Recipe: Juicy Fruit Smoothie

Summer in a Glass

We’ve introduced a new smoothie for our seasonal menu update that’s so perfectly summer, it just begs to be enjoyed on a hot day at the bar in front of our open garage doors. Allow us to introduce you to the Juicy Fruit Smoothie.

This smoothie combines frozen jackfruit, pineapple, and banana with wholesome spinach and coconut water to create a taste and flavor that remind us a lot of that delicious gum we always used to get in trouble for chewing in class.

But wait a second. You’re like, “hold up, what’s jackfruit”? And we’re like, “yay, we’re so glad you asked!” Jackfruit is a giant fruit that comes from the jackfruit tree and looks like something out of one of the Jurrasic Park movies.

Believed to have originated in southern India, jackfruit is the largest tree-bourne fruit in the world. When cut, it emits a sweet, stinky smell. But don’t let that scare you: it’s delicious, both when ripened and enjoyed as a sweet treat and also when young and used as a meat substitute. That’s right, some folks eat it as an alternative to tofu. The young jackfruit hasn’t converted all of its starches into sugars yet, and when cooked it takes on the taste of the dish it’s in. It’s a great nutrient-dense source of fiber. In fact, jackfruit is a drought-resistant and high-yield crop and has been heralded by some as a potential answer to the hunger faced by many people in developing countries.

We picked up a large, ripe jackfruit from our local Whole Foods, and we source our young jackfruit from an organic provider based out of India.

Back to our smoothie.


Makes 16oz smoothie… or thereabouts.

  • 4 oz frozen jackfruit
  • 4 oz frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 frozen ripe banana
  • 1 small handful of spinach
  • 8oz coconut water, or more to your preferred smoothiness



Put all ingredients in your Vitamix or blender.

Blend and enjoy!

PS: make sure to blend long enough and at a high enough speed to really incorporate the spinach and jackfruit.

Zeal Farm Update: Planting our Fields

We’re so excited about the progress our little farmette is making! As we begin to bring in our first harvests, we thought we’d share some pictures and give you a bit more information on the farmette operation and what our plans are for serving our farm fresh produce to our beloved enthusiasts.

Located in north Boulder, our farmette sits on a 1/4 acre plot at the farm of a close friend of ours. The land is beautiful, with a gorgeous treed valley to one side that has been used in the past for weddings. And with such a nice view of the front range, we’re thinking a farm dinner might be in order at some point… right? 😉

Of course, taking a crack at farming for the first time hasn’t been without it’s challenges. First of all, our little plot of land sits right next to Left Hand Creek. The soil in this area, while very fertile, is also full of rocks. Rocks + seedlings = trouble. Our hardworking farmer and his staff worked tirelessly to till the soil, discard the rocks, and create some lovely rows for planting. Next to the plot, we built a 1,000 square foot greenhouse to give our seedlings a great head start.

A view from inside our greenhouse

Our initial planting inside the greenhouse included many varieties of microgreens, kale, swiss chard, tomatoes, peppers, beans, zucchini, and cucumber.

Crisp arugula on the way

Beautiful squash blossoms starting to appear

One of the varieties of kale we’re growing

Our next challenge was to create an environment where plants would grow for as much of the year as possible, since our restaurant is open year round. We had to build a greenhouse that would withstand the elements all year round without us being there full-time, because we’ve got a restaurant to run. So we built a climate control system we can monitor from a distance. Think of it as Nest for our greenhouse! The system includes a homemade evaporative cooling system to keep the hot Colorado sun from cooking the interior, as well as adding much-needed moisture to the indoor environment.

This is one of the cooling pads of our giant evaporative cooler!

A few weeks ago, after a little bit of TLC in the greenhouse, we moved many of our seedlings outside!

We built a high-hoop structure to protect our most sensitive crops from overexposure to the sun, and filled a number of our tilled rows with our new plants.

We’ve already harvested and delivered microgreens to our restaurant and hope to begin harvesting lettuce within a few weeks. We’re very excited to continue this journey with our little farmette and bring you more delicious, organically-grown produce all summer long.


Zeal Farm Update: the Greenhouse is up!

Over the last few weeks, our farmers have made some awesome progress on preparing our little farmette to be planted! We can’t wait to serve our very own organically grown, locally sourced fruits and veggies on the Zeal table this year. Check out this cool time-lapse video of the crew assembling our greenhouse. Whew, what a lot of work! 

Zeal recipe: Paleo Pumpkin Pie Smoothie


It’s fall, y’all! At Zeal we’re into the festivities too. That’s why we’re bringing back our paleo pumpkin pie smoothie with our fall menu changes! Made with organic pumpkin and all of the right spices, and topped with our paleo granola and a dollop of coconut cream, it’s just what you need to indulge in the best of the season the healthy way.

2 T (rounded) Organic pumpkin purée
1-2 dates
2 T cashews
1 tsp Maca powder
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 pinch ground turmeric (mainly for color)
½ tsp ginger root
1 cup coconut or almond milk
Approximately 1/2 cup ice – more or less for your preference

Place all ingredients in blender. Blend and enjoy! Serve immediately for best results.

Meet our Supplier: Boulder Lamb and Meats

This Saturday I drove up to 75th St. and Nelson Rd. to check out a new Ranch Stand selling organic produce, and sustainable pasture raised cuts of lamb, pork, and beef, including some of the best tasting breakfast sausage and bacon anywhere. It is one of the pleasures of operating our small restaurant, getting to know some great people along the way who have also moved on from their first careers to a life which better expresses their passion.

One such couple who I’ve had the pleasure working with since opening Zeal are Clint and Mary Kay Buckner, who started plotting their exit from 9 to 5 careers about five years ago and found themselves raising a flock of lamb on their property out near Hygiene. “When we started out we were just thinking of breeding for wool and milk,” explains Clint, but then through an acquaintance they met a chef who was looking for lamb to prepare in his restaurant. The funny thing, says Mary Kay, [the unnamed chef] “who was so enthusiastic about getting lamb from us never bought it, so we started calling around and found other chefs and discovered all this demand.” Word started getting around that there was local lamb being bred sustainably right here in Boulder County and quickly Boulder Sheep became Boulder Lamb, 9 to 5 became 24 hours, and the Buckners had a their Ranch up and running, that was 2013.

Boulder Lamb and Meats 2

This year they officially modified their name to Boulder Lamb & Meats because they have been raising pigs and cattle, all pasture raised, humanely cared for from birth to slaughter, and fed a diet that encourages the very best expression of their terrior and flavor. That of course means never using any GMO grains or confined caging. Speaking of his swine, says Clint as he nods over to the lowland near their pond, “our Berkshires absolutely live in Pig Heaven down over there, I’ve thought about joining them at times”. And it’s true, the animals are almost like pets for the short time they get to walk the land at the Buckner’s ranch and home.

Clint and Mary Kay met in 1990 when they were both working as cashiers at Boulder’s original Alfalfa’s. Clint grew up in Gold Hill and Mary Kay in Westminster but landed in Boulder to attend CU. Both passionate and early adopters of the organic food movement, it sounds like things clicked between them immediately.  Their first date was an outing to go hear Clint’s dad, local music star Daniel “Buck” Buckner play bluegrass at Connor O’Neill’s Pub on 13th St. (Buck’s Bluegrass Hotline is a calendar of events for bluegrass lovers named for Clint’s dad). Shortly thereafter, Clint made his new squeeze the “MK” mix tape , a blend of classic rock, blues, and jazz, and romanced her off the market for good.

Boulder Lamb and Meats

“How’s the Ranch Stand going?” I asked Mary Kay. “It’s starting to get noticed,” she tells me. “It will take a little while to develop a following because we are creating a market that isn’t as efficient for people as shopping at the grocery store”. And that’s the thing about Farm Stands and Ranch Stands in general, you can’t one-stop shop like you can at Whole Foods, and you’re probably not saving any money. But local agriculture isn’t ever going to be more efficient than modern supply chains, and that’s why it disappeared almost completely in the 50s as technologies looking for a market turned to domestic agriculture and away the military industrial complex after WWII. But where they will always reign supreme is in the quality proposition, particularly under the care of producers like the Buckners who care about quality and flavor above just about every other factor. Mary Kay makes another great point that to really embrace local food sometimes means approaching the organic farmer or butcher and asking them “what do you have today?” We have gotten very comfortable expecting that what we want to buy always be available.

Boulder Lamb and Meats enable us to justify what we do as a restaurant, which, frankly, isn’t always best for the “bottom line” either.  When a long-liner food delivery logistics company can promise to sell you everything in a single shot, and offer low prices we have to do the hard thing which is to say, no, we’d rather have 30 vendors delivering at all different times with multiple invoices and checks to write all to have a quality, locally sourced, low impact meat, vegetables, or fruit. That convenience and cost savings just isn’t worth it when it comes at the sacrifice of both the local community we want to support, and the freshness and flavor, and the intentional connection to the food and its artisan growers.

Can you always tell the difference in flavor? Mary Kay swears by it, she says her dad who grew up in Nebraska recently tasted their pork and proclaimed, “this is the way pork tasted when I was young!” Before pork became the ‘other white meat’ which is code for ‘mass produced as cheaply as possible’ pork really wasn’t even white, as Clint tells me. Its natural color is much darker than what you see in any super market case.  Right on, brother, I’ll take an extra pound for tomorrow’s Sunday Breakfast.

(Right now Zeal is serving Boulder Lamb & Meats product in our Lamb and Pork Bratwurst Plate, Bone Broth, and Bacon. This fall we’ll most likely bring back the Lamb Braise and some others, stay tuned)

Zeal Recipes: Aromatics Summer Salad with Lemon Mint Chia Dressing


This light summer salad brings together the taste of some of the warm season’s best flavors. We love the way the fennel and strawberries pair together. Make a larger batch of the lemon mint chia dressing and use it on your other meals throughout the week!

This recipe serves 3-4


-For the Salad-
8 oz. arugula
⅓ cup pistachios
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin or shaved with box grater or mandolin
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 carrot shaved with either a peeler or box grater or mandolin

-For the Dressing-
⅓ cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1T honey
1 clove garlic
1 T diced shallot
1 cup water
¼ cup chia seeds
¼ cup packed mint leaves
¼ tsp salt
dash of black pepper


  • First, whisk the chia seeds into the water and let rest for 15 minutes. You will want to whisk it a few times in the first two minutes to prevent the chia sees from clumping.
  • For the rest of the dressing ingredients, it’s chef’s choice as to whether you want to dice everything with a knife or break out the power tools, i.e., blender or immersion blender. Either way, just combine  everything while the chia are expanding in the water.
  • Once the chia have sufficiently plumped up (and don’t worry if they look like a solid mass of chia), pulse blend or whisk with other dressing ingredients and refrigerate until you are ready to use on the salad. You’ll have about a pint of dressing.
  • Wash Arugula and spin or pat dry with towels. Just be sure the greens are not wet or they wont really take the dressing.
  • Toast the pistachios. In a 350º oven, put the pistachios on a skillet or baking sheet and toast for 6-8 minutes. If you use a toaster over, watch closely since the heating element is so much closer to the nuts, they can burn quickly.
  • Arrange the salad with the greens topped with the remaining ingredients. Serve with the mint chia dressing.

*We want to hear about your successes or failures with our recipes! You can share by emailing to us at info@zealfood.com or posting and sharing with us on Facebook or Instagram #zealfood

Embrace Change

Every new restaurant has growing pains. Zeal is no different. This week we said goodbye to our inaugural Chef Arik Markus. We’d like to thank Chef for laying a beautiful foundation, and wish him luck in his future endeavors. We’d also like to congratulate Sean Smith on a well-deserved promotion to Executive Chef here at Zeal. Onward and upward!

He Did It For Love

My absolute favorite part of running a restaurant like Zeal is interacting with our guests. I love talking to them about their experience of our food, atmosphere, and culture. Maybe as much as I love the food itself. Recently, I met a table of new enthusiasts enjoying their meal – family style. In fact, one of them suggested we should have called Zeal “Share” instead, because it’s such a great place to pass the bowls around the table, touring a world of flavors.


Two couples sat at this particular table, and one of the ladies was telling me about a book that she was super excited about called Eating on the Wild Side. I’d read it too, and it’s a great, well-researched book about how to get the maximum benefit out of the fresh foods we buy and love from local farmer’s markets, or our favorite fresh food stores. It’s an inspiring read, and will make you want to hunt down the freshest produce possible and handle it with care to get every bit of phytonutrient bang for your buck.

As they were getting ready to leave, I dropped by their table one last time. One of the couples hung back and asked if I’d like to try a new product they had brewed. A mulled wine with dried fruit and spices. Really good stuff. Typically this would be a cold weather drink, served warm on it’s own or mixed with some creamy coconut milk…but the proprietor assured me it’s just as lovely over vanilla ice cream.

After tasting it, I told him we might be interested in carrying this bottle of locally made deliciousness.

“Is it organic?” I asked, retreating in my head in anticipation his answer, an answer all too typical in the food and beverage industry.

“No, it’s not.”

An uncomfortable pause…How could this table of food enthusiasts not value the mission of organic when it comes to crafting their own product?

I could have thanked them for coming in and said goodnight, but I was curious about this apparent dichotomy. I continued to probe.  Their first answer was that going fully organic is cost prohibitive, that’s the answer I hear the most.  As a restaurant operator trying to achieve 100% organic sourcing, I understand this argument, but it’s a weak one if you consider the many variables that go into profitability. Lowering the cost of your raw materials is important, but it isn’t everything. There are other ways to be more efficient to help offset higher costs in one area.

Then he said that the consumer of this product doesn’t really value organic as a differentiator. His feeling was that if he used organic ingredients, his price would have to be higher and his consumer would choose another brand.  Yep, possibly.  But in this case the argument is being made based on the fact that no one is currently making an organic fortified wine. He’s assuming that since no product exists, no consumer for it exists. Hmmmm…

I figured that instead of going after his technical reasons for using conventional over organic, I would appeal to the moral argument.  “Okay, I get that” I said to the couple. “What bothers me most about conventional agriculture is the way it turns fertile land into wasted deserts, the eroding of our topsoils, the persistent use of chemical fertilizers which are made by using oil to run industrial equipment turning rocks into nitrogen.  We are not leaving the world in good shape for our future generations unless we insist on organic farming practices”.

I was on a roll. “Organic farming leads to bio diversity, respects existing ecosystems, is better for the health of those working the farm, leads to greater choices for consumers, and creates better tasting food that is clean and therefore better for our health”.

Then it got interesting.

“I used to believe all of that,” he said. “I built a house that was organic, I grew organic food, I only purchased furniture and accessories and clothes and consumer products that met the highest standards of clean and sustainable.”

Wow, I suddenly felt like a bit of a sellout myself.  Maybe I wasn’t going far enough in my mission with Zeal? This guy had gone zero impact in every area of his life! But at some point he shifted away from that, why? And why had he taken it so far to begin with?

Love.  As the story started to unfold, I discovered that this was a mission to save someone he’d loved. Someone who was dying from cancer. As his current girlfriend moved in to comfort him, he explained all these amazing changes he had made to his life in the hope that if he could provide the healthiest environment imaginable he could save his wife from the cancer that was killing her.

But ultimately, cancer won and his wife died, and with it his trust in the organic way. He rebelled against everything that he had originally pursued with such passion. His heavy heart connected his loss to all the changes he had made. His optimistic belief that any of it would make a difference suddenly felt foolish. He had believed organic living could beat back a disease like cancer, that food is potent medicine.

And now I was the one feeling foolish, standing opposite this man making a meaningless pitch use organic grapes and other fruits for his wine.

He had me, and I backed down. I told him I understood and did my best to empathize as we wrapped it up.  I gave him a hug. Maybe eating clean food and cleansing your environment of toxins isn’t a guaranty that you can beat back a vicious disease? Maybe nothing could have solved his problem? Life is afterall, uncertain and impermanent.

But what if he could have prevented the cancer from ever showing up in the first place?  That’s the possibility that the world seems to have given up on. We can never prove it in his particular case, but what about all the other people the organic way could positively impact? Like this man’s new love, his friends and family, the people that will grow the grapes that he uses to make his wine, the people who consume it. This man probably learned to do things that many of us don’t know, and he could be a leader and an inspiration for tens, hundreds maybe thousands of people. That’s the optimistic view, that’s the man who rises up to a challenge, and that’s the way you memorialize someone you love passionately enough, someone for whom you changed the way you lived. You stay with it and continue to do it in their honor because their life may have been a sacrifice, so that others could thrive.  Breaking free of the status quo requires fortitude, perseverance, and patience. It’s not easy, it never will be. But it’s worth it, for love.

Zeal Takes the Title of Best New Restaurant!

On April 1st I got a visit from Julian at the Boulder Weekly and he started off telling me that we finished an impressive 3rd in the voting for Best New Restaurant.  Oh, I replied rather flatly… April Fools, this blond haired pink hued irishmen bursts out laughing, we won the title!

Wow!  Can’t believe that we took first out of all of Boulder County.  And I love this particularly because you only get one crack at it, next year we aren’t new anymore.  It’s like that feeling of finishing your first marathon, or your first public speech, or going to your first prom.  We’ll never be virgins again so it’s nice that on our rookie appearance we nailed it.

So congrats to us!  Our enthusiasts that make up the zeal family deserve this for bringing great energy into the restaurant every day.  And our fans deserve this because they grace us with an amazing spirit every day and attract other that do the same.  I’ve never been in a restaurant where so many people are genuinely high on life…go #boulder  go #zeal #food for enthusiasts.

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First Zeal Blog – checking in at the 100 day mark

zeal_food_lightedsignMore highs than lows which makes for a promising start in our young life at Zeal. The smiles on peoples faces, the positive feedback and appreciation of the food and the atmosphere have all been amazing and rewarding. The people of Boulder have been gracious and I feel really fortunate to have made new friends and connected with so many conscientious, warm and generous locals. Food, as has been my experience, is something that opens sharing and communication. The act of eating wakes up the senses and can alter your state of mind (even without the wine). But this doesn’t happen with much of the heavily processed foods we often find in front of us. I know my senses come alive more when I delve into a bowl of vibrant food that was picked fresh, handled with care and served with love.  And that’s why I wanted to bring Zeal to life – I call it food for enthusiasts.

There have been a few lows. It was tough, particularly that first month, getting to a consistent meal and service level. Everyone worked hard logging beastly long hours, and we all grew short. One day a couple of vegans who had ordered take out brought it back claiming their vege bowls were tainted with meat. I fielded this complaint with all the grace of a three legged bull and asked the two fellas if they realized that those organic vegetables were grown in manure…”where do you draw the line?” I snooted. That didn’t go over well.

Then there was the time one of our managers, tired and cranky, actually told a table full of young women to “move it along”.  He was in table turning mode but failed to realize that a) we had no one waiting for a table, and b) the ladies were only still there because the server was struggling to add up the check correctly. Whoops.

But probably the biggest challenge of the first three months has been keeping everyone positive and mindful of the reason we are here: to share a passion for eating really good food and carry this enthusiasm out in a warm and inviting setting with a dash of cool that makes it a place you want to see and be seen.  It started out very positive as we introduced all of our new job applicants to the story of Zeal, to our mission to bring about change in casual dining and to our vision of a future with multiple restaurants serving organic cold pressed juice and hand prepared food using the freshest and best ingredients possible.  But somewhere in these first few months that story has been shadowed over by the realities of things like: working 90 hours a week, tip pool sharing, job pay by position, schedule assignments, wardrobe and uniforms, company meals, employee discounts, not breaking every plate and glass, and probably a few others that I’m forgetting.

 Wait, what about my perfect Zeal utopia…where all the guests are happy and flood our dining room daily, all the food is delicious and fairly priced, and all the employees are fully engaged and love the work they perform?  Ah, not so easy to execute I discovered.  The lesson that comes back over and over is that communication is so important to maintaining unity and helping everyone feel like they are valued and essential.  Take the tip pool as a case study in the importance of constant and open communication.  In February I was looking at potential revolt by the front of house crew and a looming walk out.  The communication started out well and during interviews and orientation we educated the staff about the plan to pool all gratuities and share them.  The point of tip pooling has merit, imagine a system that encourages a cooperative culture of teamwork and gives everyone the upside of earning tips to increase the value of their time worked. The idea is that employees in positions which normally do not interact much with guests are encouraged to jump in and help make the guest experience exceptional.  But this system broke down as those who were working the hardest to earn the tips felt like they were disproportionately compensated.  To make things worse, they didnt have any transparency into how the tips were being allocated and it was a bit of a surprise each pay period when they learned their pay.  Anyone that has worked in the service industry can appreciate that this is anathema to what normally occurs, and tips are usually taken home the same day they are earned.  So not only were the tips delayed, but they were a total mystery!

 To everyone except me, the man paying out the tips every two weeks.  So I had to make some adjustments and be up front with everyone about how the tips are divided and why pooling the tips is essential for the health of the restaurant and the philisophy of Zeal on an organizational level.  This meant explaining that one of the uses of the tip pool is to help out labor costs by offsetting wages.  Part of the business planning for Zeal involved accepting higher than normal food costs in order to source all of this high quality product, like organic and non-gmo vegetables, grains and fruits; local grass fed beef, local pastured organic pork and chickens, organic spirits, organic beer, organic nuts and milks, and so on.  Restaurant economics are simple, and the model is proven that if you can keep food and labor at about 30% a piece, then you can eek out some profit after you pay rent, utilities, and other operating costs.  But since organic costs so much more, I estimated our food costs at about 36%, which meant that labor had to offset it.  The way this could be accomplished was to pay a lower employee wage and make it up to everyone using the house gratuities.  Only, I never actually shared all this backstory this with everyone, and certainly not in enough detail that they knew what to expect.  So I apologized for neglecting to do this and gave everyone a complete description of the plan and the theory behind it.  We have lost a few people here and there, but I think overall the family is sticking together and while many of our servers would otherwise still prefer to keep their own tips, the pay is actually pretty good and the busier we are the more everyone takes home.

zeal_food_patio_earlyspringEveryone is looking forward to the warm weather and opening up the Zeal to Pearl St.  As part of the remodel of the space we occupy at 1710 Pearl St., we installed two eight-foot wide garage doors smack in the center of the front wall and can’t wait to have these open on a regular basis as warm weather sets in this Spring.  On Sunday March 9th I posted a picture on our Instagram page of what’s to come: it was a 70 degree day and a day full of sunshine and Pearl Street was alive with activity.  At about 1:00pm, and for the very first time, we opened both doors all the way up and they stayed wide open for about 3 or 4 hours.  It was a real scene to be proud of as the owner of this beautiful new restaurant, and people filled our outdoor patio, filled the restaurant, and even occupied the sidewalk outside of the patio talking to friends who were inside the railing.  Ah, it was a coming of age moment for this place.  Bring it on!

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