Eco-Eats Along Colorado’s Fall Color Trail

A waitress serves organic meals at Eco-Goddess restaurant in Carbondale, CO.

After a morning ogling the golden aspen along western Colorado’s West Elk Loop Scenic Byway—going from Crested Butte over Kebler Pass and McClure Pass—Ken and I were ready for refreshment. We stopped in Carbondale, another former mining town that has been transformed into a lovely place to visit.

Among the shops and restaurants on its lively Main Street is Eco-Goddess All-Organic Cuisine, a casual restaurant that serves top-notch, local-ingredient entrees, desserts—and even organic wines, beers and cocktails.

The menu of this airy, colorful eatery is comprised of 95 percent organic ingredients—and a great deal of the food is sourced from local farms. Many recipes are named after deities from ancient religions. The salads alone—the Demeter, the Isis, and the Kwan Yin—display serious goddess power, including the freshest of veggies.

The Paonia Frittata at Eco-Goddess

I ordered the Atira (named for the Pawnee Earth Mother), a wonderful house-made pesto and mozzarella sandwich served on whole-grain focaccia bread. Ken chose a robust vegetable soup with Goddess Cornbread, made with stone-ground corn and mild green chiles for moistness.

While we waited for our meal to come, we read the back of the Eco-Goddess menu, which lists the origins of the ingredients: vegetables from several Carbondale farms, eggs from Paonia and Hotchkiss, goat cheese from Basalt, honey from Parachute.

There’s no meat on the menu—only eco-safe wild salmon from Alaska. Many entrees are vegan or gluten-free, so pretty much everybody’s dietary preferences are represented here. And don’t worry: the desserts may be organic but they’re tasty. Who wouldn’t love an Aphrodite Carrot Cupcake, a Goddess Bomb (cream-cheese frosting sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies), or a vegan and gluten-free Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle?

The juice bar serves all-organic specialties such as the Pan, which contains beets, cucumbers, celery, lemon and ginger.

I grooved on the vibe at Eco-Goddess—where the walls are painted with murals of dancing divines. And there’s plenty to love about the restaurant’s commitment to the environment. All food scraps are fed to chickens down the road, to-go containers are compostable, and the restaurant strives for zero-waste.

In short, the food here is, well, heavenly.

Other green places to stay and gnosh along the West Elk Loop include the Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn and a number of local-food and natural restaurants in Crested Butte.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Photos courtesy Eco-Goddess

Boulder’s Tastiest Restaurants: First Bite to Last

First Bite Boulder is an annual event that highlights Boulder’s culinary scene. Each fall—usually a week or so before the holidays start—more than 40 of Boulder’s top restaurants offer a special three-course $26 prix fixe dinner menu. And we diners jump at the chance to sample their menus.

First Bite Boulder first course: Polenta and Pear at Alba. The polenta was crispy, the poached Bartlett pear sweet, and the gorgonzola sauce added tang.

For me—and a lot of folks—First Bite lets us try a three-course meal for a fraction of what we’d usually pay.

Granted, the portions served on the First Bite menus are smaller than what you’d get if you paid full price, but it’s nice to have the experience of a more extended meal than we could otherwise afford. (Alcohol is extra, of course).

What’s really cool about the First Bite concept is it showcases how “foodie”-friendly our town is, and how many Boulder restaurants cook with local organic ingredients.

Buying local means we gourmands get the freshest produce and meats, plus eliminating shipping ingredients from around the globe saves fossil fuels.

In past years, friends and I partook of First Bite at Leaf (a vegetarian restaurant), The Kitchen (an organic bistro) and Arugula (northern Italian).

Alba Restaurant and Wine Bar

This year we tried a new spot: Alba Restaurant and Wine Bar, which also specializes in northern Italian cuisine.

For my First Bite experience, I sampled Polenta and Pear (first course); Seared Harris Ranch Hanger Steak with Tuscan friend potatoes, arugula, and salsa verde (second course); and a Torta Cioccolata (dessert).

Everything was fabulous; our table of five had only kudos for the meal (although one friend found the espresso lacking).

This year’s First Bite lasts from November 12 to 20.

I’m already looking forward to next year!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

P.S. If you’ve been to any of the First Bite tastings, share the experience by leaving a comment below.

The grand finale: Alba's flourless chocolate torte with vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of hazelnut pralines