Nicole Krasinski and Stuart Brioza, chefs and co-owners of San Francisco’s Michelin-starred State Bird Provisions, have a lot of packing to do. Next week, they’re returning to Colorado after an almost 13-year hiatus to cook a four-course dinner on April 12 at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder. Not only do they need to be prepared for the Centennial State’s notoriously fickle spring weather, but they also want to bring ingredients from their farm and favorite purveyors. “We have a farm about 35 minutes south of our restaurants where we raise a lot of ingredients biodynamically,” Brioza says, “so we’ll bring out quite a few things, from garnishes to lettuces, to show what we do every day here [at State Bird Provisions]. We want to put our best foot forward and really show off the diversity and uniqueness of what we do.”
State Bird Provisions is indeed a unique, and much lauded, restaurant. Since opening in 2011, it’s won numerous awards—from Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant in 2012 and the same award from the James Beard Foundation in 2013 to the Beard Award for Best Chef: West in 2015. Oh, and it’s earned a Michelin star every year since 2014, to boot. What each of these accolades celebrate is Brioza and Krasinski’s joyful, creative cooking and dim sum style service via roving carts (a model that Dana Rodriguez will emulate at her forthcoming Super Mega Bien! in the Ramble Hotel in RiNo). It’s a restaurant that Bay Area diners line up around the block for, but Coloradans need only make a reservation for next Thursday to score a meal featuring Brioza and Krasinski’s greatest hits, detailed in their gorgeous cookbook.
So, what exactly are the duo bringing with them for the meal? The aforementioned greens and herbs and garnishes from their farm; greengage plum jam and umeboshi (Japanese-style pickled plums) made with the farm’s fruit; some of Krasinski’s sourdough starter (affectionately called Baby) for State Bird’s beloved sourdough pancakes; and preserved anchovies. “Our local anchovy season began on Saturday,” explains Brioza. If you’ve read their cookbook, you know that this is a very big deal: The fish arrive at the restaurant just hours after being caught, and when they do, six cooks immediately stop what they’re doing to butcher and brine the anchovies. After two days, the fish are lightly pickled, and are then stored in oil to preserve them indefinitely. These are fish to be savored, and, served with fried butter beans and a tomato vinaigrette, they’re sure to convert the most devout anchovy-hater.
Hearts of palm and passionfruit are also special ingredients the chefs are featuring on their Frasca menu, which come from Wailea Agricultural Group, a farm on Hawaii’s Big Island that Brioza and Krasinski have worked with for 20 years; the couple was married on the farm in 2010. “The hearts of palm will be cut the day before the dinner and shipped straight to Boulder,” Brioza says. “And I’ll use their passionfruit in a curd for ice cream sandwiches,” Krasinski says. “It’s pretty amazing stuff.”
While there will be no roving dim sum carts at Frasca come Thursday night—save the restaurant’s amari cart—Brioza and Krasinski are going to treat their guests to a number of State Bird’s signature dishes, including the eponymous State Bird with Provisions. This stunner features deep-fried, pumpkin-seed-breaded, buttermilk-marinated quail (California’s state bird), served over a bed of meltingly soft sweet onions redolent of rosemary and lemon, topped with shavings of salty Parmesan, fresh chives, and ground black pepper.
As a nod to Frasca’s stellar pasta reputation, Brioza decided to prepare his guinea hen dumplings. “We’ve never travelled with this dish before,” says Krasinksi, but Brioza is confident the Frasca kitchen will be equipped with everything they need to pull it off. “It’s complex, but I know they’ll have plenty of rolling tables for the dough,” Brioza says. That dough will be wrapped into a rustic parcel around confited guinea hen with preserved lemon, brown butter, and sweet Middle Eastern spices; the dumplings are boiled, then seared, and served in a pho-inspired broth.
As delicious as that all sounds—and there are more savory dishes, too; see below for the full menu—Krasinski, State Bird’s pastry chef, is not to be outdone. Her “ice cream sandwiches,” for example, will consist of frozen passionfruit sabayon sandwiched between layers of cocoa nib macaron. “They’re spectacular,” Brioza says, “and unlike any ice cream sandwich you’ve eaten.” For a sweet take on chips ‘n dip, she’ll serve crunchy chocolate feuilletine bark with her housemade greengage plum jam. And the meal will end as almost every State Bird experience does: with a shot of Krasinski’s “World Peace” peanut muscovado milk. “It’s been on the menu since we opened,” Krasinski says, “and it’s the perfect way to finish. With all the flavors from the savory food being so bright and bold, the milk is very simple and comforting.”
To taste the full menu (with wine pairings), meet Brioza and Krasinski, and receive a copy of their cookbook, make your reservation here.
Frasca Food and Wine, 1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966
- duck liver mousse with almond biscuit
- sourdough, sauerkraut, pecorino & ricotta pancakes
- smoked trout with beet kraut & horseradish chip &
- local anchovies, fried butter beans, tomato vinaigrette
- guinea hen dumpling with aromatic broth
- fresh heart of palm salad with tahini-chile dressing
- carrot ‘mochi’ with brown butter & pistachio dukkah
- fried pork belly with citrus, fish sauce, long pepper
- CA state bird with provisions
- grilled beef and brussels sprouts salad with shiso
- passion fruit curd ‘ice cream’ sandwich, cocoa nib
- ‘world peace’ peanut muscovado milk
- dark and white chocolate crunches with greengage jam