If you are what you eat, then we are what we produce.
A glance at a new store's shelves reveals that Southwest Colorado is a unique blend of communities sprinkled with
zesty subcultures. There's something for everyone: granola with hemp for tree-hugging liberals, traditional jams for
conservative ranching families, elk sausage for rugged outdoorsmen - even curry-coconut peanuts to satisfy big-city
Mountain Air Gourmet Co. opened in late June at 600 Main Ave. under The Balcony Bar & Grill - arguably the
busiest tourist corner in town. The business features gourmet foods from Colorado with a focus on the Durango area.
Co-owner Richard Burk sees himself as a culinary ambassador for out-of-town visitors.
"We don't want to be a grocery store," he said. "We want people to get a sense of the flavor of Durango."
Burk shares ownership of the store with his wife, Lenda, and Eric and Kay Kiesel. The original idea for the store was
to create a business around manufacturing foods locally, but it didn't pan out.
"There's a lot - and such a variety - of really good food here, we decided we could sell that instead," said Burk.
The shop offers shelf-stable items from Colorado and a large selection of local favorites such as Zuberfizz sodas, Ricky's Lucky Nuts, Desert Sun coffee, Honeyville honeys and San Juan Mountain Mustard. By mid-August, the owners
plan to open an adjoining room exclusively for tasting Sutcliffe wines from Cortez.
Many Durango stores carry local food products, including Nature's Oasis, Durango Natural Foods, Sunnyside Farms
Market, grocery stores and other downtown merchants. But Mountain Air Gourmet Co. is unique in that it focuses
specifically on regional foods, and often carries the full line of flavors in a given brand. The owners also create
pre-made gift baskets ($25, $35 and $45) or a make-your-own basket option.
"It is great to have a shop featuring exclusively local and regional products - the more we can showcase local food
entrepreneurs the better," said Jim Dyer, director of Durango's Farm to School program and a local-foods advocate.
"My hope is that we can connect more and more local growers with these entrepreneurs so we can reap even more of the
Mountain Air products aren't cheap. But spending $10 on a special jar of salsa as a gift or for a special meal is a
way of voting with your wallet to support local businesses instead of big-box stores. Many of the products in the
store include organic ingredients and are not highly processed.
Making a political statement is easy, because the food is darn tasty. The shop is a fun place to graze, and tasting
is encouraged. Burk said there will be up to six products to sample every day.
"If you're from out of town, you may not be familiar with Durango Diner's Green Chile Sauce. People may not be used
to eating Southwest cuisine. But if you get a taste of it, you know it's absolutely delicious. We sell a great deal
Here's a handful of newer local products from Mountain Air Gourmet Co. that were taste-tested last week:
bBar-B-Que Potato Chips from the Chip Peddler in Durango (2 ounces, $2.40). The smoky flavor is pronounced, and the
chip itself is thin, light and addictive. The chips, made at 286 Sawyer Drive in Durango, thankfully lack the long
list of processed ingredients in big-brand potato chips, and are made with only potatoes, spices and sunflower oil.
bElk Summer Sausage from Colorado Elk & Game Meats, with meat from Montrose (10 ounces, $11.75). The flavor is
salty with a pronounced hickory flavor that's surprisingly un-gamey.
bPeach Salsa with JalapeÃ±o, Ginger & Spices from High Desert Foods in Dolores (16 ounces, $10.20). The salsa is
certified organic. It is chunky and quite spicy. The heat of ginger and jalapeÃ±o are balanced by the sweetness of
bCherry Walnut Homemade Granola with Hemp Seeds from Waves of Grain (12 ounces, $7.98). The Lemon-Ginger Almond is
well known around town, but this flavor is not often available. It's nutty with a pleasantly seedy texture that's
very filling. The majority of the good-for-you ingredients are organic, including flax seeds, oat bran, kasha and
oats. Food purists will appreciate that the product contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and is
homemade in small batches.