Round two with Cuba Cuba executive chef Enrique Socarras
This is part two of my interview with Enrique Socarras, executive chef of Cuba Cuba. In part one of this interview, Socarras raps on integrity, stomaching raw bacon and his new Boulder restaurant.
Best food city in America: I'm going with Denver. We have amazing talent and local products, our culinary scene is sincere and warm, and we don't need celebrities to validate it. Plus, some of the best dishes I've ever had have been right here in Colorado. Troy Guard, from TAG, did an amazing uni crème brûlée at a recent FIVE event that was so creative -- just fantastic. I even caught myself sneaking more off his plate. He used the kind of ingredients that you would never think of pairing together, but whatever he did, he made it work. And the red salsa at Taco de México? Jesus Christ. That stuff is so, so good.
Favorite restaurant in America: Alabama Jack's, an old biker bar in Florida, on the way to the Keys on the old road. It's right over the water, and they have the best seafood and key lime pie. It's not pretentious, and the food is really simple, but it's just amazing. It's island life at its finest.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Sushi Sasa. Chef Wayne Conwell isn't fucking around when it comes to pairing flavors and textures. Don't miss his incredible uni risotto.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: More late-night dining joints that serve really good food. Most of the people I know don't get off of work until midnight -- and options are severely limited at that hour. And I'd love to see more Cuban food. I'd welcome the competition.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Horrible bar food -- it's mostly crap. If you're going to serve food -- any food -- take the time and effort to make it something worth serving. If you can't do that, just serve bags of chips, for God's sake. That's a lot better than frozen jalapeño poppers.
Current Denver culinary genius: I'm not sure there's just one that outshines the rest, but I have immense respect for Frank Bonanno. He's able to run a business -- and cook -- and he lives for his trade. He's married to his family, but he's also married to his job. While he's not out there just trying to make money, he is making money and he's doing very, very well -- and that's genius. His restaurants are full, his food is great, and the cooks and/or chefs who work for him leave as better cooks and chefs than they were to begin with.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? A couple of cookbooks from my daughters. They bought me an out-of-print Michel Bras cookbook that they found on eBay, along with the complete instruction manual of Easy-Bake Oven recipes. We just made s'mores this morning. I'm a pro now, but, God, do the recipes suck.