Pearl gem: Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson Frasca Food and Wine Boulder, CO.
A lone man remained on the street. Drenched and laboring, he slowly propelled his wheelchair down the sidewalk past Pizzeria Locale until he came into view of the enormous plate glass window at Frasca Food and Wine. The hail hindered his progress. With the lightning reflexes of a member of the League of Justice, Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson sprinted outside from Frasca's warm dining room and invited the man to take shelter until the storm cleared.
Not everyone does that.
But then Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson is not just everyone and Frasca is not just every place.
Raised in Toronto, Ontario, the son of surgeons, Mackinnon-Patterson's parents sent him to Ferrandi, the French School of Culinary Arts in the heart of Paris' Montparnasse and Saint-Germain districts. He says, "Without my parents teaching me the importance of dedication I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing."
In Paris he apprenticed for Benoit Guichard at Jamin. "Fie taught me to do something over and over again, a lost art in our industry. And, to make something that might seem simple, but tastes incredible."
After a turn at La Taupiniere in Pont Aven, Brittany, with Guy Guilloux, he found a place at The French Laundry. "I never knew what it meant to have such attention to cleanliness and detail. He (Keller) is the best there is in that regard. You may have just swept, but sweep again even if you have already done it."
It was at The French Laundry where he encountered Bobby Stuckey, head sommelier at the time. "I could tell there was something special about him."
"Bobby and I both shared an interest in Italy. We both had fine dining training. We thought, 'wouldn't it be interesting to find out about something that we didn't know about? And to get better and better over time?' We read about this word frasca, [friendly and informal gathering places in Friuli identified by a tree branch hanging over the portal], from the book Vino Italiano by Joe Bastianich. The idea seemed really special."
Summer 2014 marked the restaurant's tenth anniversary. Known for their signature Friuli-Venezia Giulia cuisine, the restaurant's greater hallmark might very well be its sincere hospitality plied by co-owners Mackinnon-Patterson and Stuckey.
The two share a similar fervor, they embrace hard work with gusto.
Mackinnon-Patterson says, "We started from humble beginnings. We opened with no investors. We were the sole owners, the laborers, the cooks. We did everything. We served all the food. It was brutal."
"We paid the staff before we paid ourselves. For months we didn't take a salary. Just grinding it out with the team each day. That's what it's all about."
As the business gained momentum they opened Pizzeria Locale and apply the same hard work ethic. "We've always had a goal. To just get better and better. It's about inspiration and saying, 'let's just learn more and focus on this without getting distracted.'"
In December 2013, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson announced that Pizzeria Locale's Denver location had partnered with Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Mackinnon-Patterson considers Steve Ells, founder and CEO of the groundbreaking eco-organic-minded fast food chain, one of his mentors. "Steve's been a customer of ours for a long time. I've known him for 10 years. Mackinnon-Patterson says, "I never knew we'd have so much in common with a business that has, say, 17,000 employees versus ours that has 17."
FRICO CROCCANTE Serves 4 For the polenta: 1/2 cups Anson Mills Rustic Polenta Integrate 4 1/4 cups water Salt as needed 1/4 cup grated Montasio Vecchio* For the breadcrumbs: 4 1-inch thick slices filone or other rustic-style bread 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper to taste For the brown butter: 1/4 pound unsalted butter For the Montasio baskets: 3/4 cup finely grated Montasio Vecchio For the dish: 2 ounces smoked ricotta cheese 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives * Montasio Vechhio, a hard cow's milk cheese that takes its name from the Montasio mountain range in Italy's Friuli region where it is widely produced in compliance with strict requirements. It was first made during the 13th century at a monastery in the Giulia Alps.
FOR THE POLENTA: In a medium-sized pot, bring the water to a boil. Gently add the polenta while whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the polenta returns to a full boil and thickens slightly. Add a small amount of salt and reduce heat to a very slow simmer. Cook for approximately two hours, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and finish seasoning with salt to taste. Hold warm and reserve the Montasio cheese until ready to serve.
FOR THE BREADCRUMBS: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Remove the crust from the bread and tear into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Spread evenly on a metal baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until the bread is completely dry but not browned. Once dry remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer bread to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulverize until the majority of the bread crumbs are slightly smaller than the size of a pea. Using a fine mesh sieve, sift the breadcrumbs into a powder over a baking sheet, removing any larger pieces. In a wide saute pan over medium-low heat, add the extra virgin olive oil. Add the breadcrumbs and, using a rubber spatula, continuously turn, never letting them sit on the bottom of the pan, sauteing until golden brown. Remove from the pan and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
FOR THE BROWN BUTTER: Melt the butter in a small sauce pot over medium heat. Whisk continuously until the butter turns from milky to clear and the milk solids brown. Continue whisking until the solids are a pale golden brown and remove from the heat. Continue whisking off the heat until a deep golden brown.
FOR THE MONTASIO BASKETS: Using a 3-inch ring mold, form the cheese in a thin layer on a Silpat. Microwave for approximately 45 seconds or until the cheese takes on a golden brown color and slightly toasted appearance. Remove the Silpat from the microwave and quickly move the cheese disk from the Silpat to a small inverted bowl or glass allowing the cheese disk to overhang from the lip. As it cools, gently press the cheese over the back of the bowl to form the basket. The cheese will firm up and turn crispy as it cools.
TO SERVE: Reheat the polenta until it reaches a boil and melt the grated Montasio Vecchio into it. Once fully melted, fill the basket with polenta. Top with small teaspoons of hot brown butter sauce, toasted breadcrumbs, and a generous amount of finely grated smoked ricotta and chopped chives.
POLENTA GNOCCHETTI and QUAIL RAGU Serves 4 For the polenta gnocchetti: Salt, as needed 4 large Russet potatoes 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 fine ground polenta 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 large egg, whisked For the quail ragu: 3 boneless quail 1 1/2 ounces carrot, peeled and chopped 1 1/2 ounces red onion, peeled and chopped 1 1/2 ounces celery, chopped 1 tablespoon tomato paste 21/2 ounces red wine 2 cups chicken stock Salt, as needed Grapeseed oil, as needed For the dish: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary 1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano
FOR THE POLENTA GNOCCHETTI: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cover the bottom of a shallow baking pan with 1/2-inch of salt and place potatoes inside so they are not touching. Bake until completely cooked through, approximately 1 1/2-2 hours. Remove them from the oven and slit each lengthwise. Allow the potato to steam for a few minutes. Scoop the flesh into a food mill or ricer. Holding the mill 12-inches above a lightly floured wooden board, mill the potato across the board in a shallow layer. Gently dust the top of the potatoes with the flour, polenta, and salt. Drizzle the egg over the potato. Using two bench scrapers, incorporate the ingredients until a dough begins to form. Flour your hands to prevent sticking, and knead the dough gently until uniform, homogenous and well-incorporated, taking care not to over-knead. Lightly flour the outside of the dough and load it into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch pastry tip.
FOR THE QUAIL RAGU: In a medium saute pan, add enough oil to fill the pan 1/2-inch deep. Heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Carefully place the quail, breast side down, into the pan. Reduce the heat slightly and sear both sides of the quail until the skin is golden brown and crispy. Transfer quail to a cutting board and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the carrot, red onion and celery. Saute the vegetables until slightly caramelized and tender. Reduce heat to low and add the tomato paste, cooking until a deep red color. Deglaze with the wine, cooking until the alcohol has evaporated. Remove pan from the heat. Peel the crispy skin from the quail and finely chop. Pick the quail meat from the bones. Add the chopped skin and quail meat back to the saute pan with the vegetables and cover with chicken stock. Bring to a slow simmer and cook until the meat is tender and the liquid has thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Set aside, keeping warm.
TO SERVE: Bring a large pot of salted water to a slow simmer. Reheat quail ragu in a large saute pan until it is very hot, but not boiling or reducing. Holding the piping bag in one hand and a paring knife in the other, pipe and cut the gnocchetti in 1/2-inch size pieces directly into the water. When the gnocchetti rise to the surface, simmer for 30 more seconds, drain, and transfer to the quail ragu, gently tossing together. Increase heat to medium-high and add the butter. Toss until the butter is fully incorporated and no loose liquid remains in the pan. Add the herbs, tossing for 15 more seconds. Remove from the heat. Spoon onto warm plates and using a microplane, grate with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
BEEF WITH BEET POLENTA Serves 4 Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson Frasca Food and Wine For the polenta: 1 1/2 cups Anson Mills white polenta integrate 4 1/4 cups water Salt, as needed 1/2 cup fresh beet juice For the beef: 24 ounce whole wagyu ribeye Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 2 cloves garlic, peeled 1 fresh bay leaf 4 ounces butter Grapeseed oil, as needed For the garnish: Fresh horseradish Rosemary sprigs
FOR the POLENTA: In a medium-size pot, bring the water to a boil. Gently add the polenta while whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the polenta returns to a boil and thickens slightly. Add a small amount of salt and reduce heat to a very slow simmer. Cook for approximately three hours, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, split the mixture into two, and add the beet juice to half of the polenta. Finish with salt to taste. Keep warm.
FOR THE BEEF: Season beef with salt and pepper. In a large saute pan over medium heat, add grapeseed oil. Add the beef, searing both sides. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the garlic, bay leaf and butter. Once the butter has melted, baste the top and sides of the beef. Continue to baste until the butter browns, turning once. Transfer to a cutting board to rest. Strain the butter remaining in the pan through a fine mesh sieve and reserve.
TO SERVE: On a plate, spoon polenta and beet polenta in a yin-yang pattern. Slice two 3-ounce portions of beef and arrange on top of the polenta. Grate fresh horseradish on top and garnish with fresh rosemary.
POLENTA and COTECHINO Serves 4 For the polenta: 1 1/2 cups polenta 6 cups water Salt, as needed For the cotechino: 4 1/2 ounces fresh pork belly 2 1/4 ounces pork skin 1 1/2 ounces pork fat back 3/4 teaspoon salt Pinch of curing salt For the prosciutto sauce: 4 ounces prosciutto, finely chopped 1/4 pound butter 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar Freshly cracked black pepper
FOR THE POLENTA: In a pot over medium high heat, bring the water to a full boil. Slowly add the polenta while whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the polenta returns to a full boil and thickens slightly. Add a small amount of salt and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for approximately two hours, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, finish seasoning with salt to taste, and keep warm.
FOR THE COTECHINO: Place bowl and paddle of electric mixer in freezer along with meat grinder parts, including medium and large dye. Blanch the pork skin in unsalted boiling water for 7 minutes. Remove, and cool to room temperature. Cut into 1-inch squares. Cut the pork belly and fat back to similar-sized pieces. Combine the ground skin with the diced pork belly, fat back, and salts. Mix well and split equally onto two small sheet trays. Place in freezer until very firm but not completely frozen. Set up meat grinder. Pass one half of the mixture into chilled mixing bowl through a medium dye and the other half into the same mixing bowl through a large dye. Knead by hand until the sausage mixture is well-incorporated and becomes sticky to the touch, about two minutes. Stuff the desired casing with mixture and, in a large saucepan of simmering water, poach until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Keep warm.
FOR THE PROSCIUTTO SAUCE: Slowly render and crisp the prosciutto until crispy. Add the butter and saute until the butter browns. Remove from heat, add the vinegar, and steep until ready to serve.
TO SERVE: Spoon hot polenta onto the plate. Slit the sausage casing, peel and remove from the cotechino. Slice the cotechino and place on top of polenta. Spoon hot prosciutto sauce over the polenta and cotechino, and finish with fresh cracked black pepper.
CHESTNUT POLENTA ZEPPOLI Makes 20-24 Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson Frasca Food and Wine For the huckleberry marmalade: 1 cup huckleberries 1 teaspoon red verjus 1 teaspoon orange juice 3 tablespoons granulated sugar Pinch of salt 1/4 teaspoon apple pectin For the maple glaze: cup maple syrup 1 cup confectioners' sugar 1 pinch salt For the zeppoli: 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour 1/3 cup Anson Mills chestnut polenta 1/4 cup granulated sugar 3 large eggs 1 1/2 cups ricotta 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
FOR THE HUCKLEBERRY MARMALADE: In a pot over low heat, add huckleberry verjus and orange juice and cook until the huckleberries are tender and release some of their juice. Whisk pectin and sugar together and add to huckleberry mixture. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer to another container to cool.
FOR THE MAPLE GLAZE: In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients until completely smooth.
FOR THE ZEPPOLI: Heat fryer to 350 degrees. In a pot, combine all ingredients. Using a spatula, stir well, eliminating as many lumps as possible from the flour mixture. Place over low heat, stirring constantly until a film forms on the bottom of the pot and the mixture is heated all the way through. Transfer to a cool container. Spray two large spoons with non-stick spray and portion the dough directly into the fryer. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack. When cool, coat one side of the zeppolis with the maple glaze.
TO SERVE: Place warm zeppolis on a plate and serve with huckleberry marmalade.
TORTA DI POLENTA Serves 10-12 Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson Frasca Food and Wine For the torta di polenta: 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature 1/2 cup granulated sugar 2 large eggs 1 cup polenta 1 1/2 cups blanched almond meal 3/4 teaspoon baking powder* 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 teaspoon lemon zest 1 teaspoon orange zest 1/4 teaspoon toasted and chopped fennel seeds 1/2 teaspoon toasted and chopped anise seeds 1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen For the garnish: Melted Valhrona chocolate Fresh yogurt * This cake was tested at a higher elevation, above 5,000 feet. If making this recipe at sea level, double the leavener.
FOR THE TORTA DI POLENTA: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch cake pan with butter and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on low speed until pale and airy. Add eggs one at a time, combining well after each. In another bowl, mix polenta, almond meal, and baking powder together and reserve. Combine buttermilk with zest and reserve. Add a third of the dry mixture to the butter mixture and incorporate on low speed. When incorporated, add half of the buttermilk. Add the other third of flour, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl, and add the rest of the buttermilk, mixing until all ingredients are well combined. Spread cake batter evenly into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle with fennel seeds and pollen. Bake approximately 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
TO SERVE: Serve a wedge of Torta di Polenta with fresh yogurt and melted Valhrona chocolate.
As the name indicates, wine is the dance partner in Frasca's playbill, sharing equal time on the floor. Frasca's service team, led by M.S. Bobby Stuckey, brings the room to a resounding thirst each night, pouring the great wines of Italy. Bobby Stuckey is a generous and insistent trainer, the epitome of exceptional, refined, and professional service. Antique tables "on loan" from Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson's parents, double as decanting stations. They are dutifully stocked with perfectly folded serviettes, glistening glassware and shiny decanters of form and function. Highlighting each week is the four-course Monday Wine Dinner, an evening always anticipated by the local Boulder community, and just as much by the visiting Vignerons, who provide great wines and conversation tableside.