Durango has an exceptional, authentic Italian trattoria called Guido’s. It’s also a wine bar, gourmet market and cheese store. Owned and run by the Devereaux family who lived in Italy. They take their chefs to Rome, Tuscany and different regions each year to visit the food scene and take wine tours. And more often than not are invited into kitchens to learn new dishes and techniques.
When they made the decision to move from Italy back to the U.S., Durango was chosen because it is the mid-point from Chef Susan’s hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah, and her husband Guido’s hometown of Colorado Springs. The restaurant opened in 2001, and every so often they transform the dining room and bar into a Pop-Up … a whole new delicious world … a newly themed restaurant within the restaurant.
This past Dia de San Valentin we were invited to join them for La Taberna … an evening in a Spanish Tavern / Wine Room.
As you enter, the spacious dining room is to the left.
The market is in the center … I always trust a fantastico Italian selection when I see San Marzano tomatoes and really good Italian extra virgin olive oils.
The deli area offers an amazing variety of to-go meals … Chicken Parmesan, Salads, Lasagna, Meatballs, Stuffed Mushrooms … I’m a big fan of their Eggplant Parmesan.
On this night it was all about the colors, textures, flavors, aromas, guitar and flamenco music of Spain.
We showed up early to take photos before the other guests arrived … the room was already filled with the smell of roasting peppers, simmering stews, fresh roses … and to our delight we were invited into the kitchen to see all of the behind-the-scenes action.
Here Head Chef Johnny and Sous Chef Carlos are roasting and flaming Shishito peppers, a very close cousin to Spanish Padron peppers that are available in some Durango produce markets. Roasted in very high quality Spanish olive oil, sprinkled with coarse salt, then flamed.
Local Colorado lamb chops, marinated in Spanish sherry vinegar, olive oil, Guido’s brand of lavender … then grilled.
Zarzuela de Mariscos … ‘A Little Opera of Shellfish’. The Jamon Iberico tomato stew had been simmering since 10 o’clock that morning, and the seafood was added just before serving.
Each course was paired with a wine.
You’ll notice that most of my photos of the Guido’s Team are blurred and I’m okay with that because it captured the flurry and excitement of the evening (and I didn’t want to use a flash in such a romantic, low light scene). This is Head Bartender Meg serving the sparkling Rose Cava. And Basque Lemonade, similar to a sangria but with red wine and lemon.
Next, an assortment of tapas began appearing from the kitchen …
Gambas Rojas alla Plancha … Grilled Head-On Shrimp
Empanadas de Escalope … Scallop Pies
Pan Boquerones … Bread with Tomato and Anchovies
Banderillas … Olives, Anchovies, Roasted Peppers, given their name from the barbed darts used during a bullfight.
And Linguica con Pequillos … Portugese Sausage (the beautiful red comes from paprika) topped with a Grilled Flamed Pepper.
The green peppers were mild herby and salty, with a very thin, edible skin. We could have easily eaten twenty … such flavor! A hint of ham in the scallop empanada. Little bursts of tartness from the banderillas. Savory sausage, plump hearty shrimp. Then more bites of the deep savory tomato with anchovy on fresh bread.
All seductively presented on a buffet where we could keep going back for more.
Everything was delicious. Was it over? Time for dessert? Ay dios mio, noooooo. We were only into the first course of four.
Here Sean is serving, talking with guests, and tending bar.
Jesse … entertaining everyone while serving and explaining the Spanish references.
Amber … Susan and Guido’s daughter … owner and General Manager. I lucked into this clear photo of her, as she was checking in with the kitchen and not in motion for a moment. Then she was off to talk with guests and time the arrival of each course.
Ensalada … mixed table side with salamis, chick and green peas, olives, asparagus, green beans and greens lightly drizzled with sherry vinegar and olive oil. Paired with an Avancia Godello hand harvested white wine from the Northwest region of Spain.
By this time everyone in the room had fallen in love all over again. With each other, with the foods, wines … and everyone at Guido’s was our Valentine.
The much anticipated Zarzuela de Mariscos … with clams, muscles, shrimp and big bites of lobster. Not too spicy so as to overpower the briny and buttery seafood. And a surprise crunch of Marcona almonds. Paired with a red wine … a Dehesa … light with no heavy tannins. Il matrimonio perfetto.
Chuleta de Cordero con Pisto Manchego … Lamb Chop with Pisto Sauce
Mr.D’s favorite … “This is how a lamb chop should be cooked!” … a lollypop chop, not trimmed of fat so as to hold in the flavor and moistness. Very very tender, not at all gamey, and locally sourced from Colorado. The pisto was simmered with tomato, red and green peppers and at the very last minute whipped with eggs. Then crumbled with hard boiled egg. Paired with an unfiltered Rio Madre 100% Graciano from central Spain.
Next we heard word that something was again flaming in the kitchen …
Crema Catalana … Italian Custard Cream. With rich heavy cream, eggs and bruleed fine white sugar for the caramel charred top that is always a delight to break into with your spoon, then dip into the smooth velvety crema.
After three hours of elegant, authentic, delicious preparations we were a cheerful, grateful bunch. Contented. And curious to know the next Pop-Up theme. I’ll give you a hint … champagne.
Amber and Susan
Susan waiving goodbye to guests … she said, “We do this from our hearts. For happy friends.”
Pictured: Front and center, Carlos. Back, from left to right: Jesse, Amber, Susan, Cullen (Susan’s son who is also a chef), Sean, Johnny and Meg. Our adventure had come to an end. Their well-deserved celebration was catching a second wind.
Graze mille to you all!
Pop-Ups are by invitation only. Interested foodies are welcome to inquire.
Price per person varies from $50 to $100, depending on the ingredients and whether wines and cocktails are included.
Sometime during early Spring (2016) Guido’s will be re-modeled, and the market will offer authentic Italian and gourmet European foods.
1201 Main Ave. Durango, Colorado (towards the North end of Downtown Durango)
Phone: 970 259 5028