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  • The Denver Dish

Fruition Farms: Sheep, Cheese, and Microgreen Magic

So after running into Alex Seidel at the Snowmass Culinary Arts Festival this fall and watching a demonstration on 'How To Make Sheeps Milk Ricotta', I made sure that we touched base for a farm visit. After all, the theme of the main event was farm-to-table, an otherwise trendy buzzword but a concept that is difficult to execute. And though Larkspur isn't too far from Denver, it was well worth  the 45 minute drive, regardless of a dusty, windy route through the hills. I was personally stoked to see the magic in action, at Fruition Farms.

Week after week, I failed to get down there on a Tuesday or Friday (which is when they make cheese). And finally, after connecting with the man behind the plan, we took the 45 minute trek straight south to meet with Jim, Alex's partner in crime. And though I lose man points for admitting this, it was easy to get lost, and easy to drive right by. Scattered farms and pasture land blended together on me, but finally Jim flagged us down and welcomed us in.

Limited to a few buildings including a barn, some greenhouses, and a mysterious white shed, Fruition Farms is humble in demeanor. And perhaps that's what it's all about- unassuming from the outside in, but a concept in which yields superior product. That resonates with me- never judge a book by it's cover.

"Don't judge me either- I may be dirty, but I'm delicious." One of a few Certified Berkshire hogs on the farm. I think his name was Chop. Or Bacon. Seriously.

 Jim walked us around to pull some stuff out of the ground, regardless of the fact they'd already frozen over a few times. Everything from onions (above), to lettuces, tomatoes, herbs, arugula, squash, and cabbages are grown at the year-old operation. They are also building a number of bee colonies; trust me they're only mean if you're mean to them first.

Another permanent fixation on the farm is a robust micro-green operation called Verde Farms. Humble beginnings in the owner's basement have bloomed into a full-scale spread with dozens of varieties. Fresh, pungent aromas and oils bring a blast of concentrated flavor to the palate with this offering. A number of restaurants in town take advantage of the Verde Farms milk runs, in order to take their dishes to the next level.

"Shepherd's Halo"- one of Jim's highly successful experiments in cheese-making. Culinary artistry and science combine here, to bring some mature flavors and textures to the table.

One of my favorite stops on the visit was to the cheese cave- where the sheep's milk cheeses age for a minimum of 60 days in a highly-cultured environment. The softer, Camembert-style options yield a creamier, silky texture with a bit of astringency, but hard varieties such as Cacio Pecora take much longer to yield an earthy, buttery, deep flavor and texture. And though they don't usually sell until they're 6-9 months old (patience, my young Padawan), you can still steal some from markets like Marczyk's and The Truffle in and around Denver. More to come.

A few of the 60+ head on the farm, with some more younglings on the way. Being primarily a sheep dairy and creamery, these ladies are the ones behind the scenes getting 'the job' done.

After spending almost three hours walking around with Jim and observing the ins and outs of the operation, I was personally convinced that there was a lot of unique stuff going on here. And maybe I'm just an ignorant Denverite who  has spent far too little time in the pastoral universe. In understanding that I'm not the only one, I hope you find such a venture enlightening and encouraging. I personally like to see the trail that Fruition Farms is blazing. And though a mere singletrack at this point, there's a lot going on here that will continue to find way to the satisfied stomachs of hungry foodies in the Mile High City. I look forward to the next thing... and the next after that.

All in all, in my attempt to shed some light on one of the more cyclical culinary concepts in Denver, I thought it would be fitting to check out the farm and then stop by Fruition to see the crew in action. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for some coverage on Seidel's late fall menu. Dish It Up!

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