Boulder’s iconic Northern Italian restaurant, Frasca Food & Wine, has consistently delivered exceptional food and hospitality for 14 years. Now, a first for the restaurant, partners Bobby Stuckey, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, and Peter Hoglund have named two new executive chefs to run the kitchen: Kelly Jeun and real-life partner Eduardo Valle Lobo. The duo, who took over in late December, met in 2009 while working at Del Posto in New York City. From there, they had stints at Eleven Madison Park, DB Bistro Moderne, and Orsone (Lidia and Joe Bastianich’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia restaurant). It was this time in Friuli that best prepared them to run the kitchen at Frasca. “We’ve worked at Italian restaurants and lived in Italy for three years,” says Valle Lobo. “We bring something traditionally Friulian to the table.”
With a few months under their belts at Frasca, this mastery of traditional, refined Italian cooking is on full display on a new spring menu. While Jeun oversees the vegetable-focused antipasti, Valle Lobo (“the meat guy”) turns out glossy, caramelized roasts. Working your way through the meal, there’s a clear theme from course to course. “We try to stick to two or three ingredients on each plate,” says Jeun. “There are amazing farms here in Boulder, so we don’t need to do much to make the ingredients taste amazing.” Each item, from the local spring vegetables to the Italian olive oils that finish a dish, complement each other without being overpowered. It is Italian simplicity at its best.
Here, a sneak peek of what to expect from their new spring tasting menu:
Minimal, superb ingredients
“We’re doing what Italians have been doing for generations,” says Jeun. “How can we take water and flour and feed a whole family? How can we maximize this one ingredient as much as possible?” Vegetable scraps, onion peels, and even egg shells are repurposed into flavorful broths and charred powders or used as serving dishes.
The most impressive is the Dungeness crab bigoli: Jeun and Valle Lobo use the crab shells to create a flavorful broth that is emulsified with the crab’s tomalley, or fat, lemon juice, and a peppery green olive oil to create a silky sauce. The crab meat is then shredded and tossed in the sauce with a plump, chewy noodle and served in a bowl made from the cleaned crab heads. The result is a no-waste dish with layers of sweet, briny crab in each bite (diners will want a few slices of the fresh-baked Filone to sop up this killer sauce, too).
Bold olive oils in place of dairy-rich dishes
There is a noticeable absence of dairy on the menu, but nothing is lacking in depth or richness. The common French technique is to finish sauces with butter or cream, but Jeun and Valle Lobo opt for complex olive oils instead. The grand finale of the spring menu is a buttery Buckner Farms lamb chop with tableside hay-smoked potatoes and a creamy onion puree. The smooth puree tastes deceptively complex, but it is simply sweet Spanish onions cooked down and finished with a touch of olive oil.
The lamb is also topped off with a drizzle of a grassy Tuscan variety, complementing the rich, fattiness of the meat. Every dish from the antipasti to the meat gets a touch of Italian olive oil, some nutty and spicy from Tuscany, others fruity and green from Sicily. “We like to use olive oils from the same territories as our wines,” says Valle Lobo. “It connects the food with what you’re drinking.”
While there’s still the occasional use of modern techniques, the executive chef duo lean heavily on classic practices like roasting and braising. “You get a level of flavor when you roast a rack of lamb in its own fat that you don’t get from cooking something sous vide in a bag,” says Valle Lobo.
For their octopus course, Jeun and Valle Lobo braise the tentacles slowly in red wine until tender, then sear them to crisp up the outside. The charred tentacles are topped with both dried Rancho Gordo chickpeas and fresh green chickpeas, then drizzled with a smoky guanciale vinaigrette. It’s another example of a classic, straightforward technique executed here to perfection. “Call me old-school, but I like to do things a little more traditionally,” Valle Lobo says.
To try Frasca’s new spring dishes, diners can order them a la carte, in a four-course tasting ($85), or from the full seven-course menu ($115). Frasca also offers Monday night wine dinners with four courses for $55.