chosen and done-1560What: Gluten-free cuisine with a side of whimsy

Where: Shine, A Gathering Place, 2027 13th Street in Boulder

When: Saturdays and Sunday, 10am-3pm

Pros: Shine is not just a restaurant. As its name suggests, it is a place to meet friends (or strangers who will become friends) and share an experience. Intricate local art adorns the walls, the bar is lined with tinctures made in the potion room in the back (more on this below), and the kitchen is entirely gluten-free, a choice that has led to more playful culinary choices rather than being treated as a restriction.

Cons: This place is meant for relaxing. The staff is not in a hurry, so if you are, Shine is not for you. And while the food, for the most part, benefits from Shine’s focus on nutritious approaches to cooking, the paleo-centric grain-free cuisine can still take some getting used to.

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Do you believe in magic? At Shine in Boulder, it’s hard not to. Owned and run by triplet sisters Jessica, Jill and Jennifer Emich (former owners of Boulder’s Trilogy), this restaurant is filled with unique touches that reflect the sisters’ commitment to bring the community together with nutritious food and a sense of welcoming to all. And with plenty of space and free wifi, Shine is the perfect substitute for the same old coffee shop if you’re looking for somewhere to meet a group or get in some solo work time.

While it’s a bloody Mary or mimosa that kicks off a typical brunch, Shine is no typical brunch-spot. Though they have a great bottomless mimosa option with a welcome ginger-kick and a bloody Mary that was decent, though far from memorable, it’s the Potions that offer a one-of-a-kind start to your day. If there’s one word I heard the most while at Shine, it was “intention” and that’s exactly what makes these libations work. Created by Andy Bottagaro, a curly-haired, smiling man I found spending time in small potion lab in the back of Shine, these mixtures are filled with natural sodas, fruit juices, herbs and spices as well as less tangible ingredients like the essences of gemstones and flowers and even films and books like Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.

Sure, it takes some amount of belief on both the creator and the consumer’s part to fully feel the magic in these potions, but it’s muchmore fun to believe that the musky-green glass of Owl Eyes you are sipping will give you added clarity and focus than to be just a skeptic sipping a weird drink. Every potion is non-alcoholic but they can be used as mixers if you like a little booze with your magic. And soon they will be bottled and sold at Shine, making it the perfect host-gift for all of the upcoming holiday parties or a great way to start conversation at your own get together with a potion tasting.

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While Andy makes magic in the potion lab, Chef Nelson Schwab is doing the same in the kitchen. The brunch menu is full of surprises. Even go-to classics like Eggs Benedict gets a twist as it’s are made with an avocado-based, dairy free “hollandaise.”   Salads are not always the most exciting ordering choice, but the Mediterranean Salad here proves that when done right, salads can be a stand out. With big chunks of Jumping Good Goat’s Milk Feta, sprouted quinoa tabouli, marinated cucumbers, tender local chicken (optional) and some of Shine’s popular beet hummus, this was a meal that had new flavors bursting in every bite and left me feeling nourished rather than stuffed. On top were tiny yellow shreds of turmeric dusted onions that had been dehydrated to create the illusion of a crispy-fried onion topping.  Its small creative additions like that which make Shine a joy to explore.

The House Smoked Trout was another table-favorite. The crispy yam mash that accompanies it was nicely caramelized and the trout itself was flaky, tender and fresh. The 100% Grass Fed Local Beef Burger had a refreshing arugula pesto spread added and the gluten-free bun was the best of the bread options that I tried at Shine with its slightly sourdough flavor and chewy (not crumbly) texture.

The fact that these three sisters have been able to build their lives around the concepts, food, and people they love while working together is a bit of magic in and of itself. While this restaurant is gluten-free and Paleo friendly, that is not what defines it. Instead, it is defined by the energy created when people gather together with positive intention.

All photos by Eric Goitia