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.


A Reference Guide to Meat Cuts

Have you ever been confused reading a meat package or reading a restaurant menu? You’re probably not alone. At The Cork, we take pride in the quality ingredients we serve. We’re confident you’ll enjoy your dinner, and we want to provide you with more knowledge about the cut of meat you may choose.

THE SELECTION.  While the list of traditional beef cuts is vast, here’s the breakdown of popular cuts that you can find on our dinner menu.

Baseball Sirloin: this name generally refers to an upper portion of a top sirloin. The top sirloin cut can be found on the upper hindquarters of an animal, and is a boneless cut of meat. The steak itself is thick—generally at least two inches—and will fill out as it cooks. This contributes to its round, “baseball” appearance. The shorter, finer muscle fibers associated with hindquarter cuts often provide for a more tender textural experience.

Dinner at the Boulder Cork

New York Strip: perhaps one of the more recognizable names in beef cuts, the New York is a cut of short loin. This cut is located on the back of the cow, just behind the ribs and anterior to the baseball cut. It is recognized for its fine muscle fibers and tender texture, along with its rich flavor. A New York may contain higher fat-marbling content, which adds to the texture and flavor.. Because of the size of this muscle, New York Strips are often offered in larger, boneless portions.

Filet Mignon: French for “dainty fillet,” this cut comes from the smaller end of the tenderloin, just above the short loin. Tenderloin (as suggested by its name) is one of the more coveted cuts due to its extremely tender consistency.

Prime Rib: may be our most coveted cut of meat at The Cork. The muscle itself is generally found adjacent to the lower seven ribs, and is hearty in both portion and fat content. The fat marbling contributes to the buttery, tender nature of prime rib, and greatly enhances the meat’s flavor. Prime rib is technically a “standing roast” rather than a steak, which refers to its cooking method.

YOUR Temperature. Next, the waiter or waitress prompts you for a temperature preference. Emphasis here is on preference. While chefs may recommend a certain temperature, your palate may prefer something completely different.

Extra Rare/Blue: this is the least cooked temperature option, and some restaurants will avoid serving this rare. The meat will be extremely red and feel very soft to the touch. It may not be very warm, as the internal temperature will range from around 80-100 degrees F.

Rare: this temperature is slightly warmer, with an internal temperature of around 115-125 degrees F (this may vary, so ask the waitstaff how their kitchen generally compares). The center of the cut will be very red in color, and the edges will generally be light pinkish.

Medium Rare: with an internal temperature ranging from 130-135 degrees F, ordering your steak this temperature will generally present a very pinkish/red center.  There may be slight browning around the edges of the steak, and it will be noticeably warmer.

Medium: will range from about 135-140 degrees F. A medium steak generally has some pink in the middle, but shows even more browning to the outer edges and is firmer to the touch.

Medium Well: now your steak will be browner in color, with slight pink in the middle. The internal temperature ranges from about 140-150 degrees F and the steak will be firm to the touch.

Well Done: with an internal temperature 155 degrees F and above, the steak will now appear uniformly brown in color, and will exhibit clear tactile firmness.

Whether you choose a Filet Mignon or New York Strip, we look forward to preparing your steak with precision and consistency. Now you can order like a professional, and feel confident about how you want your dish to arrive. We look forward to serving your next dinner!

Recipe: Chef Jim’s Holiday Oysters

Looking for a new family favorite? The holidays around the Smailer house wouldn’t be complete without this warm, cozy heirloom dish.

Serves 3 people

1 fennel bulb (trimmed, cored and finely diced)
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes (peeled and finely diced)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
24 oysters (any type will work well)


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a sauté pan, heat the butter and oil over medium high heat add the vegetables. Let the mixture brown on the bottom before stirring.
  3. Stir with a spatula to brown ell edges evenly. Add a little salt and a generous grind of fresh pepper.
  4. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  5. Shuck the oysters and place in the cast iron pan, being careful not to lose any of the liquid from the oysters.
  6. Top the oysters with the vegetable mixture and bake for approximately 8 minutes. The topping should be very hot and the oysters just cooked.
  7. Garnish with a fennel frond and enjoy this warming comfort dish.

Chef’s notes:
This recipe has been in the family for 30 years, and it’s perfect as a first course or side dish. I like to serve at least 8 oysters per person, and it’s imperative that it’s served immediately and very hot. It’s a nice touch to serve the oysters from the cast iron pan they were cooked in, straight from oven to table.

Chef Jim's Holiday Oyster Recipe

Holiday Parties: Making Spirits Bright

Holidays are a busy time here at the Cork. It’s fun to fall into the hustle and bustle as families celebrate annual traditions and companies celebrate with their staff. At the Cork, we take our traditions seriously, whether that means offering classic and heartwarming meals or playing host to the families who walk through our doors.

We’re proud to have been a family establishment for nearly 50 years, maintaining the excellent quality and traditions that make us a perennial favorite. Our commitment to fresh, local and high-quality food, as well as exceptional service make us a great spot to celebrate during the holidays.

Hosting a party is easy, with our private dining options and special menus. We’ll happily work with you to select the best menu, drinks and space for your budget, preferences and guests.

We have three cozy dining rooms available:

  • Small Garden Room: Able to seat up to 24 people, the Small Garden Room is perfect for smaller, more intimate gatherings of close friends and family. The Small Garden room opens up onto our patio and is shaded by our fresh herb garden, meaning you’ll have a lovely view while you eat, drink and mingle.
  • Patio Room: The Patio Room is our largest dining area, complete with a cozy fireplace and natural light. This space can hold up to 65 people alone, but when combined with the adjacent Small Garden Room, can seat up to 90.
  • Fireplace Room: If you’re looking to host a mid-size gathering, the Fireplace Room is a great option. With space for up to 40 people, the Fireplace Room is a favorite because of its homey fireplace and view of the outside patio.

Our garland-decked halls and friendly fireplaces add a special holiday feel to any get-together—we hope you’ll join us for your next soirée! For more details or pricing, please feel free to reach out by emailing us at [email protected] or calling 303-443-9505.

We Heart Artichokes


October is an especially wonderful month to be in Boulder. The air is crisp and the colorful leaves highlight the city’s year-round beauty. But at the Cork, we’re always thinking in terms of food, and October is an ideal time for foodies in town to experience the warmth and depth of fall flavors. One of our favorites is the artichoke.

The artichoke is available at the Cork all year, but in the fall, its flesh is especially tender with remarkable flavor. The mild nuttiness of the vegetable makes it incredibly versatile, holding up well to grilling, steaming and pickling. They’re also great in soups and dips, and are even used as an ingredient in Cynar, an Italian amaro.

Artichokes are a staple of our menu, served as an appetizer with clarified butter and curry mayonnaise on the side, and incorporated into various specials. The artichoke is notoriously difficult to pair with wine, which makes finding the perfect vino to accompany this veggie one of our favorite challenges.

Because of a naturally-occurring chemical in the artichoke, cynarin, everything you eat after tucking into our sumptuous starter will taste sweet. This can have a particularly noticeable effect on wine, influencing your taste buds so that the wine seems unbalanced and lacking in structure. That’s why we’re selective about the wines we pair with artichokes, favoring light-bodied, very dry wines with high acidity and no oak.

Depending on the artichoke’s preparation and accompaniments, certain wines that fit the description above may be better suited to complement the dish. For example, the strong herbal notes in plain steamed artichokes will go well with dry sauvignon blancs that feature notes of citrus and green apple. In contrast, add just a little curry mayonnaise to your bite, and a (still dry) fuller, more rounded wine like verdelho or vermentino may be a better option. In brighter dishes using raw or pickled artichokes, like Jim’s Spring Salsa Verde, we’d recommend something interesting like a fino sherry!

If you’ve been looking for an excellent fall dish and a new wine recommendation, we’ve got you covered. Come on in and join us!

August Farmer’s Market Fun

August is an exciting month in Colorado, with an imminent football season, and students coming back into town. But most importantly, August is a great food month.

As always, you can find the best, freshest, locally grown fruits and veggies at Boulder’s farmer’s markets. We are passionate about producing great food, and that requires great ingredients.

Throughout this month you can find Chef Jim strolling through the market, looking for great ingredients and strengthening relationships with the local farmers who produce the food you love. What will he be looking for in August? Here are just a few of the foods that are in season this month:

  • Arugula: It’s a fact: we love arugula, and for good reason. Healthy and tasty, arugula is the main component of our Boulder Cork salad, a longstanding family favorite!
  • Squash BlossomsSummer squash: Of course, fresh squash are absolutely indispensable as a side dish for an entrée. August is a fantastic time for lovers of squash, especially if you’re a fan of delectable squash blossoms.
  • Herbs: The right seasoning can absolutely make a dish, and fresh herbs make all the difference. August sees fresh basil, cilantro, rosemary, thyme and dill, among many other popular herbs.
  • Peppers: Peppers are finally ripening, which is great news for those of you that like your food with a subtle kick. And you know what this means for some of our Southwest-inspired dishes!
  • TomatoesTomatoes: It’s here: tomato season. If you’re a fan of caprese, this is the right time of year for you. Chef Jim creates a wonderful (and beautiful) caprese with lovely heirloom tomatoes from area farms, complete with fresh garden basil and the best mozzarella. Yum!
  • Sweet corn: If you like sweet corn (and we know you do), August heralds one of our favorite times of the growing season: that of sweet corn from Munson’s Farm. Sauté it, pickle it, use it in a relish, or just roast it to discover some of the delights of summer.
Munson's Sweet Corn

Of course, this is far from an exhaustive list. As we said, August is a great food month, which means it’s a great time to visit Cork for the fresh, local food you love.

Part 3: Something Old, Something New, Nothing Borrowed, But Lots of Blues!


By: Kate Smailer


Each morning we started the day with fresh coconut water. What a treat – so better than the bottled or canned coconut water we get in Colorado. Almost daily we visited the road side stand selling produce from Dominica. These “jelly nuts” or young coconuts gave us two large glasses, so refreshing and good for us!

Tropical Flower CO LTD continues to have two of our favorite Chardonnays – Cakebread and Ferrari-Carano for a better price than we can get at home! Grand Vin De France has wonderful French and Italian wines. Geraud’s is right next door. All the girls were super friendly and I think they love their new space!


Our last full day, we packed up our beach gear and headed to our spot on Shoal Bay. We enjoyed drinks from Elodias – we do miss Carol but her darling niece, Jakita is there with a big smile! We enjoyed talking with Junior, watching the boats race by, swimming, floating and strolling. A perfect last day!

Another fabulous vacation in Anguilla!

On the beach 2

Part 1: Something Old, Something New, Nothing Borrowed, But Lots of Blues!

Part 1: Restaurants and Hotels

By: Kate Smailer

This May was our 21st trip to Anguilla! Once we found this gem of an island in 2002 we looked no further for a perfect beach destination. This trip offered new hotels and restaurants.

Manoah Hotel

Manoah HotelManoah Hotel (formerly the Anguilla Ku Hotel) had its restaurant and bar open even though the main hotel will not open until November. We enjoyed two lunches here, great Mt. Gay and tonics, buckets of Coronas and the most comfortable chaise lounges and umbrellas.

Each day we set up at Jacala Beach Restaurant. Lunch there is a treat! Jacques and Alain take super care of us—they take such pride and care with everything they do. We had all our favorite foods – grilled crayfish, lobster risotto, watermelon salad, mahi mahi poached in olive oil, chilled cucumber soup with tomato sorbet, calamari risotto and tuna tartare. Jim always asks Alain to serve his snapper ceviche with coconut milk and cucumber, which he serves in a coconut shell – divine!

Jacala - Lobster risottoIn addition to our lunches, we enjoyed one dinner at Jacala. The atmosphere at night is different – so special, very romantic.  The palm trees dance in the breeze and glow with white lights. White table cloths and candles dress the tables. Often, there is a spectacular sunset!

Hibernia Restaurant Art Gallery

We dined at Hibernia Restaurant Art Gallery two evenings. They feature open-air dining with a lovely pool and garden – we decided to give them a try and we are so glad we did! Hibernia is special and not to be missed!

HiberniaThe owner Mary Pat’s attention to detail is top notch (and she sets a most beautiful table), and the food that Raoul – the other owner – prepares is innovative, fresh and delicious. For appetizers we so enjoyed the smoked fish plate served with toasted homemade brown bread and a horseradish and ginger cream cheese, as well as a trio of tuna: gravlax, smoked and cured, and the sashimi plate alongside wahoo, scallop, crayfish and conch.

Entrees were also delicious. My favorite was the Crayfish sautéed out of the shell with vanilla, lemongrass and roasted onion and yam. This crayfish was so tender and incredibly sweet. Mary Pat told us that sautéing crayfish out of the shell results in a slightly different flavor and texture than the more commonly grilled crayfish. I am still dreaming of this taste!

Of course no meal at Hibernia is complete without the homemade rum raisin ice cream served with a snifter of aged rum. The dessert is served in a lovely bowl with long silver spoons to help you savor every luscious bite.


CastleCoves - Baby OctopusWe did try one new place for a dinner after reading such stellar reviews about CoveCastles and their executive chef Marc Alvarez. The restaurant had 5 tables that night and the atmosphere had a good energy. Jim introduced himself to Marc, and he was so friendly. Marc enjoyed showing Jim his special restaurant equipment – a wood fired pizza oven and a most special wood-burning grill made by Grillworks. Marc recommended the night’s special, which Jim enjoyed—grilled baby octopus served over homemade squid ink orecchiette. He started with the fried conch served with a tangy lemon aioli.

CastleCoves - BurrataI enjoyed the grilled cherry tomato and burrata bruschetta, as well as the homemade lobster and pea ravioli.

Upon leaving, Marc came over to our table and suggested we come for lunch to try his pizza and said he would happily set us up on lounge chairs with and umbrella to enjoy the day on the beach. We did just this on our one cloudy day. Lunch was wonderful. Marc made us a great salad made with gem lettuce, avocado and tomato dressed in a vinaigrette made from olive oil and a most lovely vinegar (Vinaigre de Calamansi).

CastleCoves - PizzaWe also devoured two pizzas – a bianca and a margherita – AND a piece of the freshest snapper which he grilled on his wood fired grill. A most wonderful way to spend a cloudy day!

We Love June!

The Boulder Farmers Market is in full swing, and we’re excited about the gorgeous seasonal and local veggies we find there. Greens are finally in season, and Chef Jim is already crafting ways to weave them into our dishes, incorporating fresh, organic arugula into our salads and introducing a variety of braising greens into daily specials.

IMG_4831Of course, the Farmers Market isn’t our only source of fresh produce—our garden is brimming with delicious herbs. Throughout the summer, we cultivate a variety that make their way into dishes, appear alongside them as garnishes and get muddled in summer cocktails. We are proud to bring you such hyperlocal treats as lovage, basil, sage, oregano, borage, lavender, rosemary, parsley, sorrel, thyme, fennel, mint and more.

20130407-172957If all this talk about fresh greens has you hooked, grab some fresh parsley from the market this weekend and try Chef Jim’s great Spring Salsa Verde recipe. We highly recommend pairing this delectable sauce with fresh white fish or steak and a nice, crisp white wine.

And of course, we always welcome you to join us for a taste of these local and seasonal flavors any day of the week (we’ll help you pair the wine). Never hesitate to ask about our daily specials or recommendations. Chef Jim’s just getting started!

Chef Jim’s Clams Oreganato Recipe

Composite Image_Clams Oreganato

The only thing better than the clean, bright flavors of this delicious seafood starter is how easy it is to prepare. It’s a great dish for the experienced seafood cook and the novice clam-shucker alike. A popular appetizer in Italy, Clams Oreganato takes its name from the addition of oregano to the light bread crumb topping. This version has a bit of a spicy kick thanks to the Fresno chile (or jalapeño), and pairs well with both sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.

Makes two-dozen clams on the half-shell.

2 dozen littleneck clams
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 T olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried hot chile, crushed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 T fresh chopped oregano
1 small fresh Fresno chile or jalapeño, minced
2 T fresh parsley, minced
Zest from one lemon
2T chopped roasted red pepper
1T tomato paste
1 tsp capers, rinsed and chopped
2 anchovies, minced

For the crumb topping:

  1. Sauté garlic, crushed chile and dried oregano in the olive oil.
  2. When garlic is just cooked add all the other ingredients and stir together.
  3. Taste for spice. This is a spicy dish and should taste a bit hot.

For the clams:

  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Rinse and scrub the clams with cold water.
  3. Shuck the clams over a bowl so as to catch all the clam juice.
  4. Release clams from bottom shell with a knife.
  5. Discard top shell of clams to create 24 clams on the half-shell.
  6. Place clams in a baking pan.
  7. Pour the juice from the clams into the crumb mixture and heat slightly.
  8. Top each clam with a heaping spoon of crumb mixture.
  9. Bake in a very hot 475 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.