There's something about melon. And this summer, the vegetable (yes, it's part of the squash family) plays a more significant role than usual for some Colorado farmers. Due to drought conditions in the Arkansas River Valley, many growers chose to focus on cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew because they require less water than other crops (think corn, soy, or wheat).
To celebrate Colorado’s melon harvest, the Rocky Ford Growers Association  held the second-annual Cantaloupe Creations Cook-off on August 15 on the 16th Street Mall. Five area chefs, Chris Meier of Willie G’s Seafood & Steaks , JP Krause of Aloft Broomfield , Greg Sever of the University of Denver , and Garren Teich and Jonas Halstead of 1515 Restaurant  vied for the most compelling original dishes using Colorado-grown Rocky Ford cantaloupes. Meier took top honors for his creations: a cantaloupe fizz cocktail (recipe below), seared scallops with cantaloupe relish and cantaloupe caviar, and glazed pork tenderloin with cantaloupe molasses and cantaloupe kimchi. Meier’s refreshing cocktail is ideal for Labor Day parties.
Sourcing Details: In addition to major grocery stores (King Soopers , Safeway , and Whole Foods Market)  you can find Rocky Ford melons at Metro Denver Farmer’s Markets ; just look for the Mumms Farms tent.
Share: Share your recipe feedback in the comments section or link to other favorite cantaloupe recipes. Upload images of your creations to Instagram , Twitter , and Pinterest  with the hashtag #5280eats and #farmersmarket; we’ll do the same. Each week, we’ll post the best photo on 5280.com  along with other recipes spotlighting the season’s freshest produce at 5280.com/freshpicks .
Bonus: For more melon-centric recipes check out our Pinterest page labeled Fresh Picks .
Stay Tuned: Next week’s Fresh Picks will highlight Olathe corn with a recipe from Trillium ’s Ryan Leinonen.
Rocky Ford Cantaloupe Fizz Culinary Cocktail
(yields one cocktail)
1 wedge Rocky Ford cantaloupe, skinned and seeded
1 ounce mint-vanilla simple syrup, recipe below
1 1/2 ounces Skyy citrus vodka
1 ounce coconut seltzer, recipe below
mint sprig, for garnish
cantaloupe wedge, for garnish
In a rocks glass, muddle the cantaloupe until it has achieved a rough purée-like consistency. Add the simple syrup, citrus vodka and enough ice to fill 3/4 of the glass. Stir well. Top off the cocktail with a healthy spritz of coconut seltzer. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and a wedge of cantaloupe.
Mint-Vanilla Simple Syrup (yields 1 pint)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/2 of one vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
3 large fresh mint sprigs
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepot; bring to a simmer over high heat. Allow the syrup to boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and let the vanilla and mint continue to steep (like a tea) until the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Strain and discard the mint and vanilla bean. Store in a covered jar or plastic container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Coconut Seltzer (yields about 1 liter)*
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 pint (2 cups) club soda
Mix to combine. Use immediately to maintain effervescence. You may use unmixed equal amounts of coconut milk and club soda in cocktail to achieve the same effect.
*In Meier’s winning recipe he created his own seltzer using a CO2-charged whipped cream canister. Here, he shares a friendlier at-home version of coconut seltzer.