Jul 18, 2019 03:51PM
● By Leland Rucker
If you’ve been in Boulder for any length of time, or even if you’re new, you’ve probably heard about Shine Restaurant & Potion Bar, the bright, airy eatery in the Village Shopping Center (2480 Canyon Blvd.). It’s owned and operated by the Emich triplets, Jennifer, Jessica, and Jill, who have spent the last few years integrating Shine into the city’s thriving wellness and local-cuisine scene.
The trio, aka the Blissful Sisters, grew up in New Jersey in a large, hard-working Italian family where food was always a big part of their lives. They worked in their uncle’s grocery together as kids, which began a lifelong interest that continues to this day. Jessica and Jill went to culinary school and got their degrees, working in and managing restaurants to help fund their educations. Jennifer taught English in Costa Rica for a while.
In a story recognizable to many who wind up in the area, Jill relates. “Jessica was dating a guy from Boulder. I was dating his best friend and so we came out to visit,” she says. “We sat on a patio somewhere, and we had a bottle of wine, then we had a second bottle of wine. And we were like, ‘We have to move here.’ We just felt that vortex of Boulder. It was really this energy that pulled us in. We felt that this was our place.” Less than a year later, in 2000, the sisters opened Trilogy Wine Bar and Lounge just off the Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder. Trilogy soon became a well-known party destination, especially with its small back room where touring acts played live music. It was, the sisters readily admit, a crazy learning curve that began for them at age 24.
“We had to get serious and disciplined and understand money, what was coming in, where we were spending it,” Jessica says.
Jill adds: “We worked around the clock. Trilogy was where we worked, where we partied, where we played.” After nine years, they all were burnt out. “When we sold it, we were like, ‘That was fun, and we’re never doing it again.’”
Lots of things changed in the next couple of years. Jessica had her first child. Jennifer married and was diagnosed with breast cancer, which brought the family together to help her through her ordeal. Eventually, after Jennifer’s recovery, the sisters returned to the idea of another restaurant.
So, three years after they sold Trilogy, they opened Shine. “We had people asking [what was next]. We had gone through a lot individually and together as sisters,” Jill says. “We always did farm-to-table cuisine. Jessica has her master’s in holistic nutrition, so we really dove into the nutritional value of the food, and where it all comes from.”
Under executive chef Jessica’s direction, Shine uses organic ingredients whenever possible. Everything is made from scratch in a totally gluten-free kitchen. Jessica works with several local farmers to provide produce and protein.
She says that though it’s more difficult and time consuming than just ordering from a distributor and having ingredients delivered, local partnerships are essential to Shine’s purpose and success. All meats are 100 percent locally grass-fed. “For us, it really comes down to the relationship with the farmer,” Jessica says. “I go direct to them so they know what we need and what I’m going to buy. It takes time to create that relationship. Nothing we use comes from further than 10 miles from here.”
Those personal relationships work both ways. “I also want to go out and see what the farmers are doing, let them talk about it.” Jessica says. “We cut out the middleman in order to let them get more money, and then that helps us get a better deal.”
Besides its food, Shine is known for its libations, potions, and tonics. The concoctions incorporate all the sisters learned over the years about juices, herbs, flowers, gemstone essences, and sound frequencies. Or as the menu says: “Enchanting beverages that transform your experience to nourish from the inside out so you can SHINE from within.”
When they first created the potions, Jessica admits, they were fun to do and perhaps a bit kitschy. “But people were saying ‘This stuff works. Where can I get it?’ Or then they come back in a certain mood and want a different one. So people kept hounding us. ‘We want more of this.’” So they began experimenting and created several distinct flavors and fragrances. Three Laughing Monks, for instance, blends spiced black cherry and lemon juices, honey, ginger root, reishi mushroom, cinnamon, astragalus, basil, amla berry, and nutmeg, whose flower essence is pathfinder and sound frequencies are “belly laughter” and “monks chanting.”
I can’t claim that it made me laugh or chant, but this is not like drinking a soda. Flavors and sensations bounce around your tongue, changing with every swallow. “They are all adaptogenic herbs,” says Jill. “They balance your stress hormones so they work with your own individual body. If you’re feeling tired and run down, it’ll lift you up. If you’re feeling anxious and generally jittery at all, it will kind of bring you in balance. What’s so beautiful about these herbs is they work with your own unique being.”
I ordered one of the biggest sellers, the Golden Eagle, which combines turmeric, albizia, tulsi basil, Colorado honey milk, orange peel, gotu kola, and vanilla star anise with a kicker of CBD oil. “The herb called albizia is the bark of a tree called the tree of happiness,” Jill says. It was full, frothy, and delightful.
Shine offers CBD and B12 shots for any of its drinks and potions. Like all their ingredients, the cannabidiol comes from a local company that provides water-soluble, full spectrum CBD in tincture form. “We also do CBD cheesecakes and put [tinctures] in our desserts,” says Jill, who has found CBD helpful for her own anxiety. “People can order it on the side, they can add it to any of their drinks. You can even put it in your water here. We sell a ton of CBD.”
Keeping things localized while remaining competitive in an upscale, ever-changing market like Boulder is challenging. “We really want this to be a community place,” says Jessica. “It’s really hard to know that you should eat local, you should eat organic, but then you can’t afford it. So we’re really trying keep our menu at a level where it’s affordable.”
Being open to change is just part of the experience. Their recipe book, Eat, Drink, Shine: Inspiration From Our Kitchen, published in 2016, tells the sisters’ unique stories and shares recipes and tips on everything from soaking nuts to philosophies about food’s important part in life.
“Everybody says Boulder’s changing, but there’s so much change happening everywhere,” says Jill. “So let’s think about where we’re spending our money, how we’re spending our money, what we’re supporting. We want you to know when you are eating here, your dollars are going not only to the restaurant, they are going full-circle.”
As Jessica puts it: “People are voting with their dollars.” Spending even a “magic hour” at Shine is a vote for food that’s sourced locally, grown organically, and prepared holistically to nourish the community from the inside out.