Friday, March 26, 2010

Ruth Reichl at Tattered Cover April 27

One of my favorite memoirists (and so much more!) will be at Tattered Cover on April 27th to read and sign from her new book. I'll be there or be square.

From the Tattered Cover website:

Ruth Reichl
Tuesday, April 27, 7:30 pm, Colfax Avenue
A former New York Times restaurant critic, editor-in-chief of Gourmet, and the author of three bestselling memoirs, Ruth Reichl will read from and sign the new paperback edition of her memoir For You, Mom. Finally ($13.00 Penguin), her openhearted investigation of the life of a woman she realizes she never really knew—her mother.

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Latest Obsessions

Just random thoughts on two food products I'm obsessing over these days. And they just happen to be local.

The first is Chocolove's (from Boulder) Almonds & Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate bar.

At Christmas, a coworker gave me a Chocolove bar with cherries and almonds. It was great. So when I saw chocolove bars on sale at Vitamin Cottage I picked up some of the other flavors, the aforementioned obsession and one with crystallized ginger in 65% dark chocolate. That one could become an obsession if the almonds and sea salt one didn't exist. OMG, just enough salt to make the dark chocolate seem even richer. It is SO good.

My other obsession is Noosa yoghurt, also from Boulder.


And I'm not just saying this because 5280 Magazine just featured this as their obsession this week. I discovered it last week when I visited the relatively new In Season Local Market in Highlands--a very cute (VERY small) market that only carries local products. This place is about the size of a closet! I got one container of the Noosa raspberry yoghurt and the next day had to track down some more. Luckily my Whole Foods carries it. Yogurt doesn't usually excite me, but this stuff is incredible! It's really thick and tastes more like a pot de creme or something. I've tried all 3 flavors (that I could find) and love them all equally.

So run out and get both of these products, if you can. I'm not sure you can get the yoghurt outside of the Denver area, but you can order the Chocolove online.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Queen Creek Olive Mill, Arizona


My parents winter in Mesa, Arizona, since their WY cabin is too far off the grid to inhabit properly (or pleasantly) in the winter. We recently visited them and they took us to Queen Creek Olive Mill, Arizona's only operating olive farm and mill.

There, they have--in addition--to the farm and mill--a snack bar and shop. The snack bar, del Piero at the Mill, was really quite special.


I had a fantastic antipasto plate with fresh Mozzarella drizzled with fresh basil pesto, artisan cheeses, “Pork Shop” gourmet meats, fruit, roasted vegetables, local pistachios, del Piero Country Olive Mix, and grilled olive bread. I got the plate for one, but it was huge and I shared it with all. I had a glass of chianti with it. B had a sandwich and the boys got nutella and banana sandwiches (the place has kids meals!) with chips and a cookie.

We ate our lunch on their gorgeous, shaded patio area surrounded by herb gardens and lawns.



Don't you like how the olive leaves frame that last picture as if I photoshopped a border? (I didn't.) My only complaint about the place is that "for safety reasons" you can't tour the farm area and see the "real" olive trees. The ones on the visitor's center are all ornamental olives.

The "tour" was short and quick. It started with us seated outside while one of the workers told us the history, etc. of the place. We then moved inside where we got to see the olives being pressed. Here is the "caca," as they called it--or leftovers after the oil has been pressed out of the olives.


Mmmm...appetizing, eh?

But look at these beautiful olives:


We then got to taste the freshest olive oil I've ever tasted (less than 20 minutes after pressing) and a number of their olives.

In the shop, they also have all of their olive oils for tasting. I went a little nuts in the shop. I got truffle olive oil and Mexican Lime olive oil (my favorite--makes fantastic vinaigrette). As a gift for a coworker, I got blood orange olive oil and pomegranate white balsamic vinegar. I also got some sun-baked tomato basil stuffed olives and some Mexican Lime olive oil cakes (these were awesome!). You can order all, but the cakes, through their website.

Here is the recipe for the olive oil cake from their website:

Olive Oil Cake

3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups granulated sugar
10 oz. QCOM Mexican Lime Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10 oz. milk
2 oz. lime juice
3 tsp. lime zest
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if convection oven). Grease a 10 inch pan. Whisk the eggs, sugar, olive oil, milk, citrus juice, and zest. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Whisk until blended. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour.

Queen Creek Olive Mill was low key and delicious. I highly recommend it if you're in the area.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's All About the Music Today

Wheee! I just bought my Pavement tickets. Now I can right another old regret.

In addition, I was alerted that one of my favorite bands of the nineties, Th' Faith Healers reformed (apparently in 2006!) and played some dates last year. Now if only I could see them....

For your listening pleasure:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Denver Restaurant Week Update: Panzano

Last but not least, and a little late since Denver Restaurant Week. Panzano was really doing a nice deal because they offered four, rather than the usual three, dishes for $52.80 (for two people). As you can see on their published menu, they had 3-5 options for each course. They also had $5 glasses of a red wine and $4 glasses of a white, contributing to the good deal.

I started with the "Anatra Mousse con Zeppole," which consisted of duck liver mousse with thyme, parmesan doughnuts and a cranberry maple compote. I've been dying to try this dish ever since I read about it here on Denveater. Check out that link for some good pics too. Who knew that duck could taste so dessert-y? Because this tasted more like a dessert than an app. The donuts were light and a little sweet and a little savory. I believe the duck liver mousse had honey on it (or maybe maple syrup?) and was so creamy. When you put it with the the cranberry maple compote on the donuts, it was totally something I'd enjoy as dessert or as an appetizer.

For the second dish, I had the Truffled Potato Leek Soup. It was my least favorite dish of the night. Not bad, but didn't excite me.

For my entree, I had the Gamberi Griglia: "grilled jumbo shrimp stuffed with Medjool dates wrapped with house pancetta, served over polenta, and topped with gorgonzola cheese." This was a great dish: sweet from the dates, salty from the pancetta, pungent from the gorgonzola (but not overpoweringly). I loved it.

For dessert, I had the lavender Chocolate Pâté with sea salt, micro-basil, extra virgin olive oil, candied orange zest and toasted hazelnuts--quite the plethora of flavors! Yet, somehow it all worked. I've had a lot of things with chocolate, but not basil. I guess I shouldn't be surprised it worked, since dark chocolate and basil are two fo my favorite things. It was a small slab of chocolate, but was so rich and flavorful, you wouldn't want more. I could barely finish it!

Our server was great. Very friendly and helpful.

It's hard to choose which was better for DRW--Rioja or Panzano--if it hadn't been for the entree meats at Rioja they'd "win." I guess I'll leave it at they both were fantastic and a great deal for $52.80.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Denver Harvest Week - Black Pearl Report

Last Saturday we got a sitter and headed on over to Black Pearl restaurant to celebrate Denver Restaurant Week. They have a nice, cozy space. We sat in the loft area, which was crowded and warm, but overall pleasant none the less.

B was disappointed that they changed their published DRW menu and didn't have the short ribs. What was annoying was that the problem wasn't that they didn't have the short ribs, they just moved them to their "tasting menu" which was a (little) more expensive ($33) and had different choices for the other courses, which he didn't want. They also replaced with the buffalo chili with a curry carrot soup.

I, however, was happy with the changes. The soup was A. MAY. ZING. I could have licked my bowl. I got the cassoulet and B got the snapper (which replaced the short ribs). We both liked our entrees, but switched half way through, because we like the other's better.

For dessert, we shared the two options: a "Butterscotch" Pot de Creme with a chocolate cookie, which wasn't very butterscotchy--more like a custard--but was very tasty; and a cheese plate, which was small, but an okay size for me (and for a DRW menu).

Our server was very nice. There was a snafu with our bread, but she was so nice it didn't matter. BTW, they serve their bread with butter that has a smoky-flavored salt on it. I've seen this salt (or something similar) at Savory Spice Shop and almost got it. Now I definitely have to stop in and pick some up. Yum!

After dinner, we stopped in at Pearl Martini Lounge, above India's Pearl, for one drink. I had a cardamom martini, which was downright nasty, even though I love cardamom and martinis. The cardamom was just too concentrated and perhaps they're too tastes which don't go together). However, it was a nice space and the smell coming from India's Pearl was amazing. We'll be heading there soon, fo sho.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Denver Restaurant Week Update: Steuben's

We hit Steuben's up for Denver Restaurant Week, because a) it's a place we can take the kids and b) I've been wanting to try their lobster roll. For $52.80 (for two), you each get a big bowl of clam chowder, their lobster roll, pudding, and a Sam Adams. They list "R.W. Pudding" on their published menu, which is a butterscotch pudding, but the night we went, they also had a chocolate pudding. These are all items on their regular menu, except the desserts (I think).

The clam chowder was decent but not thrilling. The lobster roll is served on grilled, buttered Texas Toast and I liked it very much, but B wasn't thrilled. Here's a picture from Westword's Cafe Society:


I had the off-menu chocolate pudding which was salted and had a hint of chile. If you don't like salt with your chocolate, you wouldn't like this, because it was uber-salty. But I must admit I like it that way. The meal itself was pretty darn salty. Our server was not the friendliest I've ever had, but adequate.

The highlight of the meal was the Scorpion Bowl--or as B and I like to call it, the Flaming Moe--which was not this:

but the possibly even more exciting this:


This is for 2-4 people, people--we had 3 and there was more than enough to go around. It's hard to tell in our picture, but that center well is filled with 151 Rum and FLAMING! The drink is 48 whopping ounces and consists of Myers's Original Dark Rum, Three Olives Cherry Vodka, Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, pineapple juice, OJ and cranberry juice (in addition to that flaming Bacardi 151). At first sip, I thought, ick. But the more you drink that baby, the better it tastes!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Green Eggs and Ham Pizza

In honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, here's a recipe I made tonight called "Egg, Ham, and Spinach Pizza" by Ellie Krieger, but I've rechristened it "Green Eggs and Ham Pizza." (Actually when I made it I wasn't thinking about Dr. Seuss, but today I realized it's a happy coincidence.)

It smelled incredible, was tasty, and VERY easy. Can't beat that!

1 store-bought baked thin-crust pizza shell, preferably whole-wheat, such as Boboli (Or better yet, make your own. I used the easy way out, though)
4 cups (about 4 ounces) baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 ounces prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (1 1/2 ounces)
3 cloves thinly sliced garlic
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place the pizza shell on a cookie sheet. Scatter spinach all over crust. Drizzle with oil. Evenly distribute prosciutto, Parmesan and garlic on top of spinach. Crack eggs onto pizza, roughly positioning 1 yolk on each pizza quarter. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until spinach is wilted and egg whites are just fully cooked.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pavement Denver Date!

At last!

Pavement to Play Broomfield's 1stBank Center in September

Denver Restaurant Week Update: Rioja (and a little TAG)

The first night of Denver Restaurant Week we went to Rioja. Their DRW menu featured many of its regular items, but some with an upcharge. I started with some kind of pear/almond cocktail that was thick, since it had pear puree in it, but was delicious. They brought around their bread. One thing that Rioja does especially well is homemade breads and crackers. A server brings around a large basket of bread with several choices. I had the lavender sourdough and goat cheese-rosemary bread. I LOVE that lavender sourdough. I mentioned it before when I posted about Rioja's Sips and Snacks. I'm afraid I did not get pictures, so here is one from kevinEats.


For our appetizer, we got the Rioja “picnic” to share--a trio of artisan meats (prosciutto, soppressata, and salami if I remember correctly), gorgonzola, olives, almonds, truffle fennel salad, orange confit, and sweet goat cheese balls with pine nuts that were battered and fried. It came with homemade crackers. It was all delicious, but the salad, confit and goat cheese balls were out of this world. It's an appetizer for two and quite filling. I love me a meat/cheese/ snack plate and this one was exceptional. Here is a picture from Meal Makeover Moms.


Before I get to the entrees, let's talk about dessert. You got to choose one dessert to share for their DRW menu (I don't know what they do if only person orders the DRW menu). We got their famous beignets--sweet goat cheese and black mission fig filled pastries served with a ruby port wine reduction. These beignets were on Denver Magazine's "100 Things You Must Eat in Denver" and rated the highest of that list on Must Eat Denver. Here is the latter's picture:


They definitely live up to the hype. Oh my, the texture. They literally melt in your mouth--it's not just a cliched saying in this case. They have a light crispy outside that starts melting away almost as soon as you put them in your mouth, revealing the sweet goat cheese. There is not an overpowering figgy taste. The figs just add a little more sweetness to the beignet. I swear their little pillows of heaven and may be one of my all time favorite desserts. My only complaint is that there were only 5 in the serving and that wasn't enough to share! If you go this week, order an extra one. You'll be glad you did.

For our entrees, I got the Muscovy duck breast with saffron manchego risotto, pistachio pine nut stuffed Medjool dates, a saffron almond cracker, and spiced citrus jus for a $7 upcharge. I was so looking forward to this and was so disappointed. Everything on the plate was amazing, except for the duck, and sorry, but the meat of your entree is kind of an important part of the meal. The duck was ridiculously tough and chewy. I couldn't cut or chew through it and finally gave up on it (I was afraid it would fly across the room while I tried to saw through it! BTW, Rioja, you need sharper steak knives). The risotto was great and tasted comfortingly like cheesy rice a roni, haha, and I mean that in a good way. The pistachio stuffed dates were sweet and nutty and I would love to try to make something like that for a party appetizer someday. The cracker was so good. And I don't usually get excited about crackers!

B had the Colorado lamb two ways for a $4 upcharge: grilled t-bone, house made lamb merguez sausage, crisp couscous pillows, caramelized fennel, tomato coulis, and preserved lemon yogurt. He was also disappointed. The sausage and couscous "pillow" was very good, but the grilled t-bone was gristly and also hard for him to cut. Bummer! This dish was pictured in the Denver Post article about Rioja recently:


Because the entree meats were so disappointing, we can't help but wonder if they used lower quality cuts for DRW. Or maybe we just got unlucky. Perhaps we have "sucker" stamped on our foreheads? I'm kicking myself for not saying anything. I don't know what I was thinking. So really I'm to blame as much as the kitchen.

But for that complaint, we still had an incredible meal. Everything else was so outstanding, including the service, that it more than made up for the one downside. The rest of the food really was ridiculously good.

I must add a little side note too. Prior to Rioja, we stopped in at TAG next door for a quick cocktail. They were busy, but there was room for a bar. They have the most amazing mise en place for a bar that I've ever seen (Is that term used for bars too? I think so). Check it out:


They had numerous fresh herbs, like thyme, cilantro, mint, etc. They had homemade tonic and grenadine; Little droppers of homemade bitters; and who knows what else. It was gorgeous and so cool! Our bartender was incredibly nice about all my questions and even explained how to make tonic, since I noted that I didn't realize real tonic is not clear and bubbly. To make it, basically you take a bunch of herbs and citrus juice, boil it up, and strain it, and add some sugar. Here's a recipe I found on the web. I don't know how close it is to TAG's recipe, but it'll give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

I had the Full Monty with gin, brandy, lemongrass/coriander syrup, and lemon. It was garnished with a cucumber slice and the bartender carefully placed some coriander seeds on the slice with forceps. So pretty! And delicious, of course. The bartender noted that this drink will be (or has been?) entered in a Hendrick's gin contest. I can see it as a winner. I definitely can't wait to go back to TAG for more than just drinks.

Postscript: The great thing about a restaurant like Rioja is that it's so popular people take pictures of their food and post them on the web. Thanks to all whose pictures I used. I'm never sure of the etiquette of using other pics on the webs, but if any site owners have a problem, let me know and I'll take them down. I enjoyed reading all your posts.