Humboldt chef DJ Nagle shares his Peppadew pepper relish recipe

Fried oysters at Humboldt restaurant are served atop a delicious peppadew pepper relish. 

In my <a title="Link to Post's Humboldt review" href="http://www.denverpost.com/restaurants/ci_24688962/humboldt-delivers-creativity-and-comfort-old-strings-space" target="_blank">Dec. 11 review of Humboldt Farm Fish Wine</a>, the fine new restaurant in the old Strings space, I raved about an appetizer of fried oysters that sat atop a Peppadew pepper relish. This sweet-savory relish absolutely made the dish, and there was enough of it that long after the oysters were scarfed, we were spooning it onto grilled bread.

Figuring that if I liked it, readers would too, I called Humboldt and asked if chef DJ Nagle would be willing to reveal the recipe. He was — thanks DJ — and here it is.

<strong>Peppadew Pepper Relish</strong>

Ingredients
1/2 cup red onion, diced fine
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup Peppadew peppers, chopped (available in specialty stores and many supermarket deli counters)
1 cup pepperoncini peppers, chopped

Directions Combine onion, vinegar and sugar in saucepot. Bring to a simmer and cook until onions brighten in color. Add chopped peppers and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt to taste.

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By <a title="Posts by William Porter" href="http://blogs.denverpost.com/food/author/wporter/" rel="author">William Porter</a>
<div>Restaurant Critic</div>

 

Dec. 12, 2013

Pearls for Oysters: A Raw-Bar Roundup

 

This splashy Uptowner set out to specialize in seafood, and the proof is in the oysters. Five or six varieties await on ice daily, perhaps Wiannos from Cape Cod or Kumamotos from the aptly named Humboldt Bay in California; they also come broiled with crumbs in tarragon-lemon butter, fried with sweet-pepper relish and aïoli, and baked with Mornay sauce and spinach. (That’s in addition to classics like clam chowder, shrimp cocktail and steamed mussels, naturally.)

By Ruth Tobias

Humboldt Restaurant Brings Buzz Back

November 19, 2013</div>
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A true neighborhood restaurant, <a href="http://humboldtrestaurant.com/"><b>Humboldt Farm. Fish. Wine</b>.</a> is a go to for a friendly buzzing bar scene with a hard to resist happy hour. Hard to resist because the <a href="http://humboldtrestaurant.com/%23bar">bar menu</a>  ranges from $1 to $8 for small plates that include Oysters,  Marinated Steak Skewers, Smoked Trout Dip, Garlic Bread and the popular Humboldt Burger.  Add in $6 speciality cocktails, community-style bar tables, wine and beer specials and you may have found your next go to stop. At least from the hours of 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday when happy hour is on the books.

Natural light and an open layout bring out an inviting feel in the redesigned Uptown space that once housed Strings, a restaurant owned by the late Noel Cunningham for the past 27 years. His wife sold the restaurant to Concept Restaurants earlier this year, and the company, which owns numerous other restaurants including Rialto Cafe, Via Baci, Table Mountain Inn &amp; Cantina, opened Humboldt in October.

Fueled by a strong culinary team headed by Executive Chef DJ Nagle (of Udi’s, Tag and North), Humboldt is hoping to make this a 17th Ave. staple. To do this, the team says they will focus on serving up classic and flavorful American dishes.

“At the end of the day we wanted to open a good restaurant,” said Sean Huggard, Director of Operations for Concept Restaurants. “We weren’t trying to be the hottest or the hippest. Our goal wasn’t to be a flash in the pan kind of restaurant. We want to be something that is still relevant years from now. We are willing to change and evolve with times.”

So far, so good. Humboldt wows taste buds with modern re-interpretations of classic simple meals, from crispy broccoli with pepperoncini aioli to jumbo shrimp cocktail, signature steaks, satisfying beef and bacon blend burgers and flavorful pasta dishes.

Nagle has crafted an eclectic <a href="http://humboldtrestaurant.com/%23welcome">menu</a> made up of a mix of small plates for sharing and sampling, as well as full meals for guests who just want to dig in.

“We hired DJ because during his tryout he made an impression,” said Huggard. “His style of food was effortless. He wasn’t trying too hard, and the food was approachable.”

Nagle makes an effort to incorporate local ingredients whenever possible, sourcing items from Colorado farmers, bakers and ranchers. His ever-changing menu features fresh oysters and ocean-friendly seafood, local grass fed, all-natural Crystal River beef and plenty of tasty homemade sauces and dressings.

“I’m just trying to do food the right way,” explained Nagle.

Humboldt is located at 1700 Humboldt Street in Denver, and is open daily for lunch and dinner along with brunch on the weekends. If you are looking for more of a fine dining experience, head to the back of the restaurant where the lighting is dimmed and the buzz calms.
<p align="center"><b>Top picks from Humboldt’s menu: </b></p>
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<ul>
    <li><b>Shrimp Cocktail </b>– An irresistible classic, the cocktail sauce here is incredible.</li>
</ul>
<ul>
    <li><b>Smoked Trout Dip</b> – Humboldt’s unique creation of Idaho trout, cream cheese, shallots and savory herbs paired with an house-made sweet onion jam, and served with potato chips.</li>
</ul>
<ul>
    <li><b>Oysters</b> – Oysters are dear to DJ’s heart, since the chef grew up on the east coast, where he used to fish often. Choose from a wide selection including fresh shucked, crispy fried, and charboiled with tarragon lemon butter.</li>
</ul>
<ul>
    <li><b>Whole Crispy Fish </b>– A mouth-watering combination of lemongrass bbq, sesame spinach, and pickled vegetables.</li>
</ul>
<ul>
    <li><b>Lobster Risotto</b> – Served only on Fridays and Saturdays, this filling dish features sweet corn, buttered leaks and a pound of lobster.</li>
</ul>
By Carri Willbanks

www.catchcarri.com

The Happiest Hour: Humboldt Farm Fish Wine

When: Happy Hour is available everyday from 3:00 to 6:00 pm

Pros: The updated space is beautiful and welcoming. The food is excellent and a good value at happy hour. I especially loved the Smoked Trout Dip ($7).

Cons:  I didn’t love the edamame appetizer, cocktails could pack a little more punch, and beer drinkers will be disappointed to know there is no beer on tap.

In early October, <strong>Humboldt</strong>, a farm, fish, and wine-focused restaurant, opened in the Uptown location that held Strings for nearly three decades. After undergoing extensive renovations, the restaurant debuted with an open floor plan, gorgeous wood accents, and even an exhibition oyster bar. Like most successful restaurants these days, Humboldt decided to offer happy hour along with daily lunch, dinner, and a weekend brunch. Fortunately, this new Uptown hot spot didn’t mess around with a weekday only happy hour. Nope, happy hour is offered<strong>every day of the week from 3:00-6:00 pm</strong>. In another smart move, Humboldt also serves happy hour throughout the restaurant, including the outdoor patio. This means that when the weather warms up this spring, you will definitely find me hanging out on the large patio that seats 40.

Humboldt’s happy hour is extensive and they offer a good wine-by-the-glass selection for $4-$5 or cocktails for $6. There’s also several beers ($4) available, but while the list looks good, I was disappointed that none it was on tap. The cocktails were tasty and well-balanced. If you’re looking for something light and refreshing, try the<strong>Cucumber Gimlet ($6)</strong> while ginger lovers will enjoy Humboldt’s twist on a <strong>Pimm’s Cup ($6)</strong>. The Singapore Sling ($6) was also good, made with Pearl Gin, Cherry Heering, sugar, lemon juice, and soda. In a city where the cocktail scene is really generating some buzz, Humboldt’s cocktails are less memorable than the drinks at some restaurants, but certainly very drinkable and worth the $6 happy hour price tag.

The Pimm’s Cup

The happy hour food is where Humboldt really stands out from the crowd. While I didn’t much enjoy the edamame (I prefer spicy variations), everything else was stellar and a great value. The<strong> Crispy Broccoli ($5)</strong> comes topped with Grana Padano and pepperoncini aioli and believe me, if your mom cooked broccoli like this you would have always finished your plate. It’s the ultimate, gourmet version of broccoli and cheese. I also really enjoyed the <strong>Humboldt Burger</strong>, which is made with 20% bacon, covered in melted white cheddar, and balanced with a sweet onion jam on a brioche bun. At only $8 (you can fries for a buck more), this burger is once again proving that Denver restaurants have really stepped up their game. But while there are quite a few delicious burgers in town, Humboldt serves up one happy hour appetizer that I haven’t seen anywhere else: a <strong>Smoked Trout Dip ($7)</strong>. Here’s the thing, I don’t even like trout. I’ve had it many times and each time people say, oh, you’ll like my version. But I don’t. Humboldt, on the other hand, has turned me into a trout lover. This dip has everything. The trout itself is delicately smoked and topped with delicious sweet onion jam. It’s served alongside crispy potato chips for a combination of sweet, salty, smoky goodness that I’m still dreaming about. If you order only one thing at Humboldt, order this dish. I can guarantee it’s one of the most unique and delicious things I’ve had in months.

There are plenty of other items on happy hour to satisfy most palettes and Humboldt seems to have a handle on everything despite only being open a few months. For a new restaurant to be consistently putting out food this good this early on, I expect it to become a <strong>favorite Uptown spot</strong>. I’ll certainly be back for the smoked trout dip and to see what else Humboldt can dish out.

By Meagan Barber
Nov. 15, 2013

High Hopes for Humboldt

It’s true that Humboldt benefits from some built-in history. Not only is it owned by Frank Day - the legendary founder of the Rock Bottom and Old Chicago chains and current owner of numerous restaurant concepts in Colorado and beyond - but, more important, it occupies the airy corner space that was home to Strings, a longtime Uptown institution.
That backstory certainly colored the development of this neighborhood insta-haunt, says Day’s director of operations, Sean Huggard - who himself made his name as the onetime executive chef of Black Pearl: “All of a sudden, you’ve taken someone’s second home, you’ve removed their favorite table, Jenny who worked here for a million years doesn’t work here anymore. So from the get-go, we were asking: what do we owe to to the building, to the neighborhood? How do we do well by Strings and make a positive impact?” In part, they decided, you do it by recognizing, per the old adage, that past is prologue to the future: “Where do we see this restaurant 10, 20 years from now? A lot of the decisions we made were based on the kind of longevity that Strings enjoyed. And though it’s early on, I think we’re already prepared to move forward. We’re our own restaurant now.” Joined by general manager Brion Boyer, we chatted about what exactly that means to Huggard.
Zagat: What aspects of this new venture are you most excited about?
Sean Huggard: You know the best part for me? We spent a lot of time conceptualizing what we wanted and didn’t want to be. Sometimes you do that and then you open and find out you were way off - the guests totally don’t get what you’re trying to do. But so far, we’ve been absolutely successful. I have this conversation with a lot of people - I think I’m going to start titling it “The Shrimp Cocktail Conversation.” We wanted to put shrimp cocktail on the menu, and we wanted it to be great, but we wanted it to be simple. No over-the-top weirdness - we’d make cocktail sauce in house with horseradish, ketchup, and lemon juice; we’d be sure the shrimp were cooked perfectly. And now, when I see a shrimp cocktail go out of the kitchen, I’m so happy. I feel like, in the culinary craze for novelty, things get missed, like that great restaurant you can go to and get that dish you love that they’ve had forever.
Zagat: At the same time, though, your tagline is “Farm, Fish, Wine”; let’s unpack that. “Farm” suggests the changing of the seasons is going to have some impact on the menu.
SH: Well, if we’ve become a farm-to-table restaurant, it’s only because it’s normal and natural - we all have relationships with oyster growers, with ranchers, with organic farmers. But I don’t want to be labeled as farm-to-table necessarily, because it’s becoming a cliché - and nor do I want to be caught up in a lie at any point in time. If farmer Joe can’t get us spinach one day and we have to get it from our mainline purveyor to keep the doors open, I don’t want to be belittled for that. We’re trying really hard to be great, but not to be something we’re not. For instance, we’re serving a heck of a lot of oysters on the half shell - but that’s thanks to all the work of some oysterman on the coast. We’re just buying them, cleaning them, shucking them, and serving them with a smile. That’s like the shrimp cocktail speech: we’re making the best, simplest shrimp cocktail we can - and if you don’t like shrimp cocktail you’re a jerk. [Laughs.]
Zagat: Which brings us to the emphasis on “Fish.” For obvious reasons, Denver’s not a major seafood town, but you’re making a go of it. What are some highlights?

SH: The charbroiled oysters with tarragon-lemon butter and crumbs are my favorite thing on the menu - I just had ’em for lunch. Our smoked-trout dip: it’s funny, the recipe’s tweaked from the one I used at Black Pearl. I said to the chef [DJ Nagle] the other day, “You know, I ran that dish for years and never got the props you’re getting for it now.” But if there’s a signature, it’s the fish section on the daily-specials list. I always wanted to have a place where people could come and order the piece of fish they want with the sauce they want and the side they want. And our guests are very appreciative toward the simplicity of that - we’re not overdoing it. Honestly, besides Jax - where Dave Query does a phenomenal job with seafood - most of the seafood restaurants in town are owned by one company, Landry’s. There just aren’t a lot of places where it’s like, if we were sitting on the ocean, I’d be serving that piece of barramundi in a basket with newspaper wrapped around it.
Zagat: That leaves wine: what’s your overall goal for the beverage program?
SH: Frank, the owner, has a joke: “What’s the difference between a mixologist and a bartender? Twenty minutes.” We’ve had a lot of conversations about that. We don’t want to come across as missing the boat to the world of mixology, but we've developed a cocktail menu that’s approachable and easy to execute, because that’s the style of restaurant we’re trying to be. Waiting 20 minutes for a drink or dealing with a ticked-off chef that doesn’t let you have the sauce you want to have with your fish - none of those things fit into the concept. Brion and I had lots of sleepless nights texting each other: “Do we think we’re too cool for this cocktail list?” I mean, the Mule is beaten up in every restaurant everywhere. But people want to drink them. Our basil martini - what is that, circa 1999? But guess what - people love it. We don’t want to be afraid of giving people what we want in order to please our own egos or to get a small portion of the population to like us.
We don’t have a draft system, but since canned beer is becoming trendy for all the right reasons - it’s a great way to package and serve beer - we’ve chosen to go very heavy on that. Of course, being in Colorado, you can’t help but be a little snobby about local beer - but when Joe comes in and wants a Budweiser, we’re going to have it for Joe. Same goes for the wine list: let’s have wines people know and like, like Caymus and Silver Oak, and then let’s have some cool boutiquey stuff so we can feel good about it and educate people. And for brunch, we’re going to do bottomless bubbles; everyone does that, I get it, but ours is a little different. It’s a little pricier, $15, but you’ll have 6 to 8 different labels to choose from, and then you can add OJ, ruby grapefruit, pineapple, blood orange, coffee liqueur—a plethora of options you can mix and match. It’s probably going to be an operational nightmare [laughs] - we’ll have to figure that out on our side, but I’m looking forward to it.
Zagat: Seems there’s a lot to look forward to.
SH: DJ and his executive sous chef, Kollin Gately, are bringing everything to the table - and with no egos whatsoever. I was a chef in this town at a time when the culinary scene was really starting to blow up, and I got a lot of notoriety - but these guys are so much better than I ever was.

By Ruth Tobias

Humboldt Farm Fish Wine Offers Brunch this Weekend

Humboldt Farm Fish Wine opened a week ago in the old Strings space on 17th Avenue, introducing Denver to a overhauled space – now it is airy and wood-hued; the old space, bless its heart, had once sung, but seemed claustrophobic and a bit fussy by the end – and a different vibe.

I’ve been twice since the opening, and am a big fan of the way the team took what was a sort of wandering, confusing series of rooms with an almost hidden bar and turned it into a cheery, open restaurant, a place to hang out for oysters and martinis, nab a lunchtime salad, or tear into a filet mignon on a Friday night.

And on Saturdays and Sundays, starting this weekend, you can also hit Humboldt for bottomless mimosas and champagne cocktails (that come in a variety of styles), eggs benedict, pain perdu, and a smoked fish platter that, as a smoked-fish maniac, made my heart go flap-a-flap like the tail on a salmon headed up the Copper River. Chef DJ Nagle, too, is threatening a hangtown fry oyster, which involves fried oysters and bacon. Please, chef – turn those threats into deeds.

The joint is big on seafood, and pushes oysters any way it can. This is something to applaud.

The just-launched brunch runs from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. both weekend days.v

Oct. 30, 2013

Humboldt to Take Part in Denver Bacon & Beer Festival

It is now a well-known fact that bacon and beer go together like grilled cheese and tomato soup, especially in Denver where pairing pork with craft brews has become a kind of artisan religion.

On November 10, 2:30 to 5 p.m. head to the <a href="http://www.exdoevents.com/">EXDO Event Center</a> for the second annual <a href="http://www.wheretoeat.in/2013-denver-bacon-and-beer-festival/"><strong>Denver Bacon &amp; Beer Festival</strong></a> hosted by <a href="http://www.wheretoeat.in/">Eat Boston</a> and Denver Off The Wagon. Sample bacon dishes and beers from over 25 restaurants and 25 breweries (list below) – talk about an ultimate Sunday Funday.

“Bacon and beer were made for each other,” says our own PJ Hoberman, founder of Denver Off The Wagon. “Much like a pretzel necklace, bacon provides salt and texture that aides in clearing and coating the palate. Except that bacon is much more delicious than a pretzel can ever hope to be.”

The Denver Bacon &amp; Beer Festival benefits Metro CareRing and Project Angel Heart, two organizations working to curb hunger and provide nutritious meals to those in the metro area.

“The day will feature out of this world bacon delicacies and some of Colorado’s best craft beer,” said Eat Boston founder Aaron Cohen in a press release. “Hopefully we can raise a good amount of money for Metro CareRing and Project Angel Heart.”

Event tickets ($45) can be purchased <a href="http://www.wheretoeat.in/2013-denver-bacon-and-beer-festival/">here</a>, starting on Tuesday, October 15 at 10 a.m.

Humboldt Restaurant Promises To Bring The Farm, Fish, And Wine To 17th Street

Yesterday, >Humboldt, a self-described farm, fish, and wine restaurant, opened its doors in the space previously occupied by <strong>Strings</strong> for nearly three decades. The restaurant, created by veteran hospitality group <strong>Concepts Restaurants</strong>, promises to bring modern, re-interpreted classics and great cocktails to this 17th Avenue location.

The 4000 square foot space has been updated with assistance from architect Ken Andrews of Arch 11 and Concepts designer, Dianna Lynn. There are 180 seats total, with 30 in and around a U-shaped bar, 40 on the outside patio along 17th Avenue as well as a private dining area in the large atrium.

By opening up the dining space, the restaurant aims  to foster an energetic and transparent atmosphere full of natural light. The exhibition oyster bar and open kitchen allows guests a direct view into a working kitchen. The bar area is open and inviting, accented by a luminescent overhead bar lit from underneath with LED lights, further building on Humboldt's transparency theme.