Aji is Boulder’s newest South American restaurant
My husband and a friend an I took advantage of the great prices during the First Bite Boulder promotion to visit Aji Restaurant, a South American restaurant east of the Pearl Street Mall and a few blocks from our home. The food was wonderful, the portions ample and the price appealing. For a review, please go to my website’s Dining Diary.
Beyond our own satisfying meal, I have to sing the praises of cities and participating restaurateurs that team up to offer well-priced meals for a special week each year. Denver does a Restaurant Week each February, following the lead of such culinary meccas as San Francisco and Seattle. Whatever these promotional weeks are called and whenever they fall on the calendar, they provide an opportunity for diners to try places they haven’t been or to return to a favorite without running up a huge bill.
When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, my favorite treat place was the Ice Cream Parlor (or maybe Parlour) in Westport. This recreation of a Gay Nineties ice cream parlor had small marble tables, wire-back chairs, an old-fashioned soda fountain (that made free ice cream sundaes or banana splits for anyone with a birthday) and employees in old-style garb. The boys wore striped shirts, white pants, suspenders, straw boaters and, for a while, faux handlebar moustaches. The girls’ outfits were similar to square dancers’ dresses.
Powell’s Sweet Shoppe has now landed on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. There’s no sit-down eating, there’s gelato instead of Borden’s (or whatever the Ice Cream Parlor/Parlour dished up), and the staff isn’t costumed. But oh, that penny candy to tickle the kid in us all. Lollipops, dots, small candy bars (including half-forgtten retro brands), jellybeans and M&M’s in all sorts of colors, filled candies, animal-shaped candies, gum, Pez refills (and dispensers to put them in) and much more. There’s even fine chocolate in bars or by the piece for the grownup in us, but that’s not why I’d go there.
Powell’s is based in San Francisco, and while I’ll still support buy boxes of Belgian-style fine chocolates from Colorado-based Belvedere Chocolates a couple of blocks away when I need a gift for a chocoholic and Rocky Mountain Chocolates when I’m wandering by and want a small chocolate fix. But when I want something cheery and smile-provoking, or when I just want to get in touch with my inner sweet-toothed child, I’ll be heading to Powells.
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.
In the year-plus after Culinary Colorado was published, I traveled all over the state giving talks, presenting my slide show, appearing on panels and signing books. Over time, those promotional activities tapered off. Yesterday, I was one of the two authors invited to speak at the Rocky Mountain Skyline Bookstore Association luncheon in Fort Collins — the first time in months I’ve done such a presentation for this book.
It was a beautiful day for the drive (though the aggressive sprawl and the “de-ruralization” in the Berthoud-Loveland area was a shocker, but that’s another matter). The attendees were book people are with college and university bookstores, mostly from the Front Range. Questions are always enlightenting, and it was surprising how many were also foodies or married to foodies. “What is your favorite restaurant in Colorado?” is a common one, but I was also asked what my favorite new kitchen gadgets are (microplanes in a couple of sizes and an immersion blender, I answered), whether I shop at a farmers’ market (yes, of course, Boulder’s Saturday market whenever I’m around) and what I think of the Palisade Wine Festival (I haven’t been there since the relocated from the in-town park to a larger space on the outskirts of town, but I love the energy and the growing enthusiasm for and quality of Colorado wines). In my talk, I had mentioned that four Colorado chefs have been named as one of Food & Wine’s 10 best chefs of the year and named Frasca’s Lachlan Patterson, the most recent (2006). Someone asked me who the other three were. Answer: Charles Dale, then of Aspen’s Renaissance; James Mazzio, then of Triana, and Bryan Moscatello, then of Adega. None of those three is still around, but I think Frasca will last for a long, long time.
I drive to Fort Collins “the back way,” west of the towns between here (Boulder) and there, in what a few years ago had been rural (horse country, farm country), and driving through the construction zone that exists west of U.S. was not encouraging. It reminded me that to encourage farmers and ranchers to remain on their land, we all have to help them stay in business. If you want more info on the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, which is ending soon for the season, go to http://www.boulderfarmers.org).