Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Good food, great friend, and me time.

My Mother's Days gift to myself was a trip to Denver to see my dear friend Chelsea.  I left early, and I mean early, Friday morning and got in late Monday night.  I love Denver, it feels like my home away from home even though I haven't lived there since 1996.  I went a lot while Kyle was in law school, but since in Iowa (7 years this June) I haven't been back so I was long overdue.

One might assume that this would be DIA, but it was DSM.  At 5:45 in the morning.  When it is usually never busy.  With a hour long security line.  Long story short, was going to miss my flight, but they delayed four flights due to the long line and made it.  Phew!

Might as well have a nice ride too.  This was my car for the trip.  Loved having a convertible...I might just have to get me one of those!  And yes, it did corner like it was on rails.

My friend Chelsea.  She lives in Loveland so we spent the first day eating in Ft. Collins.

First food stop was at la Creperie in Ft. Collins.  It was a quaint little breakfast and lunch spot that was delicious.  I started with the French Onion soup.  The only miss was that the normal Gruyere was replaced by Swiss cheese.  But the soup was excellent, even with the abundance of bread inside.

The great thing about this menu is that it has an extensive gluten free selection.  I chose the crab, asparagus and scallion cream les Galette (made with buckwheat!).  The crepe was perfectly cooked.  The crab and asparagus were fresh and the scallion cream was light enough that it didn't over power the mild, but sweet crab.  Perfect.

I certainly couldn't pass up on a pear tart even though I was full.  I love when someone knows how to cook a tart without the pastry getting soggy.  The pastry was crisp  yet the filling and the pear were moist and creamy.

A little pamper time after brunch.  I took this picture because they did something I have never had done before.  Instead of dipping your foot in the paraffin (um, yuck) they put the paraffin in bags and then wrapped your hands and feet in them.  Pretty feet and hands and we were ready to take on the town.

I hadn't been to Menchie's frozen yogurt but it is a favorite of Chelsea's.  I never would have thought that strawberry lemonade sorbet and cheesecake bites would go well together, but they did!

We met another dear friend Karen for dinner at Taverna Greek Grill.  I love Greek food and the last time I had it was in Indianapolis.  

We started out with a few things.  First was Mezze, a collection of four spreads.  My favorite was the Tyrokefteri, a mixture of feta, jalapeño and chili peppers.  It was delicious.  

An interesting take on Dolmades...they were warm and delicious.  The lemon cream sauce was smooth and perfectly seasoned.

Saganaki.  Opa!!!  Need I say more?  Sorry I missed getting the flames.

Lamb Souvlaki accompanied by grilled vegetables and lemon potatoes.  The lamb was perfectly tender and moist.  Absolutely divine.

The next morning we ate at Sophia's in Loveland.  An unexpected surprise.  Although our wait was longer than we would have appreciated  (a server didn't show), the meal was worth it.  I can't, can't, can't pass up on a Benedict.  Their menu had quite a variety so I opted for the Portobello Benedict.  Marinated and grilled portabello with spinach, roasted tomato, prosciutto, poached eggs and hollandaise.  This was another restaurant that had an extensive gluten free menu as well and I opted for a GF muffin.  It was delightfully moist but firm enough to stand up to the mushroom and sauce.  It was worth every calorie.

After breakfast we headed to Denver.  We stayed at the always elegant and fun Hotel Monaco which I highly recommend.  In the past I have chosen this or Hotel Teatro.  Either of those two are in LoDo and perfectly situated for whatever venue you choose during your stay whether it is Coors Field or the Performing Arts Complex.  

Off to dinner at Rioja.  I am almost without words.  Excellent comes to mind.

I started with the Thai scallops.  Accompanied by a lemon panna cotta, coconut kaffir lime puree and Thai red  curry vinaigrette, the scallop was by far the BEST I have ever had.  It was a large divers, and cooked perfectly.  The sauces worked well together to offset the sweetness of the scallop.  The smooth panna cotta complimented the texture of the scallop without making you feel like there were too many things going on in your palette.  Absolute perfection.

I also couldn't pass up on the asparagus and spring garlic soup.  Lightly dressed with a lemon creme fraiche and accompanied by crispy spring garlic.  The soup was smooth the asparagus shined.

Chelsea chose the artichoke tortellini.  House made pasta with a goat cheese and artichoke mousse with artichoke broth was delicious.  The pasta was tender and the mouse smooth.  The artichoke flavor was bold despite the usual goat cheese presence that happens in so many dishes.

I know I have already said best, but really, THE BEST DUCK I HAVE EVER HAD.  Perfectly seared, perfectly medium rare, and perfectly moist to the point that it melted in your mouth.  The chef must be a fan of lemon, who can blame her, as the base was a lemon mascarpone polenta with honey haricot vert, cherries and a cocoa nib demi glace.  The glade was light, smooth and worked well with the duck.  Amazing.

Chelsea choose the Petaluma chicken with grilled artichokes, black truffle creme fraiche, arugula and fingerling potato salad.  She assured me it was moist and delicious.  In fact, she was pretty close to licking the plate for every last drop of the fine herbs pan jus.

I had been watching Stub Hub for tickets to Wicked as Chelsea had never been.  The show was at 7:30 p.m. and around 3:00 I finally decided to purchase them.  Tickets in the center orchestra, 10 rows from the stage...any guesses?  $75.00 each.  They were going for $325.00 last week!  Woo hoo.  Loved, loved, loved it.

Late night hotel room service.  An interesting take on a cannoli.  Lemon mascarpone in a honey cannoli shell with blueberry compote.  The cannoli shell was really tuile, but worked quite well with the light whipped mascarpone.  A traditional cannoli wouldn't have paired well, so this hit the spot.

Oh Snooze, I love thee so, how do I count the ways?  Um, wow.  Wow.  Wow.  The menu is quite lovely.  Of course I opted for a Benedict, but because I couldn't decide between the savory Benny Del Mar, with crap and asparagus on a corn griddle cake, and the OMG! French Toast, a wonderfully sweet brioche stuffed with mascarpone and topped with vanilla creme, salted caramel and toasted coconut, I was able to half each of the dishes.  Benedict was perfect, as was the cream cheese hollandaise which is a break from the traditional egg and butter based, but the French Toast.  The description doesn't do it justice.  Soft and pillowy with a crisp exterior, the brioche is the only way to make a decent french toast.  The sauces combined well, and surprisingly didn't overpower one another.  I thought I might be having dessert, but the Benedict evened it out.  Out of this world delicious.  

Well, the trip couldn't be perfect.  But while walking back to the hotel the Colfax marathon was in progress.  A far cry from Chicago, there were not fans lining the streets and I didn't see any aid stations.  So instead of being insanely jealous I stood on the street and cheered them on.  Shame on you Denver for not supporting the runners!

We got to enjoy the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.  The only venue in the US made this even more exciting.  What a visionary man. His styles in the 40 years of haute couture mirror clothing that we will continue to see in the next  40 years.  His creativity, passion and love for the female form were evident in the 200 garments that were on display.  Such a neat experience and one I would highly recommend, regardless of where you buy your clothing.  

We hit up another LoDo spot for lunch after the museum.  Freshcraft, more widely known for its beer lists, also has a wonderfully eclectic menu.  What made me really not want to pass up on this little restaurant was that the owner is from Iowa.  Why not support a local grown?   I started with the avocado salad, an interesting combination of sesame marinated noodles with avocado, cabbage, radicchio and a honey vinaigrette. 

Next up was my order of cocoa chili marinated Crimini Tacos.  Topped with a slaw and tequila lime emulsion there were light, flavorful and perfect for the hot day.  Bonus?  They were vegan!

Chelsea chose the Quinoa cakes.  Quinoa and vegetables with a creamy zucchini corn sauté and salad were light and flavorful.  The only miss was the lack of seasoning on the quinoa cake.  

This Marinated Tofu lettuce wrap was a perfect end to the day at Asian Cafe in Loveland.  We had eating so much with breakfast and lunch that we weren't hungry until later so we opted for one of Chelsea's favorite places.  The tofu was firm but deliciously seasoned and finished with pine nuts and chives.

She told me the teriyaki was good and she was right.  The beef was super tender and the teriyaki was not too sweet, which I admire and which is also quite rare.  

Yeah, the breakfast at Snooze was so good I had to go again before I left.  This time I got traditional Benedict, which was equally good, and of course, the french toast.  I wonder if they are interesting in franchising?  This would be perfect in downtown.

Great food, great friends and me.  I had a wonderful time and am looking forward to our 40th birthday celebration.  

Oh, and the wait at DIA coming home?  7 minutes.   Unbelievable.

1 comment:

  1. oh my goodness...just now pulling this one up...somehow I missed this post. This just makes me hungry. How did you not gain 15 lbs on that trip?