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the kitchen

Nicole and Andrew joined us for Community Night at The Kitchen tonight, and it was so much fun and so bloody incredible! The menu is determined by 4 pm that day. You don’t get to pick, you just eat what they serve and for any foodie worth her salt, she’ll enjoy every damn bite of it. Let me just state that The Kitchen has been featured in the New York Times, Food and Wine, and other lofty, high brow publications. What I love about The Kitchen is that the food is 100% solid goodness. They serve organic when possible, buy local, and maintain high standards for fresh ingredients. Additionally, The Kitchen serves up incredible food in a non-pretentious, simple, elegant, yet utilitarian fashion.

the kitchen

The style of The Kitchen is really all about the food, wines, and spirits. The interior decor and table settings are simple, elegant, practical, fine. The service is first rate. The business itself is committed to cooking with organic, local, and/or fresh ingredients and is 100% wind-powered. The website advises patrons to come hungry to Comm Night. Whatever could they have meant?

happy diners at community night

Community Night works like this: every Monday night is Community Night (normal dining is also available). You pay $35 per person (not including 18% gratuity) for five courses and tell them the number in your party ahead of time. Show up at 7 pm and sit at a large table with other Community Night diners to enjoy a family-style meal. Meet the folks around you, order drinks, snack on the spiced nuts, and then the journey begins… Our group of four was seated at the large table in the center of the dining room and offered the wine and cocktail list. One of the points of community night is to bring people together for a social and culinary experience. Once the table was nearly full, the food began to arrive just after 7 pm.

a fragrant lychee martini

The first dish was bowls of wood-fire roasted vegetables: beets, carrots, and zucchini seasoned with an assortment of delightful herbs. We had no idea what to expect of the evening and this was a nice solid footing with which to start. The vegetables were sweet and tender. My favorites were the beets which had a subtle nutty flavor and soft texture with just enough chewiness on the outside. I had yet to jot down my thoughts, when two more dishes arrived.

wood-fire roasted beets, carrots, and zucchini

Before I could reach for my camera the Brandade fritters were being passed around the table with much enthusiasm. These were hefty little nuggets of cod (I believe these are a cod purée with other ingredients – possibly olive oil, garlic?) batter fried and served with a heady aioli sauce. The garlic sauce accented the fish nicely. A recurring theme for the night would be crispy outside, tender inside. As my teeth sunk into the first hot fritter, the rest of the table was already groaning over the next plate. Each dish was lovingly presented by a small army of waitstaff.

brandade fritters with aioli sauce

We were sitting at a table of about 20 adventurers including the hostess. Usually three or four plates of each dish were set down along the length of the table as our eyes widened and the other patrons (dining at normal tables) strained their necks to marvel at the beauty and quantity of our meal. The grilled tuna sashimi that arrived ranked near the top for the evening. What you see to the left is what happened when I couldn’t keep up with the arrivals and folks were digging in. The tuna melted in your mouth and the fish flavor mingled well with the truffle oil and rock salt for what I thought was the ultimate in flavor country.

grilled tuna sashimi in rock salt and truffle oil

The next wave brought bowls of savoy cabbage salad with crisp pork shoulder and a dressing with apple jus. Each time our waiter set a dish down before us, he would describe it and I would madly scribble down everything I heard. Jeremy, Nicole, and Andrew tried to listen and repeat what they heard. The people around me began to catch on and would allow me to photograph before reaching for the plate. Everyone was so friendly and curious, and then we would all moan in unison as we tasted each new dish. The fresh and clean bite of the cabbage married nicely with the salty, crisp pork and the tangy sweetness of the apple jus dressing.

savoy cabbage salad with crisp pork shoulder

Small baking dishes of wood-fire roasted cauliflower were laid before us, fresh out of the kitchen. These florets were tossed with capers, lemon juice, olive oil, and breadcrumbs. The vegetable was roasted just enough to be crunchy while still yielding easily to the teeth. The combination of the lemon and capers was a nice accent to the subtle flavor of the cauliflower without masking it. By now I had counted five courses. And yet more food was ushered out of the kitchen…

wood-fire roasted cauliflower with capers, lemon, olive oil, breadcrumbs

Wooden cutting boards with hand-tossed flatbread arrived. Generous slices of eggplant graced the flatbread with cheese (didn’t catch what kind) and a yogurt sauce. This was another dish that received high marks. The bread itself was crispy on the outside, soft inside. The mild eggplant flavor paired with the yogurt sauce was both refreshing and filling at once. People grabbed for seconds, thirds. By now enough wine and other beverages had been consumed and the group on a whole was relaxed, talkative, friendly, and enjoying the array of delights. One thing was certain, the folks at Community Night loved food, and this was their night.

flatbread topped with eggplant, cheese, and yogurt sauce

Next bowls of golden hot french fries were passed about. These are what I call high-brow fries. The outside was crispy, hot, and flavored lightly with garlic and seasoned in salt. The insides were fluffy, steaming, nutty potato. If there was anything The Kitchen had established, it was that their cookstaff knew how to nail the right combination of textures. I was starting to feel full when the staff came to remove our plates. Surely we had to be near the end, right?

french fries

There was a slight lull in the parade of food and several folks asked me what I was taking pictures for. The hostess walked around the table talking with everyone. She approached me as I was taking notes on my scrap of paper and asked what I was working on. So I explained it to her and she asked for my website and then warned that we still had two more courses to go. Two more? Obviously, I didn’t know how to count courses. Waiters came through and set clean plates before us – larger plates. I was so confused. Beautiful wild greens salads were set out and I had a small portion, thinking the finale was coming next.

wild greens salad

The dish that ousted the sashimi tuna for mad props was the gnocchi. Steaming hot, these delicate pillows of potato pasta bathed in a shallow pool of broth from the braised duck leg meat. Spring greens were tossed into the mixture. I have eaten gnocchi before. I have never tasted gnocchi with a texture so delicate and light as this one. They literally melted in my mouth. The intense savory flavor of the duck and broth went perfectly with the gnocchi. Talk about seconds and thirds – even fourths! This dish received raves from the table.

potato gnocchi with braised duck leg

But wait! There was more! Like a one-two punch, two more entrées were brought out. We were beyond the point of counting courses. We were in disbelief, like small children who had already opened all of their Christmas presents only to have brand new bikes wheeled out before us. I suddenly felt as if I had wasted stomach space on extra helpings of the flatbread and the gnocchi (oh, but I LOOOOOVED the gnocchi). Roasted New Zealand king salmon brushed with duck fat was served on a bed of chick pea salad. I took token bite-sized servings, feeling as if I were about to pop. Oh, how delicate and delicious, and an excellent pairing of the two flavors and “weights” of the foods.

new zealand king salmon over chick pea salad

Someone had voiced concern about the leftover food going to waste as we were all nearing stomach capacity and beyond. The hostess informed us that any leftover food on the main plates were eaten by the staff that night – so nothing was wasted. Sighs of relief accompanied arms reaching out to sample the chicken. This chicken was wood-fire roasted with onion, thyme, and marjoram served over a bed of sautéed rapini (broccoli raab) and roasted parnsips. The skin was thin, crispy, perfectly salted, bursting with flavor. The meat was juicy, tender. I liked the rapini, but the parsnips were surprisingly sweet, smooth, and nutty. I was nearing a state of food coma.

roasted chicken over sautéed rapini with roasted parsnips

While the large plates were cleared, Kimbal Musk, chef and co-owner of The Kitchen, came out to talk with everyone at the table. How can you not love a man that cooks and feeds you such masterful creations? Several of us asked about the gnocchi recipe and he said he would put it on the website for us. We had a nice chat together and he graciously agreed to have a picture taken. There is something about this particular form of dinner – Community Night – that is sheer brilliance. The menu is not determined until 4 pm that day. The Kitchen’s menu changes daily based on what amazing ingredients they can get. The beauty of Community Night is that they know how many people are coming, they determine the menu, they can create several servings “in bulk” rather than for a la carte diners, and the patrons get three times the variety of food for three-quarters the cost of a prix fixe. Family-style dining has never been so good.

kimbal musk – our friendly chef, co-owner, culinary master

You could say dessert was one giant course with three parts. The first installment was a lovely trough of yogurt panna cotta with surprise liqueur-soaked prunes lying in wait below the surface. I had not had panna cotta before, and if it were on a menu, I would not have ordered it. Thank goodness for community night because I fell in love with panna cotta! The dish was made with cream, yogurt, lemon zest, gelatin, and those plump alcholic prunes. The consistency was between that of yogurt and gelatin. The flavor was lighter than custard, smooth as silk, creamy.

yogurt panna cotta with liqueur-soaked prunes below

The centerpiece dessert was the pear and white wine tart with some creamy sauce on top. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the sauce was. By that point I was too drunk on food to think to ask anyone or to even try to puzzle it out myself by really tasting it [note: Nicole thinks it was whipped cream]. The pears were a perfect winter fruit touch and the tart overall was not heavy, but deceptively light (pear, white wine). The crumb of the tart was cake-like, moist, distinct. It tasted both rustic and sophisticated. And if the panna cotta and tart were not enough…

pear and white wine tart

They also had bowls of gorgeous (we’re guessing homemade) vanilla ice cream. I set up a happy plate of sweetness for myself despite having reached my full mark several dishes back. I am not afraid to mingle flavors. The panna cotta with the tart was to die for. I know some of the patrons might have been wishing for chocolate (I know Jeremy always wishes for chocolate, even during appetizers), but this dessert was not only unexpected, it was unexpectedly amazing.

my greedy plate of dessert goodness

Community Night is one hell of a dining experience. If you couldn’t tell, I thought this was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life (I’ve never had fourteen dishes for dinner before!). I loved the food, the business ethic, the style, the company. I love The Kitchen.

feeling like this

The Kitchen
1039 Pearl St.
Boulder, CO 80302

January 23, 2006
$87 including tax (not tip) for 2 diners
Rating: 98/100 (A+)

2 nibbles at “the kitchen”

  1. vaughn says:

    i love the kitchen too. i stopped in for dinner one evening when i was in boulder for work and it instantly went onto my list of top 10 places. i’ve never been in boulder for community night but i’ll be scheming to make that happen. i also like that you use the phrase “flavour country.”

  2. jenyu says:

    Vaughn – nice that you’ve been there! Comm Night is so totally worth it.

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