A Taste of Colorado Table
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A Taste of Colorado Table

EATING UP THE STATE COLORADO STYLE —  @ColoradoTable  on Twitter


AURORA | A new partnership with Aurora public libraries and several of the city’s brewmasters went so well in its inaugural year that officials have decided to expand the program celebrating both books and beer in 2017.

The Aurora Public Library’s “Explore Aurora Craft Brews Tour” is growing its so-called passport program to include eight local watering holes from May 1 to Oct. 31 this year, the city announced in a news release Monday.

Organized by Aurora Public Libraries and Visit Aurora, the city’s de facto nonprofit tourism arm, the program offers prizes to people who visit various Aurora suds spots. In 2017, those breweries include Cheluna Brewing Co., Comrade Brewing Co., Dry Dock Brewing Co., Launch Pad Brewery, Peak to Peak Taproom, Stanley Beer Hall, Two22 Brew and Ursula Brewery.

Dry Dock

Dry Dock beer is made available for sale Jan. 24 at Chambers Wine & Liquor. It was sold out by Saturday, Jan. 26. The Aurora brewing company recently unveiled their new brewing and canning facility near Interstate 70 and Tower Road. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

20161129-Cheluna-Aurora, Colorado

Cheluna Brewing Co. assistant brewer, Charlie Krupanszky, stands with owners Javier and Jennifer Pérez on Tuesday Nov. 29, 2016 at Stanley Marketplace Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20160328-Launchpad-Aurora, Colorado

on Monday March 28, 2016 at Launchpad Brewery. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20150403-Brews To Do-Aurora, Colorado

Comrade Brewing Co. Honeyman 2 on Friday April 03, 2015 at Aurora Sentinel. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20160510-Ursula-Aurora, Colorado

on Tuesday May 10, 2016 at Ursula Brewery. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20161222-Stanley-Aurora, Colorado

Beer Hall on Thursday Dec. 22, 2016 at Stanley Marketplace. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

Only four breweries participated in the program in 2016, according to a post on the city’s Facebook page from last January. 

Participants are eligible to win prizes, including growlers and pint glasses, by getting stamps from beer servers in a small “passport” booklet that can be obtained at any Aurora library, online at AuroraLibrary.org and at some participating businesses. Participants must purchase a pint of beer to get a stamp. Four stamps nets a souvenir pint glass, and eight stamps will get imbibers a complimentary glass growler.

About 300 people participated in the program last year, according to Abraham Morales, spokesman for the city.

Megan Ellis, outreach and programming coordinator for the city’s library system, said the program helps highlight the ever-changing and multi-faceted functions of municipal libraries in 2017.

“Libraries in the 21st century are much more than just books so partnering with the eight local breweries gives us a great opportunity to support local business owners as well as showcase some of the fun, out-of-the-box offerings we have at the library,” Ellis said. “Last year’s inaugural tour was very well received, and we are excited to have Visit Aurora as a partnering host and new businesses join the tour this year.”

Participants will be able to pick up prizes they earn at any Aurora library through Nov. 8.

BROOKHAVEN, Miss. | After Hurricane Katrina wiped out his timber 11 years ago, Jason McDonald wanted a crop less susceptible to Mississippi’s potentially powerful storms.

Low maintenance was also a priority.

“I didn’t want to be a cattle farmer and chase down cattle at 3 or 4 in the morning,” McDonald said.

A chance encounter with South Carolina tea drew him into the growing ranks of North American farmers from Mississippi to British Columbia who are growing tea for the high-priced specialty market.

There’s money to be made because more Americans are willing to pay premium prices for what they consider top quality, tea consultant Nigel Melican said in a phone interview from Bedford, England.

The specialty tea market is growing 8 to 10 percent a year, according to Peter F. Goggi’s 2015 market review for the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc. Such teas are particularly attractive to millennials, who “find delight in the discovery of new and differentiated flavors, ethnic or new cultural offerings and craft selections,” he wrote.

Melican said U.S. wages are too high to compete with overseas farmers who grow the commodity tea commonly found on grocery shelves.

For example, a 4-ounce box of 50 Lipton black tea bags can be found online for $3, while Connecticut-based Bigelow Tea sells the South Carolina-grown product at $7.95 for a box of 12 tea bags weighing less than an ounce.

Compared with some prices, that’s peanuts.

Eliah Halpenny of Big Island Tea on the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii sells her black and green teas wholesale for about $42 an ounce. Her online retail prices work out to more than $75 an ounce.

Light of Day Organic Teas in Traverse City, Michigan, where plastic-covered “hoop houses” shelter tea plants eight months of the year, sells its home-grown white tea for $256 a pound or $32 for a 1.5-ounce tin. It takes 70,000 hand-picked leaf buds to make a pound of white tea, owner Angela Macke said.

“I don’t recommend it to anyone as a commercial crop. You’ve got to love it,” Macke said in a phone interview.

About 60 U.S. farms, with only a handful created before 2000, are growing tea, said Tygh Waters, president of the U.S. League of Tea Growers and founder of Piedmont Tea Co. in Athens, Georgia. Tea is grown in at least 15 states and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Outside of Hawaii, it generally takes about five years for plants to grow big enough to survive repeated harvests, Walters said.

A tea bag helped decide McDonald’s future after the 2005 hurricane wiped out 75 percent of the pine trees on his farm of nearly 5,000 acres near Tylertown, about 40 miles from what is now his Great Mississippi Tea Company in Brookhaven, Mississippi.

On a visit to South Carolina, he was served a tea called American Classic. The message on the teabag’s envelope intrigued him — this tea was home-grown.

That led him to the nation’s oldest working tea farm: Charleston Tea Plantation, started by Lipton in 1963 with plants that had grown wild on a defunct farm in Summerville, South Carolina. There, McDonald learned that tea comes from Camellia sinensis, which needs high heat, acidic soil, ample rainfall and humidity. Mississippi State University researchers helped him determine what varieties might be best for Mississippi.

After an unusually cold winter killed off nearly an entire year’s stock in Mississippi, McDonald began buying seeds from overseas, from places such as Nepal and Kenya. He’s looking to cross cold-hardy and heat-tolerant plants to produce a hybrid that will thrive in Mississippi.

He’s also planted seeds from a Hattiesburg woman named Penny, who gave him two huge plants for a promise to name some of their offspring after her. He says those seedlings are growing much faster than other varieties. Hoping for a copper-hued tea, McDonald named them “A Penny’s Worth of Copper.”

BOULDER, Colo. | Boulder is inching closer to opening a food truck park after two years of discussion.

The Daily Camera reports (http://bit.ly/24Vd4Iw ) that entrepreneurs are resubmitting plans for Boulder Food Park on Thursday. They call for a nearly 15,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor food truck staging area.

The idea has been discussed at multiple council meetings, undergone a use review process and been the subject of a city ordinance.

BFP partner Hank Grant says the political battle is over and the group is ready to move on to construction. He and partner Justin Riley say they hope to have the establishment open by Memorial Day.

Grant says there will be an indoor bar and stage as well as outdoor seating and yard games. About 20 food trucks have signed vendor agreements.

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Information from: Daily Camera, http://www.dailycamera.com/

AURORA | Aurora’s public libraries aren’t just doling out books these days — they’ve got something special for local beer aficionados, too.

The city’s libraries have partnered with seven local breweries in an effort to get folks to visit the local businesses and the city’s libraries.

“We thought since there is such a big brewing business in Colorado and here in Aurora, it would be a great partnership to bring book lovers and beer lovers together,” said Sara Van Cleve, programing and outreach library assistant for Aurora Public Libraries.

The participating breweries are: Copper Kettle Brewing Co., Ursula Brewery, Mu Brewery, Dry Dock Brewing Co., Two22Brew, Comrade Brewing Co. and Launchpad Brewing Co. 

Here’s how it works: Stop by a participating brewery and snag a passport. Get the passport stamped after you get a beer and after four stamps, bring it to any Aurora Public Library to receive a free pint glass. Once you have stamps from all seven, turn in your completed passport and get a free growler.

Van Cleve said 350 people have already signed up and the library has given out 25 growlers. The program goes through the end of 2016 and there are still plenty of prizes left, she said.

The partnership is a chance for the library to reach some people — particularly millennials and young professionals — you libraries don’t often reach out to, Van Cleve said.

And the focus on small, local beer makers fits in with the library’s 2016 theme: “Think Small: Magnifying the Ordinary.”

For more, visit any participating brewery, library or the library district’s website at auroralibrary.org.

Copper Kettle isn’t the only brewery getting into the St. Patrick’s Day fun this week. Dry Dock will have Celtic step dancers at 1 p.m. Saturday at South Dock, and they are serving Irish Red Ale and a new Irish Cream Stout. Wear green merchandise form Dry Dock or The Brew Hut and get a free koozie.

At Ursula, they are celebrating on St. Patrick’s Day, Chicago style, with a couple special brews. One is their Via Chicago IPA with a little twist — this is one is dyed green and dubbed “Via Chicago River,” after that city’s tradition of dying the river green for the holiday. The other is an oyster stout called Shuckago Stout, an Irish dry stout they brewed with live oysters. Their partners at Cedar Creek Pub will have corned beef and cabbage for delivery and the brewery will be playing the NCAA games all day.

Ursula also tapped their 180 Gram Russian Imperial Stout this week, a heavy dark brew that comes in at 11.8 percent ABV.

At Launchpad, the Milky Way coffee milk stout, made with Costa Rican dark roast beans from local roaster Wallaby Coffee, is on tap this week, as is the Interstellar IPA.

PORTLAND, Maine | Producers in the U.S. “Maple Belt” say a mild winter has allowed them to tap trees early, but the harvest could be down from last year due to the early onset of spring warmth.

Some producers in maple-rich states such as Maine and New York tapped trees as early as January, atypical in an industry when March is usually the money month. But they might have done so out of necessity: The arrival of consistently warm weather typically ends the maple season, because budding trees produce sap that makes for much less palatable syrup.

Lyle Merrifield

Lyle Merrifield exits a shed used to store sap used for maple syrup, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in Gorham, Maine. Maple Syrup Sunday will be celebrated at sugar shacks around the state on March 27. This year syrup runs started early due to warm weather and producers are concerned about how much syrup will be left on the big day. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Lyle Merrifield

Lyle Merrifield pumps sap from a holding tank before trucking back to his farm to begin the process of making maple syrup, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in Gorham, Maine. Maple Syrup Sunday will be celebrated at sugar shacks around the state on March 27. This year syrup runs started early due to warm weather and producers are concerned about how much syrup will be left on the big day. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Food and Farm Early Maple Syrup

Gravity feed tubes deliver sap sap to a holding tank Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Gorham, Maine. Maple Syrup Sunday will be celebrated at sugar shacks around the state on March 27th. This year syrup runs started early due to warm weather and producers are concerned about how much syrup will be left on the big day. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Lyle Merrifield

Lyle Merrifield walks to "vacuum house" where sap is pumped into storage tanks before making maple syrup, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Gorham, Maine. Maple Syrup Sunday will be celebrated at sugar shacks around the state on March 27. This year syrup runs started early due to warm weather and producers are concerned about how much syrup will be left on the big day. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Lyle Merrifield

Sample bottles containing various grades of maple syrup are displayed at the Merrifield Farm and Sugar Shack, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Gorham, Maine. Maple Syrup Sunday will be celebrated at sugar shacks around the state on March 27. This year syrup runs started early due to warm weather and producers are concerned about how much syrup will be left on the big day. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Maine’s maple syrup season got started abnormally early this year, with sap buckets visible on trees around Valentine’s Day in the southern part of the state. But producers promise the state’s official sweetener will still be available when the annual statewide Maine Maple Sunday celebration arrives on Easter Sunday.

“This is one of the earliest years I can remember in all my years of doing this,” said Lyle Merrifield, president of Maine Maple Producers and a 30-year industry veteran. “What we’re looking at right now is a little bit too warm.”

Maine has the third-largest maple syrup industry in the country after Vermont and New York.

New York producers expect a smaller harvest than last year, said Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York State Maple Producers Association.

Thomas said she began tapping her own trees on Jan. 22, two weeks earlier than she ever has. She said New York producers will likely have about 70 percent the amount of maple they had last year. Last year, the problem was that the winter lingered much longer, Thomas said.

“We were out trying to tap in snow up to our armpits,” she said. “No snow on the ground at all this year.”

So far, Vermont’s maple season has been inconsistent. Some producers made syrup in late January, and others made syrup throughout February when warmer days allowed for it, according to Matthew Gordon, executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association.

In Ohio, most maple producers are already winding down for the year because of a stretch of warm days.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage symbolically kicked off the unofficial start of maple syrup season by tapping a tree Tuesday. The Republican governor said maple syrup is an industry the state should seek to grow.

Associated Press writer Lisa Rathke contributed from Montpelier, Vermont.

At Easter, there is just nothing better than a spiral-cut ham! Because I grew up with my grandmother roasting fresh, white, uncured hams, a sweet-glazed spiral-cut ham has always been a delicacy to me.

My best friend’s mother bought one every Easter and to me it was heavenly. I loved the crunchy sweet and spicy crust on the ends of the slices. She served the ham cold and kept the leftover ham loosely covered with foil in the refrigerator. It didn’t last long as we — and the rest of the neighborhood kids — kept opening the fridge and pulling off a snack. Because it was spiral cut, you didn’t need a knife to snag a piece. All you needed to do was reach in and grab a thick, meaty slice.

The first Easter I hosted the meal, I ordered a sweet-glazed spiral-cut ham. I felt so grown up and we ate that ham for days. I discovered the joy of a ham sandwich with thick-cut baked ham, crisp lettuce and lots of mayo on toasted white bread.

As time went on, I grew to appreciate the purity of my grandmother’s fresh ham, but soon found that most people expect their holiday hams to be pink. So why not give the people what they want?

The best part is that it is so easy to customize the ham with your own glaze. My “hack” is to make a sweet and spicy dry rub that bakes into a burnished “glaze” (rather than brushing the meat with a wet sauce). It is so quick and easy that I urge you to throw away any packet of sauce that comes with your ham and try it my way.

A dry glaze is a dry spice rub with both sugar and granulated honey (or honey powder) to add sweetness and flavor. You also could use maple sugar granules. Luckily, these powders are easier and easier to find at the grocer or online. My favorite sweet and spicy rub is a combination of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, white pepper, dried honey, salt and sugar. But feel free to riff with your favorite flavors. Just don’t omit the sugar; it melts and holds the other spices together, creating the glaze.

Food American Table Glazed Ham

This Feb. 1, 2016 photo shows glazed ham in Concord, N.H. A better way to glaze your ham, try a dry spice rub that caramelizes into a rich sweet and spicy glaze. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Food American Table Glazed Ham

This Feb. 1, 2016 photo shows glazed ham in Concord, N.H. A better way to glaze your ham, try a dry spice rub that caramelizes into a rich sweet and spicy glaze. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

SWEET-AND-SPICY GLAZED HAM

Spiral-cut hams are fully cooked when you purchase them and just need reheating. This is your chance to add tons of flavor in the form of a glaze. This recipe is written for a 5-pound ham, but the recipe is easily adapted to accommodate whatever size you need to feed your Easter crowd. For timing, plan 12 to 15 minutes per pound at 275 F. If you decide to cook a larger ham, you’ll also need to increase the dry glaze (seasoning mixture).

The ham can be cooked either in the oven or on the grill. For the grill, prepare a grill for low heat, indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill and cooking on the other side. For a gas grill, this means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side, then cooking on that side.

One advantage of the grill is that you can add a handful of wet wood chips before heating the ham. I like to do this because the wood adds a fresh layer of smoke to the ham and gives the ham a just-smoked flavor.

Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (15 minutes active)

Servings: 12

5-pound pre-cooked spiral cut ham

1/2 cup honey powder or maple sugar granules

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Heat the oven to 275 F. (For grilling directions, see the headnote above.)

Use paper towels to pat dry the ham, then set it, cut side down, in a shallow baking pan. Set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine the remaining ingredients and process until the ingredients are reduced to a fine powder.

Gently pry apart the tops of the spiral cuts. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the seasoning mixture over the ham and push it down between the slices. Cover loosely with foil. Set the ham on the oven’s middle shelf or on the cooler side of the grill. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove the ham from the oven, turn the ham on its other side, then sprinkle another 1/3 of the seasoning mixture over it, again gently working it into the cuts.

Cover the ham with foil again, then return to the oven or grill. Cook for another 30 minutes, or until the ham feels warm all the way through but is not steaming hot.

Remove and discard the foil. Sprinkle the remaining dry glaze over the top of the entire ham. Turn the broiler on in the oven and place the ham under the broiler for 2 to 4 minutes. Watch closely: You want the glaze to bubble and caramelize but you don’t want it to burn. When the ham is burnished to your liking, remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 280 calories; 120 calories from fat (43 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (4.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 110 mg cholesterol; 2540 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 31 g protein.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”

DENVER |  Colorado’s local-food movement won a significant victory in the state Senate on Tuesday, when lawmakers unanimously agreed to make it easier for small-time chicken farmers to sell directly to consumers.

The bill approved Tuesday would also expand the state’s so-called “Cottage Foods” law to allow home cooks who make almost anything that doesn’t need refrigeration to sell directly to consumers.

The bill would help the farm-to-table movement and boost small farmers and cooks, said Republican sponsor Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs. “We’re trying to make it easier to sell Colorado products direct to consumers,” Hill said.

But not all supported the bill. Some said the measure improperly removes requirements that the food producers take food-safety courses.

“This creates a patchwork of training and won’t give consumers any assurance that the producer they’re buying from has taken any basic food-safety courses,” said Brent Boydston of the Colorado Farm Bureau, which didn’t oppose but also didn’t support the bill.

Hill insisted that consumers will know about the risks. “You know you’re buying things from an unlicensed, uninspected, unregulated kitchen,” Hill said Tuesday.

The bill was amended from its original version to say that poultry producers can sell directly to consumers, but not to grocery stores. That could come only after the Colorado Department of Agriculture convenes a panel to work out those details.

One more vote is required before the bill heads to the House.

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Online:

Senate Bill 58: http://bit.ly/1LbS49Y

AURORA | The calendar flipped to March this week, which means we are just a couple weeks from one of the biggest beer-drinking holidays of the year: Saint Patrick’s Day.

At Copper Kettle Brewing Co., the beer makers at the brewery near Parker Road and South Valentia Street are gearing up for the holiday with a few Irish-inspired offerings.

Every Wednesday this month, they are serving up a 10-gallon cask of a special Irish brew. It started this week with a Irish Red Ale brewed with rye and caraway. You might want to hurry in if you hope to snag a pint, the short run will likely be gone by Friday.

Julia Wellington, who runs the marketing at Copper Kettle, said other offerings this month will include a tiramisu Irish Stout and European Potato Ale.

On March 16, the day before the big holiday, they’ll be tapping a Bavarian Helles brewed with cloves.

And for good measure, that’s one is getting a green dye job.

“Yeah,” Wellington said with a laugh. “Why not?”

The brewery is also rolling out their Help Me Out Stout, a dry Irish Stout on nitro, on Saint Patrick’s Day.

And here’s a story we ran this week about the name change at what once was Coda Brewing Co. and is now Ursula Brewery. And even with the legal wrangling happening there, beer is still flowing. Ursula unveiled its 8.3-percent ABV Ursula American IPA last month and they are working this week on a Baltic Porter.

At Mu Brewery on East Colfax Avenue, staff is looking for more art to adorn their walls. Interested artists can check out their facebook page for more details.

Sweet Jesus. Sweet everything. This is how the Dutch plan to take over the world: creamed speculoos, which they say is “crunchy cookie butter.”

Only at Colorado Trader Joes so far, it’s billed as “a deliciously unusual spread reminiscent of gingerbread and made with crushed biscuits.”

Trader Joes creamed speculoos, a cookie cream concoction
Trader Joes creamed speculoos, a cookie cream concoction

And oil. Lots of oil. And sugar. More sugar. Instantly addictive, this peanut-butter like substance smacks of loving every one of the 90 calories it inflicts per tablespoon. That would be a level tablespoon, so scrape the rest back into the jar. In fact, one jar contains enough calories to feed an average U.S. state for nearly a month.

Ultra creamy, it tastes a little like nutmeg flavored Nutella at the start. It finishes off like fine ice cream and cookies. Most treatment centers considered this a gateway food to stroopwaffel sandwiches filled with chocolate, Nutella sessions and Haribo shooters.

If you’re from the real world, speculoos is a ho-hum ginger-snap like cookie that’s been haunting Holland, Belgium and parts of Germany for eons. But whip it up with some extra sugar and oil and — voila! — an American sensation coming soon to a recipe near you.

Out suggestion, mixed with Cap’n Crunch and melted marshmallows, it makes the perfect Red Rocks concert snack.

Available in dark alleys behind ethnic polka parties and Trader Joes on Colorado Boulevard and East Sixth Avenue for $3.49.

— Dave Perry, staff writer