Taste of the Week: Caprese panini and Vietnamese chilled noodle salad @ Community Table Kitchen

John Lehndorff

If I hadn’t stopped by the Della Cava Medical Pavilion at Boulder’s Foothills Medical Campus to get my COVID booster jab, I probably never would have eaten at Community Table Kitchen. The eatery near a large parking garage and the Boulder bike path offers a great-sounding breakfast and lunch menu featuring scratch-made soups, Moe’s bagel sandwiches, turkey club wraps, quinoa salads, oatmeal raisin cookies, quiche, grilled vegetable quesadillas, and hot drinks ranging from coffee to Sherpa Chai.

I sat on the sunny patio and dug into a Vietnamese noodle salad and a caprese panini. The substantial salad tops fresh greens and chewy chilled rice noodles with daikon radish, pineapple, pickled ginger, peppery sprouts, carrots, cukes, and a sweet spicy vinaigrette dressing. I added grilled chicken. 

For the sandwich, lots of creamy fresh mozzarella cheese and heirloom tomato slices fill flatbreads spread with basil pesto, then pressed and grilled until gooey.

The fact that the food is very good matters, but it’s more important that Community Table Kitchen is a social enterprise business that supports Bridge House. That Boulder nonprofit helps adults transition from homelessness and food insecurity. More than 100 individuals have been trained in the culinary arts under the kitchen’s executive chef, John Trejo.  

Besides the cafe, Community Table Kitchen supports itself as a caterer, a take-and-bake food service, and a truffle brownie bakery. Ordering information: boulderbridgehouse.org/community-table-kitchen

Roasted pinon nuts.
Photo: John Lehndorff

Another roadfood attraction

I’ve always liked toasted pine nuts, especially on soft Italian cookies, but roasted piñon nuts are something completely different. I fell for them years ago during an impromptu family trip to New Mexico. We bought a bag of freshly harvested and roasted Pinus Edulis and found them to be among the most craveable natural foods on the planet. They taste like toasted creaminess. You crack and remove the delicate shell, or skip that part and crunch them whole. It’s a good source of fiber. 

Because they are wild-harvested and only found in New Mexico and Southern Colorado, roasted pinon nuts are hard to find and always quite pricey. The only places I’ve found them locally are at Lulu’s Farm, 13201 E. 144th Ave. in Brighton, and The Chili Guys, 5501 Federal Blvd. in Denver.

What to do with too much apple cider

Boiled Honey Crisp apple cider caramel. Photo: John Lehndorff

I bought a gallon of Honey Crisp apple cider when it was on sale months ago. I wasn’t going to drink it because it’s a boring cider tasting cider. It wasn’t clear what it would become until I saw an old recipe for boiled cider. It wasn’t complicated. I put one gallon of cider in a large sauce pan and simmered it slowly for about eight hours until it was reduced down to a few cups. An added plus: It humidifies your kitchen all day. 

When the cider is one-eighth of its original volume it becomes a honey-like syrup that can be used on pancakes. You can filter the reduced cider while it’s still a liquid through a sieve, cheesecloth, or coffee filters to clarify it. 

See, I got busy and a little distracted and forgot about it for a while. That’s how I ended up with a jar of firm, sticky apple cider caramel that is intensely sweet, tart and apple-y. I may robe spoonfuls in dark chocolate, roll in toasted hazelnuts, and call them truffles, or use it in holiday pastries. 

You can infuse clementine peel, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, whiskey, salt, or star anise by adding them in the final hour of simmering. Stored in your refrigerator, boiled cider will keep almost indefinitely. 

Culinary calendar 

It may seem premature to start marking your calendars for Colorado’s biggest annual food and beverage gatherings coming next year, but each of the following is expected to return to its former in-person glory in 2022. Tickets to each typically sell out quickly after they are put on sale.

The Taste of Vail is April 6-9. tasteofvail.com

The Aspen Food & Wine Classic is June 17-19. foodandwine.com

The Colorado Mountain Wine Festival is Sept. 17 in Palisade. coloradowinefest.com

The Great American Beer Festival’s 40th anniversary is October 6-8 in Denver. greatamericanbeerfestival.com

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