Last night I had dinner at Locality. It was an invite-only soft opening, and you gotta know that having an invite and plus one to something that is invite only is pretty much the highlight of my life. I think this is because I didn’t go to prom and now I have to spend my adult life feeling like I have to catch up in coolness to everyone else who got to sway silently to True Colors in a gymnasium with someone they still occasionally run into at Target.
Since I have only been writing here for a few months and I live on the west side of town (West Side represent!/gang sign here), I am still blissfully unaware of hot new happenings in food, particularly on the east side. Locality however, has been on my radar for months. For a while though I had no idea what it was going to be, and to be honest, how to pronounce it (in case the written word translating to the spoken word is a challenge for you too, the middle syllable is “cal” like California, not “cul” like local.) Locality is brought to us by the same team as Door 222 in Loveland with the concept being….wait for it….near everything on the menu locally supplied. It’s farm to table without the farm.
My first thought in hearing this was that it couldn’t be pulled off. How are they going to have a local shrimp dish? And what about cheese—we have to fly that in from somewhere, don’t we? When I think of ingredients local to Fort Collins, I can’t get much past beer. Maybe beef if we convert our currency and take a trip to Weld county. And my neighbor has a fabulous pear tree, but she just doesn’t seem like the type who could handle supplying a restaurant.
I posted on Facebook about needing a date thinking you good people would find me an attractive 40-something single man with a sense of humor and no parole officer, but no—you didn’t. If we are being honest (and let’s do because we have come to that point in this relationship), I’m starting to doubt that you guys are really there for me and my dating life. Luckily sweet Jana, a reader who is very attractive with a good sense of humor, but neither single nor a man, stepped up to be my plus one and my concerns of someone that had a pit in their basement and a bucket of lotion volunteering to go with me, were quickly set aside.
When I eat somewhere for a review, I like to scope out the menu online beforehand because I’m prone to hasty quick decisions that are often disappointing (I’m looking at you, strappy silver heels that are impossible to walk in but were on clearance). Before I left, I decided that I would have the House Sourdough with Whipped Beer Butter ($4) to start, the Roasted Half-Chicken ($19.50), and the Mini Donuts ($7). Cocktails would be left to chance because if you’re going to gamble on your date, you may as well let it ride on the booze too. This plan quickly got tossed out the window likely because of a fight Siri and I had in the car about who knows how to get around Fort Collins better. I arrived late for my reservation, disheveled and frustrated and ready to hate everything because I’m better at throwing gas on a little fire and dancing around than I am at grabbing the fire extinguisher that’s right next to me with step-by-step use instructions clearly marked in a large font and helpful pictures.
Yet, the front of house staff would not have it. You know that part where you get taken back to your table and the staff asks you how your day has been so far? I hate that part. Sometimes just to be a brat, I tell them the truth….well, Cindy, I’m glad you asked. I woke up late only to discover I was out of coffee creamer. Then I fought with my kid over sock seams. Yes, sock seams. Because they are uncomfortable if not properly placed, you see. Then I got a grouchy email from a client that made me wonder if I would be a good barista—what do you think? Wait, what? You want me to sit at this table and not finish my story? THEN WHY DID YOU ASK SUCH AN OPEN-ENDED QUESTION, CINDY??!!
Walking into Locality is not like this. I’m certain that comfortable and kind conversation was made but I was too busy being transported into loveliness. Even though I just review food, it would be impossible to not mention the atmosphere, the attention to detail, and the staff. Have you ever stepped into a place and just immediately felt better? I feel that way about my therapist’s office, my Mom’s house, any coffee shop, and Locality. And I am certain that you will too.
We were hooked-up with a romantic window table that was as well-appointed as any high-end dining experience but without the intimidation factor. The lighting is dim, the echo will be worked out once they figure out the sound system, and the surroundings are trendy eye candy; I left there certain that I needed a barn door, a metal chandelier, and a chalkboard wall immediately. Tiffany was our server and I’m disappointed that her and I don’t have matching BFF necklaces already because I’m pretty sure we connected on that level and my ego needs to believe she isn’t like that with everyone.
First, the alcohol. There is a vast wine selection and of course the beers we Fort Collins folks expect of any place, and 8 “Colorado Crafted Cocktails”. Because I am selfless, I tried 4 of them. You know, so you don’t have to. And so you don’t even have to decide I’m going to just tell you to get the Cardamom Fig Martini ($9). I know what you’re thinking: who serves house-made cardamom and fig vodka and why? Locality does, and because it’s amazing. I actually ordered the Honey Drop Martini, which was a perfectly fine lemon drop with a tinge of sweet honey back flavor, and then stared longingly at Jana’s Fig Martini after I slurped down as much of hers as I thought I could get away with.
If you don’t trust me on the martinis, maybe you’ll take my word on the Black Walnut Manhattan ($10) which was a spanking of whiskey in the very best of ways. The Lavender French 75 ($9) is what you should suggest to your friends that think drinking champagne is fun–this is their drink and they will remember it fondly the next morning while they are antiquing and going to a doTerra essential oils party. But for the rest of us, there is an inventive and strapping cocktail menu that rivals Social and uses liquor made in Colorado.
I stayed on-track and ordered the House Sourdough while Jana ordered the Zucchini Chips with shaved parmesan and garlic aioli ($5). I like my zucchini in bread nestled with chocolate chips, so this app wasn’t my jam to begin with but the chips needed to be crisper and there is just no making fried zucchini not taste burnt from what I can tell. The aioli was on-point but a cup of it would have been preferred over a smear on the plate for those of us who use dipping sauce like it’s a sport. The bread was sourdough and there isn’t much more you can say about bread but the butter was out of this world. I’m not sure about the pair together—tangy and sweet it felt like that couple that fights in public and wants you to take a side, and if I had to, I’d pick the butter and introduce it to a new bread that will appreciate it’s loud personality and friendly demeanor.
Then my entire pre-planning went to hell in a hand basket. I have a weird hang-up about ordering the most expensive thing on the menu, especially if I’m not paying for it. This dinner and the first round of drinks were comped by Locality for them to test-run everything for a night before opening to the public (to be clear, this fact in no way influenced my thoughts other than “Free food! Fun!”). I’m fairly certain that my awkwardness over not wanting to appear to be taking advantage goes back to my childhood, but we don’t have time to get into it and neither did my dinner date who insisted I order the Legacy New York Strip with roasted herb fingerling potatoes, blistered shishito peppers, and a truffle demi glaze ($27) once we realized that the half chicken comes with beets, because, you know….beets.
I wish I would have stuck with the chicken—I bet the beets are actually pretty good assuming that they are as fresh as beets can be (fresh beets—that’s a thing, right?). The strip steak is incredibly lean as the staff explained because it is local. You don’t have to be a chef to understand that fat is flavor and while this steak was cooked to absolute perfection, the cut is not going to taste how you are used to. Once I got past the first few gritty bites it did what a good steak should do—melted in my mouth like butter. But those first few bites ended up in my very darling grey plaid cloth napkin and I feel terrible about that. Otherwise, the potatoes were good, the peppers were unnecessary, and the glaze needs to be adjusted for the lean cut.
Jana, who puts my ordering ability to shame, had the House-Made Carbonara Pasta ($18) with braised lamb, a 63 degree egg (give me a second and I’ll tell you), parmesan cheese, black pepper cream sauce, and rapini. Now if you are super Italian and are shaking your head and saying, “that isn’t carbonara!”, I know. But let’s just let them having this one. Frankly they could call it tuna casserole and it would still have been the best thing I’ve eaten in weeks and I have eaten my weight in pasta lately. The lamb was tender, the sauce was perfect, and the rapini was interesting in a way that worked. A 63 degree egg is cooked in it’s shell in a water bath that’s kept at 63 degrees for one hour. I know this because I looked it up. Let’s cut through the pretentiousness and call it what it is: a slow-poached egg. Though it was the prettiest slow-poached egg I have ever seen, it was likely the only somewhat traditional carbonara ingredient. Still, I coveted Jana’s meal. The fresh pasta was insane and it could have been put next to a haphazardly cooked egg for all I care and still been mouthwatering.
A meal isn’t over for me until dessert—I need a sweet bite of something to tell my stomach that we are wrapping things up. Enter stage right, Mini Donuts with seasonal jam (raspberry at the moment) and a coffee cream anglaise that I wanted to take home to put in my coffee the next morning. Because she deemed it necessary to outdo me at every level, Jana had the Pistachio Olive Oil Cake (greek yogurt, strawberry sorbet, balsamic, and roasted strawberries) that I thought sounded too weird and once again I was wrong. While the mini donuts were delicious and fun, her cake had me drooling and given another chance I would just have her order my entire meal for me.
Since I have only been once, this isn’t a traditional review and I am not assigning it a star value. But I will say that it has the possibility to be 5 stars once they dial in a few things which they I’m certain will do.
But go for that fig martini if nothing else.
2350 East Harmony Road
Kid-Friendly? Yes, if your kid is a bit of a foodie.
Parking: Strip Mall Parking.
Healthy Options? Yes.
Recent Health Inspection: Excellent.