Beans and suds is back!! I hope you missed me as I have missed you, faithful readers. I’ve given you all time to start (and finish) your kick-off-the-new-year-right detox programs. Hopefully you had enough time to clear out the sins of the holiday season and your break from toxins is over, so we can get back to the business of caffeine, alcohol and food.
There’s a local gal I know who started a business called Local Table Tours. It’s not her only business, so if you know anyone who needs help with their espanol, check out her “Spanish by the Hour.” The fact that Megan also offers “Cocktail Tours” and “Coffee Tours” may leave you wondering why it’s taken beans and suds so long to write about her. It’s a match made in heaven, clearly.
Table Tours also run in Denver, but it’s unlikely any of my Boulder peeps would venture that far outside “the bubble,” especially given the reactions I get when I tell people I go to Denver to get my hair done. WHA?! Yeah, you heard me. I go ALL the way to Denver to get my hair cut. And I don’t think it’s crazy, though I will admit that the fact that I take my favorite 10 year old to Denver to have HER hair done may be…..
But I digress yet again. For more information on my rockstar stylist (that’s what we call them in the city) contact me directly or leave word in the comment field.
Megan Bucholz is the owner of Local Table Tours, and she is great. So, for an end of the year holiday thank you to a few of my friends who were really awesome to me in 2011, I scheduled a private Table Tour for six. We met on Pearl Street at 3pm one Friday afternoon, not sure what to expect and with no idea where Megan was going to take us.
First stop: Kitchen Next Door
(So far, so good. And the little sign on the table was for us. Good news! I hope we get kale chips)
Sidebar: I love kale chips. I started making them a few years ago and thought “Wow. This town is really starting to rub off on me,” and I imagined any one of my friends back home thinking (read: saying), “What the F is a kale chip? Seriously? I don’t even know who you are right now.” So I don’t talk to them about kale chips. Their loss, because they are sooo good. And good for you! I make mine by tearing the kale into large pieces (leave out the tough middle and bottom stem), tossing the pieces with plenty of olive oil and sea salt, laying the pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet and baking them at 350 until crispy and delicious. Use lacitano kale for best results. Or dino kale, which may well be the same thing. You’ll love them, and you’re welcome.
But the Kitchen Next Door takes the kale chip to a different level. I wanted to know why theirs are so much better than mine, so I asked. Turns out, the “KND” flash-fries theirs in peanut oil. Yes they do. If you go to the KND, order the kale chips. For reals. They are amazingly crispy, salty and delicious. But be warned, if you are on a date or with someone you are otherwise trying to impress, these crunchy bites of salty deliciousness disintegrate in your mouth, so it’s possible your teeth will be covered with dark green flecks. Now you know, but I say live on the edge, and order them anyway.
(Funkworks beer and a glass of the Kitchen’s own red)
Back to our Table Tour. The KND did serve us kale chips!! And some other amazing delights, such as ham and cheese fritters (the grown up and way more delicious version of the ole mozzarella stick) and grilled rosemary lardo flatbread. Our server also brought us a Funkworks beer, from a new brewery in Fort Collins, and a glass of the Kitchen red, blended by their ownselves in Napa. He also described the preparation of our vittles in some detail, which I must now admit I did not fully absorb because I was too busy absorbing all the heavenly food and drink, and doing that eye roll thing that translates roughly into “OH MY GOD, can you believe how good this is? Because I’m in heaven.”
(I did not move fast enough to take pictures of the kale chips, lardo flatbread or the fritters. This picture shows how much we loved them, though)
As if that were not enough, they brought us a plate of beet sliders with arugula and goat cheese. And a plate of mini lamb burgers. This cat can’t deal with lamb, unless it’s in gyro form, as it evokes memories of Sunday dinner at my irish grandmother’s house with a huge, overcooked, grey, rubbery roast lamb with mint jelly. Awful. I’ll get over it some day, but that day has not come yet. People dug the lamb burgers and the shredded beet sliders were pretty tasty as well! It helps to like beets, which I do. Unlike the lamb thing, I have recovered from the sliced up boiled beets my mom used to serve. You know what I’m talking about, the kind that drooled their juices all over everything else on your plate.
(Not the lamb and beets you hated as a kid)
At this point I am having such a fabulous time with our guide Megan, filling us in with interesting tidbits, great food and drink, and awesome friends. I’m also thinking I can’t eat anymore, which is a problem, as this is only our first stop.
But then our server appears with some house-made chocolate chip cookie sandwiches filled with vanilla gelato. Read that again. And then ask yourself if you could make room for that kind of thing. We did.
At this point we really don’t want to leave the KND, but the boss says it’s time as we are already running a little behind schedule. If not for Megan, I’m fairly certain we’d have grown roots and stayed drinking, if not eating, until they turned off the lights. Well done, Kitchen Next Door!
Next stop: Savory Spice Shop
I remember wondering why we’d want to go there, but this isn’t Megan’s first Table Tour, and I’ve been working with my therapist on my control issues anyway, so what the hell.
This place is awesome!
Spices, salts and seasonings….Oh my!
The owner of the Boulder store (located on Broadway just north of Pearl), Dan Hayward, gave us a short rundown of his business, which is essentially “to provide locals with a super fresh, yet affordable, option for high-quality spices and seasoning.” This store is so chock full of beautiful displays, it makes you want to fill up your bag with goodies and rush home to cook something. If you have a “foodie” in your life, or just someone who likes to cook, get thee to Savory Spice and choose from any of the gift sets. I promise you they will not be disappointed. I bought some “Black Truffle Italian Sea Salt,” and I sprinkle it on everything from popcorn to eggs to salads to a turkey sandwich. It’s delightful.
We didn’t have long to shop, but most of us bought something and were pleasantly surprised to find the prices in line with what you’d pay at the grocery store….and for fresh and inspiring alternatives to the spice aisle!
But the boss says it’s time to go, again.
Stop three: Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant
The food was unique, beautifully presented and delicious! The little nibbles arranged on a rectangular plate were as delightful to look at as they were to eat. The interior of Leaf is also very clean and soothing, almost like a spa.
We all loved the tempura fried avocado slice, served with mango atop a patty of black rice. There was also a cashew ricotta lettuce wrap, which was great. And if you’re into dates, which I admit I am not, they had a big one stuffed with blue cheese. These were all very creative and beautiful vegetarian offerings….and certainly nothing I’d prepare at home. I’m so glad Megan took us to Leaf, and I will be back, especially if I cross paths with a vegetarian I want to impress……
But the time has come for us to leave this peaceful sanctuary…the Pinyon awaits.
Tour stop number four: The Pinyon
I’ve heard a lot about The Pinyon and its famous fried chicken. I’ve been meaning to get here, and here we are! It’s quiet now, as we are coming during restaurant downtime, after lunch (which they just started serving) and before dinner. We sit at the bar, which our hostess assures us is the place to be. Megan recommends coming in for a late dinner and bellying up to the bar to enjoy The Pinyon at its best.
And we are about to discover why…
Chef Theo Adley. That’s why.
Chef Theo is as charismatic and personable a chef as you’ll find anywhere. He explained The Pinyon’s philosophy as “we complicate simple dishes and simplify complicated dishes.” I like it! He also explained the process behind their famous, and rightly so, fried chicken. “The chicken is a humble bird and the most under appreciated protein. We elevate the bird.” Yes you do, Chef.
The Pinyon starts with a local chicken and first they quarter it. They then apply an “aggressive amount” of kosher salt for the brining process. Stage two is a chili and garlic paste rubdown, after which the chicken is drowned in buttermilk, “like little bags of chicken tea” and left to steep for 18 hours or so.
They use potato flour for frying, to create “blooming florets of awesomeness,” which is awesome for those of us who are gluten-free. Next this Georgia-style fried chicken rolls around in a proprietary spice blend before landing “in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” a boiling cauldron of clarified butter (the expensive stuff on the top shelf of the fridge at Whole Foods, for those of us not in the know) and duck fat. The Pinyon serves this insane chicken atop a scallion pancake with house-made syrup.
(Chef Theo calls the signature fried chicken “the gateway drug to The Pinyon”)
Chef is from the east coast and came to Boulder to attend CU, just like me, though unlike me, he’s only in his late 20’s. He is already making a name for himself and his restaurant- his first, I might add.
Oh and the fried chicken, which is why we are all here….
I am having a moment with this chicken. And I was already full when we got here. I don’t think I could eat another bite, but to leave even a morsel of this chicken on my plate seems very wrong. We all agree on this, so you don’t have to take my word for it. If you know what’s good for you…..well, maybe not good for you, but insanely delicious…get to The Pinyon and order yourself up some fried chicken. I think in my euphoric state I may have asked for (and been granted) a job at The Pinyon. I may have to follow up on that, as the writing of this particular stop on the Tour is conjuring up such happiness for me right now. Maybe they’ll pay me in fried chicken. And I’ll work until I can’t fit through the front door anymore, or until I die of cardiac arrest.
Oh Megan, please don’t make us go. I can’t eat anymore, I’m really enjoying this gin/beer concoction even though I don’t like gin, and I’m afraid I could not move from this barstool even if I wanted to, which I do not. Important to note: since our outing, The Pinyon has started serving Sunday brunch, and, wait for it…. happy hour! I was hoping that would happen!!
Well it is time to go. Nothing lasts forever. I think Megan said something about cupcakes….
Final stop: Tee and Cakes
This has been an amazingly fun evening, full of laughter with a handful of my favorite people. I couldn’t ask for better food, drink, or company. And to think, if not for Megan we would never have left the Kitchen Next Door. So thank you, Megan. I apologize if I did any eye-rolling or sighing when you told us we had to move on….
The cupcakes are tiny, which is good because everyone is pretty full of fried chicken and all the rest. I’m not a cupcake person, but if you are swing by Tee and Cakes to partake of some sweet, bite sized delights. Our holiday assortment included peppermint, eggnog, gingerbread and black and white.
What a great time we had! I cannot say enough good things about Local Table Tours. I’m now anxious to get out there and try out a Cocktail Tour, and perhaps a Coffee Tour. I love all those things!! And Megan is fabulous. I hope this blog has inspired you all to book yourself a “Tour”…. it was a highlight of my holiday season, and something I think I may make an annual tradition. To get yourself on the guest list, remember to keep reading, recommend the blog to your friends, and my birthday is in April……