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Barn appetit at Rock Bottom Ranch

If you wanted to enjoy one of the barn dinners at Rock Bottom Ranch this summer, you had to be quick.

Tickets went on sale at high noon on July 6, and all six dinners were sold out in 38 minutes, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Development Manager Emily Taylor said.

“I was surprised actually. But I don’t think I should have been surprised because this happens every year. Last year we didn’t sell out completely for all the dinners so quickly but one of the dinners was 58 minutes. … Last year we sold out all the dinners in 60 hours,” she said.

“I got online right at noon because from my past experience they sell out. … The one I wanted sold out in five minutes,” said Jacqui Matthews, 70, of Missouri Heights, who has been attending barn dinners for five years.

On July 7, the wait list for the first dinner had 60 people, Taylor said.

There are some differences this year compared to previous barn dinners, including one that would contribute to a rapid sell-out is social distancing.

The email announcing ticket sales had some fun with that now-familiar term, saying the dinners will be “physically distanced and socially engaging.”

Because of the distancing, there are one-third the usual number of seats this year.

“We only have 40 spots for each dinner. Normally we’ll have 120 spots,” Taylor said.

While many are uncomfortable with group events during the pandemic, physical separation offers a way diners can cope.

“We discussed whether it would be safe or not because we aren’t going out that much, but we’re going,” Lynne Feigenbaum, 66, of Carbondale said. She and her husband, Steven Wolff, went to the first barn dinner and have been back twice.

The barn dinners are served in Rock Bottom Ranch’s open-air pole barn.
Emily Taylor

The dinners being in an open-air pole barn can also alleviate some safety concerns. 

“I really have felt no need to go physically to a restaurant … but to me this feels like it’ll be the best way to do it. It’ll be literally out in the field,” Megan Rainnie, 52, of Sopris Village, said. This will be her first barn dinner.

Another difference in this year’s barn dinners is for the first time they feature chefs from local restaurants for two nights each, Thursday and Friday. The menus are not released in advance.

“It’s a surprise. But we are allowing people to choose between vegetarian and gluten-free [alternatives],” Taylor said.

From the perspective of ACES, making money is not the goal of these dinners.

“It’s an experiment this time. Usually with our farm-to-table dinners we make a little, but it’s more of a break-even model to get people to the ranch. … I wouldn’t say we’re doing it to fundraise,” Taylor said.

cwertheim@postindependent.com

Backyard fruit tree gleaning fulfills many needs, including reducing bear-human conflicts

UpRoot Colorado’s mission is about reducing waste and providing food to those who need it.

“UpRoot Colorado measurably reduces surplus agriculture in Colorado, supports the economic stability of farmers and increases the nutritional security of our state’s residents,” according to the organization’s website.

It doesn’t say anything about bears.

But UpRoot’s work with backyard fruit trees could help reduce human-bear interactions, such as a recent encounter in Aspen. UpRoot co-founder Ciara Low sees that as a side benefit of UpRoot’s work.

[Reducing bear-human interactions] is definitely not a new spin on this. On a personal level it’s not what attracted me to this work or got me interested, but it’s something that I think is a definite positive to the work we do. … Reducing bear interactions with people and saving bear populations is super important and definitely feels like an outcome of the work we do,” Low said.

The organization’s purpose is to reduce food loss from farms by picking surplus, a process known as gleaning.

But the nature of farms in the Roaring Fork Valley has changed that focus.

“We are working with farms around here, but a lot of the farms we work with are small and really efficient. They don’t have a lot of excess. They get most of their food if not all of it to market. We’ve realized more and more just how many fruit trees there are in this area, and so we have in some senses turned our focus. … Most of our gleaning out here is backyard fruit tree gleaning,” Low said. 

UpRoot will glean any backyard fruit tree.

“We do edible fruit trees. … We’ll come out and inspect it. Every now and then you’ll have a tree where the fruit really isn’t tasty, and then we might advise homeowners on how to prune it or take care of it in such a way that might improve that,” Low said.

Interested homeowners are invited to register their trees with UpRoot.

“People should register, and then we can learn more about their tree and advise them. With the registry there’s no obligation, that just means they’re in our system. When their tree starts to get ripe we’ll give them a call or shoot them an email. We’ll reach out and see if they’re interested in having their tree gleaned that year. If they invite us out we’ll always leave some for them,” Low said.

Homeowners can join in if they want to.

“They’re certainly welcome to [join in]. We’re starting an initiative to advertise gleaning parties. People who have a tree can invite their friends out, they can provide the drinks and snacks, we’ll provide our equipment. We can all glean together. … We also do a lot of properties where the homeowner isn’t home,” Low said.

Gleaning sessions are typically kept to two hours.

Geneviève Joëlle Villmamizar gleans cherries from a tree in Carbondale on July 23. She is the gleaning coordinator for the Roaring Fork Valley area.
John Stroud/Post Independent

“Balancing the needs of a fruit tree owner or a farm with the stamina of volunteers (obviously, we hope to create memorable experiences that keep volunteers coming back for more), we schedule two-hour gleans,” Geneviève Joëlle Villamizar, Roaring Fork gleaning coordinator, said in an email.

Things can get busy when fruit gets ripe, but geographic diversity can help keep that in check.

“We have two gleaning coordinators … so we can tag-team a little that way when things do come ripe at the same time,” Low said. “We will often have multiple gleans in one week. Cherries are out right now, and we’re gleaning multiple times per week to get those cherries. … Our fruit trees in our registry right now are all spread out between Aspen and Rifle, and so we get that lag in fruit being ripe in those areas. We were gleaning cherries in Rifle two weeks ago, and now we’re gleaning cherries in Carbondale because the climates are different and so they ripen at different times.”

Fresh-picked cherries are bagged and ready for distribution to people in need during a gleaning session in Carbondale.
John Stroud/Post Independent

The gleaning parties have to be limited in size during the coronavirus pandemic.

“With COVID-19, we’re limiting group sizes to allow for social distancing,” Villamizar said.

It’s doubtful bears honor social distancing guidelines, and gleaners will be working when bears are hungry.

“We schedule gleans based upon when a crop or fruit tree is ripe, paired with the window of access a host can accommodate gleaning, which kind of lines up with primo bear feasting time,” Villamizar said.

UpRoot gleans fruit that is ready to eat, which does not include crabapples. Considering that bears eat crabapples, UpRoot’s backyard work will not eliminate the possibility of interactions. 

“Bears certainly do love crabapples,” Villamizar said.

However, “LIFT-UP, our region’s food pantry for those in need, provides essential staples. The average hungry family won’t necessarily have the luxury of investing a day to can apple butter but certainly values … apples to pack in a child’s lunch.

“… Plucking the crabapples from the valley’s thousands of crabapple trees … would force an altogether different mission, goal and value system,” Villamizar said.

cwertheim@postindependent.com

Towns turn to public patio dining areas to help restaurants maintain social distancing standards

There’s a new scene taking shape in Glenwood Springs’ 700 block under the Grand Avenue Bridge since restaurants were allowed to reopen at limited capacity with the lifting of some coronavirus restrictions.

Three eating and drinking establishments in particular — Smoke Modern BBQ, Casey Brewing’s tap house and The Grind — have taken full advantage of the city’s new flex rules when it comes to outdoor dining areas.

Smoke founding owner Jamie Theriot hopes it might even make a lasting impression once the pandemic passes.

“With our specific location, it’s been a huge improvement to the general attitude of the whole plaza area,” Theriot said Wednesday as he was busy mixing drinks for early evening customers. “It’s really become a significant part of the whole scene down here.”

To help accommodate social distancing requirements and enhance capacity limits for local restaurants, the city of Glenwood Springs is waiving fees for the use of adjacent public plaza and sidewalk areas for patio seating. The deal even extends to any retail shops that want to make use of sidewalk areas for outside shopping space.

“We’re trying to be as creative as we can to try to help businesses as much as possible to come out of this,” Glenwood Springs Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director Jenn Ooton said.

Outdoor dining permit fees were waived three years ago to help during the impacts of the Grand Avenue Bridge construction, and never were formally reinstated, she said.

“City Council gave us permission to continue to lease those spaces at no cost, and to speed up the process for the temporary modification of premises liquor license that is required,” Ooton said.

For restaurants and stores that front street parking areas, the city is also allowing the use of “parklet” spaces (normally used for vehicle parking) to set up mobile decks, similar to what Carbondale and now Rifle have been doing.

It’s just another way to expand outdoor capacity for businesses that want to use that option to help spread people out, Ooton said.

Without the much larger outdoor seating area, Theriot said it would be difficult to make a go of it at 50% of his usual indoor dining capacity.

“We essentially were able to double our patio area and keep the same number of seats as we had before,” he said. “When the weather is good, it’s actually smoother and easier to serve people outdoors with the restrictions than indoors.”

“My hope is that when the powers that be see how it all lays out, they’ll view it as an amenity to the area that we can keep going forward,” Theriot said.

City Council also discussed the potential of closing Seventh Street to vehicle traffic to allow for expanded outdoor dining space along that stretch. However, the consensus among restaurant owners there was that they didn’t want to inhibit drive-up capability for the high percentage of customers placing take-out orders, Ooton said.

Carbondale

Other area towns are making the move to expand restaurants and shops into the outdoors, as well.

In Carbondale, town trustees last week approved a plan to close the 300 block of Main Street to one-way traffic, and to all but pedestrians and outdoor seating on Friday and Saturday nights, in order to accommodate expanded outdoor seating for the many restaurants that are located in that block.

A recent survey of downtown business owners, including restaurants, was supportive of the idea.

The town is purchasing barricades and other necessary infrastructure to help accommodate the planned street closure.

Once that piece is in place, Carbondale plans to close the one-block stretch of Main from 5-9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to vehicles, and to one-way eastbound traffic only at other times. That will allow the expansion of dining areas 15 feet into the street right of way. There will be no charge to the businesses.

If it catches on, the town could add a day or two to the full street-closure plan, Town Manager Jay Harrington said.

The town also agreed to be flexible if any restaurants located in private commercial plazas want to set up expanded outdoor dining space in parking areas, as long as they have permission from their landlords and work with other tenants.

Rifle

The city of Rifle is also allowing expanded restaurant seating on Third Street and other places where restaurants are located adjacent to city streets and sidewalks.

A recent survey asked Rifle businesses what they were willing to do for a temporary setup this summer, and the city devised a plan to add parklets in front of restaurants along public streets.

Rifle city planner Nathan Lindquist said it came out pretty close to what the plan would be once the reconstruction of Third Street takes place next spring.

“We were able to closely follow the plan we will have, but this year we have to do it on a temporary basis and build these parklets,” Lindquist said.

Through grants, the city plans to construct five parklets at a cost of $20,000, leasing them to the businesses, with each individual restaurant responsible for keeping the area clean and monitoring it. 

Each parklet will take up three parking spots in front of the restaurants, with space for six four-top tables. No alcohol will be allowed on the sidewalk, but restaurants with liquor licenses can serve in the parklets.

Whether the weather

The use of outdoor areas for dining does mean that restaurants need to have a contingency plan for inclement weather.

“It did rain Saturday night, and it totally changed the dynamic of our service and it was harder to keep a good flow,” Smoke’s Theriot said. “When that happens, we simply go to 50% capacity indoors. Right now, we’re lucky that the weather is pretty agreeable.”

Under the public health restrictions, tables are limited to parties of six or fewer people, and reservations are encouraged, he said.

“People have been super understanding of things, even to the extent of sometimes being out of things or service being a bit slower,” Theriot said. “But we’ve also seen a level of generosity that’s not always present.

“People understand what we’ve gone through, and overall it’s been an encouraging start,” he said.

Glenwood Springs outdoor seating policy and application information can be found at cogs.us/outdoordining.

jstroud@postindependent.com


Rifle Citizen Telegram Editor Kyle Mills contributed to this report.

Vicco’s Charcoalburger Drive-In to offer free hamburgers to first responders, healthcare providers Tuesday

Vicco’s Charcoalburger Drive-In will provide a free hamburger Tuesday to any first responder or healthcare provider.

Between noon and 7 p.m. Tuesday, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, doctors and nurses can pick up their free hamburger from the 67-year-old eatery along U.S. Highway 6 in Glenwood Springs.

“The way I was brought up is to help the community and do things for the community in which you live,” said Bart Victor, Vicco’s Charcoal Burger Drive-In owner.

Victor has lived in Glenwood Springs for 43 years.

The local business owner said he simply wanted to say thank you to those community members serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Roll into the oldest drive-in in town and have a great burger,” Victor said. “I just feel like we owe it to these people.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

Friday E-dining: Pullman hosts meal over Zoom

On Friday, The Pullman restaurant is hosting “the next in a regular series of (irregularly scheduled)” dinners, as the shtick goes.

The catch?

You have to stay home.

And no matter how slowly you eat, you’ll be Zooming though your meal.

It may or may not be the first dinner hosted through Zoom in the history of mankind, “But it’s certainly a first for us,” said Mark Fischer, chef/owner of The Pullman.

It will be a meal, a distanced gathering, an experiment. The event flier says, “Consider a Wi-Fi connection and Zoom as the new shared table; your computer as the new place setting, where you entertain separately but together. And just enjoy the weirdness/awkwardness/päntsdrunkenness of it all.”

The what?

According to “Päntsdrunk: The Finnish Path to Relaxation,” päntsdrunk means drinking at home, alone, in your underwear. So be careful where your computer camera is pointing. What happens on Zoom may not stay on Zoom.

Some diners may opt to eat quietly, while others may boisterously skoal at the beginning of each course.

“I have no idea what to expect. I’d like there to be some degree of interaction,” Fischer said.

Wouldn’t it be … noisy? “As host, we have the ability to mute participants. But then, wouldn’t a cacophony of clinking be kinda good? It is, after all, about dining together,” Fischer said.

And he is decidedly unconcerned about things going awry. “I kinda like the idea of losing control of things,” he said.

Sounds like this meal may require seat belts.

Tickets were limited to 50 couples and have sold out. “In-house dinners typically sell out at 90 guests,” Fischer said.

The meal itself is the Roaring Fork Beer Company “virtual” beermakers dinner, with RFBC brewmaster Chase Engel talking about how the beers pair with each of the four courses, such as the dessert of Salty Chocolate 2-Minute Microwave Cake and Earl Grey Ice Cream paired with Dark Corners Variant Stout. The full menu can be viewed on the website, www.thepullmangws.com.

Four courses is scaled down from The Pullman’s typical dinner events. “Our tasting dinners are typically five to six courses. We thought it might be more approachable to simplify things,” Fischer said.

At $80 per couple, the price is lower as well. “It’s less than our typical dinner. For obvious reasons,” Fischer said.

The mechanics are explained in detail on the event flier on the website, but first of all, food and beer can be picked up curbside at the restaurant from 1–6 p.m. on Friday or delivered to downtown Glenwood Springs addresses.

cwertheim@postindependent.com

Aspen Food & Wine Classic canceled due to coronavirus

The coronavirus’ sweeping impacts to Aspen have included the cancellation of the rest of the ski season, and now another favorite local past-time has been nixed — this summer’s Food & Wine Classic. 

Organizers of the decadently festive event, which signals the start to the summer tourism season, announced Monday they were cancelling it because of health concerns and uncertainties surrounding COVID-19. This year’s Food & Wine was scheduled for June 19-21.

“We made this decision out of concern for the safety of our community and the world beyond it,” Food & Wine Editor in Chief Hunter Lewis said in an announcement. 

Those who have tickets, which go for thousands of dollars, can get full refunds by calling 877-900-WINE by May 15, or their tickets will be transferred to the Food & Wine Classic scheduled June 2021 in Aspen.

When it comes to Aspen’s high-profile marquee events, Food & Wine stands alongside the Aspen Music Festival, the JAS Labor Day Experience, Aspen Ideas Festival and Winter X Games. 

With sundresses and lanyards de rigeur, Food & Wine has held special significance to Aspen for 37 years, growing to an event that last year featured 80 cooking demonstrations, events and seminars; as well as more than 2,000 brands of wine, spirits and food for consumption. The event has drawn the likes of such culinary celebrities as Giada De Laurentiis, Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay and others. 

All of that provides a recipe for raising Aspen’s profile, while restaurants and hotels pencil in Food & Wine as one of their busiest times of the year. 

“We love kicking off the summer with Food & Wine,” said Mayor Torre. “It’s been part of our community for so many years and it’s a great opportunity to start our summer. It will be sorely missed coming out of the winter. I’m saddened it’s not going to be here, but under these circumstances, I understand.”

The city and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association help produce the event.

ACRA President Debbie Braun said the decision to cancel Food & Wine rested with the New York-based publication. The event had a $3 million economic impact on Aspen over the course of three days a decade ago, she said. 

“We’re very supportive of Food and Wine’s decision,” she said. “We were in talks about this last week, all of us working to see if there were was a way we could postpone the event and that’s just not possible.”

With the impacts of COVID-19 remaining to be seen, Braun it would be difficult to disagree with Food & Wine’s decision.

“We are saddened to hear the news, but the health of the community and visitors is of paramount importance,” she said. 

Braun said Food & Wine’s cancellation will have “a huge impact on businesses and employees.”

Aside from the international talent the event attracts, it’s also a chance for local restaurants and other purveyors of alcohol and food to shine. 

“It’s a tremendous event that we love participating in,” said Bill Doherty, general manager of Kenichi, an Asian restaurant. “For the last four or five years we’ve been in the tent at least a couple of times, and we’ve taken part in the local vendor program, which has been awesome for us to get that kind of exposure.”

Like Torre and Braun, Doherty said he understands Food & Wine’s decision. 

“I think what we’re all seeing is unprecedented,” he said. “That’s the kind of the word keeps coming to mind. Nobody’s ever seen anything like this.”

Terry Butler, who owns and operates the boutique Residence Hotel on Galena Street downtown, said Food & Wine’s cancellation could cripple her business. 

“I depend on Food & Wine,” she said. “It’s my anchor for the summer. I’m so tiny that Food & Wine can make or break me, and this really upsets me.”

Butler, who described herself as a “cheerleader for Aspen,” said she is questioning the thought-process behind all of the closures, shutdowns and executive orders.

“It bothers me so much how people can change our lives,” she said. “I’m not trying to be cavalier, stupid or naive, but at the same time, I don’t want us to ruin our country over this. I really feel we can deal with this as it comes.”

With Food & Wine’s announcement, Bob Morris, who runs Aspen Mountain Lodge, said he won’t open the Main Street property until July 1. 

“June is gone,” he said. “It’s history, it’s toast.”

But at least, Morris said, Aspen’s notorious summer gridlock on Main Street won’t be an issue.

“The last argument any of us are going to have for the next three months is how to solve the congestion through the S-curves,” he said. 

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

Glenwood Chamber compiles restaurant take-out directory from Rifle to Carbondale and everywhere in between

The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is gathering a restaurant directory for Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

Current restaurant listings can be found here — there’s a link at the top of the list to get on it if you haven’t already.

Restaurants can still send their delivery and carryout hours to news@postindependent.com and we’ll then forward them on to the chamber.

You can also use the Chamber’s online form directly to be added to the list, or email tara@glenwoodchamber.com

The Weekend Dish: The love story of Brazil’s Brigadeiro

There once was a firebrand politician. He was adamantly opposed to communism and ran as president for the conservative party. Many progressives despised him, while he was revered on the right. He was seen as either a wannabe dictator or savior of freedom.

You may guess who I am talking about, but you probably are incorrect. This particular politician is long dead and only mentioned in passing in the history books. He was also Brazilian, and his name lives on in loving chocolate.

Eduardo Gomes was known by many in Brazil as “the Brigadeiro.” While his name has faded, “the Brigadeiro” lives on through the famous eponymous Brazilian sweet.

Gomes had an illustrious yet notorious career in the Brazilian military and even helped to establish the Air Force in the 1930s. He had been wounded in battle, and arrested and released by his government twice.

After his military career, he entered politics and ran for the presidency of Brazil in 1946. Not only did he seem to have bravery and passion, but he was also easy on the eyes. He believed himself to be so handsome that his slogan was “[v]ote for the brigadier, who’s good-looking and single.” 

Needless to say, women liked him. His election was one of the first-ever that allowed women to vote in Brazil (with some restrictions). He also proposed significant changes to the dictatorship, while ironically being a retired military officer, so he was seen as the “change” candidate.

According to legend, his legions of admiring women were fundamental to his fundraising efforts. They decided to sell homemade chocolates to raise money, but since this was 1946, Brazilian citizens still faced rations after the war. Instead of using fresh milk, they turned to their rationed condensed milk to make the confection. The results were better than expected. The group of women raised money for Gomes’ campaign by selling small chocolates they had prepared with the limited ingredients they have.

They thought the new dessert was so sweet, like their beloved Brigadeiro. He adored them for their efforts, and with a wink and smile, he flirted for their votes. If only politicians and their constituents today had such a sunny relationship.

Use butter to keep the Brigadeiros from sticking to your hands. Jordan Callier photo
callier-gpi-022220-3

I never knew that these little chocolate balls were even a thing until my friend, Marcina Lacerda,   shared some with me. Back in August, I featured Lacerda and her world-famous pão de queijo in this column. Since then, she has been traveling the world, while introducing new people to Brazil’s culinary past.

“I don’t know why Brigadeiro is not more popular outside of Brazil,” Lacerda said. “It’s so easy to make!”

Lacerda is a magician in the kitchen. Cooking comes as naturally to her as breathing comes to some of us. So when she says something easy, I worry I can’t replicate her magic.

I needed some reassurance that I could indeed make Brigadeiro without her help in the future.

Brigadeiros

Ingredients

1 can (14 ounces) condensed milk, sweetened

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted

pinch of salt

chocolate or rainbow sprinkles

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine milk, cocoa powder, salt, and butter—in that order—and stir over medium heat.
  2. Continuously stir the mixture while heating. It’s done cooking when it is as thick as brownie batter and moves thickly across the pan. It usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not allow it to come to a boil. If it starts to boil, reduce heat and continue stirring vigorously. 
  3. Remove from heat immediately. Place mixture in aside to cool for a few minutes
  4. On a large plate, spread your sprinkles evenly. 
  5. Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, grease your hands with butter or non-stick spray, and vigorously roll the Brigadeiro into little balls.
  6. Gently roll balls into the sprinkles and place them in candy cups or a decorative box. Best if kept refrigerated.

“I don’t even remember the first time I made this,” Lacerda said. “All the kids in Brazil make this on their own birthdays. All the parties since we were babies.”

I guess if a baby can do it, then so can I. And after watching her make these, I can attest that they are actually easy to make and only need five ingredients. My hands will never be the blur of motion that has known years of culinary devotion, but I am lucky to know someone like Lacerda who can show me. She can teach one many things about the culture and foods of Brazil (Marcina Lacerda’s adventures around the world can be followed on Instagram @marcinaroundtheworld).

Traditional Brigadeiro is adorned with chocolate sprinkles where it stands out against the vivid tropical palette of Brazil. Since we are in the middle of winter in Colorado, Lacerda wanted to add the colors of home to her creation. She used rainbow sprinkles instead.

Brightly colored sprinkles are just one of the personal touches you can give Brigadeiros. Jordan Callier photo
callier-gpi-022220-2

The Brigadeiro can also be made with non-traditional ingredients such as coconut, lime, or even white chocolate. An elegant Brazilian tradition is to put these into decorative boxes and give them as gifts.

When I asked Lucerda about Eduardo Gomes, she said that she never heard of the connection between him and the Brigadeiro dessert. I confirmed this with several other Brazilian friends who thought it was a cute story.

While Gomes was well-known in politics during his day, he never actually was elected to the presidency. He continued to be a large and loud presence in Brazil until his death in the early 1980s. Maybe the old cliche about winners writing history is true in this case.

Even if Gomes isn’t memorialized as a great leader of Brazil, he will live on through the Brigadeiro. He undoubtedly did great things for Brazil, but he will be most remembered because of the women who adored him.

Politics have always been messy and sometimes ruthless. Much like the political figures of today, Gomes was loved by one side and despised by the other. Behind his handsome face, he had ambitious plans and a real connection to the people. There was love in politics.

As divided as all of us are today, we should look to the Brazilians and the Brigadeiro. Derived from politics, it is beloved by those on all sides today. If chocolate can’t bring us together, then nothing can. Who will love us enough to immortalize their affection?

JC Breakfast & Lunch opens in Carbondale

When Trino Camacho moved from Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico to the Roaring Fork Valley at the age of 14, he couldn’t even cook an egg.

But he still had a dream.

“‘One day I will have my own breakfast place,'” Camacho recalled telling his uncle as a teenager.

So, Camacho got his foot in the kitchen working part-time as a dishwasher at a bistro in Basalt.

It wasn’t long before Camacho worked his way up from cleaning pots, pans, plates and silverware in the dish pit to preparing dishes as a line cook.

“I fell in love with cooking,” Camacho said. “It took some time, but I just kept learning.”

In December, Camacho opened his first restaurant – JC Breakfast & Lunch – in Carbondale.

Located at 914 Highway 133 and named after his daughter Jessia and son Christopher, the new eatery, as its name suggests, offers breakfast and lunch offerings from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day.

In addition to traditional breakfast fare, JC’s menu also offers eggs Benedict, omelets, breakfast burritos, pancakes, crepes and French toast.

Camacho was particularly proud of his restaurant’s take on the classic breakfast offering huevos rancheros.

Comprised of two eggs, corn tortillas, beans, pepper jack, cheddar cheese as well as red and green salsa, huevos rancheros also comes with a side of hash browns, for $11.50.

JC Breakfast & Lunch’s huevos rancheros. Matthew Bennett/Post Independent

“Everything we do, we do with love,” Camacho said.

JC’s lunch offerings, which customers can order all day, range from hearty burgers and Philly cheesesteak to fettuccine Alfredo and Caesar salad.

The Philly Cheesesteak at JC’s Breakfast & Lunch. Matthew Bennett/Post Independent

JC Breakfast & Lunch does not sell alcohol, however Camacho hoped to start serving mimosas and bloody marys in the coming weeks. The restaurant also offers a wide selection of milk shakes and smoothies.

Camacho said his first experience in customer service was actually going door-to-door in a small town near Guadalajara to sell ice pops.

The young entrepreneur milked his grandfather’s cows in the morning and sold his uncle’s ice pops in the afternoon in addition to attending school while living in Mexico.

Camacho, who co-owns JC Breakfast & Lunch with his wife Jessica, said had it not been for his humble beginnings, owning his own restaurant would have never come to fruition.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Weekend Dish column: Melt hearts with cheese and chocolate fondue

Love is love, and it should be something that we feel for ourselves and others every single day. 

It comes in so many different colors and shades, while leaving us vulnerable to pain. Yet, to truly feel it is one of the most profound experiences in life. There is no such thing as too much love in this world. I daresay we need it now more than ever.

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love. But the cynic in me wonders if it isn’t a capitalistic ploy to cash in on our most sacred feelings. Like so many of our holidays, it can be meaningful or commodified. It is what you make it.

Valentine’s Day has ancient roots in Western society. It originated as an early Christian feast day to celebrate Valentinus — also known as Saint Valentine. His saga is one of martyrdom and persecuted love.

Saint Valentine of Rome was famously imprisoned for marrying soldiers, who were forbidden to marry, and preaching the Gospel of Christ to persecuted citizens. He must have felt deeply enough about love to defy the Roman Empire. Forbidden love is usually the most tantalizing.

The saint also sent the first Valentine. According to his legend, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his judge, even after he was sentenced to be executed. While awaiting execution, he wrote a farewell letter to the girl and signed it “Your Valentine.”

Saint Valentine was put to death on February 14, 269 (AD). He gave his life and became a martyr of love.

His sordid tale of love resonated throughout the Dark Ages. Still, it did not develop a romantic connotation until the days of Chaucer, in the 14th century, who put forth the notion of courtly love of chivalry. White knights saving distressed damsels became the archetype for Western romance.

In the 21st century, love has taken on new meanings and questions. We have expanded our acceptance of love while pondering the roles of gender and consent of intimacy. These questions aren’t fully worked out yet, but they are essential. What does Valentine’s Day mean to us now?

It is undoubtedly still commercialized. Some stores seem to put out Valentine’s merchandise in early autumn now. And advertisements always tell us that love is best expressed in diamonds or new luxury cars with a bow on top. 

While it’s fine to use cash to express love, the most valuable memories come from shared experiences. Also, food is usually the key to another heart.

Chocolates are divine, and champagne is thrilling, but fondue is for lovers. The melting dance of pungent cheeses and rich chocolates is the perfect metaphor for love. Unique flavors swirl together seamlessly over a slow-burning flame. 

Fondue is an experience to share. A variety of foods such as beef, cheese, and chocolates can be prepared in this Swiss tradition. The food is cooked in a pot and then shared with loved ones.

Fondue pots work best, but you can also use slow cookers and even a cooktop. Fondue is an art form to be perfected, the slow burn of an intimate dance. 

The key is to find the right level of heat. If the flame burns too hotly, then the ingredients can scorch. On the other hand, if the temperature is not high enough, nothing will happen. The intensity of the heat is essential to properly blend the flavors.

Fondue needs attention and care while cooking. It must be stirred frequently to avoid scorching. If you use a fondue pot, there is also the hazard of an open flame. Always observe the directions for the fondue pot and fuel source. You don’t want your romantic evening to end in fire. At least not those kinds of flames.

For my cheese fondue, I used a combination of Swiss, mozzarella, and Fontina cheese, which originates in the Aosta valley. Other cheeses that can be used include gruyere, gouda, or even cheddar. Sharper and “meltier” cheese works best. A splash of white wine also adds a more robust flavor.

CHEESE FONDUE

Sliced and grated cheese for fondue.

(Serves 2-3 people)

Ingredients

1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

2 cups Swiss cheese, grated

1 cup Fontina cheese, grated

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup white wine

1 stick butter

1 tablespoon corn starch or flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Splash of lemon

Directions

1. Mix cheese with corn starch or flour, seasoning and toss well. Make sure cheese is finely grated.

2. In a fondue pot, slow-cooker or saucepan, bring the wine, milk, butter, and lemon juice to a simmer over medium-low heat. Slowly stir in cheese mixture and continue to cook over medium-high heat until mixture is smooth and creamy. If it’s too thick, add more milk. If it’s too thin, add more cheese.

3. Serve with an assortment of toasted bread, vegetables, or crackers. Dip these directly in the pot, and pair with a white or Rosé wine.

Chocolate fondue can be made in a few different ways. Melting chocolate is available specifically for fondue. Baking chocolate works well, too. Dark, milk, sweet, semi-sweet and white chocolate are also possible options. Chocolate and love are both complex and unique and go together well.

CHOCOLATE FONDUE

Chocolate chips are ready for melting.

(Serves 2-3 people)

Ingredients

2 (24 ounces) packages semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk or heavy cream

1 /2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon corn starch or flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Make sure chocolate is finely chopped. A food processor works well for this.

2. In a fondue pot, slow-cooker or saucepan, slowly stir in mixed ingredients over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until smooth and blender. If the mixture is too thick, add some more milk or cream.

3. Serve with an assortment of fresh fruit, cookies, or cakes. Dip these directly in the pot, and pair with white wine or Prosecco.

Fondue can be made with the finest ingredients and served with the most expensive wine. It can also be made using inexpensive products and cheaper wine. Quality is usually costly, but the most crucial thing about fondue is that it is a shared experience. This is how love grows.

Strawberries drizzled in chocolate fondue.
Jordan Callier photo

Share this with your love any night of the year. Like fondue, there are many different flavors of love. The heat from a single flame can melt us together and fill our lives with meaning. This is the essential human experience, and sometimes it’s worth the pain. With hearts on fire, we come together for love.

Jordan Callier is an avid foodie and business owner in Glenwood Springs.