Round two with TAG Burger Bar chef Drew Archer: "If salt is flavor, then acid is life"
Part one of my interview with Drew Archer, chef of TAG Burger Bar, ran yesterday; this is part two of our chat.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: We never really ate out much growing up, so I don't have many particularly memorable meals from my childhood, but I've had amazing fresh pasta in Italy, fish in Greece and green chile in Santa Fe, although perhaps the most memorable meal I've ever had was in Maine, when I was about twelve. When I was young, all I watched was the Food Network, and one night my mother and I were watching a show on Maine lobsters. Living in Oklahoma, I'd never had lobster and thought it looked like the most amazing thing to eat. Later that year, we actually took a family trip to New England, and while we were there, we drove up to Maine, got a table at a waterfront restaurant, and I ordered my first lobster. It was just as amazing as I had envisioned, except for the fact that the Food Network had edited out all the carnage and guts that come out of whole lobster when you rip the tail off. Needless to say, I wasn't prepared for the real lobster experience, which is what made it so memorable.
- Drew Archer, chef of TAG Burger Bar, on pointing fingers, Ruffles and bacon
- They may not be French, but TAG Burger Bar's duck-fat fries are definitely decadent
- Noah French, pastry chef at TAG, talks about his new bakery venture with Troy Guard
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: At Euclid Hall, I love the pig-ear pad Thai. That's the kind of food that proves that someone really wanted to make it, that it's not on the menu because it's expected. Another spot that's amazing is Glaze, a bakery right across from TAG Burger Bar on Madison Street that makes traditional Japanese rotisserie cakes. It's not even worth me trying to explain the process, because I can watch them cook for an hour and still have no idea how it works.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: I love the happy hour at Machete, in Cherry Creek. They have $2 tacos, and their crispy tripe taco is by far the best taco I've had in Denver.
If you could change one thing about the Denver dining scene, what would it be? In honor of Denver Restaurant Week, I would change Denver Restaurant Week. The amount of time and work that goes into a two-week period is insane. I'd love to see it split over two independent weeks -- one in February and one in August.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? The artistic freedom and expression. I was always an art student in high school, and I loved 3-D art -- sculptures, working with clay, architecture -- and if I could go back in time, my AP portfolio would have been food photography. To me, cooking is all about the senses. I want to make you notice not only flavor, but color, texture, height and patterns -- they're all the parts of a meal that people love without realizing they love it.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? I love getting cookbooks as gifts, and the one that I really looked to when I first started at TAG was The Blue Elephant, an Indonesian cookbook. It was a gift from my wife that she brought back from Indonesia. I owned it for about a year and didn't know what half the ingredients were, but when I started at TAG, I started working with some new ingredients and realized that they were things that I'd read about in that cookbook. I soon realized I could use the book as a tool and as a way to learn about new uses for the ingredients we had in the kitchen that I'd never been exposed to.