Ah, summer vacation! Spending all day at a cool lake, leisurely mountain drives, cocktails at sunset with buddies, and ambling down exotic streets.
This summer, except for covering two fine music festivals, I haven’t been able to vacate. Not to worry. While I didn’t go anywhere, my taste buds have jet lag from a series of Aurora international adventures.
Besides chile-fueled encounters in Aurora with pork larb at Thai Street Food, pork wontons at China Jade, and the Thursday Night Super Kolaveri Dinner Buffet at Jai Ho Indian Restaurant, my buds and I took some memorable Aurora side trips:
• I really liked the Torta Milanesa dished at Tacos Y Salsas, 9103 E. Colfax Ave. in Aurora. Inside the griddled soft bun was layered almost chicken-fried breaded beef with cheese, avocado and lettuce. Also getting applause was a pupusa, a white corn griddle cakes middled with bean and cheese and curtido on top. But what keeps me coming back to this eatery is the self-service salsa bar featuring six types of salsa, all flavorful, ranging from mild to seriously fiery, plus pico de gallo limes, sliced radishes and onions and chopped cilantro. Regardless of what you order here you can end up having a raucous flavor party in your mouth.
• I’ve never met salumi I wouldn’t sample and at Solomon’s Grocery & European Deli, 1939 S. Havana St. in Aurora, I took a taste tour. This was mainly because the owner of this compact Eastern European establishment kept handing me tastes. First it was “the best balogna in the world” and his favorite Estonian summer sausage, both excellent. I made the mistake of noting how similar the balogna was to Italian mortadella. “No, NOT the same,” said the owner. “It’s better.” I wasn’t going to argue. Besides, I was distracted by the Lithuanian bacon, the smoked pork loin, the Russian candies, hunter’s sausage, dried fish and heavy-duty rye bread and frozen dumplings. By the way, salumi (not salami) is the overall term for preserved meats ranging from prosciutto to pepperoni.
• As a veteran pie judge and fan, I’m always dubious when I see a “homemade pie” sign. Often the only homemade part is that the restaurant bakes a frozen pie in their “home” oven. Yet I can’t help stopping in just in case, as I did when I drove past Mama’s Cafe, serving fare 24/7 at 2001 E. Colfax Ave. in Denver.
“Who made the pies?” I asked. The waitress pointed to a lovely white-haired lady sitting off in a corner. “She makes pie almost every day,” she said. I got a slice of strawberry rhubarb to go. “That’ll be $4.99 plus tax,” she said. “For a single slice of pie!” I exclaimed with a grimace. Don’t worry. It’s really like two slices,” she said.
Back in the car I opened the foam clamshell to see a huge wedge densely packed with fruit. This was classic, unpretentious farm-style pie with a flaky Crisco crust that was light on the salt and dusted with cinnamon sugar. The not-too-sweet filling was loaded with visible chunks of rhubarb. Half the “slice” evaporated before I left the parking lot.
For some fancypants foodies, this pie won’t be “artisan” enough. For me, the taste was like the sigh of relief you feel when you come home happy from a great vacation.
Chill Yogurt is open at 2275 S. Peoria St. in Aurora. … Firehouse Subs recently opened its first Aurora store at 24300 E. Smoky Hill Rd. … Yong Gung Chinese Restaurant is open at 2040 S. Havana St. in Aurora. … Teremok Russian Crepes Cafe has closed at 4511 E. Alameda Avenue in Aurora.
• John Lehndorff is the editor of Colorado Table. He hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and kgnu.org). Read more Nibbles and other food features at aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table. Send comments to: email@example.com. Be sure like the Nibbles Facebook page.