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Market Flavors

Caramie Schnell

It takes a little prodding to get Rick Kangas, former executive chef of Grouse Mountain Grill, to talk about his accomplishments. Ever humble, he’s hesitant to talk about himself, but question him about his latest bread-baking foray or his most recent cheese-making ventures and you’ll quickly glimpse the depth and breadth of his knowledge and passion for simple, homemade food.Kangas, inspired by his own passions, has recently undergone a kind of sea change. After 12 years, Kangas has taken his soft-spoken ways and award-winning culinary prowess and opened up Chef’s Corner at the Cordillera Market. The Cordillera Homeowners Association built the post office/market nearly a year ago, wanting to provide homeowners closer access to a post office, along with a place to get a cup of coffee or grab a quick sandwich. Three weeks ago Kangas and partner Stefan Poulis took over operation of the market and are providing that, along with a bit more.Displayed lovingly, half-shucked rows of golden corn are neatly stacked in a basket at Chef’s Corner. Piled high in another basket are plump organic red and yellow tomatoes, so shiny they seem fake at first glance. Nearby, loaves of fresh-baked ciabatta bread are heaped, something Poulis says are particularly delectable when cut in half, layered with butter and grilled on the BBQ.A goal of both Kangas and Poulin is to use mainly regional, organic products for both the menu and retail offerings. Vacuum-sealed racks of ribs from local favorite Moe’s BBQ sit alongside free-range quartered chickens, roasted that same day (or the day before). Rows of fresh cow and goat milk from a dairy outside of Boulder line the shelves. Two-and-a-half inch cups sit next to the register for samples of the frothy chocolate milk, which, some customers have remarked, are “better than sex.” Fresh goat cheeses from Oro Blanco Goat Dairy in Fort Lupton tidily line the top shelf of the fridge.For Kangas, it’s all about stepping back in time, returning to the ways of a century long past, where food is natural and unaltered.”The thing that is coming is slow food,” Kangas says. “It’s about getting back to nature, back to food that’s not over-processed. It’s about taking the time to do it right.”All the flour, milk, butter and eggs that Kangas uses to make the soups, salads and sandwiches for the restaurant are organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, or all of the above. And Kangas is intent on keeping things more regional and in doing so, developing relationships with the producers.”We like that he makes everything from scratch, from butter to cheeses,” Ben Gilbert, co-owner of Moe’s BBQ says. “It’s just simple and fresh and that’s what people want.”Because the valley lacks a custom butcher, every week Kangas and Poulin put in an order for fresh high-end meats and seafood everything from live Maine lobsters and Kumamotto oysters to prime rib and N.Y. strips from Chicago.In the background, Norah Jones sings her throaty jazz tunes. In front of the fireplace, large leather chairs and couches beckon visitors to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or a mug of tea. Kangas sees some customers numerous times in one day. They’ll come in the morning for a cup of a coffee and to read the paper. Around lunch they’ll wander back in, ready for a sandwich or a salad. Before the Market closes, oftentimes a customer will dash back in for a loaf of bread or a steak for dinner. “We had a gentleman come in right at 4:30, at closing,” Poulin says, “to thank us for the steaks we had sold him the night before, he was so grateful. And this guy was a cowboy: he knew his meat.” VTThe new Chef’s Corner at Cordillera Market is located on Carterville Road, in the post office building. They’re open Monday Friday from 8:30 a.m. 4:30 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. 2 p.m. For more information, give them a call at (970) 926-5636.Drop Caramie Schnell an e-mail at cschnell@vailtrail.com.


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