Kelly Whitaker’s obsession with producing the perfect pizza crust has been on dazzling display at Basta for years now. That it would beget a quest for the perfect flour is only natural. Enter the Noble Grain Alliance, an organization he co-launched in 2016 as a means to “restore local heritage wheat, corn, and seed by promoting [their] farming, milling, and distribution” (to quote the mission statement); he’s already conducting trials of 11 such crops on Basta’s doorstep. Now, he’s teamed up with Fortuna Chocolate’s Sienna Trapp-Bowie and Aldo Ramirez Carrasco to embark on the next step of his journey: Come July or August, Dry Storage, a café and event space with a focus on (of course) grains and chocolate, will open as Basta’s neighbor in the Peleton West in Boulder.
When the condo complex’s developer offered the long-empty space to Whitaker for use, his initial thought was to convert it into a much-needed prep kitchen: “Last year, we switched to all-natural dough fermentation and started milling our own grains,” he explains, which “stretches the kitchen thin.” By night, he figured, he could use it to host private parties, which are “one of the things we have to turn away all the time” for lack of room.
Dry Storage will indeed serve in both those capacities, but it will also be much more. For starters, says Whitaker, “we’re borrowing a little from Corrected Coffee, the pop-up we did at Basta” back in 2014, to operate from about 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. as a coffee shop—serving not only roasts and teas from L.A.’s Lamill and Sungarden Tea but also baked goods, tartines, and other snacks as well as booze (there’s a full liquor license). In addition, it will function as a bulk-grain bar, where “we’ll mill to-order quinoa flour or farro flour; if someone comes in and wants to buy fresh-ground polenta, I have the bandwidth to do that.” The goal is to “start transitioning people’s thinking” toward purchasing these products “just like they do fresh-ground coffee.”
Alongside it, Fortuna will run—you guessed it—a chocolate “cocktail” bar. “My husband, Aldo, has a long history of working in bars in both Mexico City and Tokyo,” Trapp-Bowie says. “So he’s been experimenting” with an array of fun tweaks on the concept of drinking chocolate, from two different types of whipped cream to add-ins that allow patrons “to customize the blend—like dark chocolate with orange zest or chili.” The couple will also offer plated desserts and an expanded line of confections while selling chocolate by the pound as “our counterpart to Kelly’s freshly milled grains,” she says—“raw ingredients you can take home and cook with.” (If you want to hear some inspiring stories, ask about the cacao farmers they work with in Mexico, Guatemala, and Venezuela.)
Finally, Dry Storage will be open in the evenings for all sorts of affairs: Think fried-chicken and ramen pop-ups, tastings and truffle-making workshops, and more. “I designed the space to be incredibly flexible,” Whitaker says. “It will not look like your typical coffee shop.” Of course, we’ve come to expect the unexpected from him—and once the crowdsourcing and construction phases are over and the doors are open, we’ll surely get it.