Trip report: eating in Denver, one lunch in Boulder (Long)
I just got home, after ten days in Colorado, three of them in Denver and thought I'd share my eating experiences. I should start by saying I did almost no research as I was originally intending to be in Denver only one day and figured we'd eat somewhere my brother chose as he lives there. Once some of the plan changed, I did a little basic online research and ended up eating very well despite being pretty ignorant re the Denver dining scene.
Pinche Taqueria--my favorite meal though it was a fairly quick lunch of tacos. (We twice gave up on it at night as we just weren't up to the very long waits, with 20-30 people waiting outside to get in.) But, wow, what tacos! They were the best I've ever had. Two of us tried five: lengua, rajas con crema y maiz, pork belly "agridulce," polla alla crema, asada. I had never tried tongue before, but this combination of crispy bits of tongue, avocado, and spicy mayo made me wonder what I'd been waiting for. The creamy corn and poblano taco was also incredible. So was the creamy chicken and spinach taco, and I swooned over the pork belly, with slaw and "candied garlic." And the carne asada was a stellar version. We had the guacamole, which was excellent though nothing you couldn't get anywhere else. The margarita was also quite good as was the Pinche Paloma cocktail. But I'll be dreaming about those tacos until my next visit.
ChoLon--had two delicious meals here, lunch immediately upon arrival and dinner on the last night. I love Asian food of any stripe. This was one of the best Asian Fusion places I've eaten in. For lunch, two of us shared two appetizers--a few perfectly fried, impossibly tender rings of calamari served with a delectable lemon grass aioli and the duck spring rolls, which were fried. These were good, but the Indian spicing overpowered the duck, I thought, though I loved the yogurt sauce served with these. I did not taste the fish tacos on the table but was told they were fabulous. I ordered and absolutely loved a bowl of wok-cooked brussels sprouts with ground pork and mint. It was all I could do not to order this again when I returned, with my husband, for dinner over a week later. Since he loves duck, he did order the duck spring rolls, and I felt exactly the same way about them the second time around. We also tried the crab summer rolls: my husband loved these, and I thought they were very good if a little off in the crab to sriracha mayo ratio. We then shared the chow fun noodles with lobster, shrimp, and black beans, which had a wonderful char flavor and a generous amount of lobster and also enjoyed ChoLon's excellent riff on Peking duck--very thin slices of perfectly cooked, rare duck breast; little piles of scallion, radish, cilantro; smears of hoisin; ultra-thin pancake triangles.
Complimetary platter-sized clouds of black sesame seeded rice cakes are brought to diners and the accompanying tomato-ginger-chile dipping sauce is downright addictive. Equally addictive was the Citrus Blossom cocktail (grapefruit juice, lemon grass, kaffir lime, vodka). So glad I don't know how to make those!
Barolo Grill--knew nothing about this place at all, but had a lovely dinner here. Two of us had two salads, two pasta entrees, and two glasses of wine at what is considered a pricey restaurant for about $90 before tax and tip. Both salads--one with romaine, grilled artichokes (a little undercooked and chewy), ricotta salata, candied capers (I'd never encountered these but they were quite tasty), preserved lemon dressing and another featuring grilled Palisade peaches, thinly sliced speck, and creamy black pepper dressing on arugula--were delicious. I ordered the spaghetti with lobster and chanterelles, and I was stunned at how much lobster and how many gorgeous chanterelles were in that nicely sauced (creamy, w/a hint of cognac) tangle of pasta. (At $22, I thought this a real bargain.) The tagliatelle with bolognese sauce was also quite good.
Piatti--although this ranks last of all the meals we had, it was still very good. My brother eats here often so a group of us went on his rec. I wasn't paying close attention to what eveyone ordered (as we'd already had drinks at OceanPrime), but we all shared some fried calamari and a creamy goat cheese spread to start. Three of us ordered veal satimbocca: it was good, not the best I've ever had, a little too cluttered with ingredients, imo; one ordered the spaghetti bolognese, and I don't remember what the other two folks ordered. I really enjoyed a side of charred brussels sprouts and had a tasty bite of my husband's caesar salad. I didn't have dessert and I'm afraid I was paying more attention to my wine than what others ordered for dessert, but there were a few delighted moans over some kind of lemon cake.
Pizzeria Locale (Boulder)--After reading raves about this place, we drove over from Denver for lunch (and amazingly had no wait). Two people, two pizzas--probably too much for lunch, but the pizza was so wonderful, we ate it all--half an arugula, prosciutto, tomato, and mozzarella and half a wild mushroom and garlic white pizza each. (Oy.) My favorite crusts are not usually this foldable. This is, but it is a fabulous, flavorful crust. Oh, and we shared an order of verdure miste--eggplant, zucchini, and peppers--which sounded boring to me but was exquisite (thin slices, glistening with delicious olive oil). We loved this place. Definitely worth the short drive to Boulder.