Your first time

Boulder County’s restaurant week gets you to taste beyond your bubble

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Susan France

You never forget your first kiss and the first time people laughed at your jokes. I also remember my very first taste of certain dishes.

I have a crystal clear memory of the place and the taste of my first egg yolk-filled ravioli with brown butter and sage. I can recall my first taste of quail egg and flying fish roe sushi, my first real macaron in Paris and my first smoked ribs with chile verde.

Sigh and yum.

In each case, the first contact with my lips never would have happened if I hadn’t stepped outside various comfort zones. Even now it’s easy to slip into a dining rut where you order the same 10 dishes at the same 10 Boulder County restaurants, but you know that there must be more to eat.

First Bite makes it simple to step out and explore the boundaries of your comfort zone, and makes it affordable to try new places that might seem beyond your dining budget. First Bite Boulder County Restaurant Week (Nov. 9-17) offers special three-course $34 dinners at about 50 local eateries ranging from new places like Chimera, to classics such as Boulder Cork and the Greenbriar Inn, and local favorites like Cafe Aion, River & Woods, Leaf, Shine and Blooming Beets. Some places offer wine and beverage pairings for an add-on cost. You make First Bite reservations with the individual dining spots.

Looking through the prix fixe menu choices for First Bite, I immediately knew which three dishes I would want to order.

At Bacco Trattoria, I’d definitely start with a creamy burrata cheese plate with grilled vegetables, followed by the surf-and-turf combo of a petite sirloin steak and a lobster tail with penne arrabbiata, and then the finale: sweet tiramisu.

Seasonal ingredients make me hungry looking at the menu for Sugarbeet in Longmont. I’d absolutely opt for butternut squash soup, with an entrée of meaty king trumpet mushroom “scallops” with stuffed peppers, forbidden black rice, English peas and yellow curry. An apple tart tatin with vanilla ice cream would finish a meal flavored for autumn.   

For First Bite at Boulder’s Salt Bistro, I’d begin with grilled pear and polenta and bleu cheese fondue. Comfort rules the entrée choice of beef bourguignon with potato puree, garlic-seared rainbow chard and crispy onions. I’d finish with a salt-dusted caramel tart. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Founded in 2005 by Kate Lacroix, First Bite has steadily grown to include eateries across Boulder County including Lafayette (Acreage), Gunbarrel (Avery Brewing Co), Longmont (Samples) and Erie (INJOY).

Most participating restaurants offer several appetizer, entrée and dessert choices. The largest First Bite menu may be at Louisville’s 740 Front, featuring four appetizers, seven entrees, or — instead of a starter — you can choose panna cotta, chocolate crème brûlée or cherry pie. 

This year, First Bite has also expanded the reach of the week beyond the bistros, cafes and fancier places to include some great $19 tasting menus.

The West End Tavern’s $19 tasting menu can include KC barbecue burnt ends as an hors d’oevre, then a palate-cleansing spinach salad with pork belly, apples and blue cheese followed by a pulled pork platter with cornbread, slaw and pickles.

Even Boulder-born Snarf’s Sandwiches gets aboard this year with a down-to-Earth $19 (for two) spread: two 7-inch toasted sandwiches (like eggplant Parmesan or the Italian layered with salami, pepperoni, capicola, mortadella, provolone and toppings), plus chips, drinks and cookies.

(More menus: firstbiteboulder.com)

Another Kimchi Roadside Attraction

Driving the rural roads of Boulder County, a lot of food-related signs, usually handmade, catch my eye including “fresh eggs” and “honey.” Beyond the ones for roadside farm stands, I often see “jerky” signs by the side of mountain highways as if the altitude, distances and dry air cannot be survived without chewing on dry, salty elk.

But for all the decades I’ve been traveling these byways I had never, ever seen a sign advertising a “kimchi stand.” Yet there it was on the east side of South Boulder Road in unincorporated Boulder County between Boulder and Louisville.

The kimchi roadside stand is situated at Friar Farms, 6405 S. Boulder Road. Follow the signs, park and look for a tarp-covered spot with wooden boxes of various bottled kimchis and a self-pay jar for the cash.

Kimchi Colorado is the brainchild of Zach Saipe, whose interest in healthier farming and building living soil led him to develop his kimchi business under Colorado’s cool cottage foods law.

The main ingredients in his fermentation are organic napa and Chinese cabbage, carrots and daikon radish. Zaipe said that mustard greens, kale and bok choy also make it into the mix along with garlic, ginger, green onions and various hot chilies. The kimchi comes in three intensities: mild, medium and spicy.

While I’m still having a hard time imagining people chomping on kimchi while driving across the state’s expanses, I’m open to the probiotic possibility.

Local Food News

Osaka’s Japanese restaurant is open at 2460 Canyon Blvd., dishing Boulder’s first okonomiyaki-style burgers. … During Let’s Bag Hunger Food Drive Nov. 9-11 you can help Community Food Share fill the pantry shelves of more than 40 nonprofits that feed folks in Boulder and Broomfield counties by filling a bag with nonperishable food and donating it at King Soopers in Boulder and Louisville. What helps even more is making a donation at communityfoodshare.org.

Taste of the Week 

It started with me frying some slices of uncured smoked bacon that needed to be cooked. As they slowly sizzled, it seemed like something needed to be cooking in the fat being rendered, so I added half a yellow onion, finely sliced. I had a baked red garnet sweet potato so I cut it in cubes and added it to the pan. That led naturally to adding two ripe avocado halves. All of that cooked until crispy when I added two eggs, some chevre cheese and a generous pour of Picaflor hot sauce. The end result was a brunch that couldn’t be beat.

Words to Chew On

“Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.” — Tom Robbins

John Lehndorff is the former Food Editor of the Daily Camera. He hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU: http://news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles