Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Whistle Pig Brewing plans to expand to a Templeton Gap Road location, pending city's neighborhood variance approval

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 2:11 PM

Whistle Pig's marmot mascot, Brewster, with a crowler and pint. - COURTESY WHISTLE PIG BREWING
  • Courtesy Whistle Pig Brewing
  • Whistle Pig's marmot mascot, Brewster, with a crowler and pint.

Whistle Pig Brewing Company (1840 Dominion Way, facebook.com/whistlepigbrewing), now in its 5th year, plans to expand to a second location at 2107 Templeton Gap Road, #130. That’s the same shopping center in which Sasquatch Cookies recently opened; as well there’s another Joey’s Pizza location (joeysnypizza.com) planned for the center.

Co-founder and co-master brewer Eric Merrell (his business partner is Rob Beers — yes that’s a real last name) says they hope to be open by late July or August, but currently they’re holding on a variance with the city because they’re less than 200 feet from residential units that have expressed concerns such as noise and parking. "They were concerned it would change the family nature of the neighborhood," says Merrell. "We responded that we're family-friendly ... people don't always understand that breweries aren't like bars; it's not the same clientele."

So, assuming all goes well and they get a green light — the landlord's hopeful as they've already hung a banner out front — Whistle Pig will move brewing operations over, as this space offers a brew area that would be more than three times larger than the current 400 square feet they brew in with a four-barrel system. They’d purchase a new seven-barrel system, accordingly.

“We’re maxed out at our current location,” says Merrell, noting they doubled capacity last year from two to four barrels and had inquired about a neighboring storefront that didn't work out. “If we can’t grow here, we’ve gotta grow somewhere else.”

The new space would host a similar sized tap room, but expand from the current 12 taps to 18 or 20, to include house hard seltzers plus more rotating seasonals and experimental beers, which Merrell defines as something outside of what they normally do, such as a recent imperial stout with cayenne pepper or a California Common.

He says they'd likely do more single-hop IPAs, and barrel-aged beers as well. Current bestsellers include IPAs, such as the flagship Code IV Double IPA and Blue Line IPA, named in honor of law enforcement, and seasonals like a summer-timed Black IPA. With more tap space and brewing capacity, Merrell says the seasonals (which include a winter oatmeal stout and St. Patrick's Day-timed wee heavy Scottish ale) could potentially stick around longer.

This new Whistle Pig would also serve a limited food menu with panini sandwiches and the like, prepped at the current location. They envision also having a relationship with Joey's Pizza to offer pizza on site, since it'd be a neighbor.

Beers and Merrell have been friends for more than 35 years, having graduated Palmer High School together. When Whistle Pig first opened, the Indy gave it a tough, critical review, noting several poorly executed beers.  A year later, we reported a move in the right direction. And more recently, anecdotally, I've heard of continued improvement.

I asked Merrell about that evolution and early bumpiness, and he concedes "we had a huge learning curve, we had our issues, and we worked diligently to overcome them all."

Merrell says he went for a certificate at the Master Brewers Association of the Americas in Madison, Wisconsin last year. "My knowledge increased a lot," he says. "A lot of things I already knew of course, but some of the stuff I learned, I was like 'uh-huh, now I know why that happened.' Now, if something goes wring, I can tell exactly what happened and fix it." 
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Crystal Park Cantina reopened as of Cinco De Mayo with mini margarita pitchers, plus more food news

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 9:46 AM

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  • Shutterstock.com

Mash Mechanix Brewing (mashmechanix.com), aiming to open at 429 E. Pikes Peak Ave. in mid-July, tentatively. The name pays homage to motorhead culture: “we grew up gearheads,” says co-founder/brewmaster Leif Anderson, who enjoys “making everything, mastering a style and moving on.” Look for 13 house beer taps fed by a 3-barrel system, but no set flagship brews. “We’ll open with what we like,” says Anderson, “with a broad offering, and rotate taps quickly to feel out our customers ... our focus will be a brew for everyone here... everything from lagers to ales.” 

FH Beerworks East (2490 Victor Place, fieldhousebrew.com) will host its third Car Seat Cinema night Saturday, May 23 at 8:30 p.m. with a showing of The Goonies. Vehicle spots cost $15; pre-purchase to-go beers the day of at fieldhousebrew.com/shop; they’ll be delivered to your car near the movie’s end; bring snacks and non-alcoholic drinks; bathrooms available and “all social distancing recommendations will be enforced.” 

Crystal Park Cantina (178 Crystal Park Road, Manitou Springs, crystalparkcantina.com) reopened for to-go service on Cinco de Mayo, having initially opted to go dark during the on-site restaurant service cessation under COVID-19 policy. Current hours (“until dining returns”) are noon to 7 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday. Mini pitchers (four drinks) of house margaritas are available (as are single orders) and the limited food menu includes taco kits in three size options.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Coquette’s Bistro announced a closure and downsizing — then their loyal customers effectively talked them out of it

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2020 at 1:00 AM

FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo

Coquette’s Bistro, the local gluten-free mecca, announced a couple weeks ago that it would be closing, with a plan to downsize and offer minimal services in the wake of COVID-19. “We had a building in mind, the whole deal,” says co-owner Michelle Marx.

Then they were inundated with comments and letters of support from more than 1,500 loyal customers. “We were blown away,” she says. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Suffice to say, it got their attention, and got her and her daughter/co-owner Turu to rethink their plan. “We want to be there for people so we can all grow back together,” says Marx. 

What exactly that’ll look like remains a work in progress, given updated restaurant guidelines from the state and ongoing considerations as the pandemic remains a threat. But Coquette’s Bistro will be back online as of May 15, three months ahead of its 11th anniversary.

Look for the bakery to return with all bakery items rolling out over time, and a limited restaurant menu to include “all the favorites,” says Marx.

They’re getting an online ordering system ready for smooth to-go operations, and they’re eying their patio space with the possible addition of a tent when limited sit-down service eventually returns — with health and safety as the priority. 

Location Details Coquette's Bistro and Bakery
616 S. Tejon St.
Downtown
Colorado Springs, CO
685-2420
Café/Sandwich and Bakeries
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Friday, May 8, 2020

Mash Mechanix Brewing aiming for mid-July opening downtown

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2020 at 10:05 AM

COURTESY MASH MECHANIX BREWING
  • Courtesy Mash Mechanix Brewing

Breweries are taking as much of a battering as restaurants and bars due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some beginning to fold under pressure. Locally, our scene lost Iron Bird Brewing this past week.

And yet with all the gloomy news, some entities are moving forward as confidently as possible with their plans to stay alive and thrive. And we've just learned of a new brewery that plans to open in the in mid-July tentatively.

Meet Mash Mechanix Brewing, to be located at 429 E. Pikes Peak Ave. (diagonally across the street from 1350 Distilling) in a renovated, 100-plus-year-old building that's been everything from a turn-of-the-20th-century dairy to a church, tattoo studio and scooter shop in more recent years. 

The co-founders behind it are: Leif Anderson, also the brewmaster and a D-11 middle school science teacher by day; Ryan Close, who also works in IT; and Kevin Olsen, the "construction manager extraordinaire" of the project. Anderson and Close have been pals since grade school, who "grew up gear-heads, always fixing things, making them better and building our own stuff," says Anderson. Hence the name Mash Mechanix, to pay homage to motorhead culture.

Here, that means building out some of their own custom equipment — such as tap handles from old Nascar engine parts — as well as developing their own recipes of standard styles. Anderson has won numerous awards at regional homebrewing competitions in the eight years he's been making beer. "I will brew anything," he says. "I enjoy making everything, mastering a style and moving on."

COURTESY MASH MECHANIX BREWING
  • Courtesy Mash Mechanix Brewing

Anderson says they're also focusing a lot of attention on rehabilitating the building, "bringing it back to its original splendor inside." He says they've been able to repurpose many materials, including church pews from a defunct church in Denver's Washington Park area as well as wood (to be used for tables) from a former bowling alley in Fountain.

Mash Mechanix will be brewing on a 3-barrel system and plans to open with 16 taps: 13 devoted to house beers; one for root beer, another for just CO2 for growler fills (they'll also sell crowlers); and the third for cold water for non-drinkers.

Anderson says he's not planning to define flagships out of the gate, but rather wants guests to pick favorites from a rotating list of beers he'll brew. "We'll open with what we like," he says, "with a broad offering, and rotate taps quickly to feel out our customers ... our focus will be a brew for everyone here... everything from lagers to ales."

Also look for regular food truck service on site. "We're excellent cooks, but we'd rather make beer," jokes Anderson, who says he's focusing on the silver lining when it comes to the timing of opening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: "It's unfortunate, but it's given us the time to really focus on opening correctly," he says. 
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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

SOCO Virtual Farmers Market offers shopping to directly support Colorado farmers, Ranchers and craft food producers

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2020 at 1:00 AM

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  • Shutterstock.com

“When you shop at SOCO Virtual Farmers Market [localline.ca/soco-virtual-farmers-market] you are buying DIRECTLY from the farms/ranchers and craft food producers... They receive 90% of that selling price. This is a reversal of the margin they can achieve compared to the latest USDA study that shows that farms on average only receive 14.6% of the selling price from traditional stores.”

That’s the vital info on SOCO VFM’s website, a smart alternative to in-person farmers markets in the era of COVID-19.

Order between noon Monday and noon Thursday for pickup on Saturdays at the Ranch Foods Direct Warehouse and Retail Store (4635 Town Center Drive).

Nearly 50 vendors are participating with products ranging from grass-fed beef to pet food, honey, tea, tamales, bread, soap and much more.

Big Red F Restaurant Group (bigredf.com) will follow up on its April 29 donation day by again giving out 300 packages (for a total of 600 meals) of food on Wednesday, May 13, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Jax Fish House Colorado Springs (11. S. Tejon St.).

“These meals are for anyone in need, and we’re aiming to reach our brothers and sisters in the restaurant industry that have been furloughed,” says PR & Marketing Manager Callie Sumlin.

Check out our April 22 article on how the Colorado Springs Bartenders’ Guild has launched Serving the Springs: A Food & Supply Drive for the Colorado Springs Hospitality Industry.


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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Big Red F/Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar host patio pop-ups and industry donation days

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 6:09 PM

Chef/Founder Dave Query personally handed out free meals to industry folks and anyone in need who wished to grab one. Big Red F also donated meals to the Springs Rescue Mission. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Chef/Founder Dave Query personally handed out free meals to industry folks and anyone in need who wished to grab one. Big Red F also donated meals to the Springs Rescue Mission.

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar opened with a bang in the Springs in early January, and had hit stride on Tejon Street before the mid-March order to cease on-site restaurant service due to COVID-19.

Parent company Big Red F Restaurant Group opted to go dark with several of their concepts, keeping only The Post Brewing Company and West End Tavern going with pickup and delivery services. 

Chef/Founder Dave Query says that's because "barbecue and chicken travel well," compared to many of the higher-end items on other company menus. And from what we quickly learned after Jax opened here, quality and consistency means everything to the businesses.

They have also done some "socially distanced patio pop-ups" at various locations where customers can order online and do low-contact pickups on select days. The first pop-up at the Colorado Springs location takes place Saturday, May 2, but they're already sold out for it. Query says there will be more days ahead. (Check their social media pages for updated info regarding the pre-order launch days and pickup days.)

Here's a look at the limited menu:
jax_-_patio_pop_up_may_2.jpg

I caught up with Query in person as he had just finished distributing free meal packages (veggie pasta with cheese and garlic bread) to industry folks and anyone else in need, on Wednesday, April 29 from Jax's C. Springs patio. Roughly 50 meals went to folks who showed up, and roughly another 250 were donated to the Springs Rescue Mission Query tells me. 

The company plans to do another round of donations from 1-3 p.m., Wednesday, May 13 at their C. Springs location as well. ("The meals will be handed out first-come-first-served by the honor system, so no need to show any proof of former employment, ID or anything else," reads a company press release.) 

Jax's Boulder location was the first Colorado restaurant certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, and they remain strongly commitment to sustainably sourced seafood.

Concluding our casual chat, Query made it clear to me that the same mindset of sustainability carries through now in the decision making on how best to take care of Big Red F's enormous staff roster across locations, as well as customers. Ultimately, that's also positioning all the eateries to open up strong when state mandate allows, hence some of the decisions to close certain locations while operating others and popping up in others. 
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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Smiling Toad Brewery got in eight slammin’ days at their new location before shut-down orders came in March, but they’re “very optimistic about the future”

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2020 at 9:39 AM

Few businesses will have a COVID-19 story quite as odd as Smiling Toad Brewery’s (smilingtoadbrewery.com).

Since closing in June 2019 at their former location at 1757 S. Eighth St. (now Happy Tap), co-owner Biff Morehead and crew had been toiling away to launch in their new spot at 2028 Sheldon Ave. (formerly Thirsty’s). They finally opened on March 9, seeing a huge response before on-site shutdown orders came down: “We kicked ass for eight days,” says Morehead. “I’m very optimistic about the future.”

Smiling Toad began brewing at greater volume, having upgraded from a 3- to a 10-barrel system. So, just after their short-lived opening celebration, they’re sitting on a lot of beer — 11 styles currently, including their beloved IPa Freely and Ella Lavender. Guests may bring growlers to be sanitized and filled, and crowlers are also available daily.

Another challenge Morehead notes is how crowler cans have increased in price from around 95 cents a can to $1.77 recently due seemingly to demand, but he doesn’t want to pass costs along to customers during this tough time. Still, “the margins are getting small for us as prices go up.”

Another interesting side note: He says in the symbiotic relationship between breweries and food trucks, the breweries used to support the trucks more, while now it’s the trucks who’re bringing vital business to the breweries. (Smiling Toad hosts several days weekly.) He’s grateful to them, and to “our amazing beer community, supporting us all — I’m overwhelmed.”

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Colorado Springs Bartenders' Guild launches Serving the Springs: A Food & Supply Drive for the Colorado Springs Hospitality Industry

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2020 at 7:21 PM

Not a truck commercial. Instead, members of the CSBG assembled outside Happy Belly Tacos' former downtown location for the first day of giving out goods. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Not a truck commercial. Instead, members of the CSBG assembled outside Happy Belly Tacos' former downtown location for the first day of giving out goods.

The Colorado Springs Chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild just launched an initiative to help take care of members of the hospitality industry during the Coronavirus pandemic.

It's called Serving the Springs, and any industry employees (whether furloughed, working part-time or unemployed) are welcome to take advantage of Wednesday and Saturday supply pickups from 2-5 p.m. at the former Happy Belly Tacos location downtown at 125 N. Spruce St. (While Happy Belly Tacos - East remains open for pickup and delivery, this location closed when service began at Happy Belly Tacos - West in the former Wobbly Olive - West location in Old Colorado City. Chef/co-owner Mark Henry says he may repurpose it into a new concept when restaurant service returns to normal; for now he's donating the space.)
Purple Mountain Coffee and Axe and the Oak donated coffee and spirits, respectively. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Purple Mountain Coffee and Axe and the Oak donated coffee and spirits, respectively.
Local CSBG leadership has "partnered with Shamrock Foods, local chefs and restaurants, distilleries, breweries, coffee roasters, and small businesses to provide a Make-At-Home meal kit, groceries, and essential supplies" according to verbiage on their Facebook page.

Donating organizations for the first round of pickups included: Purple Mountain Coffee Company, Axe and the Oak Distillery and Laws Whiskey House. With ingredients provided by Shamrock Foods, chef Mark Henry prepped the first meal kit: Chicken Cavatappi Alfredo. Other area chefs are invited to prep future meals to contribute. As well, look for live auctions on Facebook and Instagram during upcoming pickup hours so that the public can lend support by buying special gift bags of donated items (with proceeds directed back to Serving the Springs).
Shamrock Foods donated supplies for Happy Belly chef Mark Henry to make Chicken Cavatappi Alfredo to give out to industry folks during the first day of Serving the Springs. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Shamrock Foods donated supplies for Happy Belly chef Mark Henry to make Chicken Cavatappi Alfredo to give out to industry folks during the first day of Serving the Springs.
"Our goal is to keep this going long enough, until it’s no longer needed," says Chapter President Emillio Ortiz of 503W

Chapter Treasurer Dylan Currier of The Archives explains that weekly registration is required in order to pick up a meal kit and goodie bag so that enough supplies can be prepped each Wednesday and Saturday. As well, the group's seeking more donations from any interested food/drink entities in the area.

About 50 kits and bags were given out Wednesday, April 22, but CSBG members hope to ramp up to a couple hundred each donation day, provided enough community support.

Another way the public can participate is by buying a Stir Crazy t-shirt (get it? ... ahem) for $26, with $15 of each sale going directly back to Serving the Springs. You can order online via the above link, or pick one up at Happy Belly during the donation hours.
The front of the fundraising T-shirt, also highlighting at CSBG pin. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The front of the fundraising T-shirt, also highlighting at CSBG pin.

Badass branding courtesy Courtney Caldwell Design Co., with printing assist by Christian De Los Santos of The Bar at Almagre. - With every shirt purchase ($26), $15 will be donated to the CSBG in support of Serving the Springs. Buy one here. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Badass branding courtesy Courtney Caldwell Design Co., with printing assist by Christian De Los Santos of The Bar at Almagre. With every shirt purchase ($26), $15 will be donated to the CSBG in support of Serving the Springs. Buy one here.

About now, you might be wondering what the Colorado Springs Bartenders' Guild does during normal times, when not uniting to help their industry peers. You can read more on the national website, which pretty much captures what's going on locally too, local members tell me. 

But, as explained to me by Ortiz, Currier and Axe and the Oak bartender Zach Sherwood, the CSBG essentially exists as an educational resource, offering accretions for various industry training, such as cicerone or sommelier classes. But for members (who pay an annual $125 fee), there's a whole digital library of resources available too, plus chatrooms and forums for support.

Locally, the group offers "community and camaraderie" with monthly meetings that include presentations and tastings (which will resume when the pandemic allows). Additionally, they do volunteer days in the community and participate in events like the Colorado Restaurant Association Pikes Peak Chapter Taste of Pikes Peak.

"I'm a third generation bartender," says Ortiz. "There was a time it was frowned upon, but now bartending's a legit career path." Entities like the USBG help legitimize that and ensure excellence.
Happy Belly's former spot at 125 N. Spruce St. (currently on hiatus, with chef Mark Henry saying he may introduce a new concept here once restaurant service returns to normal) is acting as the Serving the Springs pickup hub. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Happy Belly's former spot at 125 N. Spruce St. (currently on hiatus, with chef Mark Henry saying he may introduce a new concept here once restaurant service returns to normal) is acting as the Serving the Springs pickup hub.
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Friday, April 17, 2020

All Together (IPA) Now + more food/drink news

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 1:17 PM

On tap as of 11 a.m. Saturday, April 18 at both breweries.
  • On tap as of 11 a.m. Saturday, April 18 at both breweries.

Ahead of the weekend, here's a grab bag of current food and drink news:

Cerberus Brewing Company and Metric Brewing are releasing the collaboratively brewed All Together IPA this weekend to support employees at both companies. (All profits will go directly to them.) The idea hails from Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn, New York, and according to a release put out by Cerberus, nearly 600 breweries across 41 states and 39 countries are making this beer.

“There is an inextricable link that binds together everyone in the hospitality industry. Brewers, servers, bartenders, bussers, dishwashers, GMs, buyers, chefs, owners — we are all in this together," reads a statement by Other Half Brewing. "In this industry, when one of us struggles, the rest of us pick them up. It's baked into who we are.”

The New England-style IPA features a blend of Apollo, Mosaic, Wakatu, Simcoe and Citra hops and comes in at a more than sessionable but less than imperial 6.5 percent ABV. The beer's recipe is open source and its name and artwork are free to use for any brewery wishing to participate.

"As much as this is about raising money, this is also an exercise in awareness so that local communities can understand how daily life has been upended for those that rely on social gathering to make a living," the release notes.

Crowlers will be available on Saturday with limited-edition stickers gifted to buyers as a small gift of appreciation. Relatedly, Metric recently collaborated with local graffiti artist Paes164 on some slick new crowler labels — check these out:
Awesome crowler art by Paes164.
  • Awesome crowler art by Paes164.

• Also in beer haps: FH Beerworks has launched neighborhood deliveries via a new online ordering system. See details on their Facebook page, and check out this below graphic to match your neighborhood with delivery days:
93423789_2675573659236800_4062795069218881536_o.jpg

• In Side Dish, we recently reported on Red Gravy chef Eric Brenner's newly conceived Meals to Heal program, aimed at feeding frontline healthcare workers while stimulating restaurants financially. Other local restaurants have launched some cool community efforts as well; here's just a couple that we've noticed recently: Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. created Extra Helpings, which allows buyers of one meal to gift another to someone else in need for free. And the recently opened ViewHouse has conceived the 200 Meals a Day program, to donate as many meals each day to "local organizations in need that are affected by COVID-19."

Edelweiss Restaurant has joined a handful of other eateries we know of thus far to offer family meal packs and much more beyond their normal menu of fine German cuisine. You can now order online items like: flour, eggs, German rye bread, toilet paper, "culinary essentials" (celery, onion, carrots, potatoes, etc.), nitrile gloves and mixed, cryovaced variety steak packs. 
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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Slinger's Pit Stop set to open, get the Smokehouse back in the marketplace

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2020 at 10:19 AM

img_6890.jpg

Slingers Smokehouse & Saloon had only opened in early December, 2019, before opting to go dark recently when the state issued its temporary on-site dining ban. Co-owner Greg Howard explains: “The problem with a full wood smoker is it requires 16 hours of smoke time that has to be manned by a person. Whether smoking 5 or 500 pounds, it still costs us the same amount of time and money aside from the meat cost. Trying to figure out what our daily sales would be was going to be a nightmare in the beginning of this new market. We decided to sit back and watch.”

Until now. Slinger’s Pit Stop is staging to open as early as Friday, April 10, but no later than Monday, April 13, says Howard. Slinger's Pit Stop takes over the former Bikini Xpresso kiosk out front the Smokehouse. (No, employees won’t be scantily clad, but Howard says the El Paso County Public Health Department did thank them.)

In addition to espresso drinks and drip coffee, the Pit Stop will serve grab-and-go egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches (with brisket and pork belly options) and a fruit parfait during breakfast hours. Come lunch, get grab-and-go sandwiches: pulled chicken or pork, brisket or burnt ends. Additionally, call ahead or pre-order online for smoked meats by the pound, including wings, plus sides like potato and macaroni salads.

The drive-thru nature of the kiosk makes it easier for staff and customers to limit contact during the COVID-19 pandemic; the main eatery will remain closed for now. But Howard says they expect to keep the kiosk running in this same fashion even after things get back to normal. Regarding prior ghost kitchen plans for additional cuisines out of Slingers, Howard says they’re still developing a vegan menu, but still anticipate respective Nashville Hot Chicken and mac ‘n cheese menus (the latter replacing a prior-planned Italian menu) later as well. 
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Friday, April 3, 2020

UPDATE: Red Gravy launches Meals to Heal to feed healthcare industry, keep jobs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2020 at 2:08 PM

Red Gravy chef Eric Brenner and crew prepare 60 pans of lasagna (capable of feeding 60 families) for the first Meals to Heal donation, this one going to UC Health workers. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Red Gravy chef Eric Brenner and crew prepare 60 pans of lasagna (capable of feeding 60 families) for the first Meals to Heal donation, this one going to UC Health workers.

Chef Eric Brenner reached out with an update on Meals to Heal, which now has a dedicated website.

Brenner says on that site, "people can raise their own money, choose their neighborhood restaurants to provide the food, and decide where the need in their community is greatest."

He says four states around the country have thus far gotten on board to deliver meals, with 15 more planning to participate this upcoming week.

For its part, Red Gravy has now sent out more than 400 meals inside two weeks, says Brenner. With next week's upcoming distribution to UCHealth, Kangaroo Coffee plans to join in with coffee donations.

**** ORIGINAL POST: 5:43 P.M., THURSDAY, MARCH 26 ****

"We are trying to survive and help everyone at the same time. Putting our oxygen on ourselves  before we help others ... chefs are innately problems solvers, we're savvy and we can get stuff done."

That's Red Gravy chef Eric Brenner, telling me how Chef José Andrés' book We Fed an Island in-part inspired him to launch Meals to Heal, a local GoFundMe initiative to aid two frontline industries at once: the (overwhelmed) healthcare and (beleaguered) restaurant industries. 

"This effort is designed to provide food for our healthcare workers, first responders and emergency services personnel while simultaneously supporting our restaurants and foodservice business community," he explains on the page. He hopes to pioneer the model, then "try and export it to other interested restaurants."

Red Gravy remains open for pickup and delivery service and Brenner's taking every precaution he can to keep staff and consumers safe. He limits staff to no more than 10 at a time in the building, and prevents the public from entering at all — they bring food out to delivery people and takeout guests. They also try to maintain as much distance as they can from one another while on site. Even before the on-site service shutdown orders came last week, Brenner had begun seating guests at every other table to spread them out.

Since the shutdown, Brenner's been able to hire back some of the workers Red Gravy had to initially lay off, though most are working only about half the shifts the previously would have. And some have shifted roles; for instance I met a server who's jumped to back-of-the-house and was helping prep lasagna for Meals to Heal. (Shout out to DARS Supply Inc. for donating the aluminum pans and some supplies.)

In addition — and this is just one more example locally we've seen of how restaurateurs have stepped up in awesome ways to help their staffs during this time — Brenner has told his staff that they (and their direct family members) can come in to eat for free during this shutdown period, even (or especially) those laid off. He's also giving them free paper goods such as toilet paper to take home.

Getting back to chefs being problem solvers, Brenner says he's been through this type emergency situation before, first after 9/11 and then with the 2008 recession, both at restaurants he formerly operated in St. Louis. He says he had one advantage here in that he'd recently scaled up his POS system for online ordering, which allowed him to move rather seamlessly into that comprising the majority of his business now: "If that wasn't lined up we couldn't have pivoted as fast."

Donations to Meals to Heal are separate from Red Gravy's regular service now, but if you wish to help the entity as a whole, consider a donation to the GoFundMe and order some food from Red Gravy.

Brenner says he's trying to keep the cost to around $10 a person on his menu, and one current Family Meal Deal consists of any pasta and any salad plus lemon ricotta cookies for dessert, for $50 — it feeds between four and six people. (A bottle of wine or other spirits can be added on.)

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
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Thursday, April 2, 2020

The French Kitchen offering COVID-19-convenient drone delivery, and more

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 1:15 PM

Can you believe it? Drone delivery! How about that?! - COURTESY THE FRENCH KITCHEN
  • Courtesy The French Kitchen
  • Can you believe it? Drone delivery! How about that?!

****UPDATE: 1:07 P.M., THURSDAY, APRIL 2****

Since yesterday's April Fool's Day post, we caught back up with TFK owner/chef Blandine Mazéran to see how the spoof went over as a whole.

She reports one big highlight: getting a call from the Federal Aviation Administration due to a complaint made that someone was selling baguettes by drone. The FAA apparently made it clear that this isn't allowed, prompting the TFK staff to let them know it was a joke.

Among other calls and messages received, Mazéran says there was a request for a big birthday delivery for some children and another from a neighborhood in a more remote area asking for drone delivery of cookies. Another call came internationally, from a company that apparently delivers medical supplies in Africa, who was asking about TFK's drone specs or something, she says.

So, yeah, um ... guess we can say this was a successful prank.

****ORIGINAL POST: 3:08 P.M., WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1****

Ok, the shelf life of this joke won't last much past April 1 anyway, so let's go ahead and acknowledge The French Kitchen's April Fool's joke as a well-timed and welcome reprieve from constant, heavy COVID-19 news lately.

Yes, many people were fooled, says TFK owner Blandine Mazéran, noting many phone calls to the business with folks saying they can't find the button online for ordering drone service. "It's going great and getting us new clients," she says. "We're inviting people to like our pages and hoping to increase our customer base."

One commenter on the Culinary Distancing Facebook group, where Mazéran shared the joke, wrote, "This is great, what is the delivery distance for the drone? I’m in Monument..."
The former retail bakery and cafe space has been converted into a staging ground for to-go orders for baking supplies and more. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The former retail bakery and cafe space has been converted into a staging ground for to-go orders for baking supplies and more.

But, joking aside, it's been serious business lately for Mazéran and her crew, pivoting the business to address the laws of the COVID-19 shutdown and needs of her clientele.

TFK was forced to cancel all TFK’s cooking classes, their main staple, and take a huge financial hit with upcoming class reimbursements. And since the retail bakery and cafe too had to cease on-site service, she had to investigate pickup and delivery options.

So, virtually overnight, TFK began selling baking supplies along with baked goods and Mazéran and visiting instructor/chef Shane Lyons (Nosh, Distilled NY) created to-go family meals, becoming so busy that Mazéran actually had to hire for new positions (during a time of tremendous layoffs everywhere). “The parking lot is full of cars and I’m super happy,” says Mazéran, “we’ve had a big response.”

New family meals include Beef Bourguinon, Coq au Vin, shepherd’s pie, and chicken pot pie. - DAVE+SONYA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • dave+sonya photography
  • New family meals include Beef Bourguinon, Coq au Vin, shepherd’s pie, and chicken pot pie.

Among other baked goods and products, TFK now sells boutique high-fat butter and high-protein unbromated and unbleached flour which yields much better baking results that commercially available flours, she says. Family meals include Beef Bourguinon, Coq au Vin, shepherd’s pie, and bestselling chicken pot pie, plus sides like mac and cheese and cauliflower gratin. “If Shane hadn’t been here, I’d have probably shut my doors,” she adds.
Consulting chef Shane Lyons, now adding to his resume the title of "modern-era French resistance fighter." - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Consulting chef Shane Lyons, now adding to his resume the title of "modern-era French resistance fighter."
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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Drink at home, tip a (furloughed) service industry worker anyway

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 4:36 PM

Be your own bartender, but help another professional one weather their current unemployment. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Be your own bartender, but help another professional one weather their current unemployment.

Though Colorado's allowing the sale of to-go liquor as an economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, many bartenders are still out of work due to the cessation of on-site consumption of food and drink.

A local guy, Aaron Maynard, has helped launch a platform where we can assist some of those folks, called Help the Colorado Springs Service Industry.

How it works is a random industry worker's name will appear as you pull up the page, and you'll have options for tipping them. From the page:

Every time you have a drink at home during social distancing, consider tipping a local service industry worker through Venmo or Cash App.

Right now, service industry people are severely impacted by social distancing and quarantine. Lower amounts of patrons and restaurants closing will be tough on everyone. Every little bit helps.

If you are a service industry employee in the area who's lost work, there's a form at the bottom of the page to become one of the beneficiaries.

I emailed a bit with Maynard to find out more about the effort. Here's what he had to say:

Indy: What’s your connection to the industry? Are you just a faithful diner/drinker or did you have friends who lost jobs?

Maynard:  I was in the restaurant industry for almost 15 years as a server, bartender and manager. I now work in restaurant technology at Synq3 Restaurant Solutions here in Colorado Springs. My wife has been in the industry as long as I have and was managing at Old Chicago until she was laid off last week.

Indy: What gave you this particular idea for this model?

Maynard: A friend of mine in Chattanooga, TN (where I lived for 13 years until we moved here six months ago — my wife grew up here.) came up with the idea. I jumped at the chance to bring it out here. In just over a week, they have added 70 cities and have had over 3 million views!

Indy: So the selection of who to tip is random, folks can't choose their favorite person, right?

Maynard: Yes, it is always a random server to spread it out to as many as possible. In the past five days, we have added over 500 bartenders and servers here in COS.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

1874 Distilling to join Windsor Hotel; Square Peg Brewerks to partner on brewery at Sand Dunes Recreation

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 1:00 AM

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
• Come April, tentatively, the Windsor Hotel will debut its new, attached 1874 Distilling arm, named for the year the hotel was founded. Kodi Whitehead says the distillery will begin by making gin and vodka, with whiskey to follow, in time. The distillery plans to use “100-percent” homegrown ingredients in the making of its products — or home-foraged in the case of juniper berries.

• Sand Dunes Recreation plans to add a brewery and taproom on-site soon, subcontracting to Alamosa’s Square Peg Brewerks in the endeavor, says Donnie Bautista. Aside from upping the craft elements on-site, two green-minded features Bautista plans to incorporate are the capture of the CO2 from the beer-making process to feed to the Greenhouse (i.e., sequester the carbon) as well as using geothermal water that leaves the ground at 125 degrees to brew the beer (meaning little energy will be required to bring the water further up to temp for making wort).
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Monday, March 16, 2020

Culinary Distancing: Take-out, Cook-in quarantine survival guide

Posted By on Mon, Mar 16, 2020 at 3:03 PM

We saw it coming with the limited capacities and closures of restaurants and bars in major cities, and earlier today Denver announced the ending of on-site restaurant/bar service until May 11. You can read that order in full here: 
The clock's probably ticking for Colorado Springs and many cities to follow suit, and it's fair to say that unease and uncertainty are the flavor of today. I've already been contacted by restaurant employees who're reporting wide layoffs — I don't want to name businesses because it's undoubtedly a tough decision for them and they shouldn't receive flack for trying to stay afloat in the face of major revenue loss while following state and federal guidelines.

Many places are doing what they can to quickly pivot into pickup and delivery models — some are already contracting with Grubhub and Uber Eats or providing their own delivery service, but others will soon get in the game, which might mean turning service staff into delivery drivers, for example.

Change is happening fast and nobody in our town wants to see our local businesses shutter or be taken out by COVID-19 economic fallout. As a community, we can clearly support them by ordering food from them in the coming days/weeks to keep money flowing and jobs intact. We're aware of many wonderful efforts underway by neighborhood and business groups and city and county agencies, and applaud everyone's hard work and concern.

All that in mind, I created an open Facebook group — everyone welcome — called Culinary Distancing: Take-out, Cook-in quarantine survival guide, with the goal of creating a platform for restaurants to post their takeout and delivery deals and other timely info for the community to easily find. As well, we're encouraging chefs or anyone to post recipes to inspire folks at home. (Drink establishments like coffee shop and breweries are welcome too.)

Several eateries (and a couple cooking class institutions) have already posted, as well as agencies like the Small Business Development Center (who has shared a Disaster Recovery and Continuity Guide), and membership has grown to more than 530 people inside the first 24 hours. We invite you to join us and participate, share info on specials you see around town, or post a favorite recipe.

We'll all get through this together, and hopefully we can maintain some normalcy and eat and drink pretty well along the way.

If you're self-isolating, it's a great time to bring out some recipes and cook. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • If you're self-isolating, it's a great time to bring out some recipes and cook.
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