First Bite Boulder (Nov. 11-18) is a week-long opportunity to try a new eatery or return to a favorite at a good price. Three-course meals at some of the city’s best restaurants from Aji to Zolo will be just $26 per person. Beverages, tax and gratuities are, of course, additional. Go to First Bite’s website and click on ‘Restaurants’ for a complete list, as well as click-on menus and, in some cases, links to on-line reservations. I’ve been to many of these restaurants myself and have posted writeups on my website ; click on ‘Dining Diary’ and use the clickable index to see whether I’ve reviewed the restaurant that interests you.
I’ve finally gotten to try a few restaurants (and also have found the apostrophe on this keyboard), so here goes.
One of my favorite features of an SATW convention is athe Dine Around, where attendees select or are assigned restaurants, which they visit in small, normal groups. My husband I were sent to one of a dozen restaurants in a Borderio, a sort-of mall with places to eat, drink and buy cigarettes (there is a dedicated Marlboro shop).
We were assigned to La Tabla, an Argentine-style steakhouse. This was odd because at our table for eight were two vegans and one non-red-meter eater. The decor is contemporary gaucho with red tile floors. Cowhides on one wall. Spurs and stuff hanging from the rafters. The waiters are costumed as for the pampas.
We were given a choice of two appetizers, carpaccio of beef or carpaccio of salmon. Both came sliced paper thin and arranged in circles on the plates. The beef was OK, but the salmon was drowned in so much lemon that all I could taste was the the citrus. Even the capers could not assert themseles. For the main course, we had a choice of beef or salmon. (The vegans were accommodated with a plate of pasta.) For a side dish, the waiter gave a choice of souffle potatoes or souffle potatoes. The steakwas a thick cut that was flavorful enough but not especially tender. The salmon was dipped in a batter, sprinkled with sesame seeds, overcooked and blanketed in a gravy that everyone agreed tasted like beef but we were told was soy. The side effect was to make the batter soggy. The souffle potatoes were wonderful — crisp hollows of French fry-size sticks. They actually presented us with the regular dessert menu, and the postres were all OK. The most interesting was a large apple pancake.
The disappointing salmon was vindicated the next night, but I have to go. I promise to describe it next time I have computer access and time to use it.
I have often said that like the army, the Society of American Travel Writers travels on its stomach. The 2006 convention is in Santiago, Chile, with a guarantee of huge meals. As with any conference, many meals are served to everyone (more than 500 of us) in a hotel function room. The Hyatt and Sheraton have made great efforts in serving some local specialties.
Among them have been various disappointing salmon preparations, outstanding fruit salads and a version of Pastel de Choclo. In Chile and elsewhere in southern South America, “choclo” (not mais or similar) is the word for corn. Pastel de Choclo, a casserole, is a summer specialty. Locals tell me that home cooks dice a couple of onions and saute them with chopped chopped garlic and salt. In another pan, they saute diced or ground beef. In yet another, they poach about four pieces of chicken in water. In an ovenproof clay pot, they combine the meat and sauteed vegetables. They top that with olives, raisins, slices of hard-boiled egg and finally the cooked chicken, which may be sliced or shredded. They shuck about 10 ears of corn and blend the kernels in a blender (with a little water “if necessary”). The corn mixture is spread on top and then sprinkled with sugar. They then bake it for about 20 minutes in at an oven setting that I could not discern, but I think must be moderate (350 to 375 degrees) until the sugar caramelizes. The hotel did it in quantity without the caramelized sugar. Other central Chilean specialties include cazuela, a soup of chicken, turkey, beef or pork with potatoes, pumpkin and green beans, also cooked in a clay pot. Empanadas filled with seasoned meat, poultry or seafood are ubiquitous, as is seaood in many forms.
More to come on restaurant meals.
For a while, my posts will be from Chile. So far, since leaving Colorado, I´ve had food placed in front of me on two airlines: cookies from breakfast on American to LAX and one medicore dinner, one lousy snack and one mediocre breakfast on the long haul from LAX to Santiago on LAN Chile. No surprise. I am at a travel writers´convention in Santiago, staying at the Hyatt, which put on a nice buffet breakfast for the morning arrivals. The fresh fruit was fabulous, and the croissants were as brittle and flaky as the ones I love in Paris. More about other food once I´ve had some.
Leaving on a trip soon. Cleaning out refrigerator. Grilled some chicken. Made some rice. Concocted salsa with stuff that needed to be eaten. Here’s what I made (and the recipe is easily adjustable to whatever you might need to use up):
1/2 ripe cantaloupe, seeded, removed from rind and chopped
1/3 red onion, peeled and chopped
1/3 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
1/4 small can of chopped mild chiles
splash of Balsamic vinegar
Combine all chopped ingredients. Add enough Balsamic vinegar to tame the onion taste. Cover and refigerate until ready to use.
…as we were recently, the Boulder Sunday Camera had an interesting feature today called “Travels of the Tofu King” (http://www.dailycamera.com/bdc/county_news/article/0,1713,BDC_2423_5068199,00.html). It is not so much about Steve Demos’s creation of White Wave Tofu (now moved from Boulder to Broomfield as a division of Dean Foods), but about the world travels that he and his wife, Sheryl, have undertaken since he left the company. Among other experiences, they managed to find the cave in India where he got the idea to start a tofu company.
He’s back in town now and will be a speaker at an upcoming natural food industry conference.
IMHO, natural/organic foods and really delicious foods are not mutually exclusive. Fresh and/or “unartificial” ingredients and flavors create just about the best-tasting and best-for-you food there is.
Every once in a while, King Soopers produces a pleasant surprise, like the Antica Pasteria fresh lasagna noodles that I found recently in the refigerator section (next to the fresh tortellini and gnocchi). I’ve become fond of no-boil lasagna noodles, so I was really delighted to find fresh rather than dried ones. With the 8.8-ounce package in my cart, I picked up some fresh mozzarella and reduced-fat ricotta. I had everything else in the house that I’d need for a quick basic lasagna.
And it was quick. It didn’t take me more than 15 minutes to assemble this dish and shove it into oven. Lasagna isn’t fussy, and as long as even a little of the sauce covers each layer of noodles, especially at the edges, it’ll come out fine. While it was resting after I took it out of the oven, I made a simple tossed salad with oil and vinegar dressing. We opened a bottle of red wine and sat down to eat 55 minutes after I started — less time than it would take to wait for a pizza delivery on a Friday evening.
Quick Cheese Lasagna
1 package Antica Pasteria lasagna noodles
1 jar good-quality tomato sauce (Whole Foods, Newman’s Own, Trader Joe’s, etc.)
1 container low-fat ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
Fresh herbs if available, chopped (I harvested late-season basil and parsley)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
Grated fresh Parmesan, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix ricotta with egg and herbs. Ladle a small amount of sauce on the bottom of an 8 x 12-inch or 9 x 13 lasagna pan. Put down a layer of noodles. With this brand, the long side noodles fit perfectly into the the short side of the pan, with a little space to spare between noodles. With kitchen shears, cut one lasagna noodle into 3 or 4 slices to fill in these gaps. Top noodles with another layer of sauce, the ricotta mixture and mozzeralla torn into small pieces. Repeat the process until you run out of something, but do finish with sauce, mozzarella if you have any left and Parmesan. Cover with foil (the no-stick kind would be good if you have some) and bake for 1/2 hour. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.
Servings: How hungry are you? Two of us comfortably ate half of this lasagna.