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Side dish: New chef at the zoo

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Animal farm

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, cmzoo.org), or more specifically zoo subcontractor Service Systems Associates, recently hired a new executive chef to replace Beau Green, who became the regional executive chef for the state of Colorado.

The name should be familiar, as he headed Nosh's kitchen between last October and February, after garnering several awards at Pikes Peak Community College: 24-year-old Nate Dirnberger. (Nosh has not named a replacement head chef, but according to manager Tyler Schiedel, has moved to a team system not unlike its sister outfit, the Blue Star.)

Dirnberger says with 600,000 annual visitors to the zoo, he's now handling more kitchen volume inside a day than he did at Nosh in a week. But that's not keeping him from pushing new initiatives toward sustainability, such as composting and building a new, organic vegetable garden in collaboration with Pikes Peak Urban Gardens on the rooftop of the Grizzly Grill.

With the freedom to change menus daily if he pleases, he notes house-smoked barbecue, burger specials and a world cuisine station, plus plans for everything from a house charcuterie program to melon- and ice-carving and creative desserts. The 2010 Student Chef of the year for the Pikes Peak Region intends to help train culinary students and interns as well.

"I want to develop the idea of community and food," says Dirnberger, "to show by example. ... We have a great opportunity to influence people."

Lion's share

Where do you go to get an Irish Mash?

Surprisingly, a Jamaican restaurant.

The drink is made with Jamaican Irish Moss, or carrageen moss, a sea plant that's boiled and sweetened with honey and milk, or served Rastafarian-style with lime and sugar. And it's one of the many unique items on the menu at five-month-old Rasta King Sea Food Bar & Grill (675 S. Circle Drive, 344-4447), which took over the former Latin Fusion space.

The outfit distinguishes itself, according to Jamaican chef/owner Clyde Jones (who goes by "Ras"), by serving more strict Ital food (Rasta-sensitive cuisine) than other Jamaican plates like curry and oxtail. Jones does offer the always-popular jerk chicken, but past that, his menu is all seafood and vegetarian. Like many in the Rasta tradition, he cooks salt-free with a conscious effort to separate meats and veggies in the kitchen — as in different pots and cutting boards.

Though Rasta King is a restaurant between 3 and 8 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, it's a club between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, with DJs and special African, Latin and reggae nights. Jerk chicken with rice is the sole menu item available during late hours.

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