Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Denver, Colorado

Me and Neil sitting at 5280 ft above sea level. 
I made it up to Mile High City! Denver is a young city filled with health conscious citizens preoccupied with the outdoors. There's a lot of beer, a lot of game, and a growing farm to table scene. My first evening in Denver with C.J., I was easily out of breath after walking down a few long streets. Being a full mile above sea level really takes a toll on your lungs and your thirst. During the day, downtown Denver was a quiet walk-able city. There were many specialty food options, football or Native American / Wild West related gift shops, and the occasional recreational dispensary. At night, I went to a few bars and had a cold beer or Moscow mule in one hand and a Coors cup filled with ice water in the other. I really could get used to the high ceilings, wooden furnishings, and constant sports broadcasts. 

Neil was very excited to show me around Denver and to get hot dogs at Biker Jim's. We shared a Jack-a-Lope, a hot dog made with antelope and jack rabbit topped with "The Conspiracy," which was blue cheese, bacon and red onion marmalade, lemon zest, and french fried onions. It was juicy, flavorful, and sandwiched in a soft bun. Neil really wanted me to have the rattlesnake, but they were unfortunately sold out. Next time for sure. 

Extras: They recently upgraded from just a cart to an entire restaurant. Plus: Anthony Bourdain approved!  

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
2148 Larimer Street
Denver, CO

For dinner on Valentine's Day, I met up with a friend I met in Hong Kong several years ago. C.J. recently moved to LoDo and is enamored with the city and its proximity to the mountains. He made a reservation at Vesta, a local American restaurant with creative dishes and a never ending list of inventive dipping sauces. We decided to share a variety of small plates:

- Chinese BBQ pork belly
- bibb lettuce salad with honeycrisp apples
- venison kielbasa with apricot and bourbon mustards
- golden ponzu shrimp
- pan seared scallops 
- duck potstickers 

I was surprised by how much Asian influence there were on the small plates, but I'm always down to try how different chefs use Asian flavors. The food was fun and the conversations engaging. The seafood was cooked well, but unfortunately the quality was a bit lacking. Well, that's what you get for ordering seafood in a landlocked state. I would go back for the kielbasa and pork belly and definitely to try more of their sauces. It's a great place to share, catch up, and kick off the night. 

Vesta Dipping Grill
1822 Blake Street
Denver, CO

Neil was super excited to eat here with me because this was where Adam Richman of Man vs. Food visited when he was in Denver. Cherry Cricket is a burger joint with an extensive beer and scotch list to satisfy any drinker. They offer an assortment of appetizers, salads, and chilis, but all we focused on were the burgers. I got a little cricket, which was a 1/4 pound beef burger cooked to medium rare slathered with American cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and grilled onions. Neil got a half pounder with pepperjack cheese, blackened seasoning, and green chiles. And damn were these some seriously juicy burgers. The meat in Colorado is good. Tender, oozing with juice, and grilled to perfection. Classic. 

Cherry Cricket
2641 E 2nd Avenue
Denver, CO

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