Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More Denver Food. Plus: Snotty College Students Ruin My Coffee

One of the new places I was excited to try was this place. Denver has a lot of unexpectedly good fast ethnic food places- notably Tokyo Joe's- but Indian fast food fell flat. Bombay Bowl offers a variety of bowl options for proteins, sauces, toppings, and sides. There is something to be said for a fast-casual place that will dump tons of steamed veggies on your food, but it's Indian food like Fazoli's is Italian food- not as appalling as Taco Bell's interpretation of Mexican food, but bad. I ordered a tofu bowl with veggies and korma sauce, with a side of naan and a mango lassi. The korma was very thin and depressing. I'd also ordered some vindaloo sauce on the side after the person working couldn't adequately describe to me how hot it was. It wasn't. At all. The crispy bread resembled Native American fry bread more than naan, but tasted good, and the lassi was nice. Unfortunately, India imports some very tasty vaccuum-packed dinners that taste far better and are far cheaper, so I won't be back.

I also had lots of coffee. I love Pablo's. We were regulars, and haven't been able to find any coffee consistently on par with Pablo's here in Houston, so many visits were necessary. They have good pastries and bagels, too. Everyone who works there and hangs out there is strange, but in the normal coffee shop sort of way. It is the natural habitat for such regulars as the barista with a huge breastplate tattoo; the ponytailed guy who moodily doodles in his journal with Prismacolors; the middle-aged man with not-quite-ironic black nerd glasses and a pseudo-intellectual entourage; the college professors and their very hip three-year-old kid...I love it. I walked into Stella's- which serves coffee made with Pablo's beans- on a whim, however, and it was downright scary. The place is huge, for an independent coffee shop, and no one, in any of the six or seven rooms was talking. We walked outside, and there was another group talking very quietly, so we chose to sit out on the patio. We proceeded to have a very enjoyable, but loud, three-hour conversation, while everyone openly stared at our table. We got some seriously dirty looks on our way out, even though we were sitting outside. My friend thought they might be DU students in the middle of finals preparation, but that's no excuse. If talking bothers you, maybe you should be studying at the library. Stella's demographic was decidedly less hipster than Pablo's, but I'll take my coffee shop weirdos over Stella's stuck-up DU students any day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Denver Food

I went to Denver last week. Among the highlights were:

-A huge Greek omelet from Pete's Gyros Place on Colfax. Pretty tasty Greek diner food- a huge omelet filled with feta, tomato, and gyros, with a side of hash browns, pita, and tzatziki for dipping. The coffee was a little off, but I'd missed the huge platters, career waitresses, and typically charming Colfax atmosphere. I also like the Greek bakery two doors down, Omonia.

-Graham cracker ice cream from Lik's. I had a bizarre craving for their "Tabasco" flavor, but they didn't have any. They did have a "Caramel Cayenne" flavor that tasted similar, so maybe it's replaced Tabasco. In any case, the graham cracker ice cream was compelling- finely ground graham crackers and hard toffee chunks. The combination was unique, but the flavors played off each other really well. Lik's seems to specialize in creating subtle flavors that one wouldn't think work well together (ie, Tabasco, peanuts, and caramel), but do. Another favorite is their Guinness ice cream, which combines Guinness, caramel, and chocolate. The flavors are subtle, but perfect.

-South Central II. I eat at a lot of restaurants with strange, nondescript names. Maybe it's because they're the best. SCII is a hole-in-the-wall Greek place across from Swedish Hospital in Englewood, with haphazard decor that hasn't been updated in decades. I am in love with the atmosphere, their food, and the fact that the waitress still recognizes me after a year away- she even still remembers we always get iced tea, and that my mother wants pink sugar with hers. Most of their daily specials are wonderful- the roast lemon chicken with potatoes and the lamb and noodles come to mind. They come with a tangy Greek salad and addictive homemade bread for about $8. We went on Monday, when the special is a weird-sounding pasta salad. As much as I adore them, it sounded boring, so I went with the vegetarian moussaka instead, which was delicious but incredibly rich. It had caramelized layers of eggplant on top of scalloped potatoes, covered with Bearnaise sauce and a noodly sort of layer on top. The homemade bread and salad were awesome, as usual.

-Mole de Pollo from the original La Fogata (don't be put off by their slightly cheesy website). The plate consisted of shredded chicken doused with homemade Mole sauce, tortillas, beans, and rice. It was good, but not as amazing as usual. Perhaps they stopped making their own sauce, or maybe they had a bad day.

-Sesame chicken at Palace Chinese Restaurant. This is the sort of restaurant I loved as a kid and now sort of hate. Super-formal dining room and service, really predictable Americanized (ie, inoffensive) menu. I'd had a craving for jellyfish salad, but my family took me here instead of the sort of Chinese restaurant that would actually have jellyfish on the menu. On the good side, their menu claims to have the "Best Sesame Chicken in Denver" and they actually do. Ultra-crispy, with a light and crunchy coating of batter, and a sticky coating of sugary sesame sauce.

More highlights next week, including the weird fast-casual Indian food that made me sick, creepy coffee shops, Denver's ugliest house, Polish food, gooey buns, Cajun food, and the tragic Ethiopian food failure.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Salad isn't always awful

For dinner, I had a summery salad with pizza. They were both from Whole Foods' prepared section. Maybe Whole Foods should hire me to blog for them, it seems like I don't eat anywhere else...

The pizza was ok. It was a personal pizza with goat cheese, mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes. I am quite possibly the least observant person alive, so I was halfway through my pizza when I fully realized why it tasted 'different' from normal- I usually get it with fresh tomatoes, not sun-dried. Not a fan of sun-dried tomatoes- too sweet, and they're usually dry and gummy. These were no exception, but I could deal with them.

The salad, however, was fabulous. I wanted a veggie to go with my pizza, and the asparagus-mozzarella-fennel salad looked interesting. I was put off at first by the fact that they used all the stalky chunks of asparagus they probably had leftover from making their roasted asparagus spears. I should probably be happy to see them using their produce efficiently, but god knows what their profit margins are on the $11.99 roasted asparagus already- why must they compound it by putting the leftover stalks into my ($9.99/lb) salad? In any case, the stalks were not woody, as I'd feared, and the salad was perfectly balanced- bright and acidic, with lemon and shallot. It was a little heavy on the onion, and they could've perhaps blanched the fennel to make it less mouth-numbing, but the overall effect was happy and sunny.