Sunday, November 27, 2011

Catch Up!

Here are a few mementos from the places we've been eating lately:

One of our favorite haunts for happy hour has always been Panzano's in the Hotel Monaco.  We recently made our own post happy hour-happy hour in the dinning room.  Our late-night meal was centered on their fabulous Fattoria Piatto (Prosciutto d’ Parma, bresaola, duck mousse, Pecorino Gran Cru, Grana Padano, local goat cheese, sliced pear, marinated olives, cranberry orange compote, roasted garlic and grilled crostini).  A couple of salads and some wine completed the beautiful repast.

A new place on our rotation lately has been the Izakaya Den on Pearl. Sitting at the sushi bar and trying to figure out what everything is can be a fun way to pass the time.  Unfortunately it also makes you want to try one of everything on the menu.  Granted this isn't your traditional izakaya; but the creativity of the menu, quality ingredients, and friendly staff transcend the need for a neat classification.  We've enjoyed a bowl of miso soup, and then splitting the hearty chirashi bowl.

The gorgeous (and huge) dinning room at Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar by the Performing Arts Complex promises an amazing meal.  We felt so content and warm in this beautiful place.  The food, however, was hit-and-miss.  The oysters were bity and flavorless, the marrow was sad.  As kitschy as it may sound, my favorite dish was the Lyonnaise Style Wing...really, try them!  We have to go back and try again, because we SO want to love this place.

Korean food has been constantly on our radar, but we've been reluctant to jump in an try it.  Our first taste was actually at the solid little cafe in H-Mart on Parker Road. They have some very satisfying New Year's soup (manduguk?).  Anyways, a tipster told us we had to try Silla (Yelp Reviews) on Peoria and Cornell.  We tried to casually look over at our neighbors' tables to see what to expect; it didn't help.  The menu doesn't give much info about portions or how to order.  Not much help from the staff either. Dang we need some Korean friends! 

We decided to try the pan fried dumplings. Beautiful, delicious...too many!  You can choose a type of meat and either have them cook it for you, or you can grill the raw, marinated meat at the table.  We chickened out and had them cook-up the bulgogi for us.  One order was plenty for the two of us.  Remember, it comes with a least a dozen small plates of Korean "small plates".  Each one was an adventure, some were familiar, some were new and delicious, some were strange and interesting.  Regardless, this is a cuisine that demands our attention; we will be back.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Machete: Por Fin!

Me gustó

I'll get back to you all when I visit again and get some pictures and a better feel for the place.

2817 E. 3rd Ave.
Denver, CO 80206

Monday, May 16, 2011

La Abeja: The Bee's Knees of Capitol Hill

Why does everyone forget about the humble and hard-working bee? La Abeja is a combination tiendita/taqueria/panaderia three blocks from my house that always provides just what we're needing. Need some bolillos and don't want to head to East Colfax? Want some chile seco and can't get yourself to Rancho Liborio? They got you covered.

One thing I don't see many folks of the "lighter skin tones" taking advantage of is the wonderful taqueria that they got going here. Perhaps folks are waiting for Westword's imprimatur before wandering in; I don't know, but if you are, too bad. I'm probably shooting myself in the foot,(and all the other paisanos that know about this place) but let me tell you that this is a great spot to get your weekend breakfast. Beautifuly rich menudo, tasty chorizo con huevo, and of course tacos of all varieties.

Here are a couple of tacos de carnitas I had the other day. Rich, flaky and well seasoned. So come in from the buzz of Colfax, step up to the counter and order yourself something from the big board. Grab a Coca from the cooler and pay. Then find a seat in the comedor, watch the world go by and be reminded why La Abeja deserves your praise.

La Abeja
508 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80203


Friday, May 13, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tacos y Salsas Downtown

Here it is kids, your first tacos picture from the new Tacos y Salsas downtown. Like the other locations, you'll find that the tacos are loaded with meat. You can choose from the standards: asada, al pastor, barbacoa, buche, and carnitas (nope, no lengua).

Let me introduce you to (L to R) carnitas- moist and flavorful; asada - dry and crisp; buche - tender with some crackle.

I'm looking forward to trying their gorditas, the ones I get on Colfax are awesome. I wish they had tortas, no one else seems to have them downtown. My one legitimate gripe, salsas...where are they? They had a sad salsa bar with two salsas rojas and one verde. None of the rich variety that we've come to expect from Tacos y Salsas. Will we get some in the future? Who knows, but I'll be back to find out.

Tacos y Salsas
1531 Stout St.
Denver, CO 80202

Hours: 10am to 10pm (Friday and Saturday until 3am)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Egg McTaipei or Breakfast at Tao Tao Noodle Bar

Minimalism on a macro scale,
Fried egg; edges crisp, center just soft,
Sesame and green onion bun.
Protection...and a pot of tea.

Tao Tao Noodle Bar

10400 E. 6th Ave.
Aurora, CO 80010


Thursday, May 5, 2011

El Olvido Denver: Take Two

Nope, I couldn't stay away for very long. After our first promising visit to El Olvido (review here), we knew we had to go back and see how the food had progressed. Specifically we were looking for a richer broth and more tender beef. Pues, vamos a ver!

We decided to start of this meal with the quesadilla appetizer. You get to choose four quesadillas, including: poblano, mushrooms, bacon, or chorizo. We opted for two poblano and two chorizo. If you, think quesadillas were an uninspired choice, you would be mistaken. Seriously. The chorizo was good, but the poblano quesadillas were the stars here. If you've had the pleasure of rajas con crema before, you'll know what I'm talking about. Fire roasted poblano peppers, peeled, cut into strips, sauteed with onions and cooked in heavy cream with some sugar. Oh my! Now put that into a quesadilla...heaven! I don't know if El Olvido goes through all that effort, but they got it down.

Next, and surprisingly quickly, came the main event. Carne en su jugo. If you still don't know what this is here's a primer. I managed to restrain myself long enough to snap a picture or two this time. What do we have here? A large plate of beef in broth with a pile of beans in the middle, yes. And what a plate of goodness it was...different and better than our first time. More subtle on the bacon, deeper broth, and richer, more tender beef. Getting closer; definitely progress. When Jorge came out to ask how it was, our enthusiastic "better!" surprised him. But, I think he was happy to hear that his efforts are appreciated in the kitchen.

We are so happy to have this wonderful restaurant in town. The service is friendly and professional. The Jorges (plural) are gracious hosts trying to make their customers happy. Concern? Yeah, where's all the people? We've been there two Friday nights that have been quiet. Too quiet. So, get out there and support the wonderful new addition to Denver's diverse, regional Mexican food scene.

El Olvido
2200 S Broadway
Denver, CO 80210

News Flash: Tacos y Salsas

Don't often just repost, but this is important: Tacos y Salsas opens downtown!

( 5/10/11 Update: My Review Here )

Monday, April 25, 2011

El Olvido Denver: Spurring Memories

You can't imagine the emotions that we experienced when we found out that carne en su jugo was going to appear on a menu in Denver. Back in March Westword wrote that Jorge Pingarron was opening a restaurant called El Olvido on South Broadway that would feature that legendary dish; they couldn't open fast enough for us.

What's it all about? If you've been to Guadalajara, you can't miss Karne Garibaldi, a legendary eatery that's grown into a thriving business. They built their reputation on one dish and only one dish: Carne en su jugo, literaly meat in its juice or broth. According to their story, in the late 70's they "cooked-up" this recipe of thin sliced beef cooked in a richly seasoned broth and brought it to Guadalajara.

My trips to GDL have never been complete until I stepped into Karne Garibaldi for a plate of the red stuff. Here's what the spread looked like the last time I was there:

First thing to know: This place has a Guinness World Record for fastest service. As soon as your butt hits the chair, you are served a plate with refried beans, tortillas, grilled onions and chips and red salsa. You are asked one question: "large or small" and officially within 13 seconds you have a plate of carne en su jugo in front of you along with limes, radishes, cilantro, and chopped onion. A mug of horchata rounds out the deal.

Flavor? Incredible! A very rich and thick broth, just a touch of spice, lots of bacony goodness. Yes it's a bit salty with some cumin, garlic, and lime flavors. The meat is extremely tender and thinly sliced. There are bits of bacon and beans in the broth as well. You add a shot of lime, some cilantro and onion then go at it! Spoon or tortilla? The tortilla has to be the way to go, it is SO messy (the tortillas are warmed on a griddle with some oil) but it all sops-up that broth that you came all this way for. This place is known for their mixed quesadillas, these are good accompaniments; but completely unnecessary in my book.

So, El Olvido. What can we say? I was so excited I didn't take any pictures! Argh! There was no question as to what we were ordering, I was shocked were even given a menu. (Check out the menu here if you must)

Pero, a lo que venimos, no? Our waiter, good soldier that he is, assured us that this was going to be better than Garibaldi. We were just hoping to recognize the dish as carne en su jugo! It's clear that Jorge and his crew know what they are shooting for; you literally could take my picture and imagine what you are going to get at El Olvido, right down to the barro plates. The refried beans with corn that you get with your chips is right on. Believe me, this is important; in Guadalajara they've started canning Garibaldi's beans and selling them from their restaurants to take home. Yes, yes, how's the carne? I must say it is really very good. Sliced the right way, cooked with bacon and beans, they're doing everything right. Better than Garibaldi? Not yet. The beef isn't as tender and the broth isn't as rich. What is it? Just more time to refine their cooking/seasoning and muddy-up that broth, I'd say. In fact, the longer you linger at your plate, the better that broth at the bottom gets. They had been only open two days and were already serving up something amazing.

The folks behind El Olvido have done a nice job putting this place together. It has a very classy feel with a lively bar when we were there on a Friday night. They have Negra de barril (draft) as well as anything else you might want from a full bar. I associate carne with a much more casual environment, but once I start getting messy in a plate of comfort, I don't really care where I am!

El olvido is a term that is hard to translate precisely. Some define it as "oblivion"; but it often has to do with drinking to forget the bitterness of life. Don't worry (or don't get too excited, if that's what you're looking for) El Olvido isn't that kind of cantina. But if you have nostalgia for Guadalajara and it's food, this is your place; eating at El Olvido, I did forget for just a moment that I was in Denver. Until we make it back to Guada, this is going to be our go-to place for some great tapatio cooking.

Updated 5/5/11:
( Second Visit Review Here )

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh Deer! Roast Venison Loin

One of my recent "manias" some would say, has been to learn to work with game. I've been reading French cook books again and pouring over the Gastronomique's recipes for venison. I've always, well, usually enjoyed the venison as prepared in local restaurants. But I've never prepared it myself.

One of the major limiting factors has been access to good meat. I'm not a hunter, not even on TV. I have one friend who is an avid hunter and has offered to prepare a meal, but, I want the raw meat! Just recently I asked him and his wife how they prepare their venison and shared my ideas on cooking. And then they asked, "do you want to try and make something?" Heck yeah! Thought you'd never ask.

On Sunday I was the proud owner of a 2 pound backstrap! Now I just needed to figure out what exactly that was and how it was to be prepared. My recipes were for tenderloin or haunch, not for this. First order of business was becoming familiar with how a deer is broken down. The backstrap, it turns out, is what you and I would call the loin. It runs down the back, on the side of the spine. My piece was about 4 inches in diameter and covered in a silver skin.

Knowing that venison is lean and should be cooked and eaten without delay, I decided to cut the piece in half. This will give me a chance to use the other piece with another recipe, leaving a nice little roast for just the two of us. I then used my knife to peel the skin off.

The recipe I used is one that I had used before on beef tenderloin. The recipe and cooking instructions can be found here on Serious Eats' site. It's a nice spice rub consisting of instant espresso powder, cumin, corrriander, pepper, cumin and ancho chile.

Once you rub the spice mixture on your loin "roast", you put it in a low oven (300) for about 35-40 minutes. You want to get it to 120 degrees inside for medium-rare, 130 for medium-well. A thermometer is a must here!

Don't worry, I didn't forget to sear the meat, and I do know that you have to be careful about over-cooking venison. That's why I was nervous about this project and also why I wanted to tackle it! Rest assured I got you covered on this one, just follow along now.

When your meat is about ready to pop from the oven, get a nice skillet heated. Pull the roast out, add your oil, bring to just about smoking. Add a big pat of butter and the meat to the pan. Sear it on all sides; about 2 minutes should do it. Then remove to a plate and tent with foil. You are going to want that to sit about ten minutes to rest and get just a few degrees hotter.

Meanwhile the fun start for you: make the sauce. You won't find this in the Serious Eats recipe, but here's what I did. (Remember I was using 1 pound of meat, the SE recipe is for about 5 pounds.) Drop the heat on the pan you just used to medium. Add 1/2 cup of red wine and 1/2 cup of beef broth (careful about liquid hitting a hot pan!). Scrape-up the fond with a wooden spoon. Add 1 tblsp. of butter, any drippings from the roast, (peek-and-see if you can get some out of your foil-covered plate), salt and pepper. Reduce until you have a nice and rich'll know when!

Ok, let's take a look at our roast. First of all, it has a beautiful dark crust. Underneath, as you can see in the photo is a perfectly cooked roast: medium to medium-rare from butt to center. This works great if you have guests with different preferences.

Taste? Amazing! You guessed it.

My wife and I were very happy with the results. It was definitely venison, but not overly gamey. The crust provided a very nice balance without being overpowering or distracting. The sauce was rich, complex...meaty; again complementing not masking or overpowering the beautiful piece of meat. A side of perfect mashed potatoes, and a syrah to drink made for a perfect meal.

Now, on to the next piece of meat. I'm thinking a nice venison daub. But, what happens when I run out of meat?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Inspired Appetite: Birria

A post over on the Kitchn's site regarding using goat meat reminded me of one of my favorite Mexican dishes ever: Birria

Wonderfully tender and flavorful meat with a heady broth is a perfect dish for a winter day. If you don't feel like cooking (very easy, BTW...recipe), you should check out the good stuff at El Farolito in Aurora. You'll get meat, a mess of bones, rich broth and tortillas to make some of the best tacos you've ever had.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Breakfast on the Hill: the Jelly Cafe

For all the folks on Capitol Hill: Breakfast has arrived. Since Watercourse abandoned us for Uptown and left us with breakfast burritos and coffee at City o'City, we've been hankering for something more substantial. (Yeah, it still hurts!)

The "Breakfast/Lunch" sign at the corner of 13th and Pearl announces proudly the arrival of "Jelly Cafe". Have you checked in with our new neighbors yet? Yes, they did tease us; claiming that they would be opening up on New Year's day. Hung-over drunks in need of breakfast are not someone you want to mess with. But they have short memories, right?

Rest assured, they are open now and serving a very satisfying breakfast. But first let me comment on the fact that the place looks great! This corner has been up-and-down so often, it's indecent! It's really looking good with the clean up of the abandoned cleaners. The inside is nice, booths, a nice bar, and tables throughout. Cute coffee cup chandeliers and crazy cereal boxes on the walls, scream BREAKFAST!

And that's exactly what we've been trying out here. Their Basic Breakfast ($4.79) consists of two eggs, peasant potatoes, and toast with jam. I of course had to add bacon ($2). We also decided to order their Donut Bites ($2.49) which are either jelly filled, or cream filled. Past visits have included their pancakes which come in a variety of "flavors" including cereal varieties!

So how was the food? Really good! The donut bites are a nice start, not too sweet or greasy, a bit dense but a perfect vehicle for the great berry jam they were filed with. The peasant potatoes are perfect red potatoes, crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. They are seasoned just right and are topped with a bit of sour cream and chopped green onions. I'm not a fan of most places' "home fries" but these are fantastic.

What about the jelly? Currently they are featuring one home-made jam per day. Today it was delicious peach jam. Great consistency, not too firm or runny. It was so good, I had to order more toast to finish up, I couldn't bear to leave any peachy goodness behind! I'm excited to try their other flavors.

I'm sure I'll be back soon, their breakfast menu had so many other interesting items. Breakfast sliders, crazy pancakes, Benedict's of all stripes, etc. The fact that it's on the 13th street strip makes this very interesting as well. I've always seen so much potential here, I'm glad Jelly has jumped in: Welcome!

Jelly Cafe
600 13th St.
Denver, CO 80203