Deliciously Denver

Written by Robyn Wyman-dill

For a food lover, there is nothing quite like taking a stroll down the middle of a road with a tapestry of tents on either side. All beautifully set with fresh foods and artisan goods and bursting with color. There is a honeymaker on my left and Mile High Fungi mushrooms on my right. City Girls Flowers is next and a real eye-catcher with gorgeous girls.  The cucumbers come in three different shades and sizes. Palisades peaches, tuscan kale, heirloom tomatoes and a delicious almond and honey feta cheese later. Then, there are the breads, the cheeses, pies and pastries. Il Procellino Salumi draws the crowds. While samples abound. I think you know where I am going with a feast like this. First stop is my kitchen. Then, Nirvana. My life as a self-proclaimed, food wanderer and semi-prophet has its benefits.

To earn my ‘food whisperer’ T-shirt, I have had to wander for centuries among the fruits and veggies at outdoor markets around the world in Italy, Germany, England and France. In the late 90s, I believe I had a divine awakening at Santa Monica Farmers Market. That was the day Wolfgang Puck bought my favorite salad mix, validating me as a chef. Paving the way to then become an apprentice private chef and food commentator. Now, in Colorado, a state that is blooming with creativity, I am taking nature’s horn of plenty to the next step. To deeply appreciate food craft at the artisan level.

I want to thank the goddesses of good timing for magically appearing. Three lovely ladies at rootpr.com named Kuvy, Cori and Em
ilie, began sprinkling some pixie dust in my inbox. Which put me in touch with a community of farm-to-market-to-table disciples and artisans here. Invitations, conversations and Farmers Market volunteer experience later, I have assembled a roadmap to some of the best products in terms of taste and creativity. Beginning with Chocolate Lab.IMG_3350

It is hard to believe that this small restaurant-bar-confectionery on Colfax Avenue, located in a small retail complex alongside Sie Film Center and Tattered Cover II Bookstore, produces 2,500 – 3,000 truffles a week in 250 flavor combination. It’s even harder to imagine how a kitchen so small could expand its horizons to accommodate weddings, catering, and chocolate-infused lunch and dinner menus. But then, Chocolatier-owner, Phil Simonson, is no shrinking violet when it comes to a challenge. Setting a goal, nine years ago, to create the perfect truffle. And, he did. Just to keep life decadently interesting. His creativity with chocolate is expressed best in his pulled pork sandwich with bourbon-chocolate barbecue sauce, warm tomato salad with cherry tomatoes, balsamic and white chocolate champagne, and flatbread with chocolate-balsamic, arugula, gorgonzola and pear. www.chocolatelabdenver.com. Combining art and science in Chocolate.

Last week, I had my first date with Colorado-made wines at Bonacquisti Wine Company. Situated in Sunnyside, a Denver neighborhood now getting a buzz for being the next hot place to live, the winery seems a tad misunderstood – wedged inside an industrial warehouse space surrounded by a mix of historic bungalows and modern homes. But, that is what’s cool about Denver. It’s not a predictable town.

Turns out Colorado is no stranger to wine production. The first recorded wine production here was in 1899. Colorado’s dry climate keep pests and disease pressures low, requiring less pesticides than most American vineyards.

A former radio DJ, Paul Bonacquisti, has been making wine with his family for friends for decades. When his DJ gig ended, he stood facing a new life chapter. His wife, Judi Diaz Bonacquisti, encouraged him to turn his wine hobby into a business. He earned his Level 2 Sommelier certification from the International Wine Guild and a little over ten years ago, Bonacquisti established Bonacquisti Wine Company, creating wines for easy drinking. Perennial favorites like Vinny No Neck and Bella Risa are excellent table wines for the every man. Wines to take the elitism associated with wine away.

On September 30, Bonacquisti Wine Company will host the Second Annual Northside Wine and Music Festival from 4-9pm. Trio Fedora Nights and Latin Sol will be performing. The festival will offer tastings of the latest collection of barrel-aged fall wines,(Colorado Cabernet Franc straight from the barrel is noteworthy.)a selection of charcuterie, BBQ pulled port, and Bonacquisti’s duck-fat roasted almonds. A portion of the proceeds are earmarked for North High School in Denver. If you can’t make the date do keep in mind, every Thursday, BWC hosts Bring Your Own Vinyl Thursdays. Patrons are encouraged to bring their favorite vinyls. The vibe is friendly, family-style Italian. bonacquistiwine.com

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Palisades peaches, tuscan kale, heirloom tomatoes and a delicious almond and honey feta cheese. Then, there are the breads, the cheeses, pies and pastries. I feel like a tourist about to embark on a great adventure at Denver Union Station Farmers Market. It’s like sliding into a horn of plenty. A congregation of red and white umbrellas occupy a special space on Wynkoop Street every Saturday from 10am-2pm until the end of October – just outside the main terminal.

This is agriculture at its best. The green beans are perfection. Heirloom tomatoes – plump and seductive. Every vegetable radiates nutrition. Even the eggplants are over-glistening. Children like to have fun, splashing in the geyser-like fountains creating sound that echo inside the urban corridor. Like a chorus of angelic voices. There is something in the way it resonates that excites me with childhood memories of markets in Europe. Now in its second year, Union Station’s Farmers Market is under the management of Boulder County Farmers Market and it shows. It is the Rolls Royce of locally-sourced produce and artisan goods. My heart wants to sing a song of food here. A song that borders on delicious. That people can savor. A song that speaks to the common man, the beet and the radish. Could this atmosphere of positive vibrations be people’s reverence for all things nourishment? Bathing suits appear to be optional for patrons under three years.

Since ancient times, public markets have served as a central hub for all kinds of commerce bringing farmers, tradesmen, and villagers together. Today’s Farmers Markets are heavily vested in their own local economies and cultures. They serve to support local suppliers and encourage social ties among rural and urban populations. While their very existence benefits neighborhood businesses bringing in more customers. Local musicians and themed market days entertain.

Whereas Union Station Farmers Market is known for it premier foods and prices, Broomfield Farmers Market is the market with a heart that caters to everyone. Organized by volunteers,
they work hard to provide a gathering place for the community. Local growers, food producers, food trucks, music and feel good foods come together with music, children’s booths and contests. In its seventh year, the adjacent Holy Comforter Church supports the market’s mission that donates to charities like Arising Hope Women’s Shelter and double the benefits redeemed by shoppers on SNAP food assistance.

“We want the market to be accessible, said Principal Organizer, Dave Carter of Broomfield Farmers’ Market. “There’s an impression that farmers’ markets are for elitist. We are not.”

Held on Tuesday afternoons, it draws close to 14,000 attendees from June through the end of September. The community spends over $100,000 supporting 34 small farms and businesses in Colorado.

I have learned there is no shortage of Farmers Markets in Colorado. From Mid-May through Mid-October, more than 200 roadside stands, u-picks and Community Supported Agricultural programs that qualify as Farmers Markets are open for business. That’s before you factor in major hubs. Colorado Farmers Market Association has vetted 100 Farmers’ Markets who deliver locally sourced, healthy foods. The Colorado Farmers Market Locations List 2017, issued by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Markets Division, can be found online with the all the goods.

It’s dinner time. I am about to roast my zebra-striped baby eggplant and shallots from the Denver Union Farmers Market in the oven at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes in olive oil, himalayan salt, cracked pepper and a light sprinkling of herbes du Provence. I have one bottle of Innocent Bystander Pink Muscato from Australia sitting on my kitchen counter that looks like it came from a six pack. I am going to mix it with a little Pellegrino water and raise my glass to the three ladies at rootpr.com.

Innocent Bystander is a newcomer to the US. Born and raised in Australia, this moscato refreshes the palette with its rose water, toffee apple and rhubarb flavors. (I acquired this bottle from Moxie Luxe, an immersive events company, launching their first event in Denver at Mile High Station on September 16. Titled, Ordinary World, it is anything but ordinary. I describe it as a cabaret of dancers and aerialists designed for city slickers and the energetic. Fine drink and nibbles are served. Please dress in white. A portion of the proceeds will go to The Mathew Shepard Foundation, a non-profit that empowers individuals to create change and address hate issues that exist in their schools, neighborhoods and homes with the aim to replace it with understanding and compassion.)

My life as a self-proclaimed, food wanderer and semi-prophet has its benefits.

Salute!

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