Black Cat: Farm-Table-Bistro in Boulder Print
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Eric Skaken of Black Cat

As its name suggests, Black Cat: Farm-Table-Bistro takes its farm-to-table seriously. In fact, the restaurant -- which opened in at 13th and Pearl in Boulder in 2006 -- has its own 70-acre farm run by chef/owner Eric Skokan. Not only does the farm service the restaurant but it's also often seen at Boulder's farmers market, as Linda Hayes reported in her post on "Bountiful Boulder." We recently chatted with Skokan about the restaurant, the farm -- and why his tractor is named Buttercup.

 

Which came first, the restaurant or the farm? The restaurant came first. At the time the farm was really just a little garden at my house. I wanted to grow some of the special, little things that were really hard to come by. I fell in love with puttering in the garden in the mornings before I went in to work. So, that first summer, I doubled the size of the garden. I loved it even more, so I doubled it again. The doubling continued over the last few years and now the farm is at around 70 acres.

 

Today, it is hard to separate the restaurant from the farm. The menu in the restaurant changes daily depending on what we have available at the farm. Likewise, when I set the planting schedule for the farm, I have an eye for the things I'll need in the restaurant. January, for example, is a month where I spend lots of time planning menus for the year as I go through the seed catalogs while it is snowing outside.

 

Eric of Black Cat on farm

What did you learn about farming by having a restaurant? And what did you learn about cooking by having a farm? First of all, I learned that growing for a restaurant is sometimes the opposite of growing for a local market. The goal in growing for a restaurant is to have just enough to harvest every day and to have the harvest window stretched out as long as possible. For a market, the farmer is trying to condense the harvest into the shortest possible window to save on labor and to be able to get a second crop in.

 

What are you growing now and do you have any tips on what you're growing for home gardeners? At the farm each year we grow 250 cultivars, many of them heirlooms. It is really all about making great soil. If your soil has a high organic matter content and good tilth gardening is a joy.

 

Would you like to share a dish or two you've come up with based on what's growing at the farm? Hamachi crudo with coriander flowers. Terrine of baby carrots and goat cheese.

 

Why the name Black Cat? or, for that matter, Buttercup? Our restaurant is located on 13th street in Boulder. We chose the name to co-opt the potential bad luck of the location. It worked. As for Buttercup, I asked my youngest son, Avery, to come up with a name for our tractor that started with the letter "B."  The tractor is a Farmall B. It was his choice.