We recently introduced you to our new executive chef, Ellory Abels. After she had helped to grow the San Francisco catering company Green Heart Foods, the Texas native traveled the world in search of culinary inspirations. The Culinary Institute of America graduate visited eight countries, where she collected different spices and cooking traditions she now integrates into her own kitchen.
Upon returning from her culinary expedition, the outdoor enthusiast and passionate rock climber settled in Boulder, Colorado, where her incredible talent, serendipity, and (our) luck brought her into the Alpine Modern family.
We sat down with the worldly chef to talk about the much more elevated and seasonal menu she has created for the Alpine Modern Café in Boulder, Colorado.
Chef Ellory talks about Alpine Modern’s new Nordic-alpine menu
AM What’s essentially different about the new menu you have created for the Alpine Modern Café?
EA When I came to the Café, the food was very approachable but lacked a theme. I wanted to elevate the menu and make it seasonal. With a seasonal menu, you have fresher ingredients and can source them locally. As humans, we’re based on tradition and the themes of life and holidays. I feel that food and the ingredients are very much based on that, too.
A Nordic-inspired menu
AM How did you come up with this new approach for the Alpine Modern menu?
EA I brainstormed what Alpine Modern was as a brand, what the food represents to us, and what we wanted to show the customers to be our foundation. Then I came up with the theme of Nordic-alpine food, which is scary for a lot of people. When you say Nordic food, you think of pickled herring or just really gross dishes like that. So I was very cautious of saying that to people. But I thought of what Nordic food is to me. I made a list of seasonal ingredients and started to build a menu off that. With food trends happening right now and the health consciousness—and I myself really care about nutrition—I wanted to implement that more into the menu as well.
AM Why Nordic? Boulder doesn’t necessarily represent a Nordic culture or environment…
EA Nordic represents simple living and food. I mean, look and their menus. It’s very healthy. It’s very clean. It’s not overthought. And I wanted to show that in the food. So I don’t necessarily want to say it’s Nordic-style food, but it has these same things behind it. It’s inspired by the foods of Iceland, Norway, Finland…
AM What are key ingredients you have implemented for the new menu?
EA I am using fennel, beets, dill, water crests—and instead of herring I’m using trout, and making it more approachable in that way. Instead of creams, I’m using thick, Nordic-style yogurts. And lemons, I’m using lots of vibrant zests in the food. And on top of that, I’m making it more seasonal.
For example, our beet hummus on the winter menu will probably change to a carrot hummus in the spring. The menu will probably change four times a year.
With a healthy dose of Ellory…
AM The new menu is seasonal and Nordic-inspired. But what part of the new menu is quintessentially Ellory?
EA The twist of having what I would call nutritional, healthy hippie food intertwined into it. It goes with the Boulder theme. I worked in San Francisco before I came here, and I’ve been very health-oriented in the places I’ve worked. Greens are huge to me, so I’m trying to implement greens into almost every dish. And freshness and the vibrancy of colors. That’s very much me. The chia seed pudding, the quinoa porridge, the kale salad with avocado seeds… That’s very much me.
“Nordic represents simple living and food… I mean, look and their menus. It’s very healthy. It’s very clean. It’s not overthought. It’s inspired by the foods of Iceland, Norway, Finland…”
Behind the scenes
AM Now that we have an executive chef, a huge step up for Alpine Modern, and we have launched a new menu, what else has changed at the Café?
EA We’re focusing on making this not only an environment where people can come and get amazing food but also have amazing beverages that are special to the Café here. We’re creating monthly special beverages. Right now, for example, we have the Williamsburg and the matcha latte, and we’re going to have a Turmeric Latte soon.
AM Besides taking the menu to the next level, how does having you as an executive chef impact the Alpine Modern Café and the brand at large?
EA Having an executive chef here allows a lot more growth for Alpine Modern, for our food, and for the whole scene of the Café. It allows us to create a solid foundation and consistency and to implement new ways to eat and to be here at the Café. For example, we’re starting an event program, and we’re hoping to have live music in the summer and to do grill-out nights. There will be so much opportunity. And we are starting to implement grab-and-go food from the Café into our downtown location soon, at the Coffee Bar in our flagship retail store on Pearl Street here in Boulder.
We’re also working on baking our own pastries fresh every morning. Another new thing is that we are offering gluten-free items. We’re working with Kim and Jake’s Bakery, a local gluten-free bakery. We’re using their bread and cookies, so almost everything on the new menu now has a gluten-free option.
“Almost everything on the new menu now has a gluten-free option.”
AM What is currently the most popular item on the new menu?
EA The Quinoa Lentil Bowl. It’s also one of my favorites for sure. And the Chia Seed Pudding—people are really digging that.
AM What feedback are you getting about the new menu?
EA The Café staff are loving it, and the customers are really enjoying it, saying things like, ‘Wow, you guys really elevated the menu.’ And that’s exactly what we wanted to do. The menu is not complex, it’s very simple, it’s all approachable because we have such a diverse community here in Boulder. We serve families and college students and young professionals—and we really wanted this to be something where you can walk in, and anyone can find something on the menu.
Come for the food and drinks, stay to feel good
AM What are you hoping people come to the Café for?
EA I hope they come here to have their daily clean food, to eat food they really want and that they feel good for a while. And the same with their beverages—having amazing coffee that we really put a lot of time into finding and creating the best process with our ModBar. I hope our customers come in here and see that there is a lot of love and care put into everything—with our plating, with our presentation, and with our sourcing. △
“We really wanted this to be something where you can walk in, and anyone can find something on the menu.”