Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Altitude Hospitality Group battles itself in knife and bar fight — and ... wins!

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 9:11 PM

The winning girls team: Larissa Vendola from Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe (right), Kelsey Horwitz from Pinery at the Hill (left), and Ariel Bilyeu from Sprig. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • The winning girls team: Larissa Vendola from Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe (right), Kelsey Horwitz from Pinery at the Hill (left), and Ariel Bilyeu from Sprig.

Altitude Hospitality Group
hosted an internal Knife & Bar Fight on Tuesday, November 5, which is to say chefs from TILL, Garden of the Gods Gourmet, Sprig and The Pinery at the Hill faced off in friendly competition, with an invite to guest bartenders from Distillery 291 and Brooklyn's on Boulder. The event was free, and a small group of attendees, including me, acting in a judging role.

Wisely, Altitude couldn't really come off looking bad since one of the their chef teams was bound to win ... I mean, I suppose they could have goofed a course and risked bringing the whole empire crumbling down, but that did not happen. Not even close, as the three food courses — challenged by mystery ingredients of Dr. Pepper, goat cheese, blackberries and PSMO (full beef tenderloin) — completely kicked ass.

My favorite course of the evening, from the boys: coffee rubbed tenderloin with sunchoke, bacon, leeks, red potato hash and a sauce consisting of Dr. Pepper, English mustard and blackberries. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • My favorite course of the evening, from the boys: coffee rubbed tenderloin with sunchoke, bacon, leeks, red potato hash and a sauce consisting of Dr. Pepper, English mustard and blackberries.

Teams for the food fight were dividing into boys and girls: Respective head chefs Larissa Vendola from Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe, Kelsey Horwitz from Pinery at the Hill, and Ariel Bilyeu from Sprig. And TILL executive chef Philip Griffen, his sous chef Josey Boyd, and chef de cuisine David Platzer on the Altitude catering side.

TILL chef Philip Griffen, left. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • TILL chef Philip Griffen, left.

The girls ended up winning the night overall. Here are both teams' menus, utilizing the mandatory challenge ingredients in no particular order:

Girls:
1) Beet green salad with Dr. Pepper orange vinaigrette, goat cheese cream and honey candied pecans and baby beets.
2) Chile-rubbed tenderloin over sunchoke and celery root purée with roasted cauliflower and a Dr. Pepper-blackberry-jalapeño sauce.
3) Chevre and thyme mousse with roasted blackberries and strawberries topped with a brown sugar crumble cookie. 

Boys:
1) Roasted beets with beet leaf pesto and cashew nuts, beet crisps and a fennel-orange- pomegranate salad with chile vinaigrette.
2) Coffee rubbed tenderloin with sunchoke, bacon, leeks, red potato hash and a sauce consisting of Dr. Pepper, English mustard and blackberries.
3) Goat cheese honey mousse with blackberry chile jam and Dr. Pepper powder cinnamon crisps.

The chefs present to the judges, explaining their courses and intentions. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • The chefs present to the judges, explaining their courses and intentions.

For the bar fight, Brooklyn's on Boulder came up victorious in the end, utilizing challenge ingredients of rhubarb liqueur, spice cranberry Pinnacle vodka and Sipsmith sloe gin over three courses.

Brooklyn's on Boulder bartenders Philip Taylor, left, and Carlos Garcia. The won the bar fight. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • Brooklyn's on Boulder bartenders Philip Taylor, left, and Carlos Garcia. The won the bar fight.

Bartenders Philip Taylor and Carlos Garcia made the following recipes:

1) A sloe gin aperitif cocktail with Leopold Bros. Aperitivo, lemon and pomegranate juice, simple syrup and a lime garnish. (Garcia says it was an Aperol riff.)
2) Giffard's Rhubarb Liqueur with a split base of Michter's Rye and Weller Bourbon, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, bitters and hand-squeezed green bell pepper juice, garnished with orange peel pierced with clove spikes. (Taylor says it was partly inspired by a Martinez cocktail.)
3) Pinnacle spiced cranberry vodka split with Lee Spirits Dry Gin, plus Grand Marnier, Benedictine, Creme de Rose, Sauterne dessert wine and orange bitters, garnished with maraschino cherry and cranberry.

Distillery 291 bartenders Philip Rawleigh and Kande Warf. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • Distillery 291 bartenders Philip Rawleigh and Kande Warf.

Distillery 291 bartenders contributed my single favorite drink of the evening in their second round. Here's what they concocted:

1) A rye gin fizz with sloe gin, 291 rye, pink peppercorn infused 291 White Dog, orange and lemon juice and a candy garnish.
2) A strawberry rhubarb Old Fashioned with rhubarb liqueur, 291 bourbon, black walnut bitters, plum bitters and strawberries soaked in 291 Fresh, with Luxardo cherry and a lemon honey stick garnish. (Wow!)
3) "Christmas in Your Mouth" made with 291's Decc, spiced cranberry vodka, lemon and orange juices, ginger beer, earl grey tea, and cardamom bitters.

The guest judges sample spirits during a cocktail round. - AMANDA LAMB
  • Amanda Lamb
  • The guest judges sample spirits during a cocktail round.

All in all, the Knife & Bar Fight proved enjoyable as sort of a random election night one-off chef showcase with a booze back. (Special thanks to photographer Amanda Lamb for the free photo usage here.)

Head to TILL soon if you want to see it as it stands. Remember, come summer time, it'll be relocating to a spot in the Broadmoor area, and this location will be repurposed into a “family-friendly, open-air dining experience and entertainment complex, featuring pickleball courts, bowling, shuffleboard, a high-tech beer wall and plenty of outdoor games," according to a recent release. Here's a rendering:

COURTESY ALTITUDE HOSPITALITY GROUP
  • Courtesy Altitude Hospitality Group
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Friday, November 1, 2019

GoFundMe started to help O'Malley's recover from fire

Posted By on Fri, Nov 1, 2019 at 9:56 AM

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
News travelled quickly earlier this week about a kitchen fire that has temporarily put O'Malley's out of commission.

The beloved steakhouse in Palmer Lake, popular in-part for its grill-your-own-steak concept, has already seen a wave of community support.

Among that support, a loyal patron has started a GoFundMe page to help owner Jeff Hulsmann reopen as soon as possible. The goal is a modest $2,500.

O'Malley's has stood for over three decades in the area, open daily year-round until 2 a.m., usually.

On the Indy's last formal visit in 2016, I commended the awesome staff for handling a loud Broncos game-day crowd with grace, as well as some great drink pricing. Not that I don't cook enough at home, but I recall enjoying the novelty of prepping my own food at a large hibachi-table-like setup, and enjoying my buffalo burger.

Here's hoping Hulsmann reopens quickly. 
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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Till Kitchen to move, Vegan Restaurant Week includes 26 locations

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Till Kitchen and parent company Altitude Hospitality recently announced that it will relocate to a new spot in the Broadmoor area in summer 2020, while repurposing its existing location into a yet-to-be-named, “family-friendly, open-air dining experience and entertainment complex, featuring pickleball courts, bowling, shuffleboard, a high-tech beer wall and plenty of outdoor games.”

The third annual COS Vegan Restaurant Week runs Nov. 1-7, with 26 participating restaurants offering vegan plates — only three are typically all-vegan spots. Visit tinyurl.com/CS-Vegan-Eats to see menus.
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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Left Hand Brewing Company debuts mixed eight-packs... on nitro

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 2:20 PM

Left Hand Brewing Company's nitro beer eight-packs will feature a rotating seasonal beer. For autumn, they'll offer this chai spiced version of their signature milk stout. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Left Hand Brewing Company's nitro beer eight-packs will feature a rotating seasonal beer. For autumn, they'll offer this chai spiced version of their signature milk stout.

Longmont, Colorado-based Left Hand Brewing Company has released mixed eight-packs of its nitro beers, available on liquor store shelves nationwide. Left Hand and nitro beer fans can pick up eight 13.65 oz. cans, with two each of the brewery's signature Milk Stout, Sawtooth amber ale, Flamingo Dreams blackcurrant-raspberry blonde ale and a rotating seasonal beer. For autumn, they're including Chai Milk Stout Nitro.

"Nitro is part of who we are, and we're driven to continue to be the innovators and leaders of the style" says JiIll Preston, Left Hand Brewing Company director of marketing, in a press release.

We recently received promotional cans of both the Chai Milk Stout and Sawtooth amber nitro beers. The former, a mellow 5 percent ABV, pours deep brown-black with a foam the color of Irish cream liqueur, matching its flagship progenitor. On the nose, we get the cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper from Left Hand's house-blended chai spice mix. When we sip the dark brew, we get cinnamon and cardamom again, but ginger supersedes pepper. The spices pair nicely with the roasty, coffee-like notes of the smooth stout. Fans of dirty chai will dig this beer.

As for the latter, it's the same hoppy 5.3 percent ABV amber ale that they've sold for a long time. We're fans of the balance between nutty malts and bright hops this beer has always had, but for my taste, the creaminess of the nitro version takes away from the crisp finish of the beer. Still, good beer, and nitro fans have and will continue to enjoy this version.
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Monday, October 21, 2019

Chew-Chew Gastrotruck expands with upcoming Black Forest Bistro

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2019 at 2:50 PM

Chew-Chew owner Deanna Johnson at a recent event. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Chew-Chew owner Deanna Johnson at a recent event.

Three-year-old Black Forest Chew-Chew Gastrotruck will as of January, tentatively, have a new commissary and sister eatery, to be called the Black Forest Bistro. Owner Deanna Johnson will be purchasing the former Descar’s Roadside Bar & Grill at 6750 Shoup Road and plans to overhaul it and open Thursdays through Sundays, including for Sunday brunch service.

Once Black Forest Bistro opens, Johnson says she'll part the truck onsite for a few months, at least, to get the bistro going. The benefit of that is it'll be able to act as a second kitchen or snack bar, as planned for future music events on the location's patio. Johnson says not to worry though, that she will put the truck — proudly all-female-staffed — back on the road come late spring and summer, for festivals and weekly events like the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum's Food Truck Tuesdays, if she's once again accepted.

As for the bistro's menu, Johnson says "the food will evolve into some items we can't do on the truck ... we’re known for our international street food with a twist — so we’re going to definitely have that. But we’re going to have seafood and lamb and pasta, burgers, sandwiches just a little bit for everyone. We are going to keep our menu changing like we do on the truck."

One of her bestselling items, her Korean bulgogi steak, for example, will become an entrée with the added side of the truck's popular sticky street noodles. She says she'll likely keep the menu in the $15 to $25 range for top items.

That steak, by the way, is what won the truck the first round of Food Network’s Food Truck Fan Fight, which Chew-Chew went on to win for the Rocky Mountain region, beating out several Denver and Boulder entities.

Johnson says to expect cocktails and 13 craft Colorado beer taps as well at Black Forest Bistro. The location will serve as the Chew-Chew truck's new commissary, and Johnson says she'd like to open it up to be a commissary for others as well during off hours.   
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Bread & Butter Neighborhood Market launches Kickstarter ahead of May 2020 launch downtown

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2019 at 7:25 AM

Bread & Butter Neighborhood Market recently launched a Kickstarter page to help fund its planned May 2020 opening at 602 S. Nevada Ave., in what’s currently the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’s Colorado Springs Vet Center building through January’s end.
Stacy Poore (left) and Aubrey Day, co-owners. - COURTESY STACY POORE
  • Courtesy Stacy Poore
  • Stacy Poore (left) and Aubrey Day, co-owners.
“When we look around the downtown area where people are working and living, plus the adjacent neighborhoods... we think it’s needed ... we feel like it’s the perfect time,” says co-owner Stacy Poore.

She notes several nearby residential units both existing and underway, from Blue Dot and Casa Mundi to new apartments on Cascade Avenue plus Kinship Landing, a small hotel on the way across the street, and the upcoming Olympic Museum complex and expected build-outs. As well, there’s the Mill Street and Hillside neighborhoods not far away.

Poore and co-owner Aubrey Day see Bread & Butter as serving both the downtown resident or worker and parts of the underserved community who live in near-food deserts. Inventory in the 1700-square-foot grocery store won’t include “six different brands of toothpaste,” but rather a wide, both boutique and affordable offering of staple products, from dry goods and Colorado produce and meats and cheeses to frozen and pre-prepared items, plus flowers, greeting cards, coffee, and “nicely curated wines and spirits” from an attached 800-square-foot liquor store. (That’s how they’ll make up for the typical “razor thin” margins on retail grocery items, says Poore.)

Another important feature to their market, says Poore, is free on-site parking, noting that’s partly if not largely why an attempted market on North Tejon Street around a decade ago failed to take root — that, and it was just ahead of its time in terms of enough residential rooftops downtown.

As for what the owners (who both hold Masters degrees) bring to the table for directly relevant work experience, Day “has been involved in food systems and health related work throughout her career at El Paso County Public Health,” while Poore spent seven years with Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, most recently as its chief operating officer. 
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Four drinks to be drinking now: Axe and the Oak Whiskey House releases new fall menu

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 9:35 AM

The Editor's Fizz. It's the first time house gin has appeared on a menu here. This one's barrel-aged and not yet available in bottles. This fizz, inspired by the classic Ramos Gin Fizz, subs out the orange blossom water for orange bitters. It also contains apple bourbon, roasted butternut squash simple syrup, egg white and cream. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Editor's Fizz. It's the first time house gin has appeared on a menu here. This one's barrel-aged and not yet available in bottles. This fizz, inspired by the classic Ramos Gin Fizz, subs out the orange blossom water for orange bitters. It also contains apple bourbon, roasted butternut squash simple syrup, egg white and cream.

Axe and the Oak Whiskey House released its new fall menu on October 15, featuring 16 freshly created drinks — a collaborative effort by the staff. The new menu will run through February most likely.

Hosting bartender for our preview tasting, Maggie O'Leary, says the “guiding flavors” for team inspiration were “tea, squash, cognac, and pomegranate.”

Those came through in various ways in the drinks we sampled, with liberal spice usage a familiar nod to the arrival of colder weather. The use of cream and egg white also adds a heavier texture to many drinks as well, feeling fortifying for winter.

View the captions under each photo for drink details.
The Penrose Vault starts with Axe's Incline Rye. Then comes pomegranate juice, an Earl Grey simple syrup, bergamot oil, cardamom bitters and a pour of Korean yogurt soda (carbonated water and milk and cream). - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Penrose Vault starts with Axe's Incline Rye. Then comes pomegranate juice, an Earl Grey simple syrup, bergamot oil, cardamom bitters and a pour of Korean yogurt soda (carbonated water and milk and cream).

The Little London Fog features vanilla bourbon, lavender liqueur and garnish, cream and Earl Grey simple syrup. A little hot water thins the heavy cream and it's a rich drinkable dessert or nice drink to share sips of. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Little London Fog features vanilla bourbon, lavender liqueur and garnish, cream and Earl Grey simple syrup. A little hot water thins the heavy cream and it's a rich drinkable dessert or nice drink to share sips of.

Bartender Maggie O'Leary and the Millionaire City. That drink starts with a cognac barrel-aged bourbon (which tastes remarkably like scotch on its own), to which ginger liqueur, toasted allspice dram and bitters is added. The allspice shows up prominently. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Bartender Maggie O'Leary and the Millionaire City. That drink starts with a cognac barrel-aged bourbon (which tastes remarkably like scotch on its own), to which ginger liqueur, toasted allspice dram and bitters is added. The allspice shows up prominently.

It's a cool logo. 'Nuff said. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • It's a cool logo. 'Nuff said.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Happy Belly Tacos releases bright new menu to mark first anniversary

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 6:00 PM

Nobody will notice the humans in this photo since they'll be focused intently on the two-month old Pomeranian puppy. That's Chef Mark Henry's new doggie (Mark's in the middle), visiting his dad at just the right time for this reporter to snap a pic. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Nobody will notice the humans in this photo since they'll be focused intently on the two-month old Pomeranian puppy. That's Chef Mark Henry's new doggie (Mark's in the middle), visiting his dad at just the right time for this reporter to snap a pic.
Happy Belly Tacos just celebrated its first anniversary, inspiring Chef/Owner Mark Henry, also of Rooster's House of Ramen, to release a new menu to mark the occasion. Everything's overhauled save for the popular carne asada and pastor tacos.

When I ask if this is a seasonal menu that we should expect to change again in a few months, he says, no, "I'm so happy with what's on this menu I don't want any of it to go away. But we'll do some daily specials, things like flautas and crunch wraps."
From left to right, three new menu items: a buffalo cauliflower taco; bulgogi carnitas; and the Happy Belly Taco with mojo pork belly. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • From left to right, three new menu items: a buffalo cauliflower taco; bulgogi carnitas; and the Happy Belly Taco with mojo pork belly.
Henry invited me to sample some of the new offerings, including the above taco trio — all constructed with Denver-made Raquelitas Tortillas, regarded for its use of Colorado-grown corn, all non-GMO and organic.

On the left is a gluten-free and vegan-optional buffalo cauliflower taco, inspired by his New York roots, says Henry. Before frying, Henry brines the cauliflower with salt, sugar, cumin and chili powder then breads it with corn starch. For plating it's dressed with house chipotle ranch sauce in addition to the house Frank Bonanno Sauce fortified with butter. That's a playful jab at the Denver celebrity chef, whose concept restaurants Henry respects, and who Henry says he defeated at a Pony Up French Dip cook-off event. The awesome,  spicy sauce, set in bottles on tables for self dispensing, is made with chile de árbol peppers, garlic, vinegar, water and salt. 
New tacos for a new year — Happy Belly just reached its first anniversary. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • New tacos for a new year — Happy Belly just reached its first anniversary.
Next up is the bulgogi carnitas taco, obviously Korean-cuisine-inspired. "We're known for big, bright flavors and fusion," says Henry. "But I have to make sure that's balanced. Because one wrong bite on a six-inch tortilla and a taco can be fucked. It's a small artist's palate to work with."

He braises the Korean barbecue beef-carnitas style, but it's actually pork shoulder, slow-roasted and shredded. He takes the same kimchi he makes for Roosters and purées it with xanthan gum to thicken it a bit, to basically a ketchup consistency. The idea's to even out the pungency that whole kimchi cabbage leaves can lend to a single bite. Pickled onions and jalapeños as garnish lend nice, complimentary acidity and bite to the tangy meat — it's a delicious taco.
A trio of the house salsas: a verde, ranchero and chipotle. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A trio of the house salsas: a verde, ranchero and chipotle.
Lastly for the tacos, and my personal favorite, the Happy Belly Taco features badass mojo-marinated pork belly slices, à la a Cuban cuisine but with a soy twist and an assist from Henry's wife's garden (thyme and oregano). The combo of that mojo pork and a chipotle salsa rojo, plus pickled carrots and jalapeños, make for a symphony of smokiness punctuated by acidic notes and a respectable spice that helps cut the fat. If you are going to name an item after your eatery, it better taste this good; a year was worth the wait.
A newly added, gluten-free and vegan green chile (pork belly addition optional). - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A newly added, gluten-free and vegan green chile (pork belly addition optional).

Another new item: a gluten-free and vegan green chile, unless you elect to pay extra for that same mojo pork belly to be added. For it Henry uses a roasted tomatillo base, with Hatch chilies, yellow onions and jalapeños plus annatto seed and cumin for seasoning. He thickens the soup with crumbled pieces of corn tortillas, which float about offering some chunkiness sans toothsomeness, and garnishes with Mexican crema and queso fresco. It's a spicy bowl, unique from every other green chile in town.

Yucca fries tossed in chimichurri, with queso fresco garnish, also on the new menu. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Yucca fries tossed in chimichurri, with queso fresco garnish, also on the new menu.

The final dish for my sampling, yucca fries, offer their textbook starchy bliss, with a zesty edge from being rolled in chimichurri. Queso fresco garnish adds a little counterpoint. As fat fries, basically, they're always a treat, well handled here.

In closing, and before I can steal his stupid-cute dog, Henry says that because there are so many taco shops in town, he really has tried to stand out by "getting away from the traditional." Anyone who knows the chef knows that ever since he's been on the Springs scene, he's shown himself to be anything but. 
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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Midtown Grill closes for restaurant service, is up for sale

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2019 at 11:45 AM

Along with a "Gone Fishing" photo, the following note appeared on Midtown Grill's Facebook page yesterday:

As of today, Midtown is closed for public service. We will host private functions only now through the holidays. We can accommodate 100-150 easily. Party basic and Extensive menus available!! Call or text Phil for appointments!! 719-338-9394

Oscar's Tejon Street and Midtown Grill owner Phil Duhon. - COURTESY MIDTOWN GRILL
  • Courtesy Midtown Grill
  • Oscar's Tejon Street and Midtown Grill owner Phil Duhon.
The Indy spoke to owner Phil Duhon this morning, who was quite forthcoming about his reasons for closing the business down. Duhon confirmed the business and property are now for sale.

Duhon originally launched Oscar's Tejon Street in April, 2003, rebranding the business to Midtown Grill earlier this year.

"I may have opened Midtown too early for the downtown renovations underway and it just didn't stick," he says. "I think people still wanted a local hangout bar, and I'm not a drinker anymore. I haven't drank in three years — I just don't want to be in that industry anymore."

Duhon says that after running some numbers, he realizes he can sell everything and bank what it would take him 10 years to make if provided the same annual revenue Oscar's made. "I can be done. I can retire. I can do little things on my own. Invest, remodel, renovate, take time off, be with my kids — just cash the chips in," he says. 
"Maybe remodeling was a bad decision," he continues. "But owning the property was a great decision. I bought if four years ago at 1/4 the price it's currently worth."

Duhon says he believes the business dynamic both at-large and downtown has changed a lot over the years. He cites factors ranging from social media influences to legal marijuana. "The dynamic change so much, faster than I'm accustomed to."

In the end, he says, "I could have pulled through the rough time, but I just don't wanna."

Duhon got his start at The Ritz and Mackenzie's Chop House. He says he's grateful for what downtown has given him over the years. "My biggest thanks is to the general public who has accepted me and forgiven me for my past ... I wasn't a very anonymous alcoholic. But I don't do that anymore. I've grown up. ... When I made this decision, I felt the weight lifted off. ... I've had a wonderful last couple years, I'm grateful to be a part of the Springs."
The fine house Reuben served at Midtown Grill. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • The fine house Reuben served at Midtown Grill.
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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

La Carreta replaces Lemongrass Bistro

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2019 at 8:10 AM

The Molcajete Duranguense plate at La Carreta. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • The Molcajete Duranguense plate at La Carreta.

Lemongrass Bistro closed its doors this past week at 6840 N. Academy Blvd., to be replaced just days later by a second La Carreta location.

La Carreta has been open on 35 Iowa Ave., just northeast of Memorial Park, for 23 years; Blanca Reyes and her mom Lorenza Galvan have owned it for the last five of those years.
"We appreciate the neighborhood that has been supporting us all this time," says Reyes, noting many regular customers who'd drive from the north side of town. So this new location is partly meant to place an eatery closer to those loyal customers, she says.

Though she had dreamed of a second location some day, Reyes said the opportunity to branch out now came when Lemongrass Bistro's owner recently approached them about a sale. What enabled La Carreta to open doors just days after Lemongrass closed down is how good of shape the spot's in, she says. The front-house decor was already fairly "plain," she adds, meaning it's an easy transition from Vietnamese to Mexican service, and her crew mainly just needed to reorganize the kitchen area.

Reyes says the menu at this new north location will be exactly the same as at the original, and Galvan will do the prep at both to ensure consistency.

"This is authentic Mexican food, the same way we cook at home," says Reyes, noting their Durango, Mexico roots. "Everything is from scratch: no cans, nothing frozen." 
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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

NaRai expands with soon-to-open Mangosteen Thai Street Food

Posted By on Tue, Sep 17, 2019 at 3:15 PM


Mango-topped catfish served at a preview meal. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mango-topped catfish served at a preview meal.

NaRai Thai Restaurant and NaRai Siam Cuisine will soon have a sister restaurant at 383 Spectrum Loop (off Voyager Pkwy., near North Gate Blvd.) called Mangosteen Thai Street Food.

The trio of eateries' owner, Jasmine Andrew, tentatively plans to launch the new venture on Wednesday, Sept. 25. (Keep an eye on NaRai's Facebook page for details, for now.)
Owner Jasmine Andrew (second from right) with several of Mangosteen's staff. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Owner Jasmine Andrew (second from right) with several of Mangosteen's staff.

What immediately sets Mangosteen — named after the healthful tropical fruit — apart from NaRai's two full-service locations (which themselves differ slightly with menu offerings) is its counter-service model.

Guests will enter and approach a hot line, set up almost as buffet would be, and select menu items which will be pre-prepared for on-the-go eaters; only chicken-broth soups will be made-to-order with protein options like pork and shrimp.

And within six months, Andrew hopes to utilize a drive-thru window that's built and ready, once the kitchen comes up to speed and gauges customer volume and capacity.
Tentative opening date: September 25. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Tentative opening date: September 25.

The original Rockrimmon-area NaRai opened in 2008, followed by the Cheyenne Mountain location in 2014. This Spectrum Loop building has sat vacant for roughly a couple years, formerly hosting a Taco Bueno. Andrew says she's had her eye on it for some time and finally decided to pull the trigger and give a third restaurant a go. "This will be my last one," she jokes, saying "no more."

Both the other locations close during the middle of the day to reset between lunch and dinner service, but here, she says "I want to stay open all day. I want to try something new. I wanted a faster-paced restaurant."
Lemongrass chicken with turmeric rice. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lemongrass chicken with turmeric rice.

With that in mind, she also wanted to offer menu items not seen at her other spots in town, and perhaps not served by any local Thai eateries. A few are true street-food items in Thailand; others are popular at sit-down places.

At a preview meal we attended, Andrew presented vibrant items like lemongrass chicken with golden turmeric rice; catfish topped in a mango relish spiced by red onions and chiles; grilled pork with tamarind-chile dipping sauce; battered fried chicken with broth-infused rice; papaya salad, and assorted pot stickers with ginger sauce.

Initially Andrew didn't even want to offer Pad Thai at the new spot, to distinguish it, but her customers pressed her on the matter, so she conceded, but has opted to make it with a thinner noodle, to change at least one aspect of the popular dish.
Pot stickers. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pot stickers.

The new location will have a beer and wine license. As for the name, Andrew says people love mangos, so having that as part of the name (despite it being a completely different fruit than mangosteen) should attract attention, she believes. No, there's no actual mangosteen item on the opening menu at present — I suggested an ice cream in the future, maybe?

She has designed the space with a stark, modern sensibility, utilizing white and black tiles at the counter, dark wood floors and tables, and a fun, defining purple booth and seat upholstery that's almost eggplant purple, but also roughly the color of mangosteen skins too. 
Guest and staff enjoy food together at a preview meal. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Guest and staff enjoy food together at a preview meal.
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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Loyal Coffee's new north location approaches opening; here's a sneak peek

Posted By on Sat, Sep 7, 2019 at 4:09 PM

Coming soon, as in early October. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Coming soon, as in early October.

Loyal Coffee prepares to hold its grand opening of its new north location in early October. Keep an eye on its social media pages prior to then for some soft-opening info. 

October 1 will mark the 3-year anniversary for the business, so expect some celebratory happenings downtown, says Hill, who can't yet say if the north store will be ready to participate by then or not. (Again, watch their Facebook page to stay in the know.)
Co-owners Bevan Cammell, Chris Mueller and Tyler Hill (left to right). And that's not a pink espresso machine: It's "festive salmon" say the boys. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Co-owners Bevan Cammell, Chris Mueller and Tyler Hill (left to right). And that's not a pink espresso machine: It's "festive salmon" say the boys.

When asked if there's more Loyal locations on the horizon, Hill will only say "we're dreaming of number three and beyond at this point."
This new location is built-out to around 3,000 square feet, compared to the original location's 1,900 square feet. Indoor seating capacity will increase by around 20 seats, and an outdoor patio location of the previous Cafe Velo space (11550 Ridgeline Drive, #102) holds a lovely mountain view.
Ceiling rope design also ties the new north location to downtown, stylistically. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Ceiling rope design also ties the new north location to downtown, stylistically.

Several design touches tie the new space to the old, including a rope ceiling and wooden mural wall featuring some of Loyal's logo and branding design. And the overall color scheme's roughly the same, though this new location ties in new steel bar accents in select areas, contrasting plywood veneer and alder wood sections.

"We built on the stuff that worked downtown," Hill says. "The intentionality of the flow from the door to the register ... It feels like Loyal still, but it's beautiful and unique in its own way."

Hill says the team (of six former barista owners plus a group of investors) aimed to "build for the community we are in ... it's about the guests, not us."
Similar wood paneling to the downtown store creates a design connection. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Similar wood paneling to the downtown store creates a design connection.

White quartz countertops lead to the "festive salmon" (read: sorta pink) La Marzocco Strada AVR espresso machine. Mueller explains that for the purpose of consistent, easily replicated drinks, the unit (the first of its kind to offer this feature, adds Cammell) features scales under each group head, which weigh the ground coffee in the portafilter and calibrate the volume and timing of the shot accordingly. That expediency affords the baristas more time to take care of the customers, rather than fiddle with the machinery they say. "We've simplified things for the sake of our guests," Hill says.
Downtown's tiny nook seating areas are partly mirrored here with a row of larger booth seats. Overall indoor seating has increased by nearly 20 seats over downtown, to a total of around 70. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Downtown's tiny nook seating areas are partly mirrored here with a row of larger booth seats. Overall indoor seating has increased by nearly 20 seats over downtown, to a total of around 70.

Hours will likely be the same as at the downtown store, though they may close at 9 versus 10 p.m. depending on how evening business goes. This location won't have a license to dispense spirits and cocktails, only beer and wine. Expect 10 taps featuring craft beers, kombucha, lemonade and cold brew. Also look for a canned beer array.
This new space holds a meeting room that can seat between 10 and 14 people, or offer standing room to around 20 or so. It can be reserved by the hour. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • This new space holds a meeting room that can seat between 10 and 14 people, or offer standing room to around 20 or so. It can be reserved by the hour.

Another new feature to this north location is a meeting room, available by the hour by reservation online (soon). Mueller says bookings for meetings will include a free pot of coffee and a 10-percent discount at the register for other items. Options for the space include seating at a modular conference table or removal of said table to open up mingle room.

A rear hallway from the bathrooms leads past a kitchen entrance and the back half of the open service counter. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A rear hallway from the bathrooms leads past a kitchen entrance and the back half of the open service counter.
And the food menu will be quite similar to downtown, says Hill. Classic plates like the egg and toast will remain, but he says the team's finalizing plans for "some faster meals" as well as some vegan and allergy-friendly options.

Overall, Hill says there's a certain "elegance" to what Loyal hopes to achieve in this new neighborhood, where the median household income is roughly three times that of average downtown residences, according to their demographic research. Hence part of matching this neighborhood means leveraging Loyal's existing style and design aesthetic and bringing the same high coffee standard to a place where poshness already reigns. 
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Blackhat Distillery to pick up where Blue Fish left off

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 6:05 PM

Colorado Springs' newest distillery just announced its tentative opening, set for mid September.

Blackhat Distillery comes by way of the not-long-ago shuttering of Blue Fish Distillery.

"We heard they were closing," says co-owner Matt Bonno, and we came in before the lease was up and struck a deal with John and Ellen [Fisher] to purchase the business, including nine barrels of finished product, all their equipment, and their recipes." 

Bonno's name should be familiar from Boxing Brothers Ciderhouse (formerly Colorado Common), and he's partnered financially here with Joe Koscove of the Koscove Metal family as well as an accountant friend named David Varnum. But he's also brought in the talents of Allen Oliver (formerly of Cockpit Craft Distillery and Rocky Mountain Brewery) to be head distiller, as well as rockstar local bartender Montana Horsfall of Craft Cocktail Inc. to be Blackhat's director. 
COURTESY BLACKHAT DISTILLERY
  • Courtesy Blackhat Distillery
Bonno says the idea with Blackhat is to "build off what they had been doing and take that in our own direction." Hence the new name, which he says was built around the concept of people who changed history, "whether they were royals, rebels, outlaws, badasses, they always wore a black hat — whether that's a top hat, a bowler, a fur hat, a flat bill — it was worn by people doing and changing things. There's the idea of if you're a mover and a shaker, an innovator, then a black hat's for you. We're playing off that, the history that got us where we are."

As for the distillery's focus, it'll be on rums and agave spirits (like tequilas, but you can't call them that when you aren't making them in the proper area of Mexico). Which isn't to say there won't be a vodka and whiskies on the horizon: They're already aging product to become bourbon in two years.

Look for a 100-percent blackstrap molasses rum, Jamaican-style, as well as a Cuban-style sugarcane rum, plus barrel-aged and spiced rums. On the opening weeks, they plan to sell coconut, mango and pineapple-infused rums made out of the Blue Fish product they purchased. As for the blue agave spirits, expect both a pure Mexican-style sipping (not-) tequila as well as a mixed light and dark agave blended spirit, better for mixings, says Bonno.

Bonno says he plans to let Oliver guide the distillery's direction, but he's been able to be a sounding board on recipe development and help out with aspects such as ingredient-supply contacts, given his experience at his cidery. One cool tie-in, he says, is an upcoming traditional apple brandy, for which he's been able to help guide Oliver on making a great cider from which a great brandy can be distilled, he says. He brings a strong knowledge of fruit flavorings into alcohols.
Montana Horsfall will create Blackhat's cocktail menus in her role as distillery director. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Montana Horsfall will create Blackhat's cocktail menus in her role as distillery director.
Oliver, meanwhile, is a bitters wizard, hear Horsfall tell it. He makes a diverse array of his own bitters, which Blackhat plans to help him develop into his own label for retail sale. She says anything she'll need in the tasting room for her cocktail creation, Oliver can make. (That's the way the liquor laws demand it be done anyway, in distilleries, which can't serve other brands' spirits and liqueurs.)

The shared vision, she explains, is that as a guest, if you enjoy your spirit sampling and then a cocktail, they'll be able to send you home with just about everything you need to make it, from their base spirit to the liqueur and bitters — like a to-go kit.

"Everything I'm about with Craft Cocktail Inc. [her business, which she'll continue to run, with Blackhat's promotional support] is teaching people how to make good cocktails at home," she says. "If it's not five ingredients or less I didn't do it right."

That said, she's planning for an approachable, "simplistic" menu, but also a special higher-end drink list that must be requested, she says. 

Blackhat hopes to launch by a target date of the weekend of Sept. 20-22, and keep regular hours: 3-9 p.m., Tuesday-Thursdays; until 11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; and 3-7 p.m. Sundays, tentatively. They'll likely have food trucks park on site (5745 Industrial Place, Suite A) on weekends. 
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Four summer sips at Brooklyn's on Boulder, plus 1,728 ways to make a gin and tonic

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 3:17 PM

Brooklyn's on Boulder launched its summer menu update in mid July, which will run into a yet-to-be-determined date in October.

As usual, that means the core menu of classic gin drinks stays untouched, but the house bartenders get to play with two menu pages (15 drinks this go-around) for seasonal inspirations. They invited us out to sample a drink from each of four sections of the summer menu.

Bar Manager Carlos Garcia reminded us how each season's menu-creation process takes about six weeks. The staff, including he and head bartender Philip Taylor, as well as bartender Robin Jones, will bring ideas to meetings for peer critique. It's all about making the best drink possible, inside a team atmosphere, he says. "We talk about checking your ego at the door. We ask each other 'What are you trying to achieve.'"

Jones started us off with a drink she conceived, named the Viva Havana, made with Lee Spirits Co. Dry Gin, coconut milk, orange liqueur, house Colorado tonic and lime juice.  She explained that the coconut milk was intended as a lighter cream element than what heavy cream brings to many cocktails, "and the coconut flavor really adds a lot," while the orange helps lift the citrus element without making the drink more sour. Undertones of lemongrass in the tonic, also made with aspen bark, add complexity. If you like piña coladas, this is for you.
Viva Havana. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Viva Havana.

Next up, Taylor says with each menu he likes to riff on one of his all-time favorite drinks, the Old Fashioned. What that looks like this go around is called the Chattanooga Manor, made with Winston Lee blended whiskey, angostura and orange bitters, allspice dram and an awesome house cola syrup. He says he modeled the drink after the idea of a Jack-and-Coke meets a rum Old Fashioned. Between the bright allspice notes and vibrant spicing of the cola syrup, which includes nutmeg and cinnamon, there's ample aroma and flavor to study, bookended by the whiskey and citrus factors.
Chattanooga Manor. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Chattanooga Manor.

Another Winston Lee whiskey drink presented by Garcia, the Rosa Fuerte, plays off a Manhattan, trying to usher it into the hot days of summer (of which we've had more than plenty lately). To him, that meant adding Lee's Creme de Rose liqueur for subtle floral notes atop the sweet vermouth and angostura bitters. That plays quite nicely, not too sweet but plenty suggestive and elegant with the pervasive flower essence.
Rosa Fuerte. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Rosa Fuerte.

Lastly, we enjoyed a dance with a drink called Pagan Poetry, concocted with Lee Dry Gin, Suze (gentian root), Calisaya liqueur (with cinchona, bitter orange peel, liquorish, elderberry and spices), Lee's Forbidden Fruit liqueur (made with white grapefruit, honey, and "a blend of spices"), and a smoked rosemary tincture. Thanks to a big rosemary sprig garnish, the aroma's superb, evocative of earth and forested land, that impression reinforced by the multitude of botanic elements and a clean bitterness that carries through and finishes crisp and fresh, like high-mountain air.
Pagan Poetry. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Pagan Poetry.

Before we depart, the crew lets us know about new happy hours (5-7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 4-5 p.m., Sunday) during which you can choose your own Gin & Tonic. What that looks like is a checklist menu featuring four gin styles, six tonic variants, and nine different garnishes (pick two per drink). So, for example, you might build a lavender gin with Q elderflower tonic topped with an orange wedge and cardamom. Or fiery Ginfuego mixed with Fever Tree Bitter Lemon, garnished with basil and pink peppercorns. You get the idea — it looks hella fun, and they say of the 1,728 possible combinations, they rarely see different guests build the same drink twice.
Brooklyn's on Boulder bartenders Philip Taylor, Robin Jones and Carlos Garcia (left to right). - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Brooklyn's on Boulder bartenders Philip Taylor, Robin Jones and Carlos Garcia (left to right).
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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Solar Roast Coffee's new Springs location a breath of fresh brew, and style

Posted By on Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 1:31 PM

Awesome wall murals by Pueblo artist Mathew Taylor. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Awesome wall murals by Pueblo artist Mathew Taylor.

Solar Roast Coffee finally opened its much-anticipated Colorado Springs location on Aug. 7, taking over a former Starbucks location on Tejon Street — yeah, up the street just a few blocks from the other Starbucks — yay for an independent eating a chain, for once, rather than the other way around!

Continue scrolling and reading below to check out the stylish space.
A summer special rose latte, made with Solar Roast's Aristotle Blend. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A summer special rose latte, made with Solar Roast's Aristotle Blend.

If you're new to Solar Roast, check out my original interview with brothers Mike and Dave Harkop back in early 2008, when they were still roasting literally using the sun's rays as part of a solar concentrator named Helios 4, composed of 800 IKEA mirrors focused on one point, which generated more than a thousand degrees of heat with which to roast.

You can still buy Solar Roast beans at Mountain Mama's or Natural Grocers, and soon Whole Foods, but to guarantee maximum freshness my money's on buying on site in the coffee shop. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • You can still buy Solar Roast beans at Mountain Mama's or Natural Grocers, and soon Whole Foods, but to guarantee maximum freshness my money's on buying on site in the coffee shop.

Today, the roasting process is different, as solar panels mounted atop the Pueblo roastery on 226 N. Main Street generate about 13 kilowatt hours of energy, says Mike Hartkop. He adds that the actual roasting process only utilizes 12 kilowatt hours, leaving more available to offset office and the coffeehouse's usage.

Jessica and Mike Hartkop, operations manager and owner, respectively. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Jessica and Mike Hartkop, operations manager and owner, respectively.

When I ask Mike if they have plans for more expansion, he says: "This has strained every relationship I've ever been in. This is it for now." He appears to only be half joking, or not at all, but says "it's fun to be here" and walk out the doors of a familiar coffee setup but into a new town. "Pueblo has been so great to us, and there's Puebloans everywhere — we stick together." (Right next door is Bingo Burger's Pueblo expansion, for example.)
Mathew Taylor is also a graffiti artist who goes by Refic, and is part of Pueblo's talented Creatures Crew. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mathew Taylor is also a graffiti artist who goes by Refic, and is part of Pueblo's talented Creatures Crew.

Another Pueblo person provided all the muralist work at this new location: Mathew Taylor, who the Indy has caught up with before, regarding his work with the Creatures Crew.

Let there be music! A records rack precedes the ordering counter. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Let there be music! A records rack precedes the ordering counter.

Beyond the artwork on the walls, a records shelf adds more character to the coffee shop, allowing customers a chance to peruse labels while waiting for their drinks to pop up at the pickup counter.

Roasts available on site include rare barrel-aged coffees. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Roasts available on site include rare barrel-aged coffees.

All coffees sourced by Solar Roast are 100-percent organic, says Mike Hartkop. Learn more about the business from this recent Colorado Springs Business Journal article.
The facade shows a taste of what style awaits inside. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The facade shows a taste of what style awaits inside.

Indulge me this bit of self-satisfaction, but I'm overjoyed to see my 11-year-old article still posted on Solar Roast's walls, still getting to tell the story of the mad scientist Dave Hartkop.

"Our overall vision is ... to be a recognized brand and entity in the world of coffee," said Mike at the time. "That means being able to provide coffee to anyone in the world who wants it and following through with vision of solar roast using alternative energy for industry."
We always love to see our work represented by places we write about. I first met the Harkop brothers in early 2008, when they were still roasting on their wild Helios 4 machine, made from 800 IKEA mirrors that concentrated sunlight. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • We always love to see our work represented by places we write about. I first met the Harkop brothers in early 2008, when they were still roasting on their wild Helios 4 machine, made from 800 IKEA mirrors that concentrated sunlight.
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