(This feature appears in the current issue of Cheese Connoisseur Magazine)
By John Lehndorff
Some children like to ride their bikes too fast. Will Frischkorn rode so rapidly that he found himself racing in the Tour de France as a professional.
Some kids like to cook. They can often microwave their own mac-n-cheese. “In the second and third grade I made fresh pasta as a present for all my teachers,” Frischkorn said as he sat at Cured, the “deli” he co-owns in Boulder, Colorado.
When he and his wife, Carol who grew up in culinary-friendly families, decided to open Cured, they modeled it on shops they visited during Will’s 10-year racing career in Europe.
“We loved The Rigo in Girona, Spain. It’s owned by one family who as very knowledgeable about everything they sell. One time we came back to Girona after being away awhile for a race. We were just walking by the store and they started waving through the front window. They said ‘Try this you’ll love it!’ They were just excited to share a cheese they knew we would love. It’s a level of service that is hard for larger stores to offer,” Frischkorn said.
Cured is exactly that kind of personal gathering spot. On a pre-holiday Saturday, afternoon sun streamed into 4-year-old Cured set in a former natural foods storefront with worn brick walls and wide wooden floor boards. Parallel lines of customers wait to buy cheese, salumi or sandwiches from Cured or a precisely crafted coffee from the baristas at Boxcar Coffee Roasters which co-habits the space with the gourmet market.
Mind you, we’re only talking about roughly 1,500-square-feet space that also includes Cured’s wine “closet” and a tiny kitchen where chefs produce award-winning sandwiches and everything from hand-rolled Sottocenere and Yukon Gold potato tortellone to pate Provencal and a remarkable mac-n-cheese.
The couple didn’t want to mimic those iconic meat and cheese emporia that are claustrophobically piled to the ceiling with gourmet goods. Cured has a welcoming, airy feel because of what the shop doesn’t sell, Frischkorn said.
“Sometimes less choice is better. Everything has to earn its spot in the store because there isn’t an inch to spare.”
He calls the partnership with Boxcar Coffee Roasters a fortuitous case of dumb luck on his part. “Boxcar was a great wholesale roaster and we wanted sell beans from them. Boxcar’s founders, Vajra and Cara Rich, were looking for a retail space in Boulder where they could showcase the coffee. Because we have this collaborative location we can afford the rent in a very pricey commercial district,” he said.
With its 5,430-foot elevation and picture-postcard mountain backdrop, eco-conscious Boulder is a magnet for hordes of highly educated, impossibly fit foodies. The city is the epicenter of the craft brewing boom (with 20 breweries alone in town) and the natural foods industry (including Celestial Seasoning). One of the nation’s most acclaimed farmers’ markets feeds a vibrant dining scene including Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg who recently opened his farm-to-fork Blackbelly Restaurant.
Cured is nestled just east of the pedestrian-friendly Downtown Mall a block from Frasca Food and Wine. That James Beard Award-winning Italian eatery was opened by Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey and chef Lachlan Patterson, alumni of Napa’s famed French Laundry. To Stuckey, hospitality and devotion to details make Cured a favorite destination. “Anybody can carry a lot of different cheeses. Many supermarkets do but if you’re not maintaining the inventory it is not the same,” Stuckey said.
“Will and Coral have a great team of people. The atmosphere isn’t stuffy but they have a really advanced cheese program. They’ve added so much to the neighborhood,” he said.
While Frasca’s sous chefs don’t come over borrow a cup of truffles, they do drop in along with certain family members, Stuckey said. “I came in recently and they said ‘Your mom was in the other day getting some caviar.’ I thought ‘How did I miss out on that?’” Stuckey said. Frasca’s original red Berkel meat slicer is still working hard on the counter at Cured.
Another distinguishing characteristic is a devotion to American-made goods, Frischkorn said.
“When we said we were opening a small independent specialty food market a lot of people instantly assumed that most of the products would be European. Now, we have some great things from Europe but we want to feature the artisan meats and cheeses created here. We could easily stock 200 American cheeses if we had the space. They are that good.”
To everything there is a cheese season
Cured’s fromage opportunities evolve through the months. “Some cheese are made year-round but they taste different through the months. Spring milk tastes different – it’s bright and green,” Frischkorn said.
“For example, Rush Creek Reserve is only made in October and November from transitional milk – cows go from pasturing on grass to hay for the winter. The milk has a special profile with characteristics of both,” he said.
Featured sheep’s milk cheeses can range from Colorado’s Fruition Cacio Pecora to the Basque Abbaye de Belloc. Garotxa is often on the roster in part because it was “the local cheese” made ten miles from where Will and Coral lived in Spain.
Curating is a fine notion in theory but sourcing cheeses and other gourmet goods is a major challenge when you are interacting with more than 200 vendors. “It’s a much more complex model than getting everything off of one truck. One of the biggest struggles was keeping them from being prohibitively expensive,” he said.
Cured’s counter cuts select meats including speck, duck prosciutto, sweet coppa, Iberco Bellota. guanciale, La Quercia slab bacon, pancetta, and a Spanish lardo that melts into a nutty sheen on warm pizza, noodles and toast. This being Boulder, the café can cater to those following the protein-centric Paleo diet by offering a plate loaded with pate and other meats and cheeses and Marcona almonds, not mention “Other Good Stuff” on the chalkboard menu like smoked salmon, white anchovies and house-made duck confit.
The market are carries a limited number of well-chosen necessities: breads, bulk and bottled olive oils, crackers, jams, membrillo, Balsamic vinegar, and an impressive array of serious chocolate bars from Soma, Nova, Dick Taylor, Compartes and other small scale artisans.
Cured’s 200-square-foot wine shop is stacked with bottles, all of them essential according to Frischkorn. The shop has wines from all over but the handful of beers and spirits are all Colorado-made. One of the shop’s bestsellers is Scarpetta Frico Blanca, an Italian “picnic wine” produced by Frasca’s Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Patterson.
Upgrading grilled cheese and tomato soup
A pleasant conversational hum rose from University of Colorado students hunched over IPads and coffee klatches of various ages and denominations chewing the duck fat in the seating areas inside Cured and also outside no matter the season, as Cured’s culinary director, Rebeccca Sosvielle, surveyed the scene.
“Boulder gets about 300 sunny days a year. People want to use their whole lunch hour to eat in the sun,” she said. That’s one practical reason why the French tradition was followed in offering only a chalkboard list of four pre-made sandwiches per day, all half-wrapped in white paper.
Staple sandwiches range from The Spicy Frenchman (Brie, French ham, peach-jalapeno jam on buttered baguette) to the best egg salad sandwich in the region made with fresh local organic eggs and arugula on a pretzel roll. The “grilled cheese” is turkey with Teleme cheese and fig jam on crusty bread which can be wed with a bowl of better-than-mm-mm-good San Marzano tomato soup.
The Cured 140-square-foot kitchen also prepares a changing roster of take-out dinners such as beef bourguignon for two packed with horseradish celery root mashers and radicchio salad with caramelized leek vinaigrette. First-come, first-served reservations are taken for weekly Wednesday hand-rolled pasta preparations such as roasted pork belly tortellini in brodo.
The establishment’s famous macaroni and cheese is no kid’s stuff. “For our macaroni and cheese we use Euphonia – a wonderful sheep’s milk Gouda, Avalanche Creamery chevre and Red Deer Creek 7-year Cheddar,” Sosvielle said. The pimento cheese dip mates cream cheese, smoked paprika and Beecher’s No Woman jerk-spiced cheese.
A bento box of charcuterie
Cured expanded in 2015 to open a tiny take-out outpost eight blocks away on the West end of Boulder that offers the best of Cured’s offerings. “It’s tightly curated collection focused on great grab-and-go food – sandwiches, salads and soups. They always have spiced bone broth,” Frischkorn said.
Despite an ideological aversion to wrapping good cheese in plastic wrap, the new place does offers slices of those great cheeses cut and wrapped each morning because customers need to see the cheese, he said. Many of those folks are visitors to Boulder. “You can pick up a bento box of charcuterie on your way to Chautauqua Park for a picnic or concert,” he said. A simple Cured lunch box can include three pieces of cheese, two chunks of salami, jam, crackers and a bar of Poco Dolce Chocolate
Chautauqua Park is the picturesque National Historic Landmark a short drive away on Boulder’s mountainous western edge featuring hiking trails, the Chautauqua Dining Hall, Chautauqua Auditorium and cottages for short-term lodging.
Those from Spain, France, Italy and elsewhere also find their way. “They feel like they are back home at their neighborhood shop. They smile when you have them taste a gorgeous soft-ripened cheese, whether it’s from France or not,” Frischkorn said.
Boulder didn’t lack for upscale food emporia before Cured opened but it has clearly struck a chord. “Our business has been going up at a steady 35 percent a year. We’ll have about $2 million in sales for 2015,” he said.
In early 2016 Foodlab, a beautifully appointed culinary school with a demonstration kitchen and event space, opened next door to Cured offering opportunities for more wine and food events. While can buy and sometimes taste wines at Cured’s wine shop they are not served in the cheese shop because of Colorado’s liquor law quirks.
“We continue to figure out what works with the business. How can this evolve and be sustainable and allow us to have a balanced life?” Frischkorn said.
That life now includes almost 2-year-old Holden Frischkorn, a budding cheese lover. Will Frischkorn said he doesn’t get much time to ride his bike any more. “It’s more efficient to run. We end up running in the morning with Holden in a stroller,” he said.
When the couple chose artisan foods to showcase in the business there was always a secret bottom line. “We decided to stock what we like. That way if it doesn’t sell we’ll take it home and eat it. We drink and eat really well,” he said.
Cheese Board: A few favorites from Cured’s Will Frischkorn:
River’s Edge Chevre: It’s an Oregon-made crouttin wrapped in a maple leaf barely brushed with true truffle oil and only available seasonally. “It is the purest, cleanest expression of goat’s milk. It amazes people who don’t think they like goat cheese.”
Trapp Family Farmstead Oma: This washed-rind Vermont cow’s milk cheese is made by descendants of the famous “Sound of Music” family. “Friendly, not too funky but with some mushroom-iness. It’s a cheese that matches well with wines including pinot noir.”
Avalanche Cabra Blanca: A semi-soft goat’s milk cheese crafted in Colorado. “It’s so clean and mild tasting. You can taste the Western Colorado grasses and herbs that the goats eat.”
Blu Mont Cheddar: A Wisconsin aged cow’s milk cheese. “It’s a wonderful British-style linen-wrapped Cheddar that’s aged for one year. It’s sharp and has a lingering funk. We call it cave-y.”
Rogue River Blue Cheese: “These are beautiful brandy-rubbed wheels. It has great creaminess and spiciness that pops in your mouth. It’s one of the most expensive cheeses we have and worth it. It disappears quickly when we have it in stock.”
Cured, 1825 Pearl St., Boulder; 720-389-8096; curedboulder.com
Boxcar Coffee Roasters: boxcarcoffeeroasters.com
Cured West, 2019 10th St., Boulder; 720-389-8096; curedboulder.com
Frasca Food and Wine, 1738 Pearl St., Boulder; 303-442-6966; frascafoodandwine.com
Food Lab, 1825 Pearl St., Boulder; 303-349-5553; foodlabboulder.com