Behind the glass there’s a burst of flame, a pinch of spice, and a quick stir of the hand. The oven door opens and closes; the knife chops, chops, chops; the pan sizzles. We’re inches away—protected from the back of the blazing stove by a thick window of heat-resistant glass—and nibbling farm cheese gnocchi, sipping wine, and taking in the show.

The “show” is chef-owner Eric Skokan at work in the kitchen at Black Cat, his farm-to-table bistro in Boulder. Our perch is table 31, a two-seater that abuts the restaurant’s galley kitchen. We happened upon this dining arrangement one slow Monday evening, but most Black Cat patrons request the table in advance.

The window dividing the kitchen and 31 affords curious diners and Skokan a dialogue. Over bites of dinner, regulars often knock on the window to ask questions: How long do you roast duck? How do you braise Swiss chard? Where do you source your cucumbers and chervil? The chef is generous with his answers, and he’s quick to explain that the majority of Black Cat’s produce comes from his organic farm just outside of Boulder.

On the 13th of this month, Skokan has been invited to cook his Front Range cuisine at the illustrious James Beard House in New York City. You can taste a dry-run of the menu—quail egg with smoked trout and peppercress and roasted Colorado lamb with the aromas of roses, Syrah, and black pepper—on October 5 and 6. But hurry to book your seat—especially if you’re after table 31. 1964 13th St., Boulder, 303-444-5500,

This article was originally published in 5280 October 2009.
Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.