Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Orleans Night Duck

I was just inspired. The Westword, a lovely little paper in Denver, posted an article on their CafeSociety blog about the best leftovers. There is absolutely nothing I love in this world more (sorry, Mom) than LEFTOVERS. In fact my mom even brought me some leftovers today so I think she knows where my loyalties lie.

I wanted to not so covertly expand upon (steal) this idea but how? Then I remembered a glorious moment, in New Orleans (Yes, Sara and I went to New Orleans but were much too busy and important to blog about it.) We went to Galatoire's for an early bird dinner. Much has been said about Galatoire's (I'm sure) and I agree with all of it (the good stuff). I ate some food, in fact I think I ate a lot of food thus I didn't have the stomach room left to eat all of my entree of delectable duck.

I guess it's officially called "Roasted Duck." Which reminds me of my absolute favorite thing about Galatoire's, no fru fru fancy named bologna. Well, no bologna, actually. You want duck? Order Duck. You don't have to order the "apricot infused glaze of hashish with pumpernickel garnishment toast mixed with an awe-inspiring lumped potato and Count Chocula approved 7-day duck roast." Call me old fashioned but duck is duck, no matter what cereal character endorses it.

Back to the story. So since I couldn't finish my duck. The waiter tried to convince me that I needed to take it with me. I protested, I was in a hotel, I had no fridge, it would become yuck duck. He said no, you're wrong it will be good for hours! Who am I to argue with a seasoned Galatoire's waiter? If anyone knows his stuff, it would be this guy. So I took it and deposited it in the hotel room.

We went out drinking, as one does in New Orleans. This particular night may or may not have involved Absinthe drinking at a Pirate Bar, the details are understandably fuzzy. Upon return to hotel room I was greeted with the best thing that could ever happen! Leftovers! Sitting in their shiny material, just waiting to be eaten! And so I give you Night Duck. That's a look of elation not demonic possession, I assure you.

Working on the Night Duck! Similar but better than the Night Cheese.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Denver Pride Fest/Parade 2010

The only reason you needed to have attended...

Seahorses, Forever!

Also, don't suck like I did. Get your turkey legs early, even if that means eating one at 10:30 AM just after breakfast. If you don't follow this advice you'll end up with a fistful of tickets that then get spent on a (mediocre) buffalo burger with (doesn't look like bacon) buffalo bacon and (too weird, even for me) chocolate dipped bacon (It's cold? It's spicy? It melts?) FAIL, fair food, FAIL.

Don't worry fair readers, I'll get my summer turkey leg, if it's the last thing I do...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pork: the noun, not the verb.

If you ever find yourself in the position of wanting to go to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, but lack the $1800 or so that it costs to go to the Grand Tastings, fear not. There are options for you.

For (somewhat) reasonable fees, you can attend individual events like the Grand Cochon and get your eat on.

Kevin and I went to the Grand Cochon, the last event of the Classic, on Sunday afternoon. Most of the crowds had cleared out, but there were still around 200 (or more? I don't estimate well) people in attendance at the Hotel Jerome. Food & Wine events are great for people who like free things like branded glassware. They are also very good for people who like cooking shows, the Food Network, and Top Chef. They are also good for people who like to drink in the afternoon. Luckily I fall into all of those categories.

First, the drinkies: there were 10 wineries to sample, but I mostly stuck to the beer. Coworker was concerned I missed out on the wine, but it was hot. I believe pig goes better with beer. Also, free branded glassware. Near the end of the event I discovered the bar, where Hendrick's Gin was giving out what as perhaps the best cocktail I have ever had in my life. Serious. Make it for yourself. (recipe down at the bottom).

Now, on to the most important things. The chefs at the Grand Cochon were competing against each other for the title of King of Porc, and they were all worthy contenders. Each chef was given one whole heritage pig to work with, and they all created some incredibly innovative dishes. My favorites:

  • Chef Devin Knell of the French Laundry's Pork Belly "pop tart" with lardo. I love pop tarts. I love pork belly. Nuff said.
  • Chef David Varley of the Bourbon Steakhouse's ground pork- and mushroom-stuffed pastry pocket. Oh my. Bliss. Mushroomy, earthy, bliss. He later won. A well-earned crowning. He also made a delightful "Porkeo" sandwich cookie with sweetened lard as the filling.
  • Chef Matt Steigerwald of the Lincoln Cafe's entire menu - pork belly spring roll with avocado, pork head and shoulder pozole, and roasted pork loin sandwich with stone-ground mustard and house-cured pickles. Some very different international flavors, but all were constantly wonderful. I would bathe in the pozole broth if possible.
  • Chef Scott Romano of Charlie Palmer's at the Joule's excellent, smoky-spicy sausage and sweet mustard.
  • Chef Jason Barikowski of Olympic Provisions had some really lovely offerings, including a spreadable andouille sausage, pig's foot and tail bean stew and what was quite possibly the best cupcake I have ever had.
It was so good, in fact, that Kevin and I went to ask the chef how they made it. My guess: creamy topping was lard or whatever. It was delicious. Like the best red velvet cake you've ever tasted, only better. Nicely textured, almost the density of a brownie. Creamy inside and out. I almost cried it was so good. So we go ask about it.

"Well, it's a chocolate cupcake. With a little vanilla cream on top...sprinkled with some vanilla sea salt. Oh, and the cupcake batter is made with the BLOOD AND BLUBBER OF THE PIG."

I'm not really a squeamish person, but I am kinda glad I didn't know what was in it initially. Ahem.

An especially nice treat was Chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja's "lamb lounge." Her lamb loin with sweet pea, grilled red onion and mint salad, and lamb sausage with tomato jam would make a believer out of anyone who's not a fan of lamb. Both were perfectly cooked, well-balanced and fresh.

Other highlights: a whole pig breakdown by butcher Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats in San Fransisco was...enlightening. In fact, the whole theme of the event - heritage pigs, whole-animal preparations, offal and sustainable farming - was really an inspirational experience. Responsible eating doesn't have to mean giving up on animals whole hog (get it? get it?) but being thoughtful about the animals you do eat - supporting local farms, making an effort to eat fewer processed foods, and returning to the thought process of an earlier generation. If we are to be true stewards of the land, we need to enjoy whole products - even if that means blood in your cupcakes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sonic, where I've been for the last 7 months

So guess what?
I love Sonic.
All you haters can suck it. In fact I'll suck it for you, through this magical straw that provides me with the deliciousness that is a cranberry limeade.
A cranberry limeade that I bought nearly three hours ago that is still cold due to the Sonic genius that is some kind of modern physics marvel. (Physics makes us all its bitches) The equation is no doubt something like this: delicious limeade + extra corn syrup in the flavor of cranberry x ingenious Styrofoam cup ^(cute little crushed ice) = Cold for hours of happiness. Ahhhhh.

And one day I truly do intend to get the frito pie, I will, you'll see.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Junction's not a tourist destination.

Grand Junction isn't a tourist destination. So, when stuck in town buying certain things you can't get up valley - a bridesmaid dress and comics, what a combination - there's not a lot of places you can go.

Junction is, as Sara says, the capital of chain restaurants. Kannah Creek Brewing Company is a welcome sight to the rest of watered down margaritas, dime a dozen drafts of Mass-Produced Light and taco stands around.

True, when you walk in, you get a crazy whiff of a mixture of yeast, hops and spaghetti sauce. But on a warm spring day, the patio is jam packed with kids from Mesa State along with the energy of last night and relaxing Sunday chatter. The walls on the patio are a bit high, and block your attention from anything else but the people sitting around you, but you take what you can get down valley.

Beer wise, a good selection of microbrewed stuff. They just won a Gold from the WBC for their Lands End Amber - and it was good brew, if straight forward. Most of their other beers seem similar and the refrain is the same: good stuff compared to a mass market brew, decent for Colorado beers, but taken in Western Slope context, delightful.

If you're stuck in Junction, take a gander. I had fun.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Might as well stop eating now.

I'm going to tell you a little story. And it might make you roll your eyes a little, and it might make you take me a little less seriously, but it will most certainly put the events of a certain evening at Fruition into perspective.

The first night Kevin and I ate together, I knew I would probably keep dating him because he traded plates with me halfway through the meal. This is an odd thing on which to base a relationship. I'll admit that. But food is really, really important to me.

Flash forward a few dinner dates. Somewhere around TAG. Kevin and I come to the realization that we need to talk about our entree choices because we usually end up wanting the same thing. His mom thought it was hilarious. (I can see your eyes rolling. HANG IN THERE.)

Fast forward again. It's a Friday and we've got a very rare 6:45 reservation at Fruition. The maitre d' is charming. He wears a bow tie. He tells me he likes my dress, says women don't dress up enough in Colorado. I appreciate this.

(Sidebar: you may remember that the maitre d' at Six89 had a bow tie. Then we had an excellent meal. Fruition's maitre d': bow tie. Fruition's food: mind blowing. Coincidence? I think not. I'm thinking of adopting this as a litmus test for restaurants I visit, similar to how I usually buy bottles of wine based on their labels. It hasn't let me down yet.)

Anyhow, the restaurant was busy, and had the feeling of a friendly bustle for the entire time we wee there (nearly 2.5 hours). Our seating wasn't perfect (a bit closer to the draft from the door than I might have liked), but I think we were just happy to have a table...and I was happy to watch the bow-tied maitre d'.

The crowd skewed slightly older, but there was a diverse mix. Midway through our meal, a couple seated at the table next to us were celebrating a birthday dinner. One of the diners gave his partner a first edition copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Seriously. Click that link. I think that is a pretty good indicator of how seriously people who eat at Fruition take their food.

This wine list was extensive, though the selection of wines by the glass was somewhat limited. Understandable, because this is the kind of place where you want to linger with a bottle of wine. I ordered a pinot (big surprise) and Kevin ordered a zinfandel. One of the rotating cast of characters that served as erstwhile waiters (while ours was...I don;t know...practicing his maddeningly vague accent?) brought bread, with butter, sea salt and herbs.

Round One: Starters

Winner: Kevin

Veal cheek pot pie, in the cutest little cast iron pot I've ever seen. Kevin said he wished he had about five more. Or a giant one. Or five giant ones. The puff pastry was flaky, the vegetables perfect (not too mushy). Of course, i can't accurately speak to the wonders of this dish, as I only got about one bite of it. This was very abnormal behavior for my dinner date.

I had a microgreen and winter vegetable salad with hazel vinaigrette and prosciutto. It was delightful. But I really wanted that pot pie.

Round Two: Entrees

Winner: Sara

Both of us wanted to order one of two things: confit pork shoulder, or beef culottes. I (maybe a little sneakily) ordered first so I could get the pork, and it was the best selfish decision I've ever made. Confit pork shoulder (click here for a definition) served over sweet potato polenta, with a salad of pears, candied walnuts, red grapes and microgreens. This dish was an example of how simplicity can sing - how the fruit brought out the sweetness int he slow-cooked pork; the bitterness of the walnuts balanced the richness of the polenta. I almost cried a little. I reluctantly parted with two bites. Very strange behavior indeed.

Kevin ordered the beef, and it was excellent. I had some. There were potatoes and carrots involved. It was beautifully cooked. But I just don't remember it. Sometimes, the best things in life overshadow even the really good ones. (See also: Pirate's Booty vs. Cheetos).

Round Three: After Dinner Drinks

Winner: Depends on how you define "winner"

I ordered a Muscat. Kevin ordered Scotch. I really enjoyed my dessert wine. Kevin really enjoyed his Scotch. So much so, in fact, that he wondered why I do not enjoy Scotch. So I tried some, and very nearly died. I think he was punishing me for not sharing more pork. It was worth it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I have a thing for hipster bars

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I've been really hard on the DC restaurant scene in the past. Seems to me like they're contrite because they have to appeal to both left (communist) and right (boring) sensibilities in a town like Washington.

So that seems to be the problem with the "nice" restaurants. Every place that's no-frills, or cheap, has been at least decent, and a couple have been really good.

I was in DC this weekend for work. My twin brother, who is much a more talented writer than I, and better looking to boot, lives in DC with his wife Javi. The three of us get along for lots of reasons - a shared mistrust of politicians, a desire for the snow to go away, and a love for food that some would call perverse.

Anyway, they fed me a couple of times and gave me a couch to sleep on one night.

Before I get to the restaurant portion of this blog, I must tell you of one place that's starting to feel like home to me in DC - the Capitol Lounge, at 229 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. We've been a handful of times, and their pub fare is decent, affordable and touts the right amount of grease. Also, they have Dale's Pale Ale on tap, and that makes me feel right at home.

It's apparently a Michigan State bar, and that's okay, because while I might prefer U of M, most of the people inside are nice folks, a welcome relief from the DC bar scene.

Anyway, food. On Sunday night, we ended up at a place called Bar Pilar. Everything about this place screams hip, and when we sat down and had an immediate problem with our waitress, I was thinking, "Here we go, again." After receiving our drinks, the place started to fill up and our waitress went from late to absent. But that's DC, so I won't mention her again. We tipped her well, cause God Bless Her, SHE WAS TRYING SO HARD, but there's only so much of being ignored you can take.

I was pleasantly surprised at the food, though. We all shared plates, and the portions, while small, were reasonably priced. Javi: Cremini mushrooms that reminded me of the county fair and a Shrimp risotto that only I liked. (Andrew said it was too creamy. Javi didn't say much about it at all, which means she just wasn't a big fan.) Andrew: Caramelized Exotic mushrooms that were really earthy and meaty. Duck Confit in a homemade dijon mustard, cooked fantastically with a crispy outside and juicy in. Me: Roasted potatoes with rosemary and a lemon-garlic aioli. The potatoes were cooked well and flash fried in what tasted to me like a thinned down bacon fat. And I also had suckling pig that almost caused me to forget how far I was from home.

They both loved it, and so did I, aside from the minor freakout I had about almost losing my wallet. "The food's probably the best I've had in DC so far," Andrew said.

I second that emotion. It's sort of close to one of the many bad parts of town, and in the middle of being gentrified. Dangerous! But it's worth the drive to NW, and it's worth wading through the scarf-wearing, tight-jeaned, let's-drink-PBR crowd. Lots of times, these people will eat any old thing if it's moderately priced and they hear from their dealer that "it's good," but this time, these hipsters are lucky that the chef of Bar Pilar actually cares about the food he's serving to a bunch of ironic JD Salinger disciples. Me included.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This is where a pun on the word TAG would go.

This blog is allegedly about food, and not relationships. If you're looking for a relationship blog, check out Kristen's newest addition to her writing portfolio, Kristen's Fishing Trip. (I don't know if that's supposed to be a secret blog or not. Either way, it's a riot and required reading in my house. [And cubicle. And on the couches of anyone with a sense of humor.])

Therefore, I will only briefly mention that Sara and I went to TAG on Saturday night, and that it was sort of a big deal, because one of us met my mother. And seeing as how I lived under the same roof as my mom for 18 years, it probably wasn't me who was meeting her for the first time. Although we were strangers for the better part of my teens.

When you're deciding on a restaurant in a situation like this, you can go one of two ways: Slum it, pick Village Inn, and hope the food makes everyone decide to call it an early night - or you can pick a fancy restaurant and hope the strong drinks (fingers crossed) make it bearable.

So, very serious things aside. TAG is famous 'round these parts for making their own tonic water. I don't drink many gin and tonics these days, because they get me into the Villegas version of "trouble." Needless to say, I've had my fair share of gin and tonics. And the gin and tonic at TAG is really good stuff. Even though quinine can be nasty stuff, it's magical when included in homemade tonic made with Cinchona bark. By the way, I just earned my two-wikipedia-links-in-one-sentence award.

So we started with a salad (come on, Mom. Live a little.) and two appetizers - the Hiramasa and the Duck confit sope cakes. The sope cakes were very good. They sat on a bed of guacamole and were savory, warm and flavorful. The winner of round one, though, was the Hiramasa - which was pan-seared, had a small amount of truffle oil drizzled on top with and a little myoga.

And, oh yeah, a slice of jalapeno and pop rocks on top. What started as a "What's sizzling?" thought in my head led eventually to, "What's pink on my plate, and doesn't smell like roe?" And eventually ended in my saying out loud, "Holy God, those are pop rocks." Very creative, Troy Guard. Cheeky monky. It was a great way to start this experience.

Main course time. My mother had the safe choice, which was cooked extremely well and still delectable: Caramelized sea scallops. She reported them to be "perfect."

Tamarind mustard braised short ribs was the entree du jour for Sara. Pear, yuzu (or some citrusy fruit) the rib...a great plate, full of balanced flavor. The citrus did it well, I thought. And I never met mustard that I didn't like. Tamarind mustard should be required on all hot dogs. Hear that, Montforts?

No fork needed, although for the sake of appearances, she kept her butter knife on the plate. Polite company apparently uses a knife to cut ALL meat, even when it's not necessary.

And I had Szechuan Colorado Lamb, with couscous and Dragon Sauce...a touch spicy, but in a good way. Lamb is one of those meats that needs another flavor to contrast with when prepared correctly. (And it's uneatable when cooked wrong.) The Szechuan influence is a standard choice, but executed correctly here. The couscous is a welcome addition of an entirely different texture.

I have my problems with Lodo eateries, and especially Larimer Square restaurants. We were seated right next to the door, which wasn't fun. But someone has to sit there, so oh well.
But TAG is a nice place to go, even if it is a little pricey, and can sometimes come off more about appearances than food. Which is not a problem, because, let's face it, I'm can be sort of about appearances. All of this coming from a guy who uses the word "classy" more than Donald Trump.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Joy of In-N-Out

and the good news that's it is moving eastward into cold places. This picture was captured by my brother last week in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An outstanding meal at Six89

Saturday night, I made the 160 mile trek from my front door in beautiful downtown Denver to devastatingly charming Glenwood Springs on Saturday night. Reservations were made, nice clothes cleaned and pressed, personal grooming attended to, drive made.

Six89 ( seems to be a restaurant that most people agree is worth the trek to Carbondale from Glenwood Springs, or further south, Aspen. I'm a fan of crowdsourcing - and the people on Yelp give this place a full five star rating. Mission accomplished.

So Sara (yep, Sara of EatFace fame) and I sit down to eat, and the waiter brings us a couple of Six89's version of fried pickles - except these are pickle chips which have magically somehow remained cool on the inside as a pickle should be, and crispy fried on the outside. They're good. Damn good, especially for what is generally considered bar food.

I have a scotch. She has a glass of Pinot Noir. We exchange pleasantries about the pickles. She smiles. About halfway through her glass of wine, we order dinner. "You may have to drive back," she informs me. I discuss scotch, and she very graciously nods her way through that portion of the conversation, even though my material is about as interesting as watching Guy Fieri sample the food of some ethnic minority. (WOW, THAT'S REALLY GOOD.)

We didn't wait long for our food to come out, and that was after the waiter had informed us that they were really busy.

An aside about our waiter: if you enjoy eating something that one of us has ordered, do tell. We can discuss. But don't say that it's your favorite thing on the menu. Because that means that the thing the other person has ordered is not as good, in your eyes. And nobody wants that. Other than that, our waiter was a stand-up guy, was extremely knowledgeable and just the right amount of attentive.

We both had decided on the hamachi for starters - and we were not disappointed. A lot of times, fish this far inland is hit or miss - but it was fresh, and topped with a really light jalapeno sauce and homemade thin crunchy tortilla strips that gave it some much needed texture. I ate mine quickly, and she, being a lady, took her time with it. So I stared longingly at her plate. Don't think she caught me.

Main courses came quickly thereafter, and that's a definite positive. Hers: Grit and rabbit cakes, braised in milk, in a tomato-based sauce. Mine: BBQ Pork in a pear and melted cabbage sauce with pieces of pear. Both dishes were meticulously crafted, you could tell. Presentation was great, and flavor was - well - outstanding.

Outstanding is not a phrase that I use a lot on this blog. Outstanding is not a phrase I use on ANY blog. But the food at Six89 is outstanding.

Her food was delicious and had an interesting texture because of the grits ("I love it when they call grits, grits," Sara said.).

My pork was tender, flavorful and the pear, which I thought would not go well with pork, actually was what pulled the entire plate together.

Delicious, local, and the host wears a bow tie, which Sara was particularly impressed with.

I'm particularly impressed with a lot of things about Six89. It's in an older style house, and the ambiance reflects that. Huge wine selection, a varied menu that has something for everyone and it's not particularly crowded at all, which you can bet is not going to be the case forever.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

That'll do, pig. That'll do.

Tonight I made a new best friend.

His name is barbacoa.

Let me explain. I've lived in this valley off and on for 21 years of my life. I was here before Carbondale was trendy. Before we had a Target. Before you couldn't find a one-bedroom apartment for less than $1500.

But before all of that, and before me, there was probably a carniceria.

What a shame that it took me such a long time to figure out where one was: 15 minutes away, in Carbondale, by the liquor store and the Family Dollar and by a place that, I guess, installs woodburning stoves. In between all those things is a little bit of perfect. There are three bowls on the plastic picnic tables: onions, limes, cilantro. There are three bottles of salsa (chipotle, green-hot and really hot). There are sodas in glass bottles. There are chicharrones and menudo in glass cases. You can buy a pig head for $20. This is a real butcher shop that happens to have a menu, and happens to make the best tacos I've ever had in my life.

Fresh meat is good meat. I'm a firm believer in that. I don't know how much of it is local, but all of it is hand-cut. And if it looks that good in the case, it's roughly 12473 times better cooked. I got two barbacoa tacos with fresh avocado. My dad got a carne asada burrito.

Both came on fresh tortillas (me: corn. him: flour). I love pork so much I am considering going all Top-Chef-Kevin and getting a pig tattooed on me, and this pork did not disappoint. Slightly sweet/spicy barbecue...amazing. And only $1.60 per taco. Suck it, Chipotle.

Dad's burrito: I think it weighed maybe 6 lbs. And 5 lbs. of that was steak. The remaining pound of burrito was homemade refried beans, onions, avocado, cilantro, salsa verde and queso fresco. Note that not one of those ingredients is rice. And then note that the burrito costs $6.50. Suck it, Qdoba.

So, basically, my plan is to go back until I've tried everything. Except maybe the menudo. You can choose from upward of seven meats, combined into magical creations including tacos, burritos and quesadillas. I'm going to try all of them. Except maybe the tripe. You can also get about eight different kinds of tortas and a lot of things I couldn't read because I don't read Spanish (taking French in high school finally reveals its downfall).

And extra plus: there's a tortillaria next door, so you can pick up some delicious souvenirs. And who doesn't love eating under a collection of giant pinatas?

A short postscript about Cheetos: Here at Eatface, we have determined through extensive research that crunchy Cheetos are texturally a meal unto themselves, while puffy Cheetos are best enjoyed with a robust sandwich. This, of course, is a matter of personal preference. Not a matter of personal preference: Cheetos are the best snack food ever, and I'm not ashamed to say that. Own your love of artificially-orange food. Your life will be better for it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chowing in Chicago

Behold a gallery of Zach eating, with super sleuth notes.

Date/Time: Nov 11th, Mid Evening Time
Location: De Cero
Deliciousness Consumed: Duck Enchiladas (note: not on menu)

Date/Time: Nov 12th, 6:30 PM
Location: Flattop
Deliciousness Consumed: Various mixtures of meats, fake meats, vegetables, noodles, rice and sauce. Approx. 3 bowls and numerous flat breads.

Time/Date: Nov. 13th, 10:50 AM
Location: Hot Doug's
Deliciousness Consumed: Alligator Hot Dog, Keira Knightly (firedog) and Cheese Fries

Also See Unaccompanied Food:

Spotted at De Cero
Possible Suspect: Taco collection: Mahi Mahi Special, Avocado, Flank Steak, Duck
Most Likely to be Eaten Again: Flank Steak, Duck
Suspected Accomplice: Hibiscus Margarita

Spotted at: Hot Doug's
Possible Suspects: BLT Hot Dog with Avocado Aoili and Mini Bagel Dogs with Tots
Observed Suspicious Activity: Hot Dog actually made with bacon

Private Eye Conclusions:

~De Cero is a delicious hot spot of activity. Margaritas are strong, duck is luscious and tortillas are freshly homemade.
~Long Line at Hot Doug's can only be avoided by arriving before opening time (approx 30 min).
~Mixing too many flavors at Flattop can lead to flavor overload and taste-bud exhaustion.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You shuffle with your head down

I've always found DC restaurants to be a lot like their transient population - always a little bit in a hurry, a little bit like the congressional staffer at 5 p.m., and like the politicians and their aides that infest it, they talk a big game with little substance. You shuffle with your head down, slowly talking into your phone and you end up eating what's in front of you.

It's pretty much the same every place you go. My last trip to DC was 2 1/2 months ago for my brother's wedding. There's a lot to like (but not love) at some places, and in other places, not so much. DC has a burgeoning young population - but again, if you ask me, they don't have really good taste. (With the obvious exceptions of my brother and my sister-in-law, who are great hosts, and even better people to put up with my constant complaining and pretentious way of analyzing food.)

Anywho, it doesn't take much to impress someone who is a starry-eyed aide for a congressperson - they're already impressed by the egomaniacal rantings of political sociopaths.

Anyway, this was a quick trip, and we hit two restaurants during our time. We hit a third in Fado, which I don't consider a restaurant as much as a chain bar, in the style of Baker Street or Cheers. If you've eaten at one Fado, you've eaten at them all. I assume readers of this blog like food or drink, and will have been to one in their lifetime. My experience at Fado is: Dark, chainy, and Smithwick's. That experience has been had a million times by a million people around the country.

Friday night, we went to a place called Matchbox. People seem to like this place, and I guess for DC fare, it stands out amongst the places that don't have to try so hard. One gripe I have is the cover of the menu is made out of wood. Carved into it, the Matchbox logo.

I guess when I see stuff like that, I expect a more business casual atmosphere, which this place (in the middle of Eastern Market, yuppie central) did not have. It kind of seemed like it wanted to go that way, but just can't quite pull itself up like an Italian restaurant that, as its owner, is trying to escape its immigrant past.

Beer: My server seemed to think "I don't know" was a good option when I asked her to recommend a beer on tap. Alright. Either way, she (eventually) suggested Allagash White, an unfiltered witbeer. Allagash is a Maine brewery, and we don't get a lot of that in Denver. I liked it, kind of pale, kind of fruity, very spicy for a wit. Good head, good lace. Not strong, very drinkable and actually went really well for the meal I ordered.

Everything about this place screams "For God's sake, don't order a steak! Please, order the sliders! THEY'VE GOT ONION STRAWS!"

So the clientele, the menu, the server - I really wanted their sliders to be bad so I could write a bad review all thew way around. But I'm sad to report - they were actually very good. It could do with less onion straws, but they were cooked exactly how I ordered them, the buns were lightly buttered underneath the hood, and the gorgonzola on top was just enough.

Damn you, Matchbox. Your sliders got me. Now I have to suggest you.

(Aside: Eastern Market has a wide assortment of restaurants. I've been to 3 now, and my favorite is still Las Placitas, owned and operated by Salvadorians. Any place that bills its weekly flea market as having vendors "from 5 continents" might be a little bit pretentious. I mean, obviously they have people coming from Africa EVERY WEEK to sell their wares to DC residents. That's not that far to go to sell a few prints or handwoven caps.)

On the day I left, we had brunch at a place called Hawk and Dove on Capitol Hill.

Now this is my speed - divey, but not quite dangerous. I had a sausage and cheddar cheese omelet. Aside from being an 8-egg omelet as opposed to the more standard 3-egg, their coffee was decent, their homefries greasy enough. But I didn't like the Bloody Mary (WAY too much pepper) and that's a dealbreaker for me.

Allegedly, Hawk and Dove's food is not its strong point, and I have to agree. Seems like it might be an okay place to drink. I've been to worse places here in Denver.

Starting to look like I'm going to be coming to DC a bit more in the next year or two. I better start finding better places to eat, or this town is going to get real old, real fast.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quick List: Chicago

Things I did in Chicago that you should too:

1. Take the train alone, feel accomplished because you didn't get lost.
2. Walk into the Hilton on Michigan Ave. Act like you belong. Get free information from Concierge.
3. Wear a scarf.
4. Take a Bus Tour! (I will always recommend bus tours).
5. Answer bus tour guide's questions, he becomes less disgruntle this way.
6. Go to the Art Institute.
7. Understand that the video-art-clown-room is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable it is the point of it.
8. Make fun of clown room with people from Michigan.
9. See a Show at Second City.
10. Get a little buzzed on $9 spiked coffees at Second City.
11. Make nice with table mates at Second City, get shots bought for you.
12. Hug your friend goodbye and say "thank you."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bill O'Reilly would be proud

So I work in Arvada currently, and there's a place we go to fairly often for lunch, although, I'm not really sure why.

This place is called The Sultan Grill, and I'm convinced that it is the only Middle Eastern food in a 5 mile radius. I've had a few different things here, and I'm always surprised that the place isn't a little bit more busy.

Yelp denotes it as another one of those "3 1/2 star" places. The best way to describe 3 1/2 star places are "tweeners." In basketball, it's drafting a guy who could go either way - he could be a star or a bust. In west Arvada, a tweener is just as hit or miss - somedays, it's good. Somedays, not so much.

Today, it was good.

I usually order the Gyros Sandwich combo, which includes a gyro, french fries and a drink for $7.25. Sometimes the meat is a little too greasy, and sometimes the tomatoes are a little squishy, but for $7.25, it's better than fast food. And it's a nice change of pace from regular office lunch spots like Chipotle or Qdoba.

Try the hummus - it's not exactly what I think of when I think hummus, but it's tons better than the store-bought kind. And they give you plenty of pita to go along with it when you order it as an appetizer.

For my money, though, the Falafel is what this place has going for it. You don't get good falafel like this at a lot of places in Denver (unless you're Bill O'Reilly, that is).

So what? I have a thing for chickpeas.

Channel the writing skills of Peggy Hill: If you're ever in the vast desert of Arvada and are looking for a place to eat, take a stop at this oasis.