Best Tastes of 2016: Restaurant Edition

I really wanted to post this last week but Joey was adamant that I wait until we made it through the very last day of 2016 and HEY, he was right, because our very last meal of the year made it on this list and wouldn’t have otherwise.  He’s wise like that.

We were all over the country this year and so were the best meals we ate.  Burgers in Hawaii, po’ boys in New Orleans, miso butter in Chicago, cheese plates in Portland, roast chicken in D.C., Italian in Vegas.  Not to mention lamb sliders, Detroit-style pizza, steamed buns and, of course, ice cream right here in Denver.  2016 was, by all means, a delicious year!

P.S. Sorry I don’t have pictures of every single one of these dishes.  Sometimes it’s dark in restaurants and sometimes I feel like enjoying the moment without my iPhone camera 🙂

Best Toast:

Avocado Toast from Black Eye Coffee CapHill in Denver, CO (January 10) // cashews, housemade flax seed bread, cilantro + bacon

IMG_1748

Best Burger:

HĀNA BURGER from Hāna Ranch Provisions in Pāʻia, Hawaiʻi (January 20) // house-made ‘ulu brioche, caramelized onions, horseradish aioli, cheddar

Best Entrée Plate:

Crispy CHICKEN Breast, 3 CHEESE-MAC & CHEESE with SAGE & BUTTERNUT SQUASH from Tables in Denver, CO (February 14)

Best Slider:

Colorado Lamb Slider from Root Down in Denver, CO (April 1) // Harissa Aioli, Irish Cheddar, Arugula & Garlic-Mint Yogurt

IMG_2085

Best Sandwich:

Seared Gulf Shrimp Po Boy from Killer PoBoys in New Orleans, LA (May 2) // Marinated Radish, Carrot, Cucumber, Herbs, Special Sauce

There Denver (July 16)

IMG_3374

Let’s be mature about that category, okay?

Steamed Bun Trio from Night Shift in Denver, CO (August 4) // pork belly PB & J, pork belly, curried cauliflower

IMG_3554

Best Ramen:

Spicy Chicken Ramen from Uncle in Denver, CO (August 18) // spicy sesame broth, scallion, bean sprouts, soft egg

IMG_3726

Best Chicken Dish:

Roasted Half Chicken from Tail Up Goat in Washington, D.C. (September 11) // semolina toast, aioli, cipollini onions

Spaghetti & Meatball at Roma Deli 1 & Restaurant (September 22) // I think this might be self-explanatory 🙂

Sweet Potato at The Nickel in Denver, CO (November 4) // poblano chile, hazelnut, toasted crepe, shallot

img_4512

Surprise Birthday Trip to Portland

Here are a few things you should know.  I turned 27 on Saturday.  Joey surprised me with a weekend trip to Portland.  I cried big, fat, ugly tears on our front porch when I found out.  I don’t know how I got this lucky or what I’ve done to deserve such happiness but I’m so grateful to have this wonderful, fun and caring person as my life companion.  It doesn’t even feel real, that’s how good it is.  Also, let it be known that he is alarmingly good at lying to me.

A few other things you should know… about Portland.  It’s an alternate universe version of Denver and it’s perfect and magical and green.  Every house is the cutest house.  There is good beer and the best donuts and coffee shops where the baristas are friendly and want to know where you get your coffee in Denver.  Their Farmers’ Market game is STRONG and they even sell Marionberries there.  It’s just one of my favorite places that I got to wander through with my favorite person, so really, what more can you ask for on your birthday?

IMG_3184

IMG_3267

IMG_3268

IMG_3269

Neighbors probably saw me crying // Morning flight // Straight from the plane to COFFEE // Is Portland serious with these blue flowers?!

IMG_3193

IMG_3270

IMG_3272

IMG_3271

Lunch at Lardo // Sandwiches for all! // Portland has Little Free Libraries just like Denver // Joey needed to do a thorough check of the books

IMG_3322

IMG_3273

IMG_3201

IMG_3274

The best sign inside our Airbnb // Beer flight at Stormbreaker // Dinner with friends // Ice cream at Salt & Straw because I wasn’t gonna make this mistake again

IMG_3301

IMG_3276

IMG_3277

IMG_3278

This is 27 // Iced coffee flight // Breakfast at the Farmers’ Market // DO YOU EVEN SEE THAT BACON?!

IMG_3279

IMG_3280

IMG_3282

IMG_3281

IMG_3303

IMG_3283

The Portland Farmers’ Market puts all other farmers’ markets to shame

IMG_3216

IMG_3231

IMG_3318

IMG_3319

Portland’s theater district?? // My #1 // Ira’s Fountain // Wait, is that Joey up there?!

IMG_3304

IMG_3305

IMG_3307

IMG_3228

A French festival complete with accordion playing and Edith Piaf covers // Got roped into a brief fencing lesson // CHEESE & CRACK, FTW // Best snack plate ever!

IMG_3321

IMG_3235

IMG_3232

IMG_3234

IMG_3233

Birthday dinner of my dreams // Tortelli // Duck // Goat cheese // Angel food cake // Full disclosure: those photos are from the restaurant’s Facebook account

IMG_3308

IMG_3323

IMG_3241

IMG_3250

Coffee sipping on a Sunday morning // In line at Pip’s // THE BEST DONUTS! // Portland doesn’t even need a filter on its flowers

IMG_3310

IMG_3311

IMG_3324

IMG_3325

IMG_3326

Went to Washington Park and it rained but we didn’t even care // Japanese Rose Gardens // Lunchtime beer is always a good idea // I can’t not order the bánh mÌ // Match your coffee to your shirt if possible

Where We Stayed:

Handbuilt Alberta Arts Cottage

This was my favorite Airbnb we’ve EVER stayed in.  Not only was it gorgeous and clean, but it was within walking distance of coffee shops, restaurants AND ICE CREAM.  The neighborhood was the cutest and it even had a little balcony off the bedroom where I totally sat outside and read.

Where We Ate/Drank:

Heart Roasters // The coffee is so so good (we snagged a bag to bring home) and their minimalist aesthetic really speaks to my hipster heart.

Lardo // Even though I didn’t LOVE my bánh mì, there are just too many other good things about this place.  Like a spacious patio, a cocktail menu, a good beer selection and generous portions. 

Stormbreaker Brewing // An attentive staff, interesting beers and a full food menu.  My jerk chicken wrap was SPICY but Joey’s double patty pimento cheeseburger was insanely good.

Salt & Straw // If you don’t understand why there’s a constant line out the door, let me break it down for you.  Small batch, artisanal, seasonal with a staff that embodies hospitality at its best.  Just go!

Saint Simon Coffee Co. // I really really wanted to like this place because they had an iced coffee flight (!!!) and the baristas were really nice but the coffee was so meh and the kouign amann we got to go was covered in fuzz and a piece of hair from sitting out on their counter.  A fact I realized only after biting into it…

Verde Cocina // Found this place at the Farmers’ Market, took one look at the bacon they were frying up and was sold.  And who knew scrambled eggs and sautéed veggies went so well together?

Pine State Biscuits // I didn’t actually eat here but Joey grabbed himself a plate of biscuits and gravy (plus a biscuit and jam on the side, because that’s totally normal) and was in biscuit heaven. 

Cheese & Crack Snack Shop // Okay, we both ADORED this place!  Not only was their cheese plate presentation the cutest thing ever but everything was SO GOOD.  This place needs to exist in Denver because a cheese plate + beer snack IS my happy place.

BEAST //  Here’s the deal.  A small restaurant with two dinner seatings, a six-course menu that changes every two weeks and an intimate dining experience that we’ve only ever had on our honeymoon in France.  I was mega-full by the end, but it was SO MUCH FUN. 

Extracto Coffee Roasters // They roast their own beans and make a mean almond milk latte.

Pip’s Original Doughnuts // This place was a highlight of our last trip to Portland and we were beyond excited to go back.  Totally spaced the fact that they’d probably be busy on a Sunday at 11 AM so we had to wait in line but it was so worth it because THESE ARE THE BEST DONUTS IN THE WORLD.  There, I said it. 

Pine Street Market // This is one of those upscale food court type of places (Denver has one too) so of course, we had to go!  We both ended up eating at Common Law and even though I struck out again on the bánh mì (why?!) I was in too much of a caffeine/beer/vacation-induced state of happiness that I didn’t even care.