Saturday, September 21, 2013

sarah + dulcie's colorado crafted

About a year ago I stumbled upon Two Tarts, a wonderful blog written and photographed by Sarah Welle & Dulcie Wilcox. I was immediately struck by the stunning images, the mouth watering recipes and the fabulous looking cocktails. 
It's not surprising that Sarah & Dulcie are also behind Colorado Crafted- a company that offers gift boxes filled with gourmet foods, handcrafted by Colorado artisans in small-batches that really are "the best of the best." Dulcie and Sarah have found the most passionate people making incredible things...and it's all local! Even their boxes have names like the Steamboat, Mt. Evans and  Hanging Lake (which I kind of wish I had on this hike). 
Anyway, I'm a big fan...
I've asked Sarah & Dulcie a few questions for this post and they were kind enough to give me some answers.

What is the biggest challenge to starting your own company?
We started by investing very little of our own money because we didn't want to do any loans. Everything we make just goes right back into the company. We've had a lot of grandiose ideas for what we want to do, but there have definitely been financial limitations. But ultimately, starting smaller has worked to our advantage because we have been able to hone our vision before making any large investments.

What are the biggest rewards to starting your own company?
We love being able to work for ourselves and on our own time, and most of all getting to create something beautiful that we're proud of! And of course, sampling delicious food is one of the biggest perks.

How do you juggle family, your blog and your business?
We don't clean our houses as much as we should! :) 

Do you think the small-batch food market in Colorado has changed over the past few years? If so, is it heading in the right direction?
Definitely! There are more and more interesting artisanal foods popping up all over the state.  We've seen talented artisans creating cool products before quitting their full time day jobs, which is awesome.  People seem to be increasingly interested in buying high quality small-batch products that are unique to their area.  Supermarkets are getting more and more interested in carrying special, locally made products too.

Anything you want to see made here in Colorado that isn’t being produced right now?
We are always on the lookout for a good cracker or other small savory snacks. 

What’s the most far-flung place you’ve shipped to?
We only ship within the US (and shipping is always free!), so nothing too exotic. But most of our boxes are being shipped outside of Colorado.

How do you go about deciding which companies you want to work with? And how do you find or hear about the companies? 
First and foremost, we are looking for an exceptionally made food. Everything we sell is made in small batches, and we love when products are made with local ingredients (either locally grown produce or another CO-made ingredient, like whiskey or honey). Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways we discover new artisans.

Do you have a favorite treat or snack that you just can’t put down? 
Sarah is obsessed with Chile Crunch - an innovative spin on hot sauce that's made in Denver. It is roasted peppers, garlic and onions suspended in oil. It is super crunchy which makes it unique and totally addicting.  It is amazing on hard boiled eggs, salads, avocados, soups...  you name it!
Dulcie's current favorite is the Tuffy Kickshaw caramel corn, flavored with brown butter & Stranahan's whiskey.

Now you both live in Longmont. What are the best places to eat in the Boulder/Longmont area? (Anyplace that's also kid friendly?)
We love living in Longmont, and the restaurant scene is slowly growing. We have some terrific restaurants that have really inspired menus, but are also totally kid-friendly. Comida and Harold's are the top two that come to mind. 

Finally, where do you see Colorado Crafted in a few years? Do you dream about a brick and mortar store?
While a brick and mortar storefront probably isn't a great fit for Colorado Crafted, we do love the idea of a shop with a local angle, and we have flirted with the idea of a craft beer and liquor shop. 
As for Colorado Crafted, we are interested in steadily growing, and we are introducing a bath & body box this holiday with some really fantastic small batch soaps and lotions. We can't wait to see how the box sells!

Thank you Sarah and Dulcie! I love what you’re doing and I’ll be looking out for those bath & body boxes…

{This is the first post in a series called Colorado Companies, (co/co). I'm so impressed by the businesses and makers who are transforming the food scene in Colorado every day. I wanted to highlight companies that use locally sourced ingredients or products in beautiful ways, and Colorado Crafted fits the bill! Please note that I do not have any financial or business relationship with Colorado Crafted, nor did I receive anything in exchange for this post. I just dig their style and their company...and I hope you will too!}
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

hiking mondays: eldorado canyon (before the flood) + the hike that didn't happen

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the gift of gab. I’m loquacious, a chatterbox of sorts, a natural schmoozer, and even my first grade progress report read something like, “Batya will go far in life, if she just stops talking so much.” This particular character trait wasn’t terribly helpful during my high school years (it’s hard to concentrate on chemistry when there’s so much else to talk about), but it’s served me well as a relatively new transplant to Denver.
I talk to people wherever I go, and if I happen to stumble upon someone who’s native to this town, or someone who’s been living here for a long time, I always ask him or her about their favorite places to hike because I've found that these people know where to go... 

A few Saturdays ago we took the boys to Cranmer Park, which has some pretty spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains- especially at sunset. There I met a grandmother named Mary and we started up a conversation. She told me about Denver's past, her parent’s peach orchard near Grand Junction, her favorite swimming holes, and her favorite hikes - including the "4th of July" trail near Eldora. 
The hike got its name because typically you aren’t able to get to the trail head before the first week of July, thanks in large part to the high elevation and late snows which are common in the area. But once the snow melts and the dirt road is passable, this hike becomes very popular because of its spectacular waterfalls and majestic views. 
I knew we were heading to the mountains... 
I did a bit of research and found a blog that said the trail is gorgeous and "you don’t need an SUV to get there!" Being the proud Prius owners that we are, we were looking forward to getting into the mountains with the sort-of promise that we would be able to make it. Can you see where this is going?
We piled into the car and set out in the direction of Eldora, which is a bit past Nederland, which is a bit past Boulder. The paved road ended and then the dirt road began. After about 15 minutes of driving I started having flashbacks to the time when I got two flat tires near Mt. Adams in Oregon. And then I began to panic when our wheels started skidding and we saw a deep ravine up ahead (that I thought we'd get stuck in). Knowing that our car just wasn't gonna make it, we decided to turn around...
Anyway, this is a long-winded story about why I'm not sharing the "4th of July" hiking photos with you. I will at some point - but maybe after we rent an SUV for the day and regroup a bit. In the meantime I found these photos from Eldorado Canyon (an amazing state park close to Boulder) that I hiked with my friend Tina, her daughter and my boys about a month ago.

We took the Fowler trail and passed lots of rock climbers (look closely and you’ll see them). And after the hike we walked down to the mountain-fed river, which was really cold and turned out to be the perfect place to chill our watermelon.
Last week Colorado got a season's worth of rain in just a few days. There's been unprecedented and historic flooding in and around the Boulder area, as well as other parts of Colorado. My heart goes out to those who have been impacted by the storms. 
This post was scheduled to be published before the flooding, and upon checking out the current state of the area I discovered that the park has been closed indefinitely due to unsafe conditions. 
If you’re inclined to help out flood victims, here are some resources that you may find useful. I decided to post this hike anyway because Eldorado Canyon is a beautiful place and it's worth seeing what it looked like before the storms.
Wishing you happy trails and drier days ahead…

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

an anniversary + grilled corn and herbed chowder

Three years ago I started this blog as a little project. It was something personal to work on while I was out of the workforce and raising our first son, Otis. At that time my mornings were spent walking around Prospect Park and chatting with other mothers who were similarly situated (staying home to raise their young children). Some of these mothers became close friends, but more often than not, I would find myself in way-too-long conversations about strollers and cloth diapers. I loved being a mother, but that was only part of me. Okay, a big part, but I needed to talk about other things like art, or nature, or design, or food, or politics, or films, or books - anything other than children's accessories. Simply put, I needed something new to think about other than kids during those rare moments that mine was sleeping. 
I had always wanted to learn about food: how it's grown, how it's prepared and how to make it taste good. At the time there was an explosion of food bloggers online, and thinking I might be able to teach myself something new, I decided to join the pack. And I picked up my camera...

It took me a while to find "my voice," but I've settled into a way of storytelling and writing that it honest and true to me. Sometimes when I re-read old posts I cringe a bit because the writing is so awkward and doesn't sound like me at all. But I don't delete those posts because they were a starting point, and as my best friend (who is a professor) pointed out, "It's the only way to see how much you've grown..." so I keep those old posts (and bad pictures) just where they are. 
Like I said, I started this blog three years ago because I needed it. And as I look back on the past three years I can't believe how much our lives have changed and how much this blog has evolved. It is our family journal; it chronicles the places we hike, the things we do and the recipes we make together. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only Jewish mother who doesn't have a stack of oil-splattered index cards with family recipes, and whenever I asked my mother if there were any special dishes she remembers her mother (my grandmother) making, she says, "No, not really." How could there be nothing? I mean everything about our culture revolves around festive meals and eating (unless of course we are fasting). This made me determined to create our own food history and have something that my kids can pass down to their kids...

We live in Colorado where there are bountiful farms with great seasonal produce. We bake zucchini bread and make tomato sauce from scratch. We sautee spinach for pie and grill corn and watermelon too.  We are doing these things together as a family and inviting our friends and neighbors over for meals, where we eat outdoors almost every day of the year (because Colorado is blessed with 300 days of sunshine).
This blog has also become a place where I unload some of the struggles I've faced with my role as a mother. And there are anecdotes about being in my late 30s and reflections on youth (or my early 20s), as well as growing up/and our "old" life in New York City. I'm glad I've put it all into words...
The benefits of penning Sparrows & Spatulas have been many. This blog has helped me build a wonderful network of friends. I'm privileged to know an incredible group of makers and bakers, food truck vendors and small business owners, many of whom live and work in my adopted-state of makes my life here richer and more enjoyable. Thank you! To those of you who have taken time out of your busy lives to read a few posts in my little corner of the internet, thank you for reading and thank you for all your kind words (and occasional grammar corrections)! 
I will continue writing this blog as I juggle motherhood and my relatively new career. I also hope to add some new things too, namely: 
  • Hiking Sundays: like Hiking Mondays, but on Sunday, since Otis is now in school part-time, 5 days a week.
  • Co./Co.: a monthly series that focuses on Colorado Companies that I find inspiring; and 
  • Market Mondays: in an effort to cook healthier, I will turn to our local farmers market for inspiration. 

I look forward to sharing another year with you all. Thanks for being part of my journey.

Grilled Corn and Herbed Chowder, Courtesy of Small Plates, Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga
{The soup, which started off our harvest dinner last week, is absolutely delicious. The local corn has been sweet and wonderful this year, and when you pop it on the grill all sorts of goodness emerges. This is the first recipe I've tried from Small Plates, SweetTreats and I now I see what all the fuss has been about. The soup is perfect and it will be in my summer repertoire for years to come. Happy cooking!}
Serves 4
4 ears of corn (I went with fairly large ears)
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil (optional)
1. Preheat the grill. Peel and rinse corn (removing all of the corn silk, I think that's what those strands are called). Grill the corn over medium-high heat, charring the outside. It should take 8 to 10 minutes. Let the corn cool slightly and then cut off the kernels. 
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk, vegetable broth, thyme, and corn kernels. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Turn the heat off and let it steep for 15 minutes.
3. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, celery, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper, ground cumin, and ground coriander. Cook the vegetables over medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft but not brown. Add the coconut-corn mixture. Bring the soup to a low simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
4. Add the cilantro (and chervil, if using) and stir. Then serve the soup warm. 

Credits: Image of me, courtesy of Kathryn Bacalis Photography Follow Me on Pinterest

Thursday, September 5, 2013

the cultivate food festival: a photo essay

I've gotten a bit behind in my postings, but here are some photos from the Cultivate Food & Music Festival which was held in Denver's City Park a few weekends ago. We took the kids to the event, but they only last a few hours because it was excruiatingly hot outside. Wanting to check it out a little bit more, I walked over again when the boys were taking their naps. 
Like last year, the Artisan's tent was packed with terrific small-batch good including: pickles, bloody mary mix, cake baubles, caramels, doughnuts and lemonade infused with locally grown peaches(delicious!). At the Chef's tent I caught a live-demonstration with Amanda Freitag and there was music from the wonderful Allen Stone and Blitzen Trapper, who I hadn't heard of until the festival but I'm really into now. Unfortunately I missed Air Dubai, a local band from Denver, but I'll try and catch one of their shows around town.
The festival is sponsored by Chipotle, so we were able to taste dishes that will hopefully make it onto future menus. Included in our sampling was a rice bowl with tofu and green chili and esquites, a bowl packed with pickled red onion, roasted corn, salsa verde, cabbage, cotija cheese and tortilla strips. The festival also has an educational message - one that promotes using fresh, high quality ingreidents that are responsibly sourced. There's an extensive kids area too, so if you've got little ones you should definitely check it out next year...

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