Several years ago, my good friend Snooty returned from visiting his sister in Boulder, CO, and delivered a forty-five minute rave to our group about a restaurant he discovered called Frasca. A few years later, another friend(who has eaten across the globe better than anyone else I know) placed Frasca in his top-ten favorite restaurants in the country. I could go on with a dozen other praises from a dozen other friends, but I’ll spare you that. Add in the facts that: 1) Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson was named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs in 2005, along a few other gentlemen who I have friendships with and great respect for; 2) Bobby Stuckey has a positive notoriety among sommeliers I’ve met from East to Left coasts; 3) Frasca has garnered more than a handful of James Beard nods.
With all that in mind, I said for a number of years that next time I found myself in Colorado, I would certainly make time for a meal at Frasca. It seemed the more time went by, the less likely I would be to find myself in the Centennial State. Well..after ten years working for the same employer at two different jobs, I decided to leave my position and my home and go through with my move to NYC, which had been in planning for roughly seven years. Before leaving fly-over country, I decided somewhat suddenly to go on a road trip West with The Bro, mainly to spend some quality time with him, but also to visit a few restaurants on my to-eat list(Frasca being the the first, and Forage in Salt Lake City, a new addition to my list, being the second). I could go on typing about the move and the trip, but since the four people who are likely to read this post already know all this, I’ll move on to the meal.
During their [somewhat] recent renovation, Frasca added two small kitchen tables, which is where I requested to be seated. Traffic and hotel check-in went much faster than planned, so we were two hours early for our reservation but still seated without a hitch. The Bro and I were welcomed with a tray of chips and glasses of Anselmi Tocai Friulano: a dry, aromatic wine with a floral nose; then briefed on the menu and its Friulian influence.
We quickly glanced at the menu and gave the team Carte Blanche, saying we wanted a great expression of their cuisine. Offers for supplements(Salumi, wine pairings, white truffles) were met with swift affirmatives.
First up, the Salumi plate: Prosciutto di San Daniele, Friuli; Speck, Alto Adige; Salame alla Scarpetta, Boulder, CO; Rafano(horseradish); Frico Caldo(Yukon Potato with onion and Montasio cheese); Grissini. This was pretty much straightforward. Supple, salty cuts from Italy. An impressive fatty cut from Bobby and Lachlan’s project: Scarpetta. And the star of the plate for me: the expertly crisped Frico. Along with the Salumi came Adami’s Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Bosco di Gica, rich and fruitful with delicate bubbles, and bread service, which I could take or leave, but The Bro couldn’t get enough of, as several times he involuntarily reached across the table to grab it off my plate.
‘Bocconcino’ – Walnut, Apple, Colossal Onion, Horseradish. I adore the idea of this dish. And I often love a flare of sweet with my savory. While I enjoyed the onion, the sweetness of the purse outweighed the other flavors a little much for me. Though the Marco Felluga Molamatta Collio Bianco(Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, and Pinot Bianco I think) was a nice pair with its exotic fruit palate and light vanilla finish.
‘Casöla Bergamasca’ – Pork Rib, Sausage, Cabbage, Filone. This was a winner. For a moment I thought it may be too heavy for its place in the tasting, but it was a spot-on perfect blend of richness, stewed vegetal flavor, saltiness and delicate acid. I could have knocked back a few more of these finger-tender pork ribs without skipping a beat in the progression. St Michael Eppan Lagrein was the matched wine here. For this dish, I would have opted for more intense tannin for the pork fat, but the clean, fresh minerality and light berry and earth flavors of the Lagrein shine a few courses later in the meal.
‘Gnocchi alle Susine’ – Traditional Friulana Pasta. We were told this was the most traditional, typical dish of Friuli. Potato Gnocchi with Plum Sauce. The gnocchi was superbly textured and flavored. The plum added a full, sweet, almost jammy flavor, which complemented, but didn’t overpower the pasta. Matteo Correggia’s Barbera d’Alba: ripe dark berries, earthy herbaciousness, and slight oak, made for a great back-and-forth between wine and cuisine.
Now for a supplement. Neutral risotto with shaved Alba Truffles. The risotto, perfectly executed and plated on the table, acted as a vessel for the feature, offering a light snap of texture and heat to get the aromatics going. The white truffles of course speak for themselves. Worth mentioning are the
generous supplement charge, and the treat of a pairing. 2007 Vietti Barolo Castiglione. I was worried this young wine would be holding back, but the nose was full of cherry, violet, mint, and tar; a great compliment to the earthy nose of the truffles. The palate was still full, with smooth tannin and fresh acidity that balanced the high alcohol.
‘Salmone’ – Alaskan Salmon, Red Wine, Sage and Potato. A mildly flavored cut of salmon. Purple potatoes(I assume blanched and roasted) treated with a helping of herbs. Carrot, onion, and red wine soffrito. Earlier, when drinking the Lagrein, I mentioned to The Bro: ‘This is the type of wine I was looking for to pair with that Arctic Char a few months back.’ So how fitting it was the wine re-emerged as the match for the salmon. The light fruit, earth, and mineral notes I mentioned earlier were ideal with the fish and sauce.
‘Maiale Arrosto’ – Eden Farm Pork Loin, Barley, Chanterelle and Hazelnut. The loin was precisely tender, juicy, and beautifully flavored. The pearl barley added a fun, savory snap. The mushrooms supplied peppery earthiness. The kale, a clarifying vegetality(a term I just invented). Accompanying the pig, a dynamite Friulian Merlot by Ronco del Gnemiz. The firm but refined tannins, elegant black fruit, and spice and leather notes could pass this wine off as a Right-bank Bordeaux. It was a pleasure.
The pork loin was intended to be the last savory course, but I decided I wasn’t quite ready for that moment and asked if we could try ‘Tagliatelle ai Porcini’ with Duck Ragu and Spigarello Kale. Within mere moments, The Bro and I were served fresh, porcini infused pasta covered with a rich duck sauce, along with a glass of deep, dark purple, smoky, dried berry and twig flavored Monti Garbi Ripasso from Valpolicella by Tenuta Sant’Antonio. Certainly not the best expression of the region and style, but a more than serviceable partner for the tagliatelle.
For the sweeter side, we were given a sample of a few desserts: chocolate cake, two gelato flavors, and a fruit tart. Also, a passionfruit chocolate. And, by my request, a few biscotti. The effects that alcohol sometimes has on ones memory seemed to have erased any specific mental notes I may have taken with regard to these bites. Though the boozy side of things I recall keenly.
For the dessert pairing, we had Royal Tokaji 5 puttonyos, a botrytized friend I’m well acquainted with and am always happy to see. After that, and after some talking with one of the many sommeliers about anisettes and amari, I ended up with some wonderfully spicy, saffron scented, bitter Meletti Amaro. After finishing that and paying the tab, I got into a conversation with Mr Stuckey about Boulder, Kansas City, and NYC that led to me inquiring about Frasca’s Strega inventory(a logical progression). I was kindly treated to a shot(or three) of my favorite witch’s brew at the bar before The Bro and I bid adieu and returned to the hotel.
My first meal in the hands of Lachlan and Bobby and their team was certainly a fantastic one. Frasca has the best take on refined, progressive Italian cuisine in the USA, as far as I’ve been able to find. The talent of the whole crew is apparent. And their knowledge(especially in wine) is more than impressive. The service staff boasts several Master and Advanced Sommeliers, and if I understood right, over half the FOH employees are Certified Somms. The Bro and I discussed trying to make another visit on our way back from SLC, but with only a few days left for me to finish packing and move out of the house, we decided it best to save our return for another time. But next time I find myself in Colorado, I’ll positively find myself seated back at Frasca.
Date of visit: December 1st, 2011
Drinks while typing: 2000 r lopez de heredia vina tondonia rosé; leffe brune