Thursday, March 31, 2011

Frasca - 03/25/2011

1738 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 442-6966

Boulder has a remarkable concentration of high end restaurants and Frasca is widely considered the best of the bunch. Winner of 5280's "Top 25 Restaurants in Denver," Frasca exudes a suave contemporary elegance mixed but the natural tones and heavy use of wood gives the place an inviting warmth and sense of rustic charm.

Frasca is the product of two French Laundry alums, Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey. Chef Mackinnon-Patterson got his start at the Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis but quickly moved to Paris where he studied at the École Grégoire-Ferrandi. After earning his professional certification, he remained in France, working under well respected chefs at Jamin and La Taupiniere. His first job after coming back to the States was as a chef de partie at The French Laundry where he met his future business partner, then wine director, Bobby Stuckey and the two would open Frasca in 2003. Despite his training being predominantly classic French, his passion was for the cuisine of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in Italy. Since opening Frasca, Mackinnon-Patterson has won a James Beard award for Best Chef in the Southwest Region, earned a spot on Gayot's 2008 Top 40 Restaurants in the US, and even appeared on Top Chef Masters.

His partner, Bobby Stuckey, has an equally impressive resume. After a five year stint at The Little Nell, he moved onto French Laundry where he was wine director from 2000 to 2003 and won the James Beard award for "Outstanding Wine Service." In 2004 Stuckey became one of fewer than 100 Master Sommeliers in the country and he was again nominated for another James Beard award in 2008, this time "Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional."

Salumi & Fritti Platter - Prosciutto di San Danelle, Speck, Salame alla Scarpetta, "Rafano" and "Grissini", Castelmango Olive, Pickled Watermelo Radish, "Gamberetti", and "Frico Caldo"
2009 San Lorenzo, Castello de Jesi, Verdicchio Marches, Italy
My server warned me to skip the Salumi and Fritti sections as they were putting together a complete tasting as a welcoming gift. The entire platter was delicious but there were a couple of standouts. The Gaberetti was a true treat, served with an egg cornichon emulsion and remided me of a Filet o'Fish. However star was the Frico Caldo, Frasca's take on the traditional Friuli cheese crisp. The restaurant blends rich melty cheese, crisp starchy potato and finished with a delightfully tangy shallot and cilantro vinaigrette. The wine was also a welcoming aperitivo that paired effectively with most of the things on the plate.

"Terra Bianca e Nera" - White Vegetables, Egg and Black Truffle
2009 Domaine Wachau, Grüner Vetliner, Federspiel Terrasen, Wachau, Austria
The spry crisp baby white asparagus grabs your attention with a fresh vegetal sweetness. The dish also displays some complexity and depth with delightfully salty chips and an earthy perfume courtesy of the truffle foam. The egg provides a lovely viscosity that ties the the whole dish together. The wine a typically bright Gruner Vetliner also possesses a vegetal astringency that matches well with the asparagus.

"Spiedino" - Berkshire Acorn Pork, Treviso, Lemon and Arugula Pesto
2008 Iuli Umberta, Barbera del Monferrato, Piedmonte, Italy
I consider myself extremely lucky, visiting Frasca right as Chef Mackinnon-Patterson is preparing for a local competition called Cochon 555. Dubbed a "touring porcine bacchanalia-slash-competition" consists of 5 chefs, 5 pigs, 5 winemakers. As a result, the kitchen at Frasca has benefited from a plethora of heirloom pork to work with, in this case an acorn-fed Berkshire variety. Spiedino translates to skewer or kebab and indeed the pig is sublime, firm and nuanced texture with just a slight fatty tenderness. The slight oily sweetness is offset by a lovely vegetal tang reminiscent of a salsa verde. The salad added some texture and moisture but the pork effortlessly stands on its own.

"Taglialini Verdi" - Florida Shrimp and Garlic Three Ways
2009 Edi Keber, Bianco Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
The noodles derive their green color from the inclusion of leeks which also imparts a lovely firmness to the buttery noodles. The shrimp takes a backseat to the troika of garlic. The most impressive of the three was the poached garlic which was poached 7 times, the last in milk resulting in a tender mild creamy very pure yet restrained essence of garlic. This wine was from the Friuli, a blend of Friuliano and Malavisa as well as several other white grapes, the floral nose and viscous honeyed mouth feel masked a minerally core that heightened the briny flavor of the shrimp.

"Risotto" - Lamb Shoulder, English Pea, Mint and Pecorino
2008 Maculan Brentino, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon, Veneto, Itally
This course just reads brilliantly on paper, lamb and mint are a classic pairing while the peas and mint produce a lovely freshness. The dish was just as good as I imagined, the risotto was cooked in a chicken stock giving it an enveloping savoriness. The lamb enhances the savoriness with a rustic gamy tang while the mint and peas add an airy intricacy. Texturally, the risotto was one of the best, plump and firm but not gritty. As for the wine, though the expressive red fruits are tinged with some herbal and floral notes, I thought the Bordeaux-style red blend was a bit heavy for the lamb though still quite good.

"Oroata" - Sea Bream, Green Garlic, Pepper and Romesco
2009 Babitch Adriatico, Malvasia, Istra, Croatia
Next up was a radiant silver-skin fish, moist with a delicate flakiness; the flavor was more robust than I was expecting from Sea Bream. In the end the more assertive flavor of the fish matched up well to the heady red-pepper smoke of the Romesco. The wine was a bit heavy and viscous on its own but the flavors of Romesco and fish drew out the Adriatico's latent salinity and astringency.

"Maiale Arrosto" - Berkshire Acorn Pork, Turnip, Cornmeal and Mostarda
2009 Il Poggione, Rosso di Montalcino, Toscana, Italy
After the faultless Spiedino, the pork loin felt a bit flat, still moister and more flavorful than most, it lacked the complexity and overt richness of the skewers. The belly on the other hand was a small bite of heaven. Despite being ludicrously marbled, the belly wasn't overtly fatty and fit exquisitely with the bread dumplings. The wine was a rich 100% Sangiovese, juicy with a mouth filling lushness, the intense ripe fruit was a perfect match for the richness of the pork.

"Torta Al Cioccolato" - Caramel Buttercream, Valrhona Chocolate Ganache, and Cashew Stracciatella Gelato
2009 Gianni Gagliardo Brachetto, Piedmonte, Italy
In comparison to the exquisite opulence of the savories, the chocolate tort was refreshingly direct yet delicious. The layers of rich decadent chocolate are broken up by the expansive flavor of the caramel buttercream while the cashew ice cream added yet another layer of complimentary sweetness.

Without a doubt this was the best meal I've had in the Denver-area to date, a seamless composition of elegant grace and rustic delicious flavors. You can be sure, going forward, any listing of famous French Laundry alums will include Chef Mackinney-Patterson and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey. I don't know if I'll ever find myself in the area, but if I am a return visit is definitely in order.

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