Let’s start with the simple premise that we all need to eat. Isn’t it therefore logical that we all should know how to cook? Well, somewhere in the last 50 years – and there are lots of theories as to why this has happened – we ended up with a whole lot of people that just don’t really know how to cook. Add to that the explosive availability of so many ingredients that we maybe never saw before and you have the impetus behind Cooking Boulder, the partnership between Whole Foods and food52. Think of this as your bulk section on steroids – more choices of rice, flour, nuts, spices, and more than you ever even knew existed – but partnered with help and information.There’s a Cooking Coach on site – the lovely Beth Pilar who hosted us last night, pictured above leading the tour of this massive section of the Boulder Whole Foods store. But thanks to the advances in technology, the depth of knowledge doesn’t stop there. Stations with iPads are scattered through this part of the store running the food52 app – you can look up an ingredient, scan for recipes, mail yourself both the recipe and a shopping list, or even enter a question into food pickle to get help from the networked world. This is social media meets database meets community meets cooking. I, for one, never thought of using technology that way in a store, but am glad Whole Foods did.To launch the concept in Boulder, Whole Foods invited a bunch of food bloggers to the store for a dinner with Amanda Hesser, the founder of food52, former New York Times writer, and author of The Essential New York Times Cookbook. We gathered outside for a lovely virgin (I think) mojito……and some appetizers including salume with cheese and house pickled onions……caponata crostini with smoked tomato and eggplant……and fig and prosciutto crostini with Avalanche blue cheese.After our tour we returned to the outdoor area – which incidentally will have fountains, a dog bark area, outdoor tables, and even a covered market where Whole Foods will most likely invite local farmers to sell (and keep the profits from) their locally grown produce. I love little details in dinners like this: the lovely summer flowers, place cards for each blogger with our name tied onto a cooking spoon with a sprig of rosemary, white tablecloths. Not to mention a view of the flatirons at sunset! The meal was as a fine as any high end restaurant in town, and Mark from Whole Foods whom I was seated next to reminded me that this is a staff of 100 culinary professionals capable of high end cuisine as well as large scale catering. I’ll run through the courses quickly.Cold smoked salmon with beets, apple and tarragon yogurtYukon gold gnocchi with a velvety sauce of local corn, truffle oil, and micro basilSmoked pork belly with fennel puree and pickled vegetablesA palate cleanser of champagne granitaDry aged ribeye with shallot potato rosti over spinach with a blueberry syrah sauce (sorry for this photo…losing light!)Kim & Jake’s (local in Boulder) cocktail cakes: strawberry margarita and Boulder chocolateAfter dinner Amanda spoke about how she ended up where she is today – it’s a meandering food tale about growing up with a mom who made good food, bouncing around Europe to cook pastries, landing at the New York Times as a writer, and discovering that food really has been central to her life. After food52 finished the cookbook project, the website naturally took a turn towards a social networking sort of site, and the partnership with Whole Foods, while yet to be played out, seems a natural one. I wish I had the full quote that Amanda shared (for some reason I was too lazy to take notes last night), but I do remember the last line. “If you cook, people will remember you.” Love that!
If you are in Boulder, make sure to check out the store’s new Cooking Boulder section. And check out the website while you’re here on your computer. And if you live in Denver and want to take a roadtrip with me, it’s worth the drive up to Boulder to stock up from this vast selection of pantry items.
Thank you to Whole Foods for sponsoring the Food Blogger Dinner – I loved every minute of it. And thanks Amanda for signing my cookbook!