Sometimes, you just know you’re in the right place. And while Scotland might not be the place that comes to mind when thinking of great food, that country’s often-maligned culinary tradition has been re-born and dressed in some sleek new clothes at Argyll, a new Scottish restaurant and pub in Cherry Creek. For me, I knew I was in a good place when Robyn the bartender, pulled from her apron a Celtic cookbook, a well-worn little booklet of very traditional Scottish and Irish dishes that she’s actually made. She may have picked it up on one of her many trips to Ireland and Scotland. When your bartender cares that much about the food and culture, you know you’re on to something good. And you’d be right at Argyll, tucked into the space at Third and Clayton formerly occupied by The Squealing Pig. Where the Pig was gritty, cozy, dark, and felt like a rustic Irish pub, Argyll is bright, chic, and open, more reminiscent of a cute French bistro. Bottles of wine jam the shelves along the dining room wall. Another shelf prominently displays a little library of cookbooks–everything from classic French cuisine to more modern Celtic dishes–cementing the growing feeling that you’re in a place that really cares about its food.In fact, Argyll is one of Denver’s first “gastropubs,” a concept brought over from Britain, and referring to a drinking establishment that also serves hearty, well-made dishes. Owner Robert Thompson, who opened the place three months ago, says that his Argyll lies “between fine dining and a pub.” While Argyll puts a firm emphasis on the “gastro” part of the term, it doesn’t neglect the “pub” aspect. “We’re a place where you can get an elegant meal,” says Thompson, “and also knock down fifteen pints and try not to pee in the corner.”Thompson has tapped Sergio Romero to fill the Executive Chef position. Romero, who hails from hot and dry New Mexico, admits that Scottish cuisine has been a bit of a challenge for him. “It’s more out-of-the-box thinking than I’m accustomed to,” he says. But tasting his superb, carefully prepared dishes, it’s obvious that he’s accepted the challenge of one of the more difficult cuisines.For starters, his anchovy appetizer ($5) is quite easy to devour: a tiny school of little fish, bursting with briny ocean flavor. These aren’t the anchovies you get from a tiny can in the supermarket. Romero’s are breaded, fried, white anchovies, each one a mouthful. They’re served with a tiny lemon wedge and his homemade aioli for dipping. Understandably, he sells a lot of these at the bar.Every table gets a basket of the homemade crisps. Romero thinly slices Yukon Gold potatoes, crisps them in hot oil, and then covers them with a sprinkling of chopped chives, rosemary and thyme. The whole basket is then lightly drizzled with a malt vinegar gastrique (a reduced sauce of malt vinegar and sugar), then dusted with Celtic sea salt.The “Gastropub Caesar” ($9) salad is an innovative take on the classic. It’s a light mix of Romaine lettuces with a homemade dressing, topped with tiny ribbons of parmesan cheese that are infused with the earthy scent of Scottish peat moss.Eggs are the centerpiece of two distinct dishes, both delicious. One is the deviled-egg appetizer ($4). Romero adds a bit of anchovy to the yolk mixture, and places the quartered egg pieces on a bed of lettuce chiffonade. The eggs are topped with a tomato jam. Another dish is a staple: Scotch Eggs ($6). Argyll’s version is a perfectly soft-boiled egg, coated with sausage and deep-fried, served over a puddle of homemade horseradish aioli. So far, they’re selling a lot of both these dishes.The fish and chips ($13) in Romero’s kitchen start with fresh haddock (from the Northern Sea, never frozen). The filets are dipped in beer batter and fried, served with his golden-brown wedges of deep-fried potatoes, a side of the gastrique and an aioli tartar sauce.One of the unexpected offerings (remember: this is “modern Scottish”) is the rabbit lasagne ($17). Inside the soft folds of lasagne noodles are chunks of sage-infused Parmesan in a fluffy bﾎchamel sauce. Take a moment to smell the sage, if you can keep the cheese away from your hungry lips long enough. The tender chunks of rabbit are slowly braised in Romero’s kitchen, and are a joy to bite into. On the side is a tiny heart of Bibb lettuce, quickly grilled for a bit of color and flavor, then paired with an anchovy aioli, and perhaps a hint of cayenne pepper.Celtic sea salt bathes the shores of Scotland, and it’s also the brine mixture used to prepare the chicken for Argyll’s Celtic fried chicken ($16). The one-day soak in salty water keeps the chicken moist during frying, after its coating of buttermilk and flour. The result: crisp, flaky crust, tender white meat. You also get a little cast-iron crock on your plate, containing collared greens in a silky bﾎchamel sauce. It’s a Southern American dish, but in a gastropub it’s the quality that matters. And this dish is all crispy and heart-warming goodness.It’s hard to think about writing a review of a Scottish place and ignoring the booze. They’ve got that, too, at Argyll, including Tennant’s Scottish Lager (try finding that anywhere else in Denver), as well as more familiar brews like Tetley’s, Carlsberg, Murphy’s, and even the local Great Divide Titan IPA, which is used to make the batter for the fish and chips.Scotches, whiskeys, ports, and even a thoughtful wine list pack the drink menu, which also boasts nine special house cocktails. The Argyll Smokey Martini ($9), features Grey Goose vodka with a touch of Talisker, shaken and served up in a cocktail glass. It’s the Argyll combination: French vodka, Scotch flavor.“We’re a lot of French technique, with UK cooking,” Romero explains. He hits the local farmer’s market in Cherry Creek every Saturday to pick up fresh produce for his kitchen, striving to be a farm-to-table restaurant that utilizes local, organic ingredients. He also plans to start a rooftop garden next summer.Working with such esteemed culinary giants as Joseph Reed and James Beard, Romero has learned how to cook mainly from his years of experience. But he’s also done a lot of research. “You pick up on the fundamentals,” he says, planning to do just that during an upcoming trip to Scotland this fall.“There are so many amazing ingredients in Scotland,” says Thompson. “but they haven’t always prepared them in the right way.” Argyll is treating those ingredients, and others, with a great amount of care and respect. It’s the kind of place where you don’t leave anything on the plate–you’re eating all of it.And that’s when you know for sure, when it comes to food, that you’re in the right place.
by Michael ReshetnikWhen you hear a fine Gaelic singer, or a great piper or fiddler, you know that their music comes straight from the heart, that they embody and express the soul of a rich and deep tradition. Tony McManus is one of this sort. With his twin obsessions of guitar and traditional music he gives voice to a full range of emotion and very precise nuance of expression. The fact that Tony is one of the top technicians in the world on his instrument is only half the story, though that would be more than enough for lots of folks. He is a guitarist’s guitarist, and people who have little to do with Celtic music or culture look up to him as a master who opens up new territory. He’s also a very warm and funny guy.McManus began his career in his native Scotland, recording with a huge list of respected musicians and touring with multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Brian MacNeill. A tour with MacNeill brought him to Colorado in 1997, and since then he has toured solo, also with Andy Irvine’s “Mozaik” , a guitar grouping called “Men of Steel” (with Beppe Gambetta, Dan Crary and Don Ross) and Irish and Scottish musical luminaries too numerous to mention. He teaches at guitar camps and Celtic music camps in the summers, including a Colorado visit to Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp in 2006.Tony has produced and recorded 5 CDs of his own music, and produced numerous recordings of other Scottish and Irish artists. The latest is called “The Maker’s Mark,” consisting entirely of his solo playing (except for the track where he overdubs 15 instruments!) The CD is a collection of soulful and exuberant tunes and a celebration of the current “golden age” of guitar-making, featuring 14 contemporary hand made instruments provided for the recording session by Paul Heumiller of Dream Guitars (Asheville, NC.) In fact, it probably wouldn’t matter what guitar you put in his hands–there would be beautiful music–but these are exceptionally well-crafted specimens.So, whether you’re a guitar nerd, a lover of Celtic music, or just someone who enjoys having their heart touched by way of the ears, you’ll want to be at Swallow Hill, Friday, August 14, for a rare concert.
Join mascot Nessie, the friendly Loch Ness monster and friends, at the ALL NEW Colorado Scottish Festival, August 8-9, 2009. The Festival has adjusted it”s hours to Rocky Mountain Party Time on Saturday, extending from 4pm to 10pm.Kilts will me swinging at the evening concert featuring the high energy of Angus Mohr, Colorado”s popular Celtic rock band, and U2 Tribute Band “Under a Blood Red Sky.UABRS is an acclaimed U2 tribute band that passionately recreates authenticU2 concerts. Covering the War tour in 1983 to present day, each show has amazed fans with their ability to recreate famous U2 shows and has solid reputation for sold out venues – including the world-famous Red Rocks!Early risers need not worry – the fest still will open at 9 a.m. both days with activities to dazzled senses with bagpipe band competitions, the great Highland athletes throwing the caber (telephone pole), dozens of colorful clans, the Dogs of the British Isles, children”s games, sheep-herding demonstrations, genealogy information, historic re-enactments, food, drink and vendors, Scottish Highland dancing, Scottish country dancing and Irish step-dancing. A continuous flow of music can be heard all weekend from bands which include the celebrated group Oceans Apart and internationally known Irish fiddler/singer Seamus Connolly.It would not be a proper Scottish Festival without some of the top pipers around, whom will compete 5:30pm on Saturday in the Hot Piping Contest. This competition asks the audience to judge from the comfort of their seats. No hurry needed, there will be plenty of food and drink to help you relax into the evening. 2009 Colorado Scottish Festival August 8 & 9, Saturday 9a-10p, Sunday 9a-5p. Highlands Heritage Park, 9651 South Quebec St. in Highlands Ranch, just two miles south of C-470. Parking is free, as are children 6 and under. Group discounts are available.Become a Fan of Nessie at http://www.facebook.com/nessie.lives, or search for the Fan Page “Colorado Scottish Festival” on Facebook. For map, ticket and other detailed information, visit www.ScottishGames.org or call (303) 238-6524.
Friday, November 06, 2009, 8:00 pm MST at L2 Arts & Culture Center, Denver CO ALL AGES SHOWSubscribers get tickets now and save money at:SOLAS-BEARFOOT http://. “Simply one of the best Celtic bands around.” ” PEOPLE MAGAZINE“Solas is one of my favorite groups. Lovely music from lovely people. They’re the best.” – EMMA LOU HARRIS“It”s not often that Irish music sounds like this much fun.” – HOT PRESS, IrelandSome of the best acoustic music in the world will be heard in Denver, Friday, November 6th when SOLAS performs with special guest, Bearfoot, at the L2 Arts & Culture Center at 8 p.m. in Denver. The event is an “all ages” show and with sponsors that include Harp and the Celtic Connection.SOLAS, (“light” in Irish) officially began in 1996 and soon skyrocketed up as one of the brightest stars in the Celtic music galaxy. Their arrival was trumpeted early and often by Earle Hitchner, notable music critic for the Irish Echo and Wall Street Journal, as the “most exciting bands anywhere in the world.” Soon critics from Denver to Dublin were smitten as well and brought fuel to the fire praised Solas with words as:“mind-blowing;” “virtuosity;” “giants;” “unbridled vitality;” and “worlds finest.” A Denver Post review described the bands first appearance in Denver in 1996 as “a smashing concert”. Over the past decade the Solas have been honored with a room full of awards from “Best Album” to “Best Concert” and have earned the respect of their fellow musicians, media, and fans for their unique contribution to Celtic Music and beyond.Although Solas can play undiluted traditional Irish music as well as anyone alive or departed, they are always varying the mix of fire tested tradition and contemporary sensibility with an ease and naturalness that is as astonishing as their overwhelming musicianship. As a result, they transcend musical genres into the realm of pure musical expression that only a relative handful of musicians attain. Having played all of the major Celtic and folk festivals around the world, the internationally acclaimed super-group has not only captured the hearts and ears of Irish music fans, but fans all around the globe with their blend of Celtic traditional, folk and country melodies, bluesy sometimes jazz-inspired improvisations and global rhythms. This year the band was even called back to Russia for an encore performance at The Moscow Performing Arts Center. The Solas sound today is anchored by founders Seamus Egan, who plays flute, tenor banjo, mandolin, whistle, guitar and bodhran, and fiddler Winifred Horan. They are two of the most respected”and imitated”musicians anywhere in acoustic music. Mick McAuley from Kilkenny plays accordion and concertina; Eamon McElholm from Tyrone plays guitar and keyboards. Working her way towards two years with the band, County Kilkenny native Mairead Phelan is the newest member to add her own world class talents to Solas. Not only has she come into her own as a vocalist, she is also an accomplished musician, playing flute and tin whistle and has won the All Ireland Championships on both – She also studied piano at the prestigious Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.Friends and labelmates (Compass Records) BEARFOOT will open the Denver show. The Alaskan based bluegrass band, has been nominated for the Emerging Artist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and was named one of the Top Five Must-See Bands of Merlefest by Kim Ruehl (news editor for NoDepression.com and folk music editor for About.com), and Best Band at Telluride.Friday, November 6 at 8 p.m. L2 Arts & Culture Center, Colfax and Columbine, Denver, CO 80206Adv: $23/25, D/S $25/27. ALL AGES SHOWBox Office: www.swallowhillmusic.org, 303.777.1003 x2, 71 East Yale Avenue, Denver, 8021. Info at CelticEvents@rmi.net or 303-777-0502
By Jennifer Dempsey Last month, 14 members of Northern Ireland’s Circus WAVE became part of the Salida Circus family in Chaffee County, Colorado.For two weeks, Circus WAVE members stayed with host families and joined in a circus schedule that included stiltwalking in the July 4th parade, community potlucks dinners, a sold-out show in downtown Salida, camping, hiking, hot springs and a guest appearance at the Colorado Irish Festival in Denver.“It was the most exhausting and exhilarating two weeks of my life,” said Leslie Garrity, a Salida Circus parent and host mother to two teenage girls from Ballymoney.Circus WAVE stems from the WAVE Trauma Centre, a bereavement and counseling service founded in 1991 that works with all persons in Northern Ireland who have been deeply affected by the Troubles (ethno-political conflict). Circus WAVE was started in 1999 as a personal development and confidence-building tool for the young people of WAVE. “Being a youth worker for WAVE Trauma Centre, I have gotten to know some amazing kids, but kids with very low self-confidence,” said Darren Gribben, a WAVE Youth leader. “When the Colorado trip came along and working with the Salida Circus and the American kids, the WAVE youth suddenly sprang to life and found confidence they never knew they had. I hope that one day this will lead to bigger challenges. All being well, we will return to Colorado to see the new best friends we have made and show off some new circus tricks.”Salida resident Marsha Sherry watched the show created by Salida Circus and Circus WAVE. “Having fun and expressing creativity are primordial and universal,” she said. “Doing it together creates self-esteem and deep bonds that unite our souls and transcend intellectual concepts. My husband and I were enriched and blessed to witness the circus show.” Former Chaffee County AARP president Jerry Knowles said, “As a former administrator on the Apache reservation, it was so fulfilling to see how creative experiences can help kids grow and become self-confidence and optimistic. It was really a celebration of the human spirit to see these young people rise above the bitterness of their pasts and not stay down because of the throes of life. That made my heart go out to them.” Tricia Magee, director of WAVE Youth said, “This trip has had the most amazing outcomes for every single member of our group and for that I can’t thank the Salida Circus families enough. I am in no doubt that this experience will continue to have an impact for years to come.” Circus WAVE’s trip to Salida was made possible by generous donations from the Celtic Connection, Colorado Irish Festival, DC Friends of Ireland and the Law Offices of Rebecca Adelman. For more information about the WAVE Trauma Centre, go to www.wavetraumacentre.org.uk. For more information about the Salida Circus go to www.salidacircus.com
Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival Huerfano County Colorado American Indian tribes called them “Wahatoya”, Huajatolla” or Guajatoyah”, roughly interpreted as “breasts of the earth”. Some Indian tribes believed that they were the site were mankind first emerged onto earth. The “Double Mountains” were easily recognizable reference points to European explorers and pioneers. One pioneer to the area, Colonel John M. Francisco looked down upon it”s valley which would become the future site of La Veta and declared, “This is paradise enough for me.” Today the Spanish Peaks are recognized by more and more by friends and supporters of traditional Celtic music and dance as the landmark for a wonderful and unique weekend at the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival.Similar to some renowned festivals across the foam, SPIMF is held in multiple locations over the coarse of days. The Huerfano County towns of Walsenburg, Gardner, La Veta, and Cuchara all have offerings over the September 24-27 Festival. In it”s 5th year, The boutique festival has an a la carte component that allows participants to chose activities by interests and budgets. There are free events as well as paid workshops offered to the casually interested to the most enthusiastic student. The Festival continues to bring top veteran and rising young talent to the festival stages and workshops and promises to be a weekend to discover or rekindle the magic of Celtic music and dance.For a schedule of events check our www.celticmusicfest.com or call 719-746-2061We asked Festival founder Barbara Yule to give us a few words on what”s new at this years SPICMF:Barbara Yule – Introducing GIVEWAY“We are proud to be showcasing GIVEWAY, a dynamite young four sister band from Scotland that has taken the international music scene by storm. The siblings Mairi, Kirsty, Amy and Fiona have been playing music and singing together since they were in grade school and went professional in 1999 when Phil Cunningham produced their first CD. GiveWay”s popular tours have taken them all over the UK, Europe and both coasts of America, but this will be their first visit to Colorado. The Giveway Saturday night Fox Theatre concert for the festival is a guaranteed winner. These girls” energetic blends of folk-jazz, spine tingling vocals will stay with you long after you leave their concert.” Rocky Mountain Celtic Radio Summit“Special and its free! Rocky Mt. Celtic Radio Summit presented by Pat McCullough, publisher of The Celtic Connection and founder of Celtic Events & Entertainment Saturday over the lunch break (12:00 ” 1:20 pm). The panel of radio hosts represent Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Denver/Boulder, Westcliffe and Taos. Here is a chance to find out how the DJ”s choose the music they play and how in fact they design their shows to excite their audiences. You”ll have a chance to comment on the shows, what you like about them, what ideas you might have to make them even more appealing. You musicians will certainly want to know how you go about getting your cd”s represented aired.” New instruments this year ” On Stage and in Workshops“We are delighted to have with us a phenomenal, multi-talented instrumentalist, Roger Landes who is part of the exciting lineup for our all Irish concert Friday night that includes Aine Minogue, David Coe and Linda Hickman. Roger, director of the International Zoukfest festival is an internationally renowned player of the bouzouki as well as the banjo and mandolin. He will be giving two workshops on Saturday combining all three instruments. The classes will be for intermediate and above players. Another new instrument offering is the button key accordion played by Kirsty of GiveWay. She will teach favorite Scottish tunes sharing hints of Scottish technique and timing.” Importance of the fiddle“For fiddle players we are offering a wider variety of workshops than in the past. David Coe, a Appalachian/bluegrass fiddler who took himself off to Ireland to study Irish fiddling will offer two workshop, one strictly Irish technique and the second showing the links and variations of techniques between Appalachian and Irish playing. Scottish fiddler Arlene Patterson offers a workshop on Scottish dance music for players. Playing dance music is an art unto itself as you fiddlers will find when you take her class. Fiona, GiveWay”s fiddler, is offering a Saturday morning class concentrating on players building their repertoires of Scottish traditional tunes. None of these workshops overlap time-wise so fiddlers can take them all!”Burns Supper and Concert“This event is in honor of Robert Burns, Scotland”s national bard, 250th anniversary. The “Burns Supper” is an annual tradition in Scotland and always includes a piper, an address to the haggis given by Jack Yule and entertainment led by Ed Miller, Alison bell and the girls Night Out, the Festival Singers and storyteller Heather Yule .This special event will take place on Sunday at 1:00 and will finish with ceilidh dancing following an informal concert. Great way to end the festival. Because we couldn”t bring haggis from Scotland we will be serving Scottish stovies, which I promise you are delicious.”Special Adjunct to the Celtic Festival “There will be a CELTIC JEWELRY class taught by Linda Hickman who is known not only for her brilliant Irish flute playing but also for her exquisite jewelry making skills. The class, which focuses on Celtic photo etching on bronze, will be held at La Veta School of the Arts on 24 and 25 September. For details phone: 719-742-3421 or 742-5238.”Special pre-festival reductions for Celtic Connection readers “We have been very conscious of the economy and have taken steps to lower costs everywhere possible. The first big early discounts that official ended August 31 will still be available for Celtic Connection readers until the start of the festival when full prices apply for everyone.For Celtic Connection readers to get these first early discounts you must write Pat McCullough”s “special” from Celtic Connection at the bottom of your registration form.See Festival registration form which includes discount listings on our website Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival or ask for a festival program ” 719 742-5410.”