Even without a polar vortex sneak attack, this week on the calendar is one in which people tend to prefer the roaring heater vent of home to the chilling winds whipping through Boulder’s streets, even if the streets come with a nice ’07 merlot.
“It’s traditionally a lower revenue time for restaurants,” says Kate Lacroix, founder of Dishwire. “People aren’t always spending right before the big holidays.”
That’s why Lacroix and her partner Josh Dinar of Dining Out Magazine picked this week to make an official event of something that arguably exists in the shadow of the Flatirons year-round: First Bite Boulder Restaurant Week.
From Friday, Nov. 14 to Sunday, Nov. 22, more than 50 restaurants in Boulder County are offering specially-prepared and discounted prix fixe three-course menus. And we’re talking places where you might normally pay $27 for a plate, not a full three-course meal.
Participants include top-notch nosheries like Colterra, Jill’s at the St Julien, Salt and Brasserie Ten Ten. The Chautauqua Dining Hall will be doing up your choice of buffalo short ribs with sweet potato hash, winter greens, oyster mushroom demi-glace and Volpaia poached cippolini onion or Colorado striped bass with wild mushroom risotto, citrus sage brown butter, fresh herbs and Meyer lemon, followed by your choice of flourless chocolate cake or candied bourbon bacon.
The Boulder ChopHouse will be doing up New York strip steaks, chicken picatta, pork chops and salmon. Want to go veggie? Paleo-wonderland Blooming Beets is making a Power- Greens and Seaweed-Hempseed Salad, or you can swing by Leaf and choose between main courses of succotash and rosemary barley, vegan sweet potatoes au gratin or a gorgonzola and walnut tart.
There are choices for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, gmo-free, paleo and nearly any other diet out there.
“It’s very Boulder in that it represents a wide range of diet and eating patterns,” says Lacroix.
Lacroix says the central criteria for a restaurant’s involvement is that they’re bringing special value to the table that diners are willing to pay for.
“We want people to be able to support a $27 meal,” she says. Even a restaurant like Modmarket is wonderful, but I don’t know if its a right fit. It would have to be something where someone feels like they’re getting a value for three course for $27.”
For example, Volta.
“They do this thing called saganaki, which is a greek cheese that they flambé, so they actually pour an alcohol on top of the cheese and light it and let it crisp, and then they extinguish it and pour lemon on it,” Lacroix says. “It is on their regular menu, but I think it will be a surprise to a lot of people. If you have the choice between that and a salad, then you might want to try something new.”
But then again, the calamari salad that diners have as another option at Volta might just as well count as a new experience. And hence the fun of restaurant week.
Other than new restaurants like Blooming Beets, Ella Fine Diner and Caffè Sole, experienced restaurantweekers might notice one big (but not that big) change.
“After 9 years, we did hike the price by one whole dollar,” says Lacroix. “We’re definitely falling behind on the rate of inflation though. So hopefully people won’t be too cross about it.”
For those that want to get fully into the spirit, or are a bit hesitant to shell out $27, Boulder Restaurant Week will launch with First Sip, a free party complete with gratis drinks and snacks at PrAna on Thursday, Nov. 13.
“It includes beer and wine and DJ and a chance to win a head-to-toe outfit,” Lacroix says. “PrAna is going to pick two people and dress them in style for their restaurant week outing.”
More info, including the full list of participating restaurants and their menus, is available at www. FirstBiteBoulder.com. And you’ll want to study up ahead of time, not just for the options this week, but for the long winter months to come in which you don’t want to slave over a stove.
“It’s the first bite of the eating season,” Lacroix says.