Salt celebrated its fifth anniversary last month, shortly after earning attention for Bradford Heap's meticulously nixing GMOs from his menus entirely — both at this Boulder eatery and at sister outfit Colterra, in Niwot.
Chipotle attracted press in 2013 when it voluntarily labeled GMOs in its food, but ahead of November's Proposition 105 vote to label GMOs in Colorado, Salt's chef/owner has gone much further. Heap is forcing partnering farmers to trace feed sourcing; buying whole animals at times; purchasing only wild fish; ordering certain dairy items from Europe, where GMOs are widely banned; and ditching certain menu items, like duck.
A Culinary Institute of America grad who trained over a seven-year period in Europe with the likes of Alain Ducasse, Heap formerly ran the Pearl St. Inn and Full Moon Grill and Chautauqua Dining Hall. At Salt, whose elevated cuisine is humbled by still-charming salvaged material décor, Heap has struck a now-familiar farm-to-table pose, with relatively simple but sophisticated flavor constructions backed by an extensive bar program befitting the old Tom's Tavern space.
Measured whimsy appears first with a build-your-own-booze menu ($8), where you choose one of six spirits, eight house-made simple syrups and six prep styles, from sour to sangria to a sparkling wine infusion. Our rhubarb essence was basically imperceptible in our strong vodka cocktail, and a requested orange/rosemary extra still showed none of the herb and little of the citrus. Better from the get-go was our strawberry/basil gin fizz (with lime juice and club soda), and best of all were two seasonal cocktails: a grapefruit-dominant Easy Rider with Spring44 gin, and a Breckenridge Bourbon-bearing SC Sour with amaretto, vanilla syrup, lemon and egg whites.
Creative control returns with a design-your-own charcuterie/cheese board (three items out of 10 choices for $17), on which we placed an Italian goat cheese with honey and a Welsh cheddar with a pinch of skinless candied almonds, both satisfying. The highlight was an oval dollop of chicken liver mousse, looking like a scoop of cappuccino ice cream but pungently meaty instead, with garnishing sea salt and withered, spiced peach cubes as a dry compote. (Gluten-free toast points available for $3 extra.)
The menu description outshone the final product in a colorful Gulf shrimp app ($13) wherein fine-chopped melon salsa and cantaloupe cubes joined plump prawns over soft cabbage soaked in a thin Chartreuse melon gastrique. Fresh and light, but not popping.
A wood-roasted chicken breast ($18) came off nicely juicy and charred, but played second fiddle to accompanying braised collards bled into by a sweet corn purée. The jalapeño cornbread with maple jalapeño needed salt — an irony compounded by the absence of shakers on tables. The handmade spicy sweet corn gnocchi ($16) thrilled us, though, with hot jalapeño slivers and a divine basil cream sauce sharpened by Parmesan.
Salt's dessert course lands most memorably with a deeply rich, dense, chocolate-caramel-sea-salt tart under coffee-cocoa ice cream and perhaps the best carrot cake I've ever eaten (both $8). Chevre buttercream creates a pleasantly oily melt-in-the mouth factor, while caramel apple mousse and toasted rosemary Anglaise gift layers of complementary complexity. It's pure perfection to match commendable concern over pure ingredients.