Chefs love to travel — for inspiration, to experience the cuisines of other cultures or just to get away from the heat of their own kitchens. When they return, we hit them with some questions — where'd they stay, what'd they do and WHAT DID THEY EAT?!
Todd Mitgang certainly knows how to balance business with pleasure. Looking to clear his mind before opening his latest venture, a New Orleans-inspired restaurant called Bo's in NYC's Flatiron District, the chef visited Denver with his wife Colleen. Traveling for inspiration is nothing new for the alum of hotspot Kittichai and Partner of Midtown's heralded Crave Fishbar. He's been out of the country three separate times recently – to Jamaica, Amsterdam and India. Talk about a jet-set. He checked in with us after his latest adventure.
Where are you just back from?
Was it business or pleasure?
Pleasure. My wife Colleen is seven months pregnant and we wanted to take an active, adventurous trip before the baby comes. Hiking and such. Denver is beautiful this time of year.
How often do you travel for inspiration?
I try to do get away at least once a year, if not two. My wife and I were in Jamaica this past April and had some great food there. We also were in India and Amsterdam fairly recently.
What was the highlight of your trip?
We took a real nice hike up to Red Rocks. It was unfortunate the concert series was over, but the hike was terrific – so scenic and beautiful. And it was great to learn history of how Red Rocks Amphitheater was built and all that went into it.
No real lowlight, but there was this amazing coffee shop near our hotel called the Little Owl that brewed Counter Culture coffee – which we brew at Bo’s so it made me feel at home – but when we tried to go there on a Sunday morning we found out they’re closed every Sunday. I had to get a trash cup of coffee. But if that was the lowlight of the trip, I’d say we made out pretty well.
What airline(s) did you fly and how was it?
United Airlines, which was great, though not as good as JetBlue because they don’t have the TVs right in front of you. But the security lines at Denver airport were extremely long. And a funny story about that is because my wife is pregnant and an anesthesiologist, she decided to opt out of the scan. A TSA employee tried to convince her that the cell phone in her pocket gave off more radiation than the full body scan at the security line. She wasn’t having it though, ha.
Where'd you stay and what's your mini-review of the place?
We stayed at The Oxford Hotel, one of oldest hotels in Denver. The staff couldn’t have been any friendlier. It’s vintage and historic, but not a tourist zoo at all. It was nice and quiet.
What was your best meal on the trip?
We had a great meal at Root Down, which was stunning with a creative concept and creative food. The quinoa risotto was delicious, as were the Colorado lamb sliders. The sliders are a straightforward dish but the quality of meat was superb. All the other dishes were colorful and well presented, with lots of contrasting textures.
Will you incorporate anything from your trip on your restaurant menu?
We actually had brunch at a New Orleans-style spot, Sassafras, which made me think of Bo’s. My wife Colleen had a beautiful smoked pork with collard greens and I had fried green tomato benedict – I think that’s a dish I’d like to do a riff on at Bo’s at some point. They also had a lot of house-made hot sauces, jams and jellies. We make our own condiments at Bo’s too, but I thought it was cool that Sassfras had three different levels of hot sauce, all placed in front of the diner on the table. They also had great biscuits with gravy.
Where do you want to travel to next, and why?
Paris. I was there a long time ago but think I would appreciate it even more now.
More Just Back From columns on Food Republic: