Sunday, August 28, 2011

Snooze, Visit #2

Note: This is a follow-up review after our first visit a few weeks ago. 

It was inevitable: the allure of all the amazing-sounding dishes we didn't get to try at our last Snooze escapade drew us in for another visit last weekend.

This time, we brought a couple of friends along and tried to show up early-ish to minimize the wait. Fortunately, the four of us only had to wait 20 minutes after our 8:45 Sunday morning arrival for a table (keep in mind this is the suburban location at Southglenn).

The portions at Snooze being too large, and the amazing food options being too numerous, we decided to drive our waitress crazy with a mishmash of everything delicious we saw on the menu. I should point out that our waitress was really nice about our goofy orders and did a great job.

Let's get started.

Half order of Sticky Bun French Toast:

Sticky Bun French Toast (half order)

We all loved this, but it was extremely rich. The single slice of toast was smothered in a generous helping of syrup, nuts and cream cheese icing. Even splitting the half portion among four of us, it was hard to finish the whole plate because it was so sweet.

A full-size order of Peaches 'n Cream French Toast:

Peaches 'n Cream French Toast 

This wasn't as delectable as the Sticky Bun variety, but also not as overwhelmingly sweet. I loved the crunchy granola topping and the refreshing taste of the peaches.

We warned our friend that there was no way he could finish an entire portion of the Blueberry Lemon Bar Pancakes, but he ordered them anyway.

Blueberry Lemon Bar Pancakes

He finished them off. Unbelievable. These pancakes have a pleasant tart flavor and are covered in a honey-yogurt sauce made with local Noosa yogurt. My husband preferred these over the Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes from our last visit.

We also ordered two of the Juan's Breakfast Tacos (a normal portion comes with three). The tacos came filled with scrambled eggs, shredded hash browns, jack cheese, ranchero sauce, and we added chorizo to make things more interesting.

Juan's Breakfast Tacos

I loved the ranchero sauce, and I definitely preferred the tacos over the breakfast burrito I had at my last visit. Still, I thought they needed Cholula for an extra kick.

Finally, I couldn't decide between eggs benedicts, so I went with one each of the Caprese and the Upstream Benny. The Caprese had an heirloom tomato atop mozzarella and ciabatta bread, topped with the usual poached egg and hollandaise sauce, with basil pesto and balsamic. The Upstream Benny included smoked salmon on bacon-jalapeno spoonbread.

Left: Caprese Benedict   Right: Upstream Benny   Back: Hash Browns

The Caprese benedict tasted like a hybrid of bruschetta and eggs benedict. I really enjoyed the fresh flavor of the tomato, but the mozzarella was so gooey that it was a bit hard to eat. I preferred the very unique Upstream Benny (I'm a huge salmon fan), although the spoonbread just tasted like cornbread to me. The hash browns were just average.

Feeling like a seasoned Snooze pro after all that food (ok, I really only have two visits under my belt), I bring you the following recommendations for any visit to Snooze:
  • Be prepared for a wait at any of their locations
  • Not the most relaxing experience as things can be rushed for table turnover
  • Portions, especially for sweet dishes, are way too big. Get a half order, or split with lots of friends, or both
  • Recommend getting additional meat and/or veggies in savory dishes

Snooze seems poised to take over the planet, with new locations coming soon in Boulder and San Diego, CA, so be prepared for a future full of giant breakfast burritos and red velvet pancakes. I know I'm ready.

The food at Snooze is very unique and mostly awesome. We've always had good or great service, and the waits have never been too awful. I'm therefore handing out an additional star to Snooze @ Southglenn, so they're now an 8-star joint instead of a 7-er from the initial review.

Everyday Dining

(8 of 10)

Pros: Great food, able to mix and match menu items, really unique breakfast choices
Cons: Long waits, feeling rushed, giant sugary portions


Snooze on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs

Well, I suppose if Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs is a favorite of Anthony Bourdain's and if it's Susan Feniger's "Best Thing I Ever Ate", it's probably good enough for me and my amateur tastebuds. Biker Jim's has quickly become one of the most well known food spots in Denver, meaning it was time for us to get over there and see what the big deal was all about.

We showed up at about 5:30 pm on a Friday night just before a Rockies game. Surprisingly, only a few tables were occupied when we first arrived, but it soon became packed with customers after we entered.

Biker Jim's is more famously known for its hot dog stands, and just opened the brick-and-mortar location this past March in Five Points near Coors Field (across from my beloved Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria). The Biker Jim's restaurant has order-at-the-counter service and indoor and outdoor tables.

My husband ordered the Louisiana Red Hot ($6), with cream cheese and grilled onions on top (additional $1). And a half order of the much-Yelped fried macaroni and cheese on the side ($2).

And what did I order? I'm going to get a lot of crap about this. Well, I already have from my husband. Brace yourself. I ordered a hamburger. It was the Off-The-Street Burger ($8) to be precise.

WHY you ask, did I get a hamburger? Well...
  1. I'm not that big of a hot dog fan
  2. The toppings sounded *%(@*$ fantastic. Fried green tomatoes, fried onions, roasted poblanos, garlic aioli and a gooey-yolk egg?  Yes please.
We munched on pickles and banana peppers from the relish bar while waiting for our plates, and we were greeted with the arrival of our food after only a few short minutes.

Left - Louisiana Red Hot dog with cream cheese and grilled onions
Right - Fried Macaroni and Cheese
Sorry my husband took such a bad picture and didn't even bother to unwrap his hot dog.

My husband was upset about my hamburger order, and I am upset with him for taking such a crummy picture of his delicious food. Underneath that tin foil wrapper is a wonderfully spicy Louisiana Red Hot dog, which was perfectly complimented by the cream cheese and sweet grilled onions.

And the shot of the two fried triangles on the right simply does not do justice to the insanely good Fried Macaroni and Cheese insides. It tastes like the richest, gooey-est, most wonderfully cheesy and with perfectly cooked pasta type mac and cheese that you've ever had. And then it's deep fried. Amazing. It lived up to every word of Yelp hype. Loyal readers (all 2 of you), you must try it if you visit.

And my order, the Off-the-Street burger:

Off-the-Street Burger

Let's start with the toppings I was so excited about. The fried onions, egg, and roasted poblano were all excellent, but the real star was the perfectly cooked, tangy fried green tomato. Clearly Biker Jim's really has their act together when it comes to fried goodies.

But sadly, my hamburger was a bit dry and flavorless. It certainly didn't have the punch of a Louisiana Red Hot dog. And the worst part about it was I was blasted with "I-told-you-so"s from my irritatingly smug dining partner. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH IT PAINS ME TO SAY THIS, but he was right. I should've stuck with a hot dog.

Unfortunately, along with the arrival of our food at the table, we were faced with what was no doubt my biggest gripe of the experience: there were flies everywhere. I spent more time trying to swat away the nonstop swarm of winged pests than I did enjoying the food.  Biker Jim's has two garage-door panels that they had open at the time - I assume to keep temperatures cool and smoke levels down - but they need to put up screens or do something to keep the flies away. A friend who's been to Biker Jim's on several other occasions confirmed he's seen the same thing, so it wasn't just an isolated problem.

Biker Jim's: Great hot dogs and great fried mac and cheese. Well worth any marital strife your visit may cause. Bring a fly swatter.

Everyday Dining

 (7 of 10)

Pros: Amazing Fried Macaroni and Cheese and hot dogs. Fast service.
Cons: Hamburger was disappointing. Beware the flies when doors are open.


Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs - The Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte Larabars

Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte Larabars what?!!?

I thought I was a Larabar superfan but I was completely blindsided by the presence of this little guy at my local Whole Foods on Monday:

Where did this come from? I couldn't find a single mention of this new flavor on Larabar's website, nor on their Facebook page. All I could come up with were a few random blog hits mentioning the new bar.

Larabar, I thought we had something special. YOU WERE MY FIRST BLOG POST! But apparently you don't care and you go out with new flavors without any regard for my feelings.

Anyway, let's talk about the Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte flavor.

I love chocolate in any form, but I generally eschew cherries outside of their fresh and raw state. Even not being a huge cherry fan, I really enjoyed the new Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte Larabar. The cherry flavor isn't nearly as intense as the Cherry Pie Larabar, and the addition of cashews and almonds into the mix makes it taste like a decadent dessert. Oh, and the chocolate chips were fantastic, of course.

And the nutritionals:

Apparently, along with the arrival of the Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte flavor comes the retirement of the Cinnamon Roll flavor. I can't say I'm too upset about that, as the Cinnamon Roll flavor was one of my very least favorites and was always difficult to find, presumably because no one was too interested in buying it. Larabar keeps coming out with better and better flavors (hello Blueberry Muffin) and it only makes sense that they throw out some of the dead weight along the way.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Denver Biscuit Company

Any of you who have read my Silver Creek Diner review have probably been sitting at the edges of your seats since that post, wondering in frantic anticipation:

What happened to the quest for amazing biscuits and gravy in Denver?!

Relax, my friends. I shall put you at ease with my recap of our recent visit to Denver Biscuit Company.

Our meal at Silver Creek Diner failed to fill the void in my husband's life caused by insufficient hometown biscuits and gravy, but we have continued to keep our eyes peeled for a worthy contender.

Enter the Denver Biscuit Company. Recommended by a friend and seeming to be an obvious candidate for delicious biscuits and gravy, Mr. Oyster and a friend and myself all headed to their Colfax location last weekend for breakfast.

After hearing so much about the nomadic Denver Biscuit Company food truck, I was really expecting more a of a hole-in-the-wall place for their brick-and-mortar venue. Instead, the location - on an eclectic strip of Colfax just south of City Park - was surprisingly swanky and yuppie-fied. The spot is shared by Denver Biscuit Company, Fat Sully's Pizza, and the Atomic Cowboy bar, each with their own hours and contributions to the feel of the restaurant.

Denver Biscuit Company location shared by Atomic Cowboy and Fat Sully's Pizza.
I was wondering why there was a full bar in a breakfast place.

Oh, and I was also wondering why there was a giant cowboys vs. aliens mural-painting.

And our food:

My plate was the "Ellsworth", a biscuit sandwich containing buttermilk fried chicken with honey, stone-ground mustard and homemade pickles. Terrified of the sweetness of the honey, I asked for it on the side.

The Ellsworth, honey on the side

Ohh this was wonderful. The enormous biscuit was light and fluffy and not too buttery or heavy tasting. The fried chicken was perfectly seasoned, with a crunchy crust and very tender meat. I loved the spiciness of the mustard, and I was glad I asked for the honey on the side so I could add only the small amount I wanted.

Our friend ordered the biscuit French toast, which came with pineapple compote as the "compote of the day".  She asked for the compote on the side and received a ridiculously large, soup-sized bowl of it with the french toast.

Biscuit French Toast

I tried a bit of her dish and loved the unique flavor and fluffy texture of the biscuit French toast itself. We were all underwhelmed by the pineapple compote; the acidic sweetness of the pineapple seemed to have been completely cooked out, leaving only a sad mush behind.

And now, the moment we've all been waiting for, the verdict on the biscuits and gravy:

Biscuits and Gravy

Yes, it tasted as delicious as it looks. Giant, fluffy, flaky biscuits smothered in a generous helping of sausage-packed gravy. One pleasant surprise with this dish was the sausage was fairly spicy and a added a nice kick to every bite.

A couple of gripes: service was a bit slow, and I didn't order any coffee but they make you fetch your own coffee at their "coffee bar". If I wanted to fetch my own beverages I wouldn't have gone out to eat.

But there were happily filled stomachs for all. If you love biscuits, go to Denver Biscuit Company.

Everyday Dining

 (8 of 10)

Pros: Great food. 
Cons: You have to fetch your own coffee. Slow service.


Denver Biscuit Company on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Restaurant Kevin Taylor

One bit of insight into my super-secret personal life that I'm sure you all have been dying to know more about: my husband and I are relatively experienced at dropping substantial amounts of money for delicious French food in Las Vegas.

We've been looking for a place in Denver that would take our money in exchange for an equally delicious meal as what we've had in Vegas. Our first try, at Mizuna, was fairly disappointing. Last weekend, it was on to Restaurant Kevin Taylor, which has received the extraordinary-for-Denver accolades of the AAA Four Diamond Award and Forbes's Four-Star Ranking.

Kevin Taylor is one of very few big-name chefs from Colorado, and he has the entire Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group in Denver under his belt. Clearly he must be a fairly big deal to have his fancy restaurant carry his name.

Kevin Taylor is tucked in the beautiful Hotel Teatro near the Performing Arts Center downtown, making it the first restaurant-in-a-hotel I've really been to in Denver. While squarely downtown, the arts area of Denver feels quiet and off-the-beaten-path compared to a typical downtown dining experience.

We had no problem valeting our vehicle for an $8 price tag (hotel guests valet free) and found the restaurant immediately to our right after walking into Hotel Teatro.

The restaurant itself was a little odd. For as fancy as Restaurant Kevin Taylor is supposed to be, there was no host or hostess present to seat us. We had to wait for a waiter to finish with customers before being seated by him. And you'll need a tour guide to take you to the bathrooms. No joke. You have to exit the restaurant, take the second elevator to your right, head to the basement level, walk all the way down the hallway to your right, and then you are at the ladies room.

But the thing that struck me most was there was no one there. It was 7 pm on a Saturday night in the middle of the summer, and there were only four other couples eating that night. But needless to say we received very good service and plenty of attention from the waitstaff.

Anyway, on to the food.

Restaurant Kevin Taylor had just unveiled a new menu at the evening of our visit, which we were assured by our waiter that the entire staff had sampled and everything was superb.

We started out with a French favorite for my husband and me: foie gras. In this case, it was the Seared French Foie Gras ($16), which came with (direct from menu) Colorado Peach Cobbler, Pistachio Black Pepper Streusel, Armagnac Crema, Peach Gastrique.

Seared French Foie Gras

Almost too beautiful to eat. This was a lovely combination of flavors and textures that blended together perfectly. The armagnac cream (yellowish mound in upper right) was a liquor-laced sweet foam blob, and I've never tasted anything quite like it before. My only complaint about this dish was the foie gras lacked some of the buttery richness I love in foie gras and instead tasted a bit gelatinous.

Along with the foie gras, we also split the Creamy Maine Lobster & Corn Soup ($12).

Creamy Maine Lobster and Corn Soup
The soup was presented first with only the lobster meat and avocado in an empty dish, and the waiter then poured the soup around the delicious claw meat at the center of the bowl. We ate up every last drop of the wonderfully rich soup.

My husband ordered the Roast Colorado Lamb Rack ($38) as his entree. Its accompaniments, from the menu, Porcinis, Sweet Bread Fricasee, Enriched Barley, Mint, Lamb Jus.

Roast Colorado Lamb Rack
This was an excellent plate. The lamb was perfectly seasoned and cooked to medium rare. The porcini mushrooms were chewy and flavorful, and the sweetbreads contributed an additional meaty flavor to the plate.

My entree was the Potato Crusted Halibut ($32), which came with, directly from the menu, Chanterelles, Creamed Spinach, Black Truffle, Port Reduction.
Potato Crusted Halibut
This was not nearly as spectacular as my husband's lamb. I loved the tiny chanterelle mushrooms (well, I love mushrooms in general) and the potato crust on the halibut was wonderfully crunchy and salty. The halibut itself, while well cooked, was a little bland. The giant pile of creamed spinach seemed more like diner food than an accompaniment at a high-end restaurant.

And of course, on to dessert.

Looking for something light, we chose the Raspberry and Basil Napoleon ($10).

Raspberry and Basil Napoleon

This simple dessert had a top layer of red raspberries and vanilla pastry cream, and a bottom layer of golden raspberries with raspberry pastry cream. On the side was lemon sorbet. The raspberries tasted very high quality and fresh, and the dessert overall was pleasantly light and refreshing.

Restaurant Kevin Taylor offered some excellent food but missed the mark in a few areas. It doesn't compare to our beloved Andre's at the Monte Carlo.

Worth a visit if its convenient and you're looking for a fine dining experience in Denver.

Fine Dining

7 of 10

Pros: Quality ingredients. Most dishes were excellent. Very good waitstaff.
Cons: Some dishes lacked polish for the price tag. Where are the other diners?


Restaurant Kevin Taylor on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Duo Restaurant

Every once in a while, on a lazy weekend morning, my husband and I manage to drag ourselves out of bed, hop in the car, and drive far far out of the suburbs to treat ourselves to delicious brunch in the city.

Last weekend was one of those occasions, as we trekked to the Highlands for an encore visit to Duo Restaurant on Sunday morning.

The last time I was at Duo was sometime in the era of a million years ago, with Mr. Oyster and my mother, for what I remembered was a fantastic brunch.

It was just my husband and me this time, looking for a repeat of the great food from our previous visit.

Duo is tucked fairly deep in the Highlands at 32nd and Zuni. We had reservations on a Sunday for the restaurant's open at 10 am. Within a few minutes of being seated, every table was occupied. Note to anyone eating at Duo at a similar time: make reservations.

Duo is yet another farm-to-table type place that reminds me a lot of The Kitchen in Boulder. It's got a cozy, homey feel that includes napkins that look like this:

How quaint. 

I ordered the mushroom scramble ($8), which included scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach, with a side of crispy potatoes and a slice of homemade bread.

Mushroom Scramble
It was perfect. The scramble was very healthy and fresh tasting, although too large of a portion for me. And I love love love their crispy potatoes; they come well-seasoned with a wonderful crunchy exterior. 

And for my husband, the cider glazed pork "benedict" ($10). Direct from menu: poached eggs, grilled sourdough bread, slow roasted cider glazed pork, whole grain mustard cream sauce, crispy potatoes.

Cider Glazed Pork Benedict

This was a completely unique twist on eggs benedict and we loved it.  The eggs sat on a bed of roasted pork, which were atop a slice of sourdough bread. The eggs were perfectly poached with runny centers that melded with the cream sauce, sourdough, and pork. 

We were well attended to at Duo and left with some wonderful brunch in our stomachs. Just as good as I remembered it. 

Casual Dining

 8 of 10

Pros: Delicious food, good service, fresh, local ingredients
Cons: Reservations needed


Duo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria, Vallagio

Note: This is a follow-up review for my first and second visits to Marco's, both at the Ballpark location downtown.

I can't stop eating at Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria.

After two lovely visits to Marco's Ballpark location, we've been long overdue for a trip to their south suburban spot at Vallagio.

Vallagio is some sort of newish integrated living community, with a variety of shops and restaurants placed alongside condos and lofts. Parking is a lot easier at Vallagio compared to their Five Points spot, but it lacks the downtown atmosphere and proximity to, you know, other cool stuff.

Unlike the Ballpark location, we definitely didn't need reservations for the the two of us at 7 pm on a Friday night. The Vallagio spot has a more spacious interior than Ballpark, and it also has a very large patio area. The patio was packed on the warm night we visited, but the indoor seating was only about half occupied.

We sat indoors and quickly got settled in with a couple of beers. Then, it was time to order the dish we'd both jealously eyeballed on our neighbors' tables at our last visit: the Meatball Sliders ($9).

Meatball Sliders
These came on two buttery, garlicky rolls, topped with Caciocavallo and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses, and with a side of tomato sauce. They were fantastic. I love that I could smother them in red sauce before taking a bite.

To follow up our sliders, we settled on the Del Re pizza ($18). Directly from the menu: Truffle and Porcini Mushroom Pecorino Sardo Spread, Fresh Mozzarella, Topped with Mushrooms, Proscuitto di Parma, Fresh Basil.

Del Re Pizza

The Del Re was tasty but just too rich. The creamy pecorino sardo spread, coupled with the generous layer of mozzarella, was too heavy tasting for my preference. I enjoyed the flavor of the proscuitto itself, but its saltiness and meatly flavor added another level of heaviness to the pizza. Fortunately, the mushrooms were the same wonderful, chewy porcinis as the ones that sat above my beloved Brooklyn Pizza at my last visit.

The two dishes were too much food for us and we weren't able to finish off the last couple Del Re slices.

The service at Marco's in Vallagio was very good, and felt more relaxed and less hurried than the bustling downtown location.

Overall we were just as happy with the Vallagio restaurant as the Five Points one. Go to Marco's at Ballpark if you're looking for a lively atmosphere and plenty of nearby entertainment.  Check out Vallagio if you want a quieter evening or something more kid-friendly.


Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria - Vallagio on Urbanspoon