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Thursday, November 8,2012

A homey brunch at Colterra

By Clay Fong
Photo by Susan France
Executive Chef Michael Drazsnzak

It was one of those chilly, grayish Saturdays that was a harbinger of upcoming winter. Too cold to go out on the bike and not enough snow on the ground to enjoy wintry sports, so why not go out for a leisurely breakfast? In this spirit, friend Justin joined me on an excursion to Niwot’s Colterra for a low-key morning meal.

Colterra is a homey place, which probably has something to do with the fact that it’s housed in a vintage residence. It opens for brunch at 10 a.m., which is a bit later than other eateries, but the atmosphere is less frenetic than spots that pack folks in all morning. Breakfast choices on the weekend brunch menu include griddle cakes, oatmeal and a range of egg dishes. More lunch-like options include pasta, sandwiches and salads such as an ahi Nicoise.

We started off with a serving of $5 Grand Marnier beignets accompanied by local Madhava alfalfa honey. These pillowy morsels, gently perfumed with citrus, arrived at the table fresh from the fryer, and would please those that prefer these New Orleans delicacies on the cakey side. The honey’s sweetness was superfluous given the ample dusting of powdered sugar on the pastry — I soon regretted my decision to wear a black fleece top. Justin took it as a positive sign that “there’s so much sugar that you can breathe it in and cough.”

The soup of the day was a $6 butternut squash, which one could easily dismiss as an autumnal kitchen cliché. However, the skilled execution made a compelling case for this sweet and subtly curried preparation. Understated additions of slivered almond and cream contributed complexity to both texture and flavor. The only improvement might be to lighten the texture a notch, as the soup was approaching near sauce-like consistency.

Justin’s main event was a hearty $13 sausage frittata featuring Long Farm pork. Initially, we had a difference of opinion regarding the virtues of this dish. We both agreed on the endearing fluffiness of the eggy foundation and the charms of the creamy, slightly chewy, higher moisture mozzarella. My friend initially found the sausage bland, and I agreed it wasn’t as fully flavored as most. But I argued this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as most sausage has been overly processed with salt and preservatives that obscure the actual taste of the pork. I found the purer sausage flavor a positive, and Justin later conceded, “It’s grown on me.”

My entree was Colterra’s $13 reimagining of classic eggs Benedict. More crisp than creamy polenta cakes supplanted English muffin, while proscuitto stood in for Canadian bacon. Hollandaise was supplanted by a variant of its close cousin Béarnaise, sauce Choron, featuring a tangy dash of tomato. The poached eggs were perfectly prepared with firm but not rubbery whites, and a nicely fluid golden yolk. Some might find the cured ham saltier and more pungent than Canadian bacon, and a little less of this ingredient might have been beneficial. Nevertheless, an eggs Benedict fan would likely relish this fresh take.

This time of year, a tranquil weekend meal can provide great comfort. Understated but attentive service, a menu that embraces tradition but also a few new twists, and understated ambience are welcome ingredients. On this recipe, Colterra assuredly delivers.

Colterra is located at 210 Franklin St. in Niwot. Call 303-652-0777 or visit its website.

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