Ms Karen’s Kitchen

Just because its made at home and served at home doesn’t mean its not any less important. I was intending for my next few reviews to be the foundation for a series on Washoku (traditional Japanese cooking) but, I was able to enjoy a meal prepared by my Aunt Karen ( and company) in Cincinnati, and I said that I would review it due to the quality and levels of pure sensory joy that I had. So, I am a man of my word.

Because this was a home cooked meal I will do my best to stay exclusively close to describing the texture and flavor of the food rather than going into uncomfortable depth about what the service was like or whether or not the marble floors complemented the velvet curtains that were ornately decorated with silk line art depicting ancient chinese battles.

Here is the menu:

Sweet Corn
At first glance, these little yellow nuggets of flavor are not everyone’s choice vegetable, but definitely with the proper tender care in preparation these little morsels can be served up without any fuss. Aunt Karen made sure that the vitamins and flavor, as well as firm and crisp crunch were preserved during her cooking process. These are in fact leaps in the vegetable world.

Coleslaw
Little known factoid for the you three readers out there, I don’t like coleslaw. There has always been that bucket of slaw sitting idle at every picnic or party event that I turn my nose up at for various reasons. Such as, most people over sauce and over flavor the slaw to the point of mushy bland pull of clipped grass.

On to Karen’s dish however the rules apparently have change. There haven’t been many times when I would sample a new twist on an old least favorite of mine, and was more pleasantly surprised. There seemed to be something uniquely fresh and simple about the dish, from the disks of pear that decorated the serving platter to the light crispness of each byte (duh i work in computers). 

Unlike most slaws, there was no bitter tastes or unpleasant odors, simply nothing but pure, if even slightly sweet delight. There was an almost fruit like quality to the dish, this may have been a juice or in fact something like thinly sliced pieces of apple or some other firm flashed fruit used to soften the blow of the cabbage’s less than pronounced flavor.  

Noodle/Pasta Salad
Noodle salad is indeed one of the most coldly misunderstood dishes available on any table. Usually a slightly cooled dish with a single mixture of mayonnaise and curled pasta noodles. This particular version was in fact warm and had a slight cheese saltiness as well as several herbs nestled into the flavorful bouquet. Believe me I had seconds. 

Grilled Chicken &
A great chicken wing has a delicious exterior, but incredible chicken has fall off the bones well seasoned meat on the interior as well. There are few things more amazing than truly succulent chicken. Not wet but not dry, not salty but well seasoned, this sort of two step is very difficult with chicken and if you don’t believe me, feel free to give a whirl.

Beef Brisket
Again, brilliantly almost smoked like meat juicy and tender on the inside. Crisp hearty bark on the outside, any man in Texas would stand up and salute. 

I have nothing but wonder and joy that every single bite of this meal was satisfaction. A home with atmosphere, good conversation and delicious food is all one can ask of this life and in fact.

Happy eating

Zach
Thank you again Aunt Karen and Company

Cinnamon rolls grilled

Most Fridays I decide that the week has been so busy and that I have accomplished so much, that I deserve to treat myself to some kind of edible reward. Often this will manifest itself in the afternoon with a beer at one of the local Boulder pubs (more on these in the future). But today’s unique experience lead me to pick up a grilled cinnamon roll from the Unseen Bean.

I always have a hard time convincing myself to enjoy sweet things at breakfast. I usually will go for the protein as my blood sugar will spike and I will feel really sick. With that in mind, it is a rare instance for me to order any sort of sweet first thing in the morning. But after pinning over the selection, I spied a small cinnamon roll sitting the front of the case all by its lonesome.

He seemed to be an omen of good fortune, and so I asked our baristess to prepare him for consumption. After about 2 minutes on the panini grill he had been transformed into some kind of warm morsel of comfort. Richly filled with chopped pecans, ground wheat, cinnamon and a light glaze, the swirled pastry tore apart in my hands soft but firmly bite after bite.

There really is nothing quite as spectacular as something so comforting and warm in the morning. The best part was that there was very little overbearing sweetness. If this had been acquired at a grocery store, the entire experience would have left me in a diabetic coma. But to my surprise and enjoyment, this tender offering was a well balanced combination of richness and texture. The pronounced aroma and taste of cinnamon was excellent and combined with the crunch of the now warmed pecan chunks, left a feeling of utter satisfaction lingering on until past the noon hour.

Thanks to the great staff at the Unseen Bean for making this morning’s non-traditional breakfast a pleasant one.

3 cheers!

Zach

Santa Fe’s bread basket

While on vacation, local fare is of course the first goal for any committed eater. This past weekend I took it upon myself to explore the offerings of south-western cuisine in Santa Fe and to my delight and surprise its just as good as the south-western cuisine in Denver.

I expect that when you go to a state that is geographically closer to the origin of many of exclusive Mexican dishes, there should be a difference in color, taste and texture in the food. The most significant difference between these dishes served there and here is freshness of ingredients. For the most part, portions and cost seem to be negligible.

After hearing from a local that Tamasita’s had some amazing Carne Adovada, I couldn’t help but make that my very first stop on the flavor town express. The Adovada in a very red, spicy, stew like sauce that seemed to be apart of the actual cooking process. There were healthy sized chunks of pork shoulder, I am assuming, that were in fact tender but a little on the dry side for a stew. The usual sides were available but the refried beans weren’t anything to write about really.

However, Tamasita’s shining star that night was their original margarita. As your tastes change the margarita becomes something of a gem with the right preparation. Fresh lime juice, tequila and some salt. Simplicity, has really outdone itself. The drink was crisp and bright the tequila was almost sweet and not overly dry. Top shelf stuff.

The other cantina that I was able to experience was the Coyote Cafe. The rooftop cantina features the same menu as their eat in restaurant but has slightly deflated prices to accommodate the adobe pub like atmosphere. The first thing that was enjoyable was the wait staff. Prompt, humble, polite and truly customer comfort focussed. As a matter of fact we had really exceptional service everywhere we went.

So the fried wrap standing up had two types of meet and two sauces, Pork with the red sauce and chicken with the green and both were very well matched. The sour cream and guacamole was really smooth and fresh and flavorful. But the real surprise was the dessert.

Three little cups, each one filled with a unique custard take on some classic Spanish and American tastes. There was a chocolate cake like cup, rice pudding with pecans and raisins (which no one at the table would eat except me. the texture of the rice was too much for my Japanese companions.) and a banana flan custard of sorts that was like eating a creamier version of the banana vanilla wafer pudding most enjoyed by youths growing up in the south.

Overall, good. If I had stars the Santa Fe experience would only receive 3 out of 5 for lack of true distinction outside of ingredients. Preparation and flavor were all comparable to several restaurants I frequent in Colorado.

Happy eating,

Zach

Delicious vanilla honey laté

One of the shining stars in morning life is that first cup of warm coffee or tea. There is a certain comfort and joy that comes from sipping on what I can only describe as a delicious security blanket. Everything from this point on in the day is tolerable because of the first cup of coffee.

The Unseen Bean in Boulder Colorado, is one of the few establishments that has really perfected the craft of beverage service. They are prompt, polite, friendly and know how to satisfy the need for caffeine in unique ways. But more on them later.

The laté has long been a cherished companion to my morning routine and I think that the over-all sugary tones that are usually associated with it have kept me at bay for quite sometime. Like in the terrible institution Starbucks, there is usually more sugar than flavor. I requested a laté that would have a low sweetener content, and Rose prepared this little treat.

The honey does all the sweetening but its not over board and it seems to enhance the creaminess of the milk and there is a slight but welcomed hint of vanilla at the end. With every sip, the foam, milk, coffee and flavors seem to meld together so fluidly.

I give the fine young, cannibalistic, staff at the Unseen Bean 2 thumbs up for a great delivery and interesting variation on an old favorite.

Zach
ravenous

Rockbottom Brewery kinda delivers, but not really

Before I hit the Rockbottom too hard in the headd with a stick, I want to let everyone know that I don’t like chain restaurants all that much. Especially chain restaurants pretending to be one of a kind experiences. There is something dishonest about people who claim to be selling you a unique experience. But enough about that, on to the offerrings;

Cuisine,

Good old red, white and blue cuisine was the main attraction at the Rockbottom and all though they seem to have some kind of micro-brewery attached to it, do not confuse this establishment with some kind of Odell brew and food combo, there is nothing here that is all that memorable in terms of flavor or value.

Portion size is definitely appropriate for the amount of cost attached with the meal. Our plates were full and at the end of the night so were our stomachs.

I had the chicken cob salad, and if any of you don’t know I am a cob salad fan. It was relatively decent, nothing really to compare it with since the cob is hard to foul up. The only thing disparaging about it was a lack of freshness in the greens. Not as much snap as I would have liked but then again nothing is perfect. (BTW if anyone has a really good cob salad location to recommend I would love to check it out and submit a review of the location, thanks Z)

The rest of the party had over glorified Red Robin burgers that came with fries salted to mouth parching extremes. Although maybe this is the sort of thing America has become occustomed to and there is no room for well balanced flavorfilled comfort food. My friends will tell you that when the sylabic combination of sounds that form “hamburger” are uttered there is a total change of focus and attention. But, when all I can taste is the saltiness of the starchy, doubled fried, potato sslice in my mouth for 2 hours post the meal, I feel that a bit of restrain is in order to maintain a higher level of enjoyment.

Brewskis,
The micro-brews were not a complete waste of time (although at 4.25 a glass I might be eating my own shoe in a minute) there were a couple of shining delights. The Gila Pale Ale was decently flavorful and had a better finish than most. Could have gotten a New Belgien Blue Paddle and been all the more happy with the evening but that is how the cookie crumbles.

Service,
Not to crush all your hopes and dreams that this eatery has some sort of heart of gold, but the wait staff that we were forced to survive had no intention of making us feel at home. Out of the group of visitors that were seated in our section we ordered first and were served last. I find this to be deplorable and insulting. All dollars, cents and tips are created equal. I am not spending 40+ hours a week in the hamster wheel of commerce only to be dejected by some nobbish booth jockey. He received the 10% sympathy tip but not a penny more.
Next time serve the appetizers first instead of with the meal, from our location I was able to watch them sit under a hot light for about 15 salivating minutes before they were delivered. Don’t keep pandering us about the fucking deserts we don’t want ot eat because we haven’t finished our meal. And don’t, under any circumstance, bring me a cup of hot water without a mug to put it in. Turn in your dishrag, you are done.

If you are looking ot be wisked away by a party atmosphere with good times hanging all over the walls and a respectable staff of young people trying to make their time with just as enjoyable, don’t go to the Rockottom Brewery on 104th and 36ave in Westminster.

Cheers,

Zach
the hungry guy