Taste of Pearl 2015 in Boulder, Colorado

I first blogged about Taste of Pearl two years ago; it was my first time at the event.

Although we didn’t make it to last year’s event, the man and I were thrilled to attend it last Saturday.

We noticed some changes to the event this year, including a nifty plate/cup holder setup which made trying the samples and holding a glass of wine much easier to accomplish.

On both Taste of Pearl events, the man and I decided we’d try each bite—even if it wasn’t something we’d typically eat (lamb and oysters for me, veggies for him). That said, I was surprised to hear the amount of dissatisfied attendees who were upset with the restaurants for not providing a vegetarian or gluten-free open. In a food event like this, you should expect (at least I hope) that restaurants want to showcase their best bites, and often those will involve some sort of protein. If you have specific dietary requirements, I suggest you sit these types of events out.

Overall most of the bites we had were pretty good, despite being quite similar (if not the same) bites we had two years ago. I was rather disappointed at the lack of ingenuity, and for some—food! One restaurant ran out of food an hour early from the event, which, quite frankly, there is no excuse for in a ticketed event, with a specific number of ticket holders (the event was sold out!). Given these concerns, I’ll have to think hard on whether $65 per ticket is really worth it.

That said, without further ado, here’s a bit on each stop:

Host Location: Earthwood Gallery
Winery: Garfield Estates Winery
Restaurant: Spruce Farm and Fish
Blue Island Oysters with lemon-cucumber mignonette and basil.

spruce-farm-and-fish-taste-of-pearl

This was the first oyster I’ve ever tried. The texture wasn’t my favorite (I think I took too much time chewing than just going for it. The lemon-cucumber mignonette and basil was bright and fresh, and both the man and I enjoyed it immensely.

Host Location: Starr’s Clothing Co.
Winery: Bookcliff Vineyards
RestaurantFlagstaff House
Ahi tuna with ginger couscous on a celery root chip + braised lamb shank with truffled polenta.

flagstaff-house-taste-of-pearl

You might notice that both of these dishes look suspiciously like the 2013 Taste of Pearl Event:

taste-of-pearl-boulder-flagstaff-housetaste-of-pearl-flagstaff-house-2

Despite their lack of creativity over the years, these two bites were still equally delicious and some of our favorites.

Host Location: Chelsea
Winery: Aspen Peak Cellars
Restaurant:Leaf Vegetarian
Mushroom pâté with peanut butter and salt tarte

leaf-taste-of-pearl

The mushroom pâté was pretty good, but I felt the ratio of pâté to crostini a bit off. I wish they included more on the bread. I confess peanut butter isn’t my favorite, but I found the “tarte,” if you could call it as such, was chewy and lacking in texture.

Host Location: Art + Soul Gallery
Winery: Augustina’s Winery
RestaurantFrasca
Poulard liver mousse with pickled onion + Filone

frasca-taste-of-pearl

Let me preface by saying I really, really dislike liver. The last time I indulged on this protein was on a 2011 trip to France, when our dear hosts served us their prized foie gras (and I didn’t want to be rude). That said, this bite from Frasca made me reexamine where I stand on the protein altogether.

Host Location: Barbara & Company
Winery: Balistreri Vineyards
Restaurant: Ají
Bacon-wrapped chorizo stuffed dates

aji-taste-of-pearl

Sadly, this was the worst bite served (worse than not even having a bite at all, which I’ll discuss later below). These bites were uninspired and poorly executed—you’ll note the fat hasn’t even rendered out from the bacon, leaving it chewy and depressing. Coming from a Cuban family, I was disappointed that the restaurant failed to showcase the fun, exciting flavors of latin cuisine (aside from the chorizo, this was anything but latin). Plus, their representative merely stood at the table and instructed us to grab a toothpick and dig into a buffet server. Other restaurant representatives (often the executive chef themselves) were finishing the dish on-site with the same care and attention they would in their brick and mortar.

Host Location: Pedestrian Shops
Winery: Grande River Vineyards
Restaurant: Pizzeria Locale
Polpettine di Maiale finished with smoked ricotta salata and chili oil.

pizzeria-locale-taste-of-pearl

Again, this bite was suspiciously similar to the 2013 rendition…but the man and I didn’t care. These meatballs are delectable and the extra few squirts of chili oil sent my man over the moon.

Host Location: Art Source International
Winery: Wild Cider
Restaurant: Japango
Diablo roll with spicy tuna + avocado, and marinated pork belly.

japango-taste-of-pearl

The duo from Japango was a delicious favorite. Though my piece of pork belly wasn’t as warm as I would’ve preferred, the flavors were excellent and we look forward to ordering that next time we visit.

This was also our first time sampling from Wild Cider—delish!

Host Location: Savory Spice Shop
Winery: Kingman Estates Winery
Restaurant: Riff’s Urban Fare
Albacore tuna, roast cauliflower, pistachio, mint + preserved lemon vinaigrette.

riffs-taste-of-pearl

I really enjoyed the flavors of Riff’s bite, perhaps even moreso as I watched Chef John Platt (aka riffmaster) serving up the dishes. I’m a big fan of preserved lemon, and I think about the rude man who was so eager to snatch a dish from Chef Platt that he missed the finishing touch of sea salt which really rounded out the entire bite.

Host Location: Oliverde
Winery: Settembre Cellars
Restaurant: SALT
Albacore tuna with roasted pepper, olive and dried tomato finished with a chipotle olive oil.

salt-bistro-taste-of-pearl

This was a lovely dish with savory, crisp flavors that I believe would’ve paired well with the wine (if there wasn’t such a long line we might’ve tried them together). They had a lovely table, and I appreciated Chef Bradford Heap making an appearance to support his chef and the event.

Host Location: Ku Cha House of Tea
Winery: Garrett Estate Cellars
RestaurantThe Mediterranean
Chicken Pastillas with cilantro, apricots and pine nuts.

the-med-boulder-taste-of-pearl

I love tapas, and the Mediterranean is one of my favorite places to visit (particularly in the summer). These Chicken Pastillas had a lot of good flavor, but were perhaps slightly on the dry side. I would’ve enjoyed more than the small dollop of tahini on top.

Host Location: Athleta
Winery: Avanti Winery
Restaurant: Brasserie TenTen
Duck liver pâté with smoked rhubarb mostarda + pickled radish

brasserietenten-taste-of-pearl

Pâté is not one of my favorite dishes, and you’ll never see me ordering it on a night out. However, I did enjoy this bite from Brasserie TenTen, which had good proportions and a lovely balance of flavor with the smoked rhubarb accompaniment.

Host Location: SmithKlein Art Gallery
Winery: What We Love Winery
Restaurant: Centro
Chicken Chili braised mini tostadas and shrimp ceviche shoots

centro-taste-of-pearl

Centro’s shrimp ceviche had some nice spice I was not expecting! These small bites were the bright, latin flavors I missed on from Ají.

What We Love Winery might be new to the scene, but they are absolutely one to keep an eye on! Their sangria isn’t overly sweet, and contains a mix of spices (like cinnamon!) which makes a fun twist on a typical crowd favorite. An upcoming trip to their tasting room will be featured on the blog soon!

Host Location: Island Farm
Winery: Redstone Meadery
Restaurant: West End Tavern
Hickory smoked ribs

west-end-taste-of-pearl

What can I say, I’m a girl who loves smoky BBQ and good ribs. These ribs were da bomb and I was stoked when they offered me seconds.

Host Location: Weekends
Winery: Two Rivers Winery
Restaurant: OAK at Fourteenth
?

Oak-taste-of-pearl

As you can see, the dish promoted looked like it would’ve been delicious. Oak, however, ran out of food nearly an hour before the event even ended, which really disappointed me. As one of the top restaurants in town I expected them to plan appropriately for an event which had a limited amount of tickets.

Host LocationPatagonia
Winery: Verso Cellars
Restaurant: Jax Fish House
Oysters with cilantro + lime

At our final stop, I tried the second oyster I’ve ever had. Jax had a nice offering of different sauces to try, and I liked their recommendation to go with the cilantro + lime which gave the oyster a bright acidity. I enjoyed it so much that a third oyster in my future is not off the table.

jax-oyster-taste-of-pearl

And that’s it! 15 stops in 4 hours isn’t for the faint of heart, and after several wine tastings the last stops start to become a little more…fuzzy. Taste of Pearl is a fun event to indulge in on a Sunday afternoon!