Category Archives: Mexican and Tex-Mex

Upcoming Food Fests in Denver

Two alliterative competitions to find the best tacos and burgers.

Attendees at the massive Top Taco coming on Thursday, June 22 may sample unlimited taco tastes from and signature tequila cocktails  from 45 popular Denver restaurants. They can also vote for favorite in Top Creative Taco, Top Traditional Taco, Top Vegetarian Taco and Top Cocktail categories. Add live music, creative tequila lounge areas, and Top Taco is a hard to beat summer event.  Hours are 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. with early entry for the two most expensive tickets. General admission is $69, 1st Tasting is $90 and a VIP ticket is $125. Click here to purchase.

Last minute tickets available:
$10 OFF USE DISCOUNT CODE “LASTCHANCETACO” WHEN BUYING TICKETS AT TOPTACODENVER.COM FOR $10 OFF. OFFER GOOD THROUGH MIDNIGHT, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 2017.

Four local burger-meisters compete in the annual Denver Burger Battle on Thursday, August 3. They have to impress a picky and knowledgeable panel of judges — all chefs and restaurateurs — with their creativity and skills. Each chef prepares four types of burgers. Contestant restaurants are The Cherry Cricket, Stoic & Genuine,  and Park Burger. Heavy-hitter judges are Josh Wolken (Steuben’s, Ace, Vesta), Elise Wiggins (Cattivella), Bryan Dayton (Oak on Fourteenth, Acorn, Brider) and Bradford Heap (Salt, Colterra, Wild Standard), and attendees get to vote on the People’s Choice too.

General admission ($69.95) gets unlimited burger tastes from all competitors, open bar with craft beer, wine and samples of premium spirits and desserts from Little Man, Glazed & Confused, Happy Bakeshop & Sweet Action. VIP admission ($124.99) buys all that plus early admission to the event at 5:30 p.m. and reduced lines, exclusive VIP area with covered lounges, extra seating and private bars and specialty VIP cocktails (High Noon Vodka, Rebel Yell hiskey, Cane Rum, Fireball, Exotico Tequila, Buffalo Trace Bourbon or Tuaca), plus  unlimited desserts from Little Man, Glazed & Confused, Happy Bakeshop, & Sweet Action. The event is rain or shine, 21+ only and takes place at Tivoli Quad Park, Denver.

A New Spin on New Mexican Ingredients

Hotel Andaluz chef cooks out of the culinary box.

As award-winning Cordon Bleu-trained chef Marc Quinones was cooking his way around some of the top restaurants and resorts in the Southwest, he prepared a lot of excellent versions regional favorites. But when the recently appointed executive chef of downtown Albuquerque’s historic Hotel Andaluz was asked to cook for a Denver media reception on behalf of New Mexico travel interests, his imagination took wing, and he offered contemporary dishes from various traditions but using New Mexican-grown and -raised ingredients.

Some of the dishes:

Pineapple, watermelon and grape salad with Marcona almond crumble and pimenton. oil.
“Peas & Carrots,” a whimsical name for toasted corn and white Balsamic/sambal chile dressing.
New York strip steak (two levels of doneness) with jalapeno butter. Thick slices of toasted sourdough were in a separate dish. Since it is New Mexico-raised cattle, perhaps it should be called New Mexico strip steak.
Hatch Green Chile Hummus on Broken Lavash with cilantro oil and red pepper gel.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with caramelized onion ragout and Cascabel chile Romesco sauce.
For sheer creativity, my ad hoc award goes to the Pinon Brittle, a clear sugary rectangles topped with oreango gremolata and lemongrass yogurt.

I think I was too busy eating and sipping cocktails made with Colkegan single malt whiskey or gin from Santa Fe Spirits, a craft distillery, to take pictures of two terrific dishes: the Berkshire pork belly with Anasazi bean ragout, yellow corn and harissa-sherry reduction  and the super-fab Mew Mexico ceviche — Bay scallops in tangerine, Maldon salt, pickled red onion and Chimayo chile vinaigrette.

Then there was the chocolate — the wonderful chocolate from Cacao Santa Fe,  which produces fantastic chocolate bars, beautiful and interesting bonbons, workshops led by master chocolatier Melanie Boudar and Factory tours with owner Derek Lanter.

Then there was Clear Light, the Cedar Company, which has been producing Cedar Essence and other aromatic potions since 1971, giving complimentary hand and forearm massages. The boss’s business card is a thin slice of cedar.

It was wonderful to have New Mexicans bring their eats and drinks  (and more) to Denver. High time to head south to eat in situ.

NOMA Popping Up in Tulum

Fabled Copenhagen restaurant’s next temp location in Mexico.

René Redzepi, the wildly creative owner/chef of NOMA in Copenhagen, set the culinary world on its collective ear when the restaurant began collecting Michelin stars and was named the Best Restaurant In The World by San Pellegrino. It wasn’t fancy French cuisine. It wasn’t classically Italian. Or nouvelle anything. It was original. Redzepi became the first star chef to make exquisite dishes from foraged food — no small feat in Scandinavia.

La Zebra at the edge of the jungle where NOMA will set up shop; for just seven weeks.

Following successful pop-ups in Tokyo and Sydney, the next temporary NOMA is soon coming to Tulum on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This tropical area provides very different ingredients and a way longer growing season, but there is no doubt that Redzepi’s team can meet the challenge.  From April 12 through May 28 , NOMA Mexico takes up residency outdoors under the canopy of the jungle, close to La Zebra, a Colibri boutique hotel  in Tulum on what is promotionally called the Mexican Riviera.

The NOMA Mexico pop-up reunites René Redzepi with Rosio Sanchéz to develop a new and original menu using only local and indigenous Mexican ingredients. Sanchez is a first-generation Mexican-American from Chicago, a former NOMA  head pastry chef and now owner of the taqueria Hija de Sanchez in a Copenhagen market hall.  Sanchez and the NOMA team have reportedly begun to develop their vision for the Mexico residency. A group of international chefs has been traveling across the country in search of inspiration, flavors and preparations from Mexico City to Ensenada, from Chiapas to Puebla, from Oaxaca to Guadalajara and throughout the Yucatán Peninsula for inspiration.

Like all things NOMA, the experience does not come cheap. It is $600 per person person (plus 16% local tax and 9% service charge) for a multi-course tasting menu, beverage pairing including a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, water and tea/coffee. Click here if you have the urge and the budget for what promises to be an extraordinary experience, but don’t be surprised if reservations are impossible to obtain.

Click here for La Zebra’s hotel and dining package (if available) that includes “access to purchase two tickets” for the NOMA Mexico pop-up restaurant, a minimum of a two-night accommodation for two and daily à la carte breakfast. Options previously announced: Deluxe Package, $1,550 per person for three nights’ accommodations for 2 in a seaview suite; Premium Package, $1,850 for same but in a beachfront, ground-level suite with plunge pool, or Penthouse Package, $2,500, same but in a beachfront penthouse with “private ocean view” and plunge pool. Not within waddling distance after the feast but alternatives if La Zebra has no rooms on a particular night are three other Colibri hotels nearby (Mi Amor, El Pez and Mezzanine).

A Look at Stanley Marketplace — at Last

Former aviation equipment factory now hub for food, shopping and community.

Being a fan of markets and of adaptive reuse of old buildings, I have cheered the development of the Stanley Marketplace from the other side of metro Denver since I first read about it. Yesterday, a friend visiting from New York, my husband and I went to take a look.  It is located near the Aurora-Denver line and near the old Stapleton Airport, an area mushrooming from open space into a dense new urban development of housing, shops, offices and parks.

The cavernous building, once the home of Stanley Aviation, is being remade into a cutting-edge, multi-use building that hyper-industrial in design. It works. Businesses are moving in gradually (Cheluna Brewing and the fourth location of Comida being among the first and Mister B’s Wine and Spirits opening today, being the newest ), and with each opening and each special event, the attraction grows. Even on a weekday morning, there was activity, It was not just construction crews. Parents and little kids were playing in a tumbling space for tiny tots, gym rats were umping heavy iron in a weight training studio) and people needing their hair or faces done were visiting a hair salon, aesthetician or barber. .

We popped in and out of boutiques with wonderful fashions and accessories and peered into construction sites, and I even went upstairs to the shell that will become the newest location of The Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery. Here are some current eating/drinking opportunities, with more soon to follow.

Miette et Chocolat features French-inspired pastries with an added ‘je ne sais quoi’ that elevates them to ‘haute patisserie.’
You would not expect a French pastry chef to be named Gonzo Jimenez, but that’s the name of one of the partners of Miettte et Chocolat. “Gonzo” is short for Gonzalo. He is from Argentina, baked his way around the Hyatt hotel empire then at Boulder’s St. Julien Hotel, met Illinois-bred David Lewis (Las Vegas, cruise ships) at a culinary competition. They hit it off and decided to open their own chocolate shop. Lewis was piloting a handcart out in the aisel when I grabbed this short of Jimenez.

Continue reading A Look at Stanley Marketplace — at Last

Restaurant Weeks in the Rockies

One in Denver, three in  northern New Mexico.

All of us who love to eat treasure restaurant weeks. The format is similar: a limited menu of several prix fixe courses (usually three) at very affordable prices. These promotional weeks have become low-season staples in some of the most interesting food cities in the land.

Denver

Denver’s 13th annual Restaurant Week from February 24 through March 5. That’s 10 days of great dining options. Visit Denver is now organizing the promotion The DRW format has evolved over the years. This year, instead of one price point, restaurants have the option of three: $25, $35 and $45 per person. That also gives diners the option of how much to splurge — or not. The bottom line is that some 150 restaurants are participating. The website enables diners to find restaurants by cuisine or neighborhood with just the click of a mouse.

New Mexico

Northern New Mexico’s three main dining destinations have their individual restaurant weeks: Santa Fe Restaurant Week, February 19 – 26; Taos Restaurant Week;  February 26 – March 5, and Albuquerque Restaurant Week,  March 5 – 12. Restaurants offer prix fixe dinners for $15, $25, $35 or $45 per person. Many offer value-priced lunches as well.

Centro’s Good Food but Poor Service

Perhaps an anomaly — or perhaps wait staff has gone downhill.

centro-logoI’m not much of a shopper, but I do my modest best to support local independent businesses on Small Business Saturday, an annual antidote to Black Friday frenzy. A downtown Boulder bead shop had the earring wires I needed, one bookstore always has good deals on calendars, another carried the Pam Houston book I wanted to read and one of the two arts coops had a jigsaw puzzle I had my eye on to bring as a host/ess gift to friends’ annual holiday open house.

Even that little shopping made my husband and me hungry (in our defense, we’d eaten tiny breakfasts and hadn’t had lunch). We decided on Centro Latin Kitchen, whose weekend brunch was still in effect. We took a table on the covered patio, ordered drinks and food. The drinks — mercifully strong enough to mellow the irritation that followed — were more or less promptly delivered, but when it came to food, we waited and waited and waited.  And did I mention that we waited? One adjacent table turned over completely, but our food was nowhere in sight — and neither was our server. Abducted by aliens?

We finally flagged down a runner and asked where out food might be.  That appeared to speed things up. When the waiter himself brought our order, he said he was “sorry” for the delay. I replied, “We’re even sorrier.” He offered to comp a dessert.

Shrimp a la plancha -- street taco size. The small corn tortilla was stuffed with shrimp4.5 corn tortilla, shredded cabbage, sliced carrot and jalapeño aioli
Shrimp a la plancha — street taco size. The small corn tortilla was stuffed with shrimp, shredded cabbage, sliced carrot and jalapeño aioli. It was a tasty mix.
Carnitas Benny is a Latin spin on eggs Benedict. On a base of a spicy smoked cheddar-green chile biscuit sit two poached eggs, slow- roasted pork and a really good roasted jalapeño hollandaise. Roasted potato chunks (called papas charros) are alongside.
Carnitas Benny is a Latin spin on eggs Benedict. On a base of a smoked cheddar-green chile biscuit sit two poached eggs, slow- roasted pork and a really good roasted jalapeño hollandaise. Roasted potato chunks (called papas charros) are alongside.

From the dessert menu, we selected tres leches cake, served cold so it should be delivered quickly — especially since by that time, the brunch crowd had gone. But again, we waited and we waited and we waited. Again, invisible waiter. This time, we flagged down a busser.

w single-0serve portion of this classic
Single-serve portion of this classic “three milk” cake sat in a milk pool and topped with whipped cream and apple-cherry preserve.

Again, I expressed my/our frustration at the disappointing service. The waiter offered to get the manager, who seemed able to determine from the register tape that we weren’t blowing smoke about our long waits. He gave us some reasons, and I said that it might have been nice it the waiter has stopped by our table with a work of explanation or at least apology. He agreed and offered to comp all the food.

For what it’s worth, Centro’s nom de cuisine is the ponderous Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace, which no one uses. Not ever,

Price check: At weekend brunch, small plates, $3-$8; tacos, $4.5; specialties (i.e., entrees), $7-$18; sides, $1-$5; desserts, $3-$6.

Centro is at 950 Pearl Street, Boulder; 303-442-7771.

Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Adios, Deli Cioso

Bidding farewell to long-time Longmont Mexican restaurant.

001When my husband, a fan of Mexican favorites, worked on the IBM campus in northeast Boulder, he occasionally drove to Longmont for lunch — and then often to Deli Cioso. I had only been there once before (click here for my write-up). I enjoyed the funky laid-back ambiance then and appreciated it again.

A sunny corner table.
A sunny window table.

Saturday will be the restaurant’s last day, so my husband and I went there for a farewell lunch. It is the antithesis of the excessively sanitized chain restaurant. People either love or detest the food. Ditto for the service. The owner is retiring and Boulder’s Gondolier is setting up a second location there.

Chips and a liquid-y salsa to start.
Chips and a liquid-y salsa to start.
Deli Cioso boasts about its burritos, so I had a one with chicken smothered in chile sauce. Unlike chains that overfill the tortillas with rice, Del Cioso uses just tender chicken chunks in a nice sauce, wraps them in a flour tortilla and smothers the assemblage in green chile..
Deli Cioso boasts about its burritos, so I had a one with chicken. Unlike chains that overfill the tortillas with rice, Del Cioso uses just tender chicken chunks in a nice sauce, wraps them in a flour tortilla and smothers the assemblage in green chile..
My husband favors combo plates. At Deli Cioso, he especially likes the crisp chile relleno. Also on the plate, an enchilada and beans -- and something that I can't recall.
My husband favors combo plates. At Deli Cioso, he especially likes the crisp chile relleno. Also on the plate, an enchilada and beans — and something that I can’t recall.
When the Gondolier takes over. I wonder whether the faux Mexican entrance will be changed or somehow adapted to faux Italian.
When the Gondolier takes over. I wonder whether the faux Mexican entrance will be changed or somehow adapted to faux Italian.

It is located at 1217 South Main Street, Longmont. Hurry. Only a couple of days left.