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.