Boulder’s Salt Bistro Preserves the Earth

Salt, a restaurant opened by visionary chef/owner Bradford Heap in 2009, is a culinary delight with a conscience for preserving natural resources.

Save room for Salt Bistro's Chocolate Caramel Tart, sprinkled with (what else?) salt.

Located on Boulder, Colorado ’s Pearl Street, Salt Bistro was created in the historic space that was formerly the home of Tom’s Tavern, a downtown landmark for more than 40 years. While renovating the restaurant for his new bistro, Heap and his wife, Carol Vilate, a designer, reused as many elements from the original building as possible—an effort that imbues Salt Bistro with a sense of the past—and that reduced the need for new materials. The tin ceiling was original from the 19th century.

In addition, the couple used recycled materials whenever possible. Look closely at the wooden tables: They’re made from old doors taken from Boulder’s Casey Junior High during its remodel. The chairs came from an auction. Wood flooring and many other finishes came from Resource Reclaimed Building Materials, a local business.

Salt, a bistro in Boulder, Colo., is located in the Pearl Street building that once housed Tom's Tavern.

Earth-Friendly Flavors

The handiwork of local artisans resulted in a restaurant that feels both modern and old-fashioned, European and American Western. And that’s borne out in the food: the bar “chefs” offer a selection of pre-Prohibition cocktails, and the entrees present old-world flavors suited for contemporary palates.

Sustainability isn’t just for the interior design of Salt Bistro—it’s a huge part of the restaurant’s food philosophy. The menus are built around seasonally available local food—much of it organic—in order to capture the freshest flavors.

Heap aims to raise awareness of where food comes from, and the menu lists the farm source of each menu item. In addition, the restaurant features sustainable seafood and humanely-raised meat.

As an added touch, Salt Bistro’s used cooking oil is used for biodiesel fuel.

Well-Seasoned Menu

But how does all this taste? Executive Chef Kevin Kidd pulls out the stops with fare that displays Italian and French influences with an American flair. An artisanal cheese plate spotlights local Haystack Mountain goat cheeses. The Wood-Roasted Autumn Vegetable Cassoulet features bounty from Munson Farm, while the Seven-Hour Braised Colorado Lamb with fennel risotto comes from Rosen Farm.

I personally wouldn’t miss getting a side order of Salt’s Crispy Polenta—by far the most divine I’ve ever tasted.

Salt’s menu rotates seasonally, but some things should never change. That’s why you can still get a Tom’s Tavern Burger, which Salt has gussied up with grass-fed beef, Grafton cheddar and house-made fries.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

The wood-burning oven at Salt produces innovative pizzas.

Giving Thanks for the Bounty of Farmer’s Markets

Japanese eggplant and peppers from Toohey & Sons farm Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to express gratitude to the nation’s farmer’s markets for bringing locally-grown, fresh food to town.

Much of the food is produced organically, even if it’s not certified organic. Growing without pesticides  is vital for public health and for the environment.

Now that winter is upon us and the leaves are almost gone, there’s only one more chance to buy direct from the farmer in Boulder, Colorado, my home town. After the third Saturday in November, the Boulder County Farmer’s Market is closed for the season.

But oh, how warmly I remember the bounty of this summer. The heirloom tomatoes, the ears of Peaches-and-Cream sweet corn, the gladiolas and sunflowers, the multi-colored carrots, the cucumbers, the Western Slope peaches that we ate by the bushelful!

I thought I’d share a few photos from September’s colorful harvest at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, held in downtown Boulder (on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons):

Windsor Dairy makes cheeses in the European tradition from raw, organic milk. Every cheese is a creamy treat! Photo ©Laurel Kallenbach

Thank you, farmers, for continuing to supply us with fresh, healthy food against the odds. And for reminding us what a variety of foods can be grown with a short distance of our homes—or even in our back yards. May your family farms prosper.

These scarlet turnips from Toohey & Sons were so pink, I thought they were beets. Photo ©Laurel Kallenbach

Renewed interest in local foods has coined the word “locavore”: someone who eats locally produced, in-season foods whenever possible. Why go to the extra effort to become a locavore and buy from farmer’s markets and eat local? FoodRoutes.org cites several important reasons.

Zesty jalapeños from Red Wagon Organic Farm   Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

1. Local food tastes better and fresher than food grown for shipping or long shelf life.

2. You support and preserve small family farms.

3. You know the farmers you buy from avoid chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified seed.

4. You protect the environment. Local food doesn’t travel far, thereby reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and packing materials.

I’m also grateful that farmer’s markets create community. I never go when I don’t bump into a friend—and we compare the goodies we tuck into our shopping bags. The whole market feels a little like a festival—complete with fresh-made local foods from local restaurants.

This Thanksgiving, may we remember where our food comes from, may we support sustainable agriculture, and may we work to end hunger in our own home towns.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

People share food and smiles at the Abbondanza Farm stand at the Boulder Farmer's Market. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

The SideCar Restaurant: Where SoCal’s History Mixes with Organic, Locavore Cuisine

Stepping into The SideCar Restaurant in Ventura, Calif., I knew I was going to love every bite. How could I have a bad meal in a restaurant housed within a historic 1910 Pullman dining car with old-fashioned arched train windows, classy white tablecloths, and mini-chandeliers?

The SideCar restaurant in Ventura, Calif., serves local, seasonal cuisine in a 1910 Pullman train car.

I could just feel the glory days of old Hollywood at this restaurant. In the Thirties and Forties, movie stars who were invited to lavish parties at the Hearst Castle (farther north) drove up the coast and stopped for a nice meal at The SideCar.

Grilled Cheese Night and Jazz

I was lucky enough to dine at The SideCar on Tuesday, which is Grilled Cheese Night featuring live jazz. Really, any evening at The SideCar is perfect, thanks to Chef Tim Kilcoyne’s inventive and farm-driven gourmet menu that features Ventura’s local, seasonal, sustainable and organic produce. But Tuesday and Thursday’s Burger & Martini Night light up midweek evenings.

On Tuesday night, the place was packed with a comfortable mix of older and younger clientele—all bobbing their heads to the Gil Valencia Trio jazz combo. When a guest vocalist launched into “It Had to Be You” I was hooked!

Now, grilled cheese sounds a bit mundane, but Chef Kilcoyne’s menu in mid-October included not just traditional cheddar cheese but lavish “specialty” grills such as:

Tuesday is Grilled Cheese and Jazz Night at The SideCar.

  • Triple-cream brie with roast turkey and fig-honey jam (made with figs from the restaurant’s fig tree!)
  • Herb havarti, blue cheese, red onion, oven-roasted tomato spread, and roasted garlic
  • Goat cheese and apple-walnut relish

All the sandwiches are served with scrumptious creamy tomato-basil soup.

As I enjoyed both soup and sandwich, I toasted my first dolphin sighting (see “Wild Dolphins Ahoy”) with a Ventura Lemonade, a tasty concoction of  Ventura Limoncello (created from Ventura-county lemons including those from the organic Limoneira farm), Meyer lemon-infused vodka, fresh lemonade, and homegrown mint served over ice. It was refreshing, and I could taste the California sunshine in the fruit and mint.

Sophisticated Menu

My friends and I didn’t stop with grilled cheese. We ordered salads, entrees and desserts from the menu, which lists in-season foods and the regional farms that supplied the evening’s fresh flavors. We passed dishes around the table for all to sample.

SideCar cocktail: the organic Ventura Lemonade, plus a dolphin magnet (in honor of seeing my first wild dolphins).

The pepper-crusted filet mignon with Yukon Gold mashes potatoes and creamed Swiss chard was outstanding. Even a side order of sweet-potato fries with roasted garlic aioli was a special treat.

And for dessert, our group couldn’t decide whether the pumpkin tiramisu or the blackberry crisp was more divine.

Oh yes, did I mention the wine list consisted only of California wines, many of them made with organic grapes? You can do this sort of thing in California, where fine wine abounds within just a hundred miles of any part of the state.

What’s Cooking at Your Thanksgiving?

If your tastebuds are tingling from reading this blog post, tell me what you’re cooking for Thanksgiving this year. (Leave a comment below.) I’m certainly thankful for the organic bounty of local family farms!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor