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|June 11- June 17, 2009
• Allergy alternatives
A list of alternatives, healthful foods for allergy sufferers
by Julie Deardorff
• The Dessert Diva
A local chef shares her sweet secrets
by Danette Randall
Bite by bite on a budget
Bácaro’s small plates offer big taste at a small price
by Clay Fong
Variety and value are the main reasons I enjoy a dinner solely consisting of small plates. With the economy in less than tip-top shape, many local restaurants are offering reasonable small-plate specials with the best prices available during happy hour. As an aside, I suspect my male fear of commitment may also play into this preference, as one can quickly move on if a particular selection isn’t to their liking.
Boulder’s Bácaro proudly features small plates, and their offerings have become even more attractive given a price reduction on some of their selections. Hewing to its self-proclaimed status as a Venetian establishment, this restaurant possesses an airy, elegant feel. The stylishly dressed servers were friendly and helpful, although it was sometimes hard to distinguish them from some of the more trendy customers. Happily, ours conceded that friend Amelia and I had ordered a selection that hit all the high points of the happy hour menu, available until 6:30 p.m.
Two variations of bruschetta are available — one with tomato, the other with beets and goat cheese. Each came atop a good-sized plank of puffy flatbread and could have been improved with more of their featured ingredients. On the other hand, each of these only cost $3, so these light bites are hard to beat from a price perspective.
Five-dollar potato skins were a genteel take on the bar food standard. Building on a foundation of Yukon gold potatoes, these were topped with a mix of mild pancetta, sweet cipollini onions and mozzarella. Amelia enjoyed this choice, and I found the mild qualities of these potatoes oddly comforting in a way similar to that of a good plate of macaroni and cheese.
The $6 plate of grilled scallops represented excellent value. Adorned with tender greens and hearts of palm slices, these sweet shellfish medallions possessed a whisper of saline brininess. A hint of charring on the surface provided a subtly crisp contrast to the smoothly soft interior and light caramelizing pleasantly enhanced the sweetness.
Top honors went to the $6 crab gnocchi that featured a creamy Newburg-style sauce laden with shellfish. Such a dish can be fraught with peril as the sauce’s richness, coupled with potentially heavy potato pasta, can collapse under its own culinary weight. Happily, this preparation struck the right balance with a satisfying sauce that didn’t obscure the delicate crab taste and perfectly textured pasta.
We finished off the evening with two hefty $8 desserts. Amelia went for a crème brûlée, while I opted for a molten chocolate soufflé with vanilla gelato. The custard was generously portioned, but didn’t break any new ground save for an ample topping of fresh strawberries. The soufflé, however, was a standout, hot with a sensual liquid center and the incomparable richness of flavor that can only come from high-quality chocolate.
Bácaro delivers decent value for the money, with our tab coming to $28 dollars for two, not counting dessert and tip. Some places in Boulder would charge just a little less than that for a lunch consisting of a sandwich with chips and a soda. While there’s room for improvement with some of this eatery’s items, Bácaro still provides the budget-minded diner with an opportunity to dine on scallops and crab in an unquestionably upscale setting. And that’s something to which everyone can commit.
Clay’s obscurity corner
Bruschetta has been around for at least the past 500 years. Derived from the verb for “to roast over coals,” this dish originated in olive oil-producing mills. Farmers would bring bread with them to the mill for the purpose of making toast over a fire. After oil was pressed from their olives, these individuals would sample the finished product with the toast after rubbing garlic into the bread. Over time, other toppings became popular, including tomato, pepper and cured meat. Today, one can buy jarred toppings labeled “bruschetta,” which is misleading as these products lack the essential foundation of bread.
Bácaro Venetian Taverna
921 Pearl St., Boulder.
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