Before the name Chef Hugh Matheson mean anything to me (he won the 2009 IACP award for community service), I met several people who spoke reverently and enthusiastically about The Kitchen Cafe in Boulder. Well before it was trendy to do so, The Kitchen Cafe supported local farmers and producers, serving organic and seasonal food wherever possible.
There’s a proper restaurant downstairs, and a more casual, loungey atmosphere at The Kitchen [Upstairs]. Well, I headed [Upstairs] in search of tasty food and the promise of happy hour. From 5:30-6:30 pm each day, they feature a three-course prix fixe for $26 ($34 with wine pairings). Now, that’s not a cheap dinner, but it’s incredible value for amazing food and wine in a beautiful room.
First course was a rustic bruschetta with basil pesto (thick, rich and unctuous), mozzarella (clean, fresh and delicate), red onion (sweated and sweet), and radishes (crisp, without their customary bite) on top of toasty bread. Garnished with olive oil and parsley, this appetizer was really well-composed. All the flavours worked well together, and – more importantly – complemented each other. This was paired with a 2007 Ochoa Viura-Chardonnay from Spain (nice and light, with notes of roasted pineapple and mango).
Next up was a dish of seared scallops, sauteed romaine, roasted potatoes, and anchovy dressing. The dressing was to die for: rich, creamy and salty. The scallops were sweet and seared, the romaine kept its texture and sweetness, and the potatoes were perfectly cooked. It was an exercise in the perfect bite: the acidity and tartness of the dressing, met by the sweetness and crunch of romaine, mellowing to the sweetness and texture of the scallop, all on top of a solid foundation of potato that actually tasted like potato. It was paired with a 2001 Tempranillo from Ramirez de la Piscina that was a bit too tannic on its own, but mellowed out nicely with the food.
Dessert was a Knickerbocker Glory, which was so insanely delicious but simple. In fact, I’m going to steal it and say I invented it. You can too: here’s how. Start with a large, bulbous glass – a Chimay glass, if you want to be exact about things. Put in a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream, creamy and fragrant with real vanilla. Top it with softly whipped chantilly cream and crumbled meringue bits. Add a few sliced strawberries, some berry syrup, and a drizzle of Chambord. Serve with a spoon and watch people swoon with delight as they eat a very grown-up ice cream sundae.
Even better, serve it with R&R Naughty Sticky dessert wine, all coy with its honey and toasted almond flavours. Naughty and sticky, indeed.
And because no meal is complete without chocolate, Rick the bartender let me try a homemade chocolate bar: 72% dark chocolate with walnuts and sea salt. This was not a demure salted chocolate. The salt was front and centre. But then it stepped aside to let the walnuts – all nutty, tender and crumbly – shine. And then the 72% dark chocolate brought its bittersweetness to the table.
I have my doubts as to whether Rick really wanted my “professional opinion,” because he knew that it was delicious. But hey, I’m happy to oblige.