Best Tastes 2018: Restaurant Edition

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Kid’s Veggie Burrito with Queso from Illegal Pete’s Northside (January 1) // We got an Illegal Pete’s at the very end of last December (guys, it’s in walking distance!!!) and I’d never been so happy.  Joey suggested picking up lunch on January 1st and I couldn’t think of a better way to ring in 2018 than with an Illegal Pete’s burrito.  The kid’s size is perfect for me, don’t make fun!  Also, this was my favorite combo: wheat tortilla, white rice, black beans, queso, mild salsa, lettuce and cilantro.

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The 5280 from The Bindery (January 16) // If a buttery biscuit filled with soft scrambled eggs and melty cheese isn’t the definition of perfection, I don’t know what is.  This entire dish was just so beautifully executed and I couldn’t think of a single criticism (even though Joey kept bringing up that it shouldn’t have been billed as a sandwich if you have to eat it with a fork).

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Valentine’s Day Dinner at D Bar (February 14) // Between the amuse bouche (a mini empanada!), the parsnip velouté and coffee crusted lamb, I could not pick a favorite.  They were all so delicious and satisfying in their own ways.  I will say I loved the soup in a way I don’t usually love soup (that creamy feta though!) but tagliatelle topped with the tenderest lamb ragu is a top life moment. 

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Huevos Ranchero Hash from Hash Kitchen (February 25) // I ordered this hash for pre-hike breakfast in Arizona and it was a PURE DELIGHT when this skillet covered in fried onions arrived in front of me.  It tasted even better than it looks and I’m now convinced crispy onion rings should be the topping on everything.

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Crab Cake & Greens at Twisted Grove (February 26) // Maybe you shouldn’t trust seafood in the desert, but this crab cake was so so good!  So flavorful and fresh tasting, plus the remoulade underneath was the perfect accompaniment.  The crab cake was obviously the star of the show but that simple salad with pickled red onion, avocado and green goddess dressing was pretty great too.

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Parsnip Croquettes at Root Down (March 2) // Is it weird that I periodically check the happy hour menu at Root Down to see if it’s changed?  It was a spring weather Friday when I decided to take a peek and lo and behold, it now had artichoke hummus, shrimp tacos, a peach and chai cocktail and parsnip croquettes on offer.  SAY NO MORE, I’M THERE.  The croquettes were simply incredible!  Perfectly crispy on the outside, a creamy cheesy filling inside and that romesco underneath just added the perfect hit of acidic flavor.  

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Happy Hour at Hearth & Dram (March 9) // Good thing this is my own blog, where I make the rules and I don’t have to choose just one dish from this epic happy hour spread, because I seriously don’t think I could.  From the tempura onion rings to the braided pretzel with beer cheese to the crab beignet to the shishitos (that half patty melt & fries belonged to Joey only :P), it was all SO well executed and delicious.  

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Pork Hash at Annette Scratch to Table (March 11) // If ordering the same exact thing EVERY SINGLE TIME I’m at Annette is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.  I’m not a “standard order” person (I don’t even have a go-to at Chipotle!), so the fact that I order the pork hash every time, without even questioning it, is a true testament to how good this dish is.  There’s tender pieces of pork, perfectly crispy potatoes, poached eggs that coat everything once you cut into them and most importantly, those picked mustard seeds!  

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Soup Dumplings at ChoLon (April 13) // I know, I know, I’ve talked about these soup dumplings far too many times.  But we got to share the wealth with Joey’s dad and brother this time around and seeing the surprise and delight when they ate one renewed my fervor.  Afterwards, I declared them the single greatest thing I’ve ever eaten and I don’t take it back.

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Shrimp & Grits at Surrey’s Uptown (April 21) // I almost didn’t order this because I knew I wanted to get shrimp & grits at The Ruby Slipper a couple of days later but then I couldn’t resist and thank god my willpower is so weak because this meal was truly divine!  It was thick and rich in a way only lots of butter can accomplish and I didn’t regret a single decadent bite.  

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Tahini Hummus + Pita at Shaya (April 22) // Was buying a single can of a cucumber lemon gose and strolling along Magazine Street until we happened upon Shaya, then sitting in their outdoor courtyard dipping pillow-y pita into ultra-smooth hummus the happiest moment of my life?  Hard to say, but it was certainly up there.  I don’t know how they do it, I’m just glad they do.     

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Every Ding-Dang-Thang at Meadowlark Kitchen (April 28) // This restaurant is low-key one of the best in Denver.  The vibe is almost dive-y but then you get this super elevated and sophisticated food that will just blow you away!  I want to pick a favorite dish but I can’t because the burrata dip was so luxurious, the Denver nuggets came with the best dips, the spring salad was so fresh and the burger… ugh, the burger!  It’s unlike any other.  

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Lamb Kofta at Stowaway Kitchen (May 10) // I thought I had eaten lamb every which way but this was my first kofta experience and I was blown away.  Especially surprising for someone who is really on the fence about ground meat.  For whatever reason, Joey seemed less enthused so I’ll probably order this again next time and hope he just gives me his skewer too.  It was so perfectly spiced!

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F’N Burger Slider at FNG (June 9) // You know how a slider can sometimes be really disappointing because it’s hard to cook such a small piece of beef to the right temperature?  So not the case with this little guy, that was one of the best burgers (let alone sliders) I’ve ever had.  The beef was perfectly medium rare and all the toppings enhanced it, instead of overpowering it.  

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Hulk Smash at BREW in the Village (June 16) // Maybe it’s because the service that went along with it was so good (I’m now of the belief that EVERY breakfast restaurant should ask if you want a coffee to go at the end of the meal) or because there was a very good garlicky mayo, creamy avocado, eggs that were actually scrambled well (a rarity that I’m always baffled by) and bacon all between two slices of soft ciabatta, but this breakfast sandwich made me very happy.

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Green Machine at Bamboo Sushi (July 1) // I would love to tell you how good the sustainably-caught seafood tastes (and it does), but in all honestly, my favorite sushi at Bamboo is vegetarian.  That sweet chili aioli is so dang good over that avocado-topped, tempura-stuffed sushi and I just can’t find a better roll anywhere I go. 

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Indian Train Cone Salad from Linger (July 6) // Joey was real confused about what a “cone salad” was, but lucky for him, I had stalked the menu/recent Yelp reviews and knew it was a salad of cauliflower, spinach, haloumi and Indian spices served in a paper cone.  Duh! 😛  It was sooooo good!  Mainly because: haloumi but that orange marmalade and tahini vinaigrette were pretty killer too. 

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(Last Ever) Chilaquiles from Candela Latin Kitchen (July 29) // What do you call it if you have a sudden urgent desire to eat chilaquiles for brunch at the place that makes them best and find out a day later that it was their last day of business?  Intuition?  Bittersweet?  Both?  RIP Candela, you made the very best chilaquiles and my life won’t be the same without them.  

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Smoked Beets Sandwich from Gorgeous Deli (August 4) // I know this sandwich might look simple and sort of lackluster, but it packed a punch.  That bread was so soft and flavorful, the beets were smoky in a interesting but not overpowering way and WHOA, I need to get my hands on some Soom Foods tahini because that stuff is SMOOTH.  This unassuming veggie sandwich turned out to be extremely good.  

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Barbacoa Taco from Chuey FU’s (August 19) // I ate A LOT of tacos at Tacolandia, but this one was the very best.  The meat was wonderfully tender and flavorful, the pickled red onions were the perfect contrast and the sauce tied them both together.  

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Lobster Roll + Fries from Wicked Maine Lobster (September 3) // Maybe it’s because I’m from the landlocked state of Colorado and we don’t have easy access to seafood but this lobster roll really delighted me.  The bun was so buttery and perfectly griddled and man, how good is lobster??  The icing on the cake was that basket of fries, which were so crunchy and well-seasoned.  Truly a perfect last meal in San Diego.

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Tahini Hummus + Pita at Safta (September 9) //  If this picture looks familiar it’s because Denver was the lucky recipient of an Alon Shaya restaurant and turns out creamy hummus and fluffy pita taste just as incredible at high altitude as at sea level.  I seriously cannot get over how good this seemingly simple dish is.  The flavors, the textures, the way you can eat it with wild abandon across from the one you love most.  It’s just too good to be true!

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Smashed Chickpeas at Leven Deli Co (November 12) // Post-Denver Film Fest, we needed lunch STAT and this deli I’d been wanting to try happened to be on our way back home.  Not only was it cute as hell in there (I know nothing of a neighborhood deli, but I just assume this is what they look like inside), but it had this bustling but friendly vibe that I truly loved.  I was second-guessing myself when I ordered because a vegetarian pita probably isn’t the quintessential deli sandwich order but every ingredient on here was a knockout.   

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Fried Chinese Eggplant Bun at Uncle (November 21) // Every time we go to Uncle, I think “I guess I don’t NEED a steamed bun” (the bowl of ramen is rather big), but then I cave every time.  We’ve had the soft shell crab, the shrimp, the pork belly, but this breaded crunchy eggplant slice smothered in miso mayo and sandwiched inside a soft bun is our absolute favorite.  And Joey isn’t even an eggplant lover!

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Beer-Battered Squash at Dio Mio (December 4) // This item was on the menu last year and by the time I made it into Dio Mio is was gone.  I’ve been chasing them ever since!  We popped in one Tuesday evening and I said a silent prayer when I saw them on the menu.  They were the opposite of delicate.  Thick and heavily battered, in a good way, and extra good dipped into that pesto dipping sauce.  I think I skipped back to the car after eating these.

I’d like to assume whatever I eat for New Year’s Eve dinner will also make this list, but as this post is going live on December 28th, we’ll never really know! 😛

Weekend Things & My 29th Birthday

Today is my actual birthday but it’s felt like my birthday since last Thursday because since then, I’ve gotten a new car (!), had dinner at Linger (!), enjoyed a backyard movie night (!) and picnicked at City Park Jazz (!).  And all big exciting happenings aside, there’s also been like a million smaller things that have just made me feel extremely happy.  The end of 28 was simply amazing, so here’s to an equally lovely start to 29!

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Hi, here’s me looking like my happiest self because I’m now in possession of a brand new Subaru Crosstrek!  Mainly I’m excited about the touchscreen audio system, the backup camera, the all-wheel drive, the seat warmers, the moon roof, the new car smell.  So basically everything 🙂  I’m also the last person in the family to drive a Subaru, so it’s been a long time coming!

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Friday night, we headed to Linger for a birthday dinner.  I only made the reservation like 3 months ago, don’t worry about it.  Debated going to El Five again but the dinner menu at Linger looked so good (an entire bao bun section, guys!) and of all the Edible Beats restaurants, it just has the most special place in my heart.

Sort of wished our food hadn’t come out so fast because we were in and out in less than an hour and it made me feel like the whole experience was rushed but NO COMPLAINTS about the food because that India Cone Salad was an incredible compilation of flavors/textures (and most importantly, it involved HALOUMI CHEESE ♥), the two buns were unique and delicious and I made a last minute decision to order the (unpictured) lamb kabobs instead of the pork because: LAMB.

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Let me tell you about Saturday, because it was a perfect day.  We woke up, had breakfast and some ease-into-the-morning time, then hopped on our bikes and made our way to the Farmers’ Market.  Not going to lie, by the time we got there it was A) SO HOT and B) SO CROWDED.  So while my #1 thought was “GET ME OUT OF HERE!” I’m going to focus on the fact that I got out with peaches, shishitos, cherry tomatoes and a mini pie.

We were seriously debating fitting in a trip to the MCA but it has come to my attention that I am what my sister refers to as “an overbooker,” and honestly, it did sound kind of nice to just chill out at home and do mostly nothing, so that’s what we did.  There was lunch in the backyard, lots of reading time, garden gazing, a real leisurely trip to the grocery store, even a nap!  Who am I??  Also, please know our doggy had to have two teeth removed last week and I know we should feel bad for him, but he looks so silly without those two teeth!

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We made our fav broccoli tacos for dinner and without that trip to the MCA, I even had plenty of time to make tortillas!  It rained while we were cooking and I was sad because it seemed like any outdoor evening plans were off the table but the storm was in and out and actually made it the perfect temperature for dinner al fresco and backyard movie night.  My heart was so so happy as we settled into the hammock with out pup, popcorn and pillows.  Watched The Usual Suspects and don’t think I didn’t have serious misgivings about watching a Kevin Spacey movie.  Still, the story was good and the end of Scary Movie makes so much more sense now 😛

Perfect night ♥

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We got up Sunday for a 5-mile run and it was seriously hot already at 7:30 AM, ugh!  Afterward, Joey went to get us iced coffee and I used the rest of the challah to make more French toast.  We left the bread out over night so it could dry out a bit and it turned out to be our best batch yet!  Some time later, Joey headed outside to do whatever it is he does out there mow the lawn and I stayed inside to make Cobb salads and then I decided we should paint the Little Free Library (!!!!!) my parents gave me for my birthday.  I was like “are these the spontaneous decisions people who haven’t pre-booked every minute of their weekend do?!”  It’s a pretty sky blue now and all it needs is white trim, some stencil work, oh and that putting it into the ground part.

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Spent the evening at City Park Jazz and it was perfect!  Well except the brief wind scare when we first got there and the fact that we forgot plates and Joey’s Yeti koozie, but it all still felt perfect to me.  We gave serious consideration to each and every one of those jams/mustards and decided the red pepper jelly, blue cheese herb mustard and wild Main blueberry were the best.  Shared that teensy blueberry-lemon pie for dessert then scooted out so we could be home in time to watch Big Brother and read in bed.

If today is even half as good as this entire weekend was, I’ll call it a monumental success.  And considering I already opened the best presents from Joey and Andi this morning and we have plans to watch The Big Lebowski at Film on the Rocks tonight, I have every reason to believe it will be ♥