River & Woods Chef Gets Creative with Sustainably Caught Fish

I didn’t even know I liked mackerel, much less sardines. But Chef Daniel Asher, of Boulder, Colorado’s River and Woods restaurant made me a convert—and proved his prowess in the kitchen.

Chef Daniel Asher, of River and Woods restaurant in Boulder, started a summer luncheon with sustainable Bela sardines and a smorgasbord of other complementary flavors. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Chef Daniel Asher, of River and Woods restaurant in Boulder, started a summer luncheon with sustainable Bela sardines and a smorgasbord of other complementary flavors. ©Laurel Kallenbach

At a special event, Asher showed off the Bela Seafood line, a family-owned business that has fished off the Algarve coast of Portugal for generations. Bela’s tuna, mackerel, and sardines are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

“I’m always on the lookout for sustainably produced foods that are truly delicious,” says Asher. “We cook sustainably here at River and Woods, but flavor comes first, so we’re very picky.”

Chef Daniel Asher ©Laurel Kallenbach

Chef Daniel Asher ©Laurel Kallenbach

Apparently, Bela’s fish—which comes packed in organic extra-virgin olive oil in cans or jars—passed the Asher test. And, as it turns out, mine. Chef Asher started us out with sardines, presented on a gorgeous smorgasbord table with smashed avocado, baby kale, fresh lemon, crisp-fried onions, and nori, with which we could make little sardine burritos.

Hesitantly, I chose a small sardine in olive oil with organic piri-piri (an African chili pepper used in Portugal) and drenched it with lemon and added avocado. To my surprise, the sardine was mild, and I went back for seconds!

Grilled sardines, flavorful chowders, mackerel, tuna are the local dishes in the Algarve, Portugal’s hottest tourist destination. (Someday, when I visit the Algarve, I’m told I must try the cataplana—a combination of sausage, clams, and ham stirred together with paprika, onions and coriander.) Of course, sardines are the staple of almost every dish in coastal Portugal.

And here’s the scoop on Bela’s sardines: they’re wild-caught by purse-seine netting, washed by hand, and then cooked prior to canning. They’re hand-packed within hours of the catch and never frozen. And these little fish are good for you: A serving of sardines delivers 11 grams of protein, omega-3s, vitamin D and calcium all in one, low-calorie meal!

A Tuna Waldorf Salad featuring Bela skipjack tuna: yet another of Chef Asher's sustainable creations. ©Laurel Kallenbach

A Tuna Waldorf Salad featuring Bela skipjack tuna: yet another of Chef Asher’s sustainable creations. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Bring on the Seafood

Next Chef Asher served bamboo cones filled with a Bela Skipjack Tuna Waldorf Salad with cinnamon-coated almonds, mizuna, Just Mayo vegan “mayonnaise,” rosemary-olive oil “caviar” and local carrot shavings. All of us “samplers” raved over this whimsical salad. And the tuna is pole-and-line caught.

Finally the pièce de résistance: Mackerel Paella that blended Mediterranean influences such as charred Valencia oranges with Colorado-grown quinoa and gourmet mushrooms from Mile-High Fungi. The mackerel was wonderful, and this oily fish is also earning kudos for its high omega-3 content.

Paella with Bela-brand mackerel at River and Woods ©Laurel Kallenbach

Paella with Bela-brand mackerel at River and Woods ©Laurel Kallenbach

Come on Over to River and Woods

Aside from enjoying the wonderful, sustainable fish dishes, I loved spending some time at River and Woods. The creators behind the restaurant strive for sustainable and local ingredients, and this friendly eatery aspires to creating what they call “community-sourced cuisine,” featuring Colorado comfort foods with innovative twists. For instance, meatloaf gets a makeover, and voilà, you’ve got Lamb and Oat Meatloaf with pumpkin-seed salsa verde and crispy sweet-potato bites. And don’t miss the Seasonal Deviled Eggs with rosemary oil pearls, English peas, breakfast radish, pea shoots, and microgreens.

In summer, you can catch live music in River and Woods’ “backyard’ dining area on Wednesday nights. And chances are I’ll be there too!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

More about restaurants that serve sustainable seafood:

Portugal's Algarve Region: where Bela Seafood is caught and packaged. This is Marinha Beach, a popular tourist spot. Photo Turismo de Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve Region: where Bela Seafood is caught and packaged. This is Marinha Beach, a popular tourist spot. Photo Turismo de Portugal

 

 

Memorial Day Dawns in Boulder, Colorado

A guy with the Colorado state flag on his shirt runs by. The Flatirons and the mountains look on. ©Laurel Kallenbach

A guy with the Colorado state flag on his shirt runs by during the annual Bolder Boulder 10K race. The Flatirons and the mountains look on. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Nobody sleeps late on Memorial Day in Boulder, Colorado. At least it seems that way.

Starting at 7:00 a.m., the annual Bolder Boulder 10K road race begins. At that time, 100,000 rubber-clad feet will start pounding the roads of my hometown, sprinting or walking through sleepy neighborhoods and business centers to their destination: the University of Colorado’s Folsom Stadium.

I live just blocks from the road-race route, so it’s an annual tradition for me to walk down and watch my husband and neighbors zip past during this annual exercise fest. (If you haven’t heard, Boulder is one of the fittest towns in the country.)

My husband's smile as he zooms by says it all: the Bolder Boulder is fun!©Laurel Kallenbach

My husband’s smile as he zooms by says it all: the Bolder Boulder is fun!©Laurel Kallenbach

The streets are noisy: Helicoptors hover overhead with journalists filming the run. Race volunteers ring cowbells or shout instructions to the masses of runners through bullhorns: “Water to the right; Gatorade to the left.” Bands play Irish jigs or bluegrass or soft rock; houses filled with party-ers who are already drinking beer blast heavy metal. Spectators clap and shout, “Go, go, go!” and “Keep up the pace!” and “You can do it!” Dogs bark with excitement; little kids squeal.

Water and Gatorade are available just ahead. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Water and Gatorade are available just ahead. ©Laurel Kallenbach

And so, Memorial Day starts off with a bang—and the holiday has just begun!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Read more about the Bolder Boulder road race: When Summer Begins, Boulder Runs 

This woman carried the flag throughout the Bolder Boulder race. ©Laurel Kallenbach

This woman carried the flag throughout the Bolder Boulder race. ©Laurel Kallenbach

 

 

Rocky Mountain Tea Festival Heats Up July in Boulder

The Rocky Mountain Festival of Tea is held annually at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. ©Laurel Kallenbach

The Rocky Mountain Festival of Tea is held annually at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. ©Laurel Kallenbach

I stare at the damp, scattered tea leaves inside my cup, which look like Chinese calligraphy: indecipherable, to me at least.

The bits of oolong left after I drank my tea should tell my future. “Soften your focus and follow your intuition,” advises Caroline Dow, who’s teaching a class on tea-leaf reading at Boulder’s Rocky Mountain Tea Festival. This annual celebration of the Far Eastern beverage is held in late July at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.

My tealeaves tell a good fortune. ©Laurel Kallenbach

I’m drawing a blank; my cup is a jumble of Xs and blobs. Just then, Dow instructs us to pass our cups to the person on our left and let them interpret our symbols. A woman from Santa Fe studies my leaves. She sees a dog, lots of leggy pieces dancing around, and a flying bird. We consult Dow’s list of images and their meanings.

The flying bird augers good news; the dog represents a faithful friend and protection. Moving legs sound hopeful for me because in three weeks I’m having hip surgery. The mystical leaves of the tea plant bear good tidings.

So begins my two-day sojourn into the amazing world of tea at the Rocky Mountain Tea Festival.

Tea 101

Want to learn the difference between oolong, puerh, green tea, and Lapsang Souchong? The Rocky Mountain Tea Festival brings together tea experts, chefs, importers and aficionados for seminars, workshops, and tea tastings—all at the spectacular Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.

Chef Lenny Martinelli demonstrates how to cook with tea. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Chef Lenny Martinelli demonstrates how to cook with tea. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Each year, chef Lenny Martinelli demonstrates how to cook with tea as an ingredient. This year we watched as he made Korean Lapsong Barbecue Ribs, Halumi Cheese with Watermelon, and Black Tea–Glazed Wings—and then got to taste!

The Tea Basics seminar is held by a different tea expert every year, and it focuses on selecting, storing, and brewing tea for your personal taste. For instance, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, drink tea brewed from full leaves; crumbled leaves have more surface area, so caffeine infuses the hot water more quickly. The class I took explored the history of tea, its origins, where it’s grown around the world, and how each type of tea is made to produce its unique flavor. We tasted green, oolong, black and white teas, comparing them side by side, sniffing their leaves, and learning brewing techniques for each varietal.

Tea party tables set up for the kids ©Laurel Kallenbach

Tea party tables set up for the kids ©Laurel Kallenbach

Festival Flavors

The ever-expanding Rocky Mountain Tea Festival draws people from all over the country and offers a four-course tea dinner in which all dishes are prepared with tea.

The menu might include delicacies such as Coconut Green Tea Shrimp Ceviche, Duck Breast with Dragon Eyes Black Tea fig reduction, and green tea ice cream.

A children’s tea party, complete with costumes, crafts, games, a giant teddy bear, iced herbal tisanes and treats such as tea sandwiches, scones, fresh fruit, and sweets. Activities include crafts, simple games, and a Do-it-Yourself dress-up area.

For me, a real highlight was the Japanese tea ceremony demonstrated by women in full traditional kimonos. The evening was a lovely cultural experience.

A Japanese tea ceremony demonstrated the ages-old meditative "way of tea." ©Laurel Kallenbach

A Japanese tea ceremony demonstrated the ages-old meditative “way of tea.” ©Laurel Kallenbach

Seated around a large table, about 30 of us watched the full ceremony, which is simple but detailed, and choreographed with great precision.

Afterward, we all received and frothed the bright-green Japanese matcha tea and sipped it slowly and with great reverence.

Tea Bazaar

Even if you don’t sign up for classes during the festival, you can always drop by the Dushanbe Teahouse and browse through the Tea Bazaar. You’ll find beautiful teapots and other tea-making gadgets, loose-leaf tea, cakes of tea leaves, books on tea, and more. You can taste the best flavors from the many manufacturers there—believe me, I was plenty caffeinated after walking through the rows of vendors!

Phoenix Collection tea tasting at the festival bazaar ©Laurel Kallenbach

Phoenix Collection tea tasting at the festival bazaar ©Laurel Kallenbach

By the end of the two-day festival, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a tea connoisseur, but I sure know a lot more about tea! And now, whenever I need to have my fortune read, I know the answer to life’s questions lies in the bottom of a cup of my favorite oolong.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Floating Lanterns Light Honolulu for Memorial Day

 

Floating lanterns are an Oahu tradition for celebrating Memorial Day in Hawaiian tradition. Photo courtesy Shinnyo-en Hawaii

Floating lanterns are an Oahu tradition for celebrating Memorial Day in Hawaiian tradition. Photo courtesy Shinnyo-en Hawaii

Every Memorial Day, people gather at a beach in Honolulu, Oahu, for a beautiful ceremony of floating lanterns—a serene tradition of peace and remembrance for those who have departed.

I almost never post about events I haven’t personally attended, but when I got the press release about this ceremony I made an exception.

Six thousand candlelit lanterns are set afloat from Ala Moana Beach to honor the fallen, to remember departed loved ones, and as a symbolic, collective vow to work toward a peaceful future. More than 50,000 people attend the annual Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony on Memorial Day, which gathers the community and visitors for a collective experience of warmth and compassion.

In harmony with Hawaiian tradition, the evening opens with the pū, oli and hula, followed by the Shinnyo Taiko and Shomyo Ensemble. Her Holiness Shinso Ito officiates, conducts a blessing, and is joined by six community leaders for the lighting of the Light of Harmony. After the lighting, the lanterns are set afloat onto the waters of Ala Moana Beach by the general public and volunteers. At the conclusion of the ceremony, all lanterns are collected from the ocean and restored for use in the upcoming years.

A participant launches a candlelit lantern inscribed with thoughts about those who have gone before us.

A participant takes a moment to reflect before launching a candlelit lantern inscribed with remembrances of a loved one. Photo courtesy Shinnyo-en Hawaii.

Attendees may receive a lantern to personally float, or they can write their remembrances on special forms that will be placed on collective remembrance lanterns to be floated by volunteers. There is no charge for a lantern; all donations received at the beach will be gifted to the City & County of Honolulu for the upkeep and beautification of Ala Moana Beach Park.

Some day I hope to take part in this beautiful ceremony and watch my own lantern mingle with the tiny lights of thousands of others as they bob in the bay.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor