Colorado 20: Our picks for best handcrafted foods of the year

By | December 02, 2016
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This year’s curation of handcrafted products have all been created with the same formula: vision, creativity and purpose, minus the use of preservatives and other additives. The results, in no particular order, are well worth a bit of extra effort to source online if you can’t find them at local retailers. Your taste buds will thank you.


1. Aspen Chocolate | Aspen

This new confectionary—located atop Red Mountain—uses 54-percent dark chocolate to create a decadent balance of rich, smooth and satisfyingly bitter as the base for their line of to-die-for chocolate barks. Gift-ready boxes of various sizes (up to five pounds!) can be ordered online, and are delivered with owner Wendy Nanon Smith’s signature wrapping and adornments. Crafted by hand in small batches, who could possibly choose between options like Peppermint Candy Cane, Espresso, Almond or Bourbon Sea Salt? It’s best to order an assortment.


2. Jojo’s Sriracha | Denver

Burgers, omelets, avocado toast, noodles, soup: Is there anything that sriracha can’t make taste better? America has been obsessed with this formerly obscure red chile, vinegar and garlic–based Thai condiment in recent years, and now there’s a delicious handcrafted Colorado version that’s preservative-free. The Green Chile version (our top pick) blends seasonal New Mexico and Colorado chiles for an incredibly complex flavor profile. And the heat? Sassy. A good sriracha should make you sweat.


Featured in our Gift Box

3. Froodles | Grand Junction

We love our homegrown fruit here in Colorado, despite the painfully short growing season. When the fresh stuff disappears in mid- September, it’s Froodles to the rescue: whole fruit leather strips available year-round, created with peak-season produce sourced from the Colorado Plateau. Stocked locally at Ute Mountaineer and Roxy’s Market in Aspen, the snack-size strips are perfect in a lunchbox or as an afternoon pick-me-up. Plus, Froodles are non- GMO (the peach and apricot varieties are made with certified organic fruit) and contain no artificial flavors or preservatives. We’re loving Cherry Bliss, with its unexpected warm notes of cloves and allspice.


4. Black Squirrel Deluxe Granola | Denver

Black Squirrel asserts that “granola shouldn’t taste like a bowl of oatmeal.” Agreed. To achieve their product’s distinctly un-oatmeal-like qualities, they toast it in small batches and load it with goodies like plump dried cherries and blueberries, nuts, maple syrup and organic, extravirgin coconut oil. You can, ahem, squirrel away your own stash by ordering online or by requesting room service at the Four Seasons Hotel Denver, where it’s on the menu. Black Squirrel works some kind of seriously tasty breakfast magic, any time of day.


5. Epicurean Butter | Federal Heights

Who has time for margarine when chef-inspired Epicurean Butter compounds exist? Sold at Whole Foods and other markets nationwide, Epicurean Butter is on a mission to help you achieve the flair of restaurant-quality meals at home. With flavors ranging from Caramel Sea Salt to White Truffle, these finishing butters pack a punch with minimal effort. Try the award-winning Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter; it’s wonderful on a warm slice of homemade zucchini bread. Look for it at Roxy’s Market.


6. Honeyville | Durango

For almost 100 years, Honeyville has supplied Rocky Mountain folk with delicious, high-country honey. These days, their line includes a variety of honey-infused sauces, syrups, jams and dressings—and no trip to Durango would be complete without a pit stop at their factory store on Highway 550, just north of town. The flavorful Wild Chokecherry Vinaigrette, generously enhanced with wildflower honey and blended with fruit handpicked from local shrubs, is a winner.


Featured in our Gift Box

7.  Wild Zora | Fort Collins

In 2013, the founders of Wild Zora just wanted a healthy snack for their kids. Energy bars were packed with sugar, and jerky was loaded with nitrates and MSG—so they began mixing and dehydrating bars of grass-fed beef and homegrown vegetables on their own. Fast-forward a few years, and Wild Zora bars can now be found at large retailers, including Whole Foods and REI, nationwide. Bars include a full serving of certified-organic fruits and veggies, and are free of grains, gluten, soy, added sugars and chemicals. Cue the healthy snack revolution. Find it at Roxy’s Market.


8. Radiantly Raw Chocolate | Colorado Springs

Raw organic cacao, coconut oil and honey: three little ingredients that make chocolate so scrumptious and melt-in-your-mouth smooth, you’d swear it’s bad for you. Dairy-free and loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and enzymes, raw chocolate is a healthier way to indulge. With dozens of whimsical rotating options like the Elvis Cup (raw almond butter and banana), Orange Jasmine (infused with raw Colorado honey and dried jasmine blossoms) and Coconut Cardamom (coconut butter and spice), Radiantly Raw keeps customers wondering what they’ll dream up next. Pop into one of their two Colorado Springs–area shops or order online; in summer, find them at regional farmers’ markets.


Featured in our Gift Box

9. Farmer’s Porch | Boulder

Along with Cadbury eggs and cranberry sauce from a can, we grew up regarding Halloween pumpkin seeds as a once-a-year snack associated with a corresponding holiday. Happily, Farmer’s Porch has taken the latter— heirloom variety seeds grown in Oregon—and dressed them up to make one highly addictive, anytime snack. Sprinkle on salads, roasted vegetables or soups, or just toss ’em back straight from the package; either way, they’re perfectly crunchy and never tough or chewy. Order bags or gift tins online.


10. Timber Peaks Gourmet | Parker

2016 marked Timber Peaks Gourmet’s silver anniversary: 25 years of foods geared for Colorado cooks on the go. Nearly 60 products including soup and bread mixes, seasonings, trail mixes, cocoas, gift sets and more are available online or at various statewide festivals throughout the year. We’re digging the gluten-free/non-GMO Ski Bum Chili Mix, which is ready in just 30 minutes. It’s a hearty meal-in-a-bag that’s ideal for home, as well as hut trips or camping.


11. New Beat Foods | Boulder

These wholesome quinoa crackers are blended with other unprocessed grains and seeds, and are baked by hand in small batches in a gluten-free kitchen. They add a rustic touch to party spreads and are hearty enough to hold up to the firmest of cheeses. They’re also fabulous with a bowl of soup, or used for scooping hummus. Look for them in Aspen at Meat & Cheese.


12. TWIST | Boulder

If conventional kitchen sponges give you the heebie-jeebies, TWIST is going to rock your world. Their line of kitchen cleaning tools made of natural materials like loofah, hemp, agave and cotton are 100-percent plant-based, dye free and certified biodegradable. From the gentle Euro Sponge to the sturdy Dish Dumpling, these earth-friendly scrubbers are workhorses that last—and they’re affordable, to boot. Stock up at City Market, Whole Foods or


Featured in our Crafted Gift Box

13. Bee Squared Apiaries | Berthoud

Ambrosia is real, and it exists in the form of Rose Honey from Bee Squared Apiaries. Boldly aromatic and rich in flavor, yet delicate, it starts with alfalfa honey procured from hives across Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties. The honey is infused with rose petals from Happy Heart Farm in Fort Collins, and voila: nectar of the gods. It’s divine paired with soft cheese and a buttery cracker, stirred into chamomile tea, drizzled over yogurt or baked into homemade granola. Since winning a 2016 Good Food award, Rose Honey has been in hot demand—so be sure to order a jar, stat.


14. Red Camper | Denver

Cheese boards, say hello to your new best friend: Red Camper preserves. Chunky, saucy, fruity and (best of all) boozy, these jams come packed with pizzazz—and they occupy a special niche in the flooded local preserves market by pairing fruits with infusions of Colorado spirits. Standouts include Colorado Whiskey Peach, punchy Absinthe Orange and richly spiced Cherry Fig Mostarda. Many other flavors are seasonal and sell out quickly, so check the website for details and order online.


15. Roaring Fork Spice Company | Glenwood Springs

Just launched in 2016, this family owned startup wants to help busy home cooks kick up the flavor with just a shake of the spice bottle. Their creative seasonings are influenced by world and American regional cuisines, with over 20 hand-blended sweet and savory varieties that are free of MSG and artificial flavors. Our favorites include the Jamaican-inspired Montego Spicy Island Blend, the creole-style Jazz Blackened Blend and the Middle Eastern Persian Kebab Blend. The company is rapidly expanding to larger retailers, but for now you can find them online or at Country Rose Boutique in Glenwood Springs or Susan’s Flowers in Carbondale.


16. Cappello’s | Denver

Anyone who’s ever tried to go gluten-free or paleo knows that finding decent, diet-friendly products can be a challenge. Cappello’s hopes to change that. With a gluten-free, grain-free roster of craveable products like fettuccine, gnocchi and pizza crust, the company hopes to satisfy not only eaters with dietary restrictions but those with gourmet palates, as well. Their slice-nbake cookie dough tubes are also easy and delicious; plus they’re eggless, which means you can safely sneak a few raw nibbles while no one’s looking. The booming company, which had humble origins in Minturn, is now based in Denver and their products are widely available at Whole Foods, City Market, Roxy’s Market and Natural Grocers.


17. Lily Farm Fresh Skin Care | Henderson

Since 1986, Lily Farm Fresh Skin Care has produced an array of all-natural cleansers, toners, moisturizers and specialty products for every skin type, with many ingredients grown and hand-harvested on their 220+ acre farm. The USDA-certified organic farm and laboratory are managed by visionary seventh-generation farmer Lily Morgan. Try the award-winning Rejuvenating Enzyme Mask made with Colorado honey, which smells as delicious as it feels. Available at Clark’s Market in Aspen and Natural Grocers in Glenwood Springs.


18. Teakoe Tea | Denver

Hot or iced, a cup of tea will cure what ails you—and Teakoe will definitely up the ante. Available at Whole Foods Roaring Fork, their lineup features tea blends produced in a wind-powered manufacturing facility and packaged in eco-friendly retail containers. The loose leaf Trailhead Chai series—from Horizon Hot Ginger and Backcountry Coconut Creme to Outpost Orange Spice—is particularly delicious. Handy brewing instructions are detailed on the website, along with mixology tips and a restaurant/retailer locator.


19. Popped Lotus | Boulder

A popular snack in India, lotus seeds are also used in traditional Chinese medicine as a healing food—but they’re not something the average American might reach for in the snack aisle. Popped Lotus wants to bring this protein-packed, low-calorie munchie to the masses as a healthier alternative to popcorn. The popped seeds’ texture is a satisfying balance of crunchy-soft, and the company is developing new flavors in addition to their current Sea Salt and Kettle varieties.


20. The Minturn Saloon Pepper Jellies | Minturn

The Minturn Saloon is a beloved Vail Valley institution serving Mexican dishes and Western favorites like steak, ribs, quail and duck. Restaurant patrons ordering the latter took special notice of the housemade pepper jelly that accompanied the dish and frequently requested containers to go, so the saloon started producing the condiment for retail in 2012. Today, the Crushed Red Pepper and Jalapeño jellies can be found throughout Eagle County, and at Meat & Cheese in Aspen and Whole Foods and Kitchen Collage in Basalt. Two Roots Farm in Carbondale, owned by saloon owner Andy Kaufman’s daughter Harper, hopes to supply peppers for the jelly in the near future—keeping this sweet enterprise all in the family.


Article from Edible Aspen at
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