Fresh Food + Local Beer + Community Spirit = Under the Sun Eatery & Pizzeria

Local beers are on tap at Under the Sun pub in Boulder, Colorado ©Allie Stoudt

Local beers are on tap at Under the Sun pub in Boulder, Colorado ©Allie Stoudt

Under the Sun is the quintessential Boulder, Colorado, restaurant: it’s got casual atmosphere that welcomes families and friendly folks, and its menu emphasizes locally sourced ingredients.

As part of the family of Mountain Sun Pubs & Breweries (with locations in Boulder, Longmont, and Denver), Under the Sun also brews its own fantastic beer, including a number of classics: Annapurna Amber, Old School Irish Stout, and Colorado Kind, a brew the original owner envisioned while biking from Oregon to Boulder in the early 1990s.

Before I launch into the dazzling six-course meal I shared with friends, here’s a word about the community spirit at Under the Sun. This pub boasts no widescreen TV. If you want to guzzle beer with your eyes glued to the boob tube, just stay home. But, if you want to share brews and food with your pals—or make friends with total strangers at the communal tables—this is the place for you. (There are even board games on hand to break the ice.)

At the end of the day, you’re likely to meet Boulderites dressed in cycling gear, hiking boots, or yoga togs—so no need to get gussied up. When the weather’s nice, you might enjoy a seat outside. Chilly? Relax by the fireplace and enjoy Under the Sun’s draught options, including 21 Mountain Sun ales, 10 guest beers and 8 wines on tap.

Awesome appetizer: asparagus with poached egg and prosciutto. ©Allie Stoudt

Awesome appetizer: asparagus with poached egg and prosciutto. ©Allie Stoudt

Service with a Smile

All the Mountain Sun pubs have a unique philosophy. First, the entire staff—from waiters to cooks to dishwashers to bartenders—share the tips so that everyone is motivated to create the best food and dining experience for guests. Really, the amiable—and usually speed—wait people are in states of good humor and efficiency.

And I should mention that the prices at Under the Sun are very reasonable for truly flavorful food. One reason the pubs can keep their fare affordable is they don’t accept credit cards. (There is an onsite ATM, and I’ve heard rumors about folks who are caught without cash being offered a “good karma IOU” envelop so they can mail in the money for their dinner later.)

Fabulous Food from Scratch

Under the Sun proves that delicious, well-made food isn’t something you can only get at fancy restaurants. The folks there are committed to serving fresh, exciting food from scratch, sourced locally whenever possible.

Pesto gnocchi ©Allie Stoudt

Pesto gnocchi Allie Stoudt

Depending on the season and menu, the kitchen serves up produce from a number of Colorado organic farms and food purveyors, including Abbondanza Organic Seeds and Produce, Cure Organic Farm, Long Family Farms, Munson’s Farm, Rudy’s Organic Bakery, Old Style Sausage in Louisville, and Steele’s Meats in Lafayette.

Vegetarians, vegans, and people who eat gluten free will find plenty of wholesome and tasty options on the menu.

Under the Sun’s executive chef Nick Swanson makes good use of a wood-burning oven to bake bread, smoke meats, char food, and roast vegetables, and of course, bake pizzas. If you want to watch the pizza-makers twirl the dough, ask to sit at the counter right by the oven. And yes, you can order gluten-free crust!

Local beer by the fire ©Laurel Kallenbach

Local beer by the fire ©Laurel Kallenbach

A Local Feast

I loved every dish I sampled  during a special taster meal—starting with the grilled asparagus appetizer, which included prosciutto, poached egg, and Grana Padano cheese. Its sprinkles of lemon-zest made it a knockout, and it was paired with the Saison D’Tropique farmhouse ale, which has bold flavor with slightly citrusy notes. This was followed by the Red Beet Salad with arugula, goat-cheese vinaigrette, candied walnuts, and fresh dill, paired with Hilltop Vienna-Style Lager that was refreshing and didn’t overpower the veggies.

Next up: housemade potato gnocchi with zucchini, garlic, and fennel pesto—plus fresh basil. It was scrumptious, and the Number One Belgian Tripel made a lovely companion for the Italian-inspired dish.

After that, I reveled in the beef short rib (fork-tender!) with fingerling potatoes and a mustard-seed vinaigrette. Colorado Kind Ale enhanced the meat’s rich, savory flavors.

I nabbed a slice of my friend’s wood-fired Wild Boom pizza (topped with local Hazel Dell mushrooms, wood-fired onions, sundried tomatoes, and Fontina cheese) just because it looked so delightful.

The perfect finale: wood-fired cookie with vanilla ice cream and stout-caramel sauce. ©Allie Stoudt

The perfect finale: wood-fired cookie with vanilla ice cream and stout-caramel sauce. ©Allie Stoudt

Luckily, I still had room for the wood-oven-fired oatmeal chocolate chip cookie served with a dollop of Sweet Cow vanilla ice cream. Heaven! (And by the way, Chocolate Dip Stout, which contains real chocolate, accentuated the dessert’s flavors, proving that beer can be great with every course of a meal.)

As you can tell, I love the idea of drinking beer brewed onsite. The brewers at Mountain Sun/Under the Sun favor hoppy brews. If you like super-hops, I recommend the FYIPA, which pairs nicely with pizza.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Chef Nick Swanson is Under the Sun's kitchen magician. ©Allie Stoudt

Chef Nick Swanson is Under the Sun’s kitchen magician. ©Allie Stoudt

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? 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

Delicious Dining at Local Ocean Seafoods, Newport, Oregon

Seafood is a delicacy, yet I seldom eat it because I worry so much about the problem of overfished oceans. Luckily, Local Ocean Seafoods in Newport, Oregon, gave Ken and I the opportunity to satisfy our seafood cravings without guilt.

Local Ocean serves fresh, sustainably fished seafood almost exclusively from the Oregon Coast. The restaurant’s owners and chefs stay within the “Green Light” or “Yellow Light” parameters determined by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood watch list. (The majority of the fare is Green Light). You won’t find any endangered or at-risk fish on the menu here, which eases my mind.

Taste of the Sea

Lucky for me, we were visiting Oregon in January, during crab season. For dinner, I chose half a Dungeness crab served with herb/garlic butter. If you’ve ever watched sea otters banging shellfish open on rocks, you know how I felt cracking open those crab legs. Once I got some of that sweet meat, I knew it was worth the labor. How fresh was the crab? Owner Laura Anderson knows the fisherman who hauled my Dungeness from the water around noon that same day.

Dungeness crab at Local Ocean Seafoods was taken from Oregon waters just hours before I ate it. I enjoyed a glass of organic pinot noir from Sokol-Blosser vineyards, only 100 miles away from Newport, Oregon.

I also selected a side of fennel slaw, made with cabbage and fennel (both tasty in-season winter vegetables) and seasoned with vinegar and olive oil. It was light and lively on our palates—with not a speck of mayo in sight!

Ken started with the Garlic and Dungeness Crab soup—the perfect alternative to clam chowder. He followed with Local Ocean’s famous fish tacos, made with local lingcod wrapped in a tortilla with fresh cilantro.

Local Ocean also sells the catch of the day if you'd like to cook at home.

All this fresh-from-the-ocean fare is served in an earth-conscious and budget-friendly location—an old warehouse with painted cinderblock, concrete floors and with the retractable wall and windows so that it opens in summertime right to the Newport Bay. Local Ocean has a no-fuss atmosphere, and the prices are affordable.

More Good Eats at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

By the way, if you’re visiting the terrific Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport (and I highly recommend you do!), say “hi” to my buddies the sea otters.

And if you’ve worked up an appetite watching surreal jellyfish, the mysterious octopus, tufted puffins “flying” underwater, and the open-sea shark tank, swim on over to the dining area, which is also a Local Ocean location! It brings local, sustainable full circle when you admire the beauty of ocean animals and then eat in a way that protects endangered species.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor