The Latest

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 or posting and sharing with us on Facebook or Instagram #zealfood

Zeal Recipes: Diavolo Sauce

They say good food is best enjoyed when it’s shared with the ones you love… and we couldn’t agree more! That’s why we’re going to be sharing some of our most popular recipes via newsletter and here on our blog. First, we thought we’d share one of our popular made-from-scratch sauces:

Diavolo sauce


Diavolo sauce has been a staple of our menu since we opened. We have customers who order this bright, bold, and spicy sauce on their eggs for breakfast, on their BYO bowls as the primary sauce, or as a side dipper sauce with our Hummus or Fingerling Potatoes. It is the featured sauce of our Cauliflower Hot Wings and one of the three sauces served with our Plantains.  It’s a great sauce to share with our fans because it is both versatile and incredibly simple to make; it’s possibly the easiest on our menu.

The beauty of Zeal’s Diavolo Sauce recipe is its combination of heat and acidity. The secret is the Peperoncino Calabrese which we source from Italy’s Calabria Region, the “toe” of the boot and the southernmost land in Italy along the Mediterranean. These peppers have a mildly fruity taste and aroma in their expression of spicy heat. This sauce gets its high acidity from lemon juice which helps to move the spice along quickly so that you don’t feel your mouth burning after each bite. You feel the heat, but then it sort of disappears and you go back for more of it. Garlic and a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil add to the aroma, and the piney contribution of rosemary completes the flavor profile.

For those of you who regularly make your own vinaigrette at home, this recipe will be a snap! Assemble the following ingredients – makes 1 pint of sauce:

  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup Pepperoncino Calabrese (Calabria peppers), stems and some of the seeds removed**
  • 1 cup olive oil, in something you can easily pour gradually
  • Pinch of Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, or to taste

Setting aside the olive oil until the end, combine the remaining ingredients in your blender or food processor and blend. Begin on low or pulse and take it up to high to blend as much as it will go.

Next, begin to add your olive oil in a slow steady stream while with your blender or food processor running. The sauce will begin to emulsify. Stop the blender and taste for consistency and flavor. At this point you can blend it even more if it needs to be smoother or enjoy it immediately.

Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

**Calabrian Peppers are challenging to find. Whole Foods doesn’t carry them but I found them on Pearl Street at Bayleaf for $20, which was kind of pricey for the size. I also found them online from a store called Supermarket Italy, and the nice thing here was the price $7.99 and the condition which is already crushed and stemmed, and ready to go right out of the jar – Tutto Calabria Crushed Hot Chili Peppers

Note: For making the sauce it really helps to have one of those high-powered blenders in your kitchen, but you can get quality results with a regular blender or food processor (but you might consider dicing or even grinding the rosemary with a mortar and pestle so that you don’t end up with bits of rosemary in the final sauce).

Meet Chef Leslie White

Dialing in the right chef-owner combo is not unlike finding the right husband or wife.  There are the long hours occupying the same space, sacrifices made to operate the business, accountability to show up, keep your word, and work hard to put food on the table.  You gotta work together well, particularly in stressful times, share a common vision, drop the ego battles and communicate effectively.  In this regard I feel lucky to have crossed paths with Chef White, a man who loves to cook, works collaboratively with others, takes a lot of pride in the food he plates, and enjoys the heat of the kitchen.

We met this summer at a 4th of July BBQ at Boulder Lamb and hit it off.  Typical of any good candidate, he was happily employed and not particularly looking for a change, but after a few visits to Zeal and several conversations the opportunity looked promising.  And not only did we get Chef White, but he brought along his trusty sidekick as well, helping us secure a team at the helm of the kitchen crew.  So the dynamic duo, or dream team, as I rotate calling them, Chef Leslie White and Chef Patrick Cook, took over in early October and have been superb at refining the menu and operations of our all important food program.  Come in and try some of their new contributions to the menu.
Their first change was to bring all of the desserts in-house (the vegan fudge and cheesecake are must trys).  Then they got started on the new seasonal fall menu released at the start of the November.  A delicious new Seared Rainbow Trout dish with Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash, a new Lamb and Beef Braise, Chicken and Water Chestnut Butter Lettuce Wraps, Shrimp Piccata and a Waldorf Chicken Sandwich, just to name a few of the delicious new contributions to the Zeal menu.  NEXT UP: New Breakfast Dishes….I can’t wait!


Conscious Cleanse November Dinner Recap

Braving the sudden and severe cold snap that hit Boulder on November 11th, about 50 people detoxifying their bodies under the loving care of Jo & Jules and the Consciouse Cleanse gathered at Zeal for a rare cleanse-friendly dinner out.  Chef White prepared a special menu for the event offering up possibly the most beautiful vegan plate we’ve ever seen. It was a grilled heirloom purple cauliflower and black bean hummus with avocado dressing and topped with bright yellow-orange carrots that Oxford Gardens rescued from frozen destruction on Monday the day before the zero degree weather dropped in.  The bright pan seared carrots resembling slices of cantaloupe topped off this colorful plate rich in phytonutrients and bursting with flavor. Wild salmon with a cauliflower mash topped with mint lemon chimichurri for those preferring a more protein rich meal.  You really couldn’t go wrong, and I noticed many couples sharing bites of their plates with one another.
This was our third and final conscious Cleanse dinner of 2014, and the first time we filled all our available tables for this single seating event. It was really great seeing everyone enjoying themselves, and celebrating their commitment to wellness and their will power to shun those foods that wreak havoc on our bodies.  For more information on the Conscious Cleanse stop in and pick up Jo & Jules amazing book on your next visit to Zeal or any bookstore. Or go to for more information.
The first Cleanse in 2015 begins January 23 and the next Zeal-Conscious Cleanse dinner is scheduled for February 3Everyone is welcome, by the way, whether you’re doing the cleanse or not this is a night to be enjoyed by all!

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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