Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado is one of those restaurants about which I have a difficult time being objective. I have dined there twice over the past year and have had two fantastic meals. I hesitate to say they were perfect, but both meals hit the spot; they were just what I was looking for during both of my visits and couldn’t have been better.
According to its website, the food at Frasca is inspired by the cuisine of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Located in the far northeast corner of the country, it is bordered by Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic sea. Due to its proximity to neighboring countries, this Italian cuisine also reflects international influences. The food is marked by fresh ingredients and “creative” spice and herb blends.
But let’s not get hung up on website descriptions. We are talking about simple preparations of seasonal ingredients; preparations that underscore the true flavors of each component of the dish. What seems like a straightforward concept is no doubt difficult in execution. When dishes are composed of only a few elements, each one must be of top quality and properly prepared, or the whole dish will fail. However, when prepared properly everything comes together, creating a dish that exceeds the sum of its parts.
The dish which epitomizes this approach at Frasca is the crudo. I’ve started both of my meals here with variations on this antipasti and both have been spot-on. On my recent visit I enjoyed the Neah Bay Halibut Crudo, Meiwa Kumquats and Olive Oil. Atop four or five small pieces of halibut were placed thin slices of kumquats. Salt, pepper, olive oil, and a sprinkling of chives completed the dish. The light citrus notes of the kumquats don’t overpower the subtle flavor of the fish, while the olive oil and salt bring everything together. I would imagine that one additional or one less ingredient might have upset the harmony of the dish, but as is, it was just about perfect.
My next dish was the the Four Story Hill Farm Rabbit Agnolotti, Marsala “Brodo” and Pecorino Gran Cru. Small pockets of homemade pasta were stuffed with flavorful rabbit and served in a deeply flavored, meaty, clear Marsala wine broth. I always enjoy pasta served in a broth (with no heavy sauce to obscure the flavor of the pasta and its stuffing) and this was no exception. The Pecorno added a welcome, sharp nuttiness. Again, a simple dish with no embellishments, allowing the pure, clean flavors to shine.
Although the first two courses were great, my final course (before wrapping up the meal with a cheese plate) topped them both. The dish was right in sync with the season: Grilled Atlantic Sea Scallops, Morel Mushrooms, Fava Beans, Pea Shoots and Sunchoke “Purea.” It was one of those dishes that I ordered almost purely based on the accompaniments. It’s spring, am I really not going to order a dish with morels, favas, and pea shoots, no matter the protein? Although I looked right past them when ordering this dish, the two large scallops were excellent, with a touch of smoke from the grill, just barely cooked through. The rest of the dish pretty much speaks for itself, with some olive oil, salt and pepper amplifying the flavor of the fresh veg and a rich sunchoke puree rounding out the plate.
I’ve never had desert at Frasca, always opting for the cheese plate with wine pairings. Each time the wine pairing with the Gorgonzola cheese made the plate (and became a highlight of the meal). Recently, the Gorgonzola was paired with Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos from Royal Tokaji Wine Company in Hungary. I’ll leave a discussion of wine to those more qualified, but suffice it to say few things are better than blue cheese paired with the proper desert wine.
Having enjoyed two fantastic meals out west, I returned to Portland and enjoyed a Friday night sitting at the bar of one of my favorite restaurants. Next: we’ll see how Hugo’s stacks up.