Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Warmth on a Cold Day


We woke up this morning to a beautiful blanket of snow. Well, most people around here are getting quite tired of it, but I still love it. One of the comfort foods I enjoy when it snows is Pho. When we're up for the drive to Federal Blvd., the home of Denver's best Vietnamese joints, we head over to Pho 79. It's a bit harder to get out there for lunch, however, so we are happy to have Parallel 17 close at hand. Just outside of downtown at 17th and Franklin is one of the coolest little spots, with GREAT Pho! Yup, I used both caps and an exclamation mark in that last sentence. Parallel 17's Pho deserves it.

If you don't know Pho, (pronounced "fuh", according to the folks at the Parallel) it is a Vietnamese noodle soup with herbs and vegetables. An excellent New York Times article, from serveral years ago, described it as the "national breakfast of Vietnam." In the places that specialize in Pho, the steaming hot beef broth and rice vermicelli is served with any one (or more) of a myriad of protein choices. There is beef tenderloin, tripe, tendon, brisket, meatballs; also some serve chicken or shrimp selections. This beautiful bowl is presented with a plate of fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, mint), limes, chiles, bean sprouts and sauces (hoison, sriracha hot sauce, etc). Then you go at it, creating your own flavor combinations. A Vietnamese profesor mentioned in the NYTimes article that "pho could be taken to mean ''your own bowl.'' While most other foods are served communally, soup, he said, is a rarity among Vietnamese dishes in that it is created individually for the individual." So don't be afraid to try mixing it up.

If you ARE a Pho-natic (so much better that a Pho-Nazi, sorry), you might wonder at Parallel 17's Pho potential. First of all, you say, "it's in Uptown"; strike one. Second, it is a beautiful little corner storefront; too, clean to infuse the broth with the appropriate depth; strike two. Third, the music and general vibe of the place is more Soho than Saigon; and your out! But hold on a minute "ump", give this place a chance. Let me explain my criteria for good Pho. It's simple, the broth has to be great. Deep and rich, lots of beef bones cooking for a long time.

Parallel 17 has it.

Monday thru Friday, Pho is what's for lunch (11:30 - 2:30) at Parallel 17. My favorite is the beef "carpaccio" pho plus oxtail. This "carpaccio" is very tender, rare, thinly sliced beef that cooks-up to a medium-well in your boiling broth. Yum, got's to try it! Grab your chops and slurp up those noodles, don't be afraid to splash around. I seem to ruin a good shirt everytime I have Pho, but it's worth it. You'll sweat a bit, or alot if you spice up your bowl. On a cold winter day, isn't that a what you need? Let the Russians have their banya and the hipsters can have their Yoga, I'll sweat it out in my Pho at Parallel 17!

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