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Home Grown

To the south, east, and southwest of Denver, Colorado’s corn belt unfolds in a swaying, undulating blanket of green stalks and tasseled tops—a verdant, million-plus-acre piece of American heartland. But most of it isn’t for you. Grain corn for livestock feed and ethanol composes majority of the yield; less than 8,000 acres are devoted to sweet corn. Olathe, a small farming community between Delta and Montrose on the Western Slope, raises the most desirable ears, in part because of the area’s sweltering days and chilly nights—both of which help ensure the corn plants lock in sweetness. Look for the telltale yellow and white kernels on shelves near you this month. Buy in bulk; Olathe corn freezes well.

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Home Grown

Fifty Colorado products perfect for the pantry, the gift list, or tonight's dinner table.

Get sticky fingers from Lucile’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam. You know the stuff—it’s a thing of legend on those hot-from-the-fryer beignets. Five bucks buys you a jar of jam that’s just as perfect at home on toast, biscuits, pancakes, and bagels.

Delight in a Telluride Truffle. Made in Telluride, these delicious triangular sweets are crafted from Belgian chocolate and organic Colorado cream. The shape evokes the Rocky Mountains, and each truffle’s name and flavor are inspired by the slopes—Bunny Hill, Powder Day, Blizzard. Our favorite is Mud Season, a blend of milk chocolate and hazelnut.

Crunch through a Nita Crisp. If there’s one staple that’s always in our pantry, it’s these thin, lightly salted crackers. Dreamt up by Fort Collins caterer Nenita Pellegrino, these flatbreads may be eaten plain, topped with cheese, spread with peanut butter, or piled with roasted turkey or veggies. And thanks to the low sodium and zero trans-fat content, we can feel good about the snack.

Pour a glass from Sutcliffe Vineyards. If you’ve shied away from Colorado wines thinking they were too young, this small, Cortez-based vineyard will change your mind. The Syrah drinks beautifully, with cocoa and black-pepper nuances, as does the balanced, honeysuckle-tinged Pinot Gris. As a testament to its quality, some of Denver’s best restaurants pour Sutcliffe wines. (For more on Sutcliffe, check out the profile of John Sutcliffe on page 118.)

Add Perri’s Gourmet Food’s Roasted-Garlic Asparagus Spears to a Bloody Mary. Though best known for her all-natural buffalo and elk jerky, we’ve taken a liking to Perri A. Doutré’s pickled asparagus spears. Savory enough for snacking, they also work well on a crudités platter, or for dressing up a cocktail.

Break bread with the Denver Bread Company. Flour is ever-present inside this northwest Denver bakery—it hangs in the air, coats the counter, and is a dead giveaway that this shop specializes in just one thing: spectacular loaves. We never leave without purchasing a crusty boule (the bakery’s signature product), and, for a treat, we pick up a couple of orange-honey buns.

Buy a shortbread cookie from Gateaux Specialty Cakes and Pastries. We consider these treats to be good enough to turn around a bad day. Dipped in icing, delicate, and perfectly buttery, this Denver bakery’s cookies have perfected the art of indulgence. We dare you to eat just one.

Twirl a spoonful of golden ambrosia Madhava Honey. This Lyons honey is made by bees that spend 80 days a year high in the Rockies. The result is an exquisite elixir naturally infused with the essence of high-alpine wildflowers.

Melt Epicurean Butter over steak or pasta. We first tasted these locally made compound butters in 2004 when John Hubschman (former corporate chef of the Denver ChopHouse & Brewery) sent samples to the office. We were hooked, and now count the tomato-chipotle (on fried eggs or in grilled cheese sandwiches), honey-pecan (slathered on pancakes or hot oatmeal), and chile-lime (over grilled chicken or fish tacos) as favorites.

Spice things up with Primo Specialty Foods’ Preserves. These Denver-made fruit conserves get a kick from jalapeño, habanero, and ancho chiles—and they pair beautifully with cheeses (especially the loganberry-ancho preserves). We also adore Primo’s zesty mango chutney on grilled pork loin.

Wait for Wholesome Milk Products’ seasonal eggnog. We look forward to the changing of the seasons, if only to indulge in this northern Colorado dairy’s treat. Besides pouring as thick as melted ice cream, we think Wholesome’s secret is that the all- natural milk goes from cow to bottle in just half a day.

Start the day with Udi’s Natural Artisan Granola. It all began with pastry chef and Udi partner Yasmin Lozada-Hissom’s grandmother’s granola recipe. The homespun combo took off, and now Udi’s is the 11th-largest granola company in the country. We regularly breakfast on the Hawaiian flavor, with wholesome thick-cut oats, Colorado wildflower honey, nuts, and dried fruit. Bonus: Granola chunks (called “Udi’s Nuggets”) make for easy snacking at your desk.

Taste the onset of fall in Big B’s Fabulous Juices. Thirty-five years of making cider and juices in Hotchkiss have perfected these organic refreshments. While we love sampling the variations (from cherry-apple juice to ginger-apple cooler), we always go back to the well-rounded flavor of the original Big B’s: a gallon of cold-pressed apple cider that’s made from the pulp of 48 apples.

Throw a Continental Sausage on the grill. This Denver company’s recipes haven’t been altered in more than 35 years, which means Continental makes sausage by chopping (not grinding) all-natural meats and using whole, organic fruits and veggies rather than powders, flavorings, or MSG. Bonus: Get to know the Continental Deli in Cherry Creek North—the shop serves as the company’s retail outlet, and it’s also a popular lunch spot.

Savor De Vries Costa Rican Trinitario dark chocolate. If you think all the talk about single-origin chocolate is just jibber-jabber, take a small bite of this bar and discover the depth and richness that comes with quality. Denver-based chocolatier Steve De Vries explains it this way, “Chocolate is about what happens in your mouth.” And we can attest that one tantalizing bite will convince you that chocolate is food, not candy.

Top a slice of baguette with Sunlight. This semi-hard, raw-milk goat cheese, courtesy of Niwot’s Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, has a washed rind, tastes slightly sweet, and is aged for 60 days. Pair with dried cherries, sliced apples, or grapes—and sip a Sauvignon Blanc or a refreshing lager.

Pat on Sweet Mama’s Kansas City Style Rub from Savory Spice Shop. This sugar- and paprika-spiced rub with a salty-smoky taste pairs well with just about everything you put on the grill. The sugar-salt balance is killer—and perfect on oven fries.

Dress up a cheese plate with Frasca Food and Wine’s Red Pepper Jelly. The recipe for this zippy and sweet accompaniment originated with chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson’s grandmother. Try it at the restaurant, and then serve it at home paired with cheese, roasted potatoes, or simply bagels and cream cheese.

Get in line for Carly’s Gold. This Carbondale-made mustard is often one of the first items to sell out at Colorado farmers’ markets. The recipe is top-secret, but fresh herbs, olive oil, and mustard seeds combine for a clean, slightly acidic taste that heightens flavor. We like it as a dipping sauce or on grilled salmon.

Sip on a cup of Novo Coffee. In a world overrun by Starbucks, this Denver-based specialty coffee company stands as an oasis. We could wax rhapsodic about single-origin beans from La Concordia, Colombia, or the caramelized flavors of Ojo de Agua from Volcan, Panama, or you can just try it. You will taste a difference.

Nurse a glass of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. This smooth and pure-tasting whiskey reflects the Rocky Mountains—and the fact that the Denver-based distiller only makes three barrels a week. To truly appreciate the spicy undertone, serve Stranahan’s on the rocks.

Chew on a piece of Colorado Homestead Ranches Jerky. One of the things we like best about these elk and buffalo jerkies is that they don’t contain nitrates—the Paonia-based company knows the offerings are flavorful enough without synthetics. We favor snacking on the savory, slightly smoky buffalo.

Toss back a handful of Patsy’s Candies Original Popcorn. Legend has it that Cracker Jack was spawned from this Colorado Springs company’s recipe. Whether it’s true or not, we know that the butterscotch-coated popcorn is divinely addictive.

Dip into Wen Chocolates’ caramel sauce. Made in Denver by pastry chef William Poole, this decadent treat can easily be enjoyed by the spoonful. Of course, it’s more polite to drizzle it over ice cream, crêpes, shortbread cookies, toast…. Poole also makes a chocolate sauce that’s so dark it’s nearly black—and it glints as if made with gold. We dare you to find something more decadent than a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with both.

Fan the flames with Danny Cash’s High Altitude Gourmet Hot Sauces. These habanero-based sauces—created by a Mohawk-sporting, motorcycle-riding bad-boy—aren’t for the faint of heart. The garlic-serrano blend rates a seven out of 10. (According to Cash, Tabasco rates a four on the scale.) Now that there are six sauces, this Denver resident has branched out into condiments. Keep an eye out for the kicky habanero ketchup and habanero honey mustard.

Munch on cookies from Ice Box Bakery. These Boulder-made, refrigerated cookie doughs trump the commercial slice-and-bake disks—and well they should as they’re free of preservatives and stabilizers. And did we mention these all-natural doughs were dreamt up by Boulder pastry chefs Allison Patterson (former owner of Allison’s Espresso) and Jennifer Bush (of Blue Fine Pastries fame)? Flavors range from deluxe chocolate chip to farmers’ market cherry pie, but our pick is the chewy ginger spice.

Page through Colorado Organic. This gorgeous cookbook features recipes from Colorado chefs, farmer profiles, and stunning portraits of people and product. Look for the likes of Ryan Hardy (of the Little Nell in Aspen), Teri Rippeto (Potager), Patrick DuPays (Z Cuisine Bistrot & Parisian Wine Bar), and Mark Fischer (Six89 in Carbondale).

Mix in Peak Spirits’ premium organic liquors. The Hotchkiss-based distillery turns out stellar small-batch elixirs that include lavender-scented CapRock Organic Dry Gin (the nation’s first organic gin), a smooth organic vodka, and a potent grappa.

Cook up a pot of Pappardelle’s pasta. Find a wide selection of the homespun noodles, ravioli, and orzo at Colorado farmers’ markets. Our go-to flavors are the harvest squash ravioli and whole-wheat linguine. Bonus: Look for the very tasty gluten-free varieties. 303-321-4222

Make a difference by purchasing a product from the Women’s Bean Project. By spending $5 on a soup or cookie mix (which are prepared and packaged by WBP participants working their way out of poverty), you not only end up with a fresh pot of soup or home-baked cookies, you also support a worthy community program.

Snack on Ela Family Farms’ Apples Aplenty Applesauce. This Hotchkiss-based farm grows full-flavored organic apples for sale, and also blends Golden Delicious, Golden Supreme, Jonathan, Gala, and Jonagold apples for this smooth, well-rounded treat. Ela products also include jams, fruit butter, nectar, and cider made from the farm’s homegrown organic cherries, peaches, pears, grapes, and berries.

Pair cheese with 34° Crispbread crackers. Baked without oil, this Denver-based company’s crackers are thin, crunchy, and healthy. We find that though they’re flavorful none of the four varieties—natural, sesame, cracked pepper, and rosemary—overpower accompanying cheeses, dips, or spreads.

Swap out marinade for Marczyk Fine Foods’ Sun-dried Tomato Pesto. Always stocked in the to-go case, this market-made pesto adds je ne sais quoi to any ho-hum sandwich or boring soup. We also add it to sea bass before wrapping the fish in foil and putting it on the grill.

Spoon Café Bernard’s citrus-plum preserves over toast. Each year Café Bernard owners Bernard Moffroid and Cathy Click put up batches of jam, then serve it in little pots at their Basalt-based French restaurant. (They also sell it during the holiday season at Basalt’s Wyly Community Art Center.) We love the citrus-plum for its tang of preserved rind, but the most popular jam flavor is apricot. 970-927-4292

Suck down a glass of fizzy handcrafted Tiger Root Beer from Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Company. Brewed on-site, the full-bodied, brown sugar and honey-rich flavor stands up to a hearty meal—and turns into dessert when paired with stout ice cream.

Satisfy a sweet tooth with Hammond’s Candies. There’s something magical about a candy factory from 1920 that spins sugar (from Colorado-grown sugar beets, no less) into glassy colors and shapes. The hard candies aside, we simply can’t get enough of Hammond’s Mitchell Sweets. These squishy handmade marshmallows come cloaked in caramel for a just-right combo of salty-sweet.

Scoop up Boulder Ice Cream. For the past 15 years, this company has slow-churned all-natural, super-premium ingredients like cage-free eggs and rBGH-free Colorado cream and milk. The result is an extraordinarily creamy, flavor-dense treat. There are 20-some flavors, but we think the vanilla and Island Coconut flavors are superb. Bonus: Boulder Ice Cream powers its manufacturing plant with wind, and it recently launched a line of USDA-certified organic ice cream.

Nab a jar of Loredana’s Siena Fra Diavolo at Colorado farmers’ markets. Pop the top, cut up a baguette, and serve the Asiago and Parmesan cheese marinated in olive oil, garlic, spices, and fresh jalapeños for a kicky hors d’oeuvre. Or, toss Loredana’s basil and walnut pesto (called Casalinga) with pasta for an easy dinner.

Snare a fillet of Villa Tatra’s Smoked Salmon. The Pinewood Springs restaurant smokes fresh salmon and trout in its on-site smokehouse. The result: salmon that tastes of juniper and applewood, and trout that’s reminiscent of cherry- and applewoods. Robust and memorable, this smoked fish is so popular it’s carried at Whole Foods.

Slather a piece of toast with Justin’s Nut Butter. Proof that all peanut butters are not created equal, Justin’s shuns the use of refined sugar and hydrogenated oils in favor of organic Valencia peanuts, unfiltered all-natural honey, and sea salt. The result: natural, healthy, and yummy-tasting peanut butter. We’re also addicted to the not-too-sweet honey almond butter.

Serve ColoRouge when company comes over. This mild and buttery cheese, which is made by MouCo Cheese Company in Fort Collins, makes a perfect appetizer when drizzled with honey and topped with toasted almonds. Not only did this washed-rind cheese win an award from the American Cheese Society in 2004, but each package is also dated so you can select ColoRouge as you like it (the younger the cheese, the firmer the texture and milder the flavor).

Drizzle ice cream with Izzybelle Chocolate sauces. Made in Lakewood by Karen and Jim Day, these decadent toppings are crafted from all-natural, organic ingredients. We first discovered Izzybelle at the Truffle Cheese Shop, and now the sundae-worthy peanut butter-chocolate blend is a dessert staple.

Read all about it on Papaya Pâté. We check this blog (written by local chefs John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom) regularly for an insider’s take on Denver cuisine—and the world of food as a whole. Follow the duo down Federal Boulevard on the hunt for bahn mi sandwiches or to New York for dinner at Momofuku. In addition to an honest take on restaurants and trends, Papaya Pâté is ripe with recipes, gorgeous photos, and cooking tips. For any food lover, this is a gold mine.

Grab a handful of Oogie’s Gourmet Popcorn. These delicious kernels, which come in tempting flavors such as smoked Gouda (our favorite) and sun-dried tomato and Parmesan, are the brainchild of three Denver friends looking for a healthy, tasty snack. Although the corn is popped in Oregon, we had to give them kudos for creating eats that are cholesterol-free, trans-fat-free, gluten-free, and certified kosher.

Turn up the heat with San Mateo Gourmet Foods’ Chili Verde. Cabrini Lucero, owner of this Highland company, prides herself on maintaining a good balance of flavor and fire. This chile has kick for sure, but the flavor is punched with smoke and pork from Coleman Natural Foods. Try it slathered on a fried egg.

Pop the top on a Dale’s Pale Ale. We’ve got to hand it to Lyons’ Oskar Blues Cajun Grill & Brewery for single-handedly banishing the stigma of canned beer. This small-batch, homegrown pale ale is hoppy, confident, and totally refreshing. And how many other canned brews can claim the titles of “Top American Pale Ale” ( the New York Times), “#1 Rated U.S. Beer” (New York magazine), and “World’s Best Canned Beer” (Details)?

Ask for a double scoop of Josh & John’s ice cream. This Colorado Springs company makes its mark with gourmet, all-natural ice cream in memorable flavors: oatmeal cookie, yellowcake, and Pikes Perk Coffee are especially good. Even better is the Sundae Bar, a trolling cart that can be rented out for events.

Stock the shelves with Spinelli’s Sauce Company’s Italian sauces. Though we’re usually skeptical of overly sweet jarred spaghetti sauces, Spinelli’s marinara, roasted garlic fra diavolo, and creamy tomato-vodka deliver robust, true flavor. Created by Spinelli’s, a Park Hill market that has served gourmet foods since 1994, these sauces contain no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

Pick up dinner at Tamales by La Casita. The Sandoval family has been making and selling tamales in northwestern Denver since 1974. We never get tired of unwrapping the corn husk to find steamed masa filled with red-chile pork or green chile and cheese. Apparently we’re not the only ones—La Casita sells about 12,000 tamales a day. 303-455-2190

This article was originally published in 5280 October 2008.
Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.