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Like a rare gemstone, the title of master sommelier is so extraordinary that fewer than 160 individuals with this designation exist in the entire world. One of these rare specimens exists right here in Boulder, at one of the most prized restaurants in town.
Frasca Food and Wine, located at 1738 Pearl Street, is a canvas for the celebrated art of professional wine expert Bobby Stuckey. It is also the locale of legendary chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, who was named best chef in the Southwest by The James Beard Foundation, a prominent and respected organization dedicated to preserving America’s culinary heritage.
“It was great to win the award,” Mackinnon-Patterson said. “More than anything it was exciting for the entire staff. We do a good job whether I’m here or not, so the award was a testament to how hard everyone works together.”
According to www.jamesbeard.org, the Best Chef award is given to a chef who has set “new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions.” The Southwest region covers Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah, yet the food at Frasca represents a region far from Colorado.
The dishes are modeled after similar ones in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in northeastern Italy, which, according to Sous Chef Travis Vaughn, is famous for its trade routes and its neighboring location to the Port of Trieste.
“Due to its location, there is a constant influx of quality ingredients in Friuli that Italy doesn’t normally have,” Vaughn said. “And since it is on the border of Austria and Slovenia, it’s kind of a melting pot of cultures and cuisines.”
Both Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson were deeply inspired by the region after traveling extensively through it, and moved to Colorado in 2003 to launch their restaurant. The two became acquainted while working together at celebrity chef Thomas Keller’s world-renowned Yountville, California restaurant, The French Laundry.
Frasca offers a four-course tasting menu, which changes frequently depending on what local farmers are able to supply.
“Minor changes on the menu occur daily, depending on what local ingredients we can get, and drastic changes happen at the start of each season,” Vaughn said.
On most nights, waiters at Frasca will provide wine pairings to go along with each course.
But Monday nights are the exception.
“On Mondays we do wine dinners, where we work with one producer and feature a menu set around their wine,” Vaughn said.
According to www.mastersommeliers.org, Stuckey received his Master Sommelier Diploma in 2004 after having worked with acclaimed chefs like Thomas Keller.
“It’s rare that a master sommelier will actually work on the dining room floor,” Mackinnon-Patterson said. “But Bobby works beside the rest of the staff and the guests, busing tables and pouring wine. He gets to share his expertise with everyone.”
Perhaps this is why every server at Frasca is so knowledgeable about wine.
“(Bobby) is here to help mentor the staff. This is definitely a wine-driven environment,” Mackinnon-Patterson said.
Since its inception, Frasca has been nominated for and has received numerous awards. In 2005, Mackinnon-Patterson was named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs, followed by the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef” award in 2006. According to www.frascafoodandwine.com, this award is given to a chef who displays “impressive talent and who is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”
Indeed, Mackinnon-Patterson continued to wow the food world, and ended up as Best Chef in the Southwest.
Likewise, Stuckey has been recognized for his expertise and talent in the wine industry. Within his first year at The French Laundry, he received The James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Wine Service” award and was named by San Francisco Magazine as “Wine Director of the Year.” In March of this year, he was one of five nominees for The James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional” award.
Each night the reservation book is filled to the brim; so much so that they save only two tables at the beginning of the evening for walk-in parties.
“What’s really special is that we have just one restaurant. We show up every day and we’re here for our staff and for our guests,” Mackinnon-Patterson said. “That’s the real magic.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Lauren Duncan at Lauren.Duncan@colorado.edu.