Venue Review: Nosh
It's perfectly understandable to see the Seared Lamb Loin at Nosh, with it's delicate bonnet of mint and shallot salad and a bright drizzle of sweet chutney, as a sign of the Blue Star's stylish expertise. It's understandable to see the tender bites of Nori Wrapped Beef in their tidy seaweed kimonos, or the exotically delicate Lemongrass Ginger Crème Brulee as a clear continuation of the Blue Star's tasty, thoughtful to-hell-with-therules fusion.
That would makes sense, since early reports were that Nosh, the Fine Art Center Modern's new restaurant in the Plaza of the Rockies, was now being run by Blue Star founder Joseph Coleman, one of the region's true culinary lights.
But Nosh has nothing to do with the Blue Star - at least that's the story.
"I don't even know what goes on over there," Coleman said recently.
"There's no real connection. We're totally separate," said Seth Elwonger, Nosh's top chef.
Nevermind that Elwonger cooked at the Blue Star for years, Nosh's general manager and top bartender both hail from there, and other Blue Star chefs loiter at Nosh's bar after work.
"Nosh is it's own place," said Elwonger.
Why go through the trouble to separate Nosh from a place with such a good reputation?
One look at the menu and it's clear. This place deserves to be its own star.
Nosh's collection of gorgeous small dishes and well-priced, interesting wines takes diners on a whirlwind taste expedition at remarkably modest prices.
The space, formerly the Jazz Bistro, is a scattering of tables beneath bright modern art, ranged around a huge granite bar.
But the real focus here is the food. Long, rectangular plates arrive with concoctions like bite-size Summer Shrimp Tacos ($4.50), so colorful and carefully arranged, with "Nosh" scrawled in bright basil oil on the white china, that you could easily mistake them for sculpture.
Dressy nouveau cuisine can sometimes be as distasteful as a 10-year-old in high heels - dolled up to cover a lack of sophistication. But the flash of Nosh has real heat behind it - not just the flame of seasoned chefs parrying with tried-andtrue delicacies, but the warming embers of sustainable community-based ingredients. The menu is peppered with local, small-ranch bison meat, freerange pork and fresh greens and herbs from down the road.
"It's good to support local growers," said Elwonger. "But it's also some of the best-tasting stuff I've ever had."
Take a bite of the crab cakes ($6) and you'll understand. Three crispy little balls, loaded with crab rest on a hearty base of creamed corn succotash with bright local squash and natural bacon from outside Pueblo that steals the show.
The plates are small. Expect to order several. And since the value-laden wine list is available in three-ounce pours, ask the knowledgable staff to pair a wine with each course.
That's the idea behind Nosh: try a little of a lot, linger, talk, nibble at a fresh, zesty smoked trout ($7) served with a crisp horseradish potato croquette, marvel over the light, delicious asparagus-mushroom soufflé ($7). Stay for dessert, primarily the brain child of the Blue Star's talented pastry chef, Alicia Prescott. Sweet little cannolis ($6) crusted in lavender and laid over roasted peaches, or the absurdly indulgent Brownie Bomb are a sin to miss.
The best part of the Nosh, though, may be when the Crocs-clad young waiters deliver the check. It takes a smart chef to create the kind of efficient kitchen that can deliver at prices people can afford more than once a year.
Not that Nosh is cheap. This ain't an Applebee's. You're not going to be able to spend $10 and still take most of your food home in a box. But anyone could have a very nice meal, with a couple of very expressive half-glasses of wine for about $25, which may be one of the best deals in town. The $2.50 white sangria is fabulous.
And the deal gets better. At lunch, everything from buffalo burgers to salmon in chipotle aioli is $7.
I hate to tell you this, because it's already getting so crowded that I'm having trouble finding a seat, but from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., the whole bar is half off, and everything on a pared-down menu with dishes like tempura-fried scallops is $3.
I hate to see Nosh get so popular I can no longer sit and chat about wines at the quiet bar, but like any true star, it is bound to have a huge following.