Wednesday, April 7, 2010


A long weekend in Denver to see one of my best friends (K), her husband (C), their 6 month old baby (adorable!), and their new house! It was a nice getaway and time away from work! Here's a brief rundown of the food stuffs.

Dinner Thursday night was a fabulous home-cooked meal of Thai (panang curry) made by C, who particularly enjoys Asian foods. For breakfast the next day, we made ebelskivers, little Danish "pancakes" (think golf balls) that can be filled with jam, chocolate, or made into savory snacks with cheese & herbs too. I had never had them before, but rarely have I met a bread-y substance I didn't like! These were great, and fun to make. We did batches with raspberry & blackberry jams, and also nutella, and sprinkled them with powdered sugar.After breakfast, we all headed just outside town to Red Rocks, a gorgeous, natural sandstone formation in a huge bowl shape, upon which an amplitheatre was built in the early 1940s. No it's not exactly edible, but I really loved it, and feel compelled to share some pictures of it!We ventured back into town, and had a late lunch at Buenos Aries Pizza, a spot just a few blocks from Coors Field (home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team), that my friends have been to before. We split appetizers of papas fritas a la provencal (french fries w/ garlic & parsley) and higos envueltos (bacon-wrapped figs in BBQ sauce); both were delicious! The fries were nice & thinly cut with just enough seasoning on them, but were also great with their chimichurri sauce. The saltiness of the bacon & the sweetness of the figs really complements each other; the BBQ sauce on them was actually a bit too sweet, and if I was going back, I'd ask for it on the side.While we were tempted to order one of their specialty pizzas, we each got a couple empanadas; I had the beef picante and the corn. What I appreciated the most about these pastries was the crust. It was the right balance of dry & flaky with a decent crispness to it. To me, the dough that often comprises the sweet Mexican empanadas like pumpkin, is way too soft of a dough without the appropriate flakiness. I particularly liked the beef one, it had some of the traditional elements with the ground beef -- hard boiled egg, green olives, and raisins or currants (I now can't remember which,but they give just a hint of sweetness). The corn one was good, but I think the addition of a little potato may have helped it. My friends say their pizza is very good, and you can choose tomato sauce or just olive oil underneath your toppings.Friday evening, K and I did a stroll through the Santa Fe Arts district which was having open houses; neat to see, but can't afford the items I like! For dinner, we ended up in the Highlands neighborhood on 32nd Street at a place called Venue, which turned out to be spectacular. We got primo parking along 32nd, and figured we'd walk around to see what looked appealing, and about one door down from the car, a signboard on the sidewalk caught my eye. Specifically, the words "pork belly" caught my eye.....hhmmmmmmm. The small dining room was crowded, but they had one table for two right by the door, so we took it.

We started with a cheese plate with cheeses purchased from a local shop; Taleggio (soft-ripened washed-rind Italian cow's milk; creamy & mildly pungent), Montasio (semi-hard Italian mountain cheese, also cow's milk, fairly mild), and Rogue River bleu, an Australian blue with a nice creaminess and spreadability. The bleu, coupled with the slices of Granny Smith apple and toasted nuts was hands-down the best of the plate. Also on the plate though were some pickled green beans & onions, which K totally fell in love with. She asked our waiter about how they were made, and he actually returned from the kitchen with a pickling recipe written out from the chef! Granted the recipe makes like five pounds worth of beans, but it was extremely gracious of them to share it! (Venue was very dark inside, and my Droid phone has no flash, so sorry the pics are a bit dark & blurry.)I decided to order two appetizers, the baby beet salad, and surprise!, the pork belly; K got the duck confit, and we were both incredibly happy. My baby beets were roasted, and served with cashews, goat cheese & an orange vinaigrette. Clean flavors that work well all together. The Kurobata pork belly was nice & crispy, and came with a side of a spiced apple compote (the quenelle looking thing on the left in the bottom photo) and a slaw with a nice vinaigrette, so sort of a play on pork chops and apple sauce. Play or not, the flavors together were fantastic. I know I go on about liking sweet & savory together, but when you eat something like this, how can you not?! K's duck confit was tender and succulent, but I had a hard time getting that pork out of my mind. (I think they haven't updated their online menu, because the listing for the pork belly has it paired with roasted winter vegetables & crispy cauliflower; glad I got my version!) For dessert, we split the chocolate tart and the bread pudding. I didn't care for the crust on the tart (too mushy), but it was a very rich, bittersweet chocolate, and the thin pieces of almond toffee accompanying it were great (they didn't stick to your fillings!). The bread pudding was really more like a piece of well-cooked French toast, so it was nice and crusty & seared on the outside. This boded well for me, being a French toast lover, and generally a disliker of bread pudding because I find them too mushy, but their's is certainly not what I'd call a traditional bread pudding. K has proclaimed Venue her new favorite place in Denver, and we were both sorry that C missed it, as he was home with the baby. Prices were reasonable and the service was good. The bathroom was also rather small, but a whimsical note, the poem The Owl & The Pussycat (kids poem, look it up if you don't know it!) was printed on the wall. We asked one of the wait people, and she said the owner just liked the poem and wanted to put it up in there (no deeper meaning than that, apparently!).Saturday morning, we ventured out to Waffle Brother's for what else? Waffles! It's kind of a goofy spot, but they specialize in a Belgian-style waffle, made on waffle irons from the other side of the pond. They put a special kind of imported sugar on the waffle iron that gives them a nice little caramelized crunch when you bite into them. The combos are seemingly endless, but I opted for the Full Monty, which is the waffle with cinnamon, powdered sugar & whipped cream, for $3. K & I were happy with ours, but C's was a little more undercooked, so perhaps the key next time is to ask for a well-done waffle. The place was very family friendly and equipped with Wi-fi. After some more Denver-area sights, and tending to the very well-behaved baby, we decided on a dim sum place called Star Kitchen for lunch. Always a good sign when it's teeming with Asians, and you have to wait for a table. After about 15 minutes, we got a table, and began the parade of carts. Not even sure where to begin... Chinese broccoli, chicken dumplings, shrimp shumai, egg cream buns, a beef noodle dish from off the menu, shrimp-stuffed fried wontons, pork buns, sesame balls.... and a couple things I can't remember! All fairly good. Maybe not the very best dim sum I've ever eaten, but certainly not bad.Saturday night, K and I went to the Pepsi Center, and the Denver Nuggets vs. LA Clippers basketball game. She was able to get half-price tickets through her workplace, and it was "family night" so free food to boot. As we wandered off in the second quarter to get our chicken fingers & fries, the Clippers had a commanding lead, but the Nuggets fought back, and eventually won the game, even without their most charismatic player, "Birdman," out with a bad ankle. :(

For Sunday (Easter) brunch, we had reservations at a place called Duo, where K & C had had dinner before. It was a decent enough brunch, but I don't think either of my companions totally loved their different eggs benedict dishes. I was torn between biscuits & gravy and French toast, and opted for the former, along with a side of cheese grits. The biscuit was good, and it was a flavorful chorizo gravy over it. The pre-portioned grits had been sitting under the Salamander a bit too long, so were a bit tough on top; the bottom half of them were better, more creamy. A cute touch was the laminated paper placemats, with some recipes from kids on them -- I got a kick out of them!

We opted to skip dessert here (actually, the waiter brought the check without asking us if we wanted anything else {pet peeve!}, but we had already discussed going elsewhere), and have ice cream at Little Man, one of C's favorite spots. Unfortunately, by this point, my phone/camera battery was low, so I couldn't take a picture (see their website), but the building is a giant old-fashioned milk urn! I had mint chocolate gelato, and K discovered that the baby LOVED the strawberry ice cream! (You're creating a monster!) We did an early dinner at Vina Pho & Grill on Sheridan in Edgewater (no website that I can find, so the link is to the Yelp page) before I caught my plane. My friends had driven past it, but hadn't gone, and we were all pleasantly surprised. C got the beef & brisket pho, which had a fairly good, fragrant and flavorful broth. He proclaimed it to be one of the better he's had in Denver. K & I both got vermicelli noodle bowls, mine with grilled pork, and hers with grilled shrimp. Both got two thumbs up! We also observed a dish that other diners had -- a huge platter of greens & meat to create your own do it yourselves spring rolls. It looked fun -- dipping your own spring roll wrapper in water, and making your own concoction. I think K & C found a new (and relatively inexpensive) place that's not too far from them!

Denver's got some nice hidden gems. I am fortunate that K & C are big food people too, and had some places in mind to take me to; we're also fortunate to have stumbled into places like Venue and Vina. I've got to watch that baby grow up and be a strong eater, so I know I'll be back!

1 comment:

  1. Still thinking about my duck confit! And there are so many more places for us to go! When is your next visit?