Sunday, September 27, 2009

Snooze Review

I really think they did a great job of naming this place. Out of all the buttons on an alarm clock, they chose the one that sounds hip. Volume or Tuner wouldn't have made sense. Keep in mind that you're going to have to wait at least 8-10 slaps of the Snooze button before you get seated. We knew this going in, so we weren't upset about having to wait 40 minutes, which was shorter than the hour they quoted us. As for the facilities available to wait in, they're not good, but name a restaurant that is enjoyable to wait at. Restaurants rarely devote any money to the waiting area. Why should they, you still have to wait. At least you aren't naked sitting on butcher paper.
We were seated at the counter and warmly greeted by the waitress/bartender. She gave us a great rundown of the menu and explained that they were really flexible in how you're food was made. If you wanted a half order, done. Small portion of a pancake, done. I appreciated the willingness to make it your way. I enjoyed a fresh squeezed orange juice while my wife had the vanilla latte. She was impressed at how flavorful it was, about as good as Starbucks. I didn't want to order pancakes, particularly because most places serve their pancakes dry and too heavy. The wife informed me that all the reviews said the pancakes were worth it. I went with the half-order of the BBQ Pork Benny and the cinnamon roll pancake (not on the menu) and the Colorado peach ginger pancake.
The BBQ Pork Benny was certainly unique and full of different flavors. I enjoyed it but wouldn't order it again. Holy crap on the pancakes. I don't know what they put in them, but the waitress compared them to crack. While I'm aware of crack's addictive nature, I've never partaken in the aforementioned substance. Let's just say that from now on, when something is so good and addictive, I'm going to say it's like a Snooze pancake. Seriously, clouds, pillows, puppies and other things soft were like the consistency of these pancakes. The flavor was out of this world.
You want to hear something negative? I had to wait 10 minutes + for my water to be refilled. While the service was friendly, it was kind of like they gushed when you were seated but didn't come back much after that. Obviously the wait sucks, but it should tell you something. You don't have to wait for something horrible. So wake up once your alarm goes off and head down to Snooze, though it might be apropos to hit snooze a couple of times and dream a little more about their pancakes.

Olivea Review

All right, negative things first. I hate trying to find parking. While there is a parking lot at Olivea, it's not too big and it's cramped. We drove around the block or larger immediate area before a spot opened up in the lot. Okay, that's the negative. Everything else was very positive. They had several cocktail concoctions on the menu, and my wife ordered the Lavender Lace. While the drink had incredible lavender flavor, it was too much like drinking a perfume. The wine list wasn't too bad. I had a Tempranillo and a Super Tuscan.
For starters, we had the special of chicken wings served over creamy polenta with a Putanesca sauce. We also had the flat bread with prosciutto and green olive and Manchego cheese. Both were excellent, though if you forced me to complain, I didn't like how the prosciutto came off after one bite. Simple, I know, but it's gets messy putting that back on. For dinner, I had the duck meatballs which also had polenta. Very different but quite good. My wife had the lamb sugo gnocchi. She compared eating the gnocchi to eating fluffy pillows. After tasting them, I couldn't argue with that comparison. It was better than much of the gnocchi we ate in Italy. Dessert was a letdown, which I believe it normally is when you're consuming trendy food. We split the sorbet which was okay but not anything exciting.
They do a great job in terms of service and food, despite our disappointment with the dessert menu. I felt it was a great value as well. Get in there soon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I've grown fond of watching the show, "Top Chef." I started with the last season in New York, I've continued to watch the "Top Chef: Masters," and am looking forward to this upcoming season in Las Vegas. One of the things that has been more noticeable is the role of the food critics. For those unfamiliar with the show, these well-known food critics evaluate and rate the food that is prepared by the chefs. Everyone is familiar with all the other food critics who may write reviews for your local paper or even magazines.
Anyways, as I watched this show, I realized something: Critics really annoy me! I'm going to throw film critics in here as well. Sure, they serve their purpose, and one could argue that they are needed. However, I would question how much they can really relate with normal society. While there is nothing wrong with being an eloquent writer and possessing a grandiose vocabulary, one could question if that's really necessary in describing food. With "Top Chef" it seems like these writers are trying to impress viewers with how detailed they can describe food and breakout colorful synonyms for the food's consistency, but we're all wondering one thing: was the food good? Why this rant, you may ask? Here's the thing, I know good food, I'm extremely passionate about food, and I like to talk about food, but I'll never be a food critic. Why? Because I'm not a great writer (maybe not even a good writer). So why should writing Hemingway-esque reviews of restaurants matter? I don't know. Apparently, someone somewhere decided that restaurant reviews should be so colorful that no one could read the black-and-white: did you like the restaurant? Many of these critics write/speak with such arrogance about food and restaurants that you might think they were once chefs, but the profession bored them. I tend to think that they weren't quite good enough to write novels so they settled for writing about food. Film critics are exactly the same. There's no need to only give good reviews to independent movies and completely ignore big blockbusters. I don't care what a film critic thinks, I'm going to listen to people I know, not some moron who probably wears an ascot to the movie theater.
This leads me to my next point. Have you ever seen a job opening for a food critic? Before you go surfing on Monster or Craigslist, know this, you won't find anything. No one is looking for a food critic, but they should be. They should be looking for someone who doesn't attempt to impress people with words but attempts to tell the diner about the restaurant itself. What did the food taste like, how was the service, were there a bunch of people taking doggie bags out, etc.
Critics, don't try to garner some great book deal with your local reviews. Remember, you're not a chef, you can't cook as good as one, otherwise you would have a restaurant. I hate seeing chefs stutter around critics and lower their head as they receive a bad review. While reviews are necessary, critics need to get off their high horse and realize they aren't better than everyone just because they didn't have to apply for their job. It most likely fell in their lap.

Author's note: I do believe that there are some good food critics out there, not a lot, just some. I'd love to hear their opinion of the growing popularity of sites like Yelp where "regulars" can provide reviews of restaurants.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mass Produced Service?

We've all had a bad experience at a restaurant in which we wondered if the waiter/waitress even knew we existed. Perhaps an entire meal passed without water being filled or every other table appeared to receive bread with their meal, except you or they were just flat out rude. Now we can probably account for some bad service being related to someone having a bad day or if you always encounter bad service, you might be the issue; however, there are some serious problems. My simple argument might be that the more you pay, the better service you receive. We all know that's not the case. So what's the problem?
Henry Ford is the father of the assembly line and mass production. He revolutionized the way a factory works. He made production much more efficient and larger quantities were easier to come by. Do you know where I'm going with this? This process should not be carried onto food. If you're making something for a big banquet, okay, that's fine, but at a regular restaurant, unacceptable. At least I wish it was unacceptable. We're used to efficiency and making sure that things can be done faster. Do you really want this approach at a restaurant? Do you want to be treated like a product that comes down the conveyor belt? A customer should be treated like the restaurant is happy to have their service, like the customer is doing them a favor by showing up. There's a great scene in the TV show, That 70's Show (which obviously takes place in the 1970's) where a couple go out to a restaurant (conveniently named, Blannagan's) at the advent of the salad bar. The waiter informs them that they can go up to the salad bar and choose whatever toppings they'd like. The couple is baffled and the husband asks why his wife would want to go out to a restaurant and make her own salad when she could do that at home. Why don't we question this anymore? Go get your own food? No, I go out because I don't want to make my own food. I want to feel like I'm paying for something other than groceries.
I understand that being a waiter/waitress is not an enjoyable job and not necessarily something one aspires to do. However, it's still a job that you're being paid to do. There are restaurants out there that value the customer and value service towards them. Rather than having the attitude of "You need us to eat," these places have the attitude of "We need you to eat." The obsession with big business and the bottom line every night obscures many restaurants from providing quality service and ensuring long term success and customer loyalty. Oddly enough, all restaurants thrive on the customer coming into eat there. If you think about it, do all restaurants act like the customer is their raison d'etre? No, the customer is a product that needs to be quickly shot through the line so the next product can be prepped. Try this the next time you have people over. Greet them gruffly at the door, take away their salad before they're done, serve dinner before they're ready, and keep looking at the door until they leave. See if they return.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Panzano Happy Hour Review

Okay, I have not been offered any money by Panzano's, but I'm beginning to believe I should be. I have told everyone I know about this happy hour. I first visited Panzano years ago for 5280 week and had an enjoyable experience and looked forward to going back. For whatever reason I stayed away. However, an article in the Wall St. Journal caught my eye, and it briefly mentioned Panzano's Happy Hour. After viewing their menu, I immediately decided I would be back for at least one hour of happy. Two weeks ago I went, and I was happy. So happy that I returned this past week, and we'll return next week (Wednesday, look for me). $3 beers, $3 appetizers, and $4 small plates. I had a beer, very tasty calamari, not too tough, a delicious small plate of steak, mashed potatoes and a spinach/arugula blend all for $10. The sad fact is that this is the cost of a Qdoba burrito and a drink. The quality levels aren't even close. This filled me up, not fat-style but European-style (meaning I didn't want to puke after I finished). I highly recommend their happy hour. The odds of you being disappointed are slim. If you are disappointed, you're probably difficult to please.

Friday, May 29, 2009

How We Roll

I had a couple of points of inspiration for this post. Most recently was an article in the Wall Street Journal. Famed New York restaurateur Danny Meyer discusses the dining industry and where he sees it going as a result of the economic downturn. He mentioned how he expected fewer fine-dining establishments, which makes sense, and a different view of food. This quote, in particular, concerned me: "People are thinking about how much of their time they have to spend, how much of their stomach they are going to fill and how many of their dollars they will have to part with." My problem with this quote is that I believe people (Americans) are already doing this and have been doing this for a long time. My question is should we expect it to get worse?
This leads me to my other inspiration for this post, Wal-Mart. I know you've heard me talk about it before and maybe you think that I've killed that topic; however, it needs to be brought up again. It seems like the big issue mentioned above is money and time. In the current climate, most are short on money and everyone wants more time. The important thing to note is that both can be managed, and although you can increase the amount of money you have, time is finite.
I know I've made my case quite clear on how I think one shouldn't skimp on food, and I still strongly support my stance. Perhaps if I illustrate it in a different way, one might better understand my view. Let's examine what I'll call the Quality/Cost Analysis. Think of your basic X/Y Axis. On the X axis, you have quality, on the y axis, cost. Let's assume that as cost increases, quality also increases and vice versa. America is comfortable sitting at the corner of cost and quality. We're more than willing to sacrifice quality for a cheaper price. Guess what? This is where Wal-Mart comes in (note: I am not attacking Wal-Mart, but they are easiest to use in this illustration). Has Wal-Mart programmed us to look for the best deal regardless of the quality of the product? I know many people who will stop by Wal-Mart for a couple of things but refuse to step foot in their produce section. Why? Because Wal-Mart doesn't work as hard as other grocers in ensuring the quality of their product. On the way to providing you the cheapest price, something has to be sacrificed. Think about this the next time you choose a restaurant for your birthday or some other special occasion. Save some money and go somewhere where quality is valued.
My other target is McDonald's, fast food's founding father. In McDonald's, a culture of "not enough time" has been created. Feel free to stop by for a meal that will be ready in seconds. We can look to the Quality/Cost Analysis for a similar graph of Time/Cost Analysis. As time to prepare your food increases, so should quality. If you spend more time dedicated to something, you should produce a better product (in theory). Why don't we have enough time? Where is it we have to be? What keeps us from getting out of our cars to order food? These are valuable questions to ask. What's wrong with spending 3 hours at a restaurant with enjoyable company? Isn't this why the DVR was invented? You don't have to get back home to watch your "show."
In summary, I'm not telling you to stop shopping at Wal-Mart or to avoid the drive-thru line at McDonald's, but think about it the next time you find yourself at either place or somewhere like it. Ask yourself this, what am I sacrificing here and what am I missing elsewhere? Food may be nothing more than fuel, but humans are high-performing machines and deserve the highest quality of fuel we can find.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Favorite Cooking Gadgets (Part 2)

I promised to make this a series, and I'm afraid I have failed miserably. Not only has it been a month since my last post, it's been even longer since I professed any affinity for a cooking gadget. I knew it was time for another post, so I started glancing around the kitchen. What gadget/tool deserves my praise? Seeing the Santoku knife sitting by the sink waiting to be washed yet again, I had my answer. You see, hand washing is necessary for good knives, if you want them to retain their sharpness. They tend to dull out quickly in the dishwasher. This knife spends a lot of time sitting by the sink, not out of neglect but out of good use. I end up using this knife daily. Even though I have knives that are properly labeled utility knives, this one is my 'go-to knife.' In baseball, it might be a solid middle reliever. In football, it might be a quality tight end that can catch and block. (I have to use sports analogies to further prove my masculinity since I'm writing a love post to my knife).
So, what makes this knife so great? First off, what makes any knife great is how sharp it is. For those of you who don't care about this, you don't know what you are missing with a sharp knife. I recently cut an onion, or I should say, attempted to cut an onion with a dull knife, and it was the most frustrating thing. I put so much force into slicing through it, that I was afraid I was going to slice right through the onion into my hand. However, I realized the knife was incapable of penetrating my skin. Sharp knives make you look like an accomplished chef. The above picture shows my knife with one of the most commonly chopped items in my kitchen, the zucchini. A good knife moves through vegetables like soft butter. Unfortunately, a good knife will move through your skin without you feeling it until you see blood. The key is knowing how to use it. Another tool that won't get its own column is the knife sharpener. It is essential in maintaining the sharpness of your knives. Maybe, if you're still reading this, you're saying to yourself: "who needs a good knife? I'm not an accomplished chef. I just cook every now and then." Well, why buy something that makes work harder? Buying a cheap knife is like buying a shovel with a hole in it. Sure, you're going to pick up some dirt, but most of it will fall through the hole making your task more frustrating. My intention wasn't to rant, but I want you to purchase one quality knife and put it to work for you. My suggestion for a cheap quality knife that does excellent work on meat or used as a paring knife. This one here comes in a set. Remember, just because it comes to a point and it's shiny doesn't make it a good knife.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I'm not picky, and I don't think I'm better than you. It gets old defending myself. That's right, I'm misunderstood. I know there's other foodies out there who have been accused of being horrible people. I'm hoping this post will help both sides. Listed below are several myths and explanations about those who enjoy good food.
  • If it's cheap, it's not good enough. Money doesn't matter when it comes to food. Ever heard of the term, hole in the wall? These are places that may look a little sketchy on the inside, but serve great food at a reasonable price. The key is not letting money be your only reason for seeking a restaurant. Don't worry about what a great deal you're getting, worry about how it tastes.

  • Portions have to be tiny. Ummmmm, not really. I recently posted about America's lust for the doggy bag. The reason good restaurants don't bombard you with a large portion is because their goal is to make you feel content when you leave the restaurant, not uncomfortable. All-you-can-eat buffets aren't known for their quality just their quantity. Remember, don't obsess about the deal.

  • You're picky. No. This may be my least favorite of the myths. Picky is excluding all sorts of foods and being afraid to taste new things. Placing high regard on quality is not being picky, it's just having high expectations. I like fresh things, so sue me.

  • Chain restaurants are evil. Honestly, there are some horrible chains out there that have ruined food for Americans, Olive Garden being one of my least favorite. However, there are some great ideas that have popped up and become so popular that they launch into chains. If chains are managed right, they can be a good thing. Many of them just concern themselves with being like Wal-Mart and go after being the cheapest. Being cheap all around doesn't always buy one fresh ingredients. You have to be careful.

  • I don't know enough to be a "foodie." Being into food is not like being into wine. It's really not all that complicated. As I've mentioned before, we've all had an amazing meal and know what greatness tastes like. Remember that meal and compare it against future dishes.

  • Food is too big of a deal. Okay, this is not really a myth. Food IS a big deal. How often do you eat? Can you even quantify it? All of the time, right? I think we don't take food seriously enough. With how much food we consume, why don't we care more about how it tastes or how good the quality is?
We are a misunderstood people. Non-foodies, use these myths to better understand us. Foodies, be sensitive to non-foodies and encourage them to become one of us. Non-foodies, maybe your stomach is growling, not because you're hungry, but because of what you're putting in it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


What's impressive? Size? Big house? Big car? Big TV? Super-size it. That's our culture. The more we get, the better it is, right? Sure, I would rather watch sports on a bigger TV and have the luxury of a larger house, but what do I gain from a bigger meal?
Super-size it, Biggie-size, King-size are all synonymous with an overindulgence in food, fast food more specifically. While it's easy to pick on fast food, since they're an obvious target, it's almost not fair. While many crave fast food and sit in long drive-thru lines, there is an understanding that it's not great for you. Let me pick on a place that I have previously targeted, Maggiano's. For those of you unfamiliar with the place, it's a rather popular Italian restaurant that is a part of the same parent company as Macaroni Grill and Chili's. One would say that it is probably more high-end than the others, however it's by no means upscale. I have never seen any one leave this restaurant without a doggie bag. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is Maggiano's goal. Their hope is that you are so full, you take leftovers home. The food is okay, but that's all it is. Instead of producing great food, they wow with huge portions. Similar to a magician using misdirection, they have you excited about how much food you're getting that you don't notice the lack of quality. Remember, we like everything big. We want to think that we're getting a good deal. "Look at all this food for a great price!" "Wow, and I get to take home leftovers for tomorrow!" Is that why you go out to dinner? You hope for another meal for the next day? How is that different from grocery shopping? What's impressive about a restaurant giving you more food than you can possibly consume in one sitting?
To me, it's all about quality--not quantity. I know I'm always mentioning Europe, but they've set a pretty great standard when it comes to eating. Your meal comes out, and you might think, "this isn't enough food;" however, when you're plate is clear, you're full. Note, this isn't an uncomfortable full, a full that requires a desire for an elastic waistband. It is a contented full. You no longer want more food, but you're not in pain. Unfortunately, I've been within earshot of American tourists in Europe who complain about the size of their meal. They think they're getting ripped off because it's not enough food to take home. Sadly, we're pre-programmed to think that we need a lot of food. There are some great domestic restaurants that refuse to cater to our American ways. They insist that they're going to serve an amazing meal in a small (read normal) sized portion. To the uncultured eye, you might think this is not worth the cost until you move your fork to your mouth. There is nothing greater than realizing that a chef sacrificed quantity for quality. Eating a small plate of homemade pasta is far better than several pounds of dried pre-packaged pasta. When I leave a restaurant, I don't hope to be a holding a bag full of what I couldn't finish, I hope to be holding on to the memory of a fantastic meal and hopes to return again.

(My goal isn't to put down anyone that likes this type of food or accuse you of being uncultured. My goal is to get you to question how you think about eating. Do you want quality? If so, seek it. I promise you'll be greatly rewarded.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Favorite Cooking Gadgets (Part 1)

How should this be written? A poem or an ode of some sort? That's probably a bit on the odd side, but you don't see enough chefs talk about what gadget they can't live without. Not that I'm a chef, but I do enjoy cooking often. I thought, why not feature a gadget that makes life easier? First up, is the great food processor. Some people don't know what they're missing with the absence of this wonderful piece of machinery. I still am coming up with new ways to use it. My personal favorite is in the making of guacamole. Throw in some peeled avocados, barely chopped tomatoes, cloves of garlic, cilantro leaves, lime juice, salt, and pepper and press 'ON,' briefly. Just like that, you have delicious guacamole. Now, I'm not trying to sound like an infomercial, but it makes some stuff a lot easier. Mincing garlic, done. Chopping larger vegetables, done. Making a pie crust, done. Pureeing soup, done. Throw on a different attachment and you can easily grate cheese and julienne vegetables, such as squash or zucchini. This was featured first because it's probably my favorite gadget. Some of the things it has done for me are, mix ice cream ingredients, make guacamole, puree soup, grate cheese, julienne vegetables, chop herbs, and puree fruit.
If you don't have one, I highly encourage that you make the investment. It will make your kitchen work much easier.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I enjoy eating. I think I've made that rather obvious by now. One of my favorite things about eating is having a craving, particularly a craving that you know will be satisfied. The easiest example is Thanksgiving. You almost always know what food is coming, and you usually look forward to at least one of the dishes.
When I visit my homeland of Texas, I always begin craving Mexican food. I get excited a few weeks before, waiting for some delicious Tacos Norteños. The anticipation is almost as great as the experience itself. Sometimes, during the week, I crave bacon. I really really like bacon. Sure enough, I have to satisfy that craving on the weekend with some toast and eggs. Mmmmmm.
The most difficult cravings are those that occur during the day. As I mentioned before, we're Americans, so we have no patience, especially with food. During the day, I can rarely satisfy those cravings, so I have to wait. Other times, there's no chance of satisfying those cravings. Do you know how many places in Denver serve escargot? (The answer is not many). There is nothing worse than craving something that seems far away. A meal you had long ago in a small town in France. Or the meal you used to always eat at your favorite restaurant, but they've since shut down. Or my craving for Mexican food that cannot be quenched within Colorado.

I guess the question is, is it better to crave and not satisfy than to never crave at all?

What are your cravings?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Denver Restaurant Week (Finale)

My favorite time of year has finally come to an end. I was able to knock out four restaurants, which is definitely an improvement over last year's two. Was it worth the cost? You bet. Should I have done one more? I'll probably be asking myself that last question until 2010's Restaurant Week. Some people may question going out four separate times at approximately $52.80 per meal, but doesn't everyone has something they spend money on? What better way to sample some of Denver's finest restaurants? Other people are sitting at home microwaving dinner while I'm enjoying a three-course dinner, so I don't feel guilty about the price.
We ended our two weeks of epicurean bliss at Kevin Taylor at the Opera House. It was a wonderful setting for a restaurant. They set the mood of lounging in an open wheat field under the stars. The tables are set rather spaced apart under a ceiling not unlike a planetarium with maple wood floors. Walking down the stairs towards the host stand reminds one of parading gallantly into a palatial ball. At least that's what I imagine a palatial ball would be like. The service is reminiscent of other Kevin Taylor restaurants, in which one is treated with delicate professionalism. I cannot give them ratings as high as Restaurant Kevin Taylor, however they did very well. I began the evening with the Roasted Red Kuri Squash Purée. It was excellently displayed in the bowl with a thinly sliced piece of Granny Smith apple and the cardamom cream. The soup was then poured into the bowl at the table. There was an excellent contrast of savory and sour with the creaminess of the soup and the tartness of the apple. The main course was a Dry-Aged Colorado Strip Loin served with Yukon Gold Potato Mousseline, Broccoli Rabe and topped with a dab of Prosciutto Butter. It was an excellent portion and of course everything complemented each other. I was able cut my steak with a butter knife, which certainly signifies a good cut. Last and not least was dessert. I went with the Milk Chocolate Bombe, Housemade Toffee, Malted Anglaise, Cajeta Caramel. To be fair, I'm not a big chocolate fan. Chocolate on the dessert menu is probably one of the last things I'll choose next to a bread pudding. That being said, they nailed this one for me. Despite it being completely chocolate on the outside and on the inside, it was not overwhelmingly chocolatey. Am I making sense? I feel like this dessert would unite chocolate and non-chocolate lovers.
It was a wonderful meal and a great ending to two delicious weeks even if it wasn't the best meal out of the four. As I've mentioned before on this blog, get out there and have a good meal. Enjoy the experience and savor it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Denver Restaurant Week (Part 3)

Part 3 means we, my wife, Julie, and I, went to our third restaurant. Tonight's winner was Elway's in Cherry Creek. This place has consistently been fairly top-rated on many of the review sites, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to see if I'm missing anything. I kind of expected this place to be too snotty for my taste, but I was surprised to see a friendly hostess and to be promptly seated at 8:00. We only received one 5280 menu, and as we looked around, we realized that was the norm. I don't understand why each person would not have their own menu. I perused their wine list and was impressed to see approximately 50 selections for wines by the glass, which was split about 50/50 between reds and whites. I like it when restaurants don't immediately assume you will be drinking a bottle. Perhaps the table has different tastes in wine. They started off good here. We received bread not too long after we had been seated, which was nice; however, the bread was really boring. Julie made a good point of saying if you're paying a lot for the dinner the bread should be better than plain rustic slices. Since she's pregnant, she obviously can't drink alcohol but wanted a drink that was fun. We told the waiter the situation, and he was very nice about it. She asked for a strawberry daiquiri, but they don't have blenders. Really? That's rather odd to me. Anyway, he said he would have the bartender make her something fruity, which was nice.
She started with the Caesar salad, and I had the charred red pepper soup. Mine was presented nicely in a very small iron pot. It came with a random piece of toasted bread with something drizzled on it. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to eat it or put in my soup. I opted to do both. My problem with the menu was that they lacked descriptions of what anything was. For example, I ordered the soup, but I didn't know what was drizzled on top of it or what other flavors were in the soup. That's information I like to have. For dinner, Julie had the salmon and I went with 10-ounce sirloin (medium rare). She said her salmon was the driest she had ever had. My sirloin was more on the rare side, but it was a thick cut, so that made sense. The cut of meat was a lot better than what I expected. It was seasoned very well, not overpowering. For sides, she got the mashed potatoes, and I had the creamed corn. I didn't try the potatoes, but she said they were good. The creamed corn was great. It wasn't too soggy or overwhelmingly creamy. The corn had just enough pop to it and just the right amount of sweetness. For dessert, we had no choice. They came out with their cheesecake/brownie lollipops. Now I was under the impression that they were a combined cheesecake/brownie experience not two different lollipops, but no, that's not the case. Anyways, they were blah. Considering this appears to be the signature dessert, it stunk. The only positive thing was how I thought the outside chocolate was a wrapper because it had Elways written on it, but other than that. . . The brownie piece was way too cakey and "out-of-the-box" tasting. The cheesecake piece was too sour and creamy.
The service was very good. They were fairly absent for most of the meal, but my water glass never went empty. In the end, Elway's was decent, however I think the restaurant thinks it is better than it actually is. Examining their non-5280 menu, I felt they had too many items on the menu. I think they'd do a lot better by focusing on fewer items and making those stronger.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Denver Restaurant Week (Part 2)

So it was back to our favorite restaurant. We hit up Restaurant Kevin Taylor tonight. As usual, it did not disappoint. It was definitely the most crowded we had ever seen it, and it was a little loud. Our one complaint is that we were a bit rushed. Keep in mind I don't mean rushed like Olive Garden rushed. This is normally a very relaxed place with a European-style of service. Tonight, we felt as though they might need our table. However, no food came out before the other course was through.
I started with the pork belly, which was very tender. For dinner, I had the sirloin and braised short-ribs, also very tender. I finished the night off with the crème brûlée
, which is always done well. Accompanying my dinner, was a nice Bordeaux. The interesting part of the night was watching this couple having a very nasty fight, but trying to keep it civil. They spent about an hour there and never ordered. The man stormed off several times. Finally, they both stormed off. We passed them on the street arguing, and the man was crying. Interesting situation. I'm not sure why I felt the need to share that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Denver Restaurant Week (Part 1)

Oh yes, it's my favorite time of year. Denver Restaurant Week has finally arrived!!! Can you feel the excitement? I expend so much energy in the weeks preceding this event trying to get people to make reservations. Am I heard? No. Do people care? No. What do I hear after the event starts or is over? "I forgot that was this week, and now I can't get in to any places." That's why you plan ahead. Roughly 225 restaurants are participating this year and about 160 have agreed to extend the $52.80 deals one extra week. How great is that? This year is a new record for me. I have signed up for 4 restaurants, one of which is my regular place, Restaurant Kevin Taylor. Tonight, we kicked off Denver Restaurant Week at Lucy. Below is my review of the place.

Yeah, I NEVER complain about service. I usually give everyone an excuse for any service issues, but this was too annoying. Most people's complaint of service is generally along the lines of poor, rude, or inattentive service. This was just annoying. We were promptly seated in a relatively quiet area of the restaurant and greeted by a very nice waitress. Our issues were how quickly she wanted to take our order and how dessert was presented to us. My wife and I were not eating fast, but definitely not being slow. It's Restaurant Week and for a 3-course meal, I'm going to take my time. She put out the silverware for our dessert while we were still eating, asked my wife if she wanted a doggy bag while she was mid-bite, and brought out our desserts while we were still eating dinner. She asked if she should take them back, and I was so thrown off by the action that it took me a moment to say yes. Let me say that she was very nice about it and never pushy, but what a horrible way to serve a table. Also, (and this is just my own quirkiness) she kept pacing around our area not doing anything. From my count, she had four tables under her command. Each table appeared to be relatively low maintenance, yet she hovered around like a Chinook trying to find a place to land in a rain forest. Every five seconds, I heard her swish by. I wanted to yell, "nothing else has changed, I'm still chewing the same bite you watched me put into my mouth moments ago!" I've said it before and I'll say it again, that's America, it's a problem. We like to rush you out the door. The worst part of it was that the place wasn't that crowded and there was definitely no one waiting for our table.
Now that I'm done with my complaint, I will say that the food was quite good and the menu did look impressive. I really enjoyed their wine selection by the glass, which was a lot larger than most places. I'm not sure that this place is ready to charge as much as it does for food. The service level does not really match the price. However, I do believe it has potential and is worth trying if you're in the neighborhood.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Food & Music

I have a confession: I don't know a lot about music. If I hear something I really like on the radio, I'll try to find the artist and obtain the song. However, if you start talking about random artists, I'm probably not familiar with them. Sure, I have heard of the mainstream singers, people whose names are on the top 10 lists of many publications. Any names that aren't on that list are probably unfamiliar to me. I'm not going to wow you by telling you about some singer who you have to hear. I'm more apt to say, "did you hear that new Coldplay song, Trouble?" Imagine my surprise when you tell me that song is at least 8 or 9 years old (I had to look that up).
The truth is I tend to listen to the same music. Even if an artist I like releases a new song, I'm a little skeptical, but I won't venture out of my comfort zone. Someone might recommend some new singer, but it will be a real stretch for me to start liking someone new. When it comes down to it, I need someone who knows music to push me into other artists, to pull me out of the comfort zone, and assure me it's going to be all right.
Have you figured out where I'm going with this? Food isn't all that different. We are all used to the familiar foods we grew up with. There are certain restaurants we frequent, and we're never sure what to think of the new place that opens up in our area. When someone asks if we tried French food, we might turn up our noses and say, "I would never eat French." It's no different than the people who listen to all types of music, EXCEPT country. They're accustomed to think that country music is not "cool." The same applies for those who won't eat French food. The French are snobby, they hate Americans, their food is too pretentious. These are all excuses, but none really excuse you from trying it. I use French food as an example, but this applies to all types of food. How do you really know you wont' like French food? Maybe Escargot is the best thing you'll ever eat. We need a friend to make us try something new and to stretch us.
There is nothing more comfortable than that which is familiar, but there is nothing more exciting than that which is unknown. Expand your zone of comfort.

Now playing: Coldplay - Trouble
via FoxyTunes

Monday, January 12, 2009

America's Food Habits

I pondered an interesting question the other day: What does what we eat say about us? On a grander scale, what does what or how Americans eat say about us? I've mentioned my frustration with the new Jack-n-the Box being crowded 24/7 with lines of cars circling the drive thru. You know my general take on chain restaurants and their desire to push you out of their restaurant. Are you seeing the general theme yet? Think about this scenario, have you ever been at a restaurant and felt rushed as they bring out your entree when you're still eating your salad? Have you craned your neck trying to get the waiter's attention for your check because you're in a rush to leave? We lack patience, whether it be the waiter pushing us through our meal or our desire to quickly gulp down dinner. Life happens much too fast here. We're used to getting information at a high rate of speed. I recently purchased an iPhone and can get any tidbit of information right this second. I love it, but I'm spoiled by it.
Unfortunately, this attitude affects the way we eat. We want our food right now. We hate to wait for things to materialize. What's wrong with waiting? What's the downside of patience? When things get done quickly, they're often done in a sloppy manner. The end-result: a poorly made house, a botched surgery, a junky PC, or a less than appetizing meal. Patience can pay off. Waiting can win out. Who has ever told you their best meal was enjoyed after pulling out of the drive thru? What amazingly delicious thing came out of the microwave? Spend a day and gather some fresh ingredients and prepare a multi-course meal at home. Go out to a restaurant that respects your time, and enjoy a slow meal.
Some of the best moments in life occur when we slow down and wait. We hear things we never heard before, we smell new things, and experience tastes previously unknown. Perhaps, you'll learn a bit more about yourself and someone else. Relax.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Rant

With all of the food being served and made this holiday season, we inevitably deal with leftovers. Part of this is related to our desire to make more food than is necessary. There is the fear of not having enough food for people. I fall into this fear, but I wonder if this is somewhat of an American concept. We tend to view quantity as the important factor instead of quality. I recently visited Maggiano's Italian restaurant for a work-related lunch. For those of you unfamiliar with this place, it specializes in large portions. One of its notable traits is the family-style dining option it offers. My problem with this restaurant is the obsession to serve large amounts of food. I'm not sure that I've ever seen someone leave this place without a doggy bag. With such large portions, they tend to skimp on quality, and I'm not sure how they couldn't. This brings me back to leftovers. Most food is not meant to be reheated, and therefore, doesn't taste as good. Sadly, we have a fridge full of leftovers in which most will be thrown out. I don't like drying out meat in the microwave or hardening pasta. What's the solution, less is more? I'm not sure, but I hope to not get obsessed with quantity and lose my sight on quality.