Recent 5 Star Recommendations
Last night I sat at a table full of strangers.
We settled in after a bit of the new meeting awkwardness wore off for the introverted and cautious. Not too much later we were passing dishes around the table, family-style, laughing at stories of forgotten wedding anniversaries, hiring food trucks for weddings, strawberry growing conventions, and the state of dining culture in Fort Collins.
Yet, while we were going through the broken record conversation of lackluster dining in our city, it was ironic that we were sitting in the middle of a restaurant making progress in the culinary arts right in the heart of Old Town.
It’s no secret how much I enjoy The Kitchen. They have a 5-star rating on Feasting Fort Collins, and they made the Best of 2014 list. While there might be some unmet expectations with dinner service for many Fort Collins residents (and I get it), the one night that The Kitchen shines is community night.
Community night is for the culinary adventurous, the people who are willing to try anything once. For $35, this chef-inspired five course dinner is a smorgasbord where the creativity is let loose on your plate. You’re not likely to find similar dishes anywhere else in town.
This is exactly what happened last night.
The third course was house-made Fazzoletti with white wine, cream, and cured egg yolk. The cured egg yolk was something that few dinner attendees were familiar with. The hardened salted yolk was grated on top of our pasta like cheese, giving it a rich, buttery salt flavor and adding another layer of complexity to the dish (which it needed if you didn’t partake in the cured egg yolk garnish). I thought it was fantastic – both in flavor and dining experience, as people’s faces lit up when discovering something new to enjoy.
While this table of strangers became acquaintances and sharing thoughts of culinary frustration, I couldn’t help but remember the handful of restaurants who are always trying something new. Instead of just feeding us, they are creating moments and memories. Community nights at The Kitchen do just this, and that’s why they are today’s Eat Of The Week.
We’re doing something new and fun this year with locally sourced foods in Fort Collins. We’re starting a new series called Flavors From Fort Collins, where readers can help with submitting guest posts that feature at least one locally sourced ingredient or Colorado specialty food in a recipe. We’re essentially creating a local community collaboration recipe book all throughout the year while highlighting all of the great food businesses and ingredients that surround us.
If you’d like to participate, please read the Guest Post Guidelines page or feel free to email me at Kristin@feastingfortcollins.com.
Fall is my favorite time, not for pumpkin flavors but because I get to cook with one of my favorite chefs Bob Karisny. He loves the holidays, although Halloween is his favorite, candy making at his place can’t be beat! Over the years, we have tried many flavors from Red Bean to Key Lime. This year was an incredible variety of unique flavors, using many local ingredients to create Strawberry Rhubarb Balsamic, Crabapple Gin Fizz, Goat Milk Porter and Captain Crunch.
Bob starts well ahead to develop his flavors, picking crabapples from his tree, gathering strawberries at the local market, purchasing 18 year old balsamic from Rocky Mountain Olive Oil, rhubarb from the neighbor and even testing various alcohols, for the cause of course.
The Strawberry Rhubarb was the most farm-to-fork of all of the truffles, the 18 year old balsamic really rounded out this flavor profile. Beginning a week earlier, Bob allowed the flavors to meld together and reduce down to a compote that could be mixed into the truffle’s ganache center. This slow cooking process created a fusion of flavors in this tart, yet sweet confection that continued to come out in the many flavor layers.
The Crabapple Gin Fizz, included Leopold Brothers Gin, originally developed as a Peach Gin Fizz truffle for a food and wine show demonstration in New York. How can a truffle fizz you say? Why from pop rocks of course! After some testing, Bob discovered if the pop rocks were placed in the soft truffle center, the moisture disintegrated them. Yet, with further trial and error, he discovered placing the pop rocks in the outer shell at just the right temperature, provided a nice bubbly surprise.
The Captain Crunch, apparently took many taste tests of the actual cereal to really determine all of the flavor levels. This milk chocolate confection, tasted like the sweet flavor of the cereal wrapped in a shell of chocolate and actual Captain Crunch.
Goat Milk Porter, my personal favorite, used Former Future Brewery’s Prim & Porter. Some who tasted it found it spicy, while others found it slightly tart, everyone’s palette’s had a different taste experience. For me, it started off with a nice sweet flavor from the outer milk chocolate shell, becoming a deeper, rounded chocolate porter flavor, finishing with the tartness of the goat milk. I recommend trying this unique flavor profile, if you ever have the opportunity.
We also tried Nuance Chocolate, sampling seven of their single origin chocolate from different regions. A self-described small batch bean-to-bar with a hints of flavors, two had hints of tobacco leaf, giving it a slightly smoky flavor. Nuance is clearly speaking to the masses, selling out of product a few times now.
Get in the kitchen, get cooking and never be afraid to try new flavor profiles, you never know what new tastes you will come to love. Try a bit of local in new ways as often as possible, when you do invite me over for a taste.
Chocolate Truffles – recipe from FineCooking.com
12 oz. semisweet chocolate (55% to 60% cacao), coarsely chopped or broken into pieces (2 slightly heaping cups)
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed); more as needed
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
Grind the chocolate in a food processor until it reaches the consistency of coarse meal, about 30 seconds.
Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cream to the food processor and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.Add the butter and process until smooth, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.
Put the cocoa powder in a large bowl. Using 2 teaspoons, drop rounded, heaping teaspoonfuls of truffle mixture onto a large, parchment-lined baking sheet.
When all of the truffles are scooped, dip them in the cocoa and use your palms to roll the truffles into smooth 1-inch balls (don’t worry about making them perfect; slightly irregular truffles have an appealing homemade appearance). Transfer the truffles to the refrigerator.
TIP: A shortcut to easy truffles: While pastry chefs typically temper the melted chocolate they use to coat truffles so that they look smooth and shiny, we skip the tempering (which can be tricky) and roll the truffles in cocoa powder or ground nuts right after coating them with melted chocolate. The truffles look great and any imperfections in the chocolate coating are hidden.
Melt the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set in a small skillet of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
Transfer the bowl to a work surface. Working in batches, use your fingers or a couple of forks to coat the truffles with the melted chocolate.
Coat them again with cocoa or nuts, and return them to the baking sheet. If using your hands, you’ll have to stop and wash off the chocolate in between batches.
Let the truffles sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead Tips: Truffles will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring them to room temperature before serving.
Good things happen with a cup of coffee. It starts your day off on the right foot. It’s the social lubricant for business meetings. It gets things done.
I’ve never had a bad meeting, or a bad drink, at The Bean Cycle. From lattes, espresso, Matcha, and the Kerouac. From bloggers, friends, and business partners. There’s nothing but good that comes from this place.
I recently had a meeting with new Fresh Air Fort Collins guest blogger at Bean Cycle to talk blog shop. The coffeehouse was packed to the rafters, and we were very lucky to get a seat. It seems that a good number of people in Fort Collins feel the same way about this home-roasted gem.
Ideas sprout with each sip. Coffee becomes the catalyst for momentum. And Bean Cycle is often the space that connects it all. Beauce of their charm and quality, they make today’s Eat Of The Week (drink of the week?) – either way – they made my week.