I HOPE Hummus

I was invited to visit Hope Foods, maker of the incredibly fresh and delicious Hope Hummus, in Louisville, Colorado. I’ve seen the name around for a few years now, but I can’t recall ever purchasing one of their products before. I knew that they started selling hummus at the Boulder County Farmers Market, and I knew they’d expanded and were on shelves in a number of our local grocers, but that’s the most I could have told you before last week. Now I could talk your ear off about what a great local company they are and how Hope Hummus should be your hummus of choice if you’re not making it from scratch at home. It will certainly be my go-to when I’m not following Chef Mike Solomonov’s recipe, which is a very traditional Israeli hummus. In fact, I was so inspired by my visit to Hope Foods that I’ll likely tweak chef Solomonov’s recipe the next time I make it.

~Inspiration to create new flavors of garbanzo bean spread~ That’s what came to me on our media party at Hope Foods. We were given two bowls of hummus, a “regular” or savory one and a sweet one that was sweetened with agave syrup. There was a table of ingredients full of spices, herbs, jams, nut butters, pumpkin, roasted peppers, lemons, limes, coconut flakes, goji berries…you name it and it was likely on a table for us to mix our own flavored hummus.

Hope Hummus

I added pumpkin puree, curry powder, cayenne pepper, turmeric powder, lemon juice, fresh thyme and ground black pepper to my savory bowl. Then mixed it all together and scooped it into a Ball jar labeled for A Bolder Table, which was a nice touch :)

 

 

 

Next up was the sweet hummus, which I wasn’t really sure what I’d enjoy, so I kept it simple: Almond butter and blackberry jam.

Hope Hummus

This combination would go really well on toast, and I would have NEVER thought of sweetening hummus on my own, so I’m inspired to try a variety of combinations in the future.

 

 

 

 

After mixing up some unique spreads, we were given a tour of the 15,000 square foot hummus factory, and learned that Hope Foods doesn’t make a ton of hummus and store it until an order comes in. They make hummus to order, so there’s a two day turn-around time from when they make the hummus to when it’s loaded on a truck for delivery. That’s FRESH in my opinion. It’s also Cold Pressure Prepped, which means it needs neither preservatives nor high heat to ensure each batch is safe from pathogens, bacteria, and mold. Another important detail that sets them apart from their competitors is adding olive oil rather than canola oil to their hummus. In short, Hope Foods makes fresh hummus using as few ingredients as they can without skimping on ingredient quality to produce a large quantity of food. I can stand behind that.

An operation that started with a group of friends making hummus in a commissary kitchen and selling it at the farmers market now employs 30+ people and makes more than ten different flavors of hummus. In my opinion, this company is doing everything right, and I am proud to have them as a local producer here in Colorado. I hope they continue to spread good things.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Meat? Have we come that far? The appeal of the Beyond Burger is beyond me.

When our local Whole Foods ripped out it’s prepared foods counter to install a Beyond Meat Burger Bar, Sean and I took a look at these veggie patties and decided to pick some up for our July fourth BBQ. Would we buy them again? No. Not a chance.

Beyond Meat

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pea protein burgers are in the freezer section, and they look very much like ground beef. Once you get through the packaging, they’re VERY similar in appearance to beef.

The Beyond Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re juicy, unlike any other veggie patty I’ve seen. Beet juice makes them red, and it allows them to “bleed” when you bite into them. That’s where this company lost me as a potential consumer/customer. I enjoy veggie patties that function like a burger in the sense that they stick together and can be on a bun with toppings. If I wanted the meat-eating experience, I’d eat a real burger. But, we gave them a try…

The Beyond Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

We thawed them and followed grilling instructions. These patties have coconut oil, which makes the grill flare up as soon as they go on. Personally, I’m not on the coconut oil bandwagon and don’t easily succumb to food trends, so, though it’s smart to add it for the grilling experience, it’s a bit gimmicky to me. The chicken sausage from Whole Foods on the right of the grill was my dinner for the night, by the way.

The Beyond Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beyond Burger grills up to really look like a burger.

The Beyond Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef dressed one up with all of the Sir Kensington’s condiments we had in the house as well as some romaine, blue cheese, and caramelized onions. It looks like a burger, kind of tastes like a burger, but isn’t a burger. It’s a highly processed food item designed to look like one of the “sexiest” things you can indulge in. A Hamburger. So, this is where they’ve completely lost me. Why do we Americans need to create food items that resemble things we enjoy eating, but make them “healthy” by making them vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, or paleo? I’m going to stick to a balanced diet of mostly vegetables with an occasional indulgence in meat, seafood, chicken, or turkey. And, chef and I will continue to make home-made veggie patties when we’re feeling like a burger at home.

Beyond Meat has “chicken” strips, tenders, burgers, and crumbled “beef” all made of veggie protein. While I agree whole-heartedly that we should consume fewer animals and animal products, I don’t think that needs to be highly processed, packaged, and made to resemble the animal protein we’re eliminating or cutting back on for the time being. Why can’t a vegetarian stir fry have just veggies and rice in some amazing spice or sauce? Why does it need to include a fake piece of chicken that looks and almost tastes like chicken? Just as weaning your way off of sugar and chocolate bars will eventually cut your sugar addiction, eating more of and enjoying more whole foods based meals will change your eating habits and preferences. Give it a try. I dare you.

Massaged Kale Salad #1

On a recent culinary tour in Denver with my company Local Table Tours, I met a gal who was hysterically sassy, smart, and memorable. She has an interesting story of living in bumble f*%& Nebraska with her husband, who always requests the same kale salad. I don’t remember the ingredients she told me, and I do hope if she reads this post she emails me with them, but she had me cracking up about massaging the kale. Apparently, one can get tired of massaging kale, so she’s started just “slapping” it with olive oil and says hubby can’t tell the difference.

Anyway, it had me thinking all week how I’ve never “massaged” kale. I always boil, sautee, or bake those hearty greens. It was time to try giving them a nice massage.

I washed, de-veined, and chopped some dino kale, and added that with some minced spring garlic, olive oil, and sea salt to a bowl.

Pre-Massage

Pre-Massage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, you just “massage” it, or kneed it all together like bread dough for a few minutes.

Post Massage

Post-Massage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And let it sit. I left it for an hour or so before tossing it with garbanzo beans, tomato, celery, and avocado.

Add some crunch, protein, and avocado

Add some crunch, protein, and avocado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was SO easy, so delicious, and I’m SO silly for not making this sooner.

Dinner is served

Dinner is served.

Arugula Ristorante- Fresh, Local, Seasonal Fine Dining

A few years ago an extremely successful Boulder businessman entered into a conversation with me about my then-nascent culinary tourism business Local Table Tours. He told me that successful businesses re-evaluate and re-invent themselves in seven year cycles. Over the years I held on to that insight as my third, fourth, fifth and sixth years of business came and went. I was eager to fast-forward to see what happens around year seven. Well, I’m now in my seventh year of owning and operating Local Table Tours, and there are undeniable changes that started with coordinating large group corporate events in year number six. I think it’s time I meet up with this man again over some wine to discuss the second seven-year cycle… but this blog post isn’t about me. It’s about Arugula, a seven year old Boulder restaurant that’s NOT located downtown and that is relaunching itself this year and doing extraordinary things for our local food and beverage scene.

I mention my discussion of seven year business cycles because the owner of Arugula, Alec Schuler, invited a dining room full of food writers to taste some new spring creations and to see his recently remodeled space. Course after delicious course came out with a bit of a description of what was on the plate, what it was paired with, and why. Shortly before the last course he mentioned this was his seventh year owning Arugula and he had decided to freshen up the dining room and re-vamp the menu. My ears perked. Seven years sounds like just about the right time to do that.

Chef Alec is undoubtedly passionate about his craft. Tangerine, his breakfast/brunch spot right next door, is one of the busiest places in town and folks line up to wait for his food. Arugula, open for dinner at 5 and serving lunch Wednesdays through Fridays, provides a fine dining experience that is fresh, local, and seasonal. This is one worth driving to, folks. It’s sometimes worth leaving downtown Boulder and I assure you, the corner of 28th and Iris offers free parking in addition to excellent food.

I’m including some photos I shot at our dinner, but I’m not inspired to write a typical food blog post where I tell you how great each thing was. Know this: everything I ate was worth eating again, but the twice-weekly changing menu means that’s not likely to happen any time soon. I’d more prefer to suggest straying from Pearl Street every now and then and discover a taste of Boulder not explored by tourists or the majority of locals. There are some fantastic chefs and restauranteurs in North, South, and East Boulder, but many are over-looked or ignored because the draw of Pearl Street and downtown Boulder is sometimes a force to be reckoned with. I for one know the next time I decide where to go for dinner it will be Arugula.

 

Zoës Kitchen Brings a Taste of the Mediterranean to Colorado

I had the honor and privilege to be invited to a Zoës Kitchen pop-up dinner at Black Eye Coffee in the LoHi neighborhood of Denver to introduce some local media to incredibly delicious food that is about to be served throughout the front range of Colorado. I’d never heard of Zoës Kitchen before, but it’s now a restaurant name I’ll never forget.

Zoës Kitchen is a wildly popular, healthy, fast-casual concept from the south, and is just starting to open a handful of establishments here in Colorado. As someone who seldom visits “chain” restaurants, I arrived at the pop-up dinner with an assumption it would be OK at best. I was completely wrong. This was one of the best dinners I’d enjoyed in a long time.

Zoës Kitchen threw a pop-up dinner party for us in the carefully curated space that is Black Eye Coffee LoHi. A reclaimed wood table that could easily have been set for forty was decorated with a table runner of fresh herbs and candles. It was stunning. We were greeted with cocktails and wine and some small passed plates. Among the hosts was their lead chef, Antonio Iocchi, who led us through a guided olive oil tasting before serving dinner.

Olive Oil Tasting

Our dinner that night was delicious and delightful. The company was very welcoming, with food bloggers and food writers in the mix, the food was fantastic, and the wine was freely poured. To me, that’s the setting for a great dinner party.

We were introduced to the Lupini bean, and I’m pleased to know that when Zoës Kitchen opens in Boulder later this year, I’ll have a place to enjoy my newly found protein-rich snack. Good bye edamame, hello lupini.

Lupini Beans

Upon taking our seats, the Mediterranean Baked Feta and the Hummus Trio were served on large platters to share, family style. These beautiful dishes were fresh, delicious, and memorable. The baked feta was a creamy yet still slightly firm presentation of feta that I’d never tasted before. I helped myself to seconds.

Mediterranean Baked FetaHummus Trio

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next came a demonstration by chef Iocchio on his Live Med Salad, with zucchini ribbons and spinach, topped with farro and lupini beans. It was a perfect salad, in my opinion. I replicated it at home the next night.

Live Med Salad

Entrées came next, and I was starting to fill up, so I didn’t taste everything that was served. I did have a Rosemary Ham and Mozzarella Piadina. I’d never heard of a piadina before, and I’m glad that’s now changed. I can only describe it as a quesadilla-style sandwich with a savory pastry-like dough.  I also had a chicken kabob, and had to then call it quits.

Rosemary Ham and Mozzarella Piadina

Chicken, Salmon, and Veggie Kabobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Until dessert came. I ate the whole thing- Ya Ya’s Chocolate Cake- a family recipe that apparently is never quite the same from batch to batch, yet always a favorite.

Ya Ya's Chocolate Cake

Throughout the evening we heard inspiring stories from the Zoës Kitchen team, telling us their philosophy on fresh foods and what it means to live the Zoë lifestyle. Zoës Kitchen is run by a group of people who genuinely love their jobs, love the food, and are excited to share fresh, healthy, convenient, and fairly priced cuisine with the front range of Colorado. They’re a welcomed addition to our burgeoning food scene.

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