Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kul--Kol, Rapid City

Looking for a super kul establishment to feed the body and sooth the soul?  A place to have an awesome cocktail because you want to?  Or better yet, somewhere to have a fabulous dessert because you can? Kol, on the corner of Mount Rushmore and Main in Rapid City, is such a spot.

Almost two years and over a million dollars in the making, Kol is a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant centered around its large and pricey coal-fired oven.  Owner Tony DeMaro (also of Murphy’s, just down the street) has thought of every detail in this new concept for the Black Hills.  From the open, modern space to the warm stone and wood accents, Kol has a wonderful ambiance.  It is just seriously so kul.  A kul place to eat.  A kul place to drink.  A kul place to hangout. 

Kul scenes of the interior of Kol--Rapid's newest restaurant.
Currently, the limited menu boasts one-of-a-kind pizzas made in the beautiful oven.  Other menu items, including appetizers and skewers, center on the idea of dichotomy, choosing between health-food choices that can “fuel the body” or comfort-food choices that can “sooth the soul.”  For instance, when ordering the chicken skewer, you can have it in the balsamic reduction sauce—healthy—or the mushroom cream sauce—comfort.  Then one of four different sides can be chosen.  (I ordered the chicken skewer in mushroom sauce with roasted potatoes and pearl onions—delicious!)  When selecting the shrimp appetizer, you can have the spicy chili sauce—healthy—or lemon, goat cheese stuffed and wrapped with prosciutto—comfort. 

Great food from Kol's coal-burning oven and unique menu.
Even though the menu currently offers fewer items due to the official opening, the food options could be almost endless.  These possibilities will continue to change as Chef Blake (also of Murphy’s) continues to expand the number of entrees until the full menu size is reached.  He will focus on increasing seafood options, including daily specials, and implementing an ever-evolving menu that will showcase his cooking talents and the coal oven’s capabilities. 

Though the fare coming out of the huge, room-sized furnace is impressive, other delights are also available.  Salads, such as the apple and endive (apples, endive, pistachios, pistachio puree, feta, and apple vinaigrette), mix sweet and savory for the perfect taste.  Other salads include Beets by Blake, Fig in a Pear Tree, and Spin and Straw.  If none of these pique your interest, there are several soups as well.

Yummy salads.
Although these selections are amazing, make sure to save room for dessert!  Kol also has a very talented pastry chef creating a rotating dessert menu that must be tasted.  On this particular evening, the berry crisp and blood orange tart were both absolutely fantastic.  Though traditional crème brulee was also an option, I had to try the other creative sweet treats.

Delicious desserts.
Though I’ve talked all about Kol’s food choices, it is first and foremost a full-service bar with some of the kulest cocktails ever, in addition to whatever you might want to order.  The White Cosmo mixes elderflower liqueur, lime juice, and white cranberry juice over a stunning orchid flower ice ball.  The Bradshaw features passion fruit, tequila, and lemon juice in a beautiful Champagne flute.  Both of these looked delicious and amazing, making me wish I would have ordered a cocktail to be a kul kid instead of a glass of wine from the list.  My only recommendation of the entire evening actually dealt with wine--quality stemware was the one detail left for Kol to cover, and cover it they did.  Riedel glasses have since been added to the bar.

Kul cocktails.
Rapid City’s newest restaurant, Kol, is oh so very kul.  With an ultra-modern environment that mixes the best of the city and the hills, excellent food that all will find appealing, and drinks that will intrigue any imagination, Kol is the next must-see (and be seen) place to stop.  Go first because you have to. Next because you want to.  And again and again because you can. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Special--Red Cap Vineyards, Howell Mountain

It would seem impossible.  Absolutely impossible.  There could be no way. 

How would one choose a bottle of wine to symbolize the culmination of thirteen years?  More actually. 

To treat myself to a special glass after an even more special occasion—the youngest child’s graduation from high school—was my goal.  This was the first of many special life milestones for him, yet a very important one.  Made more so by the fact he was one of the class’s co-valedictorians, a goal he set for himself when he first started high school.  So very special for our son. 

Yet, my husband and I wanted something for us to toast each other, as well.  After all the work of the reception, the day, the week…maybe even the years.  My philosophy of parenting has always been “it’s about the kids, not about the parents.”  However, my spouse and I wanted just a moment to share between the two of us.  No children involved, just an extraordinary glass of wine.

The Occasion
Now, extraordinary for me doesn’t necessarily mean expensive.  It doesn’t necessarily mean from an exotic location.  It doesn’t mean high critic scores. And it doesn’t mean a big-named producer.  This wine was more about the occasion. It had to be a wine my husband and I would both enjoy.  Respect.  Know the story behind the bottle. Maybe even be a producer I was dying to try.  (If the wine just happened to meet the above standards of scores and location, so be it.)

So, when I walked into a Rapid City, South Dakota liquor store—Canyon Lake Liquors—imagine how thrilled I was to find a bottle of Red Cap Vineyards 2006 Cabernet.  It fit my criteria exactly.  The perfect balance between my husband’s bold palate and my slightly more reserved sense of taste.  A well respected, yet small producer.  A great story behind the production of the wine.   A label that featured a young boy on a tree swing—perfect for the parents of a boy who was no longer that young. 

The Vineyard
I had been following certain wine lovers on social media for some time; this was how I originally got turned on to Red Cap Vineyards.  The more research I did the more I wanted to find a bottle.  However, located in the remote area of Howell Mountain in Napa Valley with no tasting room and most of its limited 280 cases a year sold through select distributors in just a few states, I was pretty sure I would never get my hands on a bottle until I went to California this summer.  After the initial shock of spotting the boy on a swing from the Red Cap label, I snatched the bottle from the shelf as if someone might grab it away from me, marched to the register, and purchased it as fast as I could!  I was so excited about my acquisition, I really didn’t pay much attention to the selection until I got home.

After I was safely away from any crowd that might steal my rare wine find, I looked more closely at the bottle.  Again, another surprise awaited me:  this was a 2006—the first vintage Tom and Desiree Altemus and winemaker Rudy Zuidema made from their vines planted on Howell Mountain.  In addition to the year being special for the vintage, it also was great timing to open the wine since it had some time to age in the bottle. 

The Bottle
At the end of the day on Sunday, after decorating for the party, getting dressed up, waiting for commencement, sitting nervously through my son’s speech (he did great, by the way), hugging other graduates, eating tasty food, saying thanks to well-wishers, cleaning up the aftermath, and watching my grad open gifts, my husband and I were finally ready to relax. 

Heels came off.  The bottle was opened.  The wine was poured, swirled, sniffed, and sipped.  And delicious.  Absolutely delicious. 

In the glass, the deep, inky, chokecherry-red made beautiful tears as it ran down the sides of the glass.  On the nose, the smells of fig, spice, earth, and ginger came through.  On the palate, the baked plum led to tannins that smoothed to velvet over the tongue.  The finish was all fruit and lasted forever. 

I enjoyed the glass so much, that I actually became a bit of a wine hoarder, only allowing us to have a smaller glass that night.  I wanted a glass the next night, too!  Yes, it was so nice, I wanted that bottle to drink from twice. So we poured the next night as well.  Being opened for twenty-four hours changed the wine, but only slightly.  I think the tannins were more approachable on the first sip; they were smoother the instant they hit the palate.  The fruit and spice were still complex in the mouth, and the finish still seemed to last an eternity. 

The Wine
Though it may seem impossible, a special occasion really does deserve a special wine.  One that maybe took a little bit of a search and a lot bit of luck.  This bottle does not have to be the “perfect” bottle, it just has to be the perfect one for that specific occasion. 

It has to be one that matches the gravity of the celebration, one that represents the people and places and memories of the milestone.  Just like our Red Cap Vineyards 2006 Cabernet, the bottle will become a part of the memory itself.  A reason to smile because it evokes memories on its own.  I truly feel honored to have scored such a unique find for my husband and I to toast each other on our youngest’s high school graduation.  A wine that is as special as he is.  A wine that will forever make me think of my son on his first of many “adult” accomplishments. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Up to Date--Delmonico Grill

Bruce Barton once said, “When you are through changing, you are through.”  Downtown Rapid City is far from through, as it has shown the ability to make great changes over the last decade.  And I mean great as in great for the city itself.  The evolution to a cultural and upscale small city with an impressive downtown has been so much to fun to watch.  This has been led by city-wide efforts such as Main Street Square, but it has also been due to the work of individual proprietors, like Benjamin Klinkel, chef and owner of two important Rapid restaurants:  Tally’s Silver Spoon and Delmonico Grill.

Chef Benjamin started with Tally’s Silver Spoon, remaking it into an upscale, modern “diner” with great food, wine, and events.  (Read about Tally’s here.)  Then Ben purchased Delmonico Grill from another talented Black Hills chef—Pete Franklin (read about Pete’s latest venture here).  Initially, Ben left Delmonico much like it was, both in its interior and its menu.  Though minor changes had been made with the change in ownership, I still considered Delmonico the best steakhouse in Rapid.  I loved its location and wine list.  I ate there for both lunch and supper, depending on the occasion.  It was a favorite of mine and my family’s. 

Delmonico Grill--helping Rapid City continue to evolve.
Imagine my delight, then, when I heard Chef Benjamin was temporarily closing down Delmonico to gut the building, rework the kitchen, open up the bar area, and modernize the décor.  Any sadness I may have felt over the short-term closure of the establishment was quickly diminished when I thought of the wonderful, new environment Ben and his mother Barb (self-proclaimed interior decorator of the project) were creating.  I was not a bit disappointed!

New and improved interior of Delmonico.

The ambiance was improved even more with live music.
To say Delmonico Grill’s new interior was impressive was an understatement.  Sleek, modern, and dramatic decorations were in place of the former art décor-inspired sconces and pictures on the walls.  The lighting was hip industrial.  The new art on the wall was creative and unique—a cow’s head and bone art installation covered one wall with a cow’s hide seating area below.  Super.  Super.  Cool.

Super, super cool artwork installation and seating area.
At the end of the long room was a visible and sizable bar.  The center of the space housed one-of-a-kind round tables perfect for larger groups.  Serving stations were hidden in between these distinctive tables, making service to the entire restaurant easy.  The whole environment was edgy yet comfortable, classy yet quaint.  As we sat down, we noticed many customers dressed up; not over dressed, just looking nice for an excellent meal and night on the town.  The instant we stepped inside, I loved the ambiance Ben and Barb had created. 

Center row of round tables with hidden service stations.

Industrial lighting.
Wine storage across from the bar area.

Newly updated kitchen.
As for the menu, some of my favorites still made their appearances, like the Kona-encrusted ribeye…my mouth is watering just thinking of it.  The amazing French onion soup was the same, as was the excellent wine list.  Added to these entrees were other rotating options.  I had the squid ink risotto; however, it was a hard choice from the many other tasty delights available, including seafood and lamb.  When time for dessert came, we purposely didn’t finish the large ribeye so we could have the house classic--crème brulee, and we were again not a bit disappointed.

Delicious Kona-encrusted ribeye with seasoned butter and grilled vegetables.

Unique entrée of squid ink risotto and scallops.
One aspect of Delmonico that did not change was the excellent service.  Ben’s mom Barb met us at the door.  No one realized I was there to blog about the experience—I hadn’t contacted anyone before hand—so I can truly say we received wonderful, friendly treatment just because that is what Delmonico’s staff is all about.  Barb had a friendly conversation with us when I inquired about the decorating inspiration.  (Ben worked with an architect on the floor plan he had in mind, and Barb got to have her way with the rest of the interior—though Ben may have a different story!)  Our server was amicable and capable.  Our salads and wine came according to perfect timing.  The entrees were flawless, and the dessert ended an excellent experience. 

More of our perfectly timed and served courses:  salad, wine, and dessert.
Downtown Rapid City has changed—definitely for the better—over the last decade.  The city itself has been the instigator of some of that change; however, individual business owners like Chef Benjamin Klinkel have also led the charge to evolve Rapid into a small city worth visiting.  It is filled with cultural activities, great food, and cool establishments.  The updated Delmonico Grill is yet another example of the new environment of Rapid; the upscale and modern setting prove that Rapid is not through changing yet!  I look forward to witnessing the continued evolution.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Brineries of the Black Hills

Yesterday I took a group on the fourth annual Black Hills Brinery Tour--a great opportunity for many to experience different beer and wine options in the area with someone else doing all the driving...the bus driver!  Over the years, it has been so interesting to see the wine and beer industry grow in front of our very eyes.  (Read my blog about our second annual trip here.) The trip leaves many in awe at the wonderful changes happening in our little ol' Black Hills.  This year, Mother Nature was on our side; the weather was beautiful for wine sipping, beer drinking, and patio sitting. 

Since there is not enough time in one day to visit all the establishments in our ever-growing wine and beer trade, here is a list of possible stops for those who would like to create their own "brinery" day.  Cheers!
Number and Variety of Beers
Growlers Filled
Up to seven original beers on tap; many seasonal recipes rotating
Yes, any and all
Shirts, sweatshirts, and growlers
Menu of unique, pub-style food: sandwiches, burgers, appetizers
Build your own flight of 5 oz. tasters of any beers on tap; price depending on beer
Sick ‘N Twisted:  Hill City, SD
Up to fourteen original brews on tap; additional seasonal choices
Yes, any and all; will even trade for ones to add to their collection
Shirts, hats, pants, accessories, growlers, etc.
Soup, sandwiches, soft pretzels
Single 4 oz. taste $1.25; five 4 oz. tastes $6.25
Miner Brewing:  Hill City, SD
Up to ten original brews on tap; up to thirty beer recipes throughout the year
Yes, any and all
Shirts, hats, growlers, growlettes, etc.
Chips and munchies; Prairie Berry Winery bistro restaurant next door
Six 4 oz. tasters for $8.00; single 4 oz. taste $1.50
Nine original brews on tap at any time out of thirty different brew recipes
Yes, any and all
Shirts, hats, growlers, etc. 
Full-service restaurant available
Small tastings given free before purchase of pint
Hay Camp Brewing:

Rapid City, SD
Five original brews on tap out of twelve different brew recipes
Yes, any and all
T-shirts and growlers
No food service; can bring in own food; nearby sandwich shop
Up to five 4 oz. tasters for a fee
Dakota Shivers:  Lead, SD
Two or three on tap out of eight different recipes; number will increase with growth
Not at this time; yes in the future when production capabilities increase
T-shirts; growlers in future
Pub snacks and munchies
Up to five tasters for $5.00
The Knuckle Saloon:

Sturgis, SD
Seven original brews on tap; still expanding total number of recipes
Yes, any and all
T-shirts, growlers, etc.
Pizza, pasta, wings, salads, sandwiches, appetizers
Four 5 oz. tasters for $7.00; additional tastes $1.00
Eight original brews on tap out of twenty-four total recipes
Yes, any and all
T-shirt, growlers, hats, etc.
Four 4 oz. tasters for $4.50

Our brinery group two years ago on the second annual tour at Crow Peak Brewing.

An another trip to Bitter Esters in Custer.
This year's group at Sick and Twisted/Naked Winery in Hill City.

Number and Variety of Wines
Wine Club
Naked Winery:  Custer, SD
Grape wines from Oregon; up to 48 different styles of reds, whites, and roses from dry to sweet
Yes, five wine club options from two to twelve bottles, all red or pick own
Shirts, pants, hats, signs, etc.
“Fish and chips”—crackers and chocolate munchies
Six wines for $5.00; free for wine club members
Naked Winery:  Hill City, SD
Grape wines from Oregon; up to 48 different styles of reds, whites, and roses from dry to sweet; fruit wines
Yes, five wine club options from two to twelve bottles, all red or pick own
Shirts, pants, hats, signs, wine accessories, etc.
Soup, sandwiches, soft pretzels, “Fish and chips”—crackers and chocolate munchies
Six wines for $5.00; free for wine club members
Grape and fruit wines, some from eastern South Dakota grapes; up to 19 different styles of reds, whites, and roses from dry to sweet
Information not available
Information not available
South Dakota cheese and bread for purchase
Up to four wines for free
Grape wines and fruit wines; numerous different styles of reds, whites, and roses from dry to sweet
Yes, Legacy or Cru wine clubs with the choice of dry or sweet wines
T-shirts, hats, wine accessories, glasses, home furnishings, books, food products, etc.
Full bistro restaurant with soups, sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and desserts.
Up to five wines for free
Grape wines from South Dakota and west coast grapes; up to 13 different styles of reds, whites, and roses from dry to sweet
Yes, two, four, six, and twelve bottle options with discounts on wine and merchandise
Shirts, hats, growlers, etc. 
Full service restaurant two doors down at Firehouse Brewing
Taste as many wines as desired for $1.00 per 1 oz. pour
Dakota's Best Wine and Gifts-- Schade Vineyards in Deadwood, SD and Twisted Pine in Hill City, SD
Dry and sweet styles of red and white grape wines from South Dakota hybrid grapes; sweet and dry fruit wines from South Dakota grown fruit
No wine club options available
Wine accessories and many South Dakota made products
South Dakota cheese plate with complimentary glass; other South Dakota food items for purchase and consumption on premise
One complimentary taste; up to five tastes for $3.00
Grape wines from estate grown South Dakota and west coast grapes; up to 9 different styles of reds, whites, and desserts from dry to sweet; sparkling wines produced in the traditional style
Yes, wine club members can choose red or white and dry or sweet options
T-shirts and wine accessories
Meat and cheese tray options; flat bread pizzas; cater special events
Up to five wines for $5.00; free for wine club members

Past tour participants enjoying lunch and wine at Prairie Berry Winery.

This year's crew getting the personal treatment at Firehouse Wine Cellars.

The new beautiful Belle Joli facility in Sturgis.

Enjoy the unique wineries and breweries popping up all across the Black Hills.  It is a beautiful area producing some quality beers and wines.  Create your own tour soon...or catch our bus again next spring!