Cooking With: Yampy’s, Steamboat’s new craft cocktail bar, coffee shop and crêperie | SteamboatToday.com

Cooking With: Yampy’s, Steamboat’s new craft cocktail bar, coffee shop and crêperie

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Craving a traditional Spanish Spanish cortado? What about a Vietnamese cà phê đá?

At Yampy’s, Steamboat Springs’ newest craft cocktail bar, coffee shop and crêperie,  you can have all that and more.

"We've pulled coffees from all over the globe and are offering them in one spot," said Michaela Kosmis, who, with her husband, Janner Kosmis, owns and operates Yampy’s. "Because we both lived and visited so many countries all over world, we wanted this to be a place where, no matter where you're from or where you've been, you can find that certain flavor you've been searching for."

Walk into Yampa Street's newest venue next door to Mountain Tap at 910 Yampa St, and Western meets modern-chic. A chandelier and 8-by-8-foot painting by Eric Otte will greet your arrival as you take a seat at the bar across from the antique mirrors, outlined by a repurposed Wyoming snow fence.

What started as an idea for the couple — who have traveled the world collecting worldly labels of alcohol, mixers and ideas — turned into a reality Wednesday, when they officially opened Yampy's doors. The business is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

Not only a crêperie or breakfast spot, Yampy’s a place one can grab a quick bite to eat or a morning coffee, or sit and stay for awhile, sipping a drink such as the horchata or gorchata latte, drunken affogato or birthday cake martini.

"We wanted to provide a place where people could visit and feel good, be happy and just feed off of our positive energy, because we are generally happy people," Kosmis said. "We love to entertain, and we have found a niche doing that by making these unique coffee drinks and delicious crepes."

For each of their coffee drinks, they use the same base espresso – made with 2016 Roasters of the Year: Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea and Propeller Coffee Co. beans – but prepare it the authentic way, based on the region it's from.

"This has been such a longtime dream, and it's come together in a way that's more than what we anticipated," Kosmis said. "I love being able to create these fun drinks and serve people something that makes them feel good and puts a smile on their face or see their eyes light up with surprise.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@ExploreSteamboat.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

Spicing things up at the Main Street Steamboat 13th annual Chili Challenge

Briskets are roasted, tomatoes diced and chilies sliced as the finishing touches are made to recipes in the running to win the 13th annual Chili Challenge.

Whether passed down from family memory or crafted on a whim, this year's Chili Challenge recipes will feature 15 varieties, ranging in style and flavor from red, green, white and even vegetarian.

Arrive hungry, as the tasting will be open to the public at 11 a.m. and continue until the chili is gone. Judging for the People's Choice award ends at 2:30 p.m., with awards starting at 2:45 p.m. The event will take place on Yampa Street adjacent to the Farmers Market. Sampler kits are $10, with proceeds benefiting Main Street Steamboat and funding Christmas events, such as Light up the Night, Santa's Study and more.

Live music will be provided by Trevor G. Potter, Walt and the 'Ol 37s and Worried Men.

"It's such a nice way to ring in the fall season, and it's about celebrating the community we live in while supporting your favorite chili recipes or restaurant," said Lisa Popovich, executive director of Main Street Steamboat.

Competitors had to apply to be in the challenge and specify which category they wanted to be in. For the challenge, competitors are required to bring their own materials to set up the booths and food. Speaking of food, each competitor faces the challenge of preparing about 15 gallons of chili.

Though competitors were reluctant to share any secrets, they did reveal what patrons should prepare their taste buds for.

Steamboat Smokehouse

Recipe: Matt's Red Brisket Chili and Kyle's Roasted Poblano Pork Green Chili

Prepare taste buds for: The flavors in each made-from-scratch recipe cause heat to dissipate in the mouth after taking a bite.

Recipe factoid: "These recipes have some heat but one that doesn't stick around to the point where it would wreck your taste buds," said Kyle Love, owner of Steamboat Smokehouse. "You want it to have a nice pairing with whatever else you're having."

Steamboat BräuHaus

Recipe: All My EX's Live in Texas, a red chili, and the famous BräuHaus Cornbread

Prepare taste buds for: The Texas red chili is protein-packed, with 30 pounds of beef brisket, eight pounds of bacon and a smattering of tomatoes and seasoning. The cornbread is prepared from a sweet-styled f Southern recipe that Alan Koermer said pairs well with the hearty Texas chili.

Recipe factoid: "This is my personal favorite that I've been making for my family for years," said Barry Gruis, owner of the BräuHaus. "It pays homage to Texas but also melds a German influence from the Oktoberfest beer we use in it."

What you won't expect: "The chili has a nice kick to it — sprinkle the cornbread on top or bottom to compliment both tastes," Koermer said.

Dude and Dan's

Recipe: Smoked Brisket Red Chili, Pulled Pork Green Chili and Olathe Corn Salsa

Prepare taste buds for: "Natural quality ingredients," said Brandon Pfaff, owner of Dude and Dan's. "These recipes are made from years of recipe testing."

Recipe factoid: The pulled pork for the green chili is prepared through the course of a three-day process with New Mexico chilies, and the red chili adds a balance of flavors from the slow-cooked beer, coffee and smoked brisket. The salsa features herbs such as Mexican sage and Colorado sweet corn.

Routt County Cattlewomen

Recipe: Champions Red Chili and Great Beef Red Chili

Recipe factoid: "We mixed all the chilies that our members make, mix them together and then add ingredients and taste until we feel we have it right," said Mary Kay Monger, of the Routt County Cattlewomen.

What you won't expect: The recipe is different each year. It's close, Monger said, but they usually try a new ingredient each year.

Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill

Recipe: Colorado Bison Red Chili

Prepare taste buds for: Fresh dried chilies, including oaxaca, guajillo and ancho. There will also be a taste of the brewery's brown ale.

 Recipe factoid: Instead of using chili powder or chipotle powder, chef Jason Salisbury said they use the fresh chilies and smoked chilies for flavor.

 What you won't expect: The recipe is made with ground bison meat, which is a leaner meat than beef.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

Cooking With: Yama’s new head chef Jeff Pandolfe

To fully experience a sushi restaurant, just say the word "Omakase" — a word that translates to "chef's choice" in Japanese.

"People like surprises," said Jeff Pandolfe, the new sushi chef at Yama Kawa in downtown Steamboat Springs. "The correct etiquette is to put a tip in the tip jar and say, 'Chef, take care of me.' You don't even have to look at the menu because the meal will be customized to your likes and dislikes. I want people to have a sushi experience here."

With a career that spans across several continents from Alaska to the Carribean and even Africa, Pandolfe is a self-taught chef who has worked the gamut of restaurants, some his own, and he's been a chef to celebrities including Shania Twain, Lenny Kravitz, Joe Pesci, Justin Bieber and David Guetta.

"What really made me turn to sushi was the creativity component," Pandolfe said. "When you're in a kitchen cooking the same dishes over and over, it kind of puts a damper on you. But at a sushi bar, every customer who walks through the door is different."

This month, he moved to Steamboat with his family to be the new head chef at Yama Kawa's new location at 11th and Yampa streets.

A new sushi menu will be released Monday with items inspired by a combination of Pandolfe's past menus and experience under the watchful eye of renowned Masaharu Morimoto, a Japanese chef, known as an Iron Chef on the TV cooking show "Iron Chef America." Morimoto also opened Nobu, the most popular chain of Japanese restaurants on the West Coast, with co-owner Robert De Niro.

"I love feeding people," said Pandolfe, who was born in New Jersey, raised in California and learned how to cook from his Italian mother. "I'm Italian ethnically, and I like family-style dishes. It makes me feel good to do that one little thing for a customer or to make something special just for them."

Soon after high school, Pandolfe passed on two full-ride football scholarships to pursue a life in Homer, Alaska. There he lived on a fishing boat for months at a time, fishing all day and cooking at night.

"That's how I got my foot in the door with cooking," he said. "I started at the bottom and worked my way to the top."

But it wasn't easy. After 12 years working as a chef and then an executive sushi chef on the Jersey Shore and also in Los Angeles, he then interned with Morimoto.

"I got to work and learn from the best and see the best fish in the world come in and how to handle it," Pandolfe said.

"I was in the basement for three months just washing rice before they realized I could cut fish better than most of them," Pandolfe said of his time under Morimoto's tutelage. "They didn't want to show me their techniques at first because they were afraid of the fact that I wasn't Japanese. But that made me want it more and to show them that I could do it even better than them."

Pandolfe said he has always loved fresh fish and vegetables for a lighter fare and likes a more traditional sushi with a taste that is not drowned out with sauces.

"The vision for Yama is to have mountain-friendly food where you can find a great sushi bar but also a variety of steak and seafood options that are locally sourced as well," he said.

The new menu will feature 12 different options of fish compared to the previous four. While he kept a few of the popular rolls like the Red Dragon, Pandolfe added a few new ones.

"My rolls really specialize in the fish," said Pandolfe about newer rolls like the "Alaskan King" with salmon, "Wicked Tuna" with a spicy tuna and the "Steamboat Mobster" with a yellowtail Hamachi whitefish.

Yama will also offer a 12-course meal, the "Sushimon Omakasa," at the sushi bar that will feature small plate items like soups, salads, rolls and a variety of tasting specialties. This option allows patrons to have a customized, surprise dinner. In which it will be customized to each customer's likes and dislikes.

"My hope was to bring my worldly tastes and cuisines along with my fresh approach to ingredients and the culinary experience to this mountain town," Pandolfe said.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

Cooking With: Mountain Tap Brewery on Yampa Street in Steamboat Springs

Upon first glance, Mountain Tap Brewery may seem like the typical biker-hiker-watering-hole with fresh IPAs and mouthwatering pizzas, but wait. There's more.

The taste at this particular watering hole is calculated down to a science.

Brewmaster and owner Rich Tucciarone utilizes his food science and fermentation degree in the brewhouse, while chef Chereen Leong Schwarz puts her food science and Culinary Institute degrees to work overseeing wood-fired cooking in the kitchen.

"I find that I most utilize my science background when troubleshooting," said Leong Schwarz, who also did a stage (cooking internship) with the "the wood-fire oven king" chef at Basta in Boulder. "I try to think critically and figure out why things happen from a scientific perspective."

Equipped with a wood-fired oven – that's bordered in colorful tiles burning between 700 to 1000 degrees in various zones – Leong Schwarz said this is the primary vessel each dish on the menu is designed for. Mountain Tap doesn't even have a grill or fryer.

Wood-fired cooking with its incredibly high heat can provide challenges for a chef. The coals, Leong Schwarz explained, need to maintain the floor heat of the oven. But, there also needs to be convection heat coming from the frame, because if not, the heat from above won't melt the cheese and the bottom will be burnt.

"It's about finding the right balance with the fire, coals and distribution of heat," she said. "It's always interesting."

One item on the menu that was added this winter, the Rocky Mountain Trout entree, has quickly become a local favorite, according to Mountain Tap co-owner Wendy Tucciarone.

"The idea for this dish emerged when I was thinking about wanting to combine a protein that emphasized the Rocky Mountains," she said. "This dish works really well in the wood fire and is quick, only 3 to 4 minutes in the oven. It's fresh, light but still hearty enough to be a meal.”

Mountain Tap also focuses on trying to locally source anything not house-made.

To go along with the trout dish, Rich Tucciarone recommends the "Get Out" beer, which offers complementary flavors and also has palate-quenching acidity that cuts through some of the oils to reset taste buds for the next bite.

When it comes to the recipes, this brewmaster said it's a science and art form to come up with creative recipes that can be realistically executed.

"Brewing is all about science," said Tucciarone, who earned his food science and fermentation degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and attended the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology. "It is critical to know where your raw materials are coming from and as much as possible about them and the growing conditions. Water, malted barley, hops and yeast all work together to make beer, but how we work with them and control the process is the difference between 'just beer' and 'great beer.' The scientist in me comes out when I start to talk about beer. I could go on and on."

Typically, Mountain Tap has about 12 brews on tap featuring a wide variety of everything from a crisp hoppy German-style pilsner to a Lager and even a "Passionate Pedal," a crisp refreshing wheat beer.

In celebration of its one-year anniversary, Mountain Tap will feature the specially brewed Anniversary IPA brewed with seven grains, seven hops and 7 percent alcohol to celebrate the fact they opened on July 17, 2016.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

Opening Saturday, Steamboat’s Cloverdale Restaurant to offer a new kind of fine dining experience

Amid the pandemonium of a kitchen preparing for opening night, a seemingly obscure reminder remains to be seen.

"Listen to the mustn'ts child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me … Anything can happen child. Anything can be."

These words by Shel Silverstein have guided owner/chef Patrick Ayres, along with his team, to make Cloverdale Restaurant a reality.

Just drive by the new fine dining restaurant's historic residence at Ninth and and Oak streets, nestled in the old town neighborhood and concealed from the steady rush of traffic — a hidden gem awaits the arrival of guests.

Saturday, Cloverdale Restaurant will officially open to the public.

Built in 1918 by celebrated local builder Art Gumprecht, the restaurant will be the first of its kind in Steamboat, offering a locally-based, farm-to-restaurant, fine-dining experience.

Upon stepping through the entryway, the decor reflects the restaurant's logo, a Colorado's sagebrush.

"The idea behind the whole restaurant is Colorado," Ayres said. "So, we're trying to use as much from our farm as we can and as much from Colorado as we can."

The 32-seat restaurant — including the seats at the bar and the 10 upstairs in the private dining room — was crafted by designer Vertical Arts using Ayres' vision. It allows the historical features of the existing structure to be showcased, while also modernizing a traditional farmhouse. This motif extends to the wine cellar, where Cloverdale will feature a ratio of 70 percent old-world and 30 percent new-world wines.

Cloverdale Restaurant (photos)

One of Cloverdale's main philosophies, Ayres said, is quality.

"It's about shear freshness," Ayres said. "There's no way to get something as fresh as going out and picking it that morning. Every single thing in here is picked for quality. Every cocktail and every dish will be made with the best ingredients, and every wine is picked meticulously. Every single one of us is passionate about restaurants. It's what we do and have always done. I think that might be what sets us apart."

The head staff includes Cody Robison as the wine and service director, Brian Sites as the sous chef, Russell Goodman as the pastry chef, Kyle Currell as the bartender and Britni Johnson as the farm manager; each was selected to be an expert in his or her field, which Ayres said complements another element of his philosophy for Cloverdale: collaboration.

"At end of each night, we’ll sit up stairs with staff and meet to talk about what's coming up the next day. I want to have the cooks tell me their ideas, what they think they can do with it," Ayres said. "This collaboration and openness makes them way more passionate about what they are doing, which is what we're all about."

Not only that, he requires both the front of the house and back house staff to work at the farm a few days each week so they’ll know exactly where the food on each dish comes from.

"The idea is, I want them to buy into everything and have more care with what they're working with," he said. "It makes our staff much more knowledgeable about the food and where it's coming from. They know exactly what variety it is and how long it took to grow or harvest — the whole story behind it."

The original name comes from the farm property, built in 1902 and known as Cloverdale Ranch. The Bartholomew family, who owned the ranch, moved to town from Cloverdale, Kansas, hence, the name. Ayres said he wanted the name to have meaning instead of just grabbing something out of thin air.

Just outside town, off Colorado Highway 131, the Cloverdale Restaurant Farm is overseen by Johnson, who is a Master Gardener and also serves as farm manager. She is usually seen attending to the 40 different varieties the provide the restaurant with fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs, honey, eggs, bees and goats (for milk and meat).

This is the farm's second season, but its first season growing specifically for the restaurant. Johnson was hired in spring 2016 by Ayres, and though she has had experience working in Bozeman on 12 acres of a diversified vegetable farm, she has also performed hours of tedious research and put in the time to learn by doing.

"Any farmer will tell you that working on a farm will be a great experience, but, at same time, you have to take the leap and go for it, because you will learn through doing," she said. "Farming is problem solving … it's inevitable, because farms have microclimates that you are always having to adjust to your specific location. You can rely on others for advice and resources, but the answers are never black and white. Sometimes, you just have to do it yourself."

Last year, she was the only employee but now has four part-time employees working on about two-thirds of an acre, and they hope to grow into two acres of cultivated space in the next few years.

Soil health and land stewardship is of utmost importance to Cloverdale Restaurant's farm, so no herbicides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers are used. Instead, they find ways to work with nature. This is particularly important, given the 59-day frost-free growing season.

Hand weeding, the use of beneficial plants and insects, application of annual soil amendments, crop rotation, cover cropping, crop diversity and minimal tillage techniques are a few of the practices they employ, Johnson said.

Items such as Radish, Wood Sorrel; Frosted Greens; Potato; Wild Gooseberry; Moon Ranch Lamb; Sienna Peas; Blossoms; Dry-Aged Duck; Hakurei Turnip; and Rhubarb, Sweet Alyssum are a few of the creative concoctions Ayres and his team will have on their ever-changing 1o- to 14-course menu.

"Food unites all of us," she said. "It's common ground from just the simple nature of it being a community-based effort. It's about giving back to the soil as much as it is about giving back to the community."

Ayres said the dishes will use little protein except what comes from having food sourced from the farms, however the restaurant will be able to feature a wide variety of vegetables throughout the year. Ayres said a restaurant of this concept, combined with fine dining, is not something Colorado has seen.

"I think people will be surprised but excited," he said. "Expect a lot of variety and different techniques and products. A 12-course meal doesn't actually take as long as you think. We move quickly, and some dishes are small, one-bite dishes, while others are more substantial. It's our job to make sure you're full, but not disgustingly full. We want you to leave satisfied, and that's part of our job with portion sizes.”

Kid friendly, parent approved restaurants in Steamboat Springs

Sunny days by the river and beautiful evenings on the restaurant patio — it's officially summer in Steamboat! As any parent of a toddler knows, going out to eat can quickly become this week's latest torture event. Let's face it: Who wants to sit at a table alone while your partner chases down your little love before all hell breaks loose? It's not exactly the happy hour of your earlier days. Don't despair! I've found some of the happiest spots on the block for parents and their little rascals.

Steamboat base area
You may have spent some time at the "beach" along Burgess Creek at the base of the ski area. If so, you know this is a fabulous spot for kiddos. With water, rocks and sand, there is no better combo to entertain the curious minds. Match this with the fabulous eats at the many nearby restaurants — including Gondola Pub & Grill, Bear River Bar & Grill, Paramount, Los Locos and Slopeside Grill — and you have a perfect combo. You may still have some moments of eating alone, but you will be in good company.

Rex's Bar & Grill
If your child is anything like ours, the car seat is one of her least favorite places. It ranks right up there with shots and diaper changes. If we can avoid the drama of driving, we are happy people. Living on the east side of town, this spot is our bike-to favorite. Beyond the ease of the commute, Rex's has a dynamite setup for families. A large grass area provides lawn games for all ages, including adults. The children's menu is awesome and includes Freya's favorite, mac 'n' cheese. (Often finished by dad or yours truly.)

Aurum
If you're looking for a perfect downtown spot with a deck that overlooks the Yampa River, Aurum is my pick. Mix the ideal location with a grassy area for kids to romp around and you have a happy family. With a fabulous happy hour menu and friendly staff, this is a a great place to nominate someone you love to chase your kids.

Check please!

Caroline Lalive Carmichael moved to Steamboat with her family in 1995 and joined the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. After one season, Caroline was named to the U.S. Ski Team and competed for 13 years, attending two Olympics. After retiring in 2009, she returned to Steamboat as a coach. She and fellow Olympian Nelson Carmichael were married in 2012 and welcomed their daughter, Freya, in 2015. 

Originally published at my.steamboat.com

Cooking With: Phenomenal Falafel offers creative taste to Steamboat in new location

On one of Bob and Katie Samardzic's excursions through Maui, an idea for a new endeavor emerged.

It all started with the taste of a falafel sandwich – one they couldn't forget.

"We had this curry sauce from a falafel we tried stuck in our mind for years," said Katie Samardzic. "It was the inspiration for our Indian-inspired recipe, the Punjabi."

Always tasting, testing and willing to try something new, the Samardzics own Phenomenal Falafel and recently moved their business to a new location for their Mediterranean-style restaurant, 1117 Lincoln Ave.

After moving from a food truck five years ago to their pop-up location at Sweet Pea in the winter of 2016, they moved into their new space about three weeks ago and plan on expanding and building upon their creative recipes for a menu that will feature their regular sandwiches, sides, wraps, salads, plates, and now, dinner.

"Some of the items you see on the menu came together really quickly while others took a bit of time," said Bob.

Their falafel mix – the vessel that is the base for most of their recipes – includes Garbanzo beans, red onion, garlic, cumin, cilantro, parsley and their "super spice mix" which is part of their “secret” tried and true recipe.

To make the falafel, the mix is put through a grinder to create a meal substance that is then made into little balls. For the last step, they put the falafel balls into a fryer and then those are used in a variety of their recipes.

"It's universal ingredients from around the world," Bob said. "You can draw a line connecting all the places that we represent and see the similarities in culinary traditions."

But the "wow factor" of their operation, Bob said is in the toppings, relishes and pickles. Those include the tahini, tzatziki, Thai slaw, avocado cream and mango-habanero "chutney."

An idea that turn out so well was the falafel breakfast burrito.

But then the Samardzics have favorites like the Punjabi, which features a spicy pico, curry yogurt with over 18 ingredients.

In the future, the couple hope to expand Phenomenal Falafel to other ski towns, but for now, they look forward to offering new and creative falafel recipes to Steamboat Springs.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

Carl’s Tavern has new owners

Carl's Tavern will reopen under new ownership early next week.

The restaurant at the corner of Seventh and Yampa streets, which is named after Carl Howelsen, the Norwegian ski jumping champion who brought skiing to Steamboat, has been shuttered since April when former owner Collin Kelley closed its doors prior to the sale of the business and its real estate on the bottom floor of the Howelsen Place development.

The business transaction was finalized Friday, June 16 with Scott Engelman and David Jones, who co-own Truffle Pig at the base of Steamboat Ski Area, purchasing the restaurant that has anchored the east end of Yampa Street since Carl’s first opened in April 2011.

Carl’s features a horseshoe-shaped bar with nine high-definition TVs for sports enthusiasts as well as the "Antler Room" with everything from darts to shuffleboard to pool and booths. The restaurant’s gastro pub fare ranges from "The Business," a local spin of poutine, and a variety chicken wing flavors to filet mignon.

"We like the concept, we like the menu and we like the whole vibe down there as far as the restaurant goes," Engelman said. "It's a go-to spot that's very approachable both from a menu selection and price standpoint. We want to keep it Carl's, but we can take some of the expertise that we have at Truffle Pig with our chef and myself and apply it to the needs of Carl's to help it evolve into what we believe it can be."

Engelman and Jones  don't want to make Carl's Tavern into another Truffle Pig. It’s their vision to forge fresh relationships with vendors and staff and generally retain Carl's Tavern atmosphere and food while making strategic changes that will enable them to execute food out of the small kitchen in a more timely manner.

"Collin has done a great job creating a concept that has a lot of people going to it, and it's doing relatively well revenue wise," Engelman said. "We think we can step it up a couple notches and make it more profitable and make it a better environment for both the staff and the customers."

Since opening the restaurant in the spring of 2011, Kelley created many memories over the years from Kentucky Derby parties to Carl’s five-year anniversary party, which involved cooking over 2,000 chicken wings with live music from the Old Town Pickers – one of the first bands to play there and the last.

Kelley said he chose to sell the restaurant so that he could have more time with his kids following his recent divorce.

"I put everything I had — my heart and soul — into that place," Kelley said. "I will miss Steamboat and want to thank everyone for nearly seven years of support. I'm proud to leave behind something that will hopefully be part of Steamboat's legacy for years to come."

Kelley said he will be moving to Denver to be an active father and plans to try something outside of the restaurant business.

Jones, a well-known St. Louis restaurateur, opened Truffle Pig in 2010. In 2013, Engelman joined Jones as his operating partner.

Engelman has an extensive background in the hotel and food and beverage industry, with experience working at Club Med to The Little Nell in Aspen. He also opened hotels in Miami and Las Vegas for the Hyatt hotel chain and also served as corporate director of food and beverage for Luxury Resorts (The Blackstone Group).

With an understanding of Steamboat's seasonality, labor force and winter and summer clientele, Engelman said he and Jones were able to shape Truffle Pig into the restaurant it is today. Since taking over, he said minor adjustments to the business model resulted in Truffle Pig’s sales increasing 120 percent and employee turnover decreasing to an historic low.

After stabilizing operations at Truffle Pig, the business partners were looking for restaurant opportunities downtown as a way to create a business balance.

"Acquiring Carl's and having a location downtown gives us some advantages operationally and allows us the resources of tapping into a different season and market," Jones said.

Jones said having the restaurant close before the purchase allowed for a clean break in operations.

Currently, Engelman said they are working on cleaning the restaurant, making repairs and conducting training with the staff prior to the doors re-opening next week.

"We don't want the clientele to feel alienated by the changes," Engelman said. "We want them to embrace the changes as something that will enhance the experience at Carl's. It's not our intention to reinvent the wheel, we just want to make it better. It doesn't matter what business you're looking at, anything can be improved upon."

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

Steamboat’s Cupcake Mini Bar opens at new location

What is it about gourmet cupcakes that make them so irresistible?

Perhaps it's the cake-to-frosting ratio – it has to be just right to get an equal amount of sweet or tangy flavor. Could it be the decadent concoctions full of elaborate variations? Or maybe it's the convenience, no fork or plate – just a personal serving of sugary goodness.

Walking in to Cupcake Mini Bar's new location at 635 Lincoln Ave., the delectable sweetness of the chic boutique-style café instantly makes your mouth water. And then your eyes graze the display case.

Flavors of strawberry lemonade garnished with a white chocolate straw, raspberry chocolate with fresh berry puree in the middle, Reece's, Oreo, vanilla, chocolate and vegan chocolate – all made from scratch. How will I ever decide which flavor to try?

From 8 to 10 a.m. Friday, you’ll have a chance to try to the bite-sized delights as the Cupcake Mini Bar will be serving up free mini cupcakes accompanied by Steamboat Coffee & Tea Company coffee.

"I love this," said Brandi Eliason, who owns the shop with her husband, Dave Eliason. "I love the creativity of it, taking simple ingredients and making something that tastes and looks amazing. The possibilities are endless."

Trained as a pastry chef at The Four Seasons Jackson Hole, Brandi Eliason said owning her own boutique bakery was always a dream.

"I wanted to have a boutique bakery where people know the things here were made that morning and that someone put a lot of love and time into it," Brandi said.

Running short on time and need to find a last minute gift? The Cupcake Mini Bar may be just the place to look.

This one-stop-shop Eliason envisions will not only provide a delicately wrapped indulgence, but will also showcase Etsy-esque handmade gifts from local artists such as cards, candles, jewelry and more.

Previously located at the corner of Oak and Fifth streets, the Cupcake Mini Bar was originally owned by Cassie Crooke and it opened as a boutique bakery specializing in mini cupcakes, custom-made cakes and cake pop cookies for any special occasion or celebration.

“I immediately knew Brandi was the right fit to take on Cupcake Mini Bar,” Crooke said. “I was impressed by her extensive experience as a pastry chef, but more importantly, I realized she had the same vision to create this special experience, something I had dreamt up in 2012.T he new bakery is in a great location, and she has transformed it into a true cupcake cafe.”

Brandi said they will continue to create custom event and wedding cakes along with a few of the recipes Crooke originally developed from her background of baking in Los Angeles.

All of their recipes are made from scratch and are made with a variety of fruit purees and pastry creams. Eventually, they’ll offer booze-infused cupcakes with flavors like margarita, Bailey's and Champagne.

About 10 to 12 different variety of cupcakes will be sold daily. There will always be vanilla, chocolate, vegan and gluten-free options on hand, Brandi said. The assortment will also include freshly made crème brûlée, cream puffs, fruit tarts and different flavors of French macaroons.

"My signature style is to use fresh ingredients and take inspiration from wherever," Brandi said. "I'm adventurous to try new things and make things look different.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email @Audrey_Dwyer1

Antlers Café & Bar reopens for the summer season serving up nostalgia for Routt County

At the end of Main Street and Moffat Avenue, a historical icon stands within the town of Yampa.

Hikers, anglers, hunters and even skiers may have fond, childhood memories of visiting the restaurant as a source of an authentic western dining experience.

Paying homage to its past, while embracing a new chapter, head chef Spencer Harden and manager Kari Harden officially opened the Antlers Café & Bar this weekend for the summer season.

"We want people to take a ride out here for a different kind of experience," Spencer Harden said, "because we offer something nostalgic here that you can't find in Steamboat."

Built in 1906 and listed on the Routt County Register of Historic Places and the state Register of Historic Places, Antlers Café & Bar has been known as an icon of the valley's western heritage.

Initially, it served as a saloon, pool hall and gambling establishment; it was transitioned into an authentic western restaurant when Charles Hamlin and John deNeufville purchased the building from Mike Benedick in 1997.

With a "middle of nowhere feel" visitors who come in search of Antlers will have more to talk about on the way home than just the location and cuisine.

Inside, antlered trophy animals mounted on the walls include a Colorado mountain catfish, a mountain lion's head and a fish's body, a mule deer and a mule paired with deer antlers, all working together to keep the venue true to its namesake.

"Essentially, it's the same place everyone remembers and has fond childhood memories from," said Kari Harden, a Colorado native who grew up near Yampa. "We wanted to bring our own personalities to it but, more than anything, honor its past and preserve that. This is authentic Old West, and people love this place."

Making a menu that is accessible to both locals and visitors, the Hardens said the Bistro-style menu features rustic cuisine that fits the Yampa Valley. A few of the dinner items include classic steak dishes, a lamb pot pie, grilled Rocky Mountain trout and roasted chicken.

With a New Orleans culinary background, the "graduate school for the culinary world," Spencer Harden got his start working at the esteemed Emeril’s New Orleans restaurant, then moved to a variety of other restaurants during the past 15 years.

He said the menu will also include a different flair for those hoping to try something new, with dishes such as chicken and andouille gumbo, Bourbon and beer French onion soup and coconut shrimp options.

"We are bringing variety to Antlers, with an expansive menu and composed dishes," said Harden. "Before, it was choose your steak, and then you get a choice of potatoes and vegetables. Now, each dish has its own identity."

The restaurant will be open five days per week, Wednesday through Sunday, serving dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. The bar will open at 3 p.m.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, the bar will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. Throughout the week, Kari Harden said they will be offering a variety of live music, and on June 3, local musician Dave Moran will perform.

In two weeks, the couple said, they plan to begin opening for brunch, giving diners an opportunity to see more of the New Orleans influence in the food, with dishes such as traditional shrimp and grits. Other items they hope to incorporate in the menu include fresh fish specials, which will also include a New Orleans influence. They also plan to incorporate more locally sourced produce and meats from nearby purveyors.

"My hope is to have people who live in Steamboat venture out here to enjoy it and make this their weekly destination and, also, to have people from out-of-town come here and have a new experience, then remember it and come back years later as a place where they had fond memories of the history and food this place offers," Spencer Harden said.