Behind the Scenes: Infamous Cork Pranks

There are a lot of moving parts to making an unforgettable meal, and what happens behind the scenes often goes unnoticed. Yes, there’s a lot of hard work — hours spent perfecting every detail, polishing every glass, preparing every dish. But, like any job, there are a few fun and games.

After 50 years in business, Cork staff have enjoyed their fair share of pranks. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you’ve probably had your share of fun, too. Maybe your bartender poured a martini into a wine glass or your line cook “garnished” your mashed potatoes with a berry. But if you’re the one dining out, you probably never see these silly stunts—your knowledgeable server knows better than to bring something to your table that isn’t right.

However, some of the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes are just too good to not share. Here are a couple of the most infamous pranks ever pulled at the Cork:

Here’s what happened…

“The waiter would come up to the table, introducing himself—‘My name is so-and-so, I’ll be your server tonight.’ (The usual). Then, he’d grab a water glass and start filling it, and boom! The bottom of the glass falls out and the whole glass of water spills on the table.”

And here’s how they did it…

When the Cork first opened, all the glasses were actually wine bottles cut in half. Fun fact: we did that all in-house, out behind the restaurant! But what you need to know about wine bottles is that they aren’t made out of tempered glass, so they aren’t designed to handle sudden temperature changes.

To make a splash, back waiters would reset tables with nice, clean glasses, fresh out of the dishwasher and piping hot. When the server went up to greet their guests with ice-cold water, the temperature would put too much stress on the glass and cause it to crack or break. Since wine bottles are thicker than an average drinking glass, they can hold heat a little longer, so even if it’s been five minutes since the glass came out of the dishwasher, it could still be warm enough to make this prank possible.

Needless to say, we’ve since switched to traditional glassware, so no one will be getting a lap of ice water any time soon.

Behind the Scenes: Infamous Cork Pranks

So, the story goes like this…

“The server would serve the beef kabob by taking the meat and vegetables off the skewer, then he realized they were hotdogs. The customers are looking like ‘what is this?’”

This is how it was even possible…

Service was different when the Cork still had a salad bar. Back then, guests would head to the salad bar, grab a large plate and assemble their salad. When entrées came out, steaks were served directly onto the salad plate. The waiter would bring out a large serving plate with all orders and distribute each steak to the appropriate guest.

Wondering how a server could miss a pile of hotdogs on a tray of high-quality steaks? Well, some cooks were clever enough to build the plate so it disguised the hotdog kabobs—until it was too late. With a heavy tray of steaks and a hungry group of guests waiting, it’s not hard to believe those kabobs made it to the table now and then.

Today the Cork provides fine dining service, which means you get a clean plate every time. Unless you smuggle one in, you won’t be seeing a “hotdog kabob” for dinner.

All jokes aside…

We love our staff and we love seeing them have fun, even when they’re silly. It’s what makes our jobs so fun! But, in the end, our favorite pranks are the ones that never leave the service area. Our guests come first, and their experience is everything to us. That’s what makes these pranks so “infamous” around here—they made it to the table. Considering we’ve been the go-to steakhouse in Boulder for 50 years, we’re proud to say we don’t often have service blunders to highlight, funny or otherwise.

If you want to hear about more of our staff hijinks, we’d love to sit down and reminisce with you! The Cork is open Monday through Sunday; contact us or make a reservation today.

Throw the Perfect Party: 6 Tips to a Successful Private Event

There’s nothing better than bringing a group together over food and drink, no matter the occasion. However, for many of us, hosting a private party can feel like a lot of pressure, even if it’s just a small gathering. It’s clear why people choose to hire event planners for these things—once you dive into the details of what all goes in to even a modest event, it seems like only a pro could handle so many moving parts. But the truth is anyone can successfully organize a fabulous event, especially at a venue with dedicated space for private parties. And, when it’s hosted somewhere other than your home, you too will most likely enjoy the event more. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Start with a budget

A spending limit will determine several things, from the number of guests to the venue, down to what drinks you’ll serve and how to handle entertainment. Start with a modest budget but be open to spending a little more if needed. Once you know what you’re willing to spend, divide it by the number of guests you want to invite. For example, if your budget is $1000 and you want to invite 12 people, just divide $1000 by 12—in this case, you’d be working with about $83 per person. The cost per person is a good starting point for picking food and drink menus and any possible gifts you want to hand out. Don’t forget: if you plan to bring in entertainment or decorations, you’ll have to subtract that cost from the overall budget before dividing.

Pick a theme

This is usually the easiest part! When picking a theme, consider why you’re hosting an event in the first place. Is this a professional event or are you celebrating a personal milestone? Is it just a casual get-together, or will people come dressed to impress? Be sure to take into account how many people will attend—some ideas are better suited to larger groups, while others just work well in an intimate setting. As it all comes together, think about how décor will fit into your budget—will you need banners, individual place settings, special invitations, centerpieces? Will you fully embrace the theme or keep it subtle? There’s plenty to think about, though it shouldn’t feel overwhelming. With this one, have fun with it and trust your instincts.

Decide on a timeframe

When do you want to throw the event? How much time will you have to plan it? Most importantly, how long will the party last? If you’re hoping to bring your loved ones together to celebrate all night long, you’ll need to do more than hors d’oeuvres and a couple drink tickets. For reference, a seated dinner can take about three to four hours, depending on the courses and any reception before and after. On the other hand, a cocktail party with passed appetizers may last a couple of hours.

Ask about allergies

Or, at the very least, include it as a footnote when you start inviting everyone. Have you ever been to a beautiful party, but had nothing to eat? Whether someone really can’t eat certain foods, or they just have a preference, it’s information you’ll want to include when you start setting a menu. Most restaurants will ask this right off the bat, so make sure to come prepared.

Make it convenient

Location is an important part of this. When choosing your venue, don’t dwell as much on how hip or trendy the spot is—while this is a nice bonus, it won’t affect the experience as much as you may think. Step into your guests’ heads for a second. They’ll definitely have questions about getting there, so avoid making this a barrier. Is there enough parking? Is the restaurant local? These things can make or break your get together—no one wants to get lost on the way there or have their car towed halfway through dinner.

Set the mood

Bring it all together by picking exactly the right space and setting it up just perfectly. Take your party size and theme into account and consider how much space you’ll need. If you’re hosting an intimate event, you won’t want a warehouse-sized room. On the other hand, if you’ve invited a lot of guests and you want plenty of room to move around, make sure the space can accommodate this. Don’t be afraid to work with the restaurant to get all your decorations in place—they’re the experts!

Ready to make your next party extra special? Get in touch with us today to talk about the different spaces, menus and accommodations available at the Cork. We look forward to serving you!

Throw the Perfect Party: 6 Tips to a Successful Private Event

Perfecting the Art of the Cocktail: Two Fresh, Easy Recipes

Venturing into the world of cocktails can be an intimidating journey. For many of us, ordering a cocktail at a restaurant—let alone making one on our own—can feel a bit like understanding a foreign language. Scan the cocktail menu at a restaurant, and you may wonder things like:

What’s the difference between liquor and liqueur?
Should I be ordering my drink neat, up or on the rocks?
And what about a martini—shaken or stirred?
What the heck are bitters and botanicals?

If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone. At The Cork, you can pose these questions to skilled bartenders who are more than happy to teach you about their craft. At home may be a different story.

Maybe you’ve recently been gifted a cocktail cookbook or want to try an interesting drink recipe you saw on Pinterest, but you’re worried about purchasing the ingredients and then messing up the recipe. That’s why the best way to start crafting your own cocktails at home is to start with drink recipes you know are good. So take it from us and try two of Chef Jim’s favorite cocktails this season. Many of the ingredients can be found at your local farmer’s market, with the rest consisting of staples in your liquor cabinet.


Anguilla Bush Breeze

With a few simple ingredients, you can easily create a unique and refreshing cocktail!


Fresh basil
3 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
1 ½ ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounces Cointreau
Watermelon chunks (any kind of watermelon will work, but red and yellow are Chef Jim’s favorites for this drink!)
Club soda


  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine 4 to 5 torn basil leaves with gin
  2. Add ice to the shaker until half-full and shake vigorously
  3. Make watermelon juice by blending watermelon chunks and then straining
  4. Add the lime juice, Cointreau and watermelon juice to the shaker
  5. Shake well and pour over ice
  6. Top off with a splash of club soda and garnish with a basil leaf

Yellow Tomato Bloody Mary

A fresh twist on your favorite accompaniment to brunch! In four simple steps, you can have your own Bloody Mary—no mix needed—at home.


3 medium yellow tomatoes, quartered
½ teaspoon shallot, finely minced
½ teaspoon Serrano pepper, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
¼ teaspoon celery salt
3 ounces vodka
Cucumber and olives for garnish


  1. Blend yellow tomatoes and then strain (this should yield 1 to 1 ½ cups of juice, but it’s recommended you use 1 cup of juice for this recipe)
  2. Combine the tomato juice with remaining ingredients
  3. Pour this mixture over a hefty serving of ice
  4. Garnish with a slice of fresh cucumber and an olive

Some Like It Hot: Spicy Recipes to Cool You Off This Summer

Have you ever noticed that spicy foods tend to be popular among cultural groups from hot climates? From Southeast Asia, India and Africa to the Caribbean, Central America and South America, the prevalence of hot food in hot locations is well established. It may seem ironic at first, but there’s actually a scientific reason for it: spicy foods cause you to sweat, which helps to lower your body temperature.

With the hot weather we’ve been having along the Front Range lately, this is great news for spice lovers in town. Among them is Chef Jim Smailer of the Boulder Cork, who has developed and keeps several spicy, surprisingly refreshing recipes on rotation in the summer.

One of his favorites is corn cakes with aguachile (Spanish for “chile water”) and a passionfruit and mango sauce. Chef Jim loves adding fish to the meal, especially halibut or white snapper, but the cakes and sauce are also a delicious pair on their own. Check out the recipe below — if you try it, let us know how you like it, and be sure to stay cool out there.

Chef Jim’s Corn Cakes


Chef Jim's Corn Cakes2 ears corn, kernels removed
1 egg
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
¾ cup flour
½ cup cornmeal or polenta grits (Chef Jim likes Bob’s brand)
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted unsalted butter (add another 2 tbsp for sautéing)
Fresh chives or fresh jalapeño (optional)


  1. Purée ½ of the corn kernels in a food processor until creamy. Place the corn in a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining corn, egg and buttermilk. Whisk until combined.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add dry ingredients to the corn mixture and combine.
  4. Add melted butter.
  5. Add chopped fresh chives and/or fresh jalapeño to taste (optional).
  6.  Melt 2 tbsp of reserved butter over medium heat in a nonstick sauté pan until hot.
  7. Cook corncake like you would a pancake.



2 limes, juiced
1 or ½ fresh jalapeño
6 oz. seeded cucumber, chopped
1 clove garlic
½ cup cilantro
½ cup mint
½ cup of parsley
2 tbsp chives, minced
¼ cup sweet onion, chopped
1 small yellow tomato or handful of yellow cherry tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup water
¼ cup good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place all ingredients except olive oil in a blender. Purée.
  2. Add olive oil at the end while blender is still running (remove the circle in the center of the blender lid so you can easily add to the mixture)
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Passionfruit and Mango Sauce


2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp shallot or onion, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp very hot fresh red or orange chile, such as a ghost pepper, Carolina reaper or habenero, minced
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp honey
3 ripe mangoes
4 passionfruit, halved with flesh and seeds scooped out
3 cups fresh orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat butter and olive oil in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the shallot, ginger and chile. Cook on medium heat until tender.
  3. Add curry powder, stir for another minute.
  4. Add mango and honey, stirring for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add orange juice and passionfruit pulp, seeds and all.
  6. Cook this mixture, stirring occasionally until reduced by about a third.
  7. Let mixture cool, add pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper.
  8. Place mixture in a food processor and purée.
  9. Press through strainer.
  10. Served chilled or at room temperature.

Chef’s Notes:

This sauce is great with fish or chicken. You can adjust the heat by adding more or less chile. I really like to use the passionfruit and mango sauce with my aguachile — green and yellow sauces really brighten a fresh summer dish like corn cakes.


Cooking Steak: What You Need to Know

Steak is one of those foods that many of us love to eat, and will always order at restaurants given the opportunity, but we may not necessarily feel confident cooking steak ourselves.

And it’s no wonder —  google “how to cook steak” and you’ll find more than two million search results, each one advising a different cut of meat, different preparation, marinating and cooking directions. So how’s the layman supposed to know where to even begin?

We asked Chef Jim to answer some basic questions about cooking steak. Instead of just answering questions, Chef Jim prepared a live demonstration in The Cork kitchen.

Let’s Talk Steak with Chef Jim

Q: It seems there are so many nuances to cooking steak. For those who want to cook a great steak at home, what do they need to know?

Look, cooking steak is not a perfect science. That’s why running a quality steakhouse can be challenging. People like different cuts of meat, cooked to varying degrees of doneness, and some like to go all out with marinade or sauces. So it’s hard, but it basically comes down to buying quality beef.

Q: What cut of meat should you buy when cooking steak at home?

That comes down to personal preference. Some people really like the chuck end of the animal because it’s fattier. Others go for pieces of tenderloin. But here’s the deal with tenderloin: basically, half of every tenderloin is perfect; the other half is good but presents its challenges in terms of quality of meat and cooking. As you go down the tenderloin, quality can decrease dramatically.

So in terms of what piece of beef to buy, here’s what I would say: ask your butcher for center cuts. Any butcher in his right mind knows exactly what that is. Don’t just walk into the butcher and say, “I want four NY strips.” If you do that, you may end up getting lesser quality meat that the butcher is looking to unload. Chateaubriand is one of the most desirable steaks — that’s a center cut.

Q: OK, so ask for a center cut. How do you know if you’re getting a quality steak?

USDA Prime vs. USDA Choice Beef

Buy Choice Beef. USDA Prime, while technically the best quality, can be unaffordable and hard to get your hands on. A lot of butchers don’t sell Prime cuts, and meat counters at stores may not have them. USDA Choice Beef is more affordable and the quality of the meat can be just as good as Prime.

Then look for visual clues as to the quality of the cut. You’re looking for a cut that’s at least 1-inch to 1 1/2-inches thick, since a thicker cut will be juicier and less likely to get dried out during the cooking process. And make sure it has plenty of marbling — thin white threads of fat running through the meat. You want fat in your steak because that’s what keeps it moist and tender during cooking and gives it wonderful flavor. Better quality cuts will have evenly distributed threads of fat throughout the cut rather than denser chunks of fat.

Q: When it comes to cooking steak, should the home cook grill the meat, or cook it on the stove?

Grilling Steak

I’d say grill it. The classic French technique is to pan fry a butter-basted cut of tenderloin—that way the meat doesn’t pick up the grill flavor to interrupt the subtleties of the tenderloin. But if I’m cooking steak for myself, I grill it. My favorite way to do steak is a very Italian way: Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Steak Florentine):

Let your steak warm to room temperature, then just add a little salt — really good quality salt — right before you’re ready to throw it on the grill. Brush some olive oil on the grill before you toss your steak on. Don’t keep flipping your steak all the time; let the steak cook, especially that first side. When it’s cooked to your liking, take your steak from the grill and let it rest. If you have the time and patience, give it 8 to 12 minutes to rest — believe me, it will do wonders for flavor and texture. The steak will reabsorb some of the moisture lost during cooking if you give it a few minutes after cooking. Steak doesn’t have to burn your mouth off when you eat it.

So let it rest, then just add a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving. Polish it off with a bottle of Barolo — that’s a must!

Q: How do you know when your steak is done to your liking?

How to Tell if Steak is Done

A digital thermometer is a must for a novice. We don’t use them here at The Cork because we are all seasoned chefs, we can tell by look and touch what’s rare or medium rare. But beginners should use a thermometer, and if you like your steak rare, take it off the grill at 124 degrees F.

What I read in food magazines is misleading:  they say 130 degrees F is rare — that’s not a rare steak, that’s medium. A steak will continue to cook after you remove it from heat, so if you’re buying a $34-40 piece of meat, do yourself a favor and take it off before 130 degrees F. Let it rest. Then if it’s still too rare, you can always throw it back on the grill.

Q: So if you want a really good steak, cooked to perfection — can you even do that at home?

Sure. But steak is complicated, so unless you know what you’re doing, it can be frustrating. That’s why I like people to come here to The Cork for their steak. We’ve got access to quality product and the equipment to do steak well. We’ve got a double-stack broiler that’s basically a steak cooking machine. And we get great, quality cuts from our vendors.

12 Kitchen Tools for Christmas: Holiday Gift Guide for the Family Chef

12 Kitchen Tools for Christmas

Christmas is less than a week away, and many of us are dashing around like headless reindeer trying to scoop up those last (or maybe the first) of the items on our gift shopping lists. If you’re still looking for gifts for the chef in your family or friend group, and aimlessly browsing on Amazon or headed to Sur La Table without a plan — we can help. We picked Chef Jim’s brain for a list of kitchen tools any self-respecting chef should have in their kitchen, and what he told us might surprise you…

We give you: Chef Jim’s 12 Kitchen Tools for Christmas

1. Shun and Wusthof Classic Chef’s Knives

You can’t do anything in a kitchen without a good knife. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy a full set of premium knives for hundreds of dollars. “I see it all the time,” Chef Jim says, “A new cook walks in with a bag of knives — and you just don’t need all of them. You can have one or two great 8” or 10” knives and use them for everything.” Jim primarily only uses two knives: the Shun ® 8” Chef’s Knife, and a 10” Wusthof Classic Chef’s Knife. Both the Japanese Shun and the German Wusthof are made of high quality steel and craftsmanship, resulting in precise, durable and versatile knives that fit well in hand. Each retails for around $150 dollars — a fraction of the cost of a complete knife set — and the family chef won’t be left wanting another knife. “You don’t need a lot of knives or the best knife in the world,” Jim says. “You just need one that is versatile and feels good in your hand.”

2. AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener

If you have knives, you need a knife sharpener — ergo, everyone needs a knife sharpener. “Forget diamond stones,” Jim says. “A farmer friend once gave me an AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener, something they used on the farm to sharpen their tools. It works like a charm on kitchen knives, leaving them sharp enough for cutting anything from steak to fileting Florida red snapper.” Pick one up at McGuckins Hardware for $9.99.

3. Box Grater

Using a flat grater and trying to trap all of your cheese and veggie shavings into a bowl or pan can be frustrating. Enter the four-sided box grater. “It’s one of those kitchen tools that just makes your life easier, and prep work more efficient,” says Jim. Most box graters come with coarse, medium and fine grating surfaces, plus a slicing surface, and some graters come with detachable food storage containers. Chef Jim doesn’t recommend any one grater and says that any will do the trick. Again, find one that feels comfortable in your hand. Box graters range from $6 to $40, depending on how many bells and whistles you want.

4. Staub Cast Iron Baking Dish

There’s a reason cast-iron cookware has been around for thousands of years and is still in use: our advanced species has yet to invent a cooking vessel more durable, better at distributing heat evenly and retaining heat than a cast-iron pot or baking dish. “I use my Staub cast iron baking dish for lots of different dishes, from roasting meat and vegetables to baking cobblers,” Jim says. It may not be the flashiest of cookware, but we challenge you to find something more durable and reliable. Depending on size, Staub cast iron cookware ranges from $60 to $250.

5. 12” Wooden Cooking Spoons

Chef Jim says he couldn’t live without an assortment of wooden cooking spoons, and you shouldn’t either. He uses the 12” spoons for everything from stirring sauces and soups to pasta. “You don’t need long-handled spoons,” Jim says. “A 12” spoon should do the trick for just about anything.” Wooden spoons are nice because they’re safe for use on nonstick and other delicate-finish pots and pans. Pick up one or multiple for around $5 each.

6. Professional Tongs

Most people may have a set of large, metal tongs for grilling, but every chef should also have a set of professional cooking tongs. Get a pair of stainless steel tongs with scalloped tips to use for handling food and even just stirring. “A good pair of tongs becomes an extension of your hand in the kitchen,” Jim says. “Get a couple of different sizes and lengths, and you won’t need many other kitchen tools for handling food.”  Prices vary — compare prices and reviews on Amazon to find the best extension for your hand.

7. Salad Spinner

“The gadget you didn’t think you needed until you have one,” says Jim. Let’s all admit that washing lettuce, herbs and fruit can be such a tedious task that we often don’t bother rinsing, or don’t bother buying greens that require a lot of work. A salad spinner may take up some space, but it’s worth making room for it in the kitchen — you may find yourself eating more fresh, good-for-you foods if you have a tool that makes prepping these foods easier. Pick a cheap one up for $10, or splurge on a fancy one for around $30.

8. Peeler

Do your fingers a favor: put down that paring knife and pick up a peeler.  Again, it’s just one of those kitchen tools that everyone should have to make life in the kitchen easier. There are different types of peelers on the market — the most popular ones being straight swivel peelers and Y-head peelers. Get one of each, or pick one that meets your needs and feels good in hand.

 9. Fishbone Pliers

If the person you’re buying for is like Jim and all about fish, fish pliers may be the ultimate gift. “I use a pair of pin-nose pliers to debone fish,” Jim says. “I can get down the side of a salmon in five minutes with them.” This kitchen tool looks a lot like the needle-nose pliers in your toolbox, but actual fish pliers are spring-loaded, making deboning quicker (and more sanitary?) than a regular pair of needle-nose pliers. Wusthof makes a beautiful pair of 7” fishbone pliers for $40, though you can certainly find cheaper alternatives.

10. Cuisinart Food Processor

You know an essential kitchen tool list is not complete unless it lists a food processor. All the items on this list are tools to make life easier in the kitchen, and a food processor is probably the number one appliance to save a chef time, blood, sweat and tears: instead of slicing and chopping produce, grinding seeds and nuts and hand shredding and grating cheeses, you can just throw your food items into this handy machine and let it do all the work for you — in minutes or seconds. “You can get them pretty cheap, and it saves you so much time and energy,” Jim says. Cuisinart has a variety of models for different budgets and needs.

11. Oven Tiles

A fierce debate is underway between those who make their pizzas at home: which bakes a better crust — the pizza stone, or oven tiles?  “I’d go with oven tiles over a pizza stone,” Jim says. “Tiles provide more room than a pizza stone.” Unglazed quarry tiles, terracotta tiles… there’s an assortment on the market and you can pick up a set of 4 or 6 for around $40.

12. Uuni Wood Fired Pizza Oven

And last but definitely not least (and while we’re on the subject of pizza): the pizza oven.  We challenge you to find a chef or food lover in your circle who wouldn’t love a wood fired pizza oven for their own home.  Jim caved and bought this very gift as an early Christmas present to himself. “These Uuni ovens are just incredible,” Jim says. “They have different models and generations at this point, but all are just so easy to use, portable so you can set them up anywhere, and run on wood pellets.”  The Uuni 3 retails at $300, but Jim swears it’s worth every penny.

And there you have it: Jim’s top-recommended 12 kitchen tools for Christmas. Here’s wishing everyone happy and yummy holidays!

Your Holiday Wine Guide: Thanksgiving Wine

There are few holidays that can match the traditional menu served up on Thanksgiving. While the food will be the same in most households, the wines served up with the feast can be diverse and make or break your Thanksgiving dishes.

Pairing wine with courses that range from delicately flavored turkey to buttery sweet potatoes requires a focus on wines that are light-bodied and subtle in palate. Classic Thanksgiving wine pairings include sparkling wines (which go with almost anything), rosé, riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay — specifically from Beaujolais. With that in mind, these ten wines we’ll be serving here at The Cork on Thursday will put the finishing touches on you delicious Thanksgiving dishes.

Sparkling, Rosés and Rieslings

1. Gruet Blanc de Noir Sparkling

Gruet is among the best of American sparkling wines, and its story is perhaps the most unusual of those on that list. What began as experimental vineyard in the high country of New Mexico by French winemaker Gilbert Gruet more than 30 years ago has developed into a thriving, million-bottle production. The highest vineyards in the United States, the Blanc de Noir is complex and creamy with baked fruit, appealing minerality and crisp acidity, making it a perfect Thanksgiving wine that can be paired with diverse dishes.

2. Clos Cannarelli Rosé 2016

Although Corsica doesn’t get a lot of attention among wine consumers, make no mistake, the wines produced on the French island merit their share of recognition. This wine is a product of three grapes, two of which — Sciaccarellu and Niellucciu — are native to Corsica. Going through a minimal press featuring whole clusters, the result is a rosé like no other. Extremely light in color, the resulting juice is delicate, fruity and refreshing, worthy of a place at any table, but most especially, your holiday table.

3. Dunham Estate Riesling 2013

While most of the attention in Washington centers on the cabernet sauvignons, the rieslings coming out of the state are second to none — and leading the charge is Dunham Cellars. Using a remodeled airplane hangar as its home, Dunham recently celebrated 20 years of production while reaping awards for a number of its wines. The dry riesling is produced out of Lewis Vineyard and has captured numerous gold medals in international and domestic competitions. Dry and fruity, with pronounced pear and stone fruits, it is bright, crisp and balanced, and is a perfect complement to any Thanksgiving dish.


4. William Fevre Chardonnay 2015 

The elegant flavors being served on Thanksgiving demand an elegant wine that won’t steal the show. Established in Chablis for more than 250 years, Monsieur William founded the winery as it is known today nearly 60 years ago, and focuses on small, manual harvests from their historic grounds. The result is an expressive, opulent wine that is fruity, spicy and fresh. A sip of this Chablis after a mouthful of buttery turkey, creamy mashed potatoes and gravy will have you loading your plate (and filling your glass) with seconds.

5. Rochioli Estate Chardonnay 2014

Although the Rochioli family has been growing some of the best pinot noir and chardonnay grapes in the Russian River Valley for over 50 years, they’ve only been producing their own wines since the mid-1980s. Despite the late start, their wines are nothing short of spectacular. This chardonnay is 100 percent estate-grown and is a perfect example of the quality Russian River affords. Floral with ripe apple, apricot and vanilla aromas, the apple palate and vibrant acidity will meld perfectly with your turkey feast, making this a must-serve Thanksgiving wine.

Pinot Noirs

Cork and Ridge Vineyards Host Wine Tasting on April 23

6. Siduri Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 

Winemaker Adam Lee arrived in California in the 1980s, intent on learning everything he could about growing grapes and making wines. On the heels of his first release in 1994, it was apparent he was an apt student. Focusing on chardonnay and pinot noir, his labels have received extensive accolades and he’s become known for his Siduri wines. This Siduri gem hails from the Santa Lucia Highlands and is a perfect representation of the region. Fruity and rich, it retains remarkable acidity, creating a perfect wine for the subtle flavors of the holiday.

7. Domaine Lecheneaut Morey-Saint-Denis Pinot Noir 2014 

Continuing with the pinot noir theme, Lecheneaut has been produced by the sons of Patriarch Fernand since 1985. Located in the renowned sub-regions of Cote de Nuits in Burgundy, Morey-Saint-Denis is home to some of the world’s finest Premier and Grand Cru pinot noirs. Unlike our American counterparts, Burgundian pinot noir boasts complex aromas and tantalizing structure. Bright and intense, the black fruit aromatics are balanced by a powerfully earthy, fruity palate.

Gamay from Beaujolais

8. Ruet Morgon Beaujolais 2015

The Ruet family began producing gamay-based wines in Beaujolais in 1926. This wine is produced traditionally, using semi-carbonic maceration (essentially fermentation without yeast) and hand harvesting to make some of the best Beaujolais around. This unique wine is from higher elevation and structured, rich and full of strawberry aromas and tastes. Powerful yet elegant and light-bodied, there may be no better pairing on Thanksgiving Day.

9. Ruet Cote de Brouilly Beaujolais 2015

The big brother to the Morgon production, this Brouilly output takes every taste to another level. Still structured and complex, the fruit is more concentrated, riper and developed. Unlike the strawberry-driven characteristics of the Morgon, Brouilly Beaujolais packs a wallop of cherries and plums along with a fair amount of grip.

The Thanksgiving Wine

10. Abbatucci Rouge Frais 2016

Heading back to Corsica, Abbatucci resides on the southern end of the island and focuses on producing some of the region’s best biodynamic wines. Relying heavily on the native Sciaccarellu, Rouge Frais Imperial is unique thanks to the age of the vines and delicacy of the winemaking. Once out of the vineyard, every stage of the winemaking process is quick, from maceration, to aging to bottling, taking a short, direct path to the consumer’s table. The juice is soothingly light, yet fruity, refreshing and suitable for all of the Thanksgiving pairings short of the pecan pie. Unknown to most wine drinkers, this gem will win over hearts from the first sip.

And there you have it: ten fantastic Thanksgiving wine pairings to bring out every last aroma and flavor of your feast. We wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family. For those of you joining us at the Cork for the holiday, get ready for delicious food and best supporting wines!

Chef Jim’s Linguine with Clam Sauce

Celebrating Chef Jim’s anniversary at The Cork with a favorite recipe

Chef Jim Smailer

Hey everyone: on this day 36 years ago (that’s Oct. 10, 1981 for those who don’t want to do the math), Chef Jim Smailer joined The Cork family and helped establish our restaurant as one of Boulder’s favorite fine dining traditions.

While The Cork is known and beloved for its perfectly prepared steaks, those who have had Chef Jim’s famous fish tacos, crab cakes and Sake Salmon can taste that Chef Jim’s one true love is seafood. So in honor of Chef Jim’s 36th anniversary at The Cork, and his love for seafood, we wanted to share with you one of Chef Jim’s all-time favorite recipes: linguine with clam sauce.

Chef’s Notes:

I love this dish! This recipe appears simple but requires lots of attention to detail. Follow the timing of each step as outlined in the directions exactly to ensure you get a nice, thick, flavorful clam sauce. I recommend getting your clams from Whole Foods if possible. And be sure to serve this dish with homemade garlic bread and plenty of red wine! Good luck, and let me know how it turns out—questions and comments welcome below!

Recipe: Chef Jim’s Linguine with Clam Sauce


Chef Jim’s Linguine with Clam Sauce

36 little neck clams, rinsed and scrubbed well

2 tbsp fresh garlic, chopped

½ cup white wine

½ cup olive oil

4 – 5 fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

½ tsp red pepper flakes

½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 lb. best quality linguine or spaghetti


  1. In a large sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, combine clams, ¼ cup of olive oil and 1 tbsp of the garlic and cook over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally.
  2. After approx. 5 min., add wine and allow clams to simmer until they open.
  3. Remove the open clams from the cooking liquid, move to a bowl and let cool. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine strainer or cheese cloth into a sauce pan. Remove clams from their shells and set aside.
  4. Heat remaining ¼ cup of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add remaining 1 tbsp of garlic and cook until fragrant. Add red pepper flakes and stir in the chopped tomatoes. Cook this mixture for 5–8 min.
  5. Heat the reserved clam broth over medium heat. Using a small ladle add about 2 ounces of clam liquid to the simmering tomato mixture. Repeat this 3 times, letting the liquid reduce a little each time until you have a thick, flavorful sauce.
  6. Bring a large pasta pot of water to a boil. Salt the pasta water and add pasta. Cook pasta according to directions on the pasta box. Meanwhile, pour the remaining clam broth into the tomato mixture and bring to a simmer.
  7. When the pasta has 4 min. of cooking time left, strain the pasta and add to the tomato mixture. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce until al dente. Add the clams and ½ of the parsley. Toss all together to warm. Serve in warm pasta bowls and garnish with remaining parsley.

Staff provide two decades of quality service at The Cork

What sets The Cork apart from other fine dining establishments? Staff from a good old vintage.

Aging can improve the quality of wines, but not all wines have aging potential. It’s actually very rare to come across a wine that matures well. So when you do come across a good old bottle, you hold onto it for a while…

Sean Gonyea
Assistant Manager Sean Gonyea

Assistant manager Sean Gonyea and staff member Bonnie are two of The Cork’s finest bottles.

Sean and Bonnie have been a part of The Cork family for 20 years, delivering quality service and helping our restaurant mature into the fine dining establishment it is today. Because these two are Cork staples, we want you to know who they are, not just what they do. So allow us to introduce… Sean and Bonnie!

Q: When did you join The Cork family, and how long have you worked with the team?

SEAN: I joined the Cork on May 8, 1997 as a backwait after coming over from Old Chicago, where I was a bar manager. My brother had worked at The Cork and recommended I go in and see if they had a position. They did, and I took it. I quickly worked my way up, and after 20 years, I’m still here.

BONNIE: I’ve worked at The Boulder Cork for over 20 years. It’s been so long that I’m not quite sure of the exact dates, but I believe it was March of 1997.

Q: What do you most enjoy about working at The Cork? 

SEAN: I have always loved the camaraderie and closeness of the staff here. While working towards a unified goal we’ve always been encouraged to be our own personality and take our own approach to achieving that common goal.

BONNIE: The Boulder Cork is a unique restaurant. I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants, from corporate to family-owned. What sets it apart from the rest is the team: Alan the owner, Donna the general manager and Jim, the head chef. They have truly made the staff and customers a family. I look forward to coming into work everyday to spend time with my family.

Q: Do you have a personal life “mantra” or motto?

SEAN: I don’t really have a life mantra but I try to live each day as it comes, respect all creatures, face life’s challenges instead of running from them and not hold grudges.  We all have our differences and those can be just as bonding as our similarities.

BONNIE: Be kind to everyone, because each of us have a different struggle.

Q: If you had one final meal at The Cork, it would most likely be…

SEAN: Tough call. It would likely be the Baked Stuffed Shrimp appetizer, with a Boulder Cork Salad. I’m a huge fan of the scallops, especially wrapped in prosciutto, so that would probably be my entrée.

BONNIE: I rarely do a full course meal, but if it was my last meal then I’d have to have all of my favorites. Appetizer: almond-crusted brie. Salad: Boulder Cork Salad. Entrée: New York Strip with a side of peppercorn sauce and smoked mashed potatoes. Dessert: vanilla crème brûlée.

Q: Outside of work, you’re likely to find me…

SEAN: On the trails with my dog, Rollie, putzing about the house or enjoying the many fine restaurants in Boulder with my friends. My casual time also includes watching football, baseball and hockey.

BONNIE: Crafting, designing, shooting video, and taking lots of pictures.

Q: Something that guests would be surprised to know about me:

SEAN: My friend Jeff and I were pioneers of a sort in the fantasy sports world. We created a web site called Fantasy Sports Realm that was the first site to offer extensive projections in football, baseball, hockey and basketball. We had a run of 11 years before folding up in 2012. It’s now just a hobby rather than a business.

BONNIE: I have my own Etsy store where I design, print and sell calendar stickers to help keep your calendar creative while planning your day-to-day life.

Bonnie and Sean — cheers to 20 years! With your help, we have no doubt that The Cork will continue to mature like fine wine.

Spring Recipe: Chef Jim’s Asparagus Risotto

asparagus risotto

Rain, sleet or snow, we’ve been hitting the Boulder County Farmers Market every Saturday. Why even bother on a snowy Saturday? Because you only get a short window for asparagus, and come hell or high water, we’re not going to miss it.

Human nature is quirky—we treasure what is hard to come by or can only be enjoyed fleetingly. Thus, our love of asparagus. This perennial bulb and stem vegetable can take up to three growing seasons to reach maturity. Plus, harvesting season only lasts for two to three weeks, making seasonal asparagus a food in short supply and high demand.

So hit the market while supplies last, and head straight for Kiowa Valley Organics’ stand. A new vendor at the Boulder Farmers Market, this Roggen-based organic grower boasts bundles of asparagus harvested at the peak of flavor from their 15-acre organic asparagus field. But hurry—Kiowa wraps up their asparagus harvesting in June.

Once you’ve got your goods, it’s time to get down to business in the kitchen. There are endless ways to incorporate asparagus into your weekly menu, either as the star of the dish, or as best supporting ingredient. Chef Jim’s new recipe for a Spring Asparagus Risotto is the perfect way to celebrate the flavors of the season.

Yes, you read that correctly. Spring risotto. Though risotto is typically considered a dense dish served most appropriately in colder months, risotto lovers don’t have to do without when spring arrives. Try Chef Jim’s incredibly light and fresh take on the classic dish—you’ll thank us, we promise.

Chef Jim’s Asparagus Risotto

Yields 8-10 servings

2 lbs asparagus (thoroughly rinsed)
4 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
1 tsp. lemon zest
4 tbsp. best quality olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup dry white wine (whatever you have in the fridge will do)
2 tbsp. spring onion or sweet onion, minced
2 cups Arborio rice


1. Cut off tough ends of asparagus, about 1 ½ inches from the bottom. Reserve upper stalks.

2. Place tough ends in 2 quarts of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 min.

3. Remove and discard the asparagus ends and reserve the cooking liquid. Check the liquid for any grit that may have settled at the bottom of the pan, and strain or pour off into another pan if necessary.

4. Cut reserved asparagus stalks into 1/2 – 3/4 inch pieces, reserving the tips.

5. Bring reserved cooking liquid to a boil and add cut asparagus pieces (reserve the tips). Cook until firm tender, about 5 min. Remove the asparagus pieces with a slotted spoon and chill under cold water or in an ice bath. Continue cooking the liquid at a low simmer.

6. Divide chilled asparagus into 2 small bowls. In a food processor, combine one of the two bowls of asparagus with 2 tbsp. grated parmesan, lemon zest, parsley, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Pulse the mixture into a course puree and place back in a small bowl.

7. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion in 2 tbsp. olive oil until just tender. Stir in rice and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring to coat and toast the rice ever so slightly.

8. Add 1/4 cup of wine and stir until wine evaporates. Continue stirring and gradually ladle the hot cooking liquid one cup at a time, letting liquid absorb into the rice before adding more liquid. Before adding the last of the cooking liquid, stir in pureed asparagus, 2 tbsp. of butter, 2 tbsp. grated parmesan, the other small bowl of cooked asparagus and reserved, uncooked asparagus tips.

9. Taste the risotto and add salt and pepper to taste. Rice should be slightly al dente. Ladle in the last bit of the cooking liquid. Serve the risotto in warm, shallow bowls. Garnish with grated parmesan and minced parsley.


Chef’s notes:

What makes this risotto unique is its lightness and texture. Unlike typical risottos, this recipe doesn’t call for stock and requires only small amounts of fats, making it less rich and highlighting the fresh flavor of the asparagus. And adding asparagus in a variety of forms in this recipe means that this risotto has texture all over the place—the crunchy asparagus pieces complement the asparagus puree that forms the base of this risotto.