Sentinel Blogs

John Lehndorff


Banana cream pie at the Humble Pie Shop in Denver. (Photo by Kim Long/ American Forecaster)

AURORA – As I reported in Nibbles this week, as a person of the pie persuasion I was thrilled to witness the opening of a new bakery devoted strictly to pie. Just in time for Thanksgiving, the cozy Humble Pie Store opened Oct. 20 at 300 Elati St. selling an array of freshly baked sweet and savory pies. The building in Denver’s Historic Baker District has long been home to various neighborhood markets. The puff pastry-crowned Beef Short Rib Pie is an extraordinary treat filled with silky, shredded slow braised beef, potatoes, carrots and onions in a light gravy with a hint of wine. Another winner is Farmer Dave’s Famous Buttermilk Banana Cream Pie set in a buttery-chewy crust made with house-baked graham crackers. For their organic pumpkin and other fruit pies the bakery uses a fine butter-based crust. More details at humblepiestore.com.

PIE-MAKING CLASSES

Classic Pastries and Pies, Oct. 27, Expo Recreation Center, 10955 E. Exposition Ave., Aurora. Information: auroragov.org/cooking. Details: Learn the pie-baking fundamentals including pie crusts, choux pastry, custards, ganache and fruit fillings

Pies for the Holidays, Nov. 13-14, Kitchen Table Cooking School, Greenwood Village. Information: kitchentablegv.com. Details: Learn how to make and bake Pumpkin Rum, Bourbon Pecan, Chocolate Mousse, and American Apple Pie

PIE CONTEST

Marczyk Fine Foods is hosting a pie competition 1 to 2 pm Oct. 27. Categories: pumpkin/squash, apple, and wild card.  To enter your pie, email barbara@marczyk.com. Details: marczykfinefoods.com.

WORDS ABOUT PIE

“One thing that I see now is, even in the highest levels in the upper echelons of restaurants, I see comfort food. It might be comfort food with a certain refinement. You know, it’ll be a chicken pot pie with a beautiful sail of puff pastry or something. But people tend to gravitate toward those familiar flavors when times are tough.” – Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema on NPR

• John Lehndorff is the former executive director of the American Pie Council, head judge at the National Pie Championships, editor of Pie Times, and spokesperson for National Pie Day, Jan. 23. He is the editor of Colorado Table which appears in the Aurora Sentinel, Buckley Guardian and Life Science newspapers and web sites: aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table. Send pressing cooking or dining questions to: jlehndorff@aurorasentinel.com. For regular updates, “like” the Nibbles Facebook page. Radio Nibbles airs 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and kgnu.org).

AURORA – Apparently some women, or at least the women I know, were greatly offended by some of the comments Mitt Romney made in the second presidential debate earlier this week.

I can’t speak for them.

However, I was astounded by what Romney had to say. I bet many other men were also miffed at Mitt. Here’s what Romney said:

“… if you’re going to have women in the workforce … sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, ‘I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school.’ ”

What bleapin’ black-and-white bygone era does this presidential candidate dwell in?

Hey Mitt: I just sent a kid off to college. For 18 years, I, for the most part, made dinner. I did most of the grocery shopping and a lot of the laundry. I changed diapers. When he was young, I often picked my son up from daycare, from grade school, middle school and high school. I helped teach him to read and to cook. For a decade when my mom lived nearby I was happily part of the sandwich generation … and I don’t mean corned beef.

No brag, just fact. It’s what PARENTS do these days.

In our case, both my wife and I worked full time and shared duties. I  don’t pretend that it wasn’t hard or that I was perfect. We created schedule flexibility because we had too. I had to educate my employers that I – man, father, husband – needed to be home to spend time with the family and cooking … or at least eating take-out or delivery food together. It was an essential adhesive that held our family together. It was a also a great joy.

Maybe the dudes in Mitt’s generation or social group leave all that icky family stuff to the women, and thus are unaware that the world has changed.

It’s their loss.

In the future, please don’t insult me or the millions of guys in America just like me. If men are going to be in the workplace, you have to treat them with respect.

• John Lehndorff is the editor of Colorado Table in the Aurora Sentinel, Buckley Guardian and Life Science newspapers and web sites. For more Colorado food stories, visit Colorado Table: aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table. Contact him at jlehndorff@aurorasentinel.com. John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles which airs 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and KGNU.org.

This photo of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney posing with workers after ordering a burrito bowl at a Denver Chipotle Grill Oct. 2 has gone viral because of the wide-eyed expression on the face of the guy to Romney’s left, and the fact that DEnver-born Chipotle is famous for its progressive approach. Call Chipotle the anti-Chik-fil-A. (AP Photo)

Tonight’s big gamer.. err… debate should boost the economy through food/booze sales, according to smartmoney.com:

The debate may create a micro-economy all its own, thanks to the many viewing parties – both at homes and in bars and restaurants. And while experts in the dining, snack food and beverage industries say it’s hard to put an exact dollar figure on the potential impact, many expect a bounce in sales this week. “It’s a contest and people like to watch contests,” says Eric Shepard, executive editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade journal. They also to like eat and drink as they watch them. But even veteran restaurateurs say they’re surprised at how this presidential debate has prompted an interest in partying on par with a big game day in sports.

More at http://blogs.smartmoney.com/paydirt/2012/10/02/presidential-debate-night-booze-snacks-and-politics/?mod=dist_smartbrief

  Surprise! Colorado Top 10 in shipping wine

The Denver Business Journal reports that Colorado ranks among the top 10 states where wineries are shipping out their products to consumers.

“Wines & Vines magazine and Boulder-based ShipCompliant calculated the ranking of the winery-to-consumer direct shipping market, released Monday. For the year ended July 2012, Colorado ranked No. 8, between Virginia and North Carolina, with 96,162 cases of wine shipped. California was the top state for wine shipments, with 958,501 cases. The wines shipped to Colorado had a combined value of $40.8 million, with an average price per bottle of $35.38. Colorado was ranked third for the number of bottles shipped per capita, behind Washington, D.C., and California.”

WIARD

Three Colorado chefs star in this season’s ‘Top Chef’

Jorel Pierce (Euclid Hall, Denver),  Tyler Wiard (Elway’s Denver) and Eliza Gavin ( South Oak Bistro, Telluride) have been chosen for Season 10 of Bravo’s “Top Chef” series which will premiere Nov. 7.

Denver speakeasy named among top new drinking spots

Williams & Graham in Denver was included in Food & Wine’s recent Top 10 list of the Best New Bars in the U.S.

Freshly picked tomatoes about to be washed at the La Plata County Fairgrounds in Durango, Colo., on Sept. 14. The donated produce was distributed to families in need. (AP Photo/The Durango Herald)

The Metro Denver Farmers Markets offers the following tip/recipe for preserving those final, pre-frost field tomatoes

Here’s an easy recipe for those fabulous field tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 200°. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Wash enough tomatoes to fill the sheet and cut out the stem core. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise or in quarters. Scoop out and discard the seeds, leaving as much pulp as possible. Place the tomatoes, cut sides up, on the prepared pan. Place them close together since they shrink a lot during baking. Squish as much garlic as you like and mix with olive oil and spoon over tomatoes (add sprigs of fresh thyme if you like), season with salt and pepper. Bake 8 to 12 hours or until the tomatoes are reduced in size but still retain their shape. The time the tomatoes take to cook will vary because their size and moisture content. By the end, they are almost caramelized and crispy on the edges. Remove from the oven and cool. They’ll last in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 weeks, longer if immersed in olive oil, or 8 months frozen. • John Lehndorff is the editor of Colorado Table in the Aurora Sentinel, Buckley Guardian and Life Science newspapers and web sites. For more Colorado food stories, visit Colorado Table: aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table.

Send information about food events, classes, festivals, wine dinners and tours in the metro area and all over Colorado to: jlehndorff@aol.com.  John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles which airs 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and KGNU.org.

Chronicle Books’ new “True Blood: East, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps,” proves that even Cajun vampires need help with their entrees. (AP Photo)

• You can already hear the applause in Boulder and the howls of protest coming from Colorado’s cattlemen (and women) as the news leaks out that tofu has been approved as part of the federal school lunch program.

“School lunches can now offer tofu as a “meat alternate,” writes Philip Bump at grist.org, “thanks to a little-noticed announcement from the Department of Agriculture in January: While tofu does not currently have a Federal standard of identity, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) encourage plant-based sources of protein such as tofu. According to the DGA, consumption of a balanced variety of protein foods can contribute to improved nutrient intake and health benefits.”

• Under the “duh” category of things we didn’t need a survey to tell us, foodanddrinkeurope.com reports that the National Confectioner’s Association reports that American teenage girls are two times more likely to consume gum than the average consumer.

• The Associated Press reports that Amy Colvin of Pueblo took first place in the King Arthur Flour Great Cake Contest at the 2012 Colorado State Fair. Here’s her recipe for Cinnamon Roll Cake: CINNAMON ROLL CAKE Cake batter: 2 cups King Arthur Flour 1 1/4 cup white sugar, divided 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 (1 1/2 ounce) boxes sugar-free instant vanilla pudding 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened 1/4 cup vegetable oil 4 large eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla 1 cup sour cream 1 tablespoon cinnamon Cinnamon filling: 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed 1 tablespoon cinnamon 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional) Cream Cheese Frosting: 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream 2 tablespoons white sugar 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional) Mix flour, 1 cup white sugar, baking powder, salt and pudding. All at once add butter, oil, eggs, vanilla and sour cream. Mix well (dough will be thicker than typical cake batter). In a separate bowl, mix 1/4 cup white sugar, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and nuts (if desired). Fold into cake batter with large spatula. Avoid overmixing. In a greased Bundt pan, spread one-half of cake batter on bottom. In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Evenly sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over cake batter. Spread remaining cake batter over sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes. While cake is in the oven, mix whipping cream, sugar, cream cheese and nuts (if desired) with an electric mixer on high until stiff. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Let cake cool for 15 minutes and remove from pan. After cake is completely cool, frost with a spatula.

Notes: The outside of cake should be somewhat crunchy (not burnt) to resemble the true texture of a cinnamon roll. This cake can be served warm, with chilled frosting served on the side for dipping. • John Lehndorff is the editor of Colorado Table in the Aurora Sentinel, Buckley Guardian and Life Science newspapers and web sites. He writes the Nibbles column. For more information about food events, festivals, tastings, tours, markets and more, visit Colorado Table: aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table. Send information about food events, classes, festivals, wine dinners and tours in the metro area and all over Colorado to: jlehndorff@aol.com.  John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles airs 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and KGNU.org. Details: Weekly chat about all things culinary in Colorado.

The contents of Pagliacci’s were auctioned off Sept. 11, 2012. (Photo by Kim Long/American Forecaster)

It’s been a bad month for fans of classic Italian-American eateries, the ones with the reed-wrapped chianti bottles and checkered tablecloths.  Chains and “authentic” Italian trattorias have pushed them out of the picture.

First, Pagliacci’s Italian Restaurant closed in August after 66 years of famous minestrone soup.

Then Gaetano’s – famed for its association with the Smaldone crime family, was closed for the dreaded refurbishment. It is a cleaner, well-lit place now, but it has lost its red sauce soul.

Meanwhile up in Boulder, The Gondolier closed after 52 years of serving pasta, in particular its famous all-you-can-eat spaghetti night beloved by four generations of CU students.

Finally, the news came today that Longo’s Subway Tavern in Denver (near Pagliacci’s) will close Sunday, Sept. 23, after 52 years of dishing pizza pies and cannoli, otherwise known as calzones.

Here’s the review I wrote of Pagliacci’s. It reminds me of my dear Mom who ate with me at Gaetano’s and Pagliacci’s. The review appeared in the Rocky Mountain News on Oct. 29, 2004:

Same old song hits the spot at Pagliacci’s

By John Lehndorff

Rocky Mountain News

If you haven’t been to Pagliacci’s in five or 10 years, have no fear: It’s the same as it ever was.

The walls are still done up stucco-style and painted with quaint Italian countryside scenes, and Frank Sinatra still croons in the background.

Opened in 1946, Pagliacci’s is one of the last of the family-run Italian-American eateries in Denver.

Generations of regulars still fill the booths in the warm, welcoming dining area, and there always seems to be a dressed-up table of 10 family members celebrating a birthday, anniversary or wedding.

The comforting meal ritual at this institution has also not changed a bit.

It always starts with sliced, soft Italian bread from Gargaro’s Bakery (except on Sundays, when it’s house-baked and crusty).

The signature steaming pot of Pagliacci’s famous minestrone is still served family-style.

The chopped vegetable soup has that dark, meaty, tomato-spiked broth with an herbal signature.

Sometimes it has red beans, sometimes not.

It’s especially good sprinkled with grated Romano.

You can polish off the pot, but house rules say you can’t order more or take the leftovers home.

Finally, you get a simple iceberg lettuce salad with mild vinaigrette or Gorgonzola dressing.

Maybe because of this series of warm-ups, the appetizer selection is fairly limited.

A favorite is the fried ravioli ($5): four hot pockets oozing cheese accompanied by a chunky, well-spiced red sauce.

We highly recommend the change-of- pace chicken livers ($8), cooked up neatly in a wine sauce with onions and mushrooms.

During a late-summer visit, we were distressed by the tasteless, rock-hard, pink tomato slices in a Caprese salad ($8) that included fresh mozzarella and sweet basil.

Other starters include pretty good calamari ($8) with olive oil and garlic.

Pagliacci’s is a red-sauce joint, albeit a classy one, so pasta in its boiled, baked and sauteed manifestations dominates the menu.

Oddly, the house marinara is so mild and unremarkable that it’s not worth ordering by itself.

Sauced spaghetti accompanies most meat entrees.

Much tastier options include angel hair with pesto ($15.50) and eggplant-enhanced penne Norma ($15.50).

In the creamy category, we were won over by the cheese-filled tortellini ($17.25) with peas, ham and mushrooms, and the supercreamy fettucine Alfredo ($15.50).

Restaurants botch lasagna so often that those of us who grew up on the Italian-American standard order it with a wary eye.

Pagliacci’s pleased us with its bubbly hot lasagna ($16.50), a large portion baked with layers of firm pasta, various cheeses and red sauce.

The lasagna and other pasta dishes include a choice of meatball or sausage; pick the well-seasoned Italian sausage.

Choose the satisfying peppers and sausage ($18) with onions for a more substantial sausage experience.

The meatballs are big but so blah that they made us wonder if anyone in the kitchen has tasted them in recent years.

For the indecisive, the Italian variety dinner ($18) provides the happy combination of chicken Parmesan, manicotti and a choice of eggplant Parmesan or spinach-and-ricotta ravioli, baked with sauce and mozzarella.

The perfectly fried rounds of moist eggplant Parmesan ($17.25) are worth ordering by themselves.

For a change of pace, I had to have the wonderful fall ravioli special ($17.50).

Bulging pasta purses overstuffed with a puree of sweet butternut, golden raisins and walnuts were arrayed in nutty browned butter and sage leaves.

The remainder of the menu concentrates on the expected beef, seafood, veal and chicken variations.

Entrees in the acceptable category include veal Marsala ($20.50) and shrimp scampi ($22.50), although the latter needed more garlic.

Skip the chicken picatta ($18.50) and poached salmon ($19.95) because they also need a flavor infusion, and avoid the chicken cacciatore ($18.50), a sad conglomeration of bland chicken breast, characterless tomato sauce, and undercooked vegetables.

The wine list delivers the usual Chiantis and Valpolicellas.

My traditional trepidation about Italian desserts was reinforced by Pagliacci’s anemic chocolate mousse ($5) and unappealing wine sundae ($5).

The mediocre cannoli ($5) just didn’t taste made-to- order.

We did enjoy the creamy tiramisu ($6) that my mom received free when we celebrated her birthday.

My top sweet was the classic spumoni ($4.50), with chocolate, rum, cherry and pistachio-flavored ice cream.

The waiters here are very experienced and congenial and know the menu inside and out.

However, we found our mood fouled by Pagliacci’s automatic 20 percent gratuity for tables of six or more on weekend nights.

I can understand 15 percent on a big table on a busy night, but 20 percent presumes that the service will be stellar.

In our case, the place was so crowded that the server couldn’t get to my end of the table.

I ended up helping him hand out food and clear dishes.

Also, Mom said it best when she noted: “It’s good, but it’s expensive and the portions are small.” Even with the bread, soup and salad, we felt overcharged at $16.50 plus tax and gratuity for lasagna and half a sausage link.

Pagliacci’s isn’t the best Italian restaurant in town.

But it is our favorite classy Italian-American eatery.

As I looked at the diverse clientele filling the tables, I saw lots of happy faces.

They didn’t come for an epiphany or extreme authenticity.

They came for pasta.

When folks tell us they need to get the family together for pasta and red wine, we send them to Pagliacci’s.

That hard-earned recommendation explains why the sign on Interstate 25 is still lighted and the booths are packed after all these years.

The masala dosa, above, served at Masalaa in Aurora earned a Staff Pick honor in the 2012 Grade A Awards. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

The Aurora Sentinel’s inaugural Grade A Awards were published Aug. 30 honoring the things we love best about Aurora. It includes the results of our readers’ poll as well as staff picks. You can still pick up a free copy through Sept. 5 where the Aurora Sentinel, Buckley Guardian and Life Science newspapers are available, and also at aurorasentinel.com.

Here is just a taste of Grade A: The food-related awards that I gave out to my favorite restaurants, bakeries and markets in Aurora.

Grade A Persian Zereshk Poloe and Morgh

We may not be able to pronounce it but Darya‘s zereshk poloe and morgh is absolutely our favorite new chicken dish in Aurora. Hassan Soleimani’s welcoming Persian eatery roasts saffron-infused, bone-in bird until it literally falls off the bone in moist shreds. The chicken is served on a mound of buttered, steamed basmati rice with grains so long they look like thin vermicelli noodles. Sprinkled across the top are grains of yellow basmati and dozens of tiny, tart, dried barberries. The cranberry-like taste matched with the roasted chicken lends a Thanksgiving-like appeal to the dish. We enjoyed it with silky hummus and mirza ghasemi, a baked eggplant dip, and a glass cup of floral Persian tea.

• Darya Persian Restaurant, 10890 E. Dartmouth Ave., Aurora; 303-750-4326

Grade A Scones With Clotted Cream and Seedless Raspberry Jam

It has gotten to the point that there are scones everywhere — breakfast joints, coffee shops and gas stations — in various shapes and sizes. More than 90 percent of them are just biscuits in disguise that are laced with chocolate and plastered with glaze, nuts and sprinkles as if they were doughnuts. That why the real scones at The English Teacup are such a wonderful discovery. The scratch-made round scones come in diverse flavors from traditional plain to cinnamon apple and a wonderful cherry mango version. Presented warm on an English china plate, one enjoys it slowly with thick, rich clotted cream, imported seedless raspberry jam, low-key gentility, BBC accents and a well-made cup of tea.

• The English Teacup, 1930 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-751-3032

Grade A German Schnitzel, Spatzle and Red Cabbage

When a bit of fall chill finally arrives in Aurora, we’re making a beeline back to Helga’s for some German-style comfort. Our favorite is the a thin-pounded pork schnitzel with warm brown sauce sided with buttered noodle-y spatzle dumplings and soft red cabbage. A slice of apple strudel, a tall stein of good German pilsner and some polka music make it perfect.

• Helga’s German Restaurant, 14197 E. Exposition Ave., Aurora; 303-344-5488

Grade A Eastern European Meat Treats

We don’t argue when the folks at Solomon’s Grocery & European Deli say “taste this!” That’s how we discovered a great Estonian summer sausage and the best bologna in the world. Besides Eastern European groceries, this compact establishment sells an array of sausages and meats including Lithuanian bacon, smoked pork loin, and hunter’s sausage along with assorted soft cheeses and heavy-duty rye bread to put it on.

• Solomon’s Grocery & European Deli, 1939 S. Havana St., Aurora; 303-337-6454

Grade A Glazed Blueberry Fritters

When we need that over-the-top extra morning boost, we invest our calories and fat grams in one of the classic fritters at the independent Donut House in Aurora. The cake and raised doughnuts are tasty enough, but we make the pilgrimage for these fried dough wonders that have enough heft and density to stand up to blazing hot coffee without dissolving into mush. The many nooks and crannies of the fritter are deluged with glaze so there’s plenty of sugar in every single super cinnamon-y bite. There are two varieties: apple, and our personal favorite, blueberry.

• Donut House, 746 Peoria St., Aurora; 303-367-4603

Grade A Ricotta-Filled Italian Cannoli

When you name your eatery the Wholly Cannoli Cafe, you better serve an exceptional rendition of the namesake product. Luckily, this bakery and Italian-accented cafe on the southern edge of Aurora dishes a nearly perfect cannoli we grew to love on the East Coast. One bite of the crisp tubular shell filled with the traditional, lightly sweetened ricotta dotted with tiny chocolate chips and we were ready to sing “O Sole Mio” and have an espresso. While you’re there check out the soft-chewy pignoli (pine nut) cookies and take home an eggplant Parmesan grinder.

• Wholly Cannoli Cafe, 22691 Aurora Parkway, Aurora; 303-400-4110

Grade A Chicken-Stuffed Moroccan Bastilla

Cafe Paprika chicken bastilla is so good it’s even made guest appearances in our dreams … at least our culinary ones. When this savory Moroccan meat pie arrives at the table, a spice and saffron perfume teases your nose. Within crisp, golden sheets of phyllo dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon nests a warm melding of ground chicken, onions and nuts with egg custard and spices. It’s a wonderful celebratory sweet and savory dish.

• Cafe Paprika, 13160 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora; 303-755-4150

Grade A Hot Italian Sausage Sub Sandwich

Talk about links to the past! Everything about the Italian sausage sandwich at Carmine Lonardo’s hews to time-honored tradition. First, there’s the famous house-made hot Italian pork sausage flecked with lots of fennel seed and red pepper flakes. The warm sausage is tucked in a hunk of soft Italian bread and swathed in a good puree-rich tomato sauce with basil. We like it topped with a couple of slices of real Provolone cheese. Finally, it’s wrapped in white waxed butcher paper just like in the Italian-American delis of New England. The taste combination is ridiculously good.

• Carmine Lonardo’s Meat Market and Italian Deli, 15380 E. Smoky Hill Road, Aurora; 303-699-4532

Grade A Hot Hush Puppies with Barbecue Sauce

Some go to the venerable Shead’s for smoked ribs or catfish, but we go back again and again just for the hush puppies. These are essentially cornmeal-based balls the size of doughnut holes laced with corn and black pepper. Straight from the hot oil, the dense little treats are positively addictive, especially with a little of the shop’s sweet smoky barbecue sauce on the side and maybe a peach cobbler chaser.

• Shead’s BBQ & Fish, 12203 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 303-755-0818

Grade A Masala Dosa With Chutney and Raita

Forget the fact that dosas are healthy or vegetarian or that they originated in Southern India. We think if just about any Aurora diner dug into a masala dosa they’d smile and shout “yum!” At Masalaa Indian restaurant, creamy, lightly spiced mashed potatoes are tucked inside a pliable-but-crispy crepe made from rice and lentil flour cooked on a griddle. It’s comfort food of the first order. We enjoy our masala dosa with tamarind or mint chutney and cooling white raita. Others dosas enclose fried onions or are simply brushed with oodles of ghee — clarified butter. What’s not to like?

• Masalaa Indian Vegetarian Cuisine, 3140 S. Parker Road, Aurora; 303-755-6272

Grade A Chinese Pork Wontons in Red Spicy Oil

Skip the same old preparations such as sweet and sour pork when you visit China Jade. Instead, grab a copy of the special “Chinese” menu that features the really good stuff. Our go-to genuine Szechuan-style dish is wontons in red spicy oil. These having nothing in common with those cream cheese- and ”krab”-filled wontons things dished by many Chinese cafes. These are delicate pasta envelopes filled with green onion-y ground pork that are drenched in Szechuan chile-infused oil that tastes benign at first but gradually spreads warmth across your face.

• China Jade, 12203 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora; 303-755-8518

Grade A Wisconsin Bratwurst Sandwich With Sauerkraut

Sometimes we are not in the mood for cuisine. We could care less about having a culinary adventure. We just want a brat and the best place to get one in the metro area is at Bender’s, Aurora’s unpretentious bastion of Wisconsin comfort fare. They start it right by grinding pork and filling their own Sheboygan-style links. The sausages are flame-grilled and split on a fresh white bun. What you add after is your call, but we go with onions, sauerkraut and brown mustard and a side of Bender’s good, warm German potato salad. That’s a simple, satisfying pleasure.

• Bender’s Brat Haus, 700 S. Buckley Road, Aurora; 303-872-3569

Grade A Salsa Bar For Tacos, Pupusas and Tortas

It’s taken awhile but diners are finally discovering the pleasure of real Mexican food at taquerias like Tacos Y Salsas. The Aurora shop of the small local chain dishes tacos, gorditas, burritos and tortas filled with tender chopped meats in various styles including al pastor and barbacoa. We particularly like the Torta Milanesa, a griddled soft bun layered with chicken-fried beef, cheese, avocado and lettuce. What elevates this and all the other dishes is the small eatery’s extensive salsa bar featuring six types of salsas. We add a spoonful of edgy habanero salsa to our sandwich along with pico de gallo, sliced radishes and onions, chopped cilantro, and a very large squeeze of fresh lime. It’s a regular flavor carnival on your palate.

• Tacos Y Salsas, 9103 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora; 303-367-1046

Grade A Pad Kee Mao “Drunken” Noodles With Shrimp

When you order the wonderful Pad Kee Mao at Thai Street Food in Aurora, we urge caution when setting the heat level. “Medium” is more than hot enough for most folks. “Hot” will thrill most heat-seekers. If you order “Thai hot,” chef and owner Utumporn Killoran will smile a little and your brain will melt. You really want to be able to taste her exceptional “drunken noodles” made with wide rice noodles wok-ed with crisp veggies, eggs, herbs, rice wine, lots of shrimp and a few whole Thai peppers for extra oomph. You can also set the “juiciness” level from broth-y to almost dry. You will deeply appreciate that huge mug (and refills) of Thai iced tea and the other delights on this authentic menu.

• Thai Street Food, 11650 Montview Boulevard, Aurora; 303-587-2293

Grade A Coconut Custard Pie With an Espresso

Flava is nothing like your mother’s soul food restaurant. Owner Sandy Hullum kicked out the cans, cut back the salt, and makes everything from scratch. The year-old spot delivers righteous lightly fried catfish, an exceptional hand-formed burger, real fried chicken, Cheddar-y mac-n-cheese, great greens and strong iced tea. We love the eatery’s distinctive coconut custard pie jam-packed with sweet coconut and a toasted macaroon-like crown and the fact that we can enjoy it with a well-made cup of espresso or cafe au lait.

• Flava, 15343 E. 6th Ave., Aurora; 303-856-3590

Grade A Chinese Dan-Dan Noodles With A Kick

When we want to broaden the range of real Chinese dishes we always head to Chef Liu’s. On a whim we ordered dan dan noodles because they sounded tasty. Our waitress asked “Is spicy okay?” When we dug into the dish we understood why she asked. A mass of thin rice noodles in a sesame-based sauce was tumbled with tiny chunks of beef, lightly wok-ed with baby bok choy, cool cucumber slivers and a sprinkling of peanuts. The sauce had an undeniable Szechuan kick, but mainly it was a rich and complexly layered flavor that lingered. It made us want another bowl.

• Chef Liu’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine, 562 S. Chambers Road, Aurora; 303-369-2220

Grade A Seaweed-Wrapped Sizzled Spam Musubi

Make all the Monty Python jokes you like but Spam has become a stalwart ingredient on menus around the world. Nowhere is the canned meat product more revered than in Hawaii where American ingenuity intersected with Japanese culinary precision in the form of Spam musubi. At L&L Hawaiian Barbecue they layer a block of warm sushi rice with a teriyaki-seasoned slice of griddled Spam and wrapped with a band of dried seaweed. The salty pork-y, ham-y meat is balanced nicely by the rice with a hint of the sea and it makes a warm, appealing handheld snack. Other musubi can be topped with sausage, chicken cutlet or barbecue chicken, but we say Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam.

• L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, 14221 E. Cedar Ave., Aurora; 303-340-8824

Grade A Mexican Pineapple Empanadas

Walking into the recently opened Las Princesas Bakery our eyes lit up at the sight of all the familiar Mexican treats. There were the cookies of all sorts and colors and the sugared, flaky butterfly pastries so great for dunking in coffee. Rows of doughnuts competed for attention with slabs of frosted cake and cream-filled horns. We had to grab a few bolillos — soft pointy white rolls, but if we need to name a favorite we’d always pick a big empanada with sweet-tart pineapple filling.

• Las Princesas Bakery, 15343 E. 6th Ave., Aurora; 720-229-6957

Fresh slices of pie lay on display Friday afternoon, Aug. 17 near North Chambers Road and East 6th Avenue. Open almost a year in Aurora, Flava serves all-American fare including soul food as well as espresso drinks. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Today’s Colorado Table menu features a splendid repast of local food features.

• Colorado Table editor John Lehndorff profile Flava, a year-old Aurora strip-mall cafe where a fresher take on traditional Southern comfort food is attracting fans:

aurorasentinel.com/guide/colorado-table/dining/year-old-flava-takes-a-fresh-approach-to-dishing-traditional-southern-comfort-food/

• Try this recipe for Pasta Caprese Salad using fresh Colorado heirloom tomatoes:

aurorasentinel.com/guide/colorado-table/food/sample-a-dozen-varieties-from-beefsteak-to-cherry-at-taste-of-tomato/

• Colorado Food News includes the Don’t Give, Ask policy on drinking straws:

aurorasentinel.com/guide/colorado-table/food/colorado-food-news-mountain-resort-offers-mercedes-fungi-foray/

• The Colorado Food Calendar: Taste of Colorado Fried Chicken Contest; Mushroom Fest in Eagle; Taste of the Nation and more:

aurorasentinel.com/guide/colorado-table/food/colorado-food-calendar-who-cooks-the-best-real-fried-chicken-in-denver/

John Lehndorff is the editor of Colorado Table in the Aurora Sentinel, Buckley Guardian and Life Science publications and sites. He writes the Nibbles column.

• Send information about food events, classes, festivals, wine dinners and tours in the metro area and all over Colorado to: jlehndorff@aol.com.

• Facebook: Be sure to “like” the Nibbles Facebook page: facebook.com/pages/Nibbles/167864883271471

• Radio Nibbles, 8:25 a.m. Thursdays, KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and KGNU.org. Details: Weekly chat about all things culinary in Colorado (and the world) with r John Lehndorff

 

(Julia Child would have celebrated her 100th birthday this week. The fallowing appeared in a Nibbles column originally published in Yellow Scene magazine in 2009)

It was my father, the Austrian-born anesthesiologist, who turned me on to Julia Child, and not Mom, who did all the cooking. I would hear him laughing in the TV room and go in to find out what was so funny. I couldn’t believe he was watching a cooking show. Heck, in the 1960s, The French Chef was the only food show on our black-and-white Zenith.

But it was clear Dad didn’t care about the cuisine particularly. He thought of Joooo-leeeee-ahhh as a talented and hilarious stand-up cooking comedian.

All I knew at that point was that Julia made food and cooking a fun adventure. Perhaps she was the early spark that eventually led me to a culinary career.

Decades later when I finally encountered Julia Child in the flesh at a luncheon at Denver’s old Wellshire Inn, I was awestruck, but she couldn’t have been more “aw shucks” about her celebrity status. As the Daily Camera’s food editor, I got to see a lot of Julia and interview her while covering the Aspen Food & Wine Classic where she was the biggest draw at that then-obscure little event. Chicken were her constant comic foil.

In her later years, she would shuffle onto the cooking demonstration stage, shoulder’s deeply hunched and looking quite elderly. Could she still pull it off, we sadly wondered? Then she would turn on her mic and herself. She’d pick up a chicken and become magically transfigured into the familiar, dynamic, icon who always concluded with a hearty “bon appétit.”

The last time I saw Julia in Aspen, I did something that I almost never do as a journalist: I asked for her autograph. I told her I’d never cooked her recipes because I don’t usually use recipes, but I deeply appreciated what she’d done for the American palate. She asked me who the signature was for. “It’s for me,” I said. That notebook cover bearing the words “For John, Julia Child” is among my most precious keepsakes.

Dad was always supportive of my career and a little mystified about my choice. But he was never more impressed than when I showed him the autograph.

“What was she like?” he asked.

“She was Julia, just like on TV,” I said, “except much taller and really funny.”

He broke into a huge smile. I cherish that too.

John Lehndorff is the editor of Colorado Table in the Aurora Sentinel, Buckley Guardian and Life Science publications and sites. He writes the Nibbles column. For more information about food events, festivals, tastings, tours, markets and more, visit Colorado Table: aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table. Send information about food events, classes, festivals, wine dinners and tours in the metro area and all over Colorado to: jlehndorff@aol.com

• Radio Nibbles, 8:25 a.m. Thursdays, KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and KGNU.org. Details: Weekly chat about all things culinary in Colorado (and the world) with r John Lehndorff

This coconut cream pie would balance well with a wheat beer or an IPA. (AP photo)

Beer and pie. Both include some of the same basic ingredients, many homebrewers are also pie lovers, and Colorado has played a significant role in the history of craft brewing as well as American pie.

In fact, Boulder’s Charlie Papazian, who founded the annual Great American Beer Festival, also declared Jan 23 (his birthday) National Pie Day, created the American Pie Council and devised the original Great American Pie Festival.

To read more, go to Papazian’s entertaining blog: examiner.com/article/i-founded-national-pie-day-1975-so-what-does-this-have-to-do-with-beer

The blissful connection is celebrated at Dry Dock Brewing’s Pie-A-Palooza 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Aug. 12. Pie-making beer lovers are invited to submit a pie and suggest which Dry Dock ale pairs best with it. To enter: e-mail pies@drydockbrewing.com picking a pie category (Berry, Fruit, Creamy and Savory/Nut) and a beer.

• Quote Unquote: “Just remember that the best way to round out a square meal is with a triangle.” – Charlie Papazian

• Bear’s Choice: According to the Estes Park News, a bear that broke into the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Estes Park chose chocolate covered Rice Krispie Treats, peanut butter cups, the store’s special “Balls of Joy,” English Toffee and chocolate-covered cookies called “Cookie Bears.”

COLORADO FOOD INFORMATION • To find farmers markets across the state visit coloradofarmers.org/marketfind.htm and denverfarmersmarket.com/locations.htm. • For more information about food events, festivals, tastings, tours, markets and more, visit Colorado Table: aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table.

• Send information about food events, classes, festivals, wine dinners and tours in the metro area and all over Colorado to: jlehndorff@aol.com

• Radio Nibbles, 8:25 a.m. Thursdays, KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and KGNU.org. Details: Weekly chat about all things culinary in Colorado (and the world) with Colorado Table Editor John Lehndorff

New York City’s iconic barbecue event (above) is branching out for the first time with the debut Big Denver Barbecue Block Party Aug. 4 and 5 at Skyline Park in Denver. Details: bigbbqblockparty.org/denver. (Courtesy photo).

Plan ahead for a big weekend of food and beverage fun in Colorado. Here’s an amuse bouche to whet your appetite:

• Arapahoe County Fair, July 25-July 29, Arapahoe County Fairgrounds, 25690 E. Quincy Ave., Aurora. Information: arapahoecountyfair.com. Details: Activities include Baked Pie Contest (July 26), Pie Eating Contest (July 27), and Chocolate Cake Contest (July 28) • 13th Annual Rocky Mountain Tea Festival, July 28-29, Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, Boulder. Information: boulderteahouse.com/rocky-mountain-tea-festival. Details: seminars, tea dinner, kids’ tea parties, Tea and Cocktails class • Kyle’s Brew Fest, July 28, Boulder Beer Co., Boulder. Information: kylehollingsworth.com. Details: Taste String Cheese Incident’s Kyle Hollingsworth’s summer seasonal beer, Hoopla Pale Ale, plus 60 local and national craft brews. • Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, July 28-29, Sloan’s Lake, Denver. Information: cdbf.org. Details: This event provides the single best opportunity to taste cuisines from all over Asia in one place

• Colorado Food News:

The Denver Business Journal reports that Budweiser is introducing a small-batch beer named for a ZIP code in Fort Collins, where parent Anheuser-Busch operates one of Colorado’s largest breweries. The beer is Budweiser Small Batch 80524, which the beermaker describes as “a deep-gold, filtered wheat beer with 5.2 percent ABV [alcohol by volume] using lemon peel, orange peel and coriander.” The beer is brewed by Fort Collins brewmaster Katie Rippel.

• IN CASE YOU MISSED IT …….

http://www.aurorasentinel.com/guide/colorado-table/nibbles-how-i-lost-my-costco-virginity-and-found-some-good-cannoli/

http://www.aurorasentinel.com/guide/colorado-table/nibbles-culinary-roadside-attractions-along-colorados-jerky-trail/

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