- Converting from Crazy - The Denver/Boulder InspirationFriday, November 17, 2017
Snow! Yep snow was blowing sideways as we drove into Denver. It was so cold and windy that our first “hook up” to electricity and water made us late for our appointment with the chef and proprietor of Fruition.
BTW, there are a lot of great restaurants in this metropolitan area. We’ve decided to visit restaurants that have a similar ambition to source their ingredients from their own farm/ranch and base their menu around seasonality, or to have the majority of their ingredients sourced locally from producers that they have created a partnership with. I mean, if you’re gonna eat out, it may as well be at places focused on great ingredients like we work with, right?
This is why Fruition and Mercantile Dining and Provision in Denver was our first choice. Talk about inspirational! From 10 acres, Fruition Farm supplies most of their produce, sheep cheese, honey, lamb and heritage pork. We were able to speak to the Chef de Cuisine, Franco, at Fruition after eating a meal that engaged crunch, creamy, acidic, sweet and a secret umami ingredient all on one plate sending our taste buds on a tour of pure delight. (Picture of the beautiful food didn’t turn out, but here’s Chef Franco showing me the line.)
If Fruition wasn’t amazing enough, our evening at Mercantile elevated our food experience to a new standard of cuisine! We sat at the chef’s table for four hours and were able to observe their kitchen in action while tasting an outstanding menu both with our eyes and our mouth. Oh how I wish I could share that evening with each of you. This meal is our favorite so far which is saying a lot because we’ve had some great food. Maybe it is our favorite because we watched them make each dish step by step so our appetite was like a revved up Chevy waiting to be put in gear. Their kitchen layout was dreamy and their staff were committed as well as excited to be working at a place that focused on high quality ingredients and excellence. We learned that we need to find employees that want to be a part of our dream and work with our special ingredients. If you know of anyone that fits that description, send them our way! Chef Alex Seidel is my new restaurant hero!
Now, for a 10 year old, these long extended visitations and meals can get quite daunting. We are grateful Sasha is an adventurous eater. She even tried squid ink aoli! But one can only take so much until they start getting creative in other ways to entertain themselves (oh...and cell phones).
We were looking for some “big city” activities to do when not researching or schooling and since the weather had gone from 36 degrees to 80 within one day (so bizarre), we took Sasha to Boo at the Zoo for Halloween weekend. Recognize the stranger with Jasmine (aka Sasha)?
Another big city fun is the Butterfly Pavilion where you can have butterflies land on you, or hold a tarantula. Sasha’s mottos is “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid, it means you don’t let fear stop you.” She proved that when the eight-legged invertebrate named Rosie walked onto her hand! Robert was the only one that a butterfly landed on. Must be cause he's so sweet!
Black Cat in Boulder was our next restaurant pick. Chef Eric spent two hours with us sharing his expertise in building out restaurants, managing as well as creating a culture based around staff that wants to be a part of his dream. He has a 132 acre certified organic farm that produces enough produce for his restaurants as well as a CSA and farmer’s market. He also raises chickens, turkeys, sheep, and heritage pigs for his restaurant. I don’t know how he and his wife Jill accomplish all that they do along with raising 4 young children! Here he shows off the prosciutto they make in house that made its way to our plate with a parsnip puree and crumbled pistachios. Delicious! His keynote advice to us was to build for flexibility.
We sure learned a lot from these great restaurants and innovative owners. Now it's off to Jackson, Wyoming!
- Fresh Cut Flowers - A Tradition at the James RanchThursday, February 08, 2018Fresh cut flowers have been a long-standing tradition at the Gardens at James Ranch. For over two decades Jenn and Joe Wheeling and their family have tended this wonderfully productive plot of land, supplying the Durango area not only with wonderful vegetables, but with gorgeous flowers as well. As the Wheelings move on to other pursuits, Mountain Belle Flower Farm is proud and delighted to be continuing this flower-growing legacy at the Gardens at James Ranch.
- Heather and Wayne Houk start ‘Tilted Earth Farm at James Ranch’Thursday, February 08, 2018The 2018 growing season will be the first year that Heather and Wayne will be providing as much of the produce as possible for the James Ranch on the beautiful land that Jen and Joe Wheeling have cultivated for the past 18 years. They promise to grow the famous sugar snap peas that Jenn has shared with the community as well as a wide array of other veggies. The hope it to have almost all the lettuce, herbs, greens, carrots, beets, cucumbers, peppers, squash, onions, broccoli, pumpkins and so much more grown right here on the Ranch.
- Converting from Crazy - Ida, Ida IdahoThursday, December 07, 2017With a new clue received from a local magazine picked up in Jackson Hole, the Stewarts are headed to Driggs, Idaho to meet a like-minded chef then head to Boise, which has been touted as a new foodie city, then up to Coeur d' Alene which is headquarters for Tractor Sodas, the Grill's new organic soft drinks.
- Converting from Crazy - Wyoming, Detour to Utah and Back to WyomingThursday, November 17, 2017Due to weather conditions in Jackson, the Stewarts headed a bit south to Utah and had a chance to do a meet and eat with at a restaurant that had one of their favorite kitchen layouts. They also surprised Sasha with a new addition to the family (four legged and furry).
- Converting from Crazy (The Stewart family’s quest for knowledge)Thursday, November 16, 2017Cynthia and Robert decided to research their next adventuring into the restaurant world by taking a research trip in a motorhome to different restaurants around the western United States. Their goals are to see other kitchens, talk to chefs, understand the restaurant culture and learn how to recruit an employee team that will join in their dream of the ultimate farm-to-table dining experience.
- Farm To LunchboxThursday, September 21, 2017Are there any other parents out there like me who groan internally with the thought of crafting a daily, nutritious, filling school lunch that your children will actually eat? I’m sure there are. I am deeply committed to feeding my family nutrient-dense foods from our farm as much as I can. So for this reason, I roll up my sleeves and do a little planning. At this time of year, there is such amazing, local food available that it is a natural fit to work some of it into your kids’ school lunch.
- Dryland Corn and Elote Con CremaThursday, September 07, 2017Four years ago I (Cynthia) was walking through the Durango Farmer’s Market to see what I could buy for the Grill to serve. I stopped at a booth that had a corn stock that was only 4 feet high but had these large, beautiful ears of corn jetting off the sides of it. This was my first introduction to dry land corn.
- Wasps Are Friends, Not The EnemyThursday, September 02, 2017Since I have been actively working on the ranch the last few years, I have been paying attention to the wasp populations and actively encouraging their numbers by building housing and planting more and more bushes and plants with flowers to feed them. Beneficial wasps, both predatory and parasitoid, are another way we accomplish chemical-free, organic farming.
- It Takes A Village To Feed A VillageThursday, August 10, 2017The families of the James Ranch provide a well-rounded variety of organically grown food products for the local community: 100% grass-fed beef, artisan raw milk cheeses, pastured pork and eggs, fresh produce and flowers, and our restaurant (Harvest Grill and Greens at the James Ranch Terraces). It's a family affair and we have a lot of moving parts that come together to offer our community the freshest, most nutrient-dense food in the Four Corners. We are also proud to carry products from other local farmers! We'd love to take a second to introduce to you the current lineup of farmers that we'll be supporting and carrying at James Ranch Market and Harvest Grill.