Chef Aaron Bennett of Bácaro Venetian Taverna on his epic meal with Emeril Lagasse
Part one of my interview with Aaron Bennett, exec chef of Boulder's Bácaro Venetian Taverna, ran yesterday; this is part two of our chat .
Favorite restaurant in America: Probably Le Bouchon. When I ate there, I saw such an incredible attention to detail and such care put into even the simplest dishes that it really gave me something to strive for. I had a rabbit cassoulet that was so simple yet so perfectly cooked, seasoned and prepared that I realized most chefs can only hope to achieve that type of simple precision.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: I was the acting executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, and a friend of mine who was doing PR for the culinary industry invited me to a private chef's tasting at Maestro restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner, in Virginia. When I arrived, Emeril Lagasse was there. There ware ten of us total in the private dining room, and the chef at the time, Fabio, pulled out all the stops and prepared a fourteen-course chef's tasting for us. One course was a white-truffle risotto with a fresh white truffle, the size of a small woman's fist, that was shaved onto each one of our plates of perfectly cooked risotto. It was an epic meal with wonderful company, and Emeril was very down-to-earth, normal and was interested in asking me questions about myself -- and my career -- which really floored me.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver/Boulder: Mustard's Last Stand in Boulder. I love pork, and that obviously means sausages and hot dogs. At Mustard's they do them just right -- and have ever since I can remember. I recall going there with my dad and older brother when I was maybe five years old, and they were making all their sausages in-house, which was awesome. I love making sausage and charcuterie. And it's a great place to people-watch, with the high stools and counter looking out on Broadway in Boulder.
If you only had 24 hours in Denver/Boulder, where would you eat? Tangerine in Boulder for breakfast, because they make the best buttermilk pancakes that I've ever had the pleasure to eat in my life -- plus they have a mentality like mine, where they make everything in-house and use almost exclusively local small-farm-produced ingredients. I'd also go to Zaidy's Deli in Cherry Creek for lunch because I love traditional Jewish food, and everything they do there is great, especially their latke Reuben sandwich. They also have the absolute best carrot cake I've ever had. And for dinner, I'd hit up Efrain's in Lafayette, because it has the best, most authentic Mexican food that I've ever had in my life. I go there at least twice a month, and during the seven years I lived in Aspen, I'd get crazy cravings for Efrain's costillas or their chili Colorado at least every other week.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Food trucks. I know it's starting to take off here, but whenever I visit my brother in Chicago, I'm in awe of their total badass food-truck scene that's really coming out with some amazing food.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Average or low-quality Mexican restaurants -- there's one on nearly every corner. Let's put it this way: If most of their plates come with chopped iceberg lettuce and shredded cheddar cheese, it's not the type of Mexican restaurant that I'm interested in dining at.