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Colorado Springs chefs going creative with new recipes, stunning presentations and craft foods

December 21, 2017 Updated: December 21, 2017 at 9:34 am
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Supansa Banker, corporate executive chef at Wobbly Olive shows off thinly sliced tenderloin to be cooked on a Japanese hot stone. Photo by Teresa Farney

Award-winning chef Supansa Banker has created a new menu for The Wobbly Olive. She was hired as corporate executive chef for PSI Hospitality in mid-September. PSI stands for business partners Phil Arana, Sean Fitzgerald and Inez Fitzgerald, Sean's wife.

When Banker was hired, Sean said, "I was looking for someone who could grow and elevate us."

A recent Wobbly Olive winter menu tasting showed that Banker has lived up to Sean's expectations and maybe more.

The tasting started with bowls of popcorn tossed with truffle oil and topped with a sprinkle of truffle dust. It was irresistible.

"We like to give our customers something before we ask them to buy something from us," Sean said. "Over the past few weeks of tasting Supansa's dishes, I've learned she can cook anything, and it's all amazing. She constantly wants to learn. She is the most sound chef we have ever had."

Thai beef tartare is served on a chilled Himalayan pink salt block at the Wobbly Olive. Photo by Teresa Farney 

Banker didn't set out to completely change the menu. Popular dishes remain, such as fried calamari ($9) and poutine ($10). New items include Buffalo shrimp ($19), lobster fritters ($15) and her chef's choice housemade smoked sausage ($14). Thai beef tartare ($14) got the most oohs and ahhs. The chopped raw beef tenderloin was mixed with coconut milk instead of the classic raw egg yolk, making for a delicious switch. Seasoned with lemongrass and cilantro sealed the deal for perfect flavoring. Paper-thin house-fried potato crisps stood in for the traditional toast points for transporting the luscious meat to the mouth. The presentation was show- stopping, arriving at the table on an icy pink Himalayan salt block.

The same attention to preparation and creative presentation showed up on the new entrées. Ishiyaki Tenderloin ($22) had all the tasters buzzing.

"When Supansa came up with this idea, I had my doubts," Sean said. "But it had such a great story and it's so interactive, I thought it would make a great date-night dish."

Ishiyaki, a Japanese cooking stone, is preheated in a 450-degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes, then placed on a heatproof pad brought to the table, where diners cook thin slices of meat on the stone. Banker's presentation was another stunning sight. Placed around the blazing hot stone was a basket of rosemary potato frites, tiny bowls of tomato curry, beef jus and the most delicious scoop of bone-marrow butter to enjoy with each sizzling piece of meat.

Sean Fitzgerald, an owner of the Wobbly Olive restaurant flames a dessert coffee. Photo by Teresa Farney 

Sean demonstrated a new dessert, Rüdesheimer Kaffe ($21).

"Supansa made the most delicious chocolate chip biscotti," he said. "We had to come up with a way to have it on the menu. So I made this coffee."

Hot black coffee is laced with Asbach uralt brandy. Sean stirred in a sugar cube and flambéed the drink. A dollop of whipping cream tops the cup, and a dusting of cocoa powder is the finishing touch. The perfect dunking beverage for the crispy cookie.

Details: 3317 Cinema Point, 247-9504, wobblyolive.com.

   

Crafty Colorado Springs

From craft food to booze, restaurants are riding the trend of artisan dishes. Here are a couple of new options:

- Nissa Weeks, owner of Ola Juice Bar downtown, will open Moxie Fresh Kitchen & Craft Cocktails, 925 S. 8th St., Dec. 27. The full-service eatery has expanded Ola's plant-based menu with craft cocktails. The building has gotten a fresh look outside and a major face-lift inside. Visit livemoxie.co.

Colorado Craft, Tejon Street Social will open in January in the former Ritz Grill in downtown Colorado Springs. Photo by Teresa Farney 

- Colorado Craft, Tejon Street Social, replaces the legendary Ritz Grill, 15 S. Tejon St., which will highlight what Colorado breweries, distilleries and farms have to offer. The restaurant is co-owned by Mario Vasquez and Bryan Bradigan. Vasquez is from the Napa Valley in California, where he went to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. He came to Colorado Springs to be part of the culinary team opening Till Kitchen and most recently was executive chef at Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe. Bradigan has an extensive background in restaurant management.

"We are focused on Colorado cuisine," Vasquez said. "We want to bring the community together to create memories around food. We will source the best ingredients found in the state."

Opening is planned for January. Details: 428-3002, tinyurl.com/y7sjn9e3.

Artful dining

Taste at the Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St., is serving lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays.

"It will continue all winter," said Austin Kumm, with Bon Appetit Management Co. "We are currently looking at options to expand to other days as well."

The à la carte lunch menu has soups, salads, entrées, sides and desserts. A pre-theater dinner menu and Sunday brunch is on offer for Annie performances. Details: 634-5583, csfineartscenter.org.

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Send tips about restaurant openings, closings and specials to teresa.farney@gazette.com, 636-0271, Twitter: @tffoodie or Facebook Teresa Farney.

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