Colorado food / Eating / Food trends

Checking out fava beans, banh mi, n’duja, SPAM and Alice B Toklas

By John Lehndorff

(Nibbles, Boulder Weekly, 2/18/16)

There are no late fees when you borrow parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme from the Living Seed Library inside the Boulder Public Library.

The Living Seed library is really a filing cabinet with 25 drawers filled with seed packets. Instead of the Dewey Decimal System, they are subdivided by greens, herbs, bee-friendly flowers and diverse heirloom and hybrid vegetables from squash and radishes to carrots and cukes. The seeds were donated by Boulder companies including Lake Valley Seed and BBB Seed.

On the seed desk are handouts and reference books on gardening. “You can read about the variety and the best way to start the seeds and transplant them,” says organizer Ross Well Rodgers of Boulder’s Living Seed Library, which supports local seed swaps. He pointed out that seeds require some knowledge and growing advice and starting with plants may be easier for many gardeners.

“There is no requirement but eventually we hope that gardeners will bring back seeds from their crop to share,” Rodgers says.

The seed nook is located on the library bridge near the locally focused Seeds Library Cafe. Chef Matt Collier, formerly with Bradford Heap’s restaurants, including Colterra, is the new general manager at the one-year-old café. Collier will also operate a Seeds Cafe food stand at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, which opens for the season in Boulder and Longmont on April 2.

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Irene Leary, barista, Seeds Library Cafe, Boulder Public Library

Boulder dining news
Arcana restaurant is open at 909 Walnut St. in Boulder. … Scott’s on Alpine has opened in Boulder in the space next to Ideal Market previously occupied by Ella Fine Diner, Radda Trattoria, Masa Mexican Grill and about 20 years ago, the Italian Market Restaurant. … Arvada’s Sushi Aji will open a second eatery at 489 U.S. Hwy 287 near Baseline Road in Lafayette … Boulder’s Pica’s Taqueria opens a second location this spring at 901 Front St. in Louisville. … Lonni Byrd has opened a restaurant dishing the rarest of cuisines — vegan soul food — at Love, Peace & Sol Cafe, 3435 Albion St. in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood. … If you eat out in the Denver metro area you probably have enjoyed bread from the Grateful Bread Company. The bakery offers a rare retail window for their fine baked goods 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturdays at 425 Violet St. in Golden.

Culinary calendar
Two remarkable tasting opportunities are coming up. At The Blind Cafe March 3, 4 and 5 in Boulder, blind waiters will serve diners a vegan dinner in total darkness with live music. Details: theblindcafeboulder.com. Cochon 555 is a star-studded feed March 6 at Denver’s Ritz-Carlton designed to showcase sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs and snout-to-tail use of the animals. At last year’s Cochon, I sampled n’duja (spreadable salami), whipped lardo dip, pork broth spiked with bourbon, artisan SPAM, doughnuts filled with chocolate-pig’s blood ganache and foie gras hot dogs washed down with barrel-aged coffee hazelnut bacon ale. For dessert: chocolate and pig blood pot au creme. Plus: Folks walked around with jars full of candied heirloom bacon strips. Information: cochon555.com

blood

Valhrona Chocolate and Pig Blood Pot au Creme with leaf lard chantilly and pig-shaped spice cookie with pig liver filling helped win chef Matt Vawter of Mercantile Dining & Provision the coveted Cochon 555 Prince of Porc award.

International food news update
We are not sure why the world needs this, but Spam Snacks are now available in the jerky aisle at your local superstore. They are teriyaki- or bacon-flavored “dried SPAM bites.” That means they are not accompanied by the odd SPAM Jell-O that forms on the top of the cans of that pork and ham product.

Nibbles PIC3

At the recent National Retail Federation show, a new smart refrigerator was displayed, which uses facial recognition software to read grocery shoppers’ expressions and recommend purchases. I imagine my refrigerator analyzing my face and always telling me: “John, you need a quart of Nutella gelato.”

We often refer to certain junk foods as “addictive.” The Associated Press reports that several dozen eateries in China were being investigated recently on suspicion of adding opium to their food to ensure repeat customers.

Target is testing a checkout lane concept that puts organic and better-for-you snacks on the shelves that surround shoppers as they check out. Retailers normally design the area to be a resistance-is-futile gauntlet through the valley of junk food. It’s one more good reason to use self-checkout despite the annoying voice prompts. Every time I hear the computer shout, “Thank you valued customer,” I shoot back with a snarky “Yo, thank this!” After that, I feel stupid for yelling at a machine.

banh mi sandwich 1 96dpiBanh mi sandwich at Vinh Xuong (Photo by Kim Long)

Taste of the week
I love wandering into the original location of Vinh Xuong Bakery tucked in a corner of the busy Far East Center at Alameda and Federal in Denver. The cramped Vietnamese bakery is stacked with trays of raisin bread loaves, croissants, bao, moon cakes and giant slabs of banana bread. Some of their crusty buns are shipped a little ways down Alameda to the second Vinh Xuong Bakery run by the owners’ son. This place is a hip and sunny café with tables and couches where you can sit and sip artisan Novo coffee drinks or a dark Vietnamese coffee with a cookie. Don’t miss the made-to-order banh mi sandwiches: a fresh buttered roll filled with barbecue pork, ham and pate plus pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeno. Vinh Xuong Bakery, 375 S. Federal Blvd.; 2370 W. Alameda Blvd., Denver; 303-922-4968

Words to chew on
“The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.” – Alice B. Toklas

John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 FM, kgnu.org). Read his blog at: johnlehndorff.wordpress.com. Send your comments to: Nibbles@boulderweekly.com.

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