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|May 29-June 4, 2008
• Life in the slow lane
Author Carl Honoré puts on the brakes
by Erica Grossman
• Surfer sorts out syrah, shiraz
by Fred Tasker
A vegetarian venture
Leaf offers an original shade of green
by Clay Fong
I’ve been thinking of the Michelin Tire Company, but not because of its famed gastronomic guides that can make or break a restaurant’s reputation. No, I’ve been thinking of this corporation due to the fear that my eating habits could transform me into something resembling the rotund Michelin Man. Wandering the streets of downtown Boulder seeking a healthful repast that would prevent my metamorphosis into a roly-poly tire pitchman, I came across Leaf, an inviting vegetarian restaurant. Rather than adopting the tired earth tones and dark wood paneling that seems to be de rigeur for a stylish Boulder restaurant, Leaf is done up in a calming celadon green scheme matched with retro touches as chrome fans and a painted tin ceiling. Open bay windows give this eatery an expansively elegant European feel, reminiscent of some of the more off-the-beaten path entries in the Michelin guides.
The bar features martinis made from Boulder’s Organic 14 vodka and a voluminous wine list composed of organic, biodynamic and sustainable vintages. While not quite as ambitious, the lunch menu still covers ample culinary ground, ranging from an artichoke po’ boy sandwich to an Asian-influenced seaweed salad. Friend Ann and I started with a $6 appetizer of mushroom pâté. Masterfully presented, this small plate was augmented by pats of manchego, fontina and gorgonzola cheeses, accompanied by perfectly ripe blackberries and strawberry slices. While the toast fingers were slightly burnt on the bottom, the pâté itself had the richness and sensual but airy feel of its meaty antecedent. The scent of pine nuts combined with the meaty flavor of pureed mushroom made this selection a standout.
Ann’s bowl of artichoke soup didn’t live up to the standard set by the pâté. Despite being thickened with nuts and possessing an attractive green hue resembling the restaurant’s restful walls, it possessed watery texture and one-note flavor. A hint of garlic or white pepper would have contributed some zip, and puréed tofu could have added welcome creaminess. Without these improvements, this dish had the misfortune of resembling the water left over after steaming artichokes instead of a sublime spring treat. To Leaf’s credit, our server took the artichoke soup off the bill.
Happily, neither of us had reason to complain about our entrées. Ann’s $8 mushroom burger was a triumph of mouthfeel and taste. It had the heft of a lean beef burger on first bite, and while the flavor wasn’t a dead ringer for ground sirloin, it still had surprising depth for a meatless patty. An accompanying remoulade — think of a souped-up tartar sauce — was a suavely sophisticated alternative to the usual burger condiments.
A $12 plate of Jamaican Jerk tempeh successfully melded health food with Caribbean cuisine. While a decorative curlicue of fried plantain garnish lacked crispness, the jerk sauce possessed Habanero heat that fortunately didn’t overwhelm the complementary fruit flavors. The tempeh’s whole soy beans matched the sauce’s boldness, and a side of black forbidden rice topped with lightly cooked greens and a berry-rich salsa made for a pleasantly complex taste mélange.
While there were a few missteps in the meal, Leaf is still is a worthy stop for those seeking innovative meatless fare. They offer an opportunity to enjoy original, expertly prepared and healthy food without becoming a portly rubber monger.
Leaf - 2010 16th St., Boulder, 303-442-1485
Clay’s obscurity corner
The Michelin Man
Inspired by the appearance of a pile of tires, the Michelin Man is closely tied to the tire manufacturer’s famous restaurant and lodging guidebooks. The Michelin brothers realized that providing information on faraway eateries and lodgings was an effective way to get people to drive around for pleasure and, consequently, buy more tires. As Michelin’s guides took hold throughout France, Michelin also sponsored a weekly newspaper column on gastronomic matters. Although this feature was written by the great French gourmand Curnonsky, it was signed by Bibendum (“to drink”) which became the Michelin Man’s proper name.
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