Dishcrawl conducts tours in cities throughout the US and Canada that have a distinct and lively food culture and appreciation. By selecting a local ambassador to choose the restaurants and guide the tour, they stay true to local taste and idiosyncrasies.
It’s no secret that Boulder’s food and beer culture dominate local taste; knowing that our tour destinations were selected by a tried-and-true local, was actually a refreshing to me. We’ve all seen the press frenzy over several of Boulder’s restaurants. Yes, Frasca’s wine list and distinguished Italian cuisine is phenomenal. Yes, Bramble and Hare’s food educes flavor euphoria. Both Bitter Bar and Oak dominate for cocktails. I wanted to experience Boulder’s food scene from the perspective of another local. I know my personal perception of Pearl Street’s countless restaurant options, but I wanted to see how another Boulderite experiences our city.
Going into the Dishcrawl, I knew that their stated objective was to facilitate a sense of community; by connecting patrons with the chefs, they unite the hands and creative process behind a dish to the taster and the experience of a dish. However, one wonders how realistic that is when you get a seemingly random group of foodies together. I think we all know that Real foodies have a fervent passion for food that can, at times, be slightly neurotic? Maybe it’s just me.
I can happily say that I walked away from the Dishcrawl with a new perspective on several restaurants that we visited, but more-so, energized by meeting and sharing my tastings with some really awesome and fascinating people. I can’t say that I’ve always felt that eating a meal could be a mentally stimulating process, so sharing the dishes with people that similarly appreciate food and don’t find my extensively analytical experience of eating a chore (Yes, my meat and potatoes family) was quite nice.
So, on to the high-lights of my night:
Aji and Leaf: We were presented with three small tastings, a bacon-wrapped date, also known as “a devil on horseback,” blue corn fried calamari with a slightly citrusy roasted corn slaw, and fried avocado on top of forbidden rice accompanied by a mango salsa. After a short presentation and explanation by the chef, we were all let loose to try the plates. The date was decadent as always, honestly, hard to be done wrong in my opinion. The fried avocado (I gleaned came from Leaf’s vegetarian kitchen) was fair, I enjoyed the contrast of texture between the chewy dark rice, crunch and smooth fattiness of the avocado, and silky sweetness of the mango. In my humble opinion, the stand out for the night was the blue corn fried calamari. I have to admit, somewhat reluctantly knowing the sheer vast popularity of traditional fried calamari as an appetizer, that I hate it. I find nothing redeeming or exciting about deep frying a some-what tasteless, often chewy bit and dipping it in an aggressive sauce. At Aji, this was an entirely different experience; the fry was very light, allowing the corn meal taste to accompany the calamari, and instead of slathering it in sauce, the tart salinity of the slaw and sweet roasted corn kernels acted as a palate cleansing side note, neither overshadowing or detracting from the calamari. Anyhow, it was the most interesting thing that I tried all night and I’m glad to say that I have now tried One version of fried calamari that I don’t detest.
Tahona: We tasted an elevated roasted pork “carnitas” crostada with tomato salsa and an ahi and shrimp civiche crostada garnished with pickled slaw and fresh avocado. Alongside a tequila infusion (not included in the crawl cost), the dishes were well liked by all, especially one notably unadventurous eater that I befriended. The roasted pork was rich and delicious, as it tends to be.
Beehive: When I was told that we were going to Beehive, I was extremely excited. Having walked past this west Pearl restaurant several times, I have been fascinated by the simplicity of the décor and openness of the dining space. The bar tender presented us with a selection of appetizers, fried waffle chips, a deviled egg, and Devils of Horseback! The deviled egg was silky and rich with a slight bite, cut nicely by the rich bacon fat encased majool date enrobed blue cheese morsel. The contrasting flavors elevated this date beyond our previous, however slightly. I would like to revisit this one to gain a better perspective on their culinary point of view. I found the dishes to be nice, but I’m convinced that their entrees have the potential to be amazing. Another addition to my growing culinary to-do list.
Boulder café: For dessert, we all made our way to one restaurant that, I find, many have a distinct opinion and perception about. This last tasting was prefaced by our ambassador, addressing many of the pre-conceived ideas that I arrived with. Boulder café is known by many to be a go-to happy hour spot, claiming the longest-lasting daily slot (until close). We were specifically brought as a departure from this idea, the GM gave a brief background of the restaurant, enlightening me to many of the behind-the-scenes practices that the restaurant holds. For instance, the chef has his own garden, and harvests All of the greens from it! Fusing the best localistic practices with a realistic global standard, the café proudly stands behind their drive to provide as many local products as possible, while sourcing the best global and sustainable products when required for higher quality. I was taken-aback by this, simply because I had always identified them by the happy hour solely. We pleasantly ended the evening with a warming Belgan chocolate fondue accompanied by fresh fruit and a divine house made zucchini bread straight from the chef’s own garden.
Walking back to my car after three and a half hours of intense foodie discourse and culinary interrogation (Or maybe just a lot of fun foodie chatting and debauchery), I realized that the Dishcrawl had done exactly as it had set out to do. I had met and befriended numerous locals and out-of-towners through a shared excitement over adventurous eating. Apart from learning some fascinating back-stories for several of the restaurants that I walk past on my way to work most days, I was able to enjoy my small meals with individuals that share my passion, yet have an entirely different experience of Boulder’s food life.
Realizing that Boulder isn’t simply comprised of those establishments so well esteemed by the media and culinary publications, the objectivity of taste and “Taste” comes into question. While most of the dishes we tried were fabulous, sharing the food with seeming strangers and opening the dialogue surrounding food makes one feel strangely connected to our food community in a way that doesn’t happen often enough.
High-cuisine may often head-line and define Boulder and its image, but our food-centric town, can, at the same time be eccentric and fun, and devoted to quality and sustainability. Our town is full of transplants and eccentric eaters, thus creating a melting-pot of unique perspectives on cuisine (food). The Dishcrawl closed the gap between the chef’s process in conceptualizing a dish and the process of tasting and enjoying a meal. Sometimes it takes an event devoted to the sole enjoyment of food to push us to step-back and relinquish pre-conceptions and enjoy a plate based on its pure substance.
Go to www.DishCrawl.com to check out their up-coming tours and to sign up for Boulder’s next crawl!
Click Here for a link to Dishcrawl’s Blog Post of the event!
Images Courtesy of Shannon Hudson