Fantastic Friday

Blue Chairs on Couse Porch - B

A century-old world of creativity and inspiration opened as we stepped into the domain of famed Taos artist E.I. Couse (1866-1936). By pre-arrangement, we met Couse’s granddaughter Virginia in the garden of his home and studio. For nearly two hours we were captivateCouse Palette - Bd by the stories she shared of her grandfather, one of the founding members of the Taos Art Society as we walked through rooms filled with family furnishings, collections, sketches, prints and original paintings. We left inspired not only by Couse’s art but the family’s commitment to preserve his legacy through The Couse Foundation.

Tours must be arranged in advanced. No fee is charged but donations to the foundation are gratefully accepted. When you go be generous for this is worthy of support.

Bavarian Exterior - BFor the afternoon we headed to the Taos Ski Valley and lunch at the Bavarian Lodge and Restaurant. The 19-mile drive from Taos ascends through the Carson National Forest into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The restaurant sits at over 10,000” altitude, transporting guests to an alp-like ambiance. After a filling German lunch we stroll the Village of Taos Ski Valley, considerably quieter than a wintertime visit.

Returning to Taos we stop in the quirky village of Arroyo Seco. It’s impossible for me to pass through Seco twice without a stop at Taos Cow Bob with Ice Cream - BIce Cream. I consider the day a total success when one of today’s choices is Pinion Caramel, my absolute favorite. Across the street we “need” to do some jewelry shopping at Claire Works. Bob is now supplied with gifts for my birthday and Christmas.

In light of spaetzle and ice cream we make a workout visit to the Taos Spa. The facility accommodates regional visitors with reasonable priced day passes or multi-visit punch cards.

We peacefully conclude the day back at the casita with music, wine and books – a fantastic Friday.

 

Tantalizing Taste and Tranquility in Taos

Orlando's Birdhouse - BWe’ve arrived for our long anticipated yearly sojourn in Taos, New Mexico. Next week Bob attends a watercolor workshop given by Taos resident artist/potter Stephen Kilborn. Driving from Colorado our traditional first stop is lunch at Orlando’s, a personal favorite consistently serving excellent New Mexican fare.

Today we savored every tantalizing taste – Bob a shredded beef chimichanga, Nancy a combination platter of cheese and onion enchilada in a blue corn tortilla, chile relleno and a shredded beef taco in soft shell blue corn tortillas, accompanied by posole and beans. Yum! Although many Orlando’s menu items are ones similar to those found on Tex-Mex menus there’s a world of difference in the rich New Mexican flavors.

Orlando's Diners - BFilled to the gills, we declined one of the homemade dessert treats. During our Taos visit I’m planning on several more visits to enjoy the shredded beef burrito, the fish tacos and grilled shrimp burrito plus dessert at least once. The flan is always exceptional and the frozen avocado pie uniquely refreshing.

Birdhouses at Casa - BFor the third year we’re delighted to settle into Casa de Las Abuelas, an adobe guest house. I’ll share more about this exceptional property in a separate posting. The convenient yet secluded location provides much needed tranquility after a day of travel, museum and gallery visits, or outdoor activity. After threatening afternoon skies we peacefully watched evening descend as mere whiffs of clouds inched across the sky. A perfect beginning to a Taos vacation.

Nancy on Patio - B

Family-Style Fried Chicken & All the Fixin’s

Grandma’s Sunday fried chicken dinner is a treasured memory from my youth. When visiting Crested Butte, Colorado we’ve established the tradition of Sunday night dinner at The Slogar for family-style platters of fried chicken and all the fixin’s.

Slogar Exterior - Large

The weathered building was built in 1882 when it was one of 18 taverns in the mining town of Crested Butte. The Slogar was the first one the miners came to each evening as they came down from the Big Mine on the Bench. Stepping into he 21st-century Slogar feels like stepping into a 19th-century movie set. The antique bar, back bar and red upholstered Victorian furniture set the stage.

As soon as we’re seated our cheerful waitress, Kelli, brings bowls of cottage cheese, tomato chutney and a relish tray with celery and carrot sticks, butter pickles and cinnamon pear slices. My favorite is the sweet/sour coleslaw made from an early 1800s Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. Is this like Grandma’s, or not?

Kelli soon returns with our drink order and a basket filled with homemade baking powder biscuits accompanied by crocks of honey butter and homemade strawberry preserves. After tasting the preserves you’ll want to purchase a couple of jars to take home. Wish I could make biscuits as good as Slogar’s to go with the strawberries!

Slogar Chicken Dinner Our waitress offers to refill any of the dishes; but, knowing what’s ahead we decline. After clearing the debris from the first round Kelli brings out a platter piled high with crispy skillet fried chicken – four pieces per person. The flavorful recipe dates back to 1915. Since I prefer dark meat I negotiate my breast for Eric’s thigh – chicken pieces, of course. We pass around the dishes of mashed potatoes, gravy and creamed whole kernel corn. Once around and the mashed potato bowl is empty. Kelli quickly brings a refill as well as more biscuits.

Our table falls silent as we dig in; after all, we’ve eaten lightly all day saving up for The Slogar. We note that the same thing happens at other tables. As soon as the main course is served conversation ceases, eating is paramount.

My only complaint is the thin gravy. Our family has always made a thick cream gravy with the chicken pan drippings; it’s hard to change expectations. Also, if they provided a bread plate one wouldn’t have to work so hard keeping the biscuit from getting soaked with thin gravy and corn cream.

As we sit back with satisfied sighs Kelli brings individual dishes of rich vanilla ice cream. We like to top the ice cream with any leftover preserves. Yum! Eric gets the doggie bag of four chicken pieces and biscuits for tomorrow’s lunch.

Slogar Sign When You Go: The Slogar Bar and Restaurant is open nightly 5-9pm. Steaks ($26.95) and a vegetarian entree are offered in addition to the fried chicken dinner. Specialty beers, wine list and full bar are available. The chicken dinner is $15.95/adult, $8.95/children 2-12, and includes ice cream, tea coffee and milk. The restaurant is located at 517 2nd St., at the corner of 2nd and Whiterock. Reservations strongly advised, 970-349-5765.

The Slogar changed ownership a couple of years ago. All the positives including traditional recipes remain. The reception, attitude and cleanliness are much improved.

Colorado History and Homemade Pie

Echo Lake Lodge Sign

It took me 47 years but I finally stepped foot into Echo Lake Lodge, a traditional stop before or after a trip up Mount Evans. It wasn’t an intentional avoidance we had simply never visited the seasonal gift  shop/restaurant. It won’t take us 47 years to return.

Constructed in 1926, many features of the log lodge still reflect that era. 2010 visitors Echo Lake Lodge Ext. appreciate the modernization evident in the remodel restrooms. Stepping into the gift shop feels like a step back to a curio shop of my youth. Sweatshirts, “Hike Colorado” hats, postcards, vials of gold flakes – souvenirs galore fill the racks, shelves and cases. Kids are sure to find something they really “need”.

 

Homemade Pie - ELL

Since the time was 3pm and we had yet to have lunch we were more interested in the restaurant. Years ago I read about Echo Lake Lodge’s homemade pies. The same concessionaire has carried on that tradition for decades. The critical decision is which one to order – apple, peach, cherry, blueberry, butterscotch or chocolate peanut butter. Bob chose cherry with vanilla ice cream while I devoured a slice of butterscotch – crust and filling were both winners.  The peach pie with cinnamon ice cream sounds like a choice I might have toCherry Pie try next time.

Bob preceded the pie with a chicken fried steak sandwich. I opted for a cup of buffalo chili. Both tasty and satisfying. Echo Lake Lodge is open from 8am-8pm, serving breakfast daily until 11am. How about Rocky Mountain trout and eggs for a Colorado breakfast entree? The large Mt. Evans cinnamon roll looks like something one should plan to share.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or a piece of homemade pie – we will be back.

When You Go: Echo Lake Lodge is open seven days a week from mid-May into October. Opening and closing dates determined by weather conditions. Call 303-567-2138 for information.

The 3 O’clock Lunch

I love a restaurant where I can have a full lunch or dinner in mid-afternoon. I’ve frequently threatened to write a book focused on The Colorado 3 O’clock Lunch. I’m a late breakfast eater and often skip lunch. About 3pm the hunger pangs hit, I can’t wait till dinner but don’t want to fill up on snacks or junk food. If I eat at three I can skip dinner and finish the day with a piece of fruit. But, where to go that’s serving a full menu, not just a bar menu or fast food.

Merle's For today’s late lunch/early dinner we headed to downtown Littleton and Merle’s, serving the same menu from opening at 11am until 9pm and then a late night menu till closing. We started with a basket of yam chips served with a generous bowl of guacamole. The chips were crisp with not a hint of grease. I asked if they were made in house; our waitress said everything they serve is start from scratch.

We both opted for soup (New England Clam Chowder) and 1/2 sandwich. We chose the BLAT – bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato  – served on sour dough. A couple at a nearby table were enjoying entrees of Ginger Salmon and Smoked BBQ Ribs.

Our “No worry” waitress was cheerful and efficient, not something guaranteed at that time of day. Too frequently the wait staff is tired from the lunch shift and seem disgusted you’re interrupting what they consider their break.

Merle’s completely satisfied our Friday 3 O’clock Lunch need and would definitely be in my book.

Previous Post – Merle’s – Littleton, Colorado

 Denver’s “Mile High” Special

February 20 – March 5

Brio Desserts 2 The highly successful Denver Restaurant Week returns with a bang. Diners reap the rewards from the program’s popularity with two weeks of Mile High specials in 2010. Not mile high as in extravagant but mile high in reference to Denver’s 5280’ altitude – A Mile High. More than 260 (281 at last count) metro-area restaurants will offer multi-course dinners for the price of $52.80 for two or $26.40 for one. Price does not include tax or gratuity. Restaurant “Week” runs from February 20 – March 5, 2010.

Gabriel's Ext. Join in the culinary celebration by trying a newly opened restaurant, returning to an old favorite or finally getting to one that’s on your wish list.  Geographically the range stretches from Longmont (Terrior Restaurant), Niwot (Colterra) and Boulder (Q’s and Laudisio) in the north Metro area to Sedalia (Gabriel’s) and Parker (Trappers Chophouse) in the south, and from Conifer (Raven’s), Evergreen (Aspen Grill) and Kittredge (Black Hat Cattle Co.) on the west to the eastern edge of Aurora (Wine Experience Cafe).

The variety spans the culinary world from steakhouses such as Elway’s and Del Frisco’s to Nick-N-Willy’s take and bake pizza in Highlands Ranch. Looking for ethnic? Here is a sampling of ethnic options:Pho Bowlevard - Shrimp Rolls

  • Brazilian – Fogo de Chao Churrascaria  
  • Caribbean – 8 Rivers Modern Caribbean
  • Chinese – Jing Restaurant
  • Cuban – Cuba, Cuba Cafe & Bar
  • French – Le Central French Restaurant
  • Indian – India’s Pearl 
  • Irish – Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery Pasta in Brio Dish
  • Italian – Brio Tuscan Grille
  • Japanese – Sonoda’s
  • Latin – Samba Room
  • Mediterranean – Rioja 
  • Middle Eastern – Phoenician Kabob
  • Mexican – Tamayo Saigon Landing - Noodle Bowl
  • Spanish – Ondo’s Spanish Tapa’s Bar
  • Vietnamese – Saigon Landing Restaurant

Browse Denver Restaurant Week for the $52.80 specials offered by each participating restaurant. Reservations strongly advised. Bon Appétit!

The Perfect Landing “10”

An Incentive Package that Works!

 

Almost a year ago Jim Carter wanted to increase week night business at The Perfect Landing restaurant located at Centennial Airport. In celebration of their 10th anniversary he offered a half-dozen items for $10. As diners heard of this incentive the restaurant filled almost every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Reservations became a necessity. Carter kept the $10 specials – the best dining value in the Denver metro area.Perfect Landing Salmon

The current $10 items include:

  • New Zealand Lamb Chop Dinner
  • Filet Dinner
  • Prime Rib Dinner
  • Teriyaki Salmon Fillet Dinner
  • Bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay
  • Maine Lobster Tail – not a complete dinner, only the lobster tail

Each entree is served with the chef’s choice of a starch and vegetable. Plus, warm Perfect Landing bread served with herb butter. Baked in-house the bread is perfect with a crusty exterior and soft, flavorful interior. We always leave the bread basket empty and have even been known to request a couple more slices.

Perfect Landing Prime Rib We’ve become regular devotees. Bob almost always selects the salmon, ordering it rare as chef Sean Carter suggests, perfectly glazed. On our latest visit the salmon was accompanied by rice pilaf and glazed baby carrots. I’m a fan of the boneless prime rib dinner, served last night with a baked potato and the carrots. We usually split a salad, either the Traditional Caesar or the  Perfect Salad of mixed greens, craisins, pecans and bleu cheese crumbles with an orange balsamic vinaigrette. Although we’re not fans, many patrons prefer the Grilled Caesar.

Perfect Landing Key Lime Pie Not wanting to witness disappointment Bob always reserves a slice of the key lime pie when we place our entree order. I’ve sampled key lime pie from coast to coast and award Perfect Landing my “Best Ever” award. Made in-house, they achieve the “perfect” balance of sweet and tart. What a treat!

The dining room overlooks Centennial airport’s runways  and the western horizon – a panoramic mountain view from Pikes Peak to Rocky Mountain National Park. We’re entertained watching helicopters come in for a quick refueling and planes, from small two-seaters to corporate jets, land and take-off. There seems to be more action on the field if we have an early reservation. With perfect timing the sun sinks below the mountains as we saperfect-landing-sunset1vor our dessert, capping the evening with a Technicolor light show.

A long time Denver favorite, “Boogie” Bob Olsen entertains at the piano bar Tuesdays – Saturdays, 5:30-9pm.  We enjoy listening and watching his happy following.  At the cocktail bar and in the piano lounge area $5 appetizers are available from 5-7pm .

Friday and Saturday nights lobster lovers  find a whole steamed Maine lobster served with fried corn on the cob, potatoes and fresh vegetables for $20. Or, make it a Surf and Turf by adding a 6oz. center-cut filet for an additional $5.

I admire the Carters for finding a way to increase business in a down economy, keeping their excellent serving staff employed and offering patrons real value for a quality meal and dining experience. We never just order the $10 dinner because we choose to add drinks, salad and dessert but still feel we’ve had a lovely evening at an affordable price. We’ve also returned for breakfasts and lunches. Perhaps the Carters could give Washington some incentive ideas.

Put it on your radar, make reservations and drive or fly in for a Perfect Landing.

When You Go: The Perfect Landing opens for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays.

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Not  Your Ordinary Burger Joint

Diego Zhang's Exterior What in the world is a Diego Zhang’s? As stores and restaurants open in the redeveloped Streets at SouthGlenn we’re eager to discover our new neighborhood options. Seeing the sign “Diego Zhang’s” simply raised questions – even though it also said “Burger Cafe.” To find out we headed over for lunch.

Burgers are featured but not the typical American burger. A helpful employee explains that Diego Zhang’s burgers are, “Globally inspired mini burgers with the listed ingredients hand mixed with the meat. Each burger is 6 ounces, about half the size of a normal hamburger.” She gave us time to read through the list of a dozen choices: Centennial, Genoa, Shanghai, San Juan, Havana, Yellowstone – a world of flavors. There are also a half-dozen salad and five daily soup selections.

Diego Zhang's Pork Green Chili Bob chose a cup of pork green chili and a “Denver”  described as a simple blend of beef, bacon, sautéed mushrooms and onions. Wanting a variety of flavors I opted for a “Kansas City” – mesquite rubbed ground pork with caramelized barbeque sauce – and a Bangkok – Thai peanut shrimp with fresh vegetables. With each burger we had a choice of white or whole wheat bun.

We ordered at the counter, got our drinks and browsed the menu while we waited for the burgers to be delivered to the table hot off the grill. We learned that Diego Zhang’s mother came from southern climes and father from the east, hence the interesting name mix. The idea for globally-inspired mini-burgers came from a tapas cafe in Barcelona.

Diego Zhang's Burgers Bob gave a thumbs  up to the spicy green chili. I give a big nod of approval for both my burgers. Noted on the menu with two chile peppers meaning slightly more spicy, the Bangkok had a definite kick that lingered but didn’t overpower. The peanuts and fresh veggies lent a crunchy texture. Not spicy hot but packed with flavor, the Kansas City was equally enjoyed. I was impressed with how well matched and balanced the flavors were  in each burger. The whole wheat bun was fresh and grainy. I’ve heard people refer to these as sliders but found them to be larger than the majority of sliders. Two where plenty for a satisfying meal.

Families will appreciate the children’s menu including PB&J, mac & cheese, grilled cheese and noodles – buttered or with cheese/red sauce. Adults find  beer and wine available in addition to soft drinks. The breakfast menu offers a variety of egg sandwiches on English muffins and Arepas, South American corn cakes with cheese, red peppers and green chiles.

I’m already eager to return to further my world journey of mini-burgers.

When You Go: There are two locations for Diego Zhang’s in Centennial, 6851 S. Gaylord in The Streets at SouthGlenn and 12073 E. Arapahoe Road (Arapahoe and Peoria). Hours vary by location and day of the week, check their website for details.

Revisiting Farro Italian Restaurant

Almost one year ago I wrote about the newly opened Farro Italian Restaurant in Centennial. Two recent visits stirred me to update readers.

A couple of weeks before Christmas Bob and I stopped into Farro’s for a quick dinner between shopping chores. WFarro Interiore hadn’t tried their pizza and decided to split the “Meat Lovers” and a romaine salad. Although we told the waitress we were okay eating off the same salad plate, the kitchen accommodated by splitting the romaine lettuce tossed with Ciabatta croutons, Parmesan and lemon garlic Dressing. We were highly impressed by the pizza topped with red sauce, sausage, prosicutto, salami, pancetta and cheese. The thin crust, light hand with the red sauce, flavorful meats and cheese came together in a 12-inch pizza we couldn’t stop eating until every crumb and crust was devoured.         [Photos courtesy Farro Restaurant]

Farra Zuppa

Last night I joined three women friends, none of whom had been there before, for a leisurely dinner at Farro. From the  satisfied sighs it’s safe to say they will return. Three of us started with cups of the Tuscan white bean zuppa with prosciutto and extra virgin olive oil – delish. With the basket of warm breads I could have eaten a quart of the soup.

Mary ordered lasagna, Gayle the meat pizza, and I returned to the Tuscan meatloaf. Carol chose orecchietTuscan Meatloafte pasta with sausage, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes in a Gorgonzola cream sauce. Our forks all made the tasting round of everyone’s entrees. I have to get back soon to order the orecchiette; I love Gorgonzola and this sauce was perfect without being overpowering nor too thick and heavy.                                              [Photo by Nancy Yackel]

This group never passes up desserts and last night was no exception. We shared double chocolate mousse and the pumpkin mascarpone cheesecake with a gingersnap cookie crust. Although I’m not as much of a chocolateholic as the others I have to admit the kahlua enhanced mousse was mighty good. The cheesecake was a nice alternative.

A large sign outside the door and a flier in the bill holder announced the beginning of Monday thru Friday lunch service starting January 4, 2010. I’ll report another update after a noon-time visit.

Our one negative – we spotted several errors on our bill. There were promptly corrected with apologies but I will watch closely on my next visit to make sure this was a one time occurrence.

The group lingered deep in conversation long after dessert . Until we left we had no idea we’d overstayed closing time, not done intentionally. The staff certainly gave no indication we should leave.

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When You Go: Farro Italian Restaurant, 8230 S. Holly, Centennial, CO 303-694-5432. Open Monday – Thursday 5-9pm, Friday & Saturday 4:30-9:30pm, Sunday 4:30-8pm. Now open for lunch Monday – Friday 11:30am-1:30pm.

Previous post on Farro Italian Restaurant

 

 

Celebrating Fry Bread

I well remember my first taste of fry bread. Under a shady ramada in the middle of the historic Taos Pueblo a grandmotherly woman removed the golden puffed pastry Tocabe Fry Bread from a cast iron skillet. Handing me the laden paper plate she pointed to a squeeze bottle of honey. Yum – every bite was quickly consumed, I’d found a new culinary treasure.

I soon learned fry bread also served as a base for Indian Taos, piled high with meat, beans, cheese, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and salsa. Over the decades I’ve consumed Indian Taos and fry bread dusted with powdered sugar or dripping with honey at pueblos, pow wows, festivals, and restaurants on the Navajo reservation. When I heard there was a restaurant featuring the Native American staple opening in North Denver I put Tocabe on my “Must Visit” list.

Tocabe Neon Sign Like that first fry bread every bite at Tocabe disappears quickly. The menu is simple: American Indian Tacos, Stuffed Indian Tacos, Medicine Wheel Nachos, Little Osage Pizza – made with fry bread, of course. The soup choice changes daily – green chili clam chowder on Friday. And, for dessert, fry bread with honey, cinnamon or powder sugar and dessert tacos – fry bread topped with hot apples or cherries.

Located at 44th and Lowell in the Highlands Neighborhood, Tocabe welcomes hungry patrons to a clean, crisp, contemporary space. The rough stone wall with candle cradling niches reminds me of standing amidst the remains of earlier cultures at Mesa Verde or Chaco Canyon.

Tocabe Stuffed Fry Bread A friendly staff assists with choices for our made-to-order taco. Each piece of fry bread comes directly from the kitchen steaming hot. We begin by adding meat and beans: ground beef, shredded beef, chicken, ground buffalo, extra meat or vegetarian, black beans, pintos or chili beans. Followed by yea or nay to cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and purple onions. Choose two from the hominy or white corn salsas, mild or hot, red or green chili. Top everything off with sour cream, chipotle sauce – or both. On our most recent visit Bob and I attacked our plates as if a time clock were ticking, slowing consumption only for complimentary murmurings.

Who can leave without sharing a fry bread with honey for dessert? Not us. As Tocabe approaches their 1st anniversary in business we’re convinced Denver diners are extremely fortunate to have their very own American Indian Eatery. Celebrate fry bread.

Tocabe Hands 

 

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When You Go: Tocabe, 3536 West 44th Avenue, Denver, CO, 720-524-8282, is open Monday through Saturday 11am to 9pm and Sunday noon to 8pm.

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