The food at Frasca Food & Wine was so good that, at one moment, I cried. It had never happened to me before, nor should it have — the only times one should cry while eating is if they’ve been rescued by a cargo ship and offered a hot meal for the first time in months or if they’re eating while watching a rerun of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
But neither of those scenarios were the case. My eyes welled up simply because I was eating something so good. It was a simple dish of broad noodles with a light veal ragu and sautéed broccolini. There was just the tiniest bit of sharp shaved cheese on top.
To me, the dish tasted like the earth, both in a gustatory and metaphorical way. Sure all of the components of the dish balanced one another in taste and texture, but that’s what you expect at a multiple James Beard Award-winning restaurant. What you don’t expect in a simple dish of pasta is the feeling that you are eating something grown, cultivated, shipped and prepared specifically for you at that specific time and place.
Much of Frasca’s food, and that dish of pappardelle in particular, so adeptly reminds the diner that a good chef is an artist and a curator. To pare down the endless combinations of foods to just the four or five ingredients on the plate is the same skill a writer, painter or musician hones in their crafts. When done well, it is awe-inspiring.
I didn’t even want to like Frasca. My personal prejudice against high-end, high-price Italian food comes from years of eating effortless and fantastic plates of Italian staples from saltimbocca to bucatini all’amatriciana at any number of modest pizzerias back in the Northeast. I didn’t want to pay $300 for food I’d gotten hundreds of times in a paper bag from a guy in a wifebeater named Vito.
I didn’t understand why there was such a focus on the food of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a small region in way Northeast Italy, just west of Slovenia; a region I’d never heard of before coming to Boulder. And I was even skeptical of those dozen or so James Beard Award nominations and wins for outstanding wine program and service, as well as this year’s semifinal nod for outstanding restaurant.
But I was just being a hater. I couldn’t understand, and Frasca don’t care if I or anyone else did.
The pappardelle was a humbling dish for me, but the dishes before it set it up for glory like a good base ball lineup. The plate preceding it was a 7X wagyu beef carpaccio with light oil and a few slivers of fresh, crunchy radicchio. I felt a primal, sexual energy eating the carpaccio, whose thin, raw slices melted immediately on the tongue but tasted like if Cleopatra was a cow and you sliced open her thigh while she was napping, fanned by servants on a bed of sage and peacock feathers, and licked the muscle. I wanted to have sex with the beef carpaccio is what I’m saying.
The complimentary opener of a salted cod on a polenta cracker was as joyful and carefree as living in the world of Finding Nemo, finding him and then eating him on a polenta cracker.
The folks at Frasca care, I know, but I wonder if Chef Lachlan Mackinnon- Patterson and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey (both owners) look at the few bad Yelp reviews of their restaurant and figure out whether to laugh or cry. “This was just okay; it didn’t have any flair to it (no seasoning),” one reviewer wrote of a venison tartare. Another wrote “rated best classy bar in Boulder, but has Home Depot lightbulbs hanging from an extension chord as a make shift chandelier.”
I wasn’t there on those nights, but these people were wrong, and they deserve to have their Internet subscriptions cancelled.
I mean, I don’t know. I could go on about the beautiful cannelloni stuffed with Maine lobster, or the frico caldo, which is like the best-ever latke. I could go on about the duck breast and hazelnut, or the pork loin and black truffle. I could go on about the exceptional staff knowledge and the entrance-to-exit hospitality.
But you should just experience it. If you can get one moment like I had in the pappardelle — one simultaneously crow-eating and life-affirming — the price of admission is worth it.