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Boulder, CO suggestions

Have fun! The Kitchen is wonderful, I have no doubt you'll enjoy it.

As for your other dinner, I think The Kitchen showcases Boulder's farm-to-table side very well, so I'd probably try something different. (OAK, as mentioned, is great, as are SALT and Black Cat, but in my book they are similar enough in concept to The Kitchen that I probably wouldn't do them on back-to-back nights.) Frasca is Boulder's most well-reviewed restaurant - they do northern Italian food extraordinarily well and have a wine list that's second to none - and they can usually accommodate a single diner on a walk-in basis. Frasca's owners also run an amazing neopolitan pizzeria right next door, Pizzeria Locale, that's one of my favorite dinner spots (it's not a checkered tablecloth pizza place, it's pretty upscale although still relaxed and affordable). Or you might try Jax on Pearl (New Orleans-influenced seafood) for a festive, loud and fun atmosphere and great seafood that's been a Boulder staple for a couple of decades. Finally, Centro is right down the street from Jax (same owners) and has tasty upscale Mexican food and a great patio if the weather is nice.

If you have time for a cocktail, definitely check out the Bitter Bar for a speakeasy vibe and my favorite cocktails in town. OAK also has a great cocktail program as well.

Oct 07, 2013
monopod in Mountain States

Anything new/good in Breckenridge?

Not new, but Modis was by far the best meal I had in Breck last time I was there.

Jul 17, 2013
monopod in Mountain States

Boomsma Oude Genever: What to make with it?

Searched around but there isn't much info out there about what to actually do with a barrel-aged oude genever (other than sip it neat, obviously). Anyone have any cocktails that use oude genever that they would recommend?

Jun 10, 2013
monopod in Spirits

Seltzer, someone enlighten me

As far as I can tell, the only variables in seltzer are (a) the quality of the water (including its mineral content), and (b) how carbonated it is. If you use quality water you like the taste of and you carbonate it to your preferred pressure in a Sodastream, there shouldn't be any seltzer out there that's any better. Alternately, you might find a brand in the store that you like and stick with that - it's just a matter of tasting a few and seeing which ones you like. For example, I like sipping San Pellegrino because the flavor of the water is nice, but it's not very carbonated so the bubbles just get lost when it's mixed into a cocktail - for mixed drinks, I'd rather use a highly carbonated store brand of seltzer (since the flavor of the water gets lost in the liquors anyway).

Jun 04, 2013
monopod in Spirits

Assessing a bar before ordering

For me, ordering a cocktail is the exception and not the rule. That is, the restaurant/bar has to earn my cocktail order by plainly displaying that they know at least the basics of cocktails - for example, a good and detailed cocktail list, a bar that appears to be well-stocked beyond the basics, a server that's eager to talk cocktails, etc. If I don't see any of those, then I'm going to stick with wine, beer, or a straight pour of call liquor and not take the risk of ordering a $10 "manhattan" that's Beam with aging Martini vermouth and a bright-red cherry, shaken till it's full of ice chips.

Funny story: I was recently at an upscale restaurant in the Colorado mountains and noticed that the Negroni on the cocktail list claimed to be made of "gin, sweet vermouth, and an orange slice." I asked the server if they had Campari and she said no, their Negroni didn't use Campari. Interesting choice. I went with a nice malbec instead.

Jun 04, 2013
monopod in Spirits
3

Best bottled orgeat?

I know, I should just make it, but I don't have the time right now. What brand would you buy to have around as a house orgeat for Mai Tais and other tiki drinks? Not something I drink regularly, but I'd like to have the option and I'm the kind of cocktail drinker that believes that if you're going to have a cocktail, you should use the good stuff. Bonus points if it's available from Amazon.

May 21, 2013
monopod in Spirits

Hot Tomato in Fruita, CO is worth a visit!

Fruita is great for biking, but the dining options are, shall we say, hit or miss. I found a major hit this weekend: Hot Tomato. It's a pizza and beer place (there are a few other items, but mostly pizzas), you order at the counter and then servers bring your pies to your table. Great spot - the patio is cool and inviting, the servers are very friendly - but most of all, the pizza was excellent. Definitely the best NY-style pies I've had outside of the Front Range (I know, faint praise, but this is Fruita we're talking about - not exactly a food mecca), with inventive topping combos. Well worth a visit if you're in town or looking for a good stop when driving by on I-70.

May 07, 2013
monopod in Mountain States

Denver: New Saigon & More

Really good ramen broth takes an incredible amount of time and effort to make. Check out the recipe for the broth in the Momofuku cookbook for an example (similar to what they do at Bones and Uncle here in Denver). It's actually amazing they don't charge more for it, IMHO.

Apr 24, 2013
monopod in Mountain States

The Boulevardier

I recently started making mine with 1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse, 3/4 oz Punt e Mes and 3/4 oz Campari (or Cynar for an intriguing twist). I like it over ice (one large cube). Seems to hit about the right ratio of sweet to bitter for my taste.

Apr 17, 2013
monopod in Spirits

If a hound were moving to Denver, what neighborhood is chowest?

Boulder would be perfect for your description - there's a reason Bon Appetit named it the country's "foodiest" town this year - but it's probably too far from Denver (though the buses do make the commute relatively easy). So... Highlands is an up-and-coming foodie neighborhood with lots of good restaurants and easy access to both South Federal's ethnic smorgasbord and downtown Denver's higher-end offerings (plus it's not too far to Boulder).

And opinions about the Denver food scene from 6 years ago aren't particularly relevant at this point - it's rapidly evolving and has been for several years. Farmer's markets are now everywhere with tons of great produce and products, and even the lower-end supermarket chains (King Soopers, Safeway) have beefed up their organic and bulk sections to where they're perfectly serviceable. There's a Trader Joe's going up in both Denver and Boulder right now as well.

I agree with the suggestion to check out Westword's food section, as well as the Denver Eater site. If you keep track of where the places they write about are, you'll get a pretty good sense of where the hot spots are.

Apr 16, 2013
monopod in Mountain States

Goose Rocks Beach/Kennebunkport with young children

Federal Jack's in K-Port is super kid friendly and has a nice patio. Worth a visit while you're there. The beer is great; food is nothing special but you can get a lobster, fried clams, haddock, etc. so I can usually find something tasty enough. Not "foodie" fare but a solid choice for a lunch or a comfortable, low-stress dinner.

And definitely not fancy, but the Maine Diner on Rt. 1 in Wells has some of the best seafood chowder and lobster rolls around, as well as a lobster pie that'll kill you but is delicious. It's a touristy place so best not to go at peak hours. It's a diner, very kid-friendly.

Apr 05, 2013
monopod in Northern New England

Quick report on Portland and Kennebunkport Trip

Just closed for the winter months, like a lot of K-port. I think they reopen in mid-April.

Apr 05, 2013
monopod in Northern New England

Quick report on Portland and Kennebunkport Trip

Just got back from a week visiting family in Maine and thought I'd give a few thoughts on where we ate.

Federal Jacks, Kennebunkport: Basic brewpub, a local hangout (since it's one of the few places open full hours year-round). Family friendly, great patio (overlooks the harbor). Fried clams were good, - big and well fried - everything else was pretty basic pub grub. Burger overcooked (nice brioche bun, though). Surprisingly few seafood options for a place right on the water. Great beer, of course (they brew Shipyard in house). Beware the antipasto plate - it's entirely deep-fried, and mostly consists of olives (very weird).

50 Local, Kennebunk: Looking for a nice meal out in K-port and Bandaloop (a former favorite) was closed, so we found 50 Local. Cozy location, friendly staff. Cocktails are creative and use a lot of local ingredients, but the bartender has a heavy hand with the sweet/syrupy and both of our drinks (bourbon with ginger simple syrup and cayenne, and a white sangria) were cloying and hard to drink after a few sips. Food was tasty but IMHO seriously overpriced. My seafood stew had a nice broth and a reasonable amount of fresh calamari, mussels, shrimp and fish, but wasn't superabundant and was $33 - for that, I'd expect more refinement and perhaps more than your basic inexpensive fish/shellfish (especially in Maine). Bill came to about $100 for two cocktails and two entrees - too expensive for what we got, but otherwise it was pretty good.

Eventide Oyster House, Portland - Service was terrible, we were ignored at the host stand for about 5 minutes (this is a tiny place and the hostess was about 5 feet away), then after being seated we were again ignored for about 20 minutes - everyone around us was looking around, wondering why there were 5 servers and cooks behind the raw bar just standing around but no food was coming out or orders being taken. Very strange. Once we finally got service, though, the food was extraordinary. Jumbo grilled oyster with Korean bbq and potato crisps was one of the best things I've eaten in a long time, and razor clam salad was also amazing - fresh, clean, perfect - and the oysters themselves were flawless. The "ices" that came with the raw oysters are a great way to improve on standard oyster accompaniments - I'd eat an entire ice cream cone full of the vinegar or horseradish ice no problem. Cocktails were also delicious (try the negroni blanco). Expensive, but unlike 50 Local it felt like the attention to detail and the exquisitely fresh food was worth it.

Pai Men Miyake, Portland: Highlight of the trip for me. Last visit we went to the "real" Miyake for the sushi tasting menu, and it was easily one of the top sushi meals I've had in a very long time. Pai Men is also excellent, but in a very different way - more an izakaya feel, less formal and warmer. Steamed pork buns were delicious, as were the yakitori (grilled skewers) of chicken heart, chicken thighs, and shrimp (though the shrimp did have a slight "off" flavor of uncombusted fuel, which is weird since they use a special charcoal that's supposed to emit almost no smoke). My wife's ceviche roll was outstanding and innovative (unlike standard sushi for sure), and my miso ramen was also excellent - not the best I've ever had, but a very solid rendition that had me finishing the bowl even though I probably shouldn't have. And after shelling out the bucks at Eventide and 50 Local, it was refreshing for a huge and fun meal with many different bites and flavors to come in at about $70 for two, including drinks.

Benkay Sushi, Portland: Our final meal was sushi at Benkay. Not a particularly nice ambiance; it feels a little dated, and neither the food nor the surroundings are anywhere near the dazzling perfection of Miyake. But the staff is friendly, and the fish was impeccably fresh. Chirashi plate was a huge portion of various sashimi and very well-cooked rice, and my wife's nigiri was all well cut and fresh. If they have the raw oyster special, skip it - the oysters get kind of lost in the sauce. Overall a good, if fairly standard, sushi experience. We had our 2YO with us, and it was a great place for that - no kid's menu, but they were happy to recommend stuff for her (she loved the agadashi tofu and the salmon avocado roll) and were all smiles. Not a destination place, perhaps, but we enjoyed it.

Will DEFINITELY return to Eventide (despite the service) and Pai Men Miyake, and I wouldn't say no to Benkay again (though I'd like to try some other places in town for sushi besides Benkay and Miyake).

Apr 05, 2013
monopod in Northern New England

Moab, Utah ?

Everyone has probably already told you to go to Red Iguana in SLC for Mexican food (especially the moles - get the mole sampler to decide what you like before ordering). It's not high-end but it's really, really good.

In Moab, Jeffery's Steakhouse is great and Moab Diner is good diner food. Avoid Pasta Jay's and the Moab Brewery at all costs.

Apr 05, 2013
monopod in Mountain States

Moab, Utah ?

I second the Jeffrey's recommendation. Great find, especially in a place like Moab where the options are severely limited. They have nice cocktails too.

Sorrel River Ranch is an amazing place to stay but VERY expensive. Just down the road is Red Cliffs Lodge, which is a little more rustic but still beautiful and usually significantly less expensive.

Apr 05, 2013
monopod in Mountain States

Trip report: Moab & Estes

Thanks for the reviews! Next time in Moab, try Jeffery's Steakhouse (very good upscale American food) and the Moab Diner (diner food, but solid - especially the green chile burgers and chicken sandwiches). And in Estes, check out the Rock Inn Tavern (looks like a biker bar, but the food is actually pretty darn good).

Apr 05, 2013
monopod in Mountain States

Bittters recommendation

Interesting, I didn't realize they varied that extensively from year to year. No idea which vintage I have - will have to check when I get home. Probably 2011, since I bought it in early 2012.

Mar 21, 2013
monopod in Spirits

Bittters recommendation

Second on the grapefruit bitters. Also wonderful in anything involving Campari, Aperol or Cynar, including a Boulevardier (rye, sweet vermouth and Campari).

Mar 20, 2013
monopod in Spirits

Specific advice on seafood restaurant in Portland, ME

Gilberts is probably not quite festive enough for what I'm thinking - somewhere we can celebrate the fact that we've arrived back in the land of sea air and cobblestone streets. But we're definitely thinking of hitting Fore Street later in the trip!

Mar 19, 2013
monopod in Northern New England

Specific advice on seafood restaurant in Portland, ME

Thanks, I'll check these places out! The two year old is generally well behaved in restaurants; we go out to eat at relatively nice places with her all the time, and the servers usually love her. She's also a bit of a budding foodie (she loves pho and mussels, and her favorite pizza toppings are capers and kalamata olives). So I guess I'm willing to stretch the definition of "family friendly" to mean just not white tablecloth or otherwise a place that's totally inappropriate for kids (like Miyake).

Mar 19, 2013
monopod in Northern New England

Specific advice on seafood restaurant in Portland, ME

I'm a former Mainer now living near Denver (for the last 15 years), and heading back this weekend for a visit. Flying into PWM at 5pm and heading straight into town to get dinner with my parents, wife, and 2 year old daughter.

I'm really hankering for simple but fresh and well-prepared seafood, since we don't really have much of that in Denver. Not super fancy or expensive, but somewhere where the food is reliably very good. We'll probably hit Fore Street or Miyake later in the trip for a nice dinner (leaving the kiddo with the parents), but on this first night I just want something fun, tasty and relatively family-friendly. Where would you go?

Mar 19, 2013
monopod in Northern New England

Bittters recommendation

I had Fee Bros' Whiskey-Barrel Aged Bitters recommended to me, but I find it kind of one-note and not nearly as complex as angostura - it just tastes like liquid red hots (i.e. fake cinnamon). Is it just me?

Very interested in the Boker's clone.

Mar 19, 2013
monopod in Spirits

303 Whiskey - distilled from potatoes?!?

Interesting... I never did get around to picking up a bottle. What makes it so bad? Too vodka-ish? (My friend who recommended it is a big fan of Stranahan's as well, interestingly.)

Mar 08, 2013
monopod in Spirits

Scotch cocktails

Had a great cocktail at West End Tavern in Boulder, CO last weekend that was primarily bourbon based, but used a very peaty scotch rinse (similar to the absinthe rinse in a sazerac) to add a smoky aroma without overpowering the flavor. It was called a Tangled Up In Bloom; I don't know the measurements, but the ingredients were Makers 46 bourbon, St. Germain, Regan’s orange bitters, lemon, and a rinse of Lagavulin islay single malt scotch. Very tasty.

Mar 04, 2013
monopod in Spirits

What's wrong with me?!

Well, there's part of your problem - Tribuno vermouth is pretty much bottom shelf, not very nice stuff. Spring for some Dolin or maybe Vya, and that might help.

Feb 27, 2013
monopod in Spirits

Junipero

Martinez, no? Isn't that a classic place for an old tom? I personally love it.

Feb 25, 2013
monopod in Spirits

Rye, cynar, grapefruit bitters, citrus twist- does this have a name?

Perhaps I shall. That Philabuster sounds pretty delicious, will have to give that one a try this eve (and it's a good excuse to pick up a bottle of Cocchi Americano).

Feb 25, 2013
monopod in Spirits

What's wrong with me?!

Vesper purists will substitute for the Lillet because they've changed the formula since Ian Fleming's day (it's now just "Lillet" instead of "Kina Lillet" and is much sweeter). Cocchi Americano is apparently closer to the original flavor of Kina Lillet. Though it sounds like the OP might prefer the current version of Lillet, since he/she apparently likes things a bit on the sweeter side.

Feb 25, 2013
monopod in Spirits

Szechuan in the Boulder area?

Sorry to say that I have to disagree with kzulderveld's review of Pho Basil. Went last night with the family and the universal conclusion was "bland, bland, bland." Dan Dan Noodles tasted like there were no preserved vegetable, no chiles, no sichuan peppercorns, none of the interesting flavors - just pork covered in soy sauce and oil over unflavored noodles. Not even close to real Dan Dan mien.

But the biggest disappointment was the pho (which we expected to be good since it's in the restaurant's name and all). Hands down the worst pho I've ever had. The broth tasted like nothing but a watery beef broth - no spice at all. The meat (I got brisket, ribeye and meatball - it also came with a hefty portion of tendon/gristle, not sure if that was intentional or not) was all overcooked to the point of being flavorless and tough to chew. And they didn't bring the standard accompaniments - basil and bean sprouts had already been added and were soggy and wilted, no tray of fresh herbs, sprouts, and onion to add a fresh note. I had to ask for hoisin and sriracha, and the waitress seemed confused when I asked for them. Seriously? These accompaniments, with minor variations, are pretty much universal in every pho I've ever had (which is a lot).

I ate a few spoonfuls and then had them pack up the rest, which is almost unheard of for me. At home, I realized they had filled the to-go container with the noodles and meat and apparently only had room for about 1/2 cup of broth, so that's all we got. If I ask for my soup to go and you dump out 3/4 of the broth before packing it up, that's not really cool with me (even if it's lousy broth - was planning on perking it up at home with spices and charred onion/ginger).

So, unfortunately, serious thumbs down on Pho Basil. Very unlikely we'll be returning.

Feb 23, 2013
monopod in Mountain States

Rye, cynar, grapefruit bitters, citrus twist- does this have a name?

I've been really enjoying a cocktail I came up with when experimenting with Cynar. Basically, I took my standard manhattan (2 oz Rittenhouse rye, 1 oz Carpano, angostura bitters, Luxardo cherry) and swapped in Cynar for the Carpano. (I originally did half and half, but I liked the emphasis on the Cynar.) Then I realized that Cynar reminds me a lot of a darker, richer Campari and Campari goes great with grapefruit, so I subbed in grapefruit bitters for the Angostura, which really brightened up the drink. Finally, the cherry seemed inappropriate so I ended up using an orange zest twist. It's delicious - kind of like a boulevardier, but darker and stronger.

Anyone know if there's a name for this? I'm assuming others have probably followed the same logic and arrived at a similar drink.

Feb 21, 2013
monopod in Spirits