Taxing memories

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A small army of executive chefs manned the line for a James Beard Foundation dinner at Larkspur in Vail.
John Lehndorff

Math and I have always had an adversarial relationship. Born minus the calculus gene, math was the one subject that marred my straight A’s in school. Doing taxes affects me like chewing on aluminum foil while scratching nails on a chalkboard. It’s especially irksome now that I’m an independent business.

I should have started the tax horror earlier but I was invited to judge 21 entries at the American Lamb Cookoff in Vail and hang out in the kitchen with all-star chefs at a James Beard dinner at Larkspur restaurant.

Do you blame me?

Right now, I need deductions something awful. Youngsters will be amused to know that I keep track of where I travel for work in a Day-Timer (that’s a print product you write in with a pen). Once a year I’m forced to sit and figure out my mileage to culinary destinations. Last year I travelled farther and more often than any 12-month stretch in my career in search of something to eat.

Cuban baked goods and fare including tamales served at Aurora’s Cuban Bakery and Café. Kim Long
Cuban baked goods and fare including tamales served at Aurora’s Cuban Bakery and Café.

Looking through my 2015 diary of a serial snacker made me smile. On January 14, I drove to Aurora to the Cuban Bakery and Cafe, Mu Brewery, Two22 Brewery and Daniel’s of Paris Bakery. It was fun but a little heavy on the carbs. April 11 found me researching a dozen Vail Valley eateries in Eagle (the Eagle Diner is a classic), Cordillera, Eagle Vail and finally Avon for Turkish coffee at Kiwi International Delights. Dual assignments took me to El Matador Restaurant in Raton, New Mexico, and Mission at the Bell restaurant in Trinidad for green chile with stops at Amy’s Donuts (Colorado Springs) and Pueblo’s Bingo Burgers, where green chilies are mixed in the beef.

Looking back now, these expeditions were as much about the people I met and travelled with as the food. On July 10, 2015, I was lucky to spend the day with my son visiting Glazed & Confuzed Doughnuts in Denver, Broken Shovel Farm in Henderson (excellent goat cheese) and Fruition Farm in Larkspur to watch sheep’s milk cheese being made and visiting the hogs.

I lift a toast to my battered 2005 Nissan Quest for carrying me to a Slow Meat conference in Denver, to Johnson & Wale’s University to talk food journalism, to Hygiene for pie judging and to Greeley for krautburgers.

After thousands of miles I have learned two things:

(1)    I now know how much I don’t know about food in Colorado;
(2)    I just wrote this column to avoid using a calculator to add up my mileage and restaurant receipts.

The plate of crudo — two types of raw fish — is ready to serve at Larkspur.John Lehndorff
The plate of crudo — two types of raw fish — is ready to serve at Larkspur.

Local food news
The premature sound of the first ice cream truck of the season trolling my Lafayette neighborhood last weekend induced a sense of dread similar to the theme from Jaws except playing over and over and over again. To everything there is a season. Ice cream trucks, like gardening, should not be allowed before Mother’s Day in Colorado. … If you go to the Boulder County Farmers’ Markets on Saturday you will find garden starts. However, just because they call them “garden starts” doesn’t mean you want to plant those seedlings now. April is the cruelest month when sunny days induce people to plant things too early only to watch it snow again. … Some locals expressed dismay recently when Cincinnati-based Kroger bought a big chunk of Boulder’s Lucky’s Market, which has 17 stores in 13 states. It is the nature of the natural foods beast. Wild Oats swallowed Alfalfa’s Market. Whole Foods ate Wild Oats. Sprouts absorbed Sunflower Market. So far, Natural Grocers/Vitamin Cottage has avoided being digested. Ironically, Alfalfa’s Market 2.0 is the only local independent food market in Boulder again (besides the many Mexican, Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern markets.) … Two Colorado distilleries took home medals at the prestigious American Distilling Institute’s Craft Spirits Awards: Spirit Hound Distillers in Lyons for its Richardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur, and Basalt’s Woody Creek Distillers for Colorado Rye Whiskey. … Should you happen to go to Coors Field to watch the Rockies play this season, you’ll be able to ease the pain with more Boulder County craft brews. Upslope and Left Hand breweries are making their debut at the ballpark joining the already established Oskar Blues ales. … The rustic Gold Hill Inn reopens for the season on April 29.

Culinary calendar
Ready to give up that desk job and raise Swiss chard and striped bass? Learn how at an Aquaponic Farming Course April 21-24 in Denver. More information at  theaquaponicfarmingcourse.com. … You can learn how to cut and use the meat from one of Cure Organic Farm’s heritage mangalitsa pigs on April 24 through the Boulder Butchery Guild. Information at boulderbutcheryguild.com. … Send information on summer Boulder County food events, classes, tastings, farm dinners and contests to: nibbles@boulderweekly.com.

Taste of the week
Egg McMuffins are a joy because of their predictability. Then there are individual breakfast sandwiches that uplift the quality of your whole day. Such was the case when I ordered recently at Great Harvest Bread Company in Longmont. I started with two thick slices of toasted Dakota bread laced with sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds. Spread with cream cheese, they were middled with fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon and provolone. The parts melded into a meal so good I forgot to take a photo.

Words to chew on
“Sandwich outdoors isn’t a sandwich anymore. Tastes different than indoors, notice? Got more spice. Tastes like mint and pinesap. Does wonders for the appetite.” — Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine.

Like John’s Facebook page at facebook.com/USpie. John hosts Radio Nibbles, 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, streaming at kgnu.org). What was the single best thing you learned about cooking from your mother in the kitchen? E-mail: nibbles@boulderweekly.com.