Farmers, Foodies, and Floods in Boulder County

Heirloom tomatoes at Boulder's Farmers' Market ©Laurel Kallenbach

Over the years, Boulder, Colorado, has garnered kudos as a food mecca: a place where visitors and residents come to revel in seemingly endless gourmet options.

In 2010, Bon Appétit magazine named Boulder “America’s Foodiest Town,” and Boulder’s Farmers’ Market made the 2012 Top 10 American Farmers Markets list by U.S. News & World Report.

None of that high-altitude cuisine would be possible without the participation of farmers, however. Good restaurants and talented chefs depend on flavorful, fresh, organic produce from local farms, and we on Colorado’s Front Range are lucky to have many producers of fruits, veggies, cheese, eggs, honey, flowers, and meat.

Among the casualties of the 500-year flood in northern Colorado this September, however, were farms. Small-scale, independent, sustainable, and often organic farms. Fields of lettuce and squash and peppers and tomatoes were covered in water during the height of harvest season; rain and mud choked plants and dampened the spirits of farmers.

Front Range Farm Relief

To help hard-hit farmers cope, an organization called Local Food Shift initiated the Front Range Farm Relief Fund. Although millions of dollars in flood relief is pouring into our area, very little is targeted to aid local farms, ranches, and food-related businesses, so this initiative is vital for cultivating sources of food that taste great and are healthy for the earth.

Eggplants and peppers fresh from the farm ©Laurel Kallenbach

Contributions go toward grants and low-interest loans to farms, ranches, and food producers impacted by the flood—in hopes of getting them up and running by next spring.

You can donate to Front Range Farm Relief Fund by clicking here. If you live in Colorado, or visit the area and enjoy the foodie scene in these parts, this is a way to help out.

Tables to Farms Lends a Hand

Tables to Farms is a new program launched by Boulder County and Denver-area chefs and restaurateurs as a direct way to help Boulder County farmers whose crops, farmhouses, barns, and homes were lost or severely damaged by the September floods. From now through the end of November, participating restaurants will collect cash donations from customers, and some restaurants will hold special fundraising events. All of the proceeds—100 percent—will go directly to Boulder County farms through the Local Food Shift Group’s Front Range Farm Relief Fund.

The idea for Tables to Farms came from a conversation between Bradford Heap—chef/owner of Salt Bistro in Boulder and Colterra Food and Wine in Niwot—and his neighbor John Bachman of Big Red F Restaurant Group.

“These farmers are our partners and friends,” said Heap. “For over 30 years, we’ve worked to create a sustainable local food-shed. This is the time to step up and support those farmers who have worked so hard to create that dream. This is the time for our communities to rally and show what ‘local’ truly means.”

Flavors of summer and fall: sweet bell peppers. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Salt Bistro’s Tables to Farms special benefit dinner will be Tuesday, October 22, 2013, at 6:30 pm. The fundraising dinner will consist of four courses with paired wines donated by the Natural Wine Company ($120 per person, includes tax and tip). Colterra’s benefit dinner will be Tuesday, October 29 at 6:30 p.m. The four-course with paired wines, also donated by the Natural Wine Company is $150 per person, including tax and tip.

Each restaurant that holds fundraisers can earmark which farms receive the funds from its Tables to Farms benefit. Proceeds from Salt and Colterra will go to five farms they use frequently, and that are most in need: Full Circle Farm, Oxford Gardens, Black Cat Farm, 63rd Street Farm, and The Fresh Herb Company.

Check the Local Food Shift website for other restaurants that are joining in the effort.

Donations at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market

The Boulder County Farmers’ Market is hosting a “Support Your Local Farmer” donation program at both the Longmont and the Boulder markets. For a donation of $2 or more, you’ll get a hot cup of apple cider provided by Ela Family Farms in Hotchkiss, Colorado.

Flowers at the Boulder County Farmer's Market ©Laurel Kallenbach

All donations go to the Front Range Farm Relief Fund. The cider and donation sites are located at the Information Desk, and you can support local farmers until the end of the season.

In 2013, the last farmers’ market in Longmont, Colo., is November 2; in Boulder, Colo., the finale is November 16. (Read my earlier blog post about my hometown farmers’ market.)

Shopping the farmers’ market is one way of supporting struggling farmers. So is increasing our local food purchasing at farm stands and at retail stores like Door to Door Organics, Lucky’s Markets, Alfalfa’s, Whole Foods, and Natural Grocers. And of course, we can all patronize the many restaurants who source locally.

A huge part of the beauty of autumn is local fall produce: I, for one, am not going to let the flood ruin that.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor


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.

Eating Sustainably (and Tastily) at the Boulder Green House

One of the best things about staying at the SpingLeaf Green House in Boulder was mealtime. The emphasis was on eating locally and organically, and August is a super time to enjoy the summer harvest.

Our LG fridge with sleek French doors offered loads of space to store all these yummy foods in energy-efficient style. And BPA-free storage containers were provided by Tupperware, which has recently launched a line of FridgeSmart containers with adjustable vents that let you control airflow to reduce food spoilage and waste. After meals, the water-saving steam-technology LG dishwasher made kitchen cleanup a snap.

The Boulder Green House organizers, Cercone Brown PR certainly found creative ways to promote healthy, earth-wise eating.

Gourmet Pizza Party

Chef Kevin Kidd helps Mothering magazine's Candace Walsh create a fresh Pizza Margherita.

One evening, executive chef Kevin Kidd  from Salt, a sustainable Boulder restaurant, brought unique pizza ingredients from Boulder’s Farmer’s Market and got us improvising. We chopped heirloom tomatoes, West Slope Colorado peaches, Munson Farm corn and more. (If you’re wondering about the peaches, you should know that Kevin’s peach/prosciutto/goat cheese and cilantro creation was superb! And so was the traditional Pizza Margherita!)

Smoothie-Making Contest

A variety of organic fruits and veggies blend up into a lip-smacking smoothie.

Try this idea if your breakfasts lack creativity: Assemble smoothie ingredients and challenge each person to blend up a unique concoction.

Our group was challenged to use White Wave Foods’ products, including Horizon Organic Yogurt, Silk Soymilk and Almond Milk.  Then we added fruits such as berries, peaches, bananas and pineapple; Earthbound Farms’ organic dates; maple syrup; and carrots and kale (very nutritious).

Our discovery was that Earthbound Farms Organic Ginger Snaps were a sweet and gingery asset to the smoothies with kale.

Sadly, neither of my smoothies won the contest, but I had a satisfying delicious breakfast anyway.

Organic, Fair-Trade Coffee Tasting

Fair Trade never tasted so wonderful as Green Mountain Coffee's organic brews.

Fair trade tastes great, especially as a mug of Green Mountain organic coffee.

To accompany our smoothies, our group of journalists got to brew and taste two organic, fair trade coffees while having a virtual meeting with the folks at Green Mountain Coffee via Skype. (What an eco-friendly way to have long-distance meetings without flying people all over the world!)

Sandy and Winston spoke to us from their “coffee lab” in Vermont, filling us in on the importance of paying a fair price to coffee farmers in places such as Ethiopia and Sumatra, where the higher pay can transform communities.

Organic Happy Hour

Yellow + Blue's organic wines come in eco-friendly Tetra Pak.

I was happily introduced to Yellow + Blue organic wine in environmentally-friendly packaging: Tetra Pak. I have to admit, I took one look at the boxes and thought: What’s wrong with glass bottles? They’re recyclable. However, what I hadn’t figured on was the light weight of the Tetra Paks vs. heavy glass bottles. Shipping wine in glass burns far more fossil fuel than in this packaging (which is also recyclable, by the way). And Yellow + Blue carbon offsets their shipping.

I loved the flavors of the organic Malbec and Rosé, but was personally less excited about Y+B’s white wines, though some of the others enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc.

Farm-to-Table Brunch

There’s nothing like eating a wonderful meal on an organic farm, especially one as beautiful as Pastures of Plenty, a 35-acre organic vegetable, herb and cut-flower farm a few miles north of Boulder. Pastures of Plenty is also a venue for parties and weddings, and farmer/chef Lyle Davis runs Big Bang catering there.

Our group ate brunch outdoors at Pastures of Plenty organic farm.

We were treated to wonderful recipes from organic farmer Myra Goodman’s The Earthbound Cook: Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet.

We savored asalad with jicama, pineapple and avocado and a fennel apple salad. That was followed by Lyle’s special fried egg with green chili at the outdoor table set for royalty. (And we saw the bin of just-picked green chiles!)

Here’s to eating fresh!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Next: Driving Green