Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Motsu: Menudo Izakaya Style

Sometimes the fascination with another culture motivates me to try something that I haven't tried before.

Obviously menudo is a favorite of mine, but I've never tried cooking it. Then I checked out Mark Robinson's amazing and beautiful book Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook. Wow! I wanted to cook and eat everything in this book; I actually tried several of the recipes.

There is a pub in Tokyo that specializes in their Motsu which is a tripe soup or stew. The chef at this particular izakaya has a French culinary background and has added some interesting touches to the traditional recipe. Even the presentation and the garlic bread provides an interesting twist on this "lowly" pub fare.

Above is my attempt at Motsu; I must say it was divine. Just the right texture and the red wine and akamiso broth was amazing. I will be making this again soon. But at this moment, there is a pot of pozole con pata waiting for me at home. On a cold day like today, it's just right!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Alas! I've no place to go.

Here's the situation. I work Monday through Friday downtown; yes, 8 to 5. One of those people. I work-out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That leaves Tuesday and Wednesday.

What to do? Where to go?

I usually eat in the office and would rather leave it that way. However, sometimes I want to go out for a "lunch" break. Just get out of the office and read, write, or just relax.

I don't know where to go.

I went out for a walk today looking over my options. There are restaurants, bars, coffee shops, book stores, hotel lobbies, office building lobbies. None of interest or attractive. I finally decided to go get a coffee at the Brown Palace's shop and sit in the was closed for "x-mas decorating".

Coffee to go. Back to the office.

Am I dreaming of the past? Maybe a London club for the idle-rich aristocrat with nothing to do but read the paper over a scotch? Do I have to go to Starbucks?

Tell me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kiki's: The Second Round

Friday after work we needed to relax with some good food. Japanese sprung to mind and since we had things to do on South Colorado, we were happy to follow-up with Kiki's Japanese Restaurant.

We had visited this place a couple of months ago when I was on a Japanese kick. Last time we were there we had the Unadon Supreme; basically a rice bowl with avocado, masago, nori, and lots of unagi. We also tried an amazing katsudon; again, a rice bowl with chicken, onion, soy dressing, and a very undercooked egg.

This time we started with miso soup and pickles. We also ordered nigiri-zushi: unagi and hamachi (young yellowtail tuna). From previous experience, we knew the unagi would be delicious; but the hamachi was also very nice. These starters with our Kirin Ichiban, were perfect.

For our entrees we chose the beef yakisoba. This hot mess of stir-fried noodles, beef and vegetables, included rice. That was perfect! As we learned in Oishinbo, the mouth-feel of noodles with a "rice chaser" is amazing! Just slurp in the noodles, chew a couple of times, then shovel in some rice and chew some more. You must resist saying "ga-ga-ga" as you scoop the rice in; also resist screaming, "this is GREAT!" until you chew your food.

Our other entree was a combo plate. I have serious trouble making choices when it comes to new foods. I had the combination of chicken teriyaki and the tonkatsu (breaded and fried pork cutlet). I had had my first tonkatsu just a week ago at the Tokyo Express. Although I liked Tokyo's tonkatsu, Kiki's was so much more tender and juicy. Also the chicken teriyaki was wonderful. A very thin slice of breast very lightly grilled; VERY lightly grilled. Kiki's has a very light touch with their food; what could have been a dry, rubbery chicken covered in gobs of sticky sauce, was instead moist and tender...just barely cooked through.

There is so much more to try at Kiki's, I can't wait to go back. I will keep comparing Japanese restaurants in Denver. Though I'm not an expert; I hope to figure it out well enough to give you some solid recommendations. Any help and tips are greatly appreciated!
2440 S. Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80222

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Neighborhood, New Lunch Options

Well, today is the second day at my new job and I had to make a choice. For the last six years I've been working in the LoDo area of Denver. I had lunch down pat; I knew where on the street to find the best tacos, burritos and tamales. I knew where to have an expenses account lunch as well.

But I've moved, downtown to the land of the hi-rise. I've been a bit stumped as to where to go for lunch. Yesterday when my new colleagues treated me to a welcome lunch, I couldn't think of anyplace to go. The name of Earl's came up; since I hadn't been there yet, that's where lunch was.

Hmm, it was different. Maybe Hooter's with better design and a fancier menu? Ok, well thanks girls. No, not the Earl's Girls (do I have to follow that with a "TM"?); but to the ones that took me out for lunch.

Today, I was on my own and lost. I strolled out of the building and saw that Noodle's is opening a new spot down here. The staff was having a tasting. A block over, the Yard House is working on a new location. It kind of feels like the mall over on this side of town. Oh well, I thought, "when in Rome". So I jumped right into the food court of Republic Plaza...what a place! I looked around a bit, then was surprised to find a place called Tokyo Express. I've not seen a Japanese place in a food mall before so I had to try. The menu is actually very interesting: sushi, rice bowls, tempuras, and udons. I saw tonkatsu on the menu and had to order it; I was not disappointed. I started on with the 99 cent bowl of miso, it was rich and full of tofu and seaweed. The tonkatsu is a breaded and fried pork cutlet, served over rice with a huge side of steamed teriyaki vegetables. It takes about 5-6 minutes to prepare and is just right; crunchy on the outside and moist and flavourful inside.
I hope not to eat out everyday, but it's nice to have a place like Tokyo Express to fall back on.

(I almost finished the miso before I remembered to break out the camera, sorry!)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In Search Of: Noodle Kugel

Ever since reading Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union, I was intrigued by deli food. Specifically Jewish deli food as served in Alsaka. Ok, so that's not happening except in his alternate reality. Therefore, the next best option would have to be Kat'z Deli in New York in the middle of winter.

Most of the items that he mentions in the book, I could picture or at least had a certain level of familiarity with. Kugel, on the other hand, was completely alien to me. What could he be talking about, noodles being cut into squares? It took a trip to Kat'z to figure it out.

Wow! These were good! Moist, sweet, chewy and warm on a freezing day. I could eat a whole tray of these. Now my question to you: Where to find something like this in Denver? Leave me a comment if you have any ideas for me to try.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Oishinbo: The Ultimate Menu

I've been reading the amazing manga series Oishinbo by Karity & Hanasaki. If you are unfamiliar with it, it's a series about two competing newspapers in Japan coming up with the Ultimate/Supreme Japanese menu. It is an exploration of the world of traditional Japanese cuisine and its place in the modern world.

I've learned so much about Japanese food while reading this series, but I'm frustrated in not being able to actually taste what they are discussing. Also, not having a good foundation in the basic ingredients, makes it difficult for me to begin imagining what it is they are looking for as they explore the canon of Japanese food. I can only liken it to trying to describe what a good salsa and a bad salsa should taste like to someone who's never had a tomato or a chili pepper.

Though I continue reading with interest, it is starting to feel rather academic and sterile. Should I hold off on continuing and start doing some tastings? Should I figure out what dashi, miso, and shungiko taste like; maybe sample diferent ramens and udons?

After reading the Ramen and Gyoza edition of Oishinbo, we decided to go to Oshima Ramen on Hampden Avenue for dinner. I'm not sure what to say about it. What would Yamaoka think about this place? Again, not having any experience with real ramen or even it's basic ingredients, I'm not sure. My personal taste, influenced by pho tells me that it wasn't all that great. The broth wasn't very hot, though, it was very rich. The noodles were good, the pork was so-so. Hmm.

I'm going to have to do more research before I come to any conclusions. I will try Oshima Ramen again, and I will try some of the other Japanese restaurants in town. I promise, I'll pay more attention, and go beyond sushi.

As soon as I have something to report, I'll check in.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Cupcakes on the go

I'm not the world's biggest fan of cupcakes. I can have one per year and be quite happy, but there is something compelling about a cupcake truck. If you are dying to get cupcakes in creative flavors at all hours and in various locations around Denver, look up Cake Crumbs. My suggestion would be to go to their website and sign-up for Twitter updates. That way you'll always know where they are and what the flavor of the day is.

FYI, this snap was taken at the Denver Public Library book sale, they parked the truck on Broadway and were doing brisk business. That's a snowball on the right and a lemon-something on the left. Delicious!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Taste from the Dashboard: La Cascada

Today's "Taste from the Dashboard" is from La Cascada, a troca stationed on the north side of Colfax, just east of I-225. This far east on Colfax, food choices start to get a little sparse. Recently, however, trocas are filling in the gaps.

La Cascada serves tacos, tortas, tostadas, quesadillas, and burritos. Choices of meat are pretty standard for a taco truck: Asada, Carnitas, Buche, Lengua, and Al Pastor. Pictured at left is their Taco de Carnitas ($1.50). How was it? For a troca I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars. They were very generous with the carnitas, it wasn't greasy, it wasn't salty and in fact could have used some salt. The toppings were different, diced tomato and very finely shredded lettuce. I don't know where that idea came from and I would ask for the taco without next time.

Here's the torta de asada that I ordered ($4.00). This was infinitely better than the taco. I was afraid that the steak would be tough or gristly; it wasn't. As you can see the asasda was chopped and topped with lettuce, tomato, avocado. Their was the lightest schmear of beans on the toasted and buttered tellera bun, just right. This torta also could have used a dash of salt; that can be fixed and is better then dealing with salty food.

Their salsas are also the standard red, green and the avocado green. All very tasty, but milder than some might like. I have to say overall that La Cascada is understated with their seasoning, not necessarily a bad thing. Would I go back? Sure would! I'm curious to try their lengua and buche tacos. Give it a go when your out east and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tu Tambien?

Sometimes signing up for updates from the restaurants where you hang out actually pays off! Sunday was the day for my friends and I to cash in on the free Happy Hour that Tambien shot my way. Yup, free food and happy hour priced drinks for all my guests. Can't beat that!

We were served a couple of platters of sopes, tamales, quesadillas and empanadas. I LOVE the sopes at Tambien and Mezcal. I was also pleasantly suprised with the tamales; I'll have to get an order of those next time. Add to all that some cheap PBR and Tecate and the evening is set. Thanks to Erin and Lauli at Tambien for hooking us up.
250 Steele St.
Denver, CO 80206

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Denver's Top 25

5280 published a nice list of 25 top restaurants in the Denver area. Agree with many, I'll have to try the rest!

Check it out: 5280 Top 25

Celestial Bakery - Heavenly!

For days when you want to take your dim sum to-go, try the Celestial Bakery in the Asian center just south of Alameda and Federal.

They have beautiful baked goods and duck. We love to pick-up some coconut buns, bbq pork buns, lotus and bean curd buns, etc. You can grab a whole cooked duck for about $18 and a bag of steamed buns. Heat them up, chop up some scallions, add a bit of Hoison sauce and you have dinner!

Celestial Bakery
333 S. Federal Blvd.
Denver, CO 80219


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chebureki...yum! What a mess!

So I got the scoop on how to make a little something called Chebureki; consider it a Georgian empanada. Dough folded over finely ground and spiced lamb. Seal up the pocket then drop it into some hot oil. Sounded easy enough and I know for a fact they are delicious.

A TON! That's how many I can eat.

So yeah, the prep and assembly was easy as pie (that's a stupid saying, pie is hard!), anys I hadn't counted on the joy's of frying. Man it sucks! We rarely if ever...ok, never, deep fry anything. So needless to say this was an eye opening experience. Traditionaly these are sold out of food carts in the former Soviet Union. I can see why it's street food!

Yes, they were delicious. No, I don't have any pics. Everything was SO grease covered, I'm sure my camera would have slipped around like a wet bar of soap. If my wife lets me mess up her kitchen anytime soon I'll be sure to get you a recipe and some snaps.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Omphalos No More

On a semi-regular basis we are slapped out of our self-satisfied reverie; and it is a good thing that we are. The constant navel gazing that we subject ourselves to when it comes to the Denver restaurant scene is SO unhealthy. Like the small-town prom queen that fools herself into thinking that she really is the top; we in the Queen City of the Plains often make believe we have a "world-class" restaurant city.

We don't.

When Gourmet magazine was still around, every year we awaited to see if we would get our own region listing in the Restaurant Edition, sad. Go to Chowhound and we are in the Southwest region, Southwest sub-region (Austin, TX event has it's own board!) Now we look each year to Gayot's annual restaurant edition thinking that surely we MUST be in there somewhere. Are you disappointed that ONLY one restaurant (Frasca) made the to 40 list? Are you upset that D Bar was listed as one of "10 Best Cheap Eats" for THE MIDWEST?! Yeah, I know it hurts.

But first, we should congratulate these restaurants, they deserve it. Second, we should appreciate that we are a very small part of a wider-world. The coasts usually get most of the attention; and deservedly so. A recent trip to New York reminded me of what a truly "world-class" dinning city is. Dinner at Michael Mina at the St. Francis (a top 40 winner) in San Francisco not long ago, also reminded me of what an impeccable dinning experience should be like. The progressive use of an abundance of natural resources in the Northwest is almost unattainable up here. A superior food culture DOES benefit from critical mass and access to ingredients. We aren't there yet.

We are improving, we are growing up. The national food media does love the Denver region; a plethora of articles by respected publications shows this. From Aspen and Boulder, down into Denver, food writers are eager to figure us out. There are many good things here; and if we keep looking to expand our horizons we will make it. Now more then ever, chefs our drawing on global tastes and techniques. As diners we must support their efforts and push them hard to give us the best. Overpriced-mediocrity does not survive in New York, it should have no place here either.

Monday, January 25, 2010

No More Pizza!...please

The turnstile that is 1120 E. Sixth Avenue is proudly announcing that it will soon open as a Nepolitan Pizza place. *sigh* After Piscos closed down, there have been a few false starts here: Montecito, Mojito's, Mel's...hmmm.

It could be that I'm not a regular consumer of pizza; but I just don't see the need for another pizza place. I guess there is also the expectation (maybe just MY expectation) that 6th avenue continue striving for greater and greater things.

Oh well, I'll just have to wait and taste.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Taim: A Little Taste of the Promised Land in NYC

Ever since I read Janna Gur's The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey I've been dying to taste some great Israeli food.
Our recent trip to NYC gave us the perfect change to get an intro to some of the standards. A cold, windy day found us running from the Sheridan Square subway station to Taim (Ta-eem) at 222 Waverly Pl. In a minuscule space that seats all of 8 people; we found some amazing food.
Our first concern however, was that there was no place to sit, and no place to stand inside. We were hungry and cold; our numb brains couldn't fathom going out again and finding another place to eat. We sized-up the handful of patrons and figured 1) no one seemed ready to leave and 2) no one spoke Spanish; so we preceded to revert to that language to express our frustration and befuddlement to each other. The guy sitting by the door shocked us out of our murmuring by asking us in Spanish if we'd like his spot, as he was ready to go. Lesson: when in New York, never, ever, think that your conversation is private or unintelligible to others.

Grateful to our kind paisano we grabbed the two stools at the counter and settled in for lunch. Oh, one more glitch: They don't take plastic, a quick jog across the street to the pizza parlour's ATM solved that.

Taim is vegetarian, basically salads, falafel, and smoothies. But it is SO wonderful; it's all fresh and delicious. We ordered a plate with their creamy hummus, topped with some amazing tahini. You can choose a trio of salads to accompany it and the pita. We included the Israeli Salad, Tunisian Eggplant Salad and Tabbouleh. Taim has three kinds of falafel; red, green and Tunisian. We ordered the green. It's prepared fresh, fried up on the spot and has a beautiful crisp layer and a perfectly done and fragrant inside. This ain't the Falafel King!

The food is perfect for a light meal. It is very inexpensive; it borders on street-food. In fact, I can't wait to come back here in the summer and order take-out; it would be perfect food for strolling the great neighborhood.