Friday, January 30, 2009

Under My Very Nose: WaterCourse Cafe

Often times in Downtown, things pop-up unannounced. They could be right around the corner, and you'd never know about it.

Thanks to a post on the DDP Blog, I found out that one of my favorite restaurants, WaterCourse Foods has opened an outpost on the corner of 17th & Market. If you don't know, WaterCourse is a vegetarian, often vegan, restaurant that has it's own bakery. The bakery, in Capitol Hill, supplies vegan/gluten-free baked goods to all of WaterCourse's shops as well as the public.

Now you can get their baked goods, vegetarian panini sandwiches, and coffee drinks (Pablo's roast) at this new downtown location. The bakery case includes muffins, cookies, scones, cupcakes and quiche. Prices might be a bit more than you expected to pay, but the product is fresh, local and uses top quality ingredients.
I was a bit confused when I read that this new location was being called the WaterCourse Cafe @ the Aveda Academy. Having been a regular at the Academy last year, I couldn't imagine how in the world they could fit a cafe into that space. So of course, I had to check it out. What has happened, is that the Aveda Academy has greatly expanded since last fall. They've opened up their area through to 17th St. On the corner of 17th and Market, they've set-up a new reception area that shares a beautiful airy space with the WaterCourse Cafe.

The Cafe itself is not very large. The seating area is limited to a nice narrow counter and stools facing the window onto 17th St. It's actually quite a needed addition to street scene on 17th. It has always seemed that this part of town was a bit dark and "financial", if you get me. This whole set-up is refreshing, yummy, and in my opinion, a good partnering with Aveda.

WaterCourse Cafe @ the Aveda Academy
1380 17th St
Denver, CO 80202

Open Mon - Fri 7am to 6pm
Sat 8am - 5pm
Closed Sun

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Deep-Fried Chinese Bread

One of the simple pleasures of life is fresh bread. Usually we associate bread with European culinary traditions. Often overlooked are Asian breads.

If you'd like to try something a little different, you need to get over to JJ Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Alameda. I think most people stuff themselves silly before they realize that they can get a dessert here. It's actually on the appetizer portion of the menu, maybe that's where it should be, I'm not sure. All I know is that I always save room for an order of the Deep-fried Chinese bread.

Don't take this home, you need to eat it freshly made. It's steaming hot inside, beautifully shiny on the outside. It comes with a little bowl of condensed milk, yum! The first layer is soft and spongy, the center is a denser, yellow, braided core of dough.
With a nice pot of jasmine tea, this serves as a great dessert. One order is 3 buns split in half and should be enough for 4 people, as long as you're willing to share.
You are willing to share, right?

JJ Chinese Seafood Restaurant
2500 W Alameda Ave.
Denver, CO 80219

Yelp Reviews


Every so often I run across a food related picture, ad, or graphic that I just need to share. You'll find them under my FFFFOOD label, since I find many of them on FFFFOUND.

Here is today's pic. Breaks my heart; I know because I'm laughing 'til the tears come.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Speakin' of Tongues

What in the world? Last week I was thrilled to come home and find this sitting on our kitchen counter.
Not for the squeamish, but if you'd like, you can click on the picture above to get a close-up. It might help you to identify the "mystery meat". After simmering for a few hours with garlic and spices, you let it cool. Then proceed to peal it and take off any excess fat. Now you can dice it into half-inch cubes.

Beef tongue or lengua is one of the under-appreciated fillings for Mexican tacos. Most people just think of the basic carne asada, carnitas, or al pastor if they're feeling adventurous. The tender and flavorful tongue, however, is among the most addictive fillings you can wrap your tortilla around.
Don't get too crazy with the dressing on this taco. Traditionally all you need is some diced white onion, cilantro, and a little salt and lime. A shot of salsa verde will round it out.

Sorry I can't invite you all over for tacos de lengua, but in Denver I'd recommend that you visit Taqueria Patzcuaro (on W. 32nd), El Taco de Mexico (on Santa Fe Drive), or your local taco truck for the taste that tastes you back.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm Drinking the Kool-Aid: Olive Oil Flavor

At the corner of 15th and Market, in an old brick building with Gothic windows, you'll find gourmet heaven. This erstwhile temple of fine art, is now a temple of refined taste, since Fuller Fine Art moved out and the EVOO Marketplace moved in. Mick Major, owner of EVOO Marketplace has introduced Denver to a concept that's long overdue. Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar are being given true respect and not just lip-service here.

Plenty of places sell oil and vinegar in Denver, so what's all the fuss about? Walk into this beautiful shop and you'll find out. No clutter, no potpourri and cutsie gifts to distract you from the main attraction. Lined up, front and center are a two rows of gleaming stainless steel containers (fusti I believe they're called) with a spigot. Each one is filled to the brim with liquid ambrosia. Probably a dozen varieties of olive oils from around the world: Italy, Greece, Spain, California. Different varieties, pure or infused: Frantoio, Arbequina, Manzanillo, basil, garlic, white truffle... And the Balsamics don't lag behind: pear, apple, black cherry...
The real king, however, is the 18 year-old balsamic. Wow! Give me a bottle of this and I'll be pulling on it all day; one sip at a time.

As soon as you walk in the door, Mick or one of the staff will help you get your bearings. The purists are pointed to the little cups that are stacked next to each spigot, waiting for you to pour yourself a little oil or balsamic. This is a nice way to go so that you can inhale the deep and rich aroma of each of these special ambers. Then throw it back and savor it's richness as it coats the tongue. On their own or mixed in creative combinations, you'll be enthralled as you sample the great variety of tastes and aromas. For those a bit reluctant to sip on olive oil, bah!, you'll find cubes of fresh baked bread from the Denver Bread Company (EVOO Marketplace also sells select loaves from the DBC).

The simplicity of the concept, the clean feel of the shop, the variety of choices, and most importantly the freshness and quality of the product, set EVOO Marketplace apart. Nowhere else will you have access to this many choices and the ability to taste and be educated by those that really care about your experience. Wine is not the only precious liquid that should be investigated in a meaningful way. Here you can do just that with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Once you identify the oil or vinegar you can't do without, Mick will bottle it up for you, cork it, seal it, and you're set. Oh yeah, you do have to pay first. Prices range from about 12 to 18 per bottle, depending on how rich your palate is. But you can be sure that after sampling the goods at the EVOO Marketplace, your palate will never settle for less!

EVOO Marketplace
1338 15th St.
Denver, CO 80203


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Hill Report: Your Home Slice

13th Avenue on the Hill has it's share of neighborhood pizza providers. Here's a quick guide for your next walk in the 'hood.

If you're walking up from Broadway, you'll probably first encounter City o'City at 13th and Sherman. A vegetarian pub/coffee shop that makes great pizza.

For the sake of accuracy I must include the Domino's Pizza, if you can call it pizza.

Within the next two blocks of 13th you'll find a couple of places that serve good pizza-by-the slice, as well as whole pies: Pizzicato at Pennsylvania and Benny Blanco's just past Pearl.

Let's start with Benny Blanco's. This is the place where the term "hole in the wall" was coined. To say it is small is an understatement. Word of warning; the leggy pizza girl watching over the patrons of this establishment has no basis on reality. I'm not discussing her anatomical proportions, I'm just saying that the guys dishing-up the pizza here have nothing in common with this saucy rendition of Saint Pomidora, patron saint of the midnight-pizza patron (yeah, I DID just write that sentence, y que?). So while your checking out Saint Pommy on the wall, (you lech!) one of the rude boys behind the counter will be throwing your selected slice into the oven and then flopping it onto a paper plate.
Either the blasting music will drive you out, or one of the guy's will after they take your two bucks. That's ok, you need to get out of there anyway so you can dig into your perfect slice of peperoni before it gets cold on you. Nice crisp edges on a nicely foldable triangle of salty peperoni and gooey cheese. No fancy stuff, just some solid grub for the street. Open until 3a.m., what else you want?

Benny Blanco's Slice of the Bronx
616 E. 13th St.
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 831-1346

On that same outing walk, I swung by Pizzicato to find out what their peperoni slice to go was like. For more info on Pizzicato, check out my review here.

On this pizza-by-the-slice outing here's what I found. 75 cents more and 30% smaller, but yeah, it was better. The quality of the ingredients is noticeably superior. If you can live without Saint Pommy, and you cravings are more gastronomic than simply quantitative, go to Pizzicato. If, however, you're just looking for a good, quick fix, then don't forget about Benny Blanco's.

1300 Pennsylvania St.
Denver, CO 80203

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Turkey Thing: Tinga Poblana de Pavo

One of the classics of Mexican cuisine is Tinga Poblana. Cafe Tacuba in Mexico City was my introduction to the tinga and I've been trying to get this taste experience back ever since. Maybe it was the atmosphere of the place, but the food tasted more authentic somehow.

This dish has been adopted all over the country, with infinite variations. However, there are a couple of constants; chipotle peppers and chorizo. These core ingredients provide a depth to the dish that is vital. I used shredded turkey meat instead of pork for this dish. Seeing that the indigenous Mexican cultures have been raising and eating the guajolote (turkey) for centuries, I think this is a legitimate substitute. I also substituted canned tomatoes for fire roasted fresh tomatoes. Sorry, I was in a hurry.

So here it is, my latest, greatest stab at this dish.

Tinga Poblana de Pavo (Serves 4)
2 slices of thick-cut bacon
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1/2 a link of Mexican chorizo
1/4 tsp. of ground pepper
1/4 tsp. of ground cumin powder
1-14 oz. can of diced tomato
2 chiles chipotle in adobo, diced
1 stick of cinnamon
4 cloves
2 cups of shredded turkey (dark meat)
3 tbls. brown sugar (piloncillo if you have it)
2 tbls. cider vinegar
2 tsps adobo sauce (from can of chipotles)
salt to taste

Start out by frying up the chopped bacon, just until it starts crisping. Set it aside on a paper towel and drain off most of the fat from the pan. Leave just enough fat to saute the onions and garlic until they are soft, about 2 minutes.

Take off the casing of the chorizo and add it to the pan. With a wooden spoon start breaking up the chorizo and cook it for about 3-4 minutes stirring frequently. (Note: I use pork chorizo that isn't too fatty, if your chorizo isn't lean, you might want to start it off in another pan to render off some of the excess fat.) Add the bacon back into the pan and add the pepper and cumin. Cook 2 more minutes.Now add the tomatoes, diced chipotles, cinnamon, and cloves. (Note: if you use fresh roasted tomatoes, you might need to add a 1/2 cup of chicken stock to have enough liquid for this step.) Cook this at a low simmer for about 15 minutes, partially covered, stirring every 5 minutes.Add the turkey meat, sugar, vinegar, and adobo sauce. Bring back to a simmer and cook covered for another 10 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt accordingly.Here's what your tinga will look like, notice it isn't dry, it has a nice red sauce. You can adjust the amount of extra adobo sauce that you add based on your tolerance for heat.

You can dress this dish up or down, depending on what type of meal you are preparing for. It's really good as a taco filling. Heat up some corn tortillas and throw some cilantro and red onions on top with a splash of lime. Casual but a nice step up from basic carne asada.

We decided to plate this up with white rice and trimmings. I had thinly sliced some red onion and left it for an hour in a glass bowl with some white wine vinegar and a little sugar. We sliced some avocado and chopped up some cilantro and key-limes. Plate this all together and warm up some tortillas, your set. We accompanied this with some Mexican-style lager from Del Norte brewing of Denver, perfect!

Buen Provecho!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dashboard Dud?

You can't blame me for trying, just look at that sign. Doesn't it call to you? Taqueria, panaderia, restaurante, joyeria, carniseria! It's like everything you could want or ever need. I'm sure if you ask, they'll even fix your mofle and sell you a used troca.

This strange establishment on the corner of 40th and Tejon looks like it has been through many incarnations, and it is appears to have stalled in in the middle of its latest morphing. Some kind of moth that didn't quite make it out of it's cocoon and is already trying to serve carnitas while dodging moth-balls.
So in the interest of you, my dear readers, I decided to give the tacos a spin; and hope they didn't give my stomach a spin. To begin with, the kitchen was highly suspect. Though there were only three people sitting in the "dinning room", there were at least four cooks from what I could tell, and a slew of "ancillary service providers". Honestly, I think it was just that the kids weren't in school and all the tios and tias were killing some time with the family.
If you've feasted at any of the taco trucks in town, you'll know exactly what to expect on the menu. All the taco, burrito, and torta standards are represented. I ordered tacos de lengua and buche, but was shot down, "no hay, se nos acabo". I tried the standards: 2 tacos de carnitas y 2 de asada. I walked across the eerily empty old grocery space and found a fridge with Coca and Cidral and grabbed my drink. Then back to the hole-in-the-wall kitchen counter to pick up my Styrofoam treasure chest and on to the cash register at the front. $5.70 paid and out the door to my car's waiting dash board.
Here's what I found:
Two tacos of beautifully cooked carne asada and two tacos of chopped carnitas on a double corn tortilla. Simply served with fresh diced tomato. Inexplicably, there was a little pile of shredded orange cheese in the middle of the tacos. A minor confusing distraction, let me get back to the meat. The carnitas were cooked just right, but had too much fat on them. Combine this with a tortilla that had been warmed on a greased comal (griddle) and watery salsa verde; WOW, what a mess.

The asada (pictured here), was a much better option. Except for needing salt, they were very well prepared. I'd prefer a salsa roja for these, but the green was just fine. Tender beef, perfectly grilled and then fried up for a very satisfying taco.

My conclusion? Rather mixed I'm afraid. If you are looking for some basic taco truck food, find yourself a taco truck! If your'e in the 40th and Tejon area and want this kind of food, then definitely stop in at the crazy Mercado Perez.

Mercado Perez III
40th and Tejon St.
Denver, CO