Michelin, the global authority on fine dining, unveiled its inaugural Colorado Guide last week, featuring 44 restaurants from across the state — including several in Boulder.
Frasca Food and Wine earned a Michelin Star for its quality products, cooking techniques, harmonic flavors, consistency and the chef’s culinary personality. Blackbelly Market and Bramble & Hare were given Green Stars, which recognize restaurants that prioritize ethically and environmentally sustainable practices.
Last month, Basta received a Bib Gourmand, an award given to eateries with more affordable prices than Michelin Star restaurants. Kelly Whitaker, the owner of Basta, is also the founder of Brutø and The Wolf’s Tailor in Denver, which both won a Michelin Star and a Green Star.
“It’s awesome for the state, and it’s awesome for Boulder as a starting line,” said Frasca’s owner, Bobby Stuckey, who opened the restaurant in 2004. “There are so many different categories people can focus on now, and I think that’s really important for the whole ecosystem.”
In the guide — alongside Colorado’s five Michelin Star restaurants, four Green Star winners and nine Bib Gourmand restaurants — there are 30 recommended restaurants. These are considered above average but not quite at the level of the others. Among them are Boulder’s Dushanbe Teahouse, Oak at Fourteenth, Santo, Stella’s Cucina and Zoe Ma Ma, as well as restaurants in Aspen, Denver, Beaver Creek and Vail. Colorado cities whose tourism boards chose not to help fund the state’s Michelin Guide were not considered for awards.
‘I almost fainted’: Frasca Food and Wine
Stuckey — who attended the Sept. 12 ceremony at the Mission Ballroom in Denver, where the guide was unveiled — expressed feeling overwhelmed and emotional when presenters announced Frasca’s Michelin Star.
“I almost fainted,” Stuckey told Boulder Reporting Lab. “This falls one week after I started busing tables 40 years ago.” Italian restaurant Tavernetta, which Stuckey opened in Denver in 2017, received a Bib Gourmand.
Since opening the northeastern Italian fine dining restaurant Frasca, Stuckey has instilled a commitment to quality food and excellent service in his staff, he said.
“They have kind of been trying to artificially simulate Michelin in their own actions every day for decades, and that’s hard to do when there isn’t that review process going on,” Stuckey said of his staff. “They didn’t do anything different this year.”
Sergei Kiefel, Frasca’s general manager, and the front-of-house team received a Michelin Outstanding Service Award, a recognition Stuckey didn’t even know existed.
“It really allows everyone to feel like they’re a part of it,” he said of the award. “We’ve been a restaurant that has tried to improve a little bit each year. And I think we’re going to stick with that formula of, every day, trying to get a little bit better.”
‘It’s hard to put into words’: Blackbelly Market
Even though Michelin invited Blackbelly Market to serve food at the Sept. 12 ceremony, owner Hosea Rosenberg was still shocked when his restaurant was awarded a Green Star.
“It’s hard to put into words,” he said. “I don’t know what to say, it just means a lot.”
In 2014, Rosenberg opened Blackbelly Market, emphasizing the use of locally sourced ingredients and pasture-raised animals on the restaurant’s menu. A year later, he expanded by adding a butchery room, where animals are prepared for retail sale and for use in the restaurant’s dishes.
“We care deeply about our purchasing and our relationships with the farmers and the ranchers who grow and raise the products that we cook,” Rosenberg said. “It validates all the years of hard work and effort and strength that it takes to run a good restaurant,” he said of the Green Star.
Head butcher, Kelly Kawachi, received the Michelin Young Chef/Culinary Professional Award. According to Rosenberg, she was stunned.
“We didn’t expect any of this, so all of it was just a great surprise,” Rosenberg said. “I’m really proud of her.”
Blackbelly Market is also listed as a recommended restaurant in the guide, along with New Mexican restaurant Santo, which Rosenberg opened in 2017. Rosenberg said he’s working toward a Michelin Star for Blackbelly and a Bib Gourmand for Santo in next year’s guide.
“It’s just giving us more reasons to work hard and to continue to do what we do,” Rosenberg said of the Green Star. “It’s great to be in such good company. I’m honored to be a part of the whole thing. There’s a lot of great restaurants that got [recognition] and there’s a lot of great restaurants in Colorado that didn’t.”
‘It’s such a fantasy’: Bramble & Hare
Eric Skokan, who opened farm-to-table restaurant Bramble & Hare in 2012 with his wife Jill, was at home after a long day of tending to the restaurant’s farm when he learned about its Michelin Green Star.
“I’ve been cooking for around 30 years in the fine dining world, and the Michelin Guide is the thing that every kid who decides to be a chef thinks about,” Eric Skokan said. “But every time that thought pops up, I always push it out of my head because it just seems so ridiculous. It’s such a fantasy.”
Bramble & Hare’s Green Star recognizes the restaurant’s organic farm, the 430 acres of sustainably grown vegetables, herbs, grain and a pasture of sheep and pigs that star in the menu’s dishes.
“We have wanted to feed the souls and feed the bodies of the people in the community,” Skokan said. “And to do that in a way that neglects the environment, that extracts resources and doesn’t give back, has always, on a personal level, felt hollow to me.”
For him, the Green Star represents all the hard work that went into cultivating both a farm and a restaurant, a much more demanding undertaking than managing either one alone. The Skokans also sell their crops at their farm stand, at 4975 Jay Road in Boulder.
“I think every day [about] this extra difficulty that I hand off to everyone. If they were in their right minds, they would all run away,” Skokan said. “But they’re sticking to it, and I love them for it.”
This appreciation extends beyond his employees.
Choking back tears, Skokan said, “To have, not just people at the Farm Stand say, ‘Eric, we believe in you,’ but to have random people out in the world be able to see and know what we’re working on, that’s mind blowing.”