Smoking-Hot Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival in Beaver Creek, Colorado

The Blues, Brews & BBQ festival in Beaver Creek, CO

My husband was invited to play trumpet with the Tommy Thomas’ Working Man Band at Beaver Creek’s annual Memorial Day Blues, Brews and Barbecue Festival, so here we are in this mountain ski village—enjoying soulful live music accompanied by smoked pork, chicken and sausage drenched in barbecue sauce.

The barbecue is mostly from Colorado restaurants—with a few Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas smokers thrown in for some southern authenticity.

Smokin' Foods, from Tulsa, Okla., was just one of 20 vendors serving barbecued food.

I’ve never seen so many barbecue cookers in one place: they fill this high-altitude air with smoke. Pulled pork, barbecued ribs, smoked cheese, corn-on-the-cob, smoked asparagus, even smoked wild Alaskan salmon: They’re extra tasty here under the blue Colorado sky.

Best of Colorado Microbrews

Great barbecue brings out the southern girl in me, but what really caught my attention about the Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival was a microbrew tasting featuring only Colorado microbrews—the largest such event in the state. I love eating and drinking local—and my home state seems to be blessed with a lot of fine microbrews.

Some highlights:

Colorado Springs' Bristol Brewery

Bristol Brewing (Colorado Springs): Laughing Lab Scottish ale is rich and smoky without being too heavy.

I sampled a couple of chili ales—beers with actual chili peppers in them. You can smell and taste the blend of serrano, habañero, jalapeño, Anaheim and Fresno peppers in Billy’s Chilies, from Boulder’s Twisted Pine Brewery. It’s a bold, spicy brew.

Longmont’s Lefthand Brewing served one of my favorites, Polestar Pilsner, but I branched out an sampled its Milk Stout. Not surprising, the coffee tones of a stout blend beautifully with a little milk.

Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora gets high marks from us for its Apricot Blonde ale—the pureed fruit makes this slightly cloudy beer a winner for summer sipping.

Durango Brewing Company

Durango Brewing’s Blueberry Wheat was another fruity pleasure: with just a hint of blueberry, it seems like a light treat afternoon treat.

Trinity Brewing (Colorado Springs) was sampling two interesting “flavors.” Its Southern Hospitality has a lightly pecan taste, and Farmhouse was a bit citrusy, which is something I like in a beer.

Pagosa Brewing presented the lovely Kayaker Cream Ale.

The surprise of the event was Colorado Native, a brewer in Golden. I commented wryly about “Who knew Golden had another gig in town besides Coors?” As it turns out, the artisanal lager is a Coors subsidiary—and it’s made from only Colorado-grown ingredients (and sold only in the Centennial State too). Both Ken and I loved this amber lager.

Del Norte Brewing in Denver specializes in Mexican-style brews.

The Colorado microbrew tasting, sponsored by the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort, was held on May 28, 2011, so alas, all you local beer enthusiasts will have to wait until next year to sip the best of Colorado’s suds.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

The Flavor of Italy at Boulder’s Pizzeria da Lupo

With the cool, wet weather, I’ve been pining for somewhere sun-drenched—like Italy. The solution, since I can’t jet off to the Mediterannean at the moment, is Pizzeria da Lupo, a small Boulder restaurant with big flavor—and the spirit of an Italian family pizzeria.

Authentic Italian pizzas in Boulder, Colo.

I bite into the crisp-but-chewy crust of a steaming-hot, just-baked margherita pizza and am transported to Italy. The fresh basil and San Marzano tomatoes have a hint of sunshine. And the gooey, house-made mozzarella is just right.

Every pizza is served with a condiment plate of sea salt, oregano, grated parmesan, and hot peppers. My pizza doesn’t really require dressing up—a classic margherita has all the flavor you need, really—but I do like a pinch of sea salt and three or four of those pepper flakes for just a touch of hot.

The $10 daily lunch special includes a 9-inch pizza, iced tea and a generous green salad drizzled in an olive-oil/vinegar dressing.

Fresh Ingredients, Authentic Pizza Oven

I first visited Pizzeria da Lupo in March for a special media event with chef-owner Jim Cohen. We journalists got to try our hand at the art of pizza making.

First, chef Ashlea Tobeck walked me through the experience of making cheese. I poured hot water over a bowl of mozzarella curds and clumped them together using a spoon. Then I plunged my hands into the melty cheese-water, pulling the hot curds into strings and then compressing them and smoothing them into a ball. It felt like kindergarten art project.

Chef Jim Cohen tends the wood-fired oven at Pizzeria da Lupo.

Next: turning a ball of dough into a pizza. The dough at Pizzeria da Lupo rises for three days so that it’s light and flavorful. My task—and it was surprisingly difficult—was to stretch the dough. Chef Cohen juggled the dough over his knuckles, letting it drape downwards.

When I did it, though, mine formed big holes. After I tried again and had the same results, Cohen stepped in and deftly spun the dough into a pie, which I then coverd with olive oil and added mushrooms and sausage and the yummy hand-made cheese.

My creation was ready to shove into the oval, brick-and-tile oven imported from Italy. A pile of red-hot embers heats the oven to 1,000 degrees at the top—700 degrees in the bottom center where my little pizza spent 60 seconds as the dough bubbled dramatically.

Antipasti and a tricolore salad, Pizzeria da Lupo

Then, using the wood paddle, the chef moved the pizza farther from the burning wood to a less-searing area for about three minutes. When it was done, he held it in the 1,000-degree spot for just a second or two to sear it.

Once out of the oven, the pizza was finished with a drizzle of Italian olive oil, cut with a mezzaluna knife, and served piping hot.

Despite my inability to spin dough, my pizza was done to perfection—with a little help from a chef and an Old World oven.

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You may not get the chance to make your own pizza in this cute, quaint restaurant—I love the old-fashioned tile on the floor and the family photos on the wall—but you can enjoy the fruits of the chefs’ creativity.

So why fly to Italy? Just visit Boulder’s Pizzeria da Lupo.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and pizza taster