You probably shouldn’t let yourself fall in love with any of the food at Acreage Restaurant by Stem Ciders in Lafayette, because it’s likely that the menu will be new when you return. Blame executive chef Eric Lee, whose dedication to ultra-seasonal, hyper-local sourcing translates to Acreage’s constantly evolving menu.
“I don’t really enjoy repeating dishes,” says Lee, formerly of the Kitchen, Jax Fish House, and Linger. “There’s so much possibility with each ingredient. It’s much more fun to get creative and imaginative.”
Lee’s inventiveness and sustainable, no-waste philosophy form the foundation for year-old Acreage’s recent move from counter-service spot to full-service restaurant, with an expanded menu to match. Lee’s relationships with area growers drive the food, using as much Colorado-grown produce as possible. One delicious example: a fresh Rebel Farms green salad tossed with shaved Manchego and candied pecans. Or the roasted beet salad, which stars vegetables from Isabelle Farm in Lafayette or Cure Organic Farm in Boulder, with juicy Western Slope cherries sourced by Cure Organic Farm complementing the earthy-sweet beets.
Sourcing from local producers is only the beginning for Lee and Acreage: The hilltop ciderhouse and eatery has also planted—and is harvesting from—an on-site 20,000-square-foot farm. Through a partnership with GoFarm Farmer Assistance Program, Acreage was paired with apprentice Sharon Harker, who is growing ingredients such as beans, tomatoes, eggplant, and lettuce.
While there are dishes on the menu based on products from out-of-state makers, Lee ensures that those artisans’ philosophies align with his own. For example, La Quercia speck from Norfolk, Iowa, and ‘Ndjua Artisans spreadable salami from Chicago are made exclusively with Berkshire pork raised humanely by small family farmers in the Midwest. Both are treated simply at Acreage: The speck, a lightly smoked, thinly sliced prosciutto, comes with apple or stone fruit butter, while the ‘nduja is served with pickled vegetables. Even better? The charcuterie arrives with Lee’s brown butter crackers alongside, the delicious result of his determination to create a biscuit-cracker hybrid. Flavored with brown butter, fennel pollen, and salt, the nutty crackers are habit-forming.
Many of Acreage’s offerings rightly feature Stem Ciders, including the house-made cider bratwurst, the cider aioli that accompanies Acreage’s fries, and the legendary gluten-free cider doughnuts.
With fall quickly approaching, Lee says he’s ready to execute a seasonal menu during the colder months. “Trying to be really Colorado focused and truly seasonal is awesome and beautiful in the spring, summer, and fall, but in the wintertime, it’s a challenge,” he says.
If Lee’s recent cooking is any indication, he’s surely up to the task.
1380 Horizon Ave., Unit A, Lafayette, 720-443-3007. Monday–Friday, 3 p.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m.–9 p.m.