No need to fly: Eat your way through Spain at Boulder’s Corrida restaurant
Special to the Aspen Times Weekly
Bryan Dayton, who also is the proprietor of Acorn and BriDer in Denver, and Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder (all now under the umbrella of the recently established Half Eaten Cookie Hospitality with Dayton at the helm managing operations and exploring new growth opportunities), is a frequent visitor to Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic and Après Ski Cocktail Classic. When in town, his favorite places to eat and drink are: Steakhouse No. 316, The Wild Fig, Matsuhisa, Cache Cache, and Jimmy’s. The former professional runner also hits the trails as part of the Brooks Running Off-Road Runners ambassador program and is currently training for the Leadville Trail Marathon in June.
In my experiences studying and traveling abroad, the food budget was usually the first thing to go when money got tight. Without fail I would opt for a museum ticket and street vendor special over a sit-down meal.
And while I’ve always been game to try just about anything — growing up catching, cooking and eating blue crabs tempers most squeamishness — I gravitate toward good ingredients over pretentious combinations. Imagine my delight when I discovered the tapas way of life in Spain.
Bowls of briny olives and crunchy almonds, plates of sliced ham and dense wedges of egg and potato omelet beckoned me for a bite or two from bar-top displays. As someone who tended to fill up on appetizers while waiting for dinner, this snacking way of life, especially when paired with a small glass of beer or a red wine and Coca-Cola over an ice cube (two if you were lucky), suited me. Plus, it was possible to taste your way through a wide array of offerings, using just toothpicks or your fingers, without blowing the aforementioned budget.
Sure, tapas culture made its way to the U.S. But it wasn’t the same, at least in my limited sampling. Dishes were larger, more complex and not in balance with the accompanying beverages. Other than occasionally making paella at home, I decided to save my penchant for Spanish food for when I was fortunate enough to visit Spain. At least until now.
Just over a year ago, co-owners Bryan Dayton and chef Amos Watts, along with investors including DJ Dylan Regan from Aspen, opened Corrida, a Spanish steakhouse, in Boulder. Dayton, who worked on a cattle ranch during his formative years, developed the idea for Corrida while enjoying dinner with a friend in Barcelona.
“Half way through the meal, it dawned on me that I’ve spent more time in Spain than any other country outside of the U.S.,” Dayton said. “I love the liveliness of it, the ranch- and farm-to-table heritage, and eating late.“
What makes Spanish beef so unique, especially beef raised in the pastureland of northern Spain, is that the marbleization and flavor comes with harvesting the cattle when they’re older, resulting in Vacca Vieja, literally translated “old cow.” It’s a practice of patience instead of the faster grain-finishing process common in the U.S. Corrida sources their meat from U.S. ranchers who have begun harvesting cows at 30 to 84 months, instead of the standard 18 to 24 months.
“If you look at beef with the lens of giving a cow time to hang out in the pasture being a happy cow, until that one bad day, you get marbleization, but it takes time. It’s an investment,” according to Dayton.
The Angus Tomahawk Ribeye “Vacca Vieja,” which holds the marquee spot on Corrida’s menu, has a rich, earthy flavor which can be unique to many diners, if for no other reason than it’s hard to come by. Corrida is one of only a handful of restaurants in the country serving mature meats. In addition, meats are dry-aged a minimum of 21 days after harvest to further enhance taste and texture.
“We want people to think about beef like they think of great bottles of wine. Consider the cut, the ranch, and how it all plays out on your plate,” Dayton said. “We want to celebrate humans enjoying being carnivores, while approaching it as more of a special treat instead of a commodity.”
While Corrida hangs its food flag in the Basque country, it takes inspiration from all over Spain, highlighting the country’s unique terroir, as well as the connectivity between land and sea. That means there are plenty of dining options for those who aren’t carnivores at heart. The seasonal dinner menu currently includes a dish of traditional Spanish bomba rice with prawns, octopus and squid ink, as well as pan-roasted cod, wood-fired Dover sole and roasted chicken. The tantalizing tapas offerings include cured meats, Spanish cheeses, roasted vegetables, fried olives, tinned tuna and so much more.
According to general manager Andreas Pejovic, the drink menu includes basically every available Spanish spirit you could want, as well as creative riffs on more familiar cocktails, like the refreshingly light rum and consommé-based bloody mary served at brunch. The robust cocktail menu includes creative non-alcoholic beverages, and table-side gin and tonics that are anything but ordinary. The last I checked there were seven different G&T options on the drink menu, ranging from sweet to savory and light to bold.
In addition to serving lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, they’ve just started a “Salon” for the summer season, merging sweeping Flatiron views from their rooftop patio, cocktails and tapas, for a more laid-back, Spanish approach to socializing. While Boulder is a long way from Spain, I can attest to the relaxing powers of a crisp gin and tonic, house-made chorizo and patatas bravas (fried potatoes served with aioli and a tomato sauce), enjoyed in fresh mountain air.
As Corrida evolves, Dayton plans to “get richer and deeper with where we are right now.” Whether you want a delicious steak and a robust glass of wine, or creative sips and bites in an amazing setting, it’s good news for diners.
Corrida is located at 1023 Walnut Street, #400 in Boulder. For more information, go to corridaboulder.com.
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