Liquor and lunch

We can finally buy chips, dip and pâté with our beer, wine and spirits

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Jill Davis, supervisor for Hazel’s Beverage World, displays a few of the new food products available for purchase.
Susan France | Boulder Weekly

I was rounding the corner near the shelves of Colorado-made spirits and wines a few weeks ago when I saw something that stopped me in my tracks: Haystack chèvre made in Longmont. I’d never seen that in a Colorado liquor store before.

The white refrigerator case at Hazel’s Beverage World in Boulder stacked with cheeses, condiments, pickles and crackers had only been open for a month, Brian Johnson says, the store’s Event Planner and Grocery Department manager. (Heck, until now, there were no groceries to manage in Colorado liquor stores).

“We’re trying to offer a little something for everyone. I’m from Minnesota so we have summer sausage and cheese curds as well as French pâté,” he says. Johnson spent 20 years working in restaurants including Boulder’s Basta and was happy to get food back together with the booze.

People who have lived in California and elsewhere may wonder what the hubbub’s about since they assume you can buy chips, dip and beer together. Flash back with me to a time when Colorado wine and beer shops weren’t allowed to sell anything edible except lemons, limes, Bloody Mary mix and maraschino cherries. It’s not hard to remember because it was only a few months ago.

Among the many recent changes in Colorado’s famously convoluted alcohol laws is a rule allowing liquor stores to have 20 percent of their sales from groceries. That’s why you’ll see milk, chocolate milk and packages of sliced artisan salumi in a reach-in cooler next door to some 12-packs. Johnson says he is adding more chocolate, jerky, Marcona almonds, trail mixes, spices, pasta and olives and eventually beer brats, bangers and knockwurst. “We are carrying brands that are not necessarily available at the supermarket,” he says. That said, Hazel’s is within blocks of Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s.

Susan France
Merchandise for sale at Hazel’s Beverage World in Boulder.

The change has been in place for a while. I hadn’t noticed because, like a lot of small liquor stores, the one I frequent in Louisville can’t devote valuable floor space to selling bacon instead of Bordeaux. Some stores only have chips and dips, others like Superior Liquor and Liquor Mart have added coolers and shelves with cheese, salami and chocolate.

Nobody will be doing their grocery shopping from bananas to toilet paper at a liquor store and nobody disputes that it is better for all concerned if we consume alcohol with food.

Competitive eating at what cost?

A man choked to death April 2 during the “Tex-Ass” doughnut-eating contest at Denver’s Voodoo Doughnuts in which participants try to consume a half-pound yeasted doughnut in 80 seconds. It made me wonder whether the charm has worn off of competitive eating or, as I like to call it, intentionally damaging yourself with food. I judge pie contests but I’ve never had any use for pie-eating contests. They are an insult to good pie. However, compulsive eating challenges still abound at Boulder-area eateries and bars: eatfeats.com/calendar/Boulder.html.

Local Food News

Back in the mid-’90s when there were two Chipotle Mexican Grill locations, it would have been hard to imagine a recent Eater.com headline: “Can new tortillas save Chipotle’s soul?” The Colorado-born burrito-and-bowl chain’s new tortillas are made with only a handful of simple ingredients. … Woodgrain Bagels is open at 2525 Arapahoe Ave., serving Montreal-style bagels. These are wood fire baked, smaller, crunchier and less bready than most other bagels you’ve ever tasted. … Additions to last week’s column on the Lafayette’s culinary boom: Beehold Cakes and Deli-Cious Z’s, a breakfast and lunch spot opening next to Ras Kassa’s that will also dish doughnuts and cinnamon rolls. … One of the legendary mountain brunch spots, Nederland’s Sundance Café, closes April 17 after 19 years in business. … Coming attractions: This summer Lyons-born Oskar Blues will open a tap room and eatery at 921 Pearl St., the spot recently vacated by the short-lived World of Beer.

Culinary Calendar

CU’s annual Conference on World Affairs offers a free panel on “The Future of Food: A Taste of Things to Come” 2 p.m. April 13 at the UMC East Ballroom. Panelists include Google’s Director of Global Food Services, Michiel Bakker. … Alliance Francaise de Denver offers a hands-on French cooking class at the Children’s Museum of Denver on the last Tuesday of the month at 2 and 3 p.m. The classes for kids and their adults are free with museum admission. mychildrensmuseum.org. … Plan ahead: National Blueberry Pie Day is April 28 followed by National Raspberry Tart Day on May 3 and National Coconut Cream Pie Day on May 8. … Spanish language speakers and learners are welcome at ¡A Cocinar! April 28 at Longmont’s Journey Language Center. The hands-on class in cooking Spanish, Mediterranean and Peruvian dishes is followed by lunch with South American wines and Latin music. journeylanguagecenter.com. …

Number Du Jour: 1.2 million

About 1.2 million U.S. food service workers are undocumented, or between 12 and 16 percent of all restaurant workers, according to recent Pew Research Center statistics, and the real percentage may be much higher. “Immigrants feed this country. They cultivate our produce; they cook our food. The food industry wouldn’t be possible in the way it is without them,” Noelle Lindsay Stewart of Define America, a media outlet focused on immigrant issues, told Eater.com.

Taste of the Week

You’ll never be able to stomach Kahlua again after you taste Richardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur from Spirit Hound Distillers in Lyons. It’s not nearly as sweet with a perfectly distinct flavor of naturally decaffeinated coffee, pure vanilla and grain spirits. Big plus: You can sip it at night.

Words to Chew On

“Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke.” — Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950)

John Lehndorff writes a food and music blog at johnlehndorff.wordpress.com and hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, kgnu.org). Questions, comments, quibbles: nibbles@boulderweekly.com.