? Oh, yeah, bananas.

Perhaps due to our British heritage, we tend to think that dried fruit, properly cooked or baked, belongs merely in sweet foods such as — seasonal shudder alert — fruitcake.

But the rest of the world uses dried fruit even more so in savory dishes: golden raisins or sultanas offering a sweet note in a Sicilian agrodolce or Moroccan tagine; dried apricots flavoring a Latvian pork loin braise; or dried cherries in a sauce for pan-seared duck breasts in southwestern France.

To a large extent, we segregate savory dishes from sweet ones. It’s the way we write restaurant menus or serve courses of food at the home table. Nothing wrong with that; it’s just helpful to note that it is our culture’s rubric, one of only a number of ways to enjoy a given mixture of foods.

Of course, we do treat dried fruit as a snack, but in the same way as the English love their biscuits or the Belgians their chocolates — as a break, even at fixed times of day.

However, bringing fruit into hot, seasoned dishes as part of dinner preparation is a good way to smuggle not only summer’s sun, but also more of what we tend to forgo in nutrition: our recommended daily allotment of vegetables and, well, fruits.

Plus, it seems far easier to eat a few apricots as a constituent of a pork roast than to pit a half dozen fresh ones as a snack.

Keep in mind, of course, that portion control is important when eating dried fruits. Because they are concentrated, they contain more calories than their prior, fresh selves. A cup of raisins, for example, is close to five times as caloric as a cup of fresh grapes.

Nonetheless, when our national sweet tooth is a big factor in our choice of food, perhaps tricking it into eating dried fruit instead of a candy bar is a more wholesome idea all told.

This recipe is my turn on the famed Chicken Marbella from one of America’s bestselling cookbooks, “The Silver Palate Cookbook.” What a splash that recipe made when it first was introduced to scores of dinner parties and lunch buffets in 1982.

And what strange things we needed then to face in a chicken dish: prunes, of all things, capers and vinegar. But acclimate we did, and Chicken Marbella became a most appreciated dish.

Instead of prunes, I use fat yellow raisins called sultanas. You may find them in commerce today more easily than in 1982, but regular golden raisins do just as nicely — or, for that matter and in keeping with the idea of this column, any dried fruit (chopped up if necessary) for which you have a fancy.

I also allow for trade-outs from the original recipe: tart apple juice for white wine; salted capers for the vinegared sort; and only chicken thighs for cut up whole chicken. Chicken thighs are more forgiving after an hour-plus in the oven, and also offer a more uniform selection of doneness to those served.

Chicken Marbella Silver Daddy

Adapted from “The Silver Palate Cookbook” (1982); serves 6-8

Ingredients

10-12 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in (about 6 pounds total)
1⁄2 cup good quality olive oil (a mild extra virgin, but not a strong, “peppery” one)
1⁄3 cup red wine or good quality balsamic vinegar
1 cup sultanas or golden raisins
1⁄2 cup pitted French or Spanish green olives such as picholine or manzanilla
1⁄2 cup salted capers, well rinsed and squeezed
6 bay leaves
10 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1⁄4 cup oregano (Mediterranean, not Mexican)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine or tart apple juice
1/2 cup light brown or turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions

Mix the olive oil, vinegar, raisins, olives, capers, bay leaves, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl large enough also to accommodate the chicken thighs, then toss the thighs to coat well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Before cooking the chicken, bring the thighs to room temperature.

About 90 minutes before service, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the thighs, skin side down, in a single layer in a large shallow roasting pan or high-rimmed baking sheet. Spoon the marinade evenly over the thighs. Pour the wine or apple juice around the pan. Bake the chicken for 30 minutes, flip the thighs skin side up, baste everything, then evenly sprinkle on the sugar. Bake for an additional 30-40 minutes so that the chicken is nicely browned but also to the point when a knife cut into one thigh yields clear juice.

To serve: Remove the thighs to a warmed platter and set aside. With a slotted spoon, top the thighs with as many raisins, capers and olives as you can fish out of the juices. Over high heat, quickly reduce the juices down to 1/2 cup, thickening if necessary with a bit of butter. Pour the glaze over the chicken and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Reach Bill St John at bsjpost@gmail.com

Fat Albert’s pies serve as the seasonal centerpiece at holiday feasts

Fat Albert’s offers a wide selection of traditional pies for your holiday table. (Emily Kemme)

Sue Albert calls it her one-hit wonder. But for Albert, proprietor of Fat Albert's restaurant, it's a hit that's gone platinum and is played on repeat. For nearly 36 years, she and her staff have baked up Thanksgiving pies. This year, Albert prepared between 350-400 pies for the week leading up to the fall holiday. 

These days, Albert finds that people will celebrate Thanksgiving several times if they have family in different locations. The pies start flying out the door as early as the weekend before the holiday, stretching the "one-hit" into a weeklong chart topper.

Fat Albert's

1717 23rd Ave., Greeley
(970) 356-1999
http://www.fat-alberts.com

Hours:
Monday – Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Sunday 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Christmas Eve 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Fat Albert's pies herald the start of the holiday season, and orders stay steady up until Dec. 24. The restaurant bakes close to 100 pies to fill Christmas Eve orders; the rest are interspersed throughout the month.

"Pies are a favored holiday gift for many of our business patrons. I've got one person who orders up to 40 each year to give to clients," Albert said. "Another great option is to give a pie certificate to use when you need a dessert anytime of year."

Albert comes from a family of cooks and bakers. Raised in New Jersey, her grandparents were dairy farmers and she, along with her siblings, was active in 4-H.

"My family cooked and baked together,” she said. “It was fun. When we opened the restaurant in 1982, I knew we wanted to offer pies so I asked people for family recipes because that's where the best pies are made. We interviewed people to be our pie ladies. The interview process was they made two pies and my husband Roger ate them."

Fat Albert’s offers a wide selection of traditional pies for your holiday table. (Emily Kemme)

From that start, Sue and Roger Albert hired Marge Nelson and Lois Leffler, a mother-and-daughter team.

"They created the chocolate chip pie, the pecan was Roger's mom Lucy's recipe. The New York cheesecake is my Aunt Hannah's. But we all created the cream pies together," Albert recalled.

Since the cream pies require five egg yolks, the egg whites are reserved to make meringue. Only the coconut cream pie has it. Fluffy and light, Sue uses her grandmother's recipe, keeping it basic with no cream of tartar. "It's made from pure egg whites whipped with white sugar." The meringue is finished in the oven to give it its pale gold hue.

That first Thanksgiving after opening the restaurant in 1982, there were a total of 50 pies ordered. It took Sue and her "pie ladies" all night to make them because they didn't have a plan. Fast forward 35 years and now they do. Crusts are pressed in batches the weekend before Thanksgiving. Ready to plate, the pies are filled and baked as needed. "Each step is perfected because of the volume, and there are always three of us working on the process."

The Coconut Cream pie is the only one at Fat Albert’s that is topped with a fluffy meringue. (Emily Kemme)

The most difficult part about ordering a pie from Fat Albert's is deciding which one from the many flavors to choose. In addition to pecan and apple pies — often family traditions during the holiday season — Albert recommends several unusual ones to consider for your table. Pumpkin streusel has a light pumpkin filling topped with brown and white sugar, walnuts and oats. Or break out the bourbon with her popular Kentucky Derby pecan with chocolate chips. Containing an ounce of bourbon per pie, the alcohol cooks off, leaving an oaky flavor. Pies can be custom ordered to leave out the alcohol or to fit other dietary needs.

Albert finds the tangy and sweet Key Lime pie is also a popular choice for Christmas tables.

"It's become the new favorite. It's green and it matches the holiday theme."

Award-winning author Emily Kemme — Musings, recipes, and a touch of satire. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished or on Twitter @emilykemme

MillerCoors, Pabst settle lawsuit over brewing contract

MILWAUKEE — MillerCoors and Pabst Brewing Co. settled a lawsuit Wednesday in which the hipster’s brand of choice claimed the bigger brewer lied about its ability to continue brewing Pabst’s beers to put that company out of business.

The settlement came as jurors were ending their second day of deliberations after a two-week trial in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

“We have reached an amicable settlement in the case and are pleased to resolve all outstanding issues with Pabst,” MillerCoors LLC said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Pabst said it “will continue to offer Pabst Blue Ribbon and the rest of our authentic, great tasting and affordable brews to all Americans for many, many years to come.”

Since 1999, Chicago-based MillerCoors has made and shipped nearly all of Pabst’s beers, which include Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, Lone Star and Schlitz. Pabst’s lawyers argued in the company’s 2016 lawsuit that MillerCoors worried that Pabst would cut into its market share and devised a plan to stop brewing for the smaller competitor. MillerCoors’ attorneys called Pabst’s claim a conspiracy theory and said the company was simply deciding what makes economic sense.

The agreement between MillerCoors and Pabst, which was founded in Milwaukee in 1844 but is now headquartered in Los Angeles, expires in 2020 but provides for two possible five-year extensions. The companies disagreed on how the extensions were to be negotiated: MillerCoors argued it had sole discretion to determine whether it can continue brewing for Pabst, whereas Pabst said the companies must work “in good faith” to find a solution if Pabst wanted to extend the agreement but MillerCoors lacked capacity.

However, Pabst said internal documents from MillerCoors showed the company was worried about competition from Pabst and went as far as hiring a consultant to find a way to get out of the brewing agreement.

“They decided upon the solution before determining their sufficient capacity,” Adam Paris, one of Pabst’s lawyers, said during closing arguments Tuesday. “Their problem wasn’t a capacity problem. Their problem was a financial problem.”

Pabst needs 4 million to 4.5 million barrels brewed annually and claims MillerCoors is its only option. Pabst’s lawsuit sought more than $400 million in damages and a court order for MillerCoors to honor its contract.

MillerCoors’ attorney, Eric Van Vugt, told jurors that Pabst presented them with “a tale of conspiracy and deceit that frankly is pretty compelling,” but not true.

“Most of what you heard is a complete distortion of the evidence. It was taken out of context, the facts were distorted, keywords dropped,” he said.

MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, which have the biggest U.S. market share at 24.8 percent and 41.6 percent, respectively, have been losing business to smaller independent brewers, imports, and wine and spirits in recent years, according to the Brewers Association, a U.S.-based trade group. Overall U.S. beer sales have declined, with shipments down from 213.1 million barrels in 2008 to 204.2 million in 2017, according to the association.

Anheuser-Busch doesn’t do contract brewing, leaving MillerCoors as the only U.S. brewery with the capacity to make Pabst’s beers.

During contract-extension negotiations in 2015, MillerCoors announced it would close its brewing facility in Eden, North Carolina, and that it eventually might have to shutter another facility in Irwindale, California. Pabst contended that MillerCoors refused to provide any information to substantiate its claim that it would no longer have the capacity to continue brewing Pabst’s beers.

MillerCoors’ attorneys said at trial the company was obligated to project its future capacity to determine whether it could continue its partnership with Pabst, and that it always intended to keep brewing for Pabst until the expiration of the contract, which included a two-year wind-down provision. That meant MillerCoors would still brew for Pabst through 2022.

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Find Ivan Moreno on Twitter: http://twitter.com/1TrueIvan

Here’s what to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers

Pat yourself on the back. You’ve made it through Thanksgiving! Now if you didn’t freeze and/or divvy up the leftovers, you may be searching for creative ways to repurpose the turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and sides.

Somewhere in between simply reheating leftovers (easy!) and turning them into falafel-like patties (worth it but perhaps more work than you care for!) is this group of recipes. We’ve also included a few tips for getting a jump-start on upcoming holiday eats, just for kicks. And if you are totally content to r-e-l-a-x and make sandwiches for a few days, go forth. You know where to find us when you get bored with that.


Turkey tortilla soup

This comes together in about 20 minutes, start to finish, and is ideal for not only using turkey and turkey broth leftovers, but also ridding your pantry of other lingering canned goods such as enchilada sauce. If you don’t have the garnishes, feel free to top the soup with other leftovers — roasted Brussels sprouts and a dollop of gravy mixed with sour cream could stand in for the tomatoes and cheese, for example.

Ingredients

  • Eight 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or homemade turkey broth, plus more for thinning the soup as necessary
  • 1 1/4 cups canned green enchilada sauce, such as Hatch brand
  • 1 1/4 cups canned red enchilada sauce, such as Hatch brand
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup nonfat half-and-half (may substitute for low-fat milk)
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, shredded or cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped grape tomatoes, for garnish
  • 1 avocado, flesh cut into 1/2-inch dice, for garnish
  • 1 jalapeno chile pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely minced, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, for garnish

Directions

In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, working in batches, heat the corn tortillas on both sides until they are slightly charred in spots; this should take about 6 minutes total. Slice the tortillas into 1/2-inch-wide strips.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, combine the broth and tortilla strips. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the tortillas have softened and have thickened the broth. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the enchilada sauces, cumin, half-and-half and cooked turkey, stirring to combine. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the soup is heated through. (You may add more broth to achieve a thinner consistency.) To serve, divide the soup among individual bowls and garnish with the tomatoes, avocado, jalapeno chili pepper and cheddar cheese.


Turkey stroganoff on toast

Turkey stroganoff on toast.
Deb Lindsey, For The Washington Post
Turkey stroganoff on toast.

Quick comfort here, with a sour cream tomato sauce amped up with smoked Spanish paprika. This is also a reminder that most leftovers can be quickly morphed into something else by adding a carb or starchy base. Beyond toast, we’d use leftover turkey in pizza, tacos, baked potatoes, rice paper or wonton wrappers, crepes, pasta or rice. (These bases would also serve as ideal landing spots for other leftovers, such as greens or salads.)

Another fun thing, if you’ve got a waffle maker: Grease it, then plop on some stuffing and close; the edges get all crisped and crackly, and you’ve got tasty waffles that could be topped with cranberry sauce and turkey or leftover Brussels sprouts.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 14 ounces cooked skinless, boneless turkey
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons no-salt-added chicken or turkey broth
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton), plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large slices sourdough bread
  • Leaves from 2 to 4 stems flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Cut the onion in half, then into very thin half-moon slices. Use the flat side of a chef’s knife to crush the garlic (like you mean it). Use your clean hands to shred the turkey into strips or bite-size pieces. Pour the broth into a microwave-safe cup; heat in the microwave on high for about 30 seconds or until it’s quite hot.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in the garlic. Sprinkle the tablespoon of smoked paprika over the onion and garlic, then clear a space at the center of the pan and drop in the tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir it in until incorporated.

Pour in the hot broth, stirring to blend it, then add the turkey. Cook for about 3 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low; stir in the mustard and about one-third of the sour cream until well combined. Cook just until warmed through. Taste, and season with salt, pepper and/or smoked paprika, as needed.

Meanwhile, toast the bread, then place a piece on each plate. Coarsely chop the parsley (to taste). Top each piece of toasted bread with equal amounts of the stroganoff, then dollop some of the remaining sour cream on each one. Garnish with the parsley; serve warm.


Fig and brie omelets

Eggs are a natural home for leftovers, too. Instead of fig jam, you could use cranberry sauce in these easy omelets. Serve with sliced turkey on the side or within. For more bang for your buck, servings-wise, go with a frittata — leftover vegetables can easily stand in for the mushrooms and peppers in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs plus 2 large egg whites
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces chilled brie cheese
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 2 loosely packed cups baby arugula leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lime
  • 3 or 4 fresh figs
  • 4 tablespoons fig jam

Directions

Lightly beat the eggs and egg whites in a large liquid measuring cup. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Cut the cheese into thin slices.

Melt half the butter in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, swirling it to coat the pan.

Pour in half the egg mixture; cook, undisturbed, for 30 seconds, then use a flexible spatula to push the surface uncooked egg toward the center. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the egg is almost set at the center.

Meanwhile, place the arugula in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with a little oil and squeeze some lime juice (to taste) over the greens. Stem the fresh figs, then cut the fruit into halves or quarters. Toss with the greens, and season the salad lightly with salt and pepper.

Dollop half the jam on one side of the egg in the pan, then arrange half the brie slices on top of the jam.

Use the spatula to help fold the egg over the cheese. Cook for 30 seconds or so, then gently slide the omelet onto a plate. Top with half the salad. Repeat with the remaining butter, egg, jam, cheese and salad for the second plate.


Southwest-style turkey hash with creamy avocado-cilantro sauce

Southwest-style turkey hash with creamy avocado-cilantro sauce.
Deb Lindsey, For The Washington Post
Southwest-style turkey hash with creamy avocado-cilantro sauce.

Because really, when is a hash a bad idea? This one’s got an assortment of vegetables, including bell peppers, celery, onions, sweet potatoes and red potatoes.

Ingredients for the hash

  • 2 or 3 skin-on red potatoes (5 to 6 ounces total), cut into 1/2-inch dice (3 cups)
  • 1/2 skin-on large sweet potato, scrubbed well, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium turkey broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 small/medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 cup)
  • 1/2 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 1/2 large white onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (3/4 cup)
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium jalapeño pepper, minced and seeded
  • 5 1/2 cups cooked, diced turkey breast (no skin; 1/2-inch pieces)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
  • Ingredients for the sauce:
  • Flesh of 2 ripe Hass avocados
  • Packed 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Water (optional)

Directions

For the hash: Combine the red potatoes, sweet potato and broth in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Cover and cook undisturbed for about 8 minutes, then uncover and cook until the broth has been absorbed/evaporated. The potatoes should be almost tender.

Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pan, stirring to coat the potatoes. Season with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper. Cook (over medium-high heat) for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until the majority of the potatoes are crisped and browned but not burnt. Turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a separate large saute pan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the bell peppers, onions, celery and jalapeno, stirring to coat. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Add the turkey, stirring to incorporate; cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and the bell peppers have softened.

While the vegetables are cooking, make the sauce: Combine the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper in a mini or standard-size food processor. Puree to form a smooth sauce; if it seems too thick to drizzle/pour, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to achieve the right consistency. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or to a zip-top bag (cut 1 corner in order to drizzle).

Toss the potatoes and the vegetable-turkey mixture together in large serving bowl. Drizzle the lime juice over them, then add the tomatoes and scallions, tossing gently to incorporate.

Garnish the hash with fresh cilantro, if using; drizzle the sauce over the top in a zigzag pattern. Serve warm.


Dorie Greenspan’s next day turkey-and-cranberry sriracha strata

Dorie Greenspan's next-day turkey and cranberry ...
Deb Lindsey, For The Washington Post
Dorie Greenspan’s next-day turkey and cranberry sriracha strata photographed in Washington, D.C.

If you’re more inclined to toss everything together and bake it until its warm, then try this twist on the savory bread pudding. It uses turkey, cranberry sauce and leftover bread if you’ve got it. This is best if you assemble it at least six hours (or up to eight or so) before baking.

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter, for the baking dish
  • 14 to 16 slices cinnamon-raisin bread (about an entire 1-pound loaf of Pepperidge Farm Raisin Cinnamon Swirl)
  • 1 to 2 (packed) cups baby kale or baby spinach
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought whole cranberry sauce (see NOTE)
  • About 2 cups leftover roasted turkey cubes
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Sriracha (may substitute a few dashes of hot sauce for less-intense heat)

Directions

Lightly grease the inside of a 2-quart roasting pan or a deep 8-by-9-inch Pyrex baking dish with butter. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment, foil or a silicone liner

Cut each slice of bread diagonally to make 2 triangles, then cut it diagonally in the opposite direction so that you have 4 triangles.

Arrange about one-third of the bread on the bottom of the pan, leaving space between the triangles. (You don’t need a solid layer of bread.) Cover the bread with half of the greens and dollop on half of the cranberry sauce, again not aiming for a full and smooth layer. Scatter half of the turkey over the greens, then cover with half of the cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper. Repeat with another layer of bread (use half of the remaining bread) and all of the remaining greens, cranberry sauce, turkey and cheese. Season with salt and pepper, and top the casserole with the remaining bread triangles.

Whisk together the half-and-half, eggs and Sriracha (to taste); season with salt and pepper. Slowly and gradually pour this mixture over the strata. You want to cover the top layer of bread — a sometimes messy job, because the liquid might seep over the edges of the pan — and have it trickle down evenly to the base of the pan. Once all of the mixture is in, gently press the layers down with a spatula or fork.

Cover the strata and refrigerate it for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. Remove it from the refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Uncover the strata and keep it on the lined baking sheet.

Bake (middle rack) for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the strata comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let it cool until the strata is warm or at room temperature. Serve solo or with a lightly dressed green salad.

Note: To make the cranberry sauce, combine 12 ounces of fresh or frozen cranberries, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring, until most of the berries pop, a bubbling syrup develops and the sauce leaves tracks that quickly fill when stirred. It will not look set, but it will set as it cools. Scrape it into a heatproof bowl and leave at room temperature to cool. Use immediately, or cover well and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Now to get a head start on your holiday baking: Take leftover cranberry sauce and use it to make these Whole-Wheat Jam Thumbprints, which can be stored in the freezer for several months. If you opted to make a no-cook relish, use it to infuse vodka or gin, then use that booze for your holiday-time cocktails. A very clever reader gave us this tip last year — think you can top that?

The espresso martini is back, just when we need it more than ever

There was a time when an espresso martini was the ultimately chic drink at the bar.

That time was the mid-’90s, the heyday of “Sex & the City” and the Cosmo. That’s when every flavored martini drink was chic, poured into glasses the exact size and shape of a dog’s surgical cone. With the advent of speakeasies, those drinks fell out of favor as fast as a designer fanny pack.

But the current freewheeling cocktail culture, in which everything from classic gin drinks to neon-colored concoctions is fair game, it’s time for an espresso martini renaissance. It’s the perfect holiday season drink: The combination of caffeine and alcohol can power people through intensive party schedules. It’s even got the appropriately dark hue for Black Friday.

Espresso martinis also make sense because it’s hard not to find the namesake ingredient-good quality coffee-these days. Plus, a lot of talented bartenders these days have barista roots, as if they’ve long been training to make a stellar version of the drink.

There’s one place where the espresso martini has been going strong for years. At the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club in Portland, Maine, the beverage has been a surprise hit since it appeared on the menu in early 2015. This version features an unconventional local specialty, Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy.

“We wanted to integrate Maine’s No. 1-selling spirit, Allen’s Coffee Brandy, into our menu without being too highbrow about it,” says owner Andrew Volk. “Allen’s and Milk is not only the biggest-selling cocktail in Maine, there’s a whole culture-and think pieces written-about it.” (The standard thinking about the popularity of Allen’s is that it’s a sweet, strong, inexpensive spirit made in nearby Massachusetts, which lobstermen put in their coffee to keep warm; Fireball Cinnamon Whisky is challenging it.)

“It’s the greatest espresso martini in the world,” says mixologist Jackson Cannon of Boston’s excellent bar, the Hawthorne. “By being true to their approach to sourcing and DIY, they landed on a drink that-while faithful to its origins-is richer and more expressive than the original.”

To make this version, Volk tweaked a recipe from the drink’s creator, London bartender Dick Bradsell. In addition to the Allen’s, he substitutes white rum for vodka to enrich the drink; Volk recommends Plantation Three Stars. “We rewrite our cocktail list every other month, but ever since the espresso martini was put on the menu, we’ve found we cannot write it off the menu,” says Volk.

In their recent cookbook/cocktail guide, Northern Hospitality with the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club (Voyageur Press, August 2018), Andrew and his wife Briana Volk shared their recipe. If you can’t find Allen’s, Volk recommends the coffee-flavored brandy from House Spirits in Portland, Oregon. Tequila-based Patron XO works as does the new Mr. Black cold-brew coffee liquor. (Kahlúa will work in a pinch, too, but use less of it because it’s quite sweet). The Portland Hunt + Alpine Club’s drink also uses a sweetened cold brew coffee concentrate. The recipe below is adapted.

Espresso martini

Makes 2 cocktails

  • 6 oz. freshly brewed espresso, chilled
  • 3 oz. (or to taste) coffee-flavored liqueur, preferably Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy
  • 3 oz. white rum
  • 2 oz. simple syrup (see note)
  • Ice

In a large cocktail shaker, combine all the ingredients, except the ice. Add ice and shake well. Strain into chilled glasses, preferably old school martini glasses, and serve.

Note: Simple syrup is made by dissolving equal parts of sugar in water. You can use 1 cup of each and keep leftover syrup in the fridge for a month.

The easy way to make the best latkes starts in the freezer aisle

Food writers bestow “hack” or “genius” upon techniques and recipes that are novel and simplified, but I offer another subgenre that is worth your consideration: The “why not?”

As in, when making the delightful potato pancakes called latkes, start with shredded hash brown potatoes. Why not? Clever Hanukkah cooks have been using the frozen product for years. Their options before that were:

A. Grating spuds by hand, with unpleasant potential for knuckle scraping, and

B. Unearthing the correct disk attachment for the food processor, and working fast enough to avoid the graying of potato shreds.

I am almost sure the graying is why sweet potato latkes, parsnip latkes, turnip latkes, beet latkes and leek latkes rose to prominence. Because it is hard to top freshly made, golden brown, deliciously crispy potato latkes – unless we are talking a slice of smoked salmon, a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of dill.

You might counter the “why not” with: Because those frozen potatoes have additives such as disodium dihydrogen (sodium acid) pyrophosphate. Well, as those things go, this one works in a latke maker’s favor. The chemical helps keep the raw potato from discoloring, and the scientific community’s verdict indicates this type of additive is acceptable in small amounts, on occasion.

Although the package may indicate KEEP FROZEN, I’m here to say that if you do go with the “why not” approach, refrigerate the appropriate amount of frozen shredded hash brown potatoes in a towel-lined bowl overnight. This will wick away moisture – and there will be more moisture to wring out. Even so, I find these potatoes become drier, and therefore better for latke-making, than the hand-shredded/wrung out ones I typically do.

The best part of the accompanying recipe might not even be the use of pre-shredded spuds, but rather the onion component. A worthy latke contains onion in some form; it’s not worth arguing in the comments field or via email. I will simply not engage.

Rather than mincing and grating and crying lots of oniony tears, I have chosen to caramelize a pot’s worth. This takes about an hour, including the slicing (okay, a few tears there) and you’ll have plenty left over to grace a sandwich or omelet or what have you. Caramelized onion will bind the potato mixture and infuse it with oniony goodness, not to mention nice color.

Another latke recipe attracted my attention this year, but it has nothing to do with potato. Shreds of apple and cheddar combine to make one amazing little pancake. You’ll have to resort to the earlier mentioned options for prepping those apples, but the danger of knuckle scrapes is not as great.

Make ahead: The frozen hash browns need to defrost in a towel-lined bowl overnight in the refrigerator.

Hash Brown Latkes With Caramelized Onion

Servings: 4 to 8; makes 12 to 16 pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound frozen hash browns (see headnote)
  • 1/4 cup caramelized onions (see NOTE)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
  • Safflower oil, for frying
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped turkey pepperoni (optional; see VARIATION)

Steps

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Seat a wire cooling rack on top.

Place the frozen shredded potatoes in a bowl lined with a clean kitchen towel or layers of cheesecloth. Gather the cloth together and squeeze out as much moisture as possible, over the sink.

Open the cloth over a mixing bowl, letting the shredded potatoes fall in there. Add the caramelized onions, flour, egg, baking powder, pepper and the salt (to taste), if using, stirring to incorporate.

Pour enough of the oil into a large nonstick skillet to fill 1/4 inch. Heat over medium heat. Add 4 or 5 large spoonfuls of the potato mixture to the pan, flattening them slightly. Cook for 3 minutes or until browned on the edges, then use 2 spatulas to turn them over, gently, away from you in the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, then transfer to the wire rack to drain. Repeat to use all the potato mixture.

Season the latkes lightly with pepper, as needed. Serve warm.

VARIATION: Stir the turkey pepperoni, if using, into the potato mixture just before you’re ready to fry.

NOTE: To caramelize onions, combine 4 peeled, thinly sliced yellow onions, 1/3 cup water and a pinch each of kosher salt and sugar in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring once or twice, until just softened and a little steamy, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 40 minutes, until the onions have turned a rich amber-brown and taste slightly sweet. You’ll have more than you need for this recipe; the leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 6 months.

Historic log cabin above Snowmass Village hosts intimate dining on the slopes

SNOWMASS VILLAGE — There are two reasons I’ve found to board a snowcat.

One is to reach backcountry hillsides where seemingly endless powder lies deep and untracked.

The other is to escape the mundane and venture up the slopes to savor a gourmet dinner high on the mountain. That’s what my wife and I did on a ski outing to Snowmass.

Our destination was Lynn Britt Cabin, a historic log structure dating back to the early 1900s. It was built by Eric Erickson as a summer home for his family of five. Lacking horses to do the pulling, the logs were physically man-hauled from nearby aspen groves.

Now named for a ski instructor who died of cancer, the century-old domicile stands halfway up the mountain, sandwiched between the Blue Grouse and Velvet Falls ski trails. Years ago, we skied there for lunch on a sunny, bluebird day. We would now enjoy the place at night.

We met our snowcat taxies near the Snowmass Base Village fire pit, an easy walk from our condo at the Crestwood. Fellow patrons ranged from school-age children to gray-haired grandparents.

After a 15-minute crawl up the slopes in the wide-tracked conveyance, we arrived at the two-story log cabin. A hand-warming campfire blazed out front.

Inside, the structure featured the expected, mountain-rustic decor. Upper walls revealed bare-wooden beams, an elk-antler chandelier hung from the ceiling and the head of a bull moose gazed out from high on the front wall. From beneath the noggin of Bullwinkle’s buddy, a guitar-strumming singer performed covers of familiar, soft-rock classics.

“Feel free to sing along if you like,” he suggested to incoming guests. “And if you’re singing the same song as I am, that’s even better.”

We were in the first wave of diners. A half-hour later, the second wave arrived, which included a dozen visitors from Adelaide, Australia.

A fixed price covers a four-course dinner at Lynn Britt. Menus change daily with a few options offered for each course. Our choices included salmon pastrami or duck torchon as a starter followed by either butternut squash bisque or winter lettuces. For an entrée, we were given the option of roasted Arctic char, beef short ribs or ricotta cavatelli. Dessert selections included coffee panna cotta, almond butter anglaise or dark chocolate and Amarena cherry cake. As a burger, burrito and beefsteak sort of guy, my epicurean wife had to decipher what I was about to devour.

Service was relaxed and drawn out, allowing us to appreciate the atmosphere of the on-mountain retreat. Out the window, we watched the lights of grooming snowcats prowl across the mountain, and a frigid venture outside revealed a black-velvet sky studded with stars.

After finishing dessert, we had an hour to spare before the first return shuttle. We sat back and listened as the guitarist dipped deep into his repertoire of melodies. The combination of wine and altitude had loosened everyone up. What began as a quiet, upscale dining event turned into a festive revelry. People sang along to familiar tunes, and the front of the restaurant became an impromptu dance floor.

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A pair of school-age brothers began asking any willing female — including women old enough to be their grandmothers — to dance with them. As my wife boogied with a 12-year-old, I swapped stories and shared wine with the Australians.

At 9 p.m., snowcats arrived to haul the first wave of diners back to the base area. I looked at my wife, who shook her head with an emphatic, “no way!” We may have arrived with the first group, but we’d go back with the last.

I accepted another wine fill-up from the Aussies as my wife returned to the dance floor with that precocious 12-year-old.

If You Go

Lynn Britt Cabin hosts gourmet dinners on Tuesday and Thursday evenings throughout the season. Price is $135 for adults ($155 during Christmas week and Presidents’ Day weekend) and $90 for children 3-11. Beverages, tax and gratuity extra. Reservations (970-923-8715, bit.ly/1RziG5P) required.

Restaurant review: Denver Milk Market overwhelming at first, but worth the effort

2.5 stars (out of 4)

Downtown Denver’s Dairy Block is quickly becoming one of the neighborhood’s most in-demand stretches. The ballpark-adjacent micro-district is a one-stop destination: The Windsor Dairy’s onetime home encompasses the Maven hotel, Kachina Cantina, Poka Lola Social Club, Huckleberry Roasters, Denver Milk Market, Seven Grand whiskey bar, a couple of shops, and — AND — a host of yet-to-open businesses.

Of that lengthy list, Denver Milk Market is among the most ambitious. (Seven Grand, with its starting lineup of around 450 bottles of whiskey, is a worthy competitor, though.) Chef and restaurateur Frank Bonanno’s “legacy” project is a slight reimagining of the food hall trend taking over the city; rather than a variety of vendors, Bonanno is behind all 16 concepts (13 eateries, three bars). Some of them will be familiar to Denver diners: S&G Salumeria, for example, is an abridged version of LoHi’s Salt & Grinder, and Lou’s Hot and Naked is a revival of Lou’s Food Bar, which shuttered in early 2017. Most stalls also have accompanying mini markets, selling ready-to-eat options, items to cook at home, and various food- and drink-related wares.

Milk Market is laid out in a circle, so you can mosey past all the options before making a dining decision. It won’t be easy, though. In fact, you may find yourself circling a few times, as Milk Market can be overwhelming on your first — and even your third — visit. Thankfully, you can carry your drink of choice anywhere in the venue as you ponder your choices. The welcoming, and often bustling, space is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour and late-night, and every concept has not only its own menu but specialty drinks, too.

Diners order at the counter, grab seats at any of the various high-tops, tables and counters, and receive a text message when their food is ready. Even with this informal system, service is impressive, which is even more noteworthy when you consider that Bonanno had to hire around 250 people during a labor shortage that’s hurting many local restaurants; the staffers are consistently jovial, quick to make recommendations, and happy to clear dishes if they’re walking by (there are self-bussing stations throughout).

Bonanno clearly has his training program down, but with 16 concepts to oversee, it’s to be expected that some will excel while others fall behind. With the holiday spirit already jingling through town, we took it upon ourselves to taste a bit of everything, so we could point you in the right direction(s). Here’s where to eat — and drink — at Denver Milk Market.

Hits: The best of the bunch.

FEM Crêpes (FEM stands for “flours, eggs, milk” — a.k.a., the three ingredients needed to make the doughy treats) serves both sweet and savory varieties ($8 to $14), and diners can also build their own blends (starting at $6). The spinach, Swiss and mushroom version ($8) is the best of both worlds: a buttery, slightly crisp crêpe folded with sautéed veggies and just the right amount of gooey cheese. Grab some extra napkins and eat it with your hands.

Albina by the Sea‘s ocean-hued, fish-scale-shaped wall tiles create an attractive backdrop for this fish market. Named for Bonanno’s grandmother, the eatery serves sandwiches ($12 to $24), entrées ($16 to $21), and a variety of underwater favorites like popcorn shrimp ($12), mussels ($17), and fish tacos ($10). The sizeable blackened fish sandwich ($12) — served on a thick grinder roll from City Bakery — pulls nice heat from its char, but the spice is offset by a salmon-hued remoulade, tomato and shredded lettuce. Pair it with a side of crispy and lemony Brussels sprouts ($5).

At Lou’s Hot and Naked, one of the venue’s best spots, it’s all about the chicken — fried chicken, in particular. The menu at the diner-style space (think: red counter stools, houndstooth tiles) includes sandwiches ($4 to $8.75), a.m. skillets ($10 to $15), and plates built from a choice of chicken, heat level, and one or two sides ($10 to $28). The two-piece chicken plate ($10 to $12), the smallest of the bunch, is large enough to feed a grown man. Risk your taste buds for the hot chicken. The skin is crunchy and the meat tender, and the bread soaks up some of the zing. The bacon-speckled collard greens round out a perfect plate. Pair it with the on-tap nitro bourbon cider ($6).

The salad bar, Green Huntsman, offers specialty blends and build-your-own options ($8 to $18) in small and large sizes, as well as house-made drinking vinegars ($4). The garden quinoa ($8 or $12) is packed with veggies, blending kale, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, corn and roasted cauliflower with red quinoa and a red wine vinaigrette. The large easily feeds two, especially if you add protein ($3 to $5). Four drinking vinegars — a combo of fruit, sugar, and vinegar that’s trending in wellness circles — continue the health food theme; the blackberry-ginger option tastes like a slightly sweetened, non-bubbly soda, and is a non-intimidating introduction for vinegar-sipping newbies.

Milk Market has not one, but two, pizza options: Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria (another former Bonanno restaurant revival) serves some of the food hall’s tastiest eats. The full-size, shareable pies ($10 to $19) start with crusts that hold a tinge of sweetness, and the slices just beg to be folded. Opt for the wild mushroom ($16) with béchamel sauce, lush Robiola cheese and a sprinkling of truffle oil. Engine Room, the late-night, pizza-by-the-slice eatery in the Dairy Block alley, is currently only open from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. (or until it runs out of dough) on Fridays and Saturdays, but Bonanno hopes to expand the days in January. Slices start at $2.75 and are available with red or white sauce, or Sicilian-style; whole pizzas are also available ($20-plus).

Fans of Salt & Grinder will find the same thick sandwiches ($9 to $13) at S&G Salumeria (though the menu here is more concise), plus a diverse lineup of charcuterie ($9 to $12 each). The Tuscan sandwich ($10) is piled high with a tangy mix of roasted red peppers, pickled onion, arugula, tomato and house-made mozzarella. Meat-eaters will have to decide between S&G and the New York deli sandwiches (pastrami, corned beef, etc., all $16) and burgers ($6.50 to $8.50) at Ruth’s Butchery. The simple hamburger’s ($6.50) thin patty is juicy and flawlessly grilled, and the Tetris piece-shaped tater tots ($3) are crisp and just plain fun. (Top them with not-too-spicy green chile queso for $2.)

Misses: These spots aren’t quite as appetizing as their neighbors.

Milk Market’s coffee shop, Morning Jones, serves java drinks ($2 to $4), 75-cent doughnuts, pastries ($2 to $5), a breakfast burrito ($4) and more. The sweets case is salivation-inducing, and everything is made fresh, but the eats are better on the eyes than the tongue. An almond croissant ($3.50) was buttery but tough, while a square of blackberry coffee cake ($3.50) was under-baked.

The pork belly filling brings some nice heat to the bao buns ($12 for three) at Bao Chica Bao, but the bun-to-filling ratio leans too heavily toward the bun. Another option, the hoisin-braised chicken, is over-sauced, but the tofu is just right. Our recommendation: Build up your bun order with the handful of sides, like kimchi or soy pickles, to enhance the flavor and texture of the Pac-Man-shaped bites. (The stall also serves rice and noodle bowls and hot sake on tap.)

Bonanno is known for his Italian cooking, which makes the disappointing pappardelle Bolognese ($18) at Mano Pastaria even more of a letdown. The thick noodles were just past al dente (a minor flaw in this case), and the blend of veal and beef was rich and warming, but the sauce was thin. The biggest issue, though, is that the menu notes the bowl is “finished with rosemary” — an understatement. There is so much of the herb on the dish that it overwhelmed every other ingredient and the palate. Still, the freshly made pastas waiting to be cooked at home and cases of antipasti are both worth a stop.

With so many poke shops popping up around town, it takes a lot to stand out. Unfortunately, MoPoke doesn’t. At the small stand — outfitted with an Instagram-ready wall of painted life preservers accompanied by a neon “Wish You Were Here” sign — diners build their own bowls ($12) from a base of rice or kale and a choice of four proteins and three toppings. Regrettably, the tamarind-glazed tuna didn’t pull any flavor from its glaze and the rice was dry and tasteless.

Gelato shop Cornicello is charming (the sprinkle-like polka dot counter!) but not a satisfying meal-ender. The gelato ($3.50 for a single scoop) is way more icy than creamy. An espresso scoop was bland and the pomegranate sorbet cheek-puckering. The pistachio, however, was saved by folded-in nut slivers.

Drink: Denver Milk Market has three main booze options, all of which earn good marks: the central Moo Bar, which serves it all; Cellar wine bar; and the Stranded Pilgrim, a beer pub.

Moo Bar’s cocktail list is split into classics ($10), BOCO Classics (favorites from Bonanno’s other eateries, $10), and soon-to-be classics ($12). The Peach Street black Manhattan ($10) is smooth and extra-boozy (perfect for a snowy night), while the Hodaquiri ($12) — named for Bonanno Concepts’ beverage director Adam Hodak — is tongue-smackingly sweet. Eight beers and ciders are available on tap ($5 to $6) and 12 in cans and bottles ($3 to $5), as well as more than a dozen wines by the glass and bottle (starting at $6 and $21, respectively). Unlike the serve-yourself vibe of the rest of Milk Market, Moo Bar offers a concise menu of pasta, pizza and meat-and-cheese boards that will be delivered to your seat.

Cellar serves wine and bubbly by the glass ($6 and up) and bottle (starting at $21), but your dollar goes farthest with a flight: three nearly full-size glasses for $12.

Hopheads will want to walk directly to the back corner for the Stranded Pilgrim’s lineup of taps. (The pub-style venue also serves a small menu of eats from Ruth’s Butchery and Albina by the Sea.) Nine local breweries and one cidery are represented, each serving a well-known brew plus one that’s usually only available at their taproom or was made just for Milk Market. Among those is the citrusy, not-too-bitter Full Transparency IPA ($6) from Broomfield’s 4 Noses Brewing Company, and the delightfully floral lavender-hibiscus cider from Denver’s Stem Ciders.

Bottom Line: Some of the concepts at Denver Milk Market still need to find their footing, but the social atmosphere, contemporary design, and plethora of options provide a solid foundation to build from. The continued expansion of Dairy Block should only help.

Fun Fact: Every purchase at Milk Market does good: One percent all sales benefits the neurology department at Children’s Hospital Colorado.


Denver Milk Market

1800 Wazee St.; 303-792-8242; denvermilkmarket.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily for most stalls. FEM and Morning Jones open at 7 a.m., while the bars, Mano Pastaria, and Bonanno Bros. Pizzeria stay open until 11 p.m.

Reservations: Not accepted

Parking: Metered street parking and valet

Star Rating Guide: Ratings range from zero to four stars. Zero is poor. One star, satisfactory. Two stars, good. Three stars, very good. Four stars, excellent.

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Lakewood’s Great Frontier Brewing Co. masters gluten-free beers

Great Frontier Brewing Co. in Lakewood has everything a typical craft brewery would have: A variety of small-batch beers, pub-style decor, food trucks, trivia nights and a core group of regulars.

Bartender Devon Cisneros pours a glass ...
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Bartender Devon Cisneros pours a glass of the popular Blonde Annie gluten free beer at Great Frontier Brewing Company on Nov. 18, 2018 in Lakewood.

But one thing is missing: gluten (mostly, anyway).

In a market full of keen competitors, the hand-crafted brewer offers a gluten-free beer, along with reduced-gluten brews, giving the family-run operation a loyal clientele.

“I’d say a quarter to a third come in for the gluten-free options,” said Beau Plungis, the 27-year-old taproom manager. “Lots of people come in here for (gluten-free) because it’s all they can stomach.”

People with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, as well as people with gluten allergies, have an inability to process the gluten protein found in regular beer. An estimated 3.5 million Americans struggle with celiac disease. Symptoms include painful digestive and stomach issues, and nutritional deficiencies, which can result in fatigue, weight loss, depression and rash.

Celiac is known to cluster in families, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Great Frontier head brewer Mike Plungis pursued gluten-free brewing after his wife, Annie, and several family members and friends, were diagnosed with celiac or gluten intolerance.

About 15 years ago, Plungis was given a home-brewing kit as a Father’s Day gift. After that, he was hooked. Brewing became a passion.

Naturally, he called his first gluten-free beer Blonde Annie, after his wife. In 2011, Blonde Annie scored 43 out of 50 possible points at the 2011 National Home Brewing Competition. A few months later, brewed with a local Denver brewery, it won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival.

Based in part on the success of Blonde Annie, Great Frontier was founded in September 2015. Blonde Annie remains the brewer’s signature gluten-free beer. Gluten-reduced beers include a cream ale, an Irish red ale and an American pale ale.

“Honestly, the gluten-free beers we have, you really can’t tell the difference” between them and traditional beers, Mike Plungis said. Curious customers who try Blonde Annie and the gluten-reduced beers often become regulars, he said.

The brewing company, 2010 S. Oak St., is in a former muffler shop. Two commercial-sized garage doors with southern exposure bathe the room in winter sunlight. Wooden planks repurposed from a 100-year-old barn in Longmont line the face of the bar and a wall behind the bar. Planks are also used to make some of the tables in the taproom.

Brewers grain, a waste byproduct, or spent grain from the brewing process, is also repurposed. A poultry and ostrich farmer in Pueblo hauls the spent grain south to feed his animals. An Old West wagon sits on a slightly elevated patch of grass south of the building, a piece of history that subtly announces — Great Frontier.

The name Great Frontier is a deliberate part of the business plan. The upper case G in Great also stands for Gluten; and the upper case F in Frontier for Free, Mike Plungis said.

Of course, Great Frontier also offers an array of traditional beers including Oak Street IPA, Preacher’s Coconut Porter and Leo’s Lager, an Octoberfest/Marzen.

Owner Mike Plungis looks at grains ...
Owner Mike Plungis looks at grains in bags in his brewery at Great Frontier Brewing Company on Nov. 18, 2018 in Lakewood. Great Frontier Brewing Company specializes in gluten free and gluten reduced beers.

Food served at the brewing company is cooked by area food trucks, including Sizzle Food Truck, Stella Blue Food Truck and La Crepe a Papa. Food truck schedules are posted on Great Frontier’s website. Board games are available at Great Frontier. Trivia night is popular and local fundraisers, like Colorado Gives Day benefiting the Second Wind Fund, mark the calendar. Children and dogs are welcome.

“It’s a real family environment, sort of like a European pub — that public house atmosphere,” Mike Plungis said. “Relationships connect and grow here. We are a local hangout. We are part of the neighborhood, and that’s part of the fun of it.”

Plungis family members work both the brew house, or back room, where the beers are brewed; and the front, or taproom, where their work is savored. Annie, of Blonde Annie fame, tackles social media, merchandising and office work. Kelly, the couple’s daughter, tends bar and Tommy, the youngest, works in the brew house with his dad.

“They’ve all been a part of it, a big part of it, since we got going,” Mike Plungis said. “It’s good to see them, good to talk to them. It’s kind of cool” to work with your family.

It’s OK to eat some romaine, look for labels, U.S. officials say

NEW YORK — It’s OK to eat some romaine lettuce again, U.S. health officials said. Just check the label.

The Food and Drug Administration narrowed its blanket warning from last week, when it said people shouldn’t eat any romaine because of an E. coli outbreak. The agency said Monday the romaine linked to the outbreak appears to be from the California’s Central Coast region. It said romaine from elsewhere should soon be labeled with harvest dates and regions, so people know it’s OK to eat.

People shouldn’t eat romaine that doesn’t have the label information, the FDA said. For romaine that doesn’t come in packaging, grocers and retailers are being asked to post the information by the register.

Romaine harvesting recently began shifting from California’s Central Coast to winter growing areas, primarily Arizona, Florida, Mexico and California’s Imperial Valley. Those winter regions weren’t yet shipping when the illnesses began. The FDA also noted hydroponically grown romaine and romaine grown in greenhouses aren’t implicated in the outbreak.

The labeling arrangement was worked out as the produce industry called on the FDA to quickly narrow the scope of its warning so it wouldn’t have to waste freshly harvested romaine. An industry group said people can expect to start seeing labels as early as this week. It noted the labels are voluntary, and that it will monitor whether to expand the measure to other leafy greens and produce.

The FDA said the industry committed to making the labeling standard for romaine and to consider longer-term labeling options for other leafy greens.

Robert Whitaker, chief science officer of the Produce Marketing Association, said labeling for romaine could help limit the scope of future alerts and rebuild public trust after other outbreaks.

“Romaine as a category has had a year that’s been unfortunate,” Whitaker said.

The FDA still hasn’t identified a source of contamination in the latest outbreak. There have been no reported deaths, but health officials say 43 people in 12 states have been sickened. Twenty-two people in Canada were also sickened.

Even though romaine from the Yuma, Arizona, region is not implicated in the current outbreak, it was blamed for an E. coli outbreak this spring that sickened more than 200 people and killed five. Contaminated irrigation water near a cattle lot was later identified as the likely source.

Leafy greens were also blamed for an E. coli outbreak last year. U.S. investigators never specified which salad green might be to blame for those illnesses, which happened around the same time of year as the current outbreak. But officials in Canada identified romaine as a common source of illnesses there.

The produce industry is aware the problem is recurring, said Jennifer McEntire of the United Fresh Produce Association.

“To have something repeat in this way, there simply must be some environmental source that persisted,” she said. “The question now is, can we find it?”

Growers and handlers in the region tightened food safety measures after the outbreak this spring, the industry says. Steps include expanding buffer zones between cattle lots and produce fields. But McEntire said it’s not known for sure how the romaine became contaminated in the Yuma outbreak. Another possibility, she said, is that winds blew dust from the cattle lot onto produce.

McEntire said the industry is considering multiple theories, including whether there is something about romaine that makes it more susceptible to contamination. Compared with iceberg lettuce, she noted its leaves are more open, thus exposing more surface area.

Since romaine has a shelf life of about 21 days, health officials said last week they believed contaminated romaine could still be on the market or in people’s homes.

Food poisoning outbreaks from leafy greens are not unusual. But after a 2006 outbreak linked to spinach, the produce industry took steps it believed would limit large scale outbreaks, said Timothy Lytton, a Georgia State University law professor. The outbreak linked to romaine earlier this year cast doubt on how effective the measures have been, he said.

But Lytton also noted the inherent risk of produce, which is grown in open fields and eaten raw.

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The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Windsor residents learn the art of Chinese cooking

Participants in the December class will learn how to make steamed and fried pork buns. (Windsor Parks, Recreation & Culture)

If you’re tired of ordering P.F. Chang’s every Friday night and want to learn how to make your favorite Chinese food on your own, look no further than Chinese cooking classes. Once a month, culinary hopefuls gather at the Windsor Community Recreation Center for delicious traditional Chinese cooking.

Start cooking

Classes occur the first Friday each month from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Windsor Community Recreation Center kitchen.

$20 monthly registration fee.

Participants must be 18 years or older.

More information and register at: WindsorGov.com/RecReg

Windsor Culture Supervisor Laura Browarny has been coordinating Windsor’s Chinese cultural programs since the beginning of 2017. The Chinese cooking classes are a result of a partnership created with the Confucius Institute of Colorado State University in an effort to educate the community and increase the Confucius Institute’s own audience.

“This class acts as a bridge between cultures," said Kevin Nohe, manager of the Confucius Institute of CSU. "Many individuals end up learning and understanding far more about China, its food and its culture than they ever thought possible, while our teachers get to learn the same about America through their continued interactions with students.”

Browarny admits that familiarity with certain Chinese food attracts prospective students to the class, but she hopes they learn and try something new in the process.

That learning aspect is partly why Nick and Katie VanMeter have been regulars in the program.

“We signed up for the classes because we have a strong interest in cooking, trying new things and learning about other cultures,” Nick said. “The classes that have been offered so far have touched on all three of those aspects.”

In the last year, the VanMeters have learned how to make sweet and sour chicken, dumplings and most recently pearl balls. They will be taking the steamed and fried buns class this December.

Students learn to make Chinese dumplings. (Windsor Parks, Recreation & Culture)

A variety of dishes are featured each month. In September it was Hunan-style spicy fried beef, October brought steamed meatballs with sticky rice and November produced spicy garlic eggplant.

It’s not all about the food, though. The class offers a casual atmosphere in which the presenter and representatives from the Confucius Institute are eager to answer questions about Chinese culture, how to pronounce words or how to approach preparing aspects of a dish.

“The thing I appreciate the most about the classes is the hands-on nature,” Nick said. “Instead of watching someone make the dish, the presenter talks about the ingredients and how to put it all together, then the students are actually the ones cutting vegetables, mixing ingredients and cooking the food."

At the end of every class the students (and teachers) leave with full stomachs and a better appreciation for Chinese cooking and culture.

As for a favorite dish, Katie chose the dumplings, which aren’t as simple as one might think. “There are a lot of variations to dumplings, and it was fascinating learning just a few of the dough techniques.”

Nohe agreed that the dumplings seem to be the most popular course, echoing Katie’s sentiment that their significance and versatility should not be undervalued.

“Dumplings are one of the most important dishes in Chinese culture and also very well-known here in the United States,” Nohe said. “Also, because of the variety of ways in which dumplings can be prepared, the course can be taught multiple times and still feel different and unique each time.”

Get Cooking: Mindful cooking and drinking around the holidays

A disaster looms for the Good Ship Health.

On the map ahead, the shoals are marked Holiday Gathering, Christmas Dinner, Feast of the Seven Fishes, New Year’s Eve and the particularly insidious triplets Secret Santa, Sing-along and Just Another Small One.

Navigating the Thanksgiving dinner buffet was calm waters compared to what’s on the horizon.

You’ll hear that the best ways to keep weight off and your head on are to “not” do things. That’s one way to ennoble negative space.

But I say just slow everything down — in the kitchen at the table, with the belly up to the bar. If the pace gets glacial, that’s fine. When time isn’t moving, that’s a lot of not doing, too.

The present-day word for “slow” is “mindfulness.” When we attend to the moment, and lose thought of the past or future, we effect the pause. We savor one bite instead of shovel two; we sip instead of gulp.

My favorite time cooking is stuff like this: standing over a carrot and staring at it, figuring out how to slice or dice this hard orange thing that is about to roll away from me; stirring a fluid in a figure-eight slowly and splashlessly so that the eddies and waves take on their own shiny life; watching onions go from ghostly to golden to amber then auburn, losing their sulfuric sting, becoming honeyed.

All these things take time. Each moment enriches my senses, in turn, one sense, then another: color, sound, smell, taste, touch.

I can sense them altogether, if I like, at eating, but I can’t even do that well if I don’t spend time on the forkful or don’t linger on the bite, letting the flavors and textures come slowly to, onto, and into me.

I learned one of the great lessons of my life —  not merely my cooking life, but my overall life —  watching my maternal grandmother make mayonnaise. She made it every day.

Each morning, she placed a plate on her lap, smashed an egg yolk on it with the back of a fork, and swept it up into a cream. Oil went in drip by drip until the new mayonnaise could accept a wee stream of oil and then it was done. A few drops of lemon juice, salt, white pepper. Today’s mayonnaise.

Cooking, eating, and drinking mindfully the next few weeks:

  •  One of the great gifts to the kitchen from France is the concept of “mise en place.” The phrase pretty much means “everything put in its place” and stands for the preparing ahead and laying out of all the constituents that will go into a particular dish or recipe.

The idea is to chop, peel, dice, measure, squeeze, apportion and individualize the ingredients that make up a recipe, place them in small bowls, ramekins or cups, and have them ready and willing when it comes time to finally cook.

  •  Your fork is not a shovel. Like a Henry Moore sculpture, it allows you to see the world on the other side of it — if you take the time to look.
  •  Eating food and drinking good wine or beer are not merely about taste. Use all of your senses to savor color and shape, texture and touch, and all the perfumes and aromas that float there.
  •  As for taste, let it stick around. Tastes tend to unfold in waves of flavor. Smoosh that tongue, smack those lips.

My Grandmother’s Homemade Mayonnaise

Makes 1/2 to 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup canola, safflower or pure olive oil (not extra virgin cold-pressed oil)

Directions

On a room temperature plate, smash and stir the egg with a fork until creamed. Add a tiny amount of oil at a time and blend. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Tuna or swordfish with onion confit

From Mark Bittman, The New York Times; serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large or 4-5 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large thyme sprig or 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds tuna or swordfish, cut into steaks or left whole
  • About 1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped black olives

Directions

Put olive oil in a 10- or 12-inch skillet, and turn heat to medium. Add onions, a good pinch of salt, pepper and bay leaf or thyme. Cook, stirring, until mixture starts to sizzle, a minute or two. Adjust heat so you need to stir at most only every 5 minutes to keep onions from browning as they soften. Do not allow to brown. Cook at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut tomatoes in half and shake out seeds, then cut into 1/2-inch dice. Heat a grill until moderately hot. When onions are very soft, almost a shapeless mass, season fish and grill it, turning once, for a total of about 6 minutes for tuna, 8-10 minutes for swordfish. Check for doneness by making a small cut in center to peek inside.

While fish is grilling, stir olives and tomatoes into onions, and raise heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes liquefy and mixture becomes juicy. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve fish on a bed of onion confit, whole fish cut into serving portions.

Reach Bill St John at bsjpost@gmail.com.

Greeley youth show appreciation for retail employees during Black Friday weekend

Nathaniel Morris, right, delivers a gift bag of baked goods to Sprouts employees on Sunday during Bake of Love. (Kelsy Schlotthauer/kschlotthauer@greeleytribune.com)

While most people were still recovering from overstuffed Thanksgiving bellies or out relentlessly searching for the best deal on their next Christmas gift, about a dozen teenagers set out to bring joy to a group often overlooked during the holiday season: retail workers.

For about four hours Sunday, Northern Colorado Youth For Christ delivered baked goods to employees who faced the chaos of Black Friday sales.

Although The Refuge, NCYFC’s indoor skatepark in Greeley, has made the rounds for 13 years, it was volunteer Taylor Henderson’s first time to join in the joy-bringing festivities known as Bake of Love. Henderson, 18, said she loves to bake in her free time and thought baked goods served as a perfect segue into the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“It’s really important to go out and show businesses and especially people working the holidays away from their families that they are cared for,” Henderson said.

Taylor Henderson, right, packages baked goods for the 13th annual Bake of Love on Sunday at Higher Grounds. (Kelsy Schlotthauer/kschlotthauer@greeleytribune.com)

Jeff Neel and his wife, Becca, of The Refuge, started Bake of Love in 2004, when they realized there were more people in retail stores than church around Christmas.

The idea was familiar: In his college years, Neel said he would deliver baked goods anonymously all the time to bring people cheer. Most of the time, Neel said, it would work out well, but sometimes it wouldn’t. Years later, he said he found out a church he had regularly delivered goods to thought someone had been trying to poison them for years.

At The Refuge, Neel said staff tries to teach kids to look for ways to improve the environment they find themselves in, and Bake of Love is a great example of that.

Hundreds of volunteer-baked cookies and snacks, including gluten-free options, lined the counter at youth drop-off center Higher Grounds, 134 11th Ave., on Sunday, ready to be packaged. Neel said they had some help from local businesses, too. Batter Up Cakes, 802 9th St., donated 1,000 baked goods for volunteers to distribute to 50 stores, Neel said.

Their goal was to reach about 120 stores, Neel said, a stark difference from the first year’s goal of 10. By the end of the day, the volunteers had delivered to 122 stores.

Since the first Bake of Love, Neel said the idea has expanded to area churches and organizations, such as Journey Christian Church and Frontier Academy’s Key Club, and there are even groups in Florida, California and Texas that have followed suit.

Big 5 Sporting Goods Sales Associate Madelyn Fairbrother receives a bag of baked goods from Taylor Henderson on Sunday during Bake of Love. (Kelsy Schlotthauer/kschlotthauer@greeleytribune.com)

Neel said stores react differently. Some bring out their managers and make a show of their gratitude, and others express thanks before hastily returning to work.

“Someone’s almost always in tears,” Neel said, adding that the time puts immense pressure on sales associates.

Jared Nelson, Higher Grounds’ director, said the event is an excellent opportunity for the kids who come to The Refuge and the center to give back. They’re a group sometimes marginalized in society, he said, but staff at The Refuge and Higher Grounds instill values in them when they come around.

“You might not have a lot,” Nelson said. “But you can still give.”

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Ina Garten on her new cookbook, visit to Denver and the joy of simple food

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan from “Cook Like a Pro” by Ina Garten. (Provided by Clarkson Potter

For nearly 20 years, prolific cookbook author and TV host Ina Garten has perfected the art of creating elegant yet casual home-cooked meals.

She has persuaded cooks and amateurs alike in her unruffled, “how easy is that,” style, that they, too, can produce a spread as perfect as the one she serves her friends, or husband, Jeffrey Garten, on her shows and in her cookbooks.

It’s what Garten does best. The self-taught cook with the trademark pearl earrings and blue denim shirt is the creative force behind the best-selling Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and the award-winning Food Network TV series. Her brand is a unique blend of simple yet refined recipes prepared and artfully plated for friends and family in the cozy comfort of home.

In her latest book, “Cook Like a Pro, Recipes & Tips For Home Cooks” (Clarkson Potter, Oct. 24, 2018), Garten sets out to help home cooks feel more confident while preparing food that “looks and tastes like it was homemade by professionals.”

“It’s still home cooking, which is what I do,” Garten said. But there are “teachable moments” sprinkled throughout the book to ease the stress for cooks who need help with her recipes. “I’ve learned that a happy, relaxed host is the most important ingredient at any gathering,” said Garten, who is scheduled to be at the Paramount Theatre in Denver on Dec. 4.

Garten spoke to The Denver Post in October from her New York City apartment, where she tests recipes twice a week. Her office, TV studio and main test kitchen are in East Hampton, N.Y.

“Cook Like a Pro” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, October 2018)

The inspiration for her latest book grew out of her online Ask Ina web page in which she responds to cooking and entertaining questions.

Like her 10 previous books, all best-sellers, Garten’s latest is filled with full-page color photographs of recipes such as Autumn Sangria with cinnamon sticks and Apple Brandy. It is the first recipe in the book and comes with a tip on how to seed a pomegranate. (Cut the fruit in half holding it over a bowl or a piece of parchment paper, whack the skin a few times with a wooden spoon and voila.) Garten notes that the sangria recipe was borrowed from chef Bobby Flay.

In fact, Garten has been a judge on the “Beat Bobby Flay” reality TV show and Flay has appeared on her show. ”I love Bobby and … he’s asked me to be a judge a few times. It’s really fun, but as far as being a contestant there’s no way I would beat Bobby Flay,” she said.

There also is no way she wants to compete in any of the fast-paced, high-pressure chef competitions, nor does she worry that those shows compete against her more traditional show.

“I pretty much stick to what I do. I don’t look at what other people are doing,” she said. “The truth is I love writing cookbooks and the TV show is fantastic to do.”

Garten had no training in the food business when, in 1978 at the age of 30, she made a dramatic career leap from nuclear energy budget analyst with the Office of Management and Budget at the White House to owner of a specialty food store, called the Barefoot Contessa, on Long Island, N.Y. She had taught herself to cook for friends and her husband, Jeffrey, in Washington, D.C., using Julia Child’s cookbooks, but she had no experience running a business or professionally preparing large takeout entrees for strangers.

Over the course of 18 years, she learned many painful lessons as she built a hugely successful business. In this new book, she writes about peeling 40 pounds of butternut squash or baking 50 chocolate cakes in one day because a baker didn’t show up. One of the most valuable lessons she learned was what people really wanted to eat at home. It wasn’t the lavish meals that one might order at a high-end restaurant.

Cookbook author Ina Garten and her husband, Jeffrey, at the TIME 100 Gala in New York on April 21, 2015. (Evan Agostini, Invision/AP)

In the beginning, when she made fancy take-out dishes like pork loin stuffed with prunes marinated in a French brandy or fresh chickens on a bed of fresh herbs, “nobody would buy them,” she said.

“And I thought, ‘People want really simple food,’ (so) I just made a platter of roast chickens,” she said. ”I would make big salads and roast carrots and mashed potatoes and I learned very quickly that’s what people want to serve at home.”

The lessons of simplicity, flavor and accessibility, with ingredients available at the grocery store, proved invaluable when she began writing recipes for her cookbooks.

“I realized the fact that I don’t have a professional culinary education ironically worked in my favor because I know how hard it is to cook,” she said. “It’s still hard for me. I’m still completely stressed out just making roasted chicken because I want it to turn out perfectly.”

A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Garten grew up in the 1950s in Stamford, Conn., where her surgeon father had his practice. It was the era of Wonder Bread, canned food and casseroles. Her mother did all the cooking, which was nutritious but not fancy, while her job was to study. “I remember wanting to cook because I was always searching for flavor,” she said.

To this day, she said, her recipes are “all about flavor.”

“In my recipes, every ingredient has to pull its own weight, and I want the flavors to be perfectly layered so no one flavor smacks you in the head while the next one is so subtle that you hardly notice it,” she said.

In her new book, Garten works her flavor magic with simple touches: a splash of red wine on her Chicken Marbella marinade, a squeeze of lemon on her Pork Souvlaki and a sprinkle of orange zest on her Orange-Roasted Rainbow Carrots. A spot of coffee brings out the flavor in her Chocolate Chevron Cake.

In the early 1970s, newly married to Jeffrey, who was in the military, Garten lived in various places, including Colorado Springs for six months. (Fans know Jeffrey, a Yale University dean emeritus, from her shows and cookbooks.)

“I used to come to Denver all the time,” Garten said. “We had friends who lived in Breckenridge … (and) we’d go skiing with them.”

She first encountered high-altitude baking while trying to make danish with yeast. “It kept rising and rising and I couldn’t get it to stop,” she said. “I ended up with the biggest danish I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“I do know how hard high-altitude baking is,” she added, “but since I can’t test it at sea level, I refer people to a chart on the internet that’s helpful.”

Garten has been praised by people in the food industry for sticking to proper technique and thoroughly testing her recipes — practices that grew out of her scientific background.

“I start with an idea and then I test it … and I’m very specific and deliberate about it, the way a scientist would test something. Except I end up with red wine braised short ribs instead of nuclear material,” she said with a laugh. After testing a recipe as many as 20 times, she hands it off to team members to retest at home so she can see what mistakes might be made, and what editing is needed.

Garten sold her specialty food store in 1996, thinking, “it’s probably the end of my professional career, and little did I know it hadn’t even started yet.” In 1999, she published her first cookbook, “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook,” with an introduction by Martha Stewart. It quickly sold more than a million copies, marking the start of her career as an author and her entrée into the culinary big leagues. The Food Network quickly came calling and, after turning them down several times, she agreed to host her own show in 2002.

Nowadays, Garten, 70, is happy with her life and wants to keep doing what she’s doing. It’s a lifestyle that leaves “time to myself and time to spend with Jeffrey,” she said.

She listens to music while she cooks – from Motown to Taylor Swift and music from Paris, where she has a home – “music that’s upbeat and fun.”

And she carefully nurtures her brand, which contributes to a diverse fan base – from people on her Ask Ina web page to those in fur coats on New York’s Madison Avenue who greet her with an ‘Oh, darling, love your cookbooks,” and truck drivers who holler out the window, “Hey, babe, love your show.’ ”

She is working on book No. 12. “I’m just at a point in my life where if I can just keep doing these two things (writing cookbooks and hosting her TV show). I’d be happy to do it until they drag me out by my feet,” she laughed.


Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

From “Cook Like a Pro,” by Ina Garten.

Serves 6

Most recipes for eggplant Parmesan require that you fry the eggplant, which leaves my kitchen — and me! — a greasy mess. Instead, I roast the eggplant, and it’s so much better. The rest is just layering the eggplant with lots of tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella, and a little tangy goat cheese. I particularly love the crunchy, garlicky bread crumbs on top.

Ingredients

2½ pounds eggplant, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
¼ to 1/8 inch thick
¾ cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce, such as Rao’s
½ cup julienned fresh basil leaves
1 pound fresh buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
8 ounces garlic and herb goat cheese, such as Montrachet
1½ cups freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese

For the topping:
1¹⁄³ cups fresh bread crumbs from a country loaf
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh basil or parsley leaves
¼ cup good olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange three racks evenly spaced.

Lay the eggplant in one layer on three sheet pans and brush both sides with olive oil, using all the oil. Sprinkle with the oregano, crushing it lightly in your hands, then sprinkle with 1½ tablespoons salt and 1½ teaspoons pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the slices and rotate the pans in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, until tender. Leave the oven at 400 degrees.

In a 10×14×2-inch ceramic baking dish, spread ¹⁄₃ of the marinara sauce. Arrange a third of the eggplant on top in one layer. Scatter a third of the basil, a third of the mozzarella, a third of the goat cheese, and a third of the Parmesan on top. Repeat twice, starting with the marinara and ending with the Parmesan, making sure each layer is evenly distributed.

For the topping, place the bread crumbs, garlic, and basil in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the ¼ cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt and pulse to moisten the crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dish.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown. Allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

IF YOU GO

Ina Garten is appearing at the Paramount for a talk about her new cookbook, “Cook Like a Pro,” followed by a Q&A on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for $49.50 to  $69.50 are available at altitudtickets.com.

PHOTOS: Inside Denver Christmas pop-up bar Miracle at Avanti

It’s a miracle on Pecos Street.

The Christmas pop-up bar that first hit Denver last year in the form of Miracle on Little Raven is officially open for business at Avanti Food & Beverage.

So, is the sequel better than the original? You be the judge.

The Avanti crew estimates they put in 250-300 hours prepping and decorating the back bar space, transforming it into a modern, hipster, Christmassy wonderland.

Last year’s Christmas bar inspired holiday die-hards to wait hours for drinks like the Gingerbread Flip and Jingle Ball Nog, but Avanti is hoping to make the process a little easier this year. The popular food hall is, after all, very used to massive volume and turnover.

New this year for Miracle at Avanti Wolf Bar is a reservation line, where you can call in and book your group ahead. Avanti general manager Dan Wyman said that they’d be filling the 94 seats via 25 percent reservations and 75 percent walk-ins.  

In the first three-and-a-half-hour period that the reservation line was open, Wyman said they had more than 300 phone calls. So, yeah, people like the Christmas bar.

You can also add yourself to the waitlist from anywhere via Yelp Waitlist and check live wait times from the cozy comfort of your own home, which probably doesn’t include an animatronic Santa and that’s why you’re going to the Christmas bar in the first place.

Here’s what you’ll find at Denver’s Miracle 2.0:

  • A bow-tastic selfie wall, but do you really need us to tell you that there would be a selfie wall?
  • An inflatable, animatronic Santa that we estimate will last only a few hours before someone who’s had one too many Snowball Old Fashioneds sits on his lap and turns him into sad, deflated Santa.
  • A Christmas light, ornament and snowflake strewn ceiling that really does create a magical atmosphere.
  • Holiday movies on the TV and music on the speakers, if you can hear them above your fellow Christmas bar revelers.
  • Everything else you expect from Christmas décor: garland, stars, stockings, trees, bells, presents, snow globes and wreaths.

Miracle at Avanti Wolf Bar is open through Dec. 23. Closed Thanksgiving, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14. Hours: Mon-Thurs. 5 p.m. to closing; Sat.-Sun 3 p.m.-closing. Reservations taken at 720-269-4778. miraclepopup.com.

Basis is the Front Range startup looking to disrupt the sports-drink market

Two Denver entrepreneurs are fueling up against mainstream sports drinks with a natural, low-sugar alternative. Basis is looking to compete with drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade and Smart Water, with natural ingredients that provide five times the electrolytes that Gatorade has. The company was founded by Henry Springer and Kyle Nowak in November 2015. The two were tired of having no low-sugar electrolyte-rich options to combat dehydration and altitude sickness. The two found that their best option was Pedialyte — made for infants — but that lacked on taste. “We wanted to make something better than these options,” Springer told BizWest. “So we made a drink that was low in sugar and used sea salt and monk fruit. We wanted to make something we would feel comfortable consuming.” When it came to recipes, Basis turned to the World Health Organization and its hydration therapies for people suffering from severe dehydration. The therapy uses large quantities of water, sugar and salt. Basis drinks are a toned-down version of what the World Health Organization recommends. While water is still one of the best things to drink, Springer said a key indicator of dehydration is sweating. If a person is sweating, then they need to refill their body with electrolytes. But to do that, the option is often Gatorade, a drink with 28 grams of sugar versus Basis’ four grams. Basis drinks also include no artificial ingredients. Neither Springer nor Nowak were experts in beverage production, however, so they met with a designer for packaging and researched how to make beverages. For their first run in 2016, they produced 80 cases of one flavor and handed it out at yoga and cycle studios to get feedback. They then reformulated and started partnering with independent retailers along the Front Range to start selling Basis drinks at their stores. Basis’ big break came when both Lucky’s and Whole Foods picked up the products. Basis is now available in 28 Whole Foods in the Rocky Mountain region and four Lucky’s stores, with more on the way. It’s currently demonstrating its products seven days a week at various stores and athletic events. There are three flavors: Cran Raspberry, Blackberry Lemon and Grapefruit Melon, all made with natural ingredients and flavors. The company was also a competitor at Naturally Boulder’s Pitch Slam competition, the first pitch contest in which Springer had participated. He said Naturally Boulder has been an invaluable resource as the company looks to expand its distribution along the Front Range. “This is 100 percent my passion,” Springer told BizWest. “I’ve been trying to be an entrepreneur my whole life. This is the farthest I’ve gotten with a company, and I plan to see it through and give it my all.” Springer thinks the brand has tapped into something: At natural-products stores, there is very little competition in the sports drinks category. It’s just the organic version of the mainstream products, which is essentially the same product with healthy-looking packaging. “The grocery space is uber competitive and […]

The post Basis is the Front Range startup looking to disrupt the sports-drink market appeared first on BizWest.

Greeley, Windsor area restaurants open on Thanksgiving

Unable or unwilling to cook this Thanksgiving?

Whether you had a kitchen emergency or you simply have no desire to add the stress of cooking to your holiday, these restaurants should have you covered:

  • Ambrosia Asian Bistro, 3636 10th St., No. 1. in Greeley: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; (970) 392-2925
  • Golden Corral, 3035 23rd Ave. in Greeley: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; (970) 330-1014
  • IHOP, 2701 29th St. in Greeley: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; (970) 339-3334
  • Tasty Kitchen Chinese, 811 23rd St. in Greeley: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; (970) 352-9018
  • Village Inn, 921 30th Ave. in Greeley: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.; (970) 356-5449
  • Village Inn, 4318 CenterPlace Drive in Greeley: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.; (970) 353-5187
  • Crossroads Tavern and Grille at The Summit, 4455 N. Fairgrounds Ave. in Windsor: 3 p.m. to midnight; (970) 663-6363

Restaurants recommend calling ahead for reservations.