By JOHN LEHNDORFF
My first taste of Wayne’s smoked pork belly was a revelation, as was a bite of the Mediterranean Market’s spinach pie. Hidden among the 365 (or so) forgettable breakfasts, lunches and dinners in 2016 were some food moments I’d be delighted to enjoy again. They popped up in Nibbles over the past year since its rebirth in Boulder Weekly. If Nibbles seems a little “old” for an infant column, it was originally launched in 1985 in the Daily Camera and continued in other publications.
This was supposed to be the Top 10 Best Things I Tasted in 2016 which sounded snappy. But, unfortunately, my list kept growing, much like a one-year-old child. I wish I could go to a pop-up buffet benefit event in Boulder that served:
1. Smoked pork belly: Nothing prepared me for the profoundly smoky lusciousness of Wayne’s Texas-style smoked pork belly which does more than melt in your mouth. The same is true of the other meats which also often run out before the day is done. The barbecue sauce is good, but you won’t need it. Wayne’s Smoke Shack, 406 Center Drive, Superior
2. Egg Salad Sandwich: There is oodles of humdrum-to-awful egg salad out there. The best is made from boiled local organic eggs and spread thickly on a fresh chewy pretzel roll along with fresh greens and house-pickled red onions. Add prosciutto as desired. These pre-made sandwiches are usually sold only on Saturdays and often run out. Cured, 1825 Pearl St., Boulder
3. Baklava: Manal Jarrar’s craveable baklava is packed with ground walnuts in filo layers and is sweet but not capsized in honey. It is excellent with coffee after warm-from-the-oven whole wheat pita bread with creamy cheese in spiced olive oil. Arabesque, 1634 Walnut St., Boulder
4. Tai Nam: Rare steak and well-done flank top a mammoth bowl of hot broth and rice noodles in this well-made pho (phuh) experience. It’s all in the customization with bean sprouts, basil, jalapeno, lime and red chile paste. The end result is joy to my world on a cold day. Pho Cafe, 1085 S. Public Road, Lafayette
5. Spinach pie: I love dipping the filo dough-wrapped spinach hand pie in thick yogurt sauce, a dab of sriracha sauce and zataar, a great dip made with wild thyme and olive oil. The market’s spinach pie is easy to handle because it isn’t butter-drenched. Mediterranean Market & Deli, 2690 28th St., Boulder
6. Breakfast Burrito: Chunks of smoked, roasted or grilled meat and sausages blended with eggs, green chilies and tater tots are wrapped into a beautiful handheld bundle of goodness. The Butcher’s Breakfast Burrito is available mornings-only on the meat market side of Hosea Rosenberg’s eatery. Blackbelly Market, 1606 Conestoga St., Boulder
7. Fried Cheese Taco: Also not on my diet is this ridiculously tasty item especially with a brew. Verde’s kitchen griddles a flour tortilla completely blanketed in cheese which variously browns, crisps and melts. On the side: Pretty good guacamole and pico de gallo. Verde, 3070 28th St., Boulder
8. Falafel: Falafel King’s pita and falafel are sold at supermarkets, but the place to really taste them is at the 40-year-old Falafel King location in Boulder. The hot, fried-to-order falafel is still exactly perfect with fresh salad, whole wheat pita and sides of hummus. Falafel King, 1314 Pearl St., Boulder
9. Yakiniku Eggplant Bowl: I can’t get enough of the tender, barely sweet and salty eggplant at Motomaki. I like it on a bowl of rice with grilled thin asparagus, spicy sprouts, crispy onions, tempura crunch and jalapeño dressing. Motomaki, 1600 28th St., Boulder
10. Tubby’s Pinto Bean Pie: I don’t love it because it’s weird to think of beans and sweet pie at the same time, but because it’s a sweet, dense single-crusted pecan and shredded coconut wedge best served warm with ice cream that happens to include fiber- and protein-rich pinto beans. Call ahead for availability. Walnut Café, three locations around Boulder County
11. Scallion Pancakes: While Chinese broccoli is better for your wellness, order this chalkboard special whenever available. The very definition of appetizing is a chewy fried peanut or scallion pancake dipped in a mix of sriracha and hoisin sauces. Jin Chan Zhang, 2835 28th St., Boulder
12. This list is getting long but my local Nibbles favorites of the year also include La Cubana Torta (Sancho’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant, Boulder), Bialys (Moxie Bread Co., Louisville), Lemon Meringue Pie (Loaf & Ladle, Longmont), Coffee Ice Cream (Glacier Ice Cream, Boulder), Pumpkin Curry (Busaba, Louisville), Burnt Ends (Lulu’s BBQ, Louisville), Goulash and Perogies (Bohemian Biergarten, Boulder), Saag Paneer and Dosas (Tiffins India Café, Boulder) and Ramen with egg, pork, corn, spinach in shoyu broth (Udon Kaisha, Lafayette).
13. My 2016 favorites from elsewhere in Colorado include: Chinese Broccoli (Super Star Asian Cuisine, Denver), Koshari (Sudan Café, Aurora), Banh Mi (Vinh Xuong Bakery, Denver), Arancini (Sauce on the Blue, Silverthorne), Paella (Barra Pintxo, Avon), Beef Chow Fun Dry-style (New Canton BBQ, Aurora), and Chuckles (Assorted Goods, Louisville).
Trendy Taste of the Week:
According to various food trend prognosticators, cauliflower will be “the new kale” in 2017. Nielsen Perishables notes a “Cauliflower Renaissance” and credits the rise to pre-cut and crumbled or “riced” cauliflower. I’ve always loved cauliflower au gratin but last week I decided to do something new. That is sometimes a dangerous thing in my kitchen.
I trimmed the bottom off the head and set it in a deep-dish glass pie pan surrounded by grape tomatoes, onions, carrot chips and whole garlic cloves plus green herbs and pepper. I drenched the cauliflower in olive oil and soy sauce and stuck it in a 300-degree oven for an hour, basting occasionally and scorching my hand, and adding a little broth as needed so there would be some sauce at the end. Then I turned it up to 375 and left it in until the surface was browned, really the longer the better taste-wise.
The cauliflower roast had a sweet taste and toothsome texture and looked great cut in wedges. Plus, it’s trendy.
Words to Chew On
“Mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, re-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.” — A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
John Lehndorff is a contributing writer for Produce Business magazine and host of Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 FM, streaming at kgnu.org). Quibbles: firstname.lastname@example.org.