Eat the World: Denver and Surrounds

Happy Memorial Day! I hope that you are all starting this short week relaxed and rested, and thanks for all those who serve to make this day and our freedom possible. Words are never enough for all that you give.

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You may recall that I went out west to Denver/Estes Park for Frites’ wedding and extended the trip a bit to spend some quality time with Mango before the wedding festivities got under way. It was relaxing, fun and reminded me that 1) I’m lucky to have such amazing friends and that 2) I want to move to the mountains a little bit in my heart. I mean, after waking up to this, how could I not…just a little?

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Since I have no plans to uproot everything just yet, I’ll have to get by on the occasional long weekend. And the best way to transport myself back there any time I want is with food, of course.

I can’t say that I ate out a ton, but what I had was pretty darn good. Here’s the rundown:

Mango, her husband and I went to a “Corks and Cuisine” event on Thursday where local restaurants, caterers, brewers and distillers showed off their wares. EVERYTHING was good, but perhaps the thing that made me go hmmm the most were these savory macarons- filled with spinach and bacon jam by Bistro Boys’ Catering. While the macaron texture was a bit chewy, the filling definitely warranted that I eat more than one.

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Green chilis were in and on everything any where we went in Denver, but perhaps the most “what the eff” instance was in this beer:

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Smoky, with the hint of cumin and a tinge of heat, this beer definitely captured the essence of green chili…but in a good way. If you’re ever find yourself in the area, treat yourself to a sip of the Hatch.

For our only breakfast out, we stopped by DJ Berkeley’s for brunch. The menu had a few twists from what I’d find in a typical Chicago brunch spread and Fava and I took the opportunity to try them. She got the New Mexico Benedict– chorizo sausage atop polenta cakes, and I got a green chili stew with chorizo and poached eggs. While she left underwhelmed, mine reminded me of a Hungarian sausage soup mom used to make growing up. While not what I expected, I can’t say it was bad.  Comfort food at its best.

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Venn Diagram Truths

Once we got to Estes Park, we broke away from wedding headquarters at the Stanley Hotel to do some beer tasting at Mary’s Lake Lodge, a drinking trend that continued through the weekend. My flight of fancy was, from left to right: Twin Peaks Ale, Prospect Cider, Not in Kansas Anymore Wheat and Palisade Peach Ale.

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It was a toss up between the Cider and the Peach Ale for my favorite, but in the end I think the Peach won. It was so fresh and sweet, but not too sweet in that I could definitely tell it was still a beer, and all around a perfect pick for spring or summer. I liked it so much, I’m going to have to hunt down something similar here at home. As for the food, it was also good- good enough that we went back a few hours after our tasting adventures for actual dinner.

Saturday morning pre-wedding we had time to kill, so Fava, Legume, her husband and I went to the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins to tour the factory and get some sips in. If you’re ever in the area, I highly suggest adding this to your to-do list. It’s free, lasts about 90 minutes, gives a good overview of the factory as well as the company and lots of beer to taste. If you’re anything like the four of us, you’ll want to quit your day job and move out there to work for New Belgium immediately.

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My favorite of the beer that I tried was from their Lips of Faith collection called Cocoa Mole. It was aesthetically a dark beer, but tasted light and fresh and had a hint of mole, in a good way (I say that because you may recall that I am not a mole lover.) Anyway, it made me sad that the cocoa was a limited edition small batch, and I think that be the perfect beer to both drink on its own, or add to many a chili, bean, sauce, cake, the-sky’s-the-limit recipe…

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No longer thirsty after 90 minutes of beer tasting, we headed to the Goodness Truck where I got a pulled pork panini.

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And the best house cut chips in existence.

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Which we ate in the car.

The final noteworthy stop was Los Chingones, a badass taco joint back in Denver that Fava and I hit up before heading back to the airport. It reminded me a lot of the Taco Joint back here in Chicago and reminded me that I need to go back to the Taco Joint. I love that place. Anyway…focus…Los Chingones had a great selection of ala carte tacos, sides, salsas and salads, and Fava and I left stuffed and rolling.

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Fava’s Smoked Pina-Rita

I had, in order of favorites- the shrimp, Baja fish and Kobe beef, and we split a side of the guac, topped with some rattlesnake chorizo.

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Yup. rattlesnake. Tastes like chicken.

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Ok, not really. It tasted like chorizo, but texturally was softer than we expected. Different, but good different

To sum it all up, I couldn’t get enough of the food in Denver, and I wish that I had more time to check places off and further explore the list of good eats that Mango provided. If you’re heading out there, here is a list of places she suggests.  While I can’t personally vouch for the establishments listed below, I trust Mango whole-heartedly, and have no doubt that that they are great.

Ace Eat Serve
Le Central
Maria Empanada
Sam’s No. 3
Pete’s Kitchen
Bastien’s Restaurant
Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen
Snooze A.M. Eatery
Pinche Taqueria

Like I’ve said before, any time I go somewhere, I eat where people tell me to eatAs if I know better? In the grand scheme of a city’s restaurant directory, my choices may not be the most fancy or hip, but that doesn’t make the food any less delicious. Good food is good food and it really is as simple as that.

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