Part two: Cafe Options chef Craig Dixon extols butter, pounds the chicken breast and makes a surprising declaration about Denver
This is part two of Lori Midson's interview with Cafe Options executive chef Craig Dixon. To read part one of that interview, click here.
Favorite ingredient: Butter. Animal fat is where it's at. You can't fake butter. Humans have survived for thousands of years eating animals. Why try to find a substitute for something that's so versatile and has worked for so long?
Best recent food find: I love Alex Seidel's twist on oysters Rockefeller at Fruition. They're deliciously wrapped in crisp potato with an amazing purée of leek. The buttermilk panna cotta with red wine-poached rhubarb at Colt & Gray is a simple dish of flawless execution that needs no garnish, and I recently had my first experience at Olivéa and devoured everything on the charcuterie menu. The menu recommended picking three items, which I did -- twice.
Most overrated ingredient: The overused, underflavored, processed chicken breast that's unfortunately on so many menus. I'd rather eat boiled chicken feet with hot sauce.
Most underrated ingredient: Salt. It's so basic yet so important. If it's not used judiciously, you can ruin a dish early in its preparation and destroy worlds, but if it's used correctly, it can open doors to gastronomical delights. I use it to blanch vegetables, cure meats and make brines. It's the finishing touch.
Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: I'm a big fan of Colorado lamb. They're so cute and delicious, and I love to get up early on the weekend and get the smoker going. My other favorite ingredient isn't local to Colorado, but I'm going to tell you all about it anyway. I lived on the west side of Kauai for two and a half years, doing some part-time work at a local golf course, getting to know the old-timers: "Uncle" or "Auntie" was preferred nomenclature. Uncle Clarence found out I was a chef and excitedly gave me some salt he made in the salt ponds of Hanapepe, where he and his ancestors have been making salt for the past 1,000 years. It's an ancient practice that used to be imperative for survival, so for a haole like me, it was an honor to be given a local product so full of culture and tradition. I try to make it back to Kauai every year for salt and surfing and golf and aloha.
One food you detest: High fructose corn syrup. It's a dangerous product that should be sold with a scary warning label.