Sherpa’s Boulder Mountain Food

It may come as a shock to, all three of, you that I have never been to a Himalayan. I have been working and commuting to Boulder for over a year and a half and have never once stepped foot into a restaurant that served anything really unusual. A co-worker of mine, Joshua Hill, recommended that we go for the lunch special and that the dine in deal would be less than foraging for a burrito. I am so overwhelmingly pleased that I paid him the attention he was due. This was a gold mine.

The lunch special was a Chicken Tikka Masala, cooked in a Tandoor oven and then smothered in a delicious sauce. The meal also included with rice and Chutny and a basket of naan bread. Now  the fun doesn’t end here. All of this for a measly $7.00, and in the Boulder area finding a sit-down meal for under $10.00 is damn near a miracle. Imagine my dumfounded awe as I chewed through the melt in your mouth Himalayan chicken stew, prepared with the warmth and enthusiasm of a fellow food lover. 

Next there was the home brew, the Sherpa Ale. A golden and richtly bright sweet ale that semeed to not only compliment the food but sooth the soul. Microbrews in Colorado are not hard to come by, but what is unusual is going into a house that has been converted into a restaurant that serves Himalayan food that has a house microbrew that can stand toe to toe with any of the larger micro giants in Colorado. 

So for a quick byte that won’t puncture your bank account, I will always recommend a trip to SHERPA’s

Sincerely to you,

“still hungry” Zach

SHERPA’s
825 Walnut St
Boulder, CO 80302-5034
Phone: (303) 440-7151

India Pale Ale Palooza

Ah beer, one of the greatest treasures that man has made for himself. There is something so wonderfully rewarding, refreshing and renewing about a couple of cold brews. Even though your not chewing, at least you better not be, there is a palatable difference between each brew house and each type, style or method of creation. The results can range anywhere from awe inspiring to vomit inducing.

This last weekend I had the pleasure of trying a panel approach to reviewing the IPA. A friend of mine, David H., sat down and selected 8 different IPA’s and started grading them on a scale of 1 to 5. We graded them on overall presentation (which included design), palette feeling, flavor, fruitiness, hop levels and after taste.

We used fruit and cheese and water to clean our palettes between each delicious mouthful and even with this attempt to separate the contents of each bottle orally, they are very hard on the constitution all at once. In retrospect I may not have started IPA as my first beer panel guinea pig because of its strength, but it was still enjoyable.

The IPA can be a very misunderstood monster due to its characteristic sharp hoppy flavors and aromatic punch. People who have limited themselves to basic American ales and lagers may be in for quite a shock at first glass. Mind you, I am also still a beer neophyte by many standards but I know what I like and I think you will too. ON TO THE BEER….

Pyramid Thunderhead IPA
Pyramid Thunderhead IPA

First up, THUNDERHEAD IPA by the Pyramid Brewing Company, 6.7% ABV & 64 IBU $1.52 (the IBU was not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)

We enthusiastically cracked THUNDERHEAD open first, due to some twist of fate, but quickly wished we had pumped the brakes a little and started with a slightly more “grown-up” brew.

The contents were (as you can see) a light amber gold and had an inviting aroma that would lead one to believe that the first mouthful would be nothing short of pleasing. Even the quickly evaporating white head that had formed gave one the sense that we were poised on the edge of averageness (I know this is not a word). We were of course wrong.

There is nothing terribly wrong with this beer but every component seemed to be a fake. It was the most effervescent of night but in the wrong way, like when someone leaves the CO2 tank turned up and your coke starts attacking the pores of your mouth. The label design and consideration was mediocre (what do pyramids have to do with India Pale Ale?), there was a twist off cap (I thought I was having beers, not Mike’s Hard Lemonade) and for whatever reason it went flat so quickly neither of could bring ourselves to finish the bottle.

Overall it could have been worse, there were some very smooth elements of the flavor but it didn’t seem very genuine and I think they should reduce the amount of carbonation and fire their designer before releasing something as distinguished as an IPA into the market.

Overall score 2 out of 5

Stone IPA
Stone IPA

Second, STONE IPA by Stone Brewing Company, 6.9% ABV & 77 IBU $1.81(the IBU was not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)

The Stone IPA is actually a beer that I have  regularly at some of the pubs in Boulder during happy hour.

It has a fairly smooth finish and texture. This IPA you can definitely have in quantity due to its lightness as far as IPAs go. There are plenty of strong aromas and happy surprises but the overall sweetness or fruitiness of the contents really tone down the harsh bite that most IPAs leave you with.

This may be the only thing that stops it from being a real contender with other IPAs. No clear distinction. The color of the beer and the head were both adequate for the price of the bottle and I wouldn’t turn down a 6 pack of these if given the opportunity. This was one of the only two bottles to have no paper and get ink jetted directly onto the exterior.

Overall score 3.5 out of 5

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA
Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA

Third, SNAKE DOG INDIA PAL ALE by Flying Dog Brewery, 7.1% ABV & 60 IBU $1.52

Darker, richer, more full bodied, aromatic and flavorful then any of the beers thus far, the Snake jumped ahead of the pack quickly as its rich tones, like a great bass player, and sharp hop accents created a refreshing and imaginative balance.

There seemed to be a decent lace created from the creamy head that stood up to the atmospheric oppression of our altitude and the light carbonation danced and faded into the rest of the band like a great improvisation.

The flavor came in like a great wave and washed away jush as smoothly after crashing against the shores of my pallet. There seemed to be very little (if any) after taste that bothered my experience. The Snake seemed to really be owning up to the identity or at least what I think a great IPA can offer. Something unique without being over powering. Enjoyable but accessible on many different levels.

I also really enjoyed the labeling, in fact this was the only label that featured a unique hand drawn image that really had a mind of its own.

Overall 4.5 out of 5

Deschutes Inversion IPA
Deschutes Inversion IPA

Fourth, INVERSION IPA by Deschutes Brewery, 6.8% ABV & 80 IBU $1.45 (the IBU was not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)

If IPAs have evil-dark-secret relatives this must be one of them. There are no good feelings or memories coming into view as I reflect on that very first damning sip of Inversion.

Setting aside the great brown/gold appearance, firm frothy head and strong lumberjack like aromas, this thing is bitter and unpleasant. I can’t really recommend it to anyone because of its really rough entry and exit… …

The laughable illustration of majestic mountains on the label lead thoughts of supreme tranquility, while the cold indifferent liquid trap that lies within, prepares to utterly devastate your mouth and stomach. The cold calculating brew master who saw fit to summon this great evil into this world should take some time off and explore knitting, or some other vocation that will not evoke ruination.

Overall 1 out of 5

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA
Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

Fifth, LONGHAMMER IPA by Red Hook Brewing Company, 6.5% ABV & 43 IBU $1.23 (the IBU was not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)

First let me just say that this was the most well designed bottle/label combo of the evening, which makes the mediocre contents all the more dissapointing.

The split label, colors, shape and the embossed wheat stalks give the appearance of care and consideration. The flavors, on the other hand, did not seem to get such a generous helping of creativity. Much like the Thunderhead, there was a great sense of shallow effort put into this IPA.

There were descent visual and aromatic markers that seemed to have all the right cues for a good middle of the road IPA but the final analysis revealed a shell of its promise. Overall there was no real strong punch of hops and the light texture of the beer overall seemed like the unfortunate result of mixing a lager with an IPA. Not authentic to say the least but not the worst beer of the evening.

Overall 2.5 out of 5

Avery IPA
Avery IPA

Sixth, AVERY IPA by Avery Brewing Company, 6.3% ABV & 69 IBU $1.52  (the ABV and IBU were not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)

This may be a point of contention for some people but I think that the finish and the punch in a beer should not be reversed in a beer. I like desert after dinner call me old fashion.

This beer overall does not really appeal to me because of the above established principal. There is a textural smoothness and a crispness of the liquid but the floral bouquet hits first and then as you swallow an overwhelming hop tidal wave crashes the party. It was jarring for me and I personally won’t be trying any other Avery products without some sort of incentive.

Oh and the label looks like one of the interns found a map on Google images and added a red line to represent the path of the boats traveling from England to India (which is supposed to be the reason for the name and brewing process). Not classy.

Overall 2 out of 5

Breckenridge Small Batch 471 IPA
Breckenridge Small Batch 471 IPA

Seventh, 471 IPA SMALL BATCH by Breckenridge Brewery, 9.2% ABV & 70 IBU $2.54 (the IBU was not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)

Wow. On further introspection Breck really hit this one out of the park. There are things about this beer that are so well executed that it seems to not belong in the IPA category.

A word on strength, this was the most expensive and luxury level beer of the evening but for all of its strengths, it never seemed like much of an IPA to me. It has IPA elements but it was so much smoother and heavier than any of the other beers participating that it seemed to be on a playing field of its own.

If there is an award for sexiest printed bottle and this 471 totally takes the cake. There is excellent lacing from the frothy head and a warmth from the golden brown liquid. I felt like I was eating the Dagwood of beers. Its mythical like a unicorn but somehow not really an IPA at the same time. I will revisit this little gem in the future to see if there is something that I missed.

Overall 4 out of 5

Odell IPA
Odell IPA

Eighth (finally), INDIA PALE ALE by Odell Brewing Company, 7.0% ABV & 60 IBU $1.74 (the IBU was not listed on the bottle, I had to find it online)

I will admit that I have a bias here, I love the Odell IPA so much that before this little panel started I would have immediately claimed that they were the best thing on the block. Frankly, this is still true for me. Everything about this beer screams care and balance. The exact formula that makes me a dedicated consumer.

Its like alternating current bottled and sold. The parallel delivery of hops/sweetness/hops/sweetness totally leave your mouth satisfied and at the same time hungry, for more. There is an incredibly engaging texture and flavor that makes this brew not only hard to resist but hard to deny as a top level brew for a really decent price tag.

The bottle’s shape, wood block style artwork and total tasty delivery makes this beer the undisputed champ of my refrigerator. It may not take this position in yours, but that just means more for me.

Overall 4.5 out of 5

Thanks for sticking it out with me. I think next time I will only do six instead of eight because this was a lot of ground to cover.

Till next time,

Zach “still hungry/thirsty” Meyer

Photos (and fellow beer panel member) by Artist/Designer David Hilgier

Beers selected from the ever cool fridges at Total Beverage, Westminster Colorado.

IBU information was gathered from either the brewery’s official website or BeerTutor.com

India Pale Ale Samples
India Pale Ale Samples

Gumbo’s Gumbo Denver Colorado

Its a little hard for me to rationalize seafood consumption in a state that is very plainly landlocked. Due to this internal prejudice, it can often be very difficult to acquire any passion to eat from any “sea food” related eatery, regardless of perceived value.

Gumbo’s will definitely land on the short list of restaurants in Denver that serve a fish meal that I would return to devour in the future. All of the foundational bases were certainly covered from the moment I walked into the building. Nice lighting and aesthetics, polite wait-staff that at least feigned interest in my meal enjoyment, decently priced (but not cheap mind you) dishes with excellent portions and a respectable happy hour.

One other detail to note would be my lack of exposure to any Cajun cuisine. Buckle up kids, if you don’t like the idea of gumbo or other such delectable shellfish related creole food please read no further. Your still here? Excellent. There is something classy and all together experimental about eating creole inspired food. Firstly its relationship to french preparation methods and second to its unique bouquet of smells and palette reactions.

I had a three course meal which included;

  1. A cup of shrimp gumbo
  2. The Mahi St. George (Fish of the Day)
  3. Chocolate Bread Pudding Souffle (desert)

Also as the meal began were served some complimentary baked bread with a herb infused creamed butter that was a simple yet rich. With that under my belt the cup of shrimp gumbo was placed in front of me. Having not ever tasted Gumbo before I was immediately struck by the strange aroma and combination of spices both aromatic and heat related. The temperature levels of the soup were definitely pronounced but didn’t seem to erode the sharp saltiness of the broth.

Next the Mahi fish of the day. I have never been so completely surprised with delight about a fish prepared in Denver. The St George (which should be subtitled, delightful pan fried golden crust) preparation method left a wonderful herb infused crust on the top of the fish cutlet while the inside was warm, soft and moist. As I delicately attempted to peal the fish apart there was little to no resistance in the flesh of the little swimmer itself.

The pool of reduced liquid that the fillet, and the perfect scoop of mashed potatoes, rested in had a garlic, white wine and pepper potpourri. I am not guaranteeing this description’s accuracy but you get the idea, warm cream sauce infused with the very crust that was cooked on to the surface of the fish. Tasty…etc.

The dessert was a Chocolate Souffle Bread Pudding, most like an extremely moist brownie, perched on top of which was a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. The server later revealed that the breading component was also infused with cinnamon. I have to say that this was indeed a most unique if not clearly a glorified comfort food prepared ever so perfectly.

Once again, thanks to the careful recommendation of a friend of mine, Matsuura Kazuomi, I was pleased and surprised by another gem buried deep in the pocket of Denver. Hats off and nets open, to Gumbo’s.

Happy Eating,
Zach

Ichiza Las Vegas Izakaiya Amazing

“Feels like home to me.” – Randy Newman

Japanese Izakaiya are a unique experience. For anyone who has been to Japan, this will hopefully be a familiar and nostalgic journey into a type of atmosphere. Japanese cuisine has recently been put into the “above the common” understanding by some food critics, and not that anyone will enjoy, but anyone can enjoy it and they should at least give this type of restaurant a try.

Like “Tapas,” Japanese Izakaiya serve a number of small dishes meant to be consumed with friends over beers and other popular Japanese drinks, such as Shochu and Sake (more on these in the future). Dim sum would also be a decent way of categorizing this food, but for ease of understanding lets say glorified pub fair.

Unlike Denver, Las Vegas has an amazing location that does this very thing for reasonably priced good time. Ichiza, excels at delivering excellent service and an array of dishes that I only thought I would get to enjoy in Japan.

Their most popular item on the menu is Yakitori, which is a kabob of tender chicken that has been marinated and then quickly grilled to perfection. They also have a wall littered with Chef specials that range from soups and porridge to specialty fried meat and vegetable dishes.

Everything in the room from the seating to the open cooking area masked by little cloth shades where each cook greats you as you enter, is like a cruise down memory lame. The smells of vinegar, cooking sake and soy sauce permeate the building. The wooden booths and small cylindrical stools that we sat on were very similar to the sort of feux rustic feel of the izakaiyas in Japan.

Besides food, the drink menu featured a collection of mixed shochu items that will delight and surprise. My personal preferences being either a Mizu Wari (which is a water cut drink) or a Chu Hai (which has oolong tea cut with the aforementioned booze). Without skipping a beat our hostess was taking our orders and returning with the delectable appetizers in mere moments. She was also gracious enough to allow me the pleasure of using my broken Japanese with her, while I ordered my meal.

A steady flow and delicate timing allowed both unending flow of drinks and food to come out without interrupting the rhythm of our personal conversations or leaving any of us wondering when we would see our ordered items.

Ichiza, I hope to see you again soon. It was a delight and a pleasure for both my pallette and my heart.

Sincerely – the sentimental critic

ICHIZA
4355 Spring Mountain Rd # 205
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(702) 367-3151

Wynn Brunch in Las Vegas

Las Vegas, is usually not the first place I think of when preparing for any amazing meal. Mainly because I don’t want to spend the national deficit to enjoy my meal. I understand that “lavish and plentiful” are the mantras of most of the establishments on the strip, but the buffet ritual has always been a mystery to me. In most of my experiences I have at some point been dragged, kicking and screaming, into a buffet and of course ruing my party members after the fact.

I see buffets as a trough, rather than a culinary experience. We all collectively stick our heads into the feedbag and consume everything until we are roughly double our initial body weight. How does one get the unique and delicate sensory pleasures from the quantity.

Wynn has some how solved this puzzle. The buffet itself is for brunch and like all good buffets there are endless rows of options, non of which at first glance seem unappetizing. White plates, good lighting, nice silverware, polite and timely wait-staff all seem to following the silent rhythm of the eatery. There is this sort of natural pace, like a ballroom dance that is going on all around me. I am enchanted to say the least.

On the food, which is why all three of you are reading this, there were not only excellent offerings and variety but an ingenious portion control system built into the display of excess. Excellent squid ceviche , smoked salmon, delicately rolled spicy tuna sushi, single serving eggs benedict and roasted meats were only some of the offerings on my plate.

The price tag was $40 for the champagne brunch, which was excellent I might add, there was an endless supply of mimosas that had a decently sweet alcohol added to it, the flavors of every dish there were precise, clean and fresh. There was no apparent overly oily texture to anything and with every countries favorite items available you could really take your time and enjoy a brunch from around the globe.

The beautiful thing about the portioning from the quiche to the waffles was the size. Nothing was too big. You could really have an expansive tapas like breakfast assortment and know exactly when you have had enough. There was no racing compulsion to consume everything I saw before me thanks to the presentation and execution of each dish.

I would gladly loosen a belt buckle to enjoy the offerings of the Wynn brunch anytime, and so should you.

Cheers!

Hungry man Zach