(This Nibbles column originally appeared in the Boulder Weekly: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-15452-from-menudo-to-beet-sugar-rum.html)
Bone broth was big in 2015 in Boulder — so popular it is even available on tap in multiple flavors. Personally, I’ll take my bone broth — animal bones boiled in water — in the traditional form of Jewish chicken soup, Japanese ramen and Vietnamese pho. Other hot local trends locally last year ranged from hoof-to-snout butchery and farm-to-fork dining, to food waste prevention and vegan fast food.
Years from now I doubt I’ll remember what was hot and what was not in 2015 any more than I can recall when Balsamic vinegar first became cool in Colorado. (I know it was a long time ago because now “Balsamic” is a “flavor” of house-brand frozen chicken dinners.) And I’d be hard-pressed to describe in detail many of the 1,000-plus meals I ate in 2015, but there are a few sterling moments — flavors, aromas, textures, aftertastes and especially afterglows — that will stay with me.
As a writer for various publications and municipalities, I’ve been lucky enough to visit eateries, bakeries and even distilleries across the state in the past year from Lafayette to Larkspur and out to Dotsero. Here are a few of my favorite tastes — the ones I’d try again in a heartbeat. Remember: Always check ahead to make sure these small businesses are open and serving the dish you are anticipating that day.
1. Algerian baguette: Moxie Bread Co. is famous for its butter-drenched kouign amann (queen amahn) pastries in assorted sweet and savory variations, which have flown off the shelf. As a confirmed breadophile I am enamored of Moxie’s super-crusty chew-worthy Algerian baguette which was made to be slathered with unsalted butter. Moxie Bread Co., 641 Main St., Louisville; 720-420-9616; moxiebreadco.com
2. Menudo and chile-pickled carrots: It’s worth making your way to Longmont’s La Panda for its classic bar as well as soft corn tortillas with carnitas topped with salsas ranging in degrees of scorch from mild to regrettable. I like the fresh carrot chunks pickled with onions and jalapenos with a bowl of weekendonly menudo with a hot oil sheen and bits of chewy tripe. La Panda Mexican Restaurant, 1118 Main St., Longmont; 303-682-0649
3. Fresh English muffins (and doughnuts, too): The Vail Valley richly deserves its reputation as an expensive place to grab a bite to eat, but there are some notable exceptions. Avon’s Northside Coffee & Kitchen fries up some notable maple bacon doughnuts, bakes breads and croissants and serves breakfast through dinnertime when it becomes a sit-down eatery with a wine list. I’d go back any time to enjoy a true rarity: big, house-baked English muffins toasted until crunchy with honey pooled in its nooks and in its crannies. Northside Coffee & Kitchen, 20 Nottingham Road, Avon; 970-949-1423, northsidecoffeekitchen.com (Bakery items also available at Northside Kitchen Grab & Go in Vail.)
4. Green chile ramen: Chef Frank Bonnano of Mizuna fame is behind this cubbyhole eatery but Bones is an independent down-to-earth experience. The pork belly steamed buns and escargot potstickers are well-made, but the star dish is green chile ramen. Long-boiled broth surrounds braised pork, noodles and chewy hominy garnished with a perfectly poached egg, crumbled queso fresco and slices of fresh jalapeno. The parts meld into a memorable bowl of warmth on a chilly day. Bones, 701 Grant St., Denver; 303-860- 2929; bonesdenver.com
5. Square-cut bacon and ricotta pizza: For East Coast emigres like me, Rosalee’s looks and smells like the pizzerias of the homeland. The eatery offers round pies too, but I chose the square Sicilian-style with a yeasty, crunch crust amply graced with plum tomato sauce, bacon, ricotta, whole milk mozzarella and Pecorino Romano. The gluten-free “alternative” is wonderful in its simplicity: Think house-made polenta crowned with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Pecorino Romano. Rosalee’s Pizzeria, 461 Main, Longmont; 303-485-5020; rosaleespizzeria.com.
6. Cheese masala dosa: Tiffins is Boulder’s inconspicuous temple of great homemade South Indian fare from iddlis (rice cakes) to vada (savory doughnuts). Topping the lineup is the masala dosa, a huge thin crepe made from rice and lentil flours encircling spiced mashed potatoes with cheese and onions. Add some chutney and my taste buds offer a standing ovation. Tiffins India Cafe, 2416 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder; 303-442-2500; tiffinsrestaurant.com
7. Bialys: They are very pricey and only available on Saturday and Sunday but once you experience a fresh warm bialy at Rosenberg’s you understand why people stand in a long line to get them. A bialy is an addictive Polish yeasted roll that is baked but not boiled first like bagels and has chopped onions in the middle instead of a hole. Another Rosenberg’s attraction is The Frenchie, a breakfast sandwich made with a Frenchtoasted cinnamon raisin bagel, eggs, sausage, cheddar and a maple syrup drizzle. Rosenberg’s Bagels, 725 E. 26th Ave., Denver; 720-440- 9880; rosenbergsbagels.com
8. Colorado beet sugar rum: Finally there’s a reason to get off of I-70 at the Dotsero exit west of Vail. The handbuilt Stoneyard Distillery and tasting room beckons with a handful of spirits made from Colorado beet sugar and water from the nearby Eagle River. At a slightly higher 84 proof that resists dilution, the rum is “polished” to a high level of smoothness with a flavor that suggests sugar cookies. Stoneyard also produces an aged rum. Stoneyard Distillery, 4600 Hwy 6, Dotsero; 970-471-0284; stoneyarddistillery.com.
9. Ropa vieja empanadas: Simple but hard-tofind pleasures are tucked away in an easy-to-miss Aurora shopping center. Cuba Bakery and Café is one of a handful of places where you can settle in with a real guava and cheese pastry and a cup of sweet, dark Cuban coffee. Besides the sweets lining the glass cases, savory island dishes are available including pressed Cuban sandwiches and tamales. Bliss is a couple of warm empanadas stuffed with ropa vieja, shredded braised beef. Cuba Bakery and Café, 5028 E Mississippi Ave., Aurora; 303-752- 2822.
10. Smoked lamb shank: Roaming Buffalo, in Denver’s Harvard Gulch neighborhood, dishes excellent chef-made fare including pecan- and oak-smoked Colorado bison short ribs and the nearly mythical smoked lamb shanks you’ll taste in your dreams. Must-taste sides include “redeye” cowboy beans made with dark-roasted coffee and roasted corn and cheese. Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que, 2387 S. Downing St., Denver; 303-722-2226; roamingbuffalobbq.com
Honorable Mentions: I encourage you to also investigate the Turkish coffee at Kiwi International Delights (Avon), bacon jam at the Organic Sandwich Co. (Boulder), green papaya salad at Pattaya Thai Restaurant (Lakewood), and roasted lechon at the Sunrise Grill (Aurora).
WORDS TO CHEW ON
“Another peculiarity of this country is the absence of napkins, even in the homes of the wealthy. Napkins, as a rule, are never used and one has to wipe one’s mouth on the tablecloth, which in consequence suffers in appearance.”
— American colonies tourist Baron Louis de Closen, 1780.
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU, 88.5 FM, 1390 FM, kgnu.org. Archived shows at news.kgnu.org/category/features/radio-nibbles. Send your comments, quibbles and details about special events for National Pie Day (Jan. 23) to: Nibbles@boulderweekly.com.