Posts from the ‘Food’ Category

Drinking Mesa Park’s new Colorado Riesling with homemade egg rolls

Rolling the egg rolls.

Looking out at another balmy (for Colorado), sunshine-filled 40-plus degree January day, I can’t help but think of the upcoming spring.  Actually, I’m contemplating the extensive amount of tasks awaiting us with said thaw. One of the first things on the list is labeling the 2009 Riesling.

These fried egg rolls could be improved by baking.

Yes, Mesa Park Vineyards is going over to the white wine side for a release.

With the labels coming soon, that means all we need is a sufficient taste description and scrumptious food pairing to offer.  Brooke and I decided to take upon the burdensome task of eating our way to the pairing.

Here’s my first attempt: crunchy, fried, pork and vegetable stuffed, egg roll. Even though I dig Asian food of all shapes and forms, I’ve never cooked it much. Seems like too many ingredients and too many steps. Before my recent career change, I frequented a delicious Chinese restaurant in lovely Clifton at least once a week to satiate my appetite.  Nowadays, in my vineyard management role, I work at home and don’t eat out.  I was craving egg rolls, big and brown egg rolls, baby.  And hot mustard dammit.

The ingredients were surprisingly cheap. I used a head of lettuce, carrots, a red pepper and the rolling skins, plus some roasted pork spare ribs glazed in raw honey from our neighbors at Z’s Orchard. I chopped the vegetables (adding salt and cayenne pepper) and sautéed them in a little olive oil while I waited for the pork to cool.  After finely chopping the ribs and sweating the veggies I set up my rolling station.
I always thought they’d be difficult to roll and keep together, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The hardest part was getting the skins separated without tearing them.  The rolling part I learned in college. They came out much prettier than I anticipated.

Our new Colorado Riesling turned out to be a perfect companion to the egg rolls.

I heated about an inch of vegetable oil in the smallest skillet I had.  I worked the rolls in small batches so they would cook more cohesive.  They really browned nicely.

They were freaking delicious!

Brooke concocted a soy/honey/wasabi sauce  for dipping because I forgot the hot mustard I so craved.  There’s always next time I suppose.  Next time I’ll forgo the frying and just bake the egg rolls. Though I generally love fried food, using a little less oil will enhance the flavors.

We munched on these tasty treats with our Riesling, Its lovely tropical fruit tones offset the crispy, spiciness of the rolls. Pairing No. 1 was a success. Stay tuned for more pairings and the release date of the Riesling.

Ciao,

Brad Webb

On the menu at the vineyard: Rabbit and Cabernet Franc

So far in 2012 I’ve cooked every meal at the vineyard. That’s right, every morsel of nourishment that’s filled the bellies of our family of winemakers.  Tiring of the normalcy and boredom of reputation, I decided to change it up and add to my repertoire on a recent night.

Rabbit anyone?  My wife and daughter were skeptical at best, and once they saw the plastic bag containing ‘ol Bugs, they were disgusted.  Undeterred, I tossed our friend in the spare freezer and bided my time.  On a cold Saturday night with dinner guests on the way, I pulled the rascally rabbit from his icy tomb and into the fire. Here goes.

Cooking rabbit

I sourced this delicacy from an old mountain man on the Grand Mesa. He breeds them, and I’m certain they live in peaceful coexistence and harmony right up until the end.  At this point they meet either the point of a knife or the belly of a python (Yet another critter the old man propagates. I know, creepy right?).  Unsure of what direction to pursue — French, Greek, or good old Southern Americana — I chose Julia and her arsenal for inspiration.  After perusal of THE Julia Childs all-time cookbook, I decided on the French method.

I chopped carrots, celery and garlic while drinking a nice chilled glass of the soon-to-be released Mesa Park Riesling.

After refilling my wine glass (a very important step, mind you), I sautéed the veggies in 2 tablespoons or so of butter and chopped bacon. I finished by adding a healthy dose of dried, rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano from our herb garden.  I stuffed the little guy as full as possible and off to the oven he went.  350 degrees for an hour or so.  I monitored the internal temp for readiness.

Midway through cooking I glazed him in cherry sauce, which caramelized nicely by the end.  A few swipes of the knife and he was ready for noshing!  It paired extremely well with both the 2006 Cab Franc and the 2009 Family Reserve Red.

In the end, a mighty creature of the briar patch lived and died valiantly to become a succulent feast for the bellies of MPV.

Ciao,

Brad Webb

Playing the Cab Franc Guessing Game at Duo Denver

Duo Denver

Bobby Rayburn is Duo's GM, and the friendly face behind the bar.

Psst. Here’s a little secret that might score you a free glass of wine next time you’re dining at the bar of Duo in the food-centric Highland neighborhood of Denver: Order the elk, and then answer “it’s from Colorado” to the question that follows.

General Manager Bobby Rayburn, who often tends the bar, has been known to pour the Mesa Park Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc for those who just ordered the elk, offering to buy it for them if they can guess its origin.

“They usually guess France, Provence or whatever,” he says. “I tell them Colorado, and they’re floored by it. It’s rich. That fact alone makes people think of France, and it’s good, it’s really good. That makes people assume France as well.”

He admits if too many people read this and go in armed with knowledge of his bar game, he might have to stop offering the giveaway bet. Probably not. Rayburn is big on interacting with those who sit at the bar (which is one of the most enjoyable ways to enjoy a brunch or dinner there). Considering Duo is big on local ingredients, slinging local brands is just something he likes to do, too.

“It gives me an opportunity to educate and inform them that there’s good wine in Colorado,” he says.

This coming from an admittedly beer-first kind of guy. “I drink beer just about every day. Beer is generally my go to,” he says. “I prefer wine with food. Quiet evening in with my girl is usually wine. Then it’s usually back to beer at the bar unless we’re at a good cocktail bar.”

Rayburn has been with Duo since it opened six years ago, jumping behind the bar from the get go, a part of a restaurant he’d never worked before. Well the switch from server to GM/bartender has been a welcome one.

“It’s the atmosphere. It’s the energy,” he says. “People sit at the bar, and they are out to have a good time. They are usually open minded and they are down to learn. I like to educate as much as possible and get people to try new things.”

Part of the reason Rayburn came to Duo — besides the chance to serve as general manager — was the concept.

Beyond being the the first stellar restaurant to open on the east side of the Highlands, an area that has become the epicenter for good food in Denver in the last few years, it focused on a local menu and being part of the neighborhood. It hasn’t strayed from there, producing a great seasonal American menu (serving perhaps the best brunch in Denver, too) that’s taken home numerous local and regional accolades along the way including being named one of the 25 best restaurants in Denver by 5280 magazine in 2011 (check out all the awards here).

Mesa Park and a few select other Colorado wines, several local spirits, and a 100 percent Colorado beer list play into the concept on the liquid side. The Mesa Park Cabernet Franc is a recent addition to the list (by the glass, $9, and bottle, $34).

It being the only Colorado wine by the glass allows for Rayburn’s guess-the-region game. But he also just loves it with the Elk Medallions ($26) on the menu right now, a dish that features a butternut squash puree and port reduction.

“The wine and that dish where meant to go together,” he says. “It’s got that crazy, crazy pepper on the nose and in the body. The pepper contrasts the sweetness of the butternut squash puree; how rich and deep the wine is makes it go really with the elk.”

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Get a glass of Mesa Park Cab Franc at Duo, 2413 W. 32nd Ave., Denver.

What’s for Dinner: Harvest Lasagna Recipe

Harvest Lasagna recipe from Mesa Park Vineyards

Here at Mesa Park Vineyards, one of our favorite things to do is prepare good food and enjoy it paired with wine and good friends. We love sharing our favorite recipes with you from time to time, and this Harvest Lasagna is one of our favorites.

Harvest Lasagna
Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggplants
  • Lasagna noodles, enough for three layers
  • 3 zucchini, cut lengthwise, 1/4 in. thick
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 pound plum tomatoes, quartered and seeded
  • 2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 tsp. herbs de Provence
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (or make it yourself)
  • 2 1/2 cup Italian blend cheese
  • 1 jar Alfredo sauce (Or make it yourself)

Directions:

Preheat oven 450 degrees oven racks: upper and lower thirds of oven. Layer eggplant in colander and sprinkle with salt. Let stand in sink for 20 minutes, then pat dry.  Cook lasagna noodles, according to directions. Arrange zucchini on greased baking sheet, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Bake 15 minutes till tender. Transfer to plate, cool.

Arrange eggplant on baking sheet, brush with olive oil. Arrange tomatoes on second sheet, drizzle with olive oil, roast 25 minutes. Reduce oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, in a larger skillet over med. heat, cook the garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil, until golden. Add turkey and herbs and cook over medium heat, crumbling the meat, about 5 minutes. Stir in half marinara sauce. Grease a 9 by 13 baking dish, add remaining marinara sauce.

Add layer lasagna noodles, spoon turkey mixture on top; sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese. Add another layer of lasagna noodles, 1/2 cup alfredo sauce, the zucchini, 1/2 cup cheese and the tomatoes with their juice. Add final layer of lasagna noodles, 1/2 cup white sauce, then top with eggplant. Spread with the remaining 1 cup white sauce.

Cover dish with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 cup cheese, bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Pair with 2009 Mesa Park Vineyards Estate Family Reserve Red.

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Chuck’s Food Pairing Ideas

Fish, chicken, beef. It all goes with red wine, right? In Mesa Park winemaker Chuck Price’s world, it does. That might have something to do with the fact that he only produces estate Bordeaux-style reds. So no matter the food, he’s reaching for a red.

  • Cabernet Franc: “I love seafood. A bucket of peel-and-eat shrimp and a glass of Cabernet Franc … it’d be my appetizer, main course and dessert.”
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: “I love to eat cheeses and drink it. For a light dinner, add breads and olive oil and pepper. It will be awesome.”
  • Merlot: “Maybe some smoked salmon or some white meats like swordfish, heavily smoked.”
  • Family Reserve blend: “Ribeye steak and Family Reserve; that’d just be heaven to me.”

 Head to the wine shop

Eating out in the Grand Valley: A guide to Colorado’s wine country restaurants

Touring vineyards in the Grand Valley works up quite a hunger. Here are some of the best spots to fill up on local food when you’re visiting Palisade or Grand Junction.

Palisade

This sleepy town of 2,500 is finally starting to build a culinary reputation that equals the town’s status as the heart of Colorado’s wine country.

Diorio’s Pizza of Palisade

309 W. 8th Street, Palisade, (970) 464-7966

Located in Palisade on Highway 6

This unassuming joint is the real deal for coffee in the morning (along with fresh smoothies, muffins and any breakfast sandwich you can dream up).  The Italian style hoagies are the bomb for lunch and you always need a go-to pizza joint.  Locals gush about this no-frills pizza joint, and owner John bakes all the bread and treats his customers like gold.

The Tapestry Lounge*

@ the Wine Country Inn, 777 Grande River Drive, Palisade, 970-464-5777

A relatively new 22-seat bistro that serves up some of the best food in town. This haute eatery serves gourmet fare in an intimate vineyard setting. The menu is fresh and seasonal — like a late-Augusts Palisade Tomato Caprese Salad ($14) or Salmon in a butter dill sauce with coconut risotto and seasonal vegetables ($23) — and the bistro delivers a dining experience fitting of a bona fide wine country. The wine list is a standout, too.

Palisade Café and Grill*

113 W Third Street, Palisade, 970-464-0657

This adorable café in the heart of town serves a wide variety of entrees, sandwiches and tasty sweet potato fries.  Don’t miss the ahi napoleon or the gyro sandwich.  There’s plenty of Palisade wine and beer on the drink list, and the business is so intimate, there’s a good chance owner Margie Latta will also be your server.

Inari’s

336 Main Street, Palisade, Colorado 81526

(970) 464-4911

A dinner and Sunday brunch option that is a quaint neighborhood bistro in the heart of Palisade featuring an eclectic, seasonal menu. Wine and beer selection is wonderful and we recommend the Thai fish cakes served on a bed of mixed greens and soba noodles tossed with spicy soy vinaigrette and accompanied with sambol aioli.

Grand Junction:

Just 15 minutes from Palisade, the bustling metropolis of Grand Junction (by Palisade standards) offers a much more diverse dining opportunity. Here are a few of our favorites.

La Dolce Vita*

336 Main Street, Grand Junction, 970-242-8482

This classic Italian restaurant features city-like service and a mile-long wine list. It’s a go-to spot in Grand Junction’s historic Old Town. The Calamari Fritti is a house specialty and on Wednesday for date night, La Dolce Vita offers a complimentary bottle of select red or white wine with the purchase of two entrées.  Reservations recommended.

No Coast Sushi

1119 North 1st Street, Unit A,  Grand Junction, 970-255-1097

A sushi restaurant with a cool vibe and fresh fish? In the middle of the Grand Valley? Are you sure we are in Grand Junction? Yes, yes and yes. This spot with a cute and clever name is not the only thing that gets us excited about No Coast.  We love the atmosphere and the menu.  Plus you can bring your non-sushi loving friends along as the diverse menu has plenty of options for those who shy from raw fish. There is something for everyone at No Coast.  Current Special:  Mixed Greens, Carrots, Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Cream Cheese, Fried Leeks rolled then topped with Salmon and a Spicy Palisade Peach puree.

Bin 707 Foodbar

225 N. 5th St. #105 Grand Junction, CO 81501

970-243-4543

Another fun spot in Grand Junction Bin 707 specializes in happy hour, brunch, lunch and dinner.  This inventive eatery is one that caters to the foodie within. Great cocktails such as The Pink Dove or the “Paloma,” which features ruby red grapefruit juice and a smoky float of Mezcal 30/30 Blanco Tequila, Mezcal, Pink Grapefruit Juice, Prickly Pear soda shine. And nibbles such as Carpaccio and Roasted Beets are standouts.

* Serves Mesa Park Vineyards wines

The Evolving Frank Bonanno and How Mesa Park Landed on the Mizuna Wine List

Frank Bonanno of Mizuna Denver

Frank Bonanno, the acclaimed chef behind Denver's Mizuna and a half-dozen other restaurants. Courtesy photo.

In the world where chefs are celebrities, Frank Bonanno holds his own — in Denver and the U.S. His lobster mac ‘n cheese won a Food Network challenge a few years back, and he’s seemingly always on the radar for an esteemed James Beard Foundation nomination for his work as both a culinary guru and restaurateur extraordinaire.

Not to mention his Bonanno Concepts consists of six of the more popular restaurants in Denver — with a seventh offering, Russell Smokehouse, slated to open this fall. The cuisine he pushes out ranges dramatically in style and price point.

There’s the tony Italian eatery Luca d’Italia, the small plates happy hour gem Osteria Marco, the Japanese fusion noodle house Bones, the swank cocktail speakeasy Green Russell, the paté house Lou’s Food Bar and Wednesday’s Pie that cares about one thing — pie.

But it’s a little obvious where his heart truly lies, with Mizuna. This Governor’s Park staple has been serving some of the best French-inspired foie gras, veal, lobster, lamb and aforementioned lobster mac ‘n cheese for the last decade.

“Mizuna is the food that I absolutely love,” he says. “To me, maybe because it’s the first one, but I love what we have been able to accomplish in the last 10 years.”

Always Evolving

Bonanno and his marquee restaurant haven’t become complacent with its early successes. The menu continues to stay fresh, and the last four years have brought an increased attention to what is now one of Denver’s premier wine programs.

“Wine is the soul of the food; it enhances it,” Bonanno says. “It can bring you to a different feeling while you are eating.”

But only if the right wines are on the list, which is why Mizuna is one of just a handful of Denver restaurants that employs a full-time sommelier.

“One of the biggest changes for us was the way we looked at our wine,” Bonanno says. “We brought in a sommelier. With that, you have the ability to do more boutiquey, better wines because you have someone who can explain them.”

And find them. (The Mesa Park 2006 Cabernet Franc, for example, an estate wine that landed an exclusive spot on the wine list earlier this summer).

Adding cases of often hard-to-find selections showcases Mizuna evolving on the beverage front, which helps the ever-evolving menu and the restaurant itself stay atop the city’s culinary mindset.

It also highlights the savviness of Bonanno, who continues to churn out acclaimed restaurants that fill seats nightly. Ten years ago, he won diners with his culinary prowess. Now he’s banking his success on his other attributes while letting trusted employees make major decisions regarding food, spirits and wine.

“I’ve changed,” he says. “I don’t cook as much as I would like to. I still cook quite a bit, but I have had to take a real role as father and confidant. I mean there’s 300 people in the company.”

A Tough List to Crack

Hence the wine program being left, almost solely, in the hands of wine director Lynn Whittum. Bonanno needs a world-class wine list and understands the importance of having a dedicated cork dork to do the heavy lifting.

From a winery’s perspective, this is a blessing in many ways, but that extra attention to detail means an experienced and dedicated palate paying a lot more attention to what goes on the menu — and what doesn’t. To put it simply, getting a bottle on the Mizuna wine list is about as easy as finding a restaurant that serves more than an obligatory Colorado wine on its menu. It’s a competitive process.

Whittum identifies a need — a sauvignon blanc wholesaling for about $25, for example — and lets upward of 18 wine reps know about it. Then, it’s a taste off. Whittum, Bonanno and several staff members will often take part, sipping on more than 60 selections to figure out which one makes the cut.

“It’s not an easy thing to get a placement here,” Bonanno says. “Bring (Whittum) something thoughtful, bring her something good. You could taste 64 wines just to get one.”

Mesa Park’s 2006 Cabernet Franc did just that. Mizuna needed a Bordeaux-style red that could sell on the list for under $40 (the Franc is on the list for $38). Sixty some-odd came through the door, and the Cab Franc was the last standing.

“It beat out 60 other wines in the category; she likes it,” Bonanno says. “We truly do it because she thinks it’s the best wine for the spot.”

Not bad for a small, 500-case operation from Palisade.

“Being a vineyard owner is a dream come true for me,”  says Chuck Price, proprietor and winemaker at Mesa Park Vineyards. “I was a student in San Luis Obispo in the late 70s and did a senior project in college about owning and operating a vineyard and winery — it didn’t happen at that time.  Now, I have retired from a career in aerospace and find myself in the wine business with my family 30-plus years later. Getting one of my wines on such an exclusive wine list tells me maybe I should have made the jump much earlier.”

Mizuna Nosh with Mesa Park’s Franc

Try the Mesa Park 2006 Cabernet Franc with the Boneless Quail Pastilla appetizer (a delectable starter with marcona almonds and a Tempranillo demi glace) or any beef, pork or lamb entrée on the menu. Bonanno points to the braised lamb shoulder with white beans. “It’s a good hearty wine it has some of those characteristics of a Bordeaux. It holds up to all those same flavors.”

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