Cured: The Remedy for Fast Food
On a recent trip to Boulder, Colorado I found a victor over fast food culture. Cured, located at 1825 B Pearl Street, is a welcoming and beautiful charcuterie specializing in cured meats and cheeses. Cured shares its Pearl Street space with a coffee bar offering its own roasted blends and specialty drinks.
Upon first encounter, one may be taken aback by the simplicity and deliberateness of the environment. Compared to the busy, cluttered spaces of other shops in town, as well as the over-decorated, campy franchise restaurants and grocers that are the cultural norm in America, Cured could almost seem bare.
(Cured meats lined up on the spacious counter like culinary artifacts in a museum.)
But Cured itself is a post-modern interpretation of a French tradition – a shop dedicated to a single purpose, a single idea. The main products offered there require time; time to ferment, mature, age, and well, cure. Though the culinary tradition featured at Cured dates back to the first century A.D. when the Greek geographer, Strabo, recorded the importing of cured meats from Gaul, there is a modern influence too. Locally grown and produced products are featured at Cured, together with garde manger staples such as hams, forcemeats, pâtés, and sausages.
(Beautiful cheese with the perfect golden hue on the counter.)
Cheeses are arranged inside the cold case and atop the counter, pairing with the succulent proteins. Each day, Coral and her staff prepare specials that are far and away from the typical American sense of lunch. Breads are rustic, full crusted, and chewy – as they should be when working within the French tradition. When I visited, I tasted Cured’s “country pâté with cornichons” – a wonderfully simple yet satisfying meal for less than $10.
(The barista loves his job.)
I also stopped at the coffee counter to get my favorite coffee concoction – a double cappuccino. It was a beautiful cup of coffee, and it was perfect in both strength and smoothness. As I sat on a wood table beside a stack of burlap sacks ripe with coffee beans waiting to be roasted on a snowy afternoon, I felt as if I were back in Paris. One of the things I loved about eating the simple baguette with jambon fumé – a typical French lunch – was how chewing the proper French bread satisfied because it took a little time, a little effort. Unlike the over-processed American versions of French bread, the proper pain du jour is meaty, hearty, capable of sopping up soups and sauces or standing alone.
(Hearty breads and baguettes, ready to go home with you.)
Cured’s country pâté was rich but not overpowering – a refined and delicate culinary feat considering a pâté is a forcemeat mixture often built from pork, bacon, liver, fat or cream, and spices. The cornichons were a bright addition, offering a vinegary high note to the pâté without overpowering the delicate layering of flavors and textures. There was nothing on that sandwich that was not crucial to the overall culinary experience Coral and Will wanted me to have, and every bite was bliss.
(Local produce is a seasonable offering at Cured.)
Though prices for meats and cheeses could be considered on the higher end of the culinary spectrum, they are worth it. You see, another French tradition implied by Coral and Will’s beautiful store, is that you just need to buy what you are planning to eat that day. Just a sliver of this, a wedge of that, a baguette, perhaps a bottle of wine … they want to see you again because Cured is inviting you to rethink not just what you eat, but also how you buy. You don’t go in and buy a pound of anything unless you’re having a party – an idea so foreign to Americans in this era of globalization it boggles the mind.
Unlike the common super markets and mega-stores dotting the American landscape like malignant growths, Cured is a quiet, revolutionary return to simplicity and beauty. Foods are artful, deliberate. Local meets global at Cured, respectfully, without mass produced, shrink-wrapped, nitrate-saturated far fodder too common in American deli meats. One can taste the underpinnings of Coral and Will’s epicurean philosophy, their shared love of food itself, and their love of sharing experiences. Even their Website reflects not just the “brand image,” but also the people behind it. And they’re beautiful, generous people.
In my quest for a more meaningful existence, the core work of Project Up, I have discovered that everything is worth pondering. I have learned that I don’t have to settle for the go, go, go culture that surrounds me. I can take a half hour for lunch at a place like Cured, or I can lose a half hour at a frazzled franchise. I can spend my daily calories on junk, or I can invest them in nurturing sustenance. And though I’m saddened that Cured is 500 miles from my front door, I am encouraged by knowing it exists, that Coral and Will have done such earnest and hard work to bring their dream to fruition.
(This tasted of summer, even on a day when there was a foot of snow on the ground)
If you’re anywhere near Boulder, take some time to visit. Or, if you want a sense of the awesome experience I had, you can order products and baskets from Cured online. But whatever you do, don’t let the opportunity to experience a very unusual but rewarding epicurean delight slip by.
Everybody Must Get Sconed
One of my latest hobbies is to take recipes I love and try to make them leaner. This recipe for blueberry scones with lemon glaze is an adaptation from chef Tyler Florence's catalog. The original recipe calls for heavy cream, as most true scones do, but I've found that skim milk is a fantastic substitute in this recipe.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix or sift together:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
Cut into the mixture (with a fork or pastry cutter):
5 tablespoons cold butter
Once the butter/flour mixture is properly cut together and crumbly, make a well in the center and add:
1 cup of skim milk.
Gently turn the dough to mix it. Add carefully, by folding gently:
1 cup OR 1 pint blueberries
Pat the dough into a rectangle 12 inches by 3 inches, and about 1 1/2 inches tall. Cut the rectangle in half. Cut the halves in half. Then, cut each rectangle at the diagonal to get the typical triangular shape of a scone. Place scones on a baking sheet and into the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes. Brush scones with a light coating of skim milk. Bake for another 10 minutes (or perhaps 15, depending on your oven. Scones should have a golden brown top).
Once the scones are complete cool, drizzle this glaze on top:
1 tablespoon butter, melted
The zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon (about half a cup)
2 cups powdered sugar
Without the glaze, the scone weighs in at 237 calories with 64 coming from fat. With the glaze, the scone gets another 100 calories. Even so, this is a 100 to 200 reduction in calories (with or without glaze respectively) from the original recipe. One still can't go hog wild, of course. Though one could increase the nutritional power of these scones by using a fine-grind whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour.
One Drink Wonder (Woman)
(Photo: A mojito with mint from my own garden)
A very savvy friend of mine once claimed, "A good woman needs a good pair of shoes, a good pair of legs, and the recipe for just one good cocktail to get through life." Up until this Fourth of July, I had only two of the three. So I decided to change that. And after a couple of these wonderfully smooth, delicious and refreshing drinks, if the cocktail's all you've got, you won't care.
Take 6 fresh mint leaves and place them in the bottom of a collins or pint glass. Add two tablespoons of sugar.
Using a "mudder" or a wooden spoon, grind the sugar and mint together until a paste forms. It will look a lot like pesto, relish, or green muck in the bottom of a glass.
Add to that two tablespoons of fresh (FRESH) lime juice. Stir.
Then add a shot (or two) of light rum. Stir again.
Fill the glass with ice. Then fill the glass with club soda (not 7-Up or Sprite - it's too sweet). Stir. Top with mint garnish.