Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the "Almonds in the Rockies" trip in Boulder and Denver, Colorado, which was sponsored by the Almond Board of California. I had never been to Colorado before (airports don't count ...) so I was looking forward to seeing the city, and of course experiencing all of the culinary pleasures that Denver and Boulder have to offer.
The other editors and I quickly learned to pace ourselves, as we were stopping by up to nine spots per day to sample food and drink selections – all of which were made with almonds.
Day one took us to Boulder, where we stopped by the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, Cafe Aion, Sterling Rice Group for a culinary roundtable, Bramble and Hare, River and Woods, and Blackbelly. At Cafe Aion, we sampled a Torta de Santiago, served with fruit on the side, which was like a cake; it was lighter but also more dense than I thought it would be.
At the producer roundtable, I learned about the brand OLOMOMO, which has some very tasty almond snacks that combine both the sweet and the savory – its Mango Chipotle flavor was my favorite (I don't even like spicy food, usually, but this had a nice mild spice to it), and Cherry Almond was a close second.
At River and Woods, chef Daniel Asher had us sample a unique dish: cookies and milk, deconstructed, served with almond milk. Just like at Grandma's house, only I'd be surprised if Grandma ever served cookies with almond milk.
At Blackbelly, during our four-course dinner, we ended with an almond cake, topped with almond brittle, which was fantastic; the whole meal was fantastic, and this was the cherry—or should I say, almond—on top.
The next day took us back to Denver, and we started the day at the Denver Central Market. Although the market was only recently established, in 2016, it's an interesting plethora of stalls and shops, and we sampled some almond breakfast pastries.
At PB Love, in a small office park outside of downtown, we learned from Mario Esparza, head of production, about its nut butters, including a ridiculously delicious Cinnamon Almond Butter. Later that day, we stopped by Cappello's, which makes almond-flour-based pastas; Vital Root, where I had the best risotto I've ever eaten; Sweet Action, for ice cream; Stem Ciders, for almond cider; The Populist, for dinner and more almond flour fettucine; and Mizuna, for an after-dinner nightcap, and more pastries.
On our final day, we headed to Mercantile Dining + Provision, a market that was similar to the Denver Central Market, and tried house-made almond milk and more almond pastries.
The main takeaway that I received from this trip is that almonds can be incorporated into almost any dish or snack, with surprisingly delicious results. At Mizuna, with our after-dinner cocktails we had popovers with whipped almond butter, doughnuts with foie gras and almond mousse (yes, it was an interesting combination ...), strawberry rhubarb jam, and an almond glaze, a quiche with goat cheese and green almonds, and horchata pot de creme with almond churros and crunchy almond toffee. The popovers were incredibly buttery, and so was the almond butter.
At The Populist, during our four-course dinner our second night, dessert consisted of French macarons, along with a coconut semifreddo, which was made with California almond shortbread, almond lace, and basil foam. This dish was also delicious (but really, I found everything on this trip to be delicious, for the most part).
We even tried some PG-rated "edibles" (the samples didn't have marijuana in them): Julie's Natural Edibles was one of the companies at the roundtable in Boulder, and her "Nutty Bites" are gluten-free and made with all-natural ingredients.
I'll leave you with some interesting facts about almonds that I learned this trip, from a booklet provided by the Almond Board of California:
- There are only five regions in the world with a Mediterranean climate – therefore, for almond trees, California is the place to be. It's the most productive almond farming region on the planet thanks to the ideal climate, rich soil and innovative growing practices.
- An almond tree requires the same amount of water as the other fruit/nut trees in California. Over the past two decades, almond farmers have reduced the water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33%.
- The almond industry provides 104,000 jobs in California, which is about as many people as General Motors employs throughout all of North America. (wow!)
- The almond community is a leader in honey bee health research, investing more than any other U.S. commodity, leading to several breakthroughs toward improving honey bee health.
- 100% of an almond tree and its crop can be consumed, reused, or recycled.