Chef Alberto Sabbadini on how his idyllic Italian upbringing informs his food mission

Picture a tomahawk steak: a cut of marbled rib-eye beef bigger than your hand and thicker than your wrist with a white bone scraped clean, bigger than your arm, curving away from the meat and off the plate. It resembles, of course, a tomahawk ax, which was used by Native Americans mostly as a weapon, and mostly to kill Europeans.

Take it from a European: The tomahawk cut of meat kills them, too. Alberto Sabbadini says when he came to Colorado from Italy in 2000, at age 28, his perception of food was drastically altered by the seemingly aggressive, almost war-mongering, way Americans ate. The tomahawk ax wasn’t even the weapon Sabbadini first associated with the steak.

“The amount of beef people are eating is ridiculous,” he says. “Even like calling a steak a tomahawk, like a missile. How can you call a steak a missile?”

Sabbadini — executive chef at Colorado National Golf Club, chef at Meadowlark Farm Dinners and co-founder of the Boulder Butchery Guild — says a lot of funny things about American cuisine, and our perceptions of Italian food.

“Garlic bread? What is it? Like, is this Italian?” That’s what Sabbadini said when he first learned garlic bread was a traditional American complement to pasta. “That was, for me, shocking. To be considered Italian food, garlic bread… Our garlic bread you can toast it and then scrape it with a little garlic and that’s as far as you go. Maybe a little oil. It’s not butter, Parmesan cheese, parsley and garlic, and then it’s in the oven. And then to dip with a side of ranch? Like, dip?”

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Small-scale farmers say ‘onerous’ Boulder County regs limit financial viability and research opportunities

Of the 24 organic farmers who started working Boulder County land in 2011, only five are still in business.

There are a lot of reasons for the roughly 80 percent failure rate, and everyone has an opinion on the definitive cause — farming in Colorado is tough, the County doesn’t give farmers enough resources, the land is not ideal, the farmers were bad farmers and on and on.

One obstacle that many farmers, particularly small-scale organic farmers, agree exists is the County’s Land Use Code, which they find restrictive, keeping them from buying infrastructure and engaging in activities that would help make their farms financially viable.

So the County, in response to complaints about the Code, reached out to the community a few weeks ago, asking farmers and members of the public to comment on how the Code can be improved. On Jan. 18, the County Land Use Department will hold a public meeting to share the results and hear more concerns.

But there’s been controversy about the process by which the County has engaged farmers and citizens in this attempt to update the Code; it’s fitting, as this is the latest in a series of controversies regarding agriculture on Boulder County unincorporated land.

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A few words on complacency and excellence with James Beard-nominated pastry chef Jeb Breakell

You’ve had a croissant. When you had it, though, did you really consider it? Did you consider how it is that it’s lighter than a dry honeycomb but richer than a butter bog? Or that the unique process of rolling and baking dough with fat comes with about 100 opportunities to drive the proverbial car off the cliff? Or that when you do it at altitude, 100 turns to 200? Or that as the dough rises, the butter fat melts, most of its water turns to steam, and in a process still unresolved by the sciences, air pockets are formed both in the dough and the liquid fat that create wormholes through the dough and stress the browning crust enough to fracture, while the remaining water releases through the pastry’s capillaries and pores?

Did you consider that to have your hands on a perfect unbaked croissant is to have your hands on something as divinely crafted as the soft and stretched skin of a chubby piglet, and that to touch it once baked is to have your hands on the simple indulgence of a chicharrón?

Or did you just pull it apart and brush flakes from your lap like dandruff?

If you’ve had Jeb Breakell’s croissants at Emmerson, you’ve given it some thought. In a world where reheated croissants stock the shelves of nearly half of the patisseries in France — France — Breakell’s croissant is provocative. It asks really uncomfortable questions, like, “Am I as committed to my craft as Breakell is to his?” and, “If we hadn’t gotten a croissant right until now, what other foods are we missing in Boulder?”

It’s a croissant that challenges complacency. Are you doing enough to get by? Are you committed to perfecting the croissant of your life? Is Boulder committed to finding the equivalently perfect bao bun, carbonara and Dover sole?

Or are we just brushing Pillsbury flakes from our laps?

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Chef Bradford Heap asks, ‘Do we evolve?’

Chef Bradford Heap has a reputation of being hard to work for. That’s according to him at least.

“I’m more of an alienator and more of that old-school hard-ass,” he says. “I’m so intense and so driven, and I want to be successful. I’m such an aggro, type-A freak.

“There’s nothing wrong with me being a driving hard-ass,” he continues, “until it doesn’t work anymore.”

Self-awareness is a virtue Heap has cultivated over time. In conversation, it helps hedge the blunt claims he makes about his role as a leader in Boulder’s food scene and in the national push toward sustainability. In about an hour and a half on the patio of his Niwot restaurant, Colterra (he also runs Boulder’s SALT and Wild Standard), Heap describes himself with words like iconoclast and visionary, and compares his sustainability efforts to Gandhi and Thoreau’s civil disobedience — seconds before or after acknowledging he can sound myopic, egotistical and self-infatuated.

In literally one breath, he’ll say, “I think people are stupid. I don’t think people are informed at all. If they were, my restaurants would be on a wait for seven years.” And in the next, he’ll say, “I just try to have compassion to let people be where they are and not judge them, because the more judgment I have for the outside world, the more judgment I put on myself, and I can’t bear that self-judgment.”

“God, I’m full of shit, aren’t I?” he asks at one point.

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As Colorado River water supplies dwindle, plans for desalination litter the West

There is less than 60 miles of coastline between Huntington Beach and Carlsbad, California. In that space, there exists one desalination plant, and plans for two more, which have been in the works for years.

Up the coast, a desalination plant in Santa Barbara was recently reactivated. Down the coast, in Rosarito, Mexico, plans are in place to construct the Western Hemisphere’s largest desalination plant. Treated seawater from that plant will likely be pumped back across the border to thirsty communities in California, Nevada and Arizona. And in Yuma, Arizona, a desalting plant capable of producing potable water from a brackish underground reservoir is going back online.

There are currently 16 proposals for desalination plants in California alone, with more planned in Mexico and the inland U.S. Southwest. The technology has long been talked about as a solution to water shortages in the West caused by drought, population increases and the dwindling resources of the Colorado River, which are expected to be reduced by an additional 30 percent by 2050. That’s according to a recent study from the University of Arizona and Colorado State University. In addition, the advancement of projects in Colorado, including the Gross Dam expansion and Windy Gap, could remove up to an additional 100,000 cumulative acre-feet of water from the Colorado and Poudre Rivers. All this seems to indicate a get-it-while-you-can attitude among water authorities and corporations.

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CU sociology discrimination claims highlight university-wide issues

In the beginning, Tamara Williams Van Horn loved her time at the University of Colorado. She was recruited from Ohio to enter the sociology program; CU flew her out and introduced her to faculty members. A “we interview you, but you interview us” scenario in which the goal was to sell Williams Van Horn on a program and a school that had expressed interest in increasing diversity. The department never made any bones about its abundant whiteness, Williams Van Horn says, but the tour concluded with “an extra little supplementary piece just for me showing me the four black people that were on campus.”

Since it was founded 60 years ago, the CU sociology department has graduated only five black doctoral students. Many more students of color, like Williams Van Horn, dropped out or transferred before completing their degree, citing racial discrimination within the department and across the university as a whole as the main reason. Those who claim to have experienced this discrimination say it took many forms such as reduced departmental support, increased teaching workloads, unwilling advisers and derogatory comments. And despite student surveys that appear to confirm these concerns, as well as others such as gender discrimination and sexual harassment, those within (and recently exiled from) the program say a lack of leadership within the department is the main reason the cracks within the system continue to widen.

The department’s alleged failures on discrimination may be a symptom of university-wide directives that include a push by its leaders to bring the university in line with their more conservative perspectives. In recent years, CU has pushed to bring in conservative speakers, advertised the school in conservative publications, and now hosts a conservative thought scholar. According to critics, the casualties of this ideological war on campus culture may be that legitimate claims of discrimination are being viewed as nothing more than a tactic of the “identity politics” of progressives.

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The joy of failure, with Black Cat’s Eric Skokan

Eric Skokan had no idea how difficult it would be to grow a carrot.

“Literally something as granular as a carrot seed causes so many problems. How do you get them into the row spaced out well enough that you don’t spend the rest of your summer thinning them out?” he says.

So his first plan was to plant more seeds. Early in the season, he’d pick out the baby ones, which would create space for the bigger ones. The problem was that carrot seeds are so small, you can’t help but dump a lot of them in on each pass.

“My rows of carrots looked like a Chia pet. Like a solid carpet of tiny, tiny carrots,” Skokan says. “And then on your hands and knees, you’re pulling out thousands of individual carrots to make space. Completely wrongheaded. It just doesn’t work that way.”

That’s when an old farmer told him, “Oh, Eric. No one’s told you the carrot trick.”

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Good ’til the last drop


On July 6, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a project by Denver Water to raise the dam at Gross Reservoir by 131 feet.

If it gets built, the dam at Gross Reservoir would be tallest in the state. It would constitute the biggest construction project in Boulder County history. Denver Water says the expansion would increase the reservoir’s capacity by about 25 billion gallons, or about six times the size of Boulder Reservoir. They say the dam needs to be expanded in order to meet the needs of the one million new people they project will be in their metro Denver service area by 2040.

But opponents say if the dam is expanded, it will effectively kill the Colorado and Fraser rivers, and other smaller waterways, by diverting up to 80 percent of the water in the Upper Colorado River basin.

The area in question is in and around the Fraser Valley and the water would be pumped through the mountains into Gross Reservoir in Boulder County by way of a tunnel.

Critics of the plan point to studies that indicate global warming will sap the entire Colorado River of up to 30 percent of its water by mid-century, making it impossible to divert the planned amount of water. And, they say, Denver Water doesn’t need more supply: the company has reduced consumption by 22 percent since 2002 despite a 10 percent increase in population, according to its own data.

Denver Water says it has a plan to mitigate the environmental effects of the project. Opponents don’t believe it and the two sides disagree on population and environmental impact studies used to justify the expansion. They even disagree on whether or not Denver Water needs to receive a permit from Boulder County to expand the dam.

So, who’s right? And what obstacles remain in Denver Water’s way before shovels hit the ground at Gross Reservoir?

Read more here.


This Land is Your Land

By Matt Cortina, Allison Jarrell and Eric Heinz

A man who calls himself Soldierboy, inside of stove-heated tarpaulin dome at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp in North Dakota, makes one thing clear to the group: We’re at Standing Rock to build a nation.

In fact, the nation already exists. It’s a stretch of land in the Western Dakotas and Nebraska whose boundaries pre-date mid-18th-century treaties that have since been broken by the federal government. The nation has rules that, in order to stay in the camp, all must abide by, as they would in any other country. If the rules are not followed, the Sioux will boot out offenders, and they’ll do it, Soldierboy says, their way.

Soldierboy is tall with hulking shoulders that fill out a camouflage fleece. He wears a winter hat and jeans—it’s gusty and 10 degrees in North Dakota—and he addresses a group of protesters or “water protectors” in the dome for the first time because he says he has seen Sioux rules broken within the main camp of protestors in Standing Rock. Rules that prohibit photography around drum circles and horses; that protect the integrity of the fire; that require elders, women and children to eat first. There are forums for women to air women’s problems, and forums for men to air men’s problems. It’s their rules. That’s what sovereignty means. And there should be culture shock.

And yet, there are so many positions influencing what the protest camp is becoming that an announcement like that needed to be made. The movement to stop an oil and gas pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), from being built under the Missouri River, the area’s water source, began in April, on private land owned by Lakota member LaDonna Bravebull Allard. That camp has since become the Sacred Stone prayer camp, while across the river, the main Oceti Sakowin camp has been built on Army Corps land the Sioux believes is theirs. Scores of environmentalists, civil rights activists, indigenous peoples’ advocates and more have been drawn to the area. Their numbers can surge to 4,000 people on the weekends, while representing over 300 indigenous tribes from around the world—the largest meeting of tribes in at least a century. Media, too, has been abundant at the camp—the joke is that 3,000 people are at Standing Rock and 2,000 are journalists.

Read the rest here.

Paul is Dead and Other Rumors from the Dana Point Art Scene

Photos and Text by Matt Cortina

I’m not buying it. Mark Downing is showing me The Beatles’ Let it Be and Let it Die album covers, and saying one has the photo of Paul McCartney and the other has a photo of Billy Shears. Paul died in a car crash in 1965, didn’t I know? I laugh, and he doesn’t.

Meanwhile, a free-spirit with a nose ring and a black kimono says the neon Talking Heads: 77 album on the counter costs more money than she has in her entire life at the moment. I look at the price tag, and my soul is warmed.

Downing’s shop is first on my unofficial tour of Dana Point art spots. When I ask for his opinion on the city’s art scene, he says, “There is one?”

It’s an easy perception to have. Steps away from Downing’s store is a statue of a cow painted with members of the band Green Day on it. That cow is steps away from another painted cow, which is steps away from another with Kobe Bryant painted on it. That is steps away from a painted elephant.

Read the rest here.