Courtesy of High Country

High Country is Boulder’s Tasty New Spot For Elevated Casual Eats

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The team behind Gemini has opened a new, delicious eatery on Pearl Street: High Country.

 

It’s right next door to Gemini, which is fitting, given that the four co-owners—managing partner Michael Mehiel and executive pastry chef Catherine Neckes, as well as executive chef Brian Pierce and administrative jill-of-all-trade Elizabeth Neckes—also live right next door to each other (the Neckes are twin sisters).

 

Courtesy of High Country

 

Their newest collaboration opened this spring in the former Hapa Sushi space at 1117 Pearl Street. (Hapa Sushi, meanwhile, moved to a larger spot downtown.)

 

“We love the atmosphere and the energy on Pearl Street and jumped at the chance to build a second restaurant on the bricks,” says Mehiel. “We want High Country to build upon this fresh vibe we are witnessing on Pearl and offer an exciting gathering spot for our community.”

 

The name is a nod to Colorado’s mountains, and team hopes High Country will become the go-to spot for fueling up after adventures in the outdoors. At the same time, they also envision it as a popular hub for folks heading out for a night on the town, whether that’s a concert, a sporting event or some other activity.

 

Courtesy of High Country

 

“One of the things I love most about Colorado is the energetic spirit that thrives in mountain towns,” says Elizabeth Neckes. “We hope to embody that ‘full send’ mentality in our food, service and atmosphere.”

 

With casual, mountain-inspired eats and laid-back vibes, High Country is the perfect complement to Gemini, which dishes out Spanish-inspired food and wine in a more upscale setting.

 

But just because the menu is slightly more casual, that doesn’t mean Pierce puts any less thought or care into it.

 

Take his house-made ranch dressing, for example. For this simple but beloved condiment, Pierce goes to the trouble of buying and dehydrating his own custom blend of herbs (from local farmers whenever possible). The team has even given it the nickname of “Cadillac ranch.”

 

Courtesy of High Country

 

The chicken wings are another example of fine-dining techniques being applied to bar food: Before they get tossed into the fryer, Pierce confits them, a process that involves slow-cooking them in fat to make the meat melt-in-your-mouth tender.

 

“I’m excited to create a casual, playful concept that upholds the farmer/grower-focused ethos we have at Gemini,” says Pierce. “High Country is all about embracing the mountain vibes while staying true to our commitment to quality, flavor and fun.”

 

Other popular menu items range from light and refreshing (like the Hippie Dip, a spicy hummus made from roasted carrots and sunflower seeds) to hearty and comforting (like the Car Camper Cheese Fries, topped with pepper jack cheese, pickled fresno chili, black beans charred corn, avocado crema and tomatillo salsa).

 

The menu also has a distinctive Southern influence, with dishes like Smokehouse Ribs, Bonanza Brisket and skillet cornbread (with roasted poblano chili and sharp cheddar) rounding out the offerings.

 

And no matter what you choose to order, be sure to leave room for dessert. Executive pastry chef Catherine Neckes whips up some truly decadent bites, like lemon bars with a shortbread crust and a triple-layer carrot cake with brown butter cream cheese frosting.

 

If you’d rather drink your desert (and relive some of your best childhood memories), High Country also offers milkshakes. The chocolate malted flavor will send you straight back in time.

 

Make These High Country Recipes At Home

 

The High Country team also graciously shared some fun recipes, so after dining there, you can try your hand at making some of their most iconic dishes at home.

High Country Lemon Bars

 

Courtesy of High Country

 

Shortbread Crust
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

 

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9 1/2” x 13” pan with parchment paper. Cut butter into 1/4 inch cubes. Combine sugar, vanilla extract, salt and flour and toss with butter in a large bowl, pressing butter with your hands until a sandy mixture forms (dough will not look uniform, but more like dry pie dough). Spread evenly onto your pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool.

 

Lemon Filling
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cans) sweetened condensed milk
8 each egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/8 tsp salt

 

Preheat the oven to 325F. Whisk lemon juice and sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg yolks, zest and salt together until pale and creamy, about five minutes. Whisk together with the lemon juice and sweetened condensed milk until combined. Pour on top of baked shortbread crust and bake for 15-20 minutes, until just set. You do not want any browning on top.

 

These can be tricky to cut. I recommend freezing the bars overnight before cutting them, and using a hot, wet knife, cleaning it with a kitchen towel after each cut.

 

High Country Half Chicken Marinade and Sauce

 

At High Country, we use this combination on a half chicken. This marinade and sauce would also make a perfect pair with pork chops, skirt steak, chicken legs, even shrimp or veggie kebabs. We sear the chicken in hot cast iron pans and then finish roasting them in a hot oven, but feel free to simply roast or grill your chosen protein.

 

Aji Amarillo is a spicy yellow Peruvian chili. The paste comes in jars and can sometimes be found in the Hispanic section of the grocery store, or purchased online. Its zippy and fruity flavor is key to this combination, but substituting sriracha, sambal or your favorite hot sauce will still lead to a delicious outcome.

 

Brasa Marinade
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp coriander seed
1 large head peeled garlic
3 tbsp Aji Amarillo Paste
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp ground New Mexican chili powder
10g (taste for seasoning) salt
2/3 cup neutral oil

 

Toast the cumin and coriander seed on the stove in a dry pan until they become fragrant.

 

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a blender and process on high until you have a smooth cohesive marinade. Feel free to splash in a few tablespoons of water if the marinade is too thick.

 

Your marinade is now ready to be applied to bone-in chicken thighs, pork chops, skirt steak, shrimp or veggie kabobs. Allow the marinade to work its magic for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.

 

Aji Amarillo Sauce
1 generous cup cherry tomatoes
3 large cloves garlic
2 large bell peppers, roasted and cleaned
2 tbsp aji amarillo paste
2 tsp sweet sherry vinegar
4g (taste for seasoning) kosher salt

 

Place your oven broiler on high. Put the cherry tomatoes and garlic on an oven-proof tray and slide onto the top rack and let the tomatoes char and burst. The garlic should get some color but be careful to not let it burn. Remove them from the oven and set aside.

 

Using a gas stove or grill, place the whole red bell pepper over the flame and cook, turning as the pepper blackens and blisters on each side. It’s ready when it’s charred and tender all over. Feel free to cook more than one pepper at once if there is room. Place the charred peppers in a bowl and cover with a dish towel and let them steam for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove the blackened skin and seeds, combine with the roasted tomatoes.

 

In the bowl of a blender combine the roasted veggies, aji amarillo and sherry vinegar. Blend the sauce until it is nice and smooth, season with salt and set aside. You’ll have about 2 cups of sauce.

 

When you are ready to serve, warm the sauce in a small pot and spoon on to your serving platter, place your protein on top.

 

 

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