Fort Collins daytrip: the spicy fried chicken sandwich at The Regional, plus The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm

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click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER

  • Matthew Schniper

The Regional

130 S. Mason St., 970-689-3508, theregionalfood.com

This farm-to-table fine dining café comes via Chef Kevin Grossi, a Jax Fish House and Lola alum who launched at Denver’s Avanti Food & Beverage collective in 2016 before moving north to Fort Collins in 2018. (We’re told he also just competed on Beat Bobby Flay, outcome and air date unknown as of this writing.)

The café’s cute, with warm woods and white accents contrasting brick. I get the popular spicy fried chicken sandwich. Its sesame bun feels like touching a memory-foam topper, my fingers leaving an indentation that slowly rises. That pillowy softness gets counterpoint from the chicken’s crunchy breading ­— a gluten-free mix of potato starch and tapioca, I’m told.

The meat’s delightfully juicy and respectably spicy from a vinegar sauce blend that includes smoked paprika and cayenne. Sharp onion bite and pickle tang play off the heat. The enjoyable Which One’s Pink cocktail blushes a soft fuchsia from huckleberry shrub, wearing a thin, foamy cap of aquafaba (chickpea water that performs like egg whites in cocktails). The shrub’s sweet acidity balances the smokiness of Gem & Bolt mezcal, also tamed a bit by Monte Alban silver tequila.

Backup Plan: The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm

click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER

  • Matthew Schniper

1957 Jessup Drive, 970-631-8041, farmhousefc.com

We find Black Forest’s Corner Post Meats on the menu at this converted comfort-food farmhouse (since 2015) now surrounded by suburbia.

Our Rye Not? cocktail leans humble with Old Overholt cut with Montenegro Amaro, ginger and berry liqueur and a Laphroaig scotch rinse for peaty aroma. We pounce on some happy hour small plates ($5-$9) like lamb tacos in need of more seasoning, awesome truffle-Parmesan Brussels sprouts, and beer-battered delicata squash rings sweetened with maple.