Round two with Joe Freemond, exec chef of the Cellar Wine Bar
Read part one of my interview with Joe Freemond, exec chef of the Cellar Wine Bar.
Best thing about cooking in Denver: Being a part of the culinary explosion that this city is finally experiencing. Having grown up here, I've seen Denver come a long, long way as far as the culinary scene is concerned, and it's really a pleasure to be a part of the newfound movement in my home town.
Favorite restaurant in America: I've eaten at some pretty heavy-hitting restaurants in this country, including the French Laundry, Gary Danko and Peter Luger, but for me, my favorite place has got to be Stroud's in Kansas City. Stroud's is the holy grail of pan-fried chicken, and only God himself could have possibly created fried chicken this good. And there's plenty more than just fried chicken at Stroud's. There are fried chicken livers and gizzards, slow-cooked green beans with smoked ham hocks, endless mashed potatoes and even bigger bowls of gravy made from the chicken pan drippings, and to top it all off, they have enormous, warm cinnamon-sugar biscuits. During college, my friends and I would go to Stroud's every year for my birthday, and every year my birthday party had more and more people. Did I mention how good the fried chicken is?
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: Taqueria Los Gallitos on Alameda. It's a big ugly yellow building with a rooster painted on the side, but the tacos are amazing. Definitely the best crispy tripe taco I've had anywhere in Denver, and their goat or tongue tacos are also incredible. And it's so cheap. I took my two cooks out to lunch a few weeks ago and we feasted: four tacos for each of us, horchatas for everyone, and a huge chicharron and the bill was about $23. Plus, I've eaten there when a random mariachi band walked in off the street and started playing. Not many places offer that kind of experience.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: More small neighborhood butchers and meat markets. After working as a meat cutter in Kansas and again for Il Mondo Vecchio here in Denver, it's become obvious that the general public has a real lack of knowledge and lack of available buying options that real neighborhood butchers used to provide. Denver is such a huge meat city that I think it would make sense to have more small meat shops around town.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Gringo tacos.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Rome and Venice a few years ago, and we stayed at an unbelievably lovely B&B right outside of the chaos of Rome called Casa Stefazio, which is owned by longtime family friends of ours, Orazio and Stefania Azzola. There are gardens all around the house where Orazio grows his herbs and many different veggies and lettuce greens, and there's a small creek that runs right behind the house that supplies the area with tons of fireflies at night. Orazio has degrees from the Cordon Bleu in Italian, French and Chinese cooking, and while we stayed with them, I soaked up every little thing that I could learn. Toward the end of our trip, Orazio and I cooked a massive feast that led to a truly unforgettable evening. We ate insalata caprese, ribollita soup, tortino di zucca, roasted veal belly with rosemary, risotto Milanese with saffron and hot Italian sausage, veal saltimbocca, and zabaione with macerated strawberries. And then we finished off the night with plenty of homemade limoncello. "Memorable" does not even begin to describe my time at Casa Stefazio.