There is life outside of the Boulder Bubble, and it shines in places like 24 Carrot. Located just 30 minutes away, in historic downtown Erie, 24 Carrot is a hidden gem. Named East County’s Best New Restaurant by the Boulder Weekly, 24 Carrot doesn’t disappoint.
Shortly before six, on a blustery Monday night, the dining room quickly fills up with guests, some dressed up in Prohibition era attire. It is December 5th, 2016, and 83 years have passed since the end of Prohibition. This is the second year of 24 Carrot’s End of Prohibition Party, and the perfect time to introduce the winter menu.
The evening’s featured cocktails have creative names like the CO. Hyena and Tin Pan Alley, and are created by Bar Manager, DJ Riemer, and his staff. The simplicity of ingredients and presentation parallel the complexity and depth of flavor. The CO. Hyena, starring rhubarb based amaro Sfumato, is earthy and savory. The lime juice and honey balance the bitter amaro and cardamom bitters, and I am left longing for another sip.
DJ and his team make any ingredient they can from scratch, including house-made digestifs, liqueurs, bitters, shrubs and syrups. The craft cocktails feature unique ingredients like “bacon fat-washed bourbon,” “palo santo smoke,” and “house caraway tincture.”
Seasonally changing ingredients showcase the passion, skill and craft behind the bar. The talent of the bar staff matches that found in Boulder, yet the cocktails are only $9. The lack of pretense and vanity make the bar an inviting space to ask questions, linger and learn from the staff.
24 Carrot likes to bring the Erie community together by hosting various events throughout the year. Some upcoming events include the Christmas Eve holiday dinner, New Years 4 course prix-fix menu, and several Cocktail Classes, which sell out quickly.
For just $45, classes run from 3:30-5pm on Saturday afternoons, focusing on history of spirits, distillation processes, and cocktail-making techniques. Snacks and drinks are provided.
The best way to sign up is by talking to the bar staff or following 24 carrot on Facebook. Upcoming classes include Bartending 101 (1/7/17), Bourbon & Rye (1/14/17), Agave Spirits (2/4/17), and Italian Spirits (2/11/17).
24 Carrot’s focus is on the whole experience at the restaurant. The phenomenal cocktail program cannot be mentioned without talking about the food.
Led by Co-Proprietor and Executive Chef, Kevin Kidd, the kitchen showcases farm fresh produce, naturally raised meats and artisan products supporting and promoting local when possible. The dishes at 24 Carrot represent classics in a modern and unique way.
The menu is made up of appetizers, salads, small plates and entrees, all perfect to share. The appetizer calamari is flown in six times per week, always fresh and never frozen. Accompanied by a basil aioli and romesco, it is coated in crispy batter, not rubbery or oily and simply “kind of amazing.” According to Co-Proprietor, Bianca Retzloff, riots would ensue if this menu item were ever removed.
The seasonal roasted cauliflower and apple salad balances freshness and warmth with the light vinaigrette, crispy celery and roasted broccoli, topped with cheddar and roasted hazelnuts. Light, yet filling, the salad is a nice palate cleanser in between courses.
Chef Kevin’s favorite dish is the “mini-thanksgiving,” presented in the form of pistachio cornbread stuffed quail, served with bacon braised collard greens and apple-cranberry compote. The dish is beautiful in presentation and flavor. The quail is de-boned, tender and juicy, balanced by the accompaniments. Featured on the small plate portion of the menu, this dish is filling enough to be considered an entrée.
No matter the season, fresh seafood is always on the menu. Though the red snapper is flown in fresh from Hawaii and is a warm-water fish, it is a featured entrée on the winter menu. Delicately cooked, tender, flaky with crispy skin, the fish is served on a roasted sweet potato plank and cooked spinach, on top of a red pepper, paprika butter sauce, topped with Mizuna, fennel and pistachios. The colorful presentation makes one forget about the below freezing temperatures outside.
24 Carrot is Bianca and Kevin’s venture to establish a rustic, yet elegant, dining atmosphere in Erie, something that was lacking in East County. Their lengthy experience in the Boulder County restaurant industry is exemplified by the service, ambiance, food and drink of the restaurant.
Whether it’s brunch, lunch, drinks or dinner, 24 Carrot will please any picky eater, accommodate dietary restrictions, amaze the cocktail connoisseur and make anyone feel welcome. “The drink overshadows the eat, and the eat is amazing,” is my partner’s conclusion of the night. Whatever the reason for going, 24 Carrot is the shining star of East County and very worth bursting out of the bubble for a superb dining experience.