Last month, we announced our most anticipated openings of 2015, which included Avanti Food & Beverage, a two-level food hall collective in LoHi that's scheduled to open in the spring. At the time, Avanti had announced five of its seven tenants, all of which are housed in self-contained shipping containers.
This week, Avanti released the names and concepts of its last two restaurants: MiJo, a globalized, Japanese-influenced noodle shop from chefs John DePierro and Michael Nevarez, both of Bones, and Farmer Girl, a farm-to-table concept courtesy of Tim Payne (pictured above), a pedigreed Colorado chef who's overseen several kitchens, including Z Cuisine and the now-closed Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar and and Terroir, in Longmont. With the additions of MiJo and Farmer Girl, Avanti is shaping up to showcase a diverse culinary lineup that also includes Quiero Arepas, a Venezuelan concept; Souk Shawarma, a Lebanese-inspired eatery from Jon Robbins, owner-chef of Bistro Barbes; PoCo Torteria, a torta shop from Kevin Morrison, chef-owner of Pinche Taqueria; Bixo, a modern Mediterranean spot from Marco Gonzales and David Bravdica’s Brava!, a wood-fired pizza creation.
We chatted with Payne, who also owns and operates The Tasterie food truck, about his vision for Farmer Girl, whose named is inspired by his farmer wife. Here's the scoop on his new endeavor.
The allure of Avanti: Payne, who closed Terroir in 2012, following the end of a five-year lease, bought his food truck in November of last year, and while the truck turns out terrific, world-spanning comfort food, Payne wanted to do a bona fide farm-to-table concept without breaking the bank. "I wasn't ready to take the six-figure plunge — or more — and do a build-out, especially in a booming metropolis like Denver where rents are high," he explains, adding that Avanti is "cutting-edge insomuch that it's giving business startups a space that's designed to mitigate financial risk and stimulate entrepreneurs without investor angles. Payne, who signed a two-year lease, the maximum allowed by Avanti's developers, also contends that the collective offers "how-to" support in terms of understanding the business side of launching a start-up restaurant. "No one teaches you that kind of stuff in culinary school, but Avanti eases the difficulties of navigating the bureaucratic red tape by providing all the necessary resources and giving all of its tenants a built-out kitchen, plus a bar program, which makes it a win-win," he notes.
The food: Payne and his wife, Melissa Newell, currently a manager at Duo, both have solid backgrounds in the local, sustainable and organic food movement, not to mention their own one-acre farm, from which he'll source produce. "Farmer Girl will have a hyper-seasonal menu," says Payne, "and we'll make use of the produce from our farm, as well as other local farms to showcase artisans, farmers and ranchers." Expect a constantly changing menu, including small plates and composed salads that are ingredient- and season-specific. Payne is still developing his menu, but since Farmer Girl will sprout in the spring, he's concentrating on produce that's available during Colorado's early growing season. "I'll have a picnic salad with baby spring vegetables — think braised radishes, roasted baby turnips, spring peas and roasted baby carrots," reveals Payne, which he'll pair with sauce gribiche, fingerling potatoes, smoked Colorado trout and fresh goat cheese whipped with spring herbs. "It's my version of salad Niçoise," he says. Weather patterns, he stresses, will play a big part in the what he serves. "During the summer months, we'll do light and refreshing dishes with more raw foods and acid, and in the winter, meats will likely become more of a focal point," he notes, and no matter the season, he'll highlight an array of grains and legumes.
Nothing preachy about it: Farm-to-table cooking has "become too pretentious and mostly associated with fine-dining," insists Payne, who's determined to alter that perception. While he's all for local, sustainable and organic food, Payne's goal is to eliminate the "preachiness" and simply create everyday cooking that's affordable for everyone. "We just want to put out an incredible product that people are interested in eating, and if that leads to a discussion about sourcing, great, but I'm not going to shout about it."
The details: 3200 Pecos Street. When Farmer girl opens at Avanti, it'll serve lunch and dinner seven days a week. And if all goes well, Payne's long-term goal is to roll the concept into a freestanding brick-and-mortar or launch a second food truck.