Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beyond the Sauce, Beyond the Comfort Zone - Part I

I do not cook. Anyone with less than a degree of separation from me can tell you that my standard idea of cooking involves the microwave or toaster, frozen waffles, a box of macaroni and cheese or a can of soup, and a single pot of water in which to boil boring noodles. From a cooking perspective, I am a college co-ed.

So I tend to regard the cookbooks I see with the same indifference in which I regard international building code books. Not my area/bailiwick/fach. Beautiful as they may be, I will gladly pass them on to the cooks among us.

But, my friends, I have been tempted. And now I find myself cracking open one of the newest local cookbooks to hit the Tattered Cover shelves: "Vesta Dipping Grill: Beyond the Sauce", by chef Matt Selby and owner Josh Wolkon.

How was this accomplished? How could it happen that a lazy water-boiling waffle-toasting scoundrel like me would be thumbing through pages describing the preparation of foie gras and ahi tuna?

Well, this particular cookbook is the signature tome of a local restaurant. And if there's one thing I ADORE about food, it's when other people cook it for me.

And recently, Selby's chef team at Vesta Dipping Grill did just that. (Note: Vesta is a neighbor of the Tattered Cover's, located just a few blocks east of our LoDo store on 18th and Blake streets.) A friend and I spent our evening strolling through the colorful, sensational halls of Selby's tasting menu. Our tour began with smoked venison sausage presented with hudson barrel onions and roasted garlic crema. We savored the ginger chili seared tuna with arugula, white soy, and yuzu syrup. And when it came to deciding which of Vesta's famous sauces went best with the herb grilled Colorado lamb loin (served with truffled farro, bacon, mustard greens, and dried berry chutney), we could wordlessly agree on the cilantro mint pesto. This foodie was in heaven. Selby has skillfully crafted compositions of taste that are as complex and intricately beautiful as a Baroque fugue. Layers of flavor dance and merge to form wondrous, quiet counterpoint.

After such a sumptuous meal (seven small tasting courses in all were a perfect fit for our ladylike bellies), you might think it would be even harder for me to hit the showers, er, kitchen, roll up my sleeves, and actually cook something. But I have a persuasive factor motivating me to try out this Vesta book.

Thanksgiving dinner.

If I don't cook a fabulous side dish for this holiday, I will be subjecting my small family to my mother's frozen bags of vegetables. Frozen. Vegetables. I mean, really. Is there a comparison? Vesta, or frozen "veggies". Laughable. My mother doesn't really like to cook either. It's hereditary. We've ordered a nice honey ham for the entree that somebody else has lovingly prepared for us (along with thousands of other identical honey hams).

So, dear readers, I've got my copy of "Beyond the Sauce". I will be visiting the grocery store sometime in the next 24 hours to purchase adequate Vesta-food-preparing supplies. I am going to dive headlong into the cooking fire, to save my family, to save Thanksgiving dinner, from...frozen vegetables (I can barely type the words).

Eating at Vesta made our ordinary evening a special occasion. So I'm going to see if I can make a special occasion feel like eating at Vesta. Stay tuned. I'll be letting you know how it goes. In the meantime, if you care to infuse a little LoDo glitz into your Turkey Day, you better get down to the Tattered Cover and grab a copy of "Beyond the Sauce" before we close for the holiday.

Wish me luck!

1 comment:

  1. This cookbook is great. I love Vesta Dipping Grill but never imagined I could tackle these recipes. They may sound intimidating, but they are really educational and the results have always been great. Sure, cooking a venison loin then creating a chimichuri sauce may not be the easy choice but you might be surprised by how easy it really is and what you learn about food, cooking, and yourself. Delicious!