Sunday, December 23, 2007

Chilanga Banda

As much as I like living on Capitol Hill, it has it's disadvantages. On the one hand, we have a great selection of high-end restaurants that serve up amazing food, on the other hand, we have very few ethnic eateries worth mentioning.

There are places in strip-malls in the 'burbs that have the best Mexican, Vietnamese or Chinese food imaginable. But I'm so flojo that I rarely rouse myself to make the "trek". Really, it's not that far, but it feels like another country.

Last weekend we finally had an excuse to be out east and decided that it was "now or never" if we wanted to try a place I'd heard good things about: Tacos D.F. (2020 S. Parker Rd. Denver, CO 80231, 303-671-2986). The beauty of "Mexican" food lies in its diversity. There is just SO much to try. It varies from region to region and city to city. Mexico City (el DF) is it's own universe. 20 million people, from all over the country and the world converge on this ancient city and add their recipes and traditions. Wow, that's a rich broth!

Tacos DF is very different from the places you'll find on Federal. They tend to be predominantly NorteƱo establishments, mostly from Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila. You'll find a few from Michoacan or Guanajuato, not many. Chilango (from Mexico City) food is harder to find. When you drop into Tacos DF, you'll notice that even the look of the customers is different. Not so many vaqueros around here. Ok enough with the anthropology, the food is amazing. This is a taqueria so nothing fancy: tacos, tortas, quesadillas, sopes and sopas. We had the tacos, sopes, and quesadillas. The tacos de lengua (tongue) were flavorful and tender; tacos de cabeza (beef cheeks) were my favorites, not greasy, perfectly seasoned; tacos de asada (grilled steak with onions and tomato) were good. The tacos are $1.75, served plain, generous amount of meat, on a corn (store bought) tortilla; troca style.

The quesadillas are not your TacoBell variety. These are hand-made elongated corn tortillas, a wee bit o'cheese, your choice of filling, and then cooked on the comal (griddle). I chose the tinga filling, which is chopped chicken, cooked with onions, tomato and some bacon or chorizo. Wow, these are awesome! I had one of these in Morelia a couple months ago and I'm so glad I found a local source.

You'll find that the menus features sopas, basically soups. Pozole, I assume you know about. Consome and Pancita are less common up here. Down south, you can't properly start a meal unless you've had your little bowl of one of these. Consome is a clear lamb broth with garbanzo beans; Pancita is a beef broth, kind of like pho without the other stuff.

Tacos DF is basically a lunch truck with a small dinning room. Don't come for the ambiente, there isn't any. Just come for outstanding food from Mexico City and don't forget a big Styrofoam cup of tepache!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Denver's Best Cubano!

Since I first bit into a Cuban sandwich in New York, 10 years ago, I haven't been able to resist ordering one every time I see it on a menu. Here in Denver, where authentic Cuban cuisine is about as rare as pork for Passover, it is always in a non-Cuban restaurant. This, then makes it all the more surprising when you find a sandwich that is not only good, but actually crosses over into the legendary.

Enter the "South Florida Cuban Sandwich" at Pat's Cheesesteaks in Lodo. In my wife's opinion, this is the "best sandwich ever", I'll agree that it is the best Cuban style sandwich I've ever had. A nice chewy baguette filled with thinly sliced, seasoned roast pork and ham. Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard and pickles complete the perfect package. Oh, and don't forget the onion rings! I know, it's kind of a strange combo, but remember, your buying a Cuban sandwich at a Philly Cheesesteak-serving bar. Some things don't make sense, but when they taste this good, que me importa? Would Che approve? I'm not sure, though I'm sure he'd find the dark, underground location of Pat's a worthy hide-out.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Calorie Count: Vegetarian Edition

As you may or may not know, I'm a dropout from the Church of Vegan. For four years soy, in all of its myriad forms, was my friend. I still admire anyone who can stick to this regimen, I found it increasingly difficult to manage. Denver produce was neither as fresh nor as inexpensive as it was on the West Coast.

This last week, my wife's nephew dropped in for a week-long visit. The fact that he is a vegetarian was both a challenge and an opportunity. Needless to say we spent quite a bit of time at City 'o City and Watercourse. I love City 'o City, their vegetarian pizzas are some of the best in town, in my opinion. A thin crust with creative toppings always keep us coming back.

Watercourse, on the other hand, has not been my favorite. In the past I've used this blog to explain my dislike of their new space. I haven't changed my opinion on this point, but I must express my joy at rediscovering the great food they serve. The Toulouse for breakfast is one of the most perfect scrambles, I've had. Smoked portabellos, broccoli, artichoke hearts, swiss cheese, and eggs. Served with their wonderfully crisp home-fries, this is about perfect.

Today's lunch consisted of a portabella Reuben sandwich, tomato/coconut curry soup, garden salad, and onion rings. The soup was amazing, just the right spice and a nice creaminess. We can't go to Watercourse without getting the wonderful "milk" shake. Totally vegan but you don't miss the cream at all. As dessert, it is just right!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cakes Made in a Cup!

Longing for the days of the school bakesale? Check out this event downtown: Cupcrazed - Trendy Cupcake Bake Sale for Charity. From 11am to 4pm on Wendesday the 13th, some of the great bakers of Denver (aka "the capitol of high altitude baking) will be baking and selling some fabulous cupcakes in the 1670 Broadway atrium. Proceeds benefit one of the yummiest charities around Share Our Strength!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Oh, What's the Use!!!

So, I've embarked on reading The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. The idea is that he follows four meals from their component parts to his mouth. Simply fascinating! Also very frightening. Read this book and you might end up walking around muttering, "corn, corn, corn".... ad nauseum (ask my wife). The way we have messed with our food sources is quite sad. This first section, on the "industrial food machine" was sad but not surprising. I've entered the second section that talks about "industrial organic", embodied by the Whole Foods model. This is quite discouraging. I'm beginning to understand where the dilemma comes into the picture.

More about that and my further impressions of the book as I move forward. Let me know if you've read it.

New York Times review