As summer vacation season wraps up, I’m reminded there is only one thing that makes unpacking a duffel bag of dirty clothes tolerable: rediscovering the stash of regional foods and beverages I picked up along the journey. Wooden spoons and locally fired pottery are nice, but if I only have room in my luggage for one souvenir, I always make it an edible one. Recently, I brought home a bottle of Death’s Door White Whisky, some Door County Creamery cheese curds, and a chunk of gently-smoked whitefish from Charlie’s Smokehouse. As I carefully unwrapped each of these treasures, I wondered: When people visit Colorado, which artisanal products would we want them to take back home? I decided to ask those who work in specialty markets and wine shops that very question. “[I’m] glad to hear that we are not the only ones who fill our suitcases with contraband,” Mathew Berger, Mondo Vino’s Wine and Spirits' buyer, says. Here are the Colorado products that he and others tell their houseguests to make room for in their suitcases.
"[CapRock Peach Brandy is] made with peaches organically grown on the Western Slope. It’s delicious without any sort of adornment," says Mondo Vino’s Berger. “Nothing says Colorado better.”
Crooked Stave is “one of the biggest cult breweries worldwide—and for good reason,” McLain Hedges, founder of the Proper Pour, says of his neighbor at the Source. The brewery’s beers, made with cultivated strains of Brettanomyces, “drink more like fine wines and are perfect pairings with food.”
“We have tasted hundreds of aromatic bitters over the years and the DRAM line has the most complexity, intensity, and balance,” David Moore, owner of Divino Wine & Spirits, says. “The sage reminds me of hiking through a Colorado trail.”
This farmstead sheep’s cheese “has a subtle flavor of lanolin and green olives,” Rob Lawler, co-owner of the Truffle Cheese Shop, explains. “Colorado is becoming a great place for artisan cheese makers of all sorts.”
“I'd suggest the ever-portable, petite cans of Infinite Monkey Theorem Back Alley White,” Maxine DiJulio Hendry, manager of Fairfax Wine & Spirits (aka Marczyk’s Colfax), says. “The grapes are grown locally on the Western Slope and the wine is made and canned here in Denver.”
“This Denver pickle and Bloody Mary mix producer is just too good not include in a box of essential Colorado take-homes,” says Will Frischkorn, co-owner of Boulder’s Cured cheese shop. “The Titan dill pickle collaboration with Great Divide is one of the finest examples of a beer pickle I've ever tried.”
“These boozy preserves from RedCamper are more then just a jam, they’re great with cheese, as a glaze for grilled foods, or as an addition to creative cocktails,” Jon Marsh, owner of St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop, says. “They are all handmade in Denver using local spirits and, usually, Colorado-grown produce.” Marsh uses the tequila-jalapeño flavor in cocktails or to add a little kick to sandwiches.
The owners behind this bean-to-bar chocolate company "source their cacao beans from small co-ops and farms they have visited themselves,” says Whitney Ariss, “Marketing Superwoman” at Marczyk Fine Foods. "They keep all their chocolate single-origin so you can really taste every subtle nuance that each type of bean has to offer. Plus, it's just really f&*#ing good chocolate.”
Hot tip: Things that make great edible souvenirs for Colorado visitors make equally good hostess gifts.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock