Defining Boulder’s cuisine

An interplay between local farms and chefs

By Paul Hagey Nov 12 2020

Northern New Mexico has a definitive cuisine. When you eat out there or in someone’s home, green chile reins king. Just as it does at Santo, the Boulder restaurant Hosea Rosenberg opened in 2017 honoring the taste of his homeland.

Located in Boulder’s Ideal Market, near the intersection of Alpine Avenue and Broadway Avenue just north of downtown, Santo offers the unique punch of Northern New Mexican flavor — from the decor to the spicy, red chile-infused queso fundido to the hatch green chile sweet potato enchiladas to the chile relleno burrito to the avocado-salsa braised lamb belly tacos.

Hosea Rosenberg

Northern New Mexico has the chile. Maine has its lobster, Philly has the cheesesteak, Maryland’s known for its crabs and Old Bay fries, central California has its tri-tip sandwiches. But what constitutes a Boulder dish?

“There’s no signature style,” Hosea says when asked about defining Boulder’s cuisine. Like Bobby Stuckey of Frasca, Elliott Toan of Arcana and other area chefs we interviewed, Hosea says the area’s food character centers on farm-to-table and seasonality, he added.

Given Boulder’s rich agricultural landscape, the area’s cuisine actually centers more on locally grown ingredients more than perhaps on anything else. These ingredients take on different shapes and flavors in the hands of chefs at area’s restaurant

Josh Dinar

“There’s a movement toward simplicity,” Josh Dinar, who owns Boulder’s River and Woods Restaurant, “fresh ingredients, and anything that has a local flavor to it. That speaks to the kind of culture people are hoping for — which is local and sustainable, and how to do that in ways that are complex and flavorful.”

[The rise of Boulder-area farm CSAs]

Three features from Rooted Craft Kitchen’s market menu: asparagus with egg and pine nut sauce, baby heirloom tomato salad with cashew, pesto sauce, and a farro risotto (left), asparagus + peas, topped with pea shoots and feta. Images: Tatyana Sharpton.

“It’s [about] beautiful simplicity in Boulder,” says Kirk Bachmann, president of Boulder’s culinary school Escoffier. “There’s something about a wonderful plate or bowl of fresh greens, locally tossed in the simplest of vinaigrettes with seeds and nuts, not overwhelmed with heavy mayo-based dressing. The star of the dish in Boulder are the ingredients.”

Farm-driven style

Travis Masar, left, with co-founder Darren Chang.

“For me, that’s what Boulder is: an eclectic collection of all these talented chefs,” says Travis Masar, co-owner and co-chef of Boulder Avanti Food & Beverage’s Taiwanese concept, Pig and Tiger. “You have Bobby Stuckey of Frasca, Steve who used to work at Frasca, Hosea with his New Mexican-style cuisine.”

Rooted Craft American Kitchen’s chef Nick Kayser, who created his restaurant with a focus on locally-grown food and local farms, attributes Boulder’s clean food approach to the “exponential increase in what Colorado farmers have been able to produce in the last five years, especially considering it’s a desert.”

“Tilling the soils, going deeper and bringing up nutrients has expanded our growing system,” Nick says. “And this kind of food is going to be highlighted.”

Some of Pig and Tiger’s dishes. Images: Tatyana Sharpton.

Header image: A selection of farm-based food from Rooted’s Market Menu. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.

Additional Reporting from BLDRfly reporter Tatyana Sharpton.

Paul Hagey

Paul Hagey is BLDRfly’s founder and editor. When not wrangling video, audio and words in the name of story, he’s riding his mountain bike, trail running and hanging with his awesome wife Jen and their young daughter.