1964 13th Street
Boulder, CO 80302
The whole farm to table trend at restaurants is nothing new, but how many of those restaurants can claim to own their own farm. That is the premise behind Chef Eric Skokan's Black Cat Bistro; farmer by day, chef by night, he raises free-range chickens, ducks, and hogs as well as a selection of 250 heirloom and heritage vegetables. By controlling the whole supply chain, Chef Skokan can select only produce at the height of freshness then tailor his menu to match.
With neutral color wood boards and warm furniture, the restaurant has a rustic homey feel like dinner in a log cabin. At the same time the restaurant features a brightly lit display kitchen which suggests the staff is comfortable showing off their skills and letting diners see the action for themselves.
AMUSE: HAMACHI - LIME, RICOTTA, MICROGREENS, SPINACH COULIS
m.V., Charles Bove, Loire Valley France, Chenin Blanc
I'm always worried about eating raw fish in a landlocked state, but this was impressive. The fish was tender and fatty, lending itself well to the twang of the fresh lime. The weight of the cheese paired surprisingly well while the greens added a zesty vegetal accent. The wine was a citrus and fruit driven Chenin Blanc with a bit of yeast on the finish. The astringent attack went well with the lighter flavors of the hamachi.
01: MARINATED BEET SALAD - PEPITAS, GOAT CHEESE, GREEHOUSE GREENS
2009, Hopler, Burgenland, Austria, Gruner Vetliner
I tend to shy away from beets, their rich body and saccharine flavor are just too cloying. On their own the beets were overly heavy but the accompaniments were quite effective in tempering that root vegetable sweetness. The goat cheese was a ricotta made by Fruition's farm that lacked the typical gamy funk but had a delightful creaminess. The pepita puree was a very mild preparation of the seed while the greens were immensely fresh and zesty despite being very different both accompaniments went nicely with the beet. The wine, a medium bodied Gruner, had the typical bright minerality as well as a sufficiently lush mouth feel.
02: COLORADO STRIPPED BASS - GRAPEFRUIT BEURRE BLANC, CARROT PUREE, STRIPED CARROTS
2009, Babich, Hawke's Bay New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc
Like the previous course, I was a bit apprehensive about the heavy reliance on root vegetables but I've come to realize the kitchen does very well with their produce designing courses to show off the flavor of vegetables picked at the height of freshness. Turned out the fish was actually strong enough to stand on its own with a robustly savory body. The carrots are incredibly light and nuanced, adding a levity and vegetal counterpoint without the overly sweet flavor. The wine was a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. Though I typically disdain Sauvignon Blanc, this was surprisingly good, juicy tropical aromas of passion fruit and lychee add complexity without being cloying on the palate.
03: BRANDADE EN COCOTTE - TOASTED PINE NUTS, DRIED CAPERS, PUTTANESCA
2009, Argyros, Santorini, Greece, Assyrtiko
I've never cared much for Brandade and this was fairly typical, salty and fishy with a mealy interior and charred crisp exterior. Again the effectiveness of the fresh vegetables was apparent, in the Puttanesca or "whore" sauce, the intensely acidic flavor helped balance the potency of the cod fritter. The wine was from a Greek producer Argyros and featured a grape I hadn't heard much about before, fairly rich with a nice fruitiness the wine balances nicely adding softness to the acerbic sauce.
04: ROCK SHRIMP PASTE - CARROT GRATIN, COCONUT CURRY, HEIRLOOM CARROT PUREE, PEPPERCRESS, SPINACH COULIS
2008, Binner, les Sauvers, Alsace, France, Sylvaner Muscat Gewurztraminer
Up do this point the kitchen had been doing so well, offering thoughtful and well developed courses. Having had some superb curries recently I was hoping this would continue the trend. Unfortunately the rock shrimp paste doesn't do justice to the shellfish's natural flavor or texture. Further the coconut felt a bit muted and thin where a a heavy heartwarming spice might have helped balance the shrimp's lightness. Somehow the most savory thing on the plate was the carrot gratin but as always the fresh greens were on point. The Binner was a blend of three sweeter grapes and the resulting wine showed off notes of crisp apple cider, sweet and lush with enough acid to keep things lively.
05: RABBIT RILETTE - SALAD WITH CHINESE FIVE SPICE AND SESAME OIL, BRULEED ORANGE
2008, Heinrich, Burgenland, Austria, Zweigelt Blaufrankish Sankt Laurent
Deliciously tender rabbit, served slightly warm, the natural savoriness is augmented by a light hit of mustard. The salad is tinged with a distinctly Asian flavor that imparts a flavor reminiscent of Peking duck. The appearance of a red wine was quite welcome at this point. The flavor is immensely rich and ripe notes of concentrated berry with some alcohol.
06: ROASTED LEG OF COLORADO LAMB - CREAMY POLENTA, GREMOLATA, SHALLOT JUS
2009, Domaine Pèrillière, Côtes du Rhônes, France, Grenache Syrah
My waitress boasted that Colorado has the best lamb and this course was a fairly convincing argument. The lamb was silky soft, rich and rustic and accompanied by equally straightforward yet effective sides. This was paired with a deep weighty Rhone, the nose is laden with dark ripe cherry and berries but the palate is substantially lighter, with a bit of mocha, spice, and earth to balance the fruit.
07: DUCK LEG CONFIT, DUCK BREAST - WILD RICE, PARSNIP PUREE, ROSEMARY JUS
2007 Château Jonc Blanc, Bergerac, France, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon
The final course was a duo of duck, confit leg and seared breast. The rosemary jus was superb, but by this point I was too full to enjoy the extra starches. The last wine was a red from Bergerac, about 75 miles from Bordeaux, a classic red blend of merlot and cab, the wine was bigger than the typical Bordeaux, the classic red fruit and cassis is balanced by warm aromas of tobacco and herbs.
INTERMEZZO: POMEGRANATE CITRUS GRANITE - BLOOD ORANGE
The meal transitioned so suddenly from light vegetable driven flavors to heavy savory meat, leaving me incredibly full. The multifaceted acidity of the granite was the perfect way to revitalize the palate.
08: DESSERT TASTING
2005, Barros, Late Bottle Vintage Port
2007, Michel Chapoutier, Banyuls
I think the staff was trying to give me Type-2 diabetes with this course, a tasting of: creme anglaise; parsip fritters with rum raisins and pineapple; hazelnut pound cake with pistachio tuile; chocolate fondue with poached pear and Cabernet reduction; carrot cake with vanilla panna cotta and purple haze carrot; and flourless chocolate torte with passion fruit ice cream. The six desserts were daunting given how full I was but I was determined to give it my best. Though they were all solid the parsnip fritters were the best, delightfully fried the parsnip adds a slight savoriness that lends itself well to both the raisin and pineapple
Chef Skokan and his staff make excellent use of the bounty their captive farm provides. Flavors all around are on point and effective. The freshness of their produce was on full display with the seafood courses, bright lively and expressive the vegetables were at least as impressive as the meats they were paired with. The latter three savories were much heavier but the quality of the meats justified their greater prominence. The restaurant was a bit out of the way, but Black Cat Bistro was well worth the trip.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
1964 13th Street