Colt & Gray is a place we have been dying to try since we heard about it on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” in 2009 or 2010. Colt & Gray was called out for it’s Sticky Toffee Pudding. Sticky Toffee Pudding is hard to hate in the first place, but the best one ever sounded like something to drive for.
Despite the rearing horse imagery and the Western sound, Colt & Gray is named for Chef / Owner Nelson Perkins’ sons: Coulter and Grayson. Nelson is a native born high-lander who moved down to the flat-land of NYC to attend the French Culinary Institute, where he graduated with the Grand Diplome de Cuisine.
The training and local ingredients have been put to great use in a sophisticated, super-cool, avante-garde neighborhood bistro. Think of it as a reasonably priced (for what you get) high-end, non-Spanish, tapas bar or as a fine-dining, small-plates place. The love of food and preparation pervades the menu and the spirit of the staff. I was helped by Adam Condit (manager and server) who was a fount of knowledge about the menu and dishes which are a paen to the French Classics but built with local Rocky Mountain ingredients. The bar, which I admired without partaking, was also intriquing. On another slower trip, I could imagine spending a few hours there in an ad-hoc seminar on mixology. For example, they had an “Old Fashioned Grandma Cocktail (ramazzotti amaro, prunier l’orange, & peychaud’s bitters) that sounded interesting on a day I wasn’t driving another 200 miles after dinner.
The dishes I didn’t try, Pecan Crusted Soft Shell Crabs, Truffle Turkey Burger, Salad Perigourdine (gizzards, cured duck breast, foie gras, spring salad, & lemon vinaigrette) and Rockfish a la Nage, sounded almost as interesting as the dishes I did try and describe below. Nelson’s food philosophy is “to use the best available ingredients and treat them gently,” and we saw it in practice.
My first dish is likely one of Teaching Chef’s favorites from the Old Country: a Pig Trotter, which in Nelson’s imagination is a delicate combination of pulled pork (ham hock braised 6 hours) and Panko breading, flash-fried then topped with Frisee lettuce and served on a bed of stone-ground mustard. Colt & Gray’s pig trotter is very European in its presentation and flavor. It was a 3 bite appetizer and sadly no photos exist of the interior of this one.
Colt & Gray makes their own Charcuterie which was a must try. After discussing Sunday’s offerings with Adam (Porchetta di Testa, Lardo, Ciccioli, Bresaola, Lomo, Lambvender and Nduja), I settled on Ciccioli, which is sort of like a pork pate. Sitting on Colt & Gray’s comfortable patio, flanked by pedestrian traffic, as the sun went down, eating Ciccioli, it isn’t much of a leap to channel a few bars of Edith Piaf, Gilbert Becaud or Serge Gainsbourg and transport oneself, mentally, to the Rue de Rivoli.
I was brought out of my reverie (heavy on the French accent) by Adam offering to take me back to the kitchen to watch the cooking and plating of my entreé: The Colorado Grass-Fed Beef Hearts. Part of the theme of the Summer Food Drive is to expand the palate and try some of the best dishes being made in the country so that they infuse our instruction. Beef Hearts are not on my normal meal plan and I have never cooked them myself, so they were impossible to avoid ordering. It is kind of like telling a kid not to touch the fireworks. Eventually, there is a boom. Chef Jenna and her team in the kitchen made an admirable dish out of a tough ingredient. It is a testament to their skills that slices of beef heart on toast was a positive, perhaps repeatable, experience. I also learned a new term Mostarda which means an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard flavored syrup. The beef hearts came with a Rhubarb Mostarda and shaved Artichokes.
Perfect asparagus with Beech Mushrooms, Mint and Brown Butter and Poppy Seeds were my side. The beech mushrooms were so delicate and tender they could almost have been mistaken for seafood.
Finally, it was time for the reason for the visit: the Sticky Toffee Pudding with bourbon ice cream and toffee sauce, as recommended in my memory by Alex Guarnaschelli of the Food Network, who my wife, Mrs. P Chef, constantly reminds me sang in Glee Club with her in high school. It turns out that all the mentions of Alex at home had damaged my hard drive and corrupted my data in favor of Alex. Claire Robinson had actually mentioned the Sticky Toffee Pudding as “The Best Thing She Ever Ate.” If my data remains unreliable, I may need to get some Carbonite for the old brain.
The presentation was terrific with the Staub Cocotte (which the unethical believe is a souvenir). I was excited to try the dish and to put to rest years of speculation. I am a fan of Sticky Toffee Pudding, especially of the product made by The English Pudding Company in Los Angeles. More than a few of our family holidays have been graced with a fabulous mail-order or carry-out pudding. They also sell at Whole Foods the last time I checked the freezer case.
Colt & Gray’s Sticky Toffee Pudding was good. It was near the top of the list of the ones I have ever eaten. Why wasn’t it the GREATEST? Perhaps there was too much build up? Perhaps it could have used a bit more sauce, or some more heft in the pudding itself? Perhaps it suffered in comparison to all the unique, impossibly-perfect items already served? It was really good but I could have walked away from it, if a crisis loomed. The truth is I did not walk away from it (probably should have) and I was so caught up in eating it that I forgot to photograph or video tape the interior of the item, meaning it must have been highly distracting. I found it best if all the ingredients were mixed together into a soft bourbon infused ice cream cake. My only excuse for eating the whole thing, besides its being sinful, was that my organic processor skewed my programming knowing that it would be 20 hours and a big hike until my next meal in Nebraska.
All in all you would be hard-pressed to have such an elegant, enjoyable meal for $42. If I have the chance to go back I will. You should too. You will probably feed your hunger for both nourishment and knowledge.
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