Best Tastes 2017: Restaurant Edition

Here we are.  The very last day of 2017 and all I care about it sharing this list of the best restaurant meals we ate this year.  I write these as the year goes along, then go back and edit/proof-read them at the end and get to re-live all the deliciousness (minus the actual food, wahh!).  It’s really the most fun and honestly, much more uplifting than recapping the year in general.  I want to look back on 2017 and think of lamb burgers, broccoli tempura and chilaquiles, so here we go!

Mushroom & Thyme Tartine from Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen (January 2) // This place can be a little off on efficiency but never on taste.  The mushrooms were plentiful, the labneh had this wasabi zing that I couldn’t get enough of and the toast soaked up that egg in the most beautiful way.  Maybe dramatically fake cried when they took it off the menu.  Seasonal menu changes can be a real mood killer sometimes.  

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Share Plates at Community (January 13) // We ate at Community twice this year and were blown away both times, but the first time really sticks out in my mind.  I think the chili and brisket were table favorites but the whole evening felt like a blur of deliciousness and every bite seemed better than the last.

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Creole Shrimp Omelet from Four Friends Kitchen (February 19) // Oozy pimento cheese, spicy shrimp, BBQ potatoes with crispy edges and a buttery piece of cornbread to top it all off.  Love at first bite!

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Pork Shank Hash from Annette (March 19) // We were burning up in the sun on a unusually warm March morning but I forgot all about it when I gobbled up this perfectly portioned, exceptionally prepared hash.  The potatoes were so crispy, the pork was so juicy, and pickled mustard seeds were the perfect burst of acidity.  

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Cascara IPA from Denver Beer Co. (January 7) // The smell, the flavor, the hops.  This beer was everything!

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Chicken Kaarage from Mizu Izakaya (January 6) // These adult chicken nuggets were so perfectly breaded and fried so that they were both crispy and moist.  Plus they came with a dipping sauce that complimented the chicken perfectly.  

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Tempura Broccoli/Tamarind Pork Ribs/Green-Chile Cheese Fries from Work & Class (April 12) // Technically, this is more than one dish but I’ll be damned if I have to choose between all these incredible things we ate one happy hour before a Rockies game.  This is my blog and I make the rules here.  This meal was heaven on Earth.  

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Almond Croissant from Babettes Artisan Breads (January 29) // There is NOTHING like a really good French pastry.  This one was flaky, crunchy from the almonds, with the most delectable almond filling inside.  

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Apricot-Ginger Biscuit from Annette (March 19) // Huge, buttery, studded with apricots and sprinkled with gingery sugar.  I couldn’t decide if I liked the crumbly corners or the fluffy insides better, but thankfully, I didn’t have to choose.

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Valentine’s Dinner from Tables (February 14) // I feel like this place might be one of Denver’s best kept secrets.  Which is just fine because that means more tempura fried banana, leek hollandaise, chicken roulade and strawberry pocket pie for me!

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Joey’s Birthday Dinner from Acorn at The Source (April 2) // Pretzel with gruyère fondue, lobster arancini, morel agnolotti, a 24 oz. (!!!) prime ribeye, crispy potatoes and an au poivre that I wanted to pour straight into my mouth.  Need I say more?

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Colorado Lamb Slider from Root Down (February 20) // Joey and I are thinking of becoming a thruple with this slider.  It just completes us, okay?  But for real, a juicier, more flavorful, herbaceous burger patty does not exist and the harissa, cheddar, arugula and mint-yogurt go SO well with that lamb.  

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Quinoa Crab Cakes from Fish N Beer (March 7) // I went to Fish N Beer for blowfish tails but when they were out, I ordered the crab cakes instead and they were PHENOMENAL.  What blowfish tails??  That tender crab meat, that perfect crust, that remoulade that took it to a whole different level.  Crab cake of my dreams, for sure.

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Alaskan Reindeer from Biker Jim’s (April 1) // Yeah, I said it.  The humble hot dog gets a spot on this list.  Except this is anything but humble.  Coulda sworn I’d ordered this from BJ’s before but I think I would’ve CLEARLY remembered eating something this good so this MUST have been the first time.  Usually the toppings outshine whatever dog I get, but not the case here because even with the wasabi and the shaved cheddar, the dog was the best tasting part.

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Clam Pizza from Cart-Driver (April 24) // Yeah, the space is SMALL AS HELL, yeah, you order at the counter and yeah, sometimes you have to figure that out on your own, but don’t let confusion talk you out of eating one of the best pizzas of your life.  The clam is SO GOOD and perfectly salty (that pancetta though!).  Nothing compares!

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Uber Burger from Uber Eats (September 17) // We biked to My Brother’s Bar on a Sunday only to find they are closed on Sundays (!!!!!) so instead, we headed up to Uber Eats and what a blessing in disguise because this burger was honestly incredible!  I ate every last bite then almost cried when it was gone.

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“Grits for the Table” at 5th & Taylor (May 14) // I’ve never been more delighted with a surprise food delivery than I was when I ate these BEST OF MY LIFE grits.  I don’t know what they put in there, but it was probably pure magic.  

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Biscuits & Burritos & Vietnamese Cold Brew at Barista Parlor (May 15 & 16) // Do not make me choose between the egg & maple bacon biscuit sandwich I ate on Monday and the egg & pesto breakfast burrito I ate on Tuesday.  I really couldn’t!  I just know both made me insanely happy to be at Barista Parlor, sipping a cold coffee drink with an actual orchid in it.  

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Everything at City House in Nashville (May 15) // beets with cabbage and buttermilk dressing, charred carrots with whipped goat cheese, chard pizza with fennel fonduta.  Need I say more?  Okay, how bout friendliest staff and most “we’re all regulars here!” vibe I’ve ever experienced?  Loved it!

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Hot chicken at Hattie B’s (May 16) // The chicken was just spicy enough, fried to perfection and juicy as could be, plus we could not pick a favorite between pimento mac and cheese, stewed greens, crinkle fries and baked beans.  It was all too good!

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Spicy Chicken Ramen at Uncle (May 16 & November 22) // Will anything ever dethrone Uncle’s Spicy Chicken as the best ramen? Probably not, so I’ll just keep auto-entering it into this list forever, okay?  Decided the broth tastes like a thinner spicier version of Kraft mac and cheese sauce and I mean that as a good thing.

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The Green Machine at Bamboo Sushi (June 1) // The first time I tried Bamboo Sushi, I was with my mom and in order to not totally gross her out of eating her own meal, I ordered vegetarian sushi but what a blessing in disguise that moment turned out to be because the Green Machine roll is THEE BEST.  That sweet chili aioli on top is lick-your-plate good and even now that I’ve tried the non-veggie sushi, this one is still my very favorite!

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Dinner at El Five, without a doubt! (July 7) //  I thought Linger and Avanti had Denver’s best skyline views but those are nothing compared to what you get at El Five.  That, plus tapas that BLEW MY TASTE BUDS AWAY, and I was one mega-happy girl.

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Rotolo at Dio Mio (August 22) // This rolled up slice of pasta, summer squash, ricotta and drippy egg was decadent and rich but somehow still fresh and light and I couldn’t get over how all of that could exist in one dish, but I wasn’t going to question it.  I was just going to enjoy eating it.

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Taco Sushi at TAG Restaurant (September 9) // Let’s not talk about how long it took for this appetizer to come out or how I looked away for a second and Joey had finished the last of the guac or how bad this picture is.  Instead, let’s talk about how this was somehow a taco and also sushi and tasted incredible together.  I wanted to eat about 10 more!

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Chilaquiles at Candela Latin Kitchen (September 10) // If chilaquiles are on the menu, I MUST order them!  And these were some of (maybe thee best?!) I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.  Totally decked out in sauce and crema and avocado, plus those perfectly cooked eggs and mix between soft and crispy tortillas chips had me in a food-induced state of pure euphoria.  

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Blow Fish Tails at Fish N Beer (September 29) // Shh, let’s pretend I don’t already have this place on this list for another dish.  Blow fish tails sound weird but they seriously taste like chicken and these ones come coated in a just-spicy-enough buffalo sauce.  We got a second order after devouring the first.

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Broccoli Dip, Wild Mushrooms and Denver Nuggets at Meadowlark Kitchen (October 17) // I don’t know why I waited so long to finally try this place but after stuffing ourselves on all three of these dishes, I was really kicking myself for wasting so much precious time.  Everything was so flavorful and luscious and I actually couldn’t stop eating it until it was all gone.

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Sea Bass at Flight (October 24) //  Have you ever had sea bass?  It is so choice.  If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend picking one up.  Okay, just kidding, but it’s seriously the best fish, so buttery and light.  I love it!  This place wowed me with the flight concept but the sea bass sealed the deal.

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Itsy Bitsy Fishwich at Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen (November 30) // Honestly, EVERYTHING we ate at Euclid Hall sent me into a tailspin of food happiness but this fishwich was the first thing I tasted and it set the tone for the entire meal by being perfectly portioned, crispy, properly seasoned and just so well balanced between the toasty bun, fish patty, jalapeño aioli and avocado.  More please!

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Crispy Fried All Natural Chicken at Chop Shop (December 6) // If you wanna know the truth, I ordered this mainly for the white cheddar polenta and Swiss chard with bacon but then that chicken turned out to be ultra moist and the hint of honey just made the whole thing sing.  Tasted like the best plate of comfort food on a cold December night.

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I recently saw a article where the staff from Uproxx shared their single best meal of 2017 and just the thought of having to narrow it down to ONE MEAL made me anxious.  In other words, I won’t be doing that but thank you for letting me share this little not-so-little round up of what made me happiest this year, aka a meal so good you felt the residual euphoria for days to come.  Hope you had many of those this year too!

And with that, I’m out till 2018.  Have a Happy New Year!

Weekend Things

Truth is, I got lots and lots of thoughts, moments and images floating around in this brain of mine today.  And I’m trying to find a way to share them all without writing a post that goes on and on and on.  Sometimes, when I recap all the bigger things that happen over the weekend, I completely miss/forget the little ones.  The song that played in the car on our way to the grocery store or a movie we had on in the background while I made a King Cake.

So I’m gonna do my best to share those little moments (as well as the bigger ones) from this weekend.  If you really think about it, they’re equally important.

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Friday

We skipped out early and, because the sun was shining, the weather was perfect and a hint of spring was in the air, decided to head to happy hour.  We tried to go to The Way Back but they were closed for a private event so Root Down it was!  Not complaining though 🙂  Afterwards, we settled in to watch Arrival and while it was thought-provoking, neither of us were blown away by the movie.

Little Moments:

Pulling into the liquor store parking lot to make a serious pro/con list for going out vs. mixing up cocktails and cooking dinner at home

Eating the BEST EVER lamb slider with stars in our eyes and trying to figure out what old movie was playing on the projector screen in the bar

Mid-movie popcorn snack

Trying to figure out what exactly that movie was about

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Saturday

We woke up and made blueberry-buttermilk waffles with cinnamon sugar and don’t get me wrong, they were perfectly blueberried and crispy but I’ll take all future waffles with maple syrup, please.  Spent the afternoon shopping for groceries, a rug (we mustered the strength to make a trip to IKEA and I think it majorly paid off!), purple sprinkles and white wine then spent the night at home, making dinner, drinking that white wine and watching the very last of the Oscar Best Picture nominees: Hacksaw Ridge.  I tweeted my movie rankings but I think I might dedicate a full post to that before this coming Sunday so stay tuned 🙂

Little Moments

Joey telling me he’s a professional “waffle maker heater up-er”

Watching batter ooze out of the side of the waffle maker… noooooo!

Watching the cast of The Kitchen make a brownie bombe

Looking across the produce section to see Joey just standing there staring at our grocery list

An older couple calling out “WHERE ARE YOU?!” to each other in the IKEA parking lot

Joey begging me to buy him a $1 hot dog

Carrying a 4-pack of Melvin Citradamus back to the car while Joey carried a bottle of wine — to hell with gender stereotypes 

Semi-watching pieces of Finding Nemo, Cars, Knocked Up (“… with emotion??) and 21 Jump Street (“you do have the right to be an attorney, if you want”)

Caramelizing onions in white wine (THAT SMELL) while Joey set up our new bedroom rug and installed our over-the-sink light

Laughing SO HARD at that scene in Hacksaw Ridge where Andrew Garfield slo-mo slaps a grenade 

A bite of Joey’s ice cream ♥

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Sunday

We woke up Sunday and decided to venture out East (jk, it’s just Stapleton :P) to have breakfast at Four Friends Kitchen.  Backstory: our company did some work on this restaurant when it was built and we attempted to have Mother’s Day brunch here last year but we’d never successfully eaten there.  FINALLY FINALLY!  And it was KILLER.  Everything was so so good and we couldn’t stop talking about it.  We already can’t wait to go back.

I could detail all the things I did in (and a few things out of) the kitchen post-breakfast, but it’s probably better if I just list them.  So:

  • MADE A KING CAKE (first and foremost!)
  • Prepped the crock pot for Slow Cooker Beef Carnitas Tacos
  • Made a new batch of kombucha — pineapple coconut is either gonna be very weird or very good
  • Went for a run in perfect weather
  • Made salad jars for lunch this week
  • Cooked dinner
  • Collapsed on the couch

I’m dying to tell you all about that King Cake but as I’ve been blabbing on long enough as it is, I’m going to do that later this week 🙂  Just know that Joey and I both posted pictures of it and I’ve already been asked twice if I’m pregnant.  I’M NOT.  But I am loving my first try at homemade King Cake ♥♥♥

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Little Moments

Joey Etch A Sketch-ing me a picture of bacon while we waited for a table at breakfast

Rocking out to “The Bird and the Worm” on the way home and realizing I may have had too much coffee at breakfast

The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg in the world’s softest dough — you can’t even imagine!

Sticking my nose over the little steam hole on the crock pot to sniff the deliciousness going on inside

Joey magically popping in from whatever outdoor project he was working on every time the sink got too full of dishes 

Imagining what the Mexican restaurant that recently closed in our neighborhood will become instead — our vote’s for pizza or, ya know, if Root Down could just relocate  

Watching bits and pieces of Superbad (“Miss each other? No thank you, I don’t miss each other) but also, just listening to Joey laugh while watching it

Cutting into that King Cake and hitting that damn baby on the first slice!

This weekend was a good one 🙂