Spring fever hit Colorado, creating the perfect opportunity to stroll away a sunny afternoon with virtuoso chef and Foodswings owner, Brian T. Jacobson. First stop, coffee at Paris on the Platte; Brian swinging in with his energy as fresh and delicious as the food he cooks. Dipping biscotti into double espresso, we talk food, spices and the five essentials I must have in my kitchen. Brian leads me down the spice trade routes and into my very own culinary Age of Discovery. We speak of Dutch West Indies Trading Company, talk of blends, balance and the culture of cardamom. Trading the secrets of pepper and hanging on his every word, and armed with my vintage parasol, I’m restless to sojourn in the sunshine. Under the umbrella of a turquoise floral print, I link my arm in Brian’s and saunter up Little Raven to the Savory Spice Shop.
Savory is the love child of Mike and Janet Johnston, who in 2004, opened their hearts and their spice cabinet to bring some big flavor to downtown Denver. More than 140 original recipe seasonings, small-batch-blended on-site, bear names like Pikes Peak Lemon Pepper and Lodo Red Adobo. Sidled up next to the blends are rows of exotic and common (like me) spices from around the world. Freshly ground and sold in large or small amounts, you can buy just what you need or as much as you like. Brian’s current favs are Berbere Ethiopian Style Seasoning and an Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt that smells of an earthy heaven. Whispering together about the mixes and the meats to rub them on, Brian leads me to a wall of infused sugars in flavors like lavender and vanilla bean. My mind was racing with my taste buds chasing after in a flush of excitement I rarely feel… the urge to cook. Following that urge just got easier as Savory premieres their new Food Network TV show, “Spice & Easy” this month.
On advice from the chef, which is close to doctor’s orders, I throw some Herbs de Provence Sea Salt, Bohemian Forest European Style Rub and Cherry Creek Seafood Seasoning into my canvas bag, pay the winsome clerk and we breeze out the door. Heading south on 15th Street toward Market, and feeling oh so European, Brian stops mid-step in a brain-storm, cooking up ideas for the Biennial of the Americas. Heading up the cuisine committee for the July event, he’s alive with ideas on whom and what should be included in month long celebration.
When Telluride Inside… and Out editor Susan Viebrock told me about Evoo Marketplace I didn’t get it. A store that only sells oil and vinegar? I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea… until I walked through the door. Located in one of Denver’s oldest buildings at 15th & Market, light streams in the high, arched windows, bouncing off the polished steel canisters called “fusti.” These rows of fusti hold some of the finest extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from across America and around the world. The concept is try before you buy. We made our way around the shop mixing flavor infused oils with complementary vinegars and dipping delicious bits of bread from The Denver Bread Company to taste our creations. Each combo delivers excitement, both in flavor and the things you choose to blend. I particularly liked the Roasted Garlic oil with a Meyer Lemon balsamic, and the Blood Orange oil with Dark Chocolate vinegar. EVOO owner, Mick, is very customer-centered, sharing his passion and hospitality with ease. I think the only words that came out of my mouth that half hour were “OMG”.
The perfect finish to our lovely day was a stop at Tag Restaurant on Larimer Square for “Social Hour”, with Baja Tacos, Da Bomb Sliders and the Mojito of the Day.
With the grill heating up and the fresh summer produce headed your way, I’m thinking a trip around our Culinary Wonderland makes parking in Lodo worth it!