We're all guilty of it. We all lead extremely busy lives and a lot of the time resort to convenience. Yes, I have purchased cheese at King Soopers. I've even bought the pre-sliced prosciutto on occasion. Is the quality there? Well, it's not the worse thing in the world, but I would much rather spend a little extra money and get something that truly impresses my taste buds, as well as those of my friends and family. With that in mind, there are a few choice places that I make a point to stop at when I can afford to spend a little extra. My favorite local purveyor of epicurean treasures is the Truffle.



This yellow awning adorned gem can easily be missed, even if you take 6th avenue on a daily basis. It's nestled in between a few other shops, so you have to be keeping a close eye out. You'll be happy you did though, once you witness the amazing foodie delights that await your eyes, nose, and palate. They have the things you can never find. Fois Gras? Yep. White and black truffles? Regularly. Duck fat for frying? They have that too. Oh, and we should probably mention the insane amounts of wonderful meats and cheeses that span the entire globe in origin.

The Truffle has been a favorite of my family for quite a few years. Every Christmas Eve we load up on one of their playfully decorated plates of salumi and cheese to snack on both before and after our Feast of the Seven Fishes. For dinner parties I often surprise my guest with the rarities that line their refrigerator shelves. For that reason, I felt like I wanted to know more about both the shop itself, and the people behind this stinky passion. So I grabbed my photographer (Shanna Nicole) and headed down for some pics and a few choice questions. 


IE: Thank you so much for taking some time to answer a few questions for us today. We absolutely love the Truffle! Why don’t you start by telling us how you decided to open up one of Denver’s best specialty shops?
The Truffle: My husband, Rob, and I purchased The Truffle Cheese Shop in January of 2007.  We both worked in restaurants for most of our lives.  Rob is an incredible cook and I worked mostly behind bars and in the front of the house.  We really wanted to own a business that kept that connection to food and restaurants because it's what we know and love.  We became one of Denver's best shops because we love and appreciate our customers. 
IE: What are some of the challenges with importing so many products from France, Italy, Spain, etc? 
The Truffle: Honestly, we don't import anything.  Importing food, like importing wine, is a very complicated process.  All of the importers are on the coast.  When we purchase cheeses from our importers and distributors, we work on a complicated order system that is 8 weeks out.  So, when we order a case of, say, Epoisses or Fleur du Maquis, that case comes across the pond special for us!  It's kind of boring to talk about but really fun to do!
IE: Just so everyone knows, you’re so much more than just a cheese shop. You carry black and white truffles, pastas, fois gras, and more. What are some other products that people might not know about, but probably should?
The Truffle: We are so proud of our fresh, farm eggs, the bread and croissants from Trompeau bakery and our selection of French butter.  But, so many people don't know about our cheese of the month club, the many trips we take throughout the year, as well as all of our classes, private and otherwise.  The events we hold are great because they give our customers a chance to really get to know our cheeses and cheese makers.
IE: Let’s change the pace a little bit here. What three things are always in your fridge at home?
The Truffle: Raw Cow's Milk from Ugly Goat Milk Company – with our two boys, we go through 4 gallons a week!
Amora Mustard – really just French grocery store mustard, but truly a superior product.
Duck Fat – it makes the crispiest potatoes!
IE: If you could only choose one cheese to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Truffle: As a practical matter, we would have to choose Parmigiano Reggiano.  It's so nutrient dense and has such fulfilling mouth feel as well as being super versatile.  As a more selfish act, we would probably choose Taleggio.  Again, very versatile as far as cooking goes, but Taleggio can also be very smelly, which might just ward off the zombies down the road.  
IE: If you could pick a country, region or city somewhere in the world to open up a second location, where would it be?
The Truffle: We would love to have a cheese stall in La Boqueria right next to Bar Pinotxo in Barcelona.  Spain is definitely a place where we would like to spend more time- like forever!
IE: What are some of your favorite restaurants to eat at here in Denver?
The Truffle: That's like choosing your favorite sibling!  All of the great restaurants in Denver are our customers, so we have a large selection of places to go when we do go out, which is not frequently enough.  With two young boys, we cook at home quite a bit.  If I could choose my own chefs, however, I would have Milan Doshi from the Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast, Dana Rodriguez from Bistro Vendome and Jimmy Warren from Fruition Farm be my personal chefs at home for each meal.
IE: Do you have a favorite chef or restaurateur locally? What about nationally or internationally?
The Truffle: See above answer.  Nationally, we love to hit all of the ethnic restaurants in San Francisco because they are so authentic and so incredibly tasty.  We have been traveling to France twice a year with groups from the cheese shop and always our first stop when we hit the streets of Paris is a good bakery for a Jamon sandwich, a larger than life macaron and a good coffee.  
IE: Do you have any advice for the timid cheese eater? Anything that might help them open up there mind to trying something new?
The Truffle: Trust us!  Just because the shop is a little smelly doesn't mean the cheese tastes bad!  All of the cheesemongers in the shop are total nerds about cheese and food.   We are used to only the best ingredients from around the world and locally.  When a new person comes into the shop, it's our job to help them choose cheeses that make them happy.  We know that it's overwhelming walking into the shop and seeing over 100 cheeses in the case.  We break it down and walk every customer through the cheeses and help them make the best choice for their occasion.  Life is way to short to eat bad cheese.
IE: Thank you so much for your time. We look forward to many more years of your amazing shop.
The Truffle: Thank YOU, Clayton!  We are so honored to be featured in Indie Eats.  Keep up the great work! – Karin and Rob Lawler




There are a few chefs in Denver that are synonymous with amazing food, and Chef Justin Cucci is one of them. His two restaurants, Root Down and Linger, are incredible additions to the city of Denver, but there's more to Justin. Aside from owning and cooking at these two restaurants, he is a very musically oriented person as well. While some of you may think that running two restaurants is enough for one person, it's not the case here. Chef Cucci also moonlights as the guitarist for local band, The Chest Rockwell Band.

When I landed the opportunity to sit down with him, I was obviously really excited. As some of you may know, I do a lot of work with The Music Ninja. Food and music naturally go together in my mind, and I knew Chef Cucci was the same way. So without keeping you much longer, I'll let you experience what I mean. Here's my interview with Chef/Lead Guitarist Justin Cucci.

IE: What came first in life, the love for music or the love for cooking?

JC: Probably music. That's the first love.

IE: Do you listen to music while you cook?

JC: No. I like to be immersed in what I'm doing. I feel like when I'm cooking, I want to focus on what I'm cooking. When I'm listening to music, I want to be in it. I like being fully immersed in it.

IE: Name your top three songs you're listening to right now.

JC:  Escort – Cocaine – it's an amazingly catchy, hook song. It's disco, funk and it's new – so it's really fresh.

Prince – Uptown – I'm in a Prince - Dirty Mind phase.

Bill Withers – Kissing My Love – I love how simple he is, and how funky he is with an acoustic guitar. He never overdoes it.

IE: If your cooking style was a genre of music, what would it be?

JC: Wow. It would definitely be a mashup. It couldn't be one style of music. It would be like a jazz funk.

IE: Alright, on the flip side of that – if the music you played were a type of cuisine or food what would it be?

JC: Oh shit. Oh my god. That is an impossible question. It would probably be street food. Kind of a really accessible bastardization of culture and food put into music. I don't even know if that makes sense.

IE: (Laughing from the previous response) Tell us about the Chest Rockwell Band.

JC: It came because each year we have a Christmas party, and we have this amazing opportunity to have 150 staff members as a captive audience. I put a Craigslist ad together, two years ago, and hired a bunch of musicians just thinking it would be a one-off. We did it - played about three hours. It worked so good that I hired the same guys this year, and added two female singers, a percussionist and a keyboardist. It's an eight piece band.

I love this incarnation, because it's just music to go have a great time to. It's funky, disco, hip hop, soul, 80's, and some Grateful Dead. To me, it's like all shit that's really loose and really fun. I just wanted a busy, fun experience and music that would fit that.

IE: Good drinking music?

Yes. Get girls there – they like disco, they like 80's, they like to dance. If we can do that and get the girls there, guys will follow. I feel like both my restaurants cater towards women, and the guys follow. Or not. And if not, then it's all women. Which is fine.

IE: If you could open for any band, who would it be?

JC: Oh shit. Fuckin A. It would probably be Escort because I think that whole album is bomb. Even though those guys are more DJs.

Right now, existing bands? Little Dragon. I love Little Dragon. 

Or even though I don't like what he does now, Beck. I love Midnight Vultures, and Mutations. I love that era. If I could open for that era Beck, that would be cool.

IE: (Again, laughing from the previous response) And if you could cook for any band, who would it be?

JC: Steely Dan. I love their New York sensibility. There's so many layers – I love that people associate them with elevator music. I'm like, "yeah, but the song you heard in the elevator was about incest and drug addiction. You just didn't know it because their hooks and melodies, and they craft it so well."

Whenever I hear a Steely Dan song, their music tells one story, and their lyrics tell another. In food, I want multiple stories going on. Whether it's the culture of the food tells one story, and the texture, or color tells another story. They have such a contradictory relationship between their words and their music.


After reading that, you can tell that we had a good time. Chef Cucci was down to earth, raw and damn funny.

Most of the time, I'm leaving you with one request – go check out this restaurant. Well this time, it's a little different. You should still check out Linger and Root Down, as they are two of Denver foodies most beloved gems. But I'm also going to throw something else out there – this Saturday, head down to the Three Kings (60 S. Broadway) and check out Chef Cucci and the Chest Rockwell band, at 10 p.m. It's St. Patty's day, and you know you'll be out. So stop by and hear some fun, dancy, locally based tunes.

There’s something to be said about a chef that “goes the long route”, and if there’s a chef that embodies that statement, it’s Olav Peterson. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with him at his beautiful restaurant, Bittersweet. What followed was an hour and a half of food, philosophy, and an overall enlightening experience.

Before I get into the interview, or the dishes, I’d like to give you a little background information on this interview. While I love finding new places to go eat, I also love having a true dining experience.  I know these experiences don’t occur often for most people, but when they do, they are truly unforgettable.

That being said, Bittersweet is a true dining experience. They focus highly on seasonal cuisine, fueled by their garden that surrounds the restaurant. This means that while you’re eating at your table, you can glance out the window and actually see where a part of your dish came from. This is pretty impactful, especially given our tendencies to choose the easy route in our day-to-day eating habits.

I had a few choice questions to ask before we got to the food. I did have to shorten some of the answers for easy reading, but if you’d like to hear the full interview, it’s listed right below the questions. Either way, I think these give you a great insight into the ethereal mind of Chef Olav Peterson.


IE: What age did you start cooking?

OP: 14

IE: Where did you go to culinary school?

OP: I studied more in Europe basically – kind of the school of hard knocks.

IE: Who’s your favorite Chef?

OP: I like different aspects from all sorts of different chefs when it comes down to it. There are a variety of people who inspire me such as: Ferran Adria, David Burke, Grant at Alinea. But I don’t necessarily have one particular one.

Locally my favorite chef is Ian Kleinman though.

IE: What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with?

OP: There is no favorite ingredient, it really just depends on the seasons. And that really refers to our food here at Bittersweet – artisanal cuisine, seasonally driven. My favorite ingredient changes from day-to-day.

One thing that I can definitely say is necessary in all foods is salt. It always enhances flavor, it always brings flavor out.

IE: What staples do you keep in fridge or pantry at home?

OP: Clarified butter. Eggs. Grains usually – risotto, bulgur wheat, semolina.

IE: If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?

OP: That’s a good question. Spaghetti with meat sauce. It was always my favorite food growing up as a kid.

IE: What’s one guilty pleasure in food you have?

OP: I don’t really have a guilty pleasure per se – uh, sandwiches. Sandwiches as a whole would be my guilty pleasure.

IE: What’s it like opening up a restaurant with your wife?

OP: It’s great – the whole aspect of being able to be with your wife every day. We have an 8-week old newborn who I get to see everyday – that’s really why we started the whole thing – more or less spend more time with each other

Also, we have a love for food and gardening, it was kind of the natural progression. Really, at the end of the day, that’s why we did it – to be together.

IE: Bittersweet focuses on providing a Farm-to-Table experience. What types of vegetables are you growing now?

OP: We’re just starting it basically. There’s 2 blueberry bushes out there. Tomatoes, peppers, squashes, cucumbers, and we will plant corn – we’re just waiting for it to get a little warmer. Corn’s just kind of fickle.

We have a second garden which houses chard, leafier greens, lettuce greens, basil, dill, chives.

IE: Any tip for the home gardener?

OP: We use chives basically everywhere. You’ll see 30-40 chive plants intermingled. Primarily, what chives do is deter aphids.

IE: What’s your favorite spot to grab indie eats?

OP: There’s some cool little taquerias around town, and stuff like that, that I think are really good. There’s one on I-25 and Evans called La Taqueria Carniceria.

Devil’s Food my wife and I go to a lot for brunch. It’s in the south Gaylord area.

IE: People always want to know tips and tricks from Chefs. Got anything for my readers?

OP: It’s pretty simple really, just love your food. Really enjoy the process of what your doing.

I worked with a few chefs that really beat into us as young cooks that you have to remember – whether it’s a vegetable or a piece of meat – that entity died for a reason. A cow died for a reason. It died to become steak. That steak you should respect, because at one point this had a life. You should really take care, and love that part of it – these are all aspects of how we get to good food.

IE: That’s an awesome philosophy.

After a tour of the gardens that surround the restaurant, we sat down to try a few select dishes. Now, Chef Olav will tell you that he doesn’t have any favorites, but I still made him select what I was going to have. For these dishes, I had the Chef walk through each of them for me. Below I have a brief description of what we ate, but if you’d like to know more, the audio clip is provided as well.

Dish 1 – Alsacienne Tart – Spring Vegetables and Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese


Dish 2 – Sweetbread Reuben – Caraway Brioche, Pickled Tomato, Jarlsburg Fondue


Dish 3 – Lamb Sausage – Fresno Emulsion, Grilled Spring Salad
Dish 4 – Veal Rib-Eye – Lobster Potato Risotto, Potato Foam


Dish 5 – Poussin – Wild Boar Ham and Grilled Spring Onion Dressing, Hazelnut Puree, Smoked Jus


Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a shot of the Lamb Sausage dish – I had some technical difficulties. Maybe next year I’ll spring for a photographer, ha! Anyways, once I had finished all of the dishes, I realized what Chef Olav was talking about. I couldn’t pick a favorite either. Each of them had a very unique profile and was incredible in their own way. I will say this though – the Sweetbread Reuben was the most intriguing to me. I normally don’t care for sweetbreads much, but this dish was so inventive, and prepared in such a different way that I have to say this is the dish I would suggest to people. Not because it was my favorite, but because it could introduce you to something you normally wouldn’t eat.

Being able to try new things, and experience dining at its best is something that is often under-appreciated in America. Don’t get me wrong, I love grabbing a taco from a street vendor, but I also love to have an experience with friends and family over a dinner table. This “dining experience” is something that was very apparent in the way Chef Olav goes about running a restaurant. It’s apparent in his garden. It’s apparent in cooking. He’s about “going the long route” which is something to truly be appreciated.

Bittersweet is a wonderful addition to Denver, and the neighborhood it’s in. It’s a stunning building, surrounded by serene gardens growing fresh vegetables and incredible flowers. Even in a down economy, having an experience like dining at Bittersweet is something everyone should aim for. Whether it’s a birthday, graduation, anniversary, or just that much needed date night, this is something that you should treat yourself to.

Chef Olav Peterson – Interview by indieeats





Chef Interview: Troy Guard

January 24th, 2011

Some people get excited about seeing a celebrity eating at Pink’s Hot Dog stand in LA. Some people get excited about seeing John Elway having a drink at a Cherry Creek Bar. I, on the other hand, get excited about great Chefs.

One of my favorite Chefs and restaurateurs in Denver is one, Troy Guard. I was first introduced to Troy’s culinary flair at Nine75. My taste buds followed him wherever he went. From small plates and cucumber mojitos at Zengo, to a five-course paired dinner at Ocean with Roy Yamaguchi – I’ve always enjoyed his work.

After some strategic tweeting with @TAG_Restaurant, I was able to land an exclusive interview with the Denver culinary giant. With some nerves, and a lot of excitement, I wrote out questions that were geared towards the Indie Eats readers. I drove down to TAG Continental Social Food, set my iPhone on the cocktail table, and started talking.




The Interview

IE: What age did you start cooking?

TG: I can say as early as like 5 at home, but professionally like 12. I started with my neighbor who owned this sandwich shop. I would go and help him and he would pay me $3 an hour. I’d make sandwiches, make potato salad and stuff like that.

When I was 16 was when I really got into it. I started in California, in San Diego, in a place called Coco’s. That taught me volume. I never really knew I would do it professionally until years later, but it’s something I’ve always enjoyed.


IE: Where did you go to culinary school?

TG: I never did. My training was the school of hard knocks.


IE: What inspired you to begin cooking in the first place?

TG: I just always liked to do it. I like seeing something that starts from nothing, like flour, eggs, and butter, and wow I have these great cookies.


IE: Who’s your favorite Chef?

TG:I would have to say it’s Roy Yamaguchi. He’s my mentor, and I worked with him for 8 years. He was doing stuff that no one at the time was doing. Roy definitely is one of my favorites, just because he’s a great guy.


IE: What’s one ingredient you can’t stand?

TG: There’s not many, but one ingredient I can’t stand, that tastes like ass – it’s canned hearts of palm. They taste metallic and gross. Now we’re into freshness, back in the 70’s and 80’s everything was canned or frozen. And that stuff tastes like ass. Don’t ever eat it.


IE: What’s your favorite ingredient?

TG: I like soy sauce, to me that’s salt. When you eat something you always need some salt, but this also has depth, it’s been fermented. There’s different styles of soy sauce too – light, dark, less sodium, more sodium. Soy sauce can make anything taste better.


IE: What staples do you keep in fridge/pantry?

TG: Soy Sauce, Yuzu (Japanese Citrus), Truffle Oil, Chipotle Tabasco – I like that stuff because it’s smoky and tangy and spicy. I usually always have some type of salsa too. I love to make salsas because you can put them on eggs, sandwiches, entrees, and grilled veggies.

Pickles. I like pickles.


IE: Where’s your favorite spot to go eat Mexican Food?

TG: There’s a ton of great places. Definitely have to go to my buddy Jamie’s place, at Lola. I like his food. But if I’m going to grungy, hole-in the wall, there’s a place out by my house on Sheridan called Tacos Tijuana. I like that place a lot.

I’m from San Diego, we had the best of the best Mexican food, but Denver has some good places too. I love Mexican food. I love the different flavors. It’s kind of like asian food – you have the spicy, sweet, salty, fresh. That’s what why we did Zengo years ago.


IE: You’re on death row, being served your last meal, what is it?

TG: It’s a good question – I think of it often – because there’s so many great food things out there. I know it’s going to sound crazy but, a good burger. Burger, Fries, a Diet Coke – that would have to be my last.


IE: What’s one guilty pleasure in food you have? Jack in the Box Tacos? Top Ramen?

TG: I do love top ramen. 17 cents a package, I just bought them last week. And what I do is I make it and put fresh scallions, cilantro, soy sauce, and then if I want – add some proteins. Just a little bit of something makes the dish so much better.


IE: Nine75 was one of my favorite spots in Denver. It’s closing, took a piece of my heart with it. What happened there?

TG: Long story short, I was at Zengo, my wife was at Mao in Cherry Creek. We got together, her dad gave us some money, and we came up with the concept Nine75. Hip eclectic comfort food. Stuff we would want, cool music, great food, easy vibe – jeans, t-shirt. Everyone really, really enjoyed it. After a few years, the father-in-law-wife-husband thing just didn’t work out anymore, so we left to do our own place, TAG. Unfortunately when we left, her dad couldn’t maintain all the restaurants, and it kinda closed. But we loved that place. Hopefully one of these days we’ll have a reincarnation of something similar to Nine75.


IE: I loved your dinner at Ocean with Roy Yamaguchi, how did you two come to meet?

TG: I was 21, was working in San Diego, and my dad lived in Maui. I was going to go visit him again and said “I just broke up with my girlfriend, I’m 21, I need a change, maybe I’ll look to work in Hawaii”. I went to Hawaii and interviewed at a couple places, but didn’t really feel it. And then I asked around, and everyone said you should try Roy’s.

When I interviewed with him, I just liked what he was about. I liked the restaurant. I saw the food and was like, “damn, this looks good”. I never really knew where it would take me, but I knew it was different and wanted I wanted to learn. I said I’ll take the job, went back home, packed up, and within two weeks was in Hawaii.


IE: When is TAG Raw Bar opening up?

TG: We think the second week of February we should be open. People are like, “it’s oysters, it’s sushi”. Yeah, it’s that, but also I want to be creative. I want to get fresh hearts of palm from Hawaii and make a dish with that. I want to get fresh vegetables from Colorado and do cool stuff. It’s going to be really different, very cool, fresh, tasty, healthy for you – just trying to do something new and different.


IE: People always want to know tips and tricks from Chefs. Got anything for my readers?

TG: I like to cook on high heat.  Let’s say you’re going to cook eggs, a piece of chicken, or meat – that particular item cools down the pan a lot – especially at home. So I always start off on high, and then I can turn it down. When I throw it in, shit splatters. It’s hot. I  want a nice sear on it, and I like to cook fast. I don’t like to cook slow, because it steams it – it’s not good. I like to cook on higher heat on sauté. When you start to see it smoking, that’s when I throw in fresh vegetables and sauté them.


IE: What’s your favorite spot to grab indie eats?

TG: My favorite spot is called Da Lat. It’s on Federal. I’ve been going there for nine years. I love the lettuce wraps – pork, chicken, fried noodles, shrimp. It’s just so fresh, so healthy. We always go there, Leigh loves it, my 15 year old loves it, and my 15 month old loves it.


Interviewing Chef Troy Guard was truly amazing. I tried to contain my beaming excitement for getting a chance to chat with him, but I’m pretty sure I came off as a giddy school kid. Either way, it was so great to talk to a Chef who’s not full of himself. He is down to earth, and makes you feel like you’re just talking with a buddy. In fact, somehow bits of my life came up in the interview, when they rightfully had no place. But I was so comfortable in the conversation,  that it just came out.  I had to shorten Chef Guard’s answers to the questions for readability, but you can listen to the full interview below.

If you haven’t been yet, head down to TAG (1441 Larimer). The food is wonderful, and the atmosphere is that of a trendy, relaxed, downtown vibe. While it can get a little pricey, they do offer daily lunch deal called the “Liquid Lunch” that includes a special lunch entree and a cocktail or beer to accompany it – all for $10.

In closing, Chef Troy Guard is really an impressive guy, Chef, and restaurateur, and the city of Denver is lucky to have him here.
Troy Guard Interview by indieeats