Category Archives: Colorado

Ethnic Eating with "The Gyros"

I finally have had a chance to sink my teeth into The Gyro’s Journey, a lovely little guidebook by food writers Joey Porcelli and Clay Fong to some of Colorado’s wonderful eateries. The book’s subtitle is “Affordable Ethnic Eateries along the Front Range.” It’s really a guide to those restaurants in the Denver/Boulder area. The two southernmost are in Centennial. The two northernmost are in Longmont. There’s nothing from Fort Collins or Colorado Springs or Pueblo (all Front Range cities). While is fine with me personally, because this is where I live too, some foodies might appreciate a wider geographic spread.

The book spotlights 53 worthy restaurants, organized by type of cuisine, though in some cases, an ethnic category contains just one restaurant. For example, the Oriental Food Market in Boulder is the only Indonesian eatery, the Cafe Prague the only one under Czech Republic, Little Europe the only Ukrainian/Russian, White Eagle the only Polish, the Celtic Tavern the only Irish place and so on. Some other ethnic categories include only two entries.

The Gyro’s Journey does not purport to be comprehensive in the manner of Susan Permut’s Adventures in Eating series, the last of which was, I believe, published in the mid-1990s. Her Denver’s Ethnic Restaurants, for example, covered nearly 150 eateries in roughly the same geographic area as The Gyro’s Journey. Porcelli and Wong devoted more time and space to each restaurant

The great strength of The Gyro’s Journey lies in the thoroughness and tone of each write-up, invariably an admiring tribute to the restaurant, to its ethnic tradition and often to the individual owner and/or chef. Visit a restaurant vicariously with Porcelli and Wong, and you’ll feel as if you’ve been there before you walk through the door.

If they are contemplating writing Another Gyro’s Journey, I hope that in the Boulder area alone, they will consider including Pupusa’s (Salvadorian/Mexican), Mina’s Latin Restaurant (Mexican), China Gourmet,Khow Thai, Proto’s (great if yuppified pizza), Cafe Gondolier (southern Italian “with Italian-American flare” — a phrase that I coined to make you smile), Kim Food to Go (Vietnamese and Chinese; take-out only). Denver offers Cebiche (Peruvian) and Lakewood boasts Virgilio’s (pizza with just one degree of separation from its southern Italian roots).

Unless and until they do, The Gyro’s Journey should be enough to hold us all. It was published by Fulcrum Publishing and costs $12.95. You might also want to check out the authors’ blog.

Pacific Ocean Market — at Last

I have been intending to check out Pacific Ocean Market in Broomfield since it first opened a couple of years ago. I finally did so yesterday. We returned from Hawaii in the morning, where Asian, pan-Asian and Asian fusion fare reigns, and in the afternoon, took 120th Avenue to attend a party in Broomfield. What a perfect re-entry to the mainland this quick look at POM (as it calls itself) turned out to be. Boxes of mangoes (not from Hawaii but from the Philippines), spiky durian in mesh bags, bok choy (baby and full grown), gnarls of fresh ginger as big as a grown man’s splayed hand and more filled the produce counters. Fish and shellfish, both on ice and live in tanks, comprised the seafood section. The meat and poultry counters displayed cuts not seen in conventional American supermarkets, as well as familiar parts. The shelves were stacked with varieties of rice, beans, sauces, noodles, soy products, sauces, specialty canned goods, sweets and more. And oh, the spice selection! For cooks, there were woks, strainers, ladles, cleavers, steamers, rice cookers, teapots and more. Soup bowls, rice bowls, serving dishes, tea cups and chopsticks enable anyone to set a true Asian table. The clientele was overwhelmingly Asian/Asian-American. I’ll be back. POM is at 6600 West 120th Avenue (at Main Street), Broomfield; 303-410-8168.

Bits of Restaurant News

I’m just as deadline-crazed as I was a few days ago, but I am trying to catch up by posting three messages this morning — diverse topics that I ordinarily would have posted over several days. Here’s some restaurant news of note (in addition to the opening of Amuse by Michel, which I wrote about earlier today):

  • Mista Trattoria is a bit like a hermit crab, inhabiting spaces vacated by a previous tenant. The first Mista took over the old Laudisio’s space in North Boulder, and the second is situated the old Rudi’s World Cuisine space in South Boulder (4720 Table Mesa Drive; 303-554-5828). Rudi’s, a long-time Boulder tradition, is gone for good — or so it seems.
  • But sometimes “gone” is only temporary. Lulu’s Kitchen, serving up down-home, Southern-style food, is back. It had a short run in East Boulder recently but is up and running again, now on the Hill, at 1124 Thirteenth Street; 303-449-6637.
  • City, O’ City, a coffee house and vegetarian/vegan pizzeria, is now at 206 East 13th Street; 303-831-6443. It has taken over the previous location of WaterCourse Foods, a vegetarian restaurant, which relocated to 837 East 13th Avenue; 303-832-7313. They, as well as the WaterCourse Bakery (214 East 13th Avenue; 303-318-9843), are under the same ownership.
  • The Corner Office is open in the Hotel Curtis (1405 Curtis Street; 825-6500), offering up breakfast, lunch and dinner — and it has a martini bar too.
  • After shuttering Mel’s Restaurant and Bar, the Masters clan and executive chef Adam Mali have turned their attention to a second location for their quick-hit Montecito Restaurant & Bar (the new one is at 5970 South Holly Street, Greenwood Village; 303-777-8223) and nearby Annabel’s at 5960 South Holly; 303-488-2662. Both are in the the Denver Tech Center area. The first Montecito’s is at 1120 East Sixth Avenue; 303-777-8222.
  • Ping’s Favorite Chinese Restaurant in the strip mall behind Video Station has closed. A sushi restaurant has taken its place.
  • The small store at 2359 Arapahoe that housed Tastefully Toasted, the best donut store around, is empty.

Small Plate Delights at Denver’s New Amuse

I recently wrote about the coming of Amuse by Michel at 5 Degrees in Denver. Now it’s here, and on Tuesday, I attended a preview for media and other guests. The 5 Degrees part is a big bar/lounge in front, geared for the LoDo evening social crowd, while the Amuse part is the eatery that occupies the back. The restaurant is small and very cool-looking. It reminded me of a house of mirrors, with mirrors set in white frames against black walls, antique-white chandeliers with robin’s egg blue shades (right) that could have come from Cinderella’s castle, birchwood table tops, black armchairs and wood floors. An expansive patio in back looks inviting for a summer evening but was not open for the preview for media and guests on Tuesday evening.
The wine list was imposing, but I selected a sparkling Micheltini to start, and it was so good that I had another during the progression of a dozen small plates, each one attractively presented. IMHO, the best were:
  • The mixed Mediterranean olives with fresh herbs, lemon, orange, spices and garlic. I doubt that Wahaltare cures his own olives, but they displayed variety and marinade was terrific.
  • Seasonal Pacific oysters (right) with Maui onions mignonette. The oysters were “gentle,” not assertive, thereby not competing with the onions — and vice versa.
  • The lemon buerre blanc that blanketed the potato gnocchi was delicious.
  • Even better was the saffron mustard cream sauce for the PEI mussels. Understandably, given so many dishes to try, there was no bread on the table, but if there had been, I would have been tempted to sop up every drop. As it was, I made sure that ever mussel was well coated.
  • The Mountain Meadow Colorado lamb loin was tender and sweetly lamb-y, and the cassoulet of beans and balsamic emulsion was a lovely counterpoint.

One of Michel’s marketing minions came around and asked what we thought of different dishes, so if I was not alone in my opinions, the following dishes might change in the future, but as of last Tuesday, the least successful were:

  • The Red Bird Farms chicken drumettes confit with home-made ginger and sun-dried apricot barbecue disappointed. The chicken was tender enough, beneath a coating of a tempura-like batter, but I couldn’t taste the ginger, just the apricot, and the “barbecue” component mystified me.
  • The lightly fried citrus almond-crusted calamari served with spiced tomato sauce featured tender enough calamari, but the crust bore no taste of citrus or of almond, and the tomato sauce packed no flavor punch other than the tomatoes.
Too full for dessert, I lumbered back to the Market Street station and rolled back to Boulder on the bus.

Amuse at 5 Degrees is at 1475 Lawrence Street, Denver. It is open from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. except Sunday. For reservations, call 303-260-7505.

Cooking Class at Maggiano’s

I’m normally not a fan of chains, but Maggiano’s Little Italy (two locations in Denver, 20 other states) is one of the best of the lot. Maybe it’s nostalgia. The ambience mimics East Coast Italian neighborhood restaurants, though the ones I have been to ramble from room to room and seem as big as some entire East Coast Italian neighorhoods. Maybe it’s because relatively few locations thinly spread across not-too-many states (only four in excessively chainified California) makes it feel less corporate. Maybe it’s because the food is really quite good — heaping platters of filling southern Italian-style favorites, served family-style.

In any case, on Monday evening, I attended a small cooking class put on by George Poston, chef at the downtown Denver Maggiano’s. Normally when the restaurant invites some media friends, the classes are hands-on in one of their kitchens, but this time, every dining room was packed, the kitchens were all occupied and we were exiled to the very pleasant patio where the class ended up being a demonstration. (Poston is above right, with his “assistant,” 7News consumer reporter Bill Clarke)

I’ve never been to a cooking class — hands-on or demonstration — where I didn’t learn something. This time, I learned that there are better ways to make buschetta than my never-quite-totally-successful oven-toasting. Poston took very good Italian bread (from Whole Foods, he said, which makes better stuff than Maggiano’s generally puts on the tables) grilled it over very low heat (200 to 250 degrees) in a cast-iron skillet with a bit of olive oil and garlic until lightly toasted and then topped it with chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Zagat Wants YOU!

You be the critic! On-line balloting has started for the 2008 edition of Zagat’s America’s Top Restaurants. Colorado doesn’t rate it’s own Zagat Guide, but this state’s urban, suburban and resort restaurants are included in the national book. Go to http://www.zagat.com/vote/VoteActiveSurvey.aspx, register and cast your votes and make your cyber-voice heard. Zagat Guides are well regarded for condensing and consolidating real people’s input, rather than relying on professional restaurant critics for their ratings and evaluations. In fact, some people conisder them their little dining bibles. Deadline is July 8, 2007.

Denver Chefs to Food & Wine

I’ve been deadline-crazed lately and haven’t had/found/made time to blog for several days. But I just found out which Denver chefs will be at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 15-17 and can resist sharing their names with you.

I don’t have a schedule so don’t know exactly what each one will be doing or when. Speaking generally, some chefs go to Food & Wine to cook for admiring crowds in the Consumer portion of the event, which is truly an honor, but others quietly attend seminars and panels in the Restaurant Trade portion of the event and network with their colleagues. The combo makes it a chef fest of the highest order. The Front Range chefs heading for this toniest of food events, which is billing itself as “the height of good taste,” are:

Matt Anderson, Bistro Vendôme
Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja
Carl Klein, Corridor 44
Ian Kleinman, O’s Steak & Seafood at the Westin Westminster
Curtis Lincoln, Ellyngton’s at the Brown Palace
Christian “Goose” Sorensen, Solera
Tyler Wiard, Elways