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Thursday, November 21,2013

At your service

Effortless service a highlight at Sugarbeet

By Christine Vazquez
Photo by Christine Vazquez

When we go out for a dining experience, there are expectations, many of which we can’t even articulate, but know viscerally when they’re not met. That’s why as a food writer, I spend so much time writing about a restaurant’s environment and atmosphere. The food is important, but no matter how great it is, all the rest is equally vital to the experience. Happily, they’ve gotten all of it right at Sugarbeet in Longmont.

We were greeted warmly even though early for our reservation. We had decided to try some of the happy hour offerings before our meal. Because typically, happy hour is only available in the bar areas of restaurants, I said we’d be happy to sit at the bar before moving to our table. But instead I was told it wasn’t a problem at all — our table was ready and they’d hap pily make an exception for us. It was all beautifully accommodating, with no hint of irritation or exasperation, as can be experienced when people are begrudgingly trying to be hospitable. This set a lovely tone for the entire evening.

The Sugarbeet happy hour includes four craft beers on draft — from Oskar Blues, Ska, Victory and Asher — each for just $3. All wines by the glass are $3 off, and I chose a fantastic Block Nine Pinot Noir from California. They have seven small plates (four are gluten-free) for $5.50 — all taken from the appetizer section of their main menu — including roasted cauliflower, PEI mussel gratin and Dungeness crab ricotta fritters. We opted for the Medjool dates stuffed with gorgonzola dolce, wrapped in crispy Parma prosciutto, drizzled with juniper-infused balsamic. Three large, plump dates arrived on a bed of field greens and radicchio. As much as I enjoy balsamic, it’s a strong flavor, and I found it overpowered the dates. I would have been happy with them alone on the dish. There was already enough going on — sweet, salty, soft, crunchy. They also offer house-smoked Marcona almonds for $3, which we had to have. Marcona almonds are always a treat, and when sprinkled with paprika, an even better one. Their happy hour is available Tuesday through Sunday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., and is a great way to sample a variety of dishes and drinks.

With 10 tables in the dining room — one of which seats eight for larger parties — it’s a comfortable but not cavernous size. Stone columns lend a sense of privacy between some of the tables, and artful light fixtures add subtle style. No tablecloths but cloth napkins provide a sense of an elevated experience. Entrée prices are in the $20s, and this means they have to deliver the overall experience in a sophisticated way, which they do.

We shared a main dish, having eaten our way through the day already. Pappardelle with Harris Ranch short rib, sunchokes, parsnips, artichokes and wilted arugula. A spoon was thoughtfully brought to help wrangle the wide, flat noodles, which were cooked perfectly. The sunchoke, with a texture and flavor much like a potato, was an unexpected and welcome addition in this autumn dish. The small dice of carrot added a sweetness to each bite that I loved. The short rib, usually served in hunks, in this dish was cut into large squares, seared, and cooked so tender you could eat it with a fork. And we did. Finished with slices of sautéed garlic and large pieces of roasted tomato, this was a complex dish to create, but a simply comforting one to eat. As much as was going on in it, it could have used more seasoning, but nothing a shake of salt and pepper provided on the tables couldn’t fix. The service was excellent; attentive and not at all intrusive. Well-paced and effortless (it takes a lot of effort to appear effortless), I will crave this, as much as the food, and will be back.

A historical side note: The first sugar beet factory opened in 1801 in Silesia in central Europe. From 1837 to 2010, France was the largest producer in the world. Sugarbeets also helped put Longmont on the map and its now iconic sugarbeet plant was built in 1905 and remained open until 1980.

Sugarbeet is located at 101 Pratt St. in Longmont. Call 303-651-3330.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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