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Frasca Hype (Boulder)

Went to Frasca a week or so ago and while it was very good, I had a hard time believing all the hype this restaurant has received. I do consider myself a foodie, and I have been to the French Laundry, so I think I know good food. Maybe it is just me?

Things I noticed:
* the tables are stacked up along the back wall like a celeb haunt in LA or BH. Everyone in my party was fairly slender, but I had been a bigger person, the poor diner at the table next to me would have had my hiney in his face or plate when I got up to use the restroom. We hard a hard time concentrating on our conversation as there were 2 tables packed right next to us and we had to talk over their din. The servers also seemed to have a hard time getting food to the tables and pouring wine and water while squeezing between the tables.
* the food was overpriced for what you get. Like I said, it was good, but it certainly wasn't amazing. There were no specials on a Saturday night - I look for the specials to see what the chef is showcasing (either ingrediants or talent). Maybe Frasca can rest on the laurels of its chef and doesn't do specials, but IMO, the chef has the most opportunity to shine with off-the-menu offerings.
* I ordered the fish dish (pretty much the only thing that was GF on the secondi menu) and I asked for it without mushrooms. It still came with mushrooms. Normally that wouldn't be f a big deal for me, but for a restaurant with the reputation of Frasca, I would have hoped for my meal to come out properly prepared. I didn't feel like I could send it back because they were so busy that I would have received my non-mushroom meal after all my dining companions had finished.

The things that I loved were the gelato (good-sized portions for a good price) and the beautiful wine glasses. Other than that, I just don't get the hype. Am I missing something?

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  1. I think Jason Sheehan had an excellent response to this very question in Westword earlier this year so I'll link to it here:

    I would add that they are a small, neighborhood-style, family-owned restaurant. Boulder real estate is expensive whether you're leasing or buying, so yes, they don't have an enormous amount of space in the dining area or the kitchen. However, neither does Z Cuisine in Denver or Nob Hill Cafe or Canteen in SF or a million other good places to eat, but in my opinion, that's part of the charm and appeal. Not everyone wants to eat in a giant barn like Macaroni Grill and stretch out comfortably over boring food, and not everyone has the wallet or the appetite for a Per Se-type experience on a weekly basis. Frasca is obviously a different style of place than either of those two.

    I think Boulder is fortunate that the owners chose to put their own money and reputations on the line to open a white tablecloth establishment in a town publicized as being populated solely with tofu-and-wheatgrass-loving “trust-a-farians.” It would have been safer and probably more lucrative for them to open in a place where they already had connections like the Bay Area or Aspen, but luckily for us, they landed in Boulder.

    As for the daily specials bit, they make changes to their menu and re-print them every day depending on what is fresh and available from local farmers and artisanal purveyors, so it doesn’t make sense for them to have the traditional restaurant gimmick of announcing an “off menu” special each night.

    They will make things right if you will only speak up and let them know. They are very hospitable, but they’re not mind readers. They are also very accommodating to the dietary needs of their customers, particularly if you let them know when you book the table. I could say this is true of most places in the metro area, as none of them truly want ill customers or lawsuits.

    I don’t think the food is overpriced for a fine dining spot, particularly factoring in steadily rising food costs due to petroleum prices. I’ve spent $40-50 on mains in other cities for practically inedible food, so $19-30 for your typical entrée at Frasca and other fine dining spots in the metro area is a downright bargain. No, you’re not getting Cheesecake Factory-style portions, but is that really a good idea?

    8 Replies
    1. re: rlm

      I have to ask, is this a Saturday night problem for most really good places. I know here in the Eagle River (Vail) Valley, when its really busy, I've learned to stay home. The cooks and chef are harassed, the wait staff can't take the time to guide you and the "hordes" at the door are trying to stare you into leaving.

      1. re: BlueOx

        I think it's certainly more of a challenge for restaurants on the weekends when it's busier, but a person dining on a Saturday night and spending their hard-earned money deserves the best from the kitchen and the front of house staff just like a person dining on a Wednesday. I must express a general preference for dining out during the week as it seems to be more relaxed at most places and the service is more attentive, but I've eaten at Frasca and Dish and many other places on the weekends too when they've been slammed and have had great experiences.

        I would also like to add that it pays off to return and sample more of the menu at places to get a feel for the food and whether it registers with you or not. I used to frequent Panzano when Jennifer Jasinski was at the helm and Kevin Taylor's long-defunct Zenith when I worked downtown and found that some dishes at both locations were truly amazing and others were merely good. Even at my favorite places, I'll occasionally be served something that just doesn't do it for me, but that doesn't mean the exact same dish served in the same timeframe in the same manner by the same staff isn't "amazing" to another diner. In fact, my husband and I will sometimes order the same dish at Frasca and disagree about it.

        1. re: rlm

          Here's the thing about taking their staff to Italy for a mere few days (NOT two weeks) every year: that staff appreciates it! Most of their people have been at Frasca for years now. They provide outstanding service and know both the restaurant inside and out and the patrons who return time and time again. If Bobby was bragging about some month long safari he went on with his wife, well, that would be an indulgence. Taking their staff to Italy, the place that provides the inspiration for Frasca's food, is merely putting money back into the business.

      2. re: rlm

        To be honest, rlm, I don't think the boys at Frasca are hurting in terms of their pocket books with their Boulder venture. With all the national press for both Lachlan and Bobby, this has become a destination restaurant for foodies across the country.

        While I myself haven't made the treck from Dallas, I can't say that after meeting Bobby Stuckey, I am all that eager to fatten his wallet any further. While Bobby is a seemingly nice enough guy and he has forgotten more about wine than 99.9% of wine afficiandos know, I was definately put off by a comment he made at the F&W classic this year in Aspen. At the sommelier challenge, which he won, he made some comment to the effect that he was very thankful that Colorado as a state forbids corkage at restaurants (hence likely contributing to his motiviation to stay away from Cali with his restaurant). He indicated that because of this law, he has the ability to take his entire restaurant staff to Italy for a couple of weeks a year. Now, I am all for a restaurant making a fair profit, but I take issue at essentially boasting how the restaurant's inflated wine prices fund such an extravagant indulgance.

        1. re: Bhutani

          First, restaurants need to make money or they will cease to exist and we will no longer be able to enjoy them. None of the rest of us in other industries stroll into work and say, “No, thanks, boss, but I don’t need a paycheck, as I’m working for free today. It’s arrogant and wrong for me to want to make money off of my hard work.”

          Breakable Riedel and Bottega del Vino crystal stems and decanters cost money. Wine storage costs money. Buying meat and produce from small, higher-quality producers can cost more than getting dreck shipped in from corporate giants like Tyson. So does hiring and retaining a great, well-trained and educated staff that you take to Italy every year. Most people into food don’t mind paying a little more for quality and attention to detail like this. I’ve actually spent more money on bottles at other places in the metro area (as well as in your city) and received horrendous wine service for the extra bucks.

          Second, Bobby is actually a nice guy. His quotes in this article in the SF Chronicle about corkage will give you more of an idea on his opinions than his sound-bite that offended you at the F&W Classic did:

          Third, while demographics are important for anyone opening a business (does anyone open a business hoping to fail and not make money?), access to great local farmers also played a role in their opening in Boulder (as did the fact that Bobby’s wife is from the area and he used to live in Colorado as well).

          1. re: Bhutani

            Check the (online, complete with prices) vast Frasca winelist and then let us all know if you think it is "inflated." Also let us know what you are comparing the list to if you feel that way.

            As to whether it's an "indulgence" to take the staff to the region of Italy that the food is based on, well that depends on your definition of "indulgence." Could just be a savvy way to get the staff to both understand and be passionate about the food. As well as reducing turnover and thus improving the quality of service. FYI, see "Keller, Thomas - French Laundry, staff trips" for further info on this topic.

            And by the way, virtually any definition of the word indulgence would apply to attending the Aspen F&W classic so, unless you were there busing tables, you might want to check on the construction material of your house. Could be Reidel crystal...

            1. re: the_next_meal

              I will be honest with you, I was only one of a few that were put off by Bobby's comments. I have not taken a look at Frasca's wine prices nor do I really care to. While the F&W classic is most certainly indulgence, I don't think I would ever tell my patients or potential patients that it is because of what I charge them, I can fund such a vacation. It may be true but making such a comment is off-putting.

              1. re: Bhutani

                The F&W Classic is an industry event. It’s a place where restaurateurs can “talk shop.” Yes, they let in the general public, but those able to plunk down over $1K to sip wine for the weekend typically wouldn’t/shouldn’t be so easily offended by a businessman giving his colleagues tips for how he’s able to run a world-class restaurant successfully and still afford to reward his hard-working staff with an educational trip to Italy every year. This is no different than a doctor attending a medical convention, where physicians discuss not only the latest scientific advances with their colleagues, but also monetary concerns such as malpractice insurance and how to run a successful practice.

        2. Well, without being (too) snarky, yes, you are missing something. One is being "GF." Sorry, I know this isn't your fault, but that starts you off with one foot in the hole. Then you don't want the mushrooms that are part of the dish. While I agree they should have been able to remove them from your dish (though I'd bet money it wouldn't have been easy, or perhaps complete, as they were probably used in a broth or reduction, knowing how they conceive a dish there) frankly that's not the way to eat at a place like Frasca. When you ate at TFL did you also suggest to Keller that you'd like your lobster poached in canola oil rather than butter?

          You've gotten the "no specials" answer: In effect, outside of a few basics (salumi, olives, etc.) the entire menu is specials.

          Overpriced? Sorry, anyone who eats out a lot (at, obviously, good places) knows you are just wrong on that one.

          The one thing I'm with you on is the space. It does remind me of LA, and not in a good way, but that's minor in the scale of things.

          Oh, and yes, they do have great wine glasses, and the gelato, the fine product of the heroic Pacojet, is fantastic.

          1. Clearly, the overwhelming positive responses to your post backup the general feeling that "Frasca is worth the hype".

            While not cheap, I think Frasca is one of the better values in restaurants. Considering the quality, and the overall experience, I think it is an outright bargain.

            I also don't like the tables along the wall, because it feels like you are dining with 12 other people, but they will seat you at other tables if tpossible (we ask specifically when we make our reservation, and they keep track of which tables we like in their computer).

            Me and my wife absolutely adore everything about Frasca. We always have very high expectations for our meals there, and it has never, ever let us down.

            1. The first time I ate at Frasca (the night before they were first reviewed by the Denver Post), I actually did not like my main very much. There was nothing wrong with it, but it was not what I was expecting or what I was in the mood for. The way they handled this was so extremely gracious that they totally won me over (that and the fact that everything else was great). You really should have said something about the mushrooms, which they would have dealt with quickly and efficiently. I would also bet money that, if you told them you were GF at the front of the meal, they could have made suggestions on how to modify other dishes to fit your restrictions.

              It is also a restaurant that completely opens itself up to you on subsequent visits. We do not go frequently, maybe once or twice a year, and every time we are greeted by name, Bobby comes over to say hi and remembers what my husband and I do, where we work. Last time he even commented that friends of ours had been in a few nights before. (I think they must keep notes on dinners because it is really uncanny). The service has always been personal and impeccable. I've lived in NYC and eaten at all the best places there (at least those that were open during the time I lived there), and would put the service at Frasca up against a Le Bernadin or a Jean Georges any day of the week. It's a more casual style of service, but still perfectly executed.

              I also don't think that bringing your staff to Italy should be seen as some sort of selfish extravagant indulgence. They are bankrolling a trip for their cooks and waiters (who do better than at most restaurants in town, but are not rolling in it) to learn more about the food and wine that they serve. I think it is an incredibly generous gesture, and does really improve the experience in the restaurant. If Bobby said that he used the extra money made on wine to buy a palazzo on Lake Como, that's another thing, but using it to educate and reward your employees is a fantastic thing.

              14 Replies
              1. re: Megiac

                I agree whole-heartedly with all of these well-written comments from the_next_meal, booger, and megiac. I’m happy to see a local place take off and win the affections of foodies all over the world, and we should all want them to make enough money so they’ll keep at it and we can selfishly continue to enjoy their expertise and talents. Does anyone like seeing a great place they love half-empty on a Friday night with dejected staffers hanging their heads wondering if they’re going to make rent this month? I’d much rather see independent places buzzing with activity and life and vibrant conversations and clinking glasses like Frasca is.

                Sure, opening Frasca looks like a great business decision now due to the national so-called “hype” that has subsequently been generated, but I imagine even some of Stuckey’s friends must have thought he was a little nuts to leave a high-profile position at arguably one of the best restaurants in the world to move to what is stereotyped as Hippie-ville, USA, with a then-unknown chef and open a small restaurant (in an industry notorious for slim profit margins and a high failure rate) focusing on the cuisine from a less-known area of Italy where the dishes are not just familiar Americanized variations on pastas with a red sauce or white sauce. It takes cojones, talent, and lots of work hours per week to do what Lachlan, Bobby, Danette, and all of their kitchen crews and FOH staffers past and present have pulled off with Frasca.

                I am in agreement that their staff trips and the training they provide such as blind tastings enhance the dining experience and help attract quality employees. It is always great to have a staffer pour you a glass of wine from a winery they have visited or bring you a dish and relate a personal anecdote about it from their trip or be able to passionately and knowledgeably answer any questions you ask. It’s even better when winery owners they’ve connected with on their trips come to Boulder on one of their three-course $35 Monday night tasting menu events to pour and speak about their wines. I can happily say I’ve eaten in little Boulder, America, and had food and wine at Frasca prepared and presented by outstanding guest chefs and sommeliers like David Lynch from Babbo in NYC, Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s in FL, Marc Vetri of Vetri in Philly, Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren of A16 in SF, Suzanne Goin of Lucques and AOC in LA and many others without having to pay for a plane ticket.

                1. re: rlm

                  On more than one occasion, the guest Sommelier at the Monday night dinner has given me their card and told me to look them up if I am ever in their part of the world. There is something uncanny, and "Family" about that place. (BTW, Monday nights are a great, cheap way to eat at Frasca - highly recommended).

                  I agree that Bobby keeps notes about his guests, which I think is remarkable. Obviously, he couldn't remember that 3 months ago he gave us recommendations for restaurants in Phoenix (which by the way is where he grew up, if I am not mistaken), but the fact that he has it together enough to ask us if we enjoyed Cibo the next time he sees us is really good hosting. Always earns more points with us. I also like that they take the time to note our preferences (including which tables we like, etc.).

                  Frequently, the wait staff, will relate a recommendation to their recent trip to Italy. This kind of knowledge is indispensable (and adds quite a bit to my experience). Other restaurants in Denver have similar trips (Borolo Grill comes to mind).

                  On occasion, I have had meals that weren't spectacular, but never anything less than wonderful. Every time I leave there, I start counting the days until I can return.

                  1. re: Booger

                    Even when I haven't been crazy about my main on a couple of occasions at Frasca, the high quality of everything from the tajut of wine and the olives to the syrupy espresso at the end of the meal, as well as the stellar, attentive service, has always won me over. I got to watch as they hunted for a space that they demolished and remodeled (as much as they could possibly do) themselves and proceeded to turn into the best restaurant that has ever opened within a mile of my house. (The Flying Saucer, in the Mission District in SF, used to occupy that page of honor in my book). In conversations with them, I have always been impressed with Bobby and Lachlan's attitudes toward their staff and their community of producers and diners -- they seem to want to do the best thing for everyone. I've seen good and bad sides of Frasca but love that we sometimes have the same server we had on our first visit, the second day they were open. I'm sure they keep notes on their diners, too. I have other GF friends who dined there recently, and they felt like the restaurant did a great job of accommodating their needs. I have been there on nights when I wasn't bowled over by absolutely everything, but there's always enough greatness to keep me longing for our next splurge there. And the couple of times when I was bowled over by everything are still bright and soul-nourishing in my memory. I feel Frasca is among the few restaurants where they truly know how to treat people and food all at the same time.

                      1. re: tatamagouche

                        It's a "cut," or a taste of wine, according to Frasca's web site.

                        1. re: vanillagrrl

                          Huh. Never heard that word in my life. Thanks.

                          I've had only 2 experiences at Frasca thus far, but as I've said, I think it's the equal of restaurants in Boston (where I just arrived from) with that price point/level of service. Doesn't mean I've been transported by every single dish, but the concern for detail/desire to deliver a capital-e Experience is obvious and admirable.

                      2. re: vanillagrrl

                        Keep in mind the software available to restaurants now provides the ability to make notations on customers. Like Open Table for example.

                        I am not saying this is the case at Frasca. Just that in general personal preferences and details have more to do with technology then natural memory ability.

                        1. re: oysterspearls

                          Still, only restaurateurs who care enough to do so avail themselves of said technology.

                          1. re: tatamagouche

                            Very true! And a staff on top of their game enough to keep the database updated. Not always a easy task.

                      3. re: Booger

                        I'm glad that you agree on the notes. My husband is convinced that he's just special and that's why Bobby remembers him. Regardless of how he does it, it's a terrific touch.

                        1. re: Megiac

                          Bobby’s wife (who is often there herself charming customers and working hard) will tell you that he does have an extraordinary memory (and there’s no arguing against his remarkable facility for dealing with all kinds of guests and situations), but like most places of their caliber, they do keep notes about guests’ preferences and such, as there is no way they could remember such minute details for so many people. I recall this was mentioned in a Daily Camera article around their first year anniversary where the scribe was present for one of their pre-service meetings as they went over details like a couple dining that evening with a preference to be seated side-by-side rather than across from each other. If I can dig up the link to the article and it’s still on their site, I’ll post it. That said, my husband and I often walk in and sit at the bar and they have no idea we're coming, yet staffers still remember our preferences (and I see this happening with other walk-in regulars too).

                    1. re: Megiac

                      Re "...using it [money] to educate and reward your employees is a fantastic thing." Frank Bonano of Denver's Mizuna and Lucca d'Italia has also done this for a number of years, and it has kept staff loyal and well as knowledgeable. Considering that the dollar is now in the toilet (historic low against other currencies), such professional development travel is increasingly expensive.

                      Frasca remains wonderful, but IMHO, it must be difficult to keep one's feet on the ground and one's head clear when there has been so much acclaim and attention. The most recent to "discover" Frasca was a writer from SUNSET -- circulation 2 or 3 million.

                      1. re: ClaireWalter

                        It would be easy to make that assumption, Claire, but I’m not seeing it. They seem well-grounded, and I haven’t seen any evidence that this has changed just because their media attention has increased. Driven and successful people aren’t typically lacking in the self-esteem department to start with, but the Frascans’ haven’t gone all “diva” on us. Lachlan hasn’t morphed into Rocco. I’ve seen him popping away from the restaurant in jeans on his bicycle, not calling for a stretch limo to ferry him around town. Besides, Stuckey was already used to this kind of national attention working the cellar and floor for Keller and even prior to that uncorking wines for celebs and billionaires at the Little Nell. If their collective feet are no longer on the ground just because of some ink in Food & Wine and Gourmet, they’re not doing a very good job convincing their guests of it.

                        Speaking of their wonderful staffers past and present, a scholarship fund for aspiring chefs and sommeliers has been set up in honor of former assistant bar manager Danan Schufman's memory. http://www.dananschufmanfund.com/

                        1. re: rlm

                          rlm, my post was a response to some of the preceding comments, not on personal experience, which has been wonderful every time I've been there. Of course, I don't know the Chowhounds personally and don't know, if we were together at Frasca or any place else, whether we would view our shared experience the same way.

                    2. Here's another vote for my favorite restaurant in Colorado and one of my favorites in the U.S. (ok, probably the world, but I haven't been to many places other than Europe).

                      On the table placement, I guess you're correct that some of the tables are a bit tight, but I equate Frasca with European restaurants, and compared to those, Frasca's tables are spacious.

                      I really enjoy the menus at Frasca. There are certain items that are always there, like 21 Orders and gnocchi, but each time we eat at Frasca, they're a bit different. I don't feel like it's always the same menu, merely enlivened by some specials.

                      We feel the prices are a great value for what you get. I feel the food and service at Frasca are on par with the best restaurants in the U.S., yet the prices are better than several other high-end restaurants in Denver that don't touch Frasca's experience.

                      While we haven't ever asked for anything special (other than making sure there's a piece of tart for me at the end of the meal), I've seen many tables with special dishes due to allergies or religious needs.

                      My husband and I go back and forth on how much of the ESP at Frasca is due to Bobby's incredible memory, and others, and how much is due to their computer. The third time we visited, one of the other sommeliers took our wine order, then came back several minutes later to remind my husband that he'd ordered that wine on our second visit, and did he want to repeat. I doubt our wine order was in their computer, but then again, maybe it was!

                      Another great feature of Frasca that I've noticed is the attention that the staff provides to anybody, whether or not they're regulars. On our most recent visit, I watched a table of four near us, obviously new to the restaurant, based on the lengthy descriptions of the food items and the snippets of conversations that I heard from the table about the restaurant. Not only did they get several visits from Bobby, but from other staff members (other than their waiter) as well. It was nice to see.

                      1. I sincerely thank everyone for their thoughtful responses. It seems that I need to go back and sample the menu a few times to see what the chef has to offer. As for the mushroom thing - I asked the server first if that was possible, and he said yes. And, no, I didn't ask for anything different at TFL, mostly because you didn't know what you were getting ahead of time (and I didn't know yet that I was GF when I went there). I do appreciate Frasca's use of local and organic food - I forgot to mention that was a huge turn-on for me.

                        1. I have to add my two cents to this conversation. I have been to Frasca only once so far and I truely look forward to going back. I have tried twice this summer to go and haven't been able.

                          I come from a wait service background where I know what good service is and from the moment we walked in the door to the moment we left I think we were treated to terrific wine stewardship, outstanding dining choices and perhaps one of the better meals I have experienced. And while you are gluten free, there is a "special" the 21 Orders menu item is usually a highlight. And to agree with many of the other comments, they do focus on what is available at the markets that day so technically their entire menu is the daily special.

                          But the 21 orders the night I was there was very special. In addition to my order, I sampled all the other entrees those at the table had and everything was outstanding. Fresh, clean, layered, finished. You won't get that at many of the restaurants in the area. Denver or Boulder and that is what the hype is about. Everything works.

                          Our wine was perfectly paired with all our foods. My brother likes the Rieslings and the bottle brought to our table was exactly as described. Apple with a hint of slate. I won't soon forget it. And if I remember correctly the wine was extremely reasonable, under 30 for the bottle, we didn't finish it, they recorked it and my brother was able to enjoy a glass the following day.

                          I ate with abandon. I do not eat white foods (mayonnaises, aioli, sour cream, you get the picture), but I crave... yes crave... the horseradish creme fraiche. I talk about it to anyone that will listen. Green olives? Ew not my favorite, but the order they brought to the table, divine, buttery and not overly briney.

                          This is a restaurant worth "the hype". If you have an opportunity to go back, you should and don't be afraid to send something back, if it isn't correct. I bet they would have put your meal in the fire right away so you wouldn't have to wait. They are extremely generous and would not want you to be unhappy. Their waitstaff are very knowledgable and they work hard to make the experience a good one. I am sure it would have been taken care of for you, at least that is how we were treated. I didn't quite get the taste of blood orange in our gelato and they brought out another service for us just to make sure I wasn't sent out the wrong flavor and it was my taste buds that were wrong. Nary a complaint for anyone service wise. They just wanted me happy.

                          And Bhutani who might not really understand the trip to Italy, I am disappointed that you don't understand that with great travels comes great knowledge of the food that they serve. To honor their staff, who are incredibly hard working with 10 days paid education and travel isn't anything except generous. And Frasca isn't the only place in Colorado that does it but I guarantee they get the most out of it.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: aka_zoe

                            Very nice post, aka_zoe. Just also want to mention that Frasca gets a nod in the October '07 Food & Wine magazine for their lovely wine Scarpetta (which I'm sipping as I write this) that they released in conjunction with master sommelier Richard Betts of the Little Nell (who was pouring his excellent wines at Frasca this past Monday). F&W should have also mentioned that Chef Lachlan was involved. It is definitely a very food-friendly wine and perfect for warm weather. Look for the pink pig label. It has sold out at Boulder merchant Bottles (new place near Safeway off of Arapahoe). I did not see any left at Boulder Wine Merchant, although West End Wines reportedly also received an allotment. You can get it at the restaurant now by the glass, tajut, or bottle. It is amazing with the salumi plate. They also have it available via mail-order at http://www.scarpettawine.com

                            1. re: aka_zoe

                              Excellent post,aka zoe. I agree wholeheartedly that with great travels, hopefully comes great knowledge of food and culture...if not, what is the point. It is sad when citizens of the same community cannot be happy for a local business's success. I applaud Frasca not only for their food but the treatment of the guests and employees. I have been lucky enough to eat there on two occasions and look forward to when I can go back. Coming from a professional cooking background it is important to spread the "not new news" that working in the industry is no cake-walk, with long hours and not so appreciative clientel-the best thing to do is treat your team well, which in turn will treat your guests well. It is also important to remember that we all can have a bad day and what comes out of yourt kitchen is not up to the standards-it happens, human beings are cooking your food-not computers. Maybe Gluten-free girl should remember that !

                            2. I had the pleasure of dining at Frasca last week when I was in CO for a business trip. It was exceptional from start to finish. When we arrived without a reservation, they found a spot for us at the salumi bar. We were definitely in the way, and we thought, "Oh great, we're going to be treated like pariahs for the entire evening." Nothing could have been further from the truth. The service was absolutely outstanding from the moment we walked in until we left, and the food and wine were worth every penny. I had the Scarpetta, which was lovely. I think my favorite dish of the evening was the Ricotta and Sage Ravioli...holy crap, that is good stuff. My friend had the rabbit risotto, which I loved even though I never eat rabbit.

                              I really can't wait for my next trip to Boulder.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: samDC

                                Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson (chef, co-owner) was on The Today Show this morning.

                                1. re: ClaireWalter

                                  And Donny Osmond was on there, too. I'm not impressed!

                                2. re: samDC

                                  I went to Restaurant 4580 the week-end before last. Didn't realize it was the last day of First Bite Boulder so the place was packed. Got a couple of seats at the bar and was treated like royalty. Food was dynamite, too. This is not an unusual experience.

                                  1. re: IslayMan

                                    I bet even Donny Osmond could make a better lamb burger than the dry, flavorless one I had at the bar at 4580 at the end of September.

                                3. I can't say that I totally disagree with you, in theory. I like to think that I have eaten at some of the best places in the world. To me, having moved to Boulder from NYC, I am thankful for a Frasca. I think the quality of food is on par with something neighborhoody in say, The West Village. In a good way. I would expect to pay less for that food. BUT, Frasca has the trappings of an upscale dining establishment. The service is very good, the wine list is very affordable, etc. Also, to me, it's the kind of place i enjoy sitting at the salumi counter, not the place i'd go to for a blowout fine dining meal. This is Boulder, after all, not NYC, SF or LA, and considering, I think the town does pretty good in the food department. Put it up against other towns of it's size, and I doubt they have a Frasca. Would i get on a plane and come here just for Frasca? Nah.

                                  1. I agree that Frasca is waaaay over-rated, and I'm baffled by the hype. I've been to Frasca twice in the past few months. The service was outstanding and the wines superb. The food, however, is just OK, for the most part, over-priced and served in laughably-small portions. And food is the primary reason you go to a restaurant for, right? The success of this restaurant indicates that Boulder was ripe for a chic, lively, gastromic restaurant, but I'm surprised at the positive reviews I think Frasca would never make it in New York or Los Angeles, or certainly would not have received so many glowing reviews. The food is just so-so, and it's hard to believe that the chef came from the French Laundry. What position did he have there? Sorry to say, he's just not that talented.....and who told him teeny tiny portions were a good idea? Many of the dishes are not even that attractively plated/garnished. At these prices every dish should be a hit. On the last visit, the holiday fixed price menu was in effect. For one of the courses, the only thing is could eat was "riso" (rice -- not listed as risotto) because I cannot eat wheat so pasta was out. The server told me the rice was "just a blank pallette" and was meant to be ordered with the truffles. Oh yes, the truffles were $45 for small portion and $90 for large. I declined the truffles and asked if that blank pallette could be served to me with some mushrooms, for example. They did accommodate that request, with tiny pieces of mushrooms in my tiny serving of rice. You should have seen the fabulous fresh porcinis we ate at several great restaurants in Slovenia in October! Again, to their credit, the wine and service were great. But the restaurant is the opposite of generous-spirited, in execution and portion size, when it comes to their food.

                                    50 Replies
                                    1. re: sblum807

                                      First, what is it with this country and its love affair with obscene portion sizes? There is curiously no perceived value unless the food is piled so high on your plate that a ranch hand in pioneer days couldn’t finish it. I run almost every morning and can eat like a champion yet I’ve never gone away from Frasca hungry or feeling ripped off. The dishes are composed of high-quality ingredients that are lovingly and carefully prepared (as they are at Fruition and Rioja and other restaurants I’m apparently not supposed to enjoy since they're located in a “fly-over state” instead of NYC or LA).

                                      Did anyone happen to see Chef Lachlan on Mark Bittman’s PBS show where he started a dish using expensive Prosciutto di San Daniele and Parmigiano-Reggiano to infuse it with flavor? Or read the article about his short ribs in the Daily Camera and how they are marinated with red wine and vegetables for 2 days and then braised for 12 hours? How much would YOU charge for an entrée that required 2 ½ days of prepping before you could make a dime off of it?

                                      Yes, truffles are expensive. This year, the cost was off the charts—hundreds of dollars per pound for black truffles and thousands per pound for white truffles. Are restaurants supposed to take a large loss on luxury items such as this and simply give you a huge portion for free out of the goodness of their hearts since your dietary restrictions limit you from sampling most of their menu?

                                      5280 had a great article recently about the chef’s commitment to utilizing local food. It discusses how land prices and a shorter growing season than many other regions pushes the farmer’s costs upward (which are eventually reflected in Frasca’s pricing structure). Would you rather they use cheaper “Franken-food” from corporate farms or procure all their goods from the Super Wal-Mart in Broomfield so the entrée prices will be competitive with Applebee’s?

                                      Before the start of their prix fixe holiday menu, their entrees ranged in price from $22 to $29. Contrast that with the $46 I paid for a veal chop at the Little Nell in Aspen this fall. The pasta tasting menu at Babbo in NYC was $64/person when I had it last year and I can’t say the dishes were definitively better than some of the wonderful “21 Orders” of pasta I’ve had from Lachlan’s kitchen over the past 3 ½ years. Even in cities like Dallas where the cost of living and running a business is lower, you’ll find $40-$50 mains at places like Abacus and Nana. Or look at the Flagstaff House locally, where you can drop $46 for filet mignon or $38 for duck breast. That’s more of a monetary commitment.

                                      Maybe it’s not the place for you (vive le difference), but I respectfully disagree that Frasca would not make it in a foodie city (even in the Bay Area, which I worship so much that I would almost give up a kidney to live within walking distance of Manresa or the Ferry Building). I’ve sat next to foodies from all over the world (including industry people) at the bar at Frasca and they’ve all seemed pretty flippin’ happy about their food. I spied Chef Douglas Keane from Cyrus in the dining room earlier this year and he knows a thing or two about food. Moreover, even if Bobby Stuckey hadn’t encountered a talented chef at the Laundry in Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, you’ve got to admit that he’s so well-connected in the wine world and has such great hospitality skills that he could probably make a Hungaro-Okie-Macedonian Fusion Tapas Dinner Theatre concept work in a major food city.

                                      1. re: rlm

                                        Thanks, rlm, for so eloquently defending fly-over state food -- especially when the fly-over state is Colorado. I agree with you re Frasca -- top ingredients, careful preparation and unflashy presentation of exquisite dishes. Like you, I've always come away satisfied, even satiated. And frankly, I don't care whether Frasca or Mateo or the Flagstaff House or the Trattoria on Pearl or The Kitchen or any of Boulder's other fine restaurants could "make it" in New York or San Francisco. I choose to live here for a bunch of reasons that include the opportunity to dine well without the hassles of big coastal city living. I escaped from NewYork nearly two decades ago, and when we go out for a fine meal, we are happy not to have to subsidize the obscene rent that places like Per Se and Masa and all the other high-priced, high-profile restaurants must pay.

                                        As for truffles, not are prices up this year (see "The Olive Tree Doesn't Lie" at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/23/opi...), but thanks to our country's brilliant economic policies, the dollar is in the toilet and all imports, especially from EU countries, are now sky-high. I doubt that Frasca is making a killing on truffle add-ons.

                                        1. re: ClaireWalter

                                          I love that I not only get to see the Flatirons and Long’s Peak every day, but I also get to dine in restaurants owned by chefs who support local people and keep more money in the community for prices that put other cities to shame. Colterra’s large plates are from $15-32. A recent selection from The Kitchen had entrees ranging from $19-27. Mateo’s are $15-27. Fruition’s mains in December were from $21-24. Rioja’s are $18.50-29. The large rotisserie items at Osteria Marco range from $16-19. These are great prices for what you’re getting in return, people! Not to mention how you can also stuff yourself crazy on $3.00 pupusas and costillas in hot green chile for under $10...

                                        2. re: rlm

                                          If I would have read this post last week it would have went down as the best and most informative comment I read of the year.

                                          1. re: oysterspearls

                                            Although I think Frasca is excellent, I don't think that it is the food nirvana as espoused by the large contingent of Frasca groupies. However, one thing that I have admired is the attention to fresh ingredients and reasonable portions that resemble what you would find at fine restaurants in Europe. If you want your plate overflowing, then go to the Cheesecake Factory! It's also my opinion that the prices are not extreme. When you consider that a steak at any of the big name steak joints begins at $40 and then escalates and then you start adding sides dishes, etc., all of a sudden Frasca, The Flagstaff House, etc. start to seem pretty damn reasonable.

                                            1. re: IslayMan

                                              IslayMan - Good point about the big name steak joints. Add to the $40 +/- for a slab of meat the cost of any side dishes. Potatoes or veggies (served family-style) run $7.75 to $9.50 at The Palm. At Gallagher's, sides are $7-$11 -- and that might be per order for one person. Del Frisco's is in that price range too. Ruth's Chris doesn't even post prices on-line. Give me Frasca's care and quality (and portions) any day.

                                            2. re: oysterspearls

                                              Thanks, oysterspearls. My boss tried to compliment my writing before the holidays by saying, "Wow...I'd really like you to write my obituary." Uh, thanks...I guess. :)

                                          2. re: sblum807

                                            While sblum has been eating his/her way through Slovenian funghi, Jerry Shriver at USA Today named Frasca his best meal of the year. That would include New York, Los Angeles and Ljubljana.


                                            1. re: Pastajohn

                                              Good posts and thanks for the link. Food prices (espcially imported items) have risen dramatically over the last year so prices are higher everywhere. I don't think of Frasca of being in the "high priced" catagory.

                                              I could see how the hype could lead some people to think of Frasca as dissapointing, as would be true with many experiences that are equally hyped. I remember my first meal there better then any other because it had only been open a few months and I really didn't know what to expect.

                                              I would also keep in mind that many of the restaurants Frasca is compared too in have been open much, much longer or opened by chefs with more experience. Hopefully Frasca will keep getting even better.

                                              1. re: ColoradoFun

                                                Regarding the issue with expectations when dining that ColoradoFun alluded to and Sheehan wrote about in his column last year in Westword, there is ample scientific evidence to back this up. It’s basic psychology that our expectations can influence our judgment. This can work in a restaurant’s favor, of course, but can also work against it.

                                                I dined at Frasca early on (Aug. of ’04) after wandering in and sitting at the bar and didn’t really have any expectations. I had heard that the somm from the French Laundry was opening the place, so I was hopeful that they would at least have a top-notch wine program. I’d been disappointed several times before with new restaurants in the area, but I couldn’t help but be excited straight away at noticing that they’d purchased fabulous stemware. One of my other first impressions was how knowledgeable the bartender was at running through the menu with me and providing a summary of their cuisine and philosophy in such a down-to-earth manner. Okay, I thought, the hosts are friendly, the service is knowledgeable and already seems to be clicking on all cylinders, they’ve got Billecart-Salmon and Paitin Barbera by the glass at good prices and they’re pouring it into Riedel stems, but who is the chef again? With recent experiences of spending a wad of cash and being burned for it fresh in my mind, I was fairly conservative when ordering (corn soup and ribeye), but I can’t really describe what went through my mind as I started eating. It’s one of those “flashbulb” moments for me because I can still taste that soup. There was just a certain spark and passion in the food that I’ve only experienced at a few places, and I knew I’d be back to see what else the kitchen could do and what this whole Friuli thing was all about. I tried to relay the experience to my better half later that evening and he was skeptical. (“This restaurant was where?”) He was a believer a couple of weeks later, and while we don’t always agree about which dishes or wines are preferable, roughly 100 visits later (I know…), we do agree they’re among the very best at what they do. Like any restaurant (especially one that looks good on a resume), they’ve had turn-over—remarkable sous chefs and sommeliers and maitre-d’s and servers and bartenders have come and gone, but the overall experience remains superlative as it was on my first visit. Their only real problem is they have a hard act to follow: themselves. That’s a credit to the way Bobby & Danette handle the front of the house and how Lachlan oversees the kitchen.

                                                Even if this particular regional Italian restaurant doesn’t speak to you personally, find an independent restaurant that does and patronize them regularly. Sample as much of the menu as you can and find out what the chef’s strengths and weaknesses are. Go on weeknights when they have a harder time filling seats. Save your pennies for one of their special event menus paired with wines or beers. Get to know and appreciate the people there and you’ll be less likely to make snap judgments when dining out (as we’ve all done before). Don’t let talented chefs leave town and set up shop somewhere else, leaving other potential chef/owners around the country with the unfair stereotype of Denver as a cow-town and leaving you thinking, “You know, I really should have made the effort to get there more often.”

                                                1. re: rlm

                                                  rlm - You said it so well. Before Lachlan McK-P, Colorado had three other F&W Best new chefs: Charles Dale (now in the commercial food biz, relocated fr Aspen to Georgia), James Mazzio (left for the Chicago but fortunately returned to CO, hopefully to stay) and Bryan Moscatello, now in Fairfax, VA. The one positive thing here is that the chef and sommelier are also co-owners, hopefully without the potential problem of financial backers/partners with whom to have a lethal falling-out.

                                                  1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                    Thanks for the reminder, Claire. I miss Bryan Moscatello's cuisine so much. That was one talented guy, and if anyone could lure him back to Colorado (or even a city I'm likely to visit more frequently), I'd be insanely happy.

                                                      1. re: ColoradoFun

                                                        I was happy to see that in the NYT today. Also sat next to a guy at the bar at Frasca tonight named David Vogels who has started a publication called the Sommelier Journal. Their premiere issue has an article about Frasca here:

                                                        New for 2008 is that Frasca is keeping a fixed 4-course menu every night similar to the holiday menu in structure, although items will still be available a la carte.

                                                        1. re: rlm

                                                          I was at Frasca last night as well! Great as usual.

                                                          1. re: hungrygirldenver

                                                            Were you one of Al's friends at the bar or were you sitting at a table like a civilized person? :-)

                                                            1. re: rlm

                                                              sitting at a table...but i might start having to do the bar thing, since i can't seem to get it together to make my ressies far enough in advance for this place usually!

                                                              1. re: hungrygirldenver

                                                                The best service we ever had at Frasca (and I agree that all the service is top-notch there) was when we sat at the bar. I would actually prefer to sit there if I could reserve a spot.

                                                                The nice thing about the bar, is pretty much you can sit there any night, as long as you show up early enough, and have a little time to wait.

                                                                I miss Frasca. I get back to Colo often, but haven't been able to make a trip to Boulder happen for a while.

                                                          2. re: rlm

                                                            Lachlan was on 9 News yesterday with his Taste of the NFL sausages. Video at this link:

                                                            1. re: rlm

                                                              Great feature by Tucker Shaw today in the Denver Post food section:

                                                              1. re: rlm

                                                                I was going to link to this article. Reading this article, really sums up how they run their restaurant, and why it is so special.

                                                                1. re: Booger

                                                                  Ditto, Booger. In fact, I did a blog post about it for exactly that reason.

                                                                  1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                    We found out on Friday that Frasca once again has two Master Sommeliers on staff. Jesse Becker passed the exam, so congrats are in order.

                                                                    1. re: rlm

                                                                      I got that email today. What happened to Nate (it's been a while since we've been to Frasca)?

                                                                      1. re: Megiac

                                                                        Nate left a long time ago (California and Italy). For now he's at Boulder Wine Merchant, but you might not recognize him with his scruffy beard and casual duds. I would encourage everyone to go there while he's in the house and have him pick out some wines since he is a walking encyclopedia of vino and will only steer you towards the path of deliciousness.

                                                                        We miss Nate at Frasca, but we've been impressed with Jesse as well (great table-side manner). And don't discount Matthew, Dustin, and Benjamin either. Oh, and there's this "bus boy" there named Bobby who knows two or three things about wine too. :-)

                                                                        1. re: rlm

                                                                          Boulder Wine Merchant is owned by two master sommeliers, Wayne Belding and Sally Mohr, who I think was the first woman to pass the master sommelier exam.

                                                                          1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                            Yes, I'm aware of that, but I don't know them and trust them like I do Nate. When I can make it there from my little corner of the 'burbs, I've found all Merchant employees to be helpful and friendly, but I have a very high opinion of Nate's talents.

                                                                            1. re: rlm

                                                                              Frasca is on Forbes.com's list of America's Best Spots for Fine Wine (slideshow):

                                                                              Yes, they called a "tajut" a "trujat."

                                                                              The article:

                                                                              1. re: rlm

                                                                                Scarpetta is in the March 2008 Food & Wine in Lettie Teague's article "Why It Pays to Order the House Wine."

                                                                                1. re: rlm

                                                                                  This "amateur line cook" named Thomas Keller was eating at Frasca tonight (with a smile on his face, no less), along with the chef de cuisine of the Laundry. At another table was the sous chef of 11 Madison Park in NYC. I guess they all fell for the "hype." :-)

                                                                                  1. re: rlm

                                                                                    Lachlan was on CBS' Chef on a Shoestring preparing an Easter meal of leg of lamb, arugula salad, and gubana.


                                                                                    1. re: rlm

                                                                                      Bobby and Lachlan are both James Beard nominees this year (Wine & Spirits Professional and Best Chef-SW):


                                                                                      1. re: rlm

                                                                                        As I posted separately on this thread, Mackinnon-Patterson just won the James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest. Yet another honor for a "hyped" restaurant and chef.

                                                                                        Jason Sheehan recently wrested word from Stuckey that they are casting about for a building to buy in Boulder. They know that they could use more space, which might address Gluten Free Girl's complaint, in the post that launched this thread about the packed-together tables.

                                              2. re: sblum807

                                                I finally made it to Frasca. And it was a huge disappointment. None of the food tasted that great.

                                                The first two courses were drenched in olive oil. The first course was just bizarre: supposedly a mushroom and cheese custard. But it was strained, and I couldn't see nor taste any mushroom. The only evidence of mushroom being present was in the color of the custard: an ugly gray. Incredibly unappetizing to look at and even worse to eat. The main course was good, but much too salty, almost to the point of being unedible. The cake served for dessert was dry. The tablespoon-sized scoop of gelato was the highlight of the meal. As my husband likes to say, "At least we paid a lot for it!"

                                                I admit that the service was excellent, probably one of the best in the area. But I felt my money was better spent at any one of the other "trendy" places in Boulder or Denver.

                                                1. re: luckylily

                                                  I just don't understand how someone could be disappointed with a meal at Frasca. Every time we eat there (about once a month) we fall more in love with the place. It's hands down the best restaurant in Boulder and we thank our lucky stars that it exists!

                                                  1. re: lavendula

                                                    The best restaurant "in your opinion." Right? I've had great meals and not so great meals at Frasca. Sort of like Q's, The Flagstaff House, L'Atelier, etc. But to call Frasca the best is quite subjective. There's probably people who think the best restaurant in Boulder is one of the three I mentioned or The Cork, Carelli's or Snarf's.

                                                    I will concede that Frasca is absolutely the most hyped restaurant in Boulder!

                                                      1. re: wagger

                                                        I've only had good meals at Frasca and well worth the trip from Denver, which is more than I can say about other restaurants in Boulder that are hyped about. Whenever we've gone we've let Bobby select the wines and he's very friendly and has selected excellent unusual wines that were very reasonable ($45) despite that we didn't specify a price.

                                                        I've eaten at the French Laundry, which is a different experience altogether. I think it's in a league all by itself.

                                                        That being said, I think Frasca is one of the best restaurants in CO or elsewhere. I lived in NY most of my life and it stacks up.

                                                        1. re: wagger

                                                          Carelli's?! Or is that your point, that it's subjective?

                                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                                            You got it, subjective. The statement that Frasca is "hands down the best restaurant in Boulder" truly irks me. My opinion is that Dish Gourmet is consistently better at what they do than Frasca. I've had stellar meals at Frasca and some that were just expensive and bizarre along with the sometimes idiotic mewing of the servers. Besides, I can take a Dish sandwich to a Rockies game. Try that with a Frasca starter of 2 fish eggs on half a piece of cucumber with a duck confit reduction. I also go across the street to L'Atelier and am just as pleased. So, when I see "best" posted anywhere on CH, I usually just bite my lip and take another sip of Lagavulin. But this thread just brings out the worst of my sarcastic side.

                                                            1. re: wagger

                                                              Did anyone try the white truffle dinner on Dec.1? I heard Michael Tusk was the guest chef along with wines from Andrea and Rino Sottimano.

                                                              1. re: oysterspearls

                                                                We regretfully had to cancel this year. We went to their first annual truffle dinner last year (with Elio Altare wines) and it was unbelievably amazing, so I'm sure having the chef from Quince this year was even more over-the-top. It was just this past Monday and I haven't been back in yet to ask about the festivities (although I am sure it will be almost too heartbreaking to hear about it since I wasn't there). There is a nice blog post still up here from a gent we were sitting next to at last year's dinner:

                                                                The January Food & Wine mentions that Frasca's planned new location on the other end of Pearl will have an adjoining cafe (Il Caffe at Frasca) which will be more casual. The ish also features an antipasto salad recipe from Lachlan.

                                                                1. re: rlm

                                                                  So we went tonight and had “sloppy seconds.” We heard Tusk showed up at 8 am to start cooking for the event that evening. Sounded like it was fabulous. I don’t ever want to miss another one of their truffle dinners, come hell or high water.

                                                                  As one of the courses tonight, we had an off-menu tagliatelle which Bobby graciously blanketed with a generous proportion of truffles (paired with a Sottimano Nebbiolo, of course). The owner of The Kitchen was sitting at the bar enjoying the same thing.

                                                                  They have a primi on the menu now which I’ve had twice, and it is one of my most favorite pasta dishes of theirs (well, really, anyone’s including Babbo) of all time. La Tur and Soft Ricotta Tortelloni with La Quercia Lardo, Brown Butter, and First Fruits Pear.

                                                                  Mark Vetri from Philly is going to be in the house on January 5th, so book now.

                                                                  1. re: rlm

                                                                    Thought I would clarify that the white truffles were still available for a $50 supplement on at least Fri and Sat (listed on the menu with the Primi, and staffers seemed to think it would probably be the best with the gnocchi). Usually this time of year they obtain white and sometimes black truffles and price them out as a supplement to go with various items.

                                                              2. re: wagger

                                                                BTW, for the July post above, Dish Gourmet sells Frasca's Red Pepper Jelly and sources ingredients from some of the same places (Long Farm, Rancho Gordo, Fra'Mani, etc.).

                                                                1. re: rlm

                                                                  Lachlan and Bobby are given props in GQ's January '09 "GQ Eats" article. It mentions details such as how they give staffers a $50 dining credit for eating at/learning from other establishments, provided they write it up and give a show-and-tell about it at the staff meeting.

                                                                  1. re: rlm

                                                                    Knowing you would be interested I just logged on to pass that info on to you. And you beat me to it.

                                                                    For the record, I had some convincing to do as I was reading the article at our local supermarket when my better half turned the corner.
                                                                    Hon... I'm truly reading about Frasca and never noticed Jennifer Aniston.
                                                                    But then I'm such a food nut that I'm sure she never doubted me. LOL

                                                                      1. re: lavendula

                                                                        The above was a white truffle dinner. The end of the year when they are back in season. That is assuming they have it again.

                                                                2. re: wagger

                                                                  While every restaurant has its good days and bad days, and while comparing Frasca to French Laundry might be comparing apples to oranges, I do want to say that my meal and service at Frasca were far superior to my meals and service at both L'Atelier and French Laundry. The fact that the French Laundry costs 5 times as much for unremarkable food and cold service makes Frasca even more appealing.

                                                                  That said, there are a dozen restaurants in the SF Bay Area, where I live, that are just as remarkable as Frasca.

                                                      2. Perhaps a new thread should be started called "Frasca Praise," because many, perhaps most, of the 87 posts that have followed this original one have been postive and glowing rather than a sense of exaggeration and hype about its qualities.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                          1. re: lavendula

                                                            Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson is going to be on Bravo's Top Chef Masters show starting in June: