by Jessica on May 6, 2012
3601 Arapahoe Ave./Menu
At first glance, Pizzeria Basta’s modest location in an apartment building complex may be deceiving. Perhaps a gym, convenience store, or a takeout restaurant, but a high-end pizzeria is the last I would have expected from its small sign on 33rd and Arapahoe. But sometimes, the best things in life are hardest to find. After conquering Pizzeria Locale, Pizzeria Da Lupo and Tossa Pizza, I set out to Pizzeria Basta to complete my tour of Boulder’s finest pizzerias.
Immediately upon walking into Basta’s small yet cozy space, it was evident that this restaurant is frequented by neither students nor tourists. Instead, this wood-paneled room was filled with wine-sipping gal pals, date-night parents, and laid-back twenty-somethings, who likely lived in the apartments above. Yet despite our blatant student identity, the hostess greeted us as if we were regulars, and showed us to a small table with menus waiting.
Knowing that a carb-overload would take place later on in my culinary journey, I decided to start with a salad, logically canceling out my carbohydrate intake with a small bowl of greens. I went for the Romaine Heart Salad, mixed with oven-dried tomatoes, green olives, capers, and a lemon vinaigrette. I was truly impressed with this simple salad, perfectly balancing the flavors of the salty capers and olives, with the acidic lemon dressing and crunchy romaine. Next time I order a generic house salad at a pizzeria (only to feel better about my carb intake, of course), this will be the benchmark in which to compare it.
One of the qualities that sets Pizzeria Basta apart from the other outstanding pizzerias around Boulder is its emphasis on local, organic ingredients. Forget the Italian imported cheese, fancy tomatoes and aged spices. Pizzeria Basta crafts their genius pies solely from domestic flour, organic tomatoes, and seasonal ingredients. Nevertheless, quality and flavor are two ingredients that remain on par. For my first quest to Pizzeria Basta, I stuck to the basics with the Daisy: tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and olive oil. Nothing fancy, but nothing short of delicious. The airy yet crisp dough, obviously fresh tomatoes and lightly drizzled olive oil might still be lingering on my tongue.
Not only do I feel quite accomplished that I can now say I have tried (in my opinion) all of Boulder’s best pizza, but I feel lucky that my taste buds were able to embark on this culinary adventure. Perhaps I saved the best for last, or maybe it was just the hardest to get to, but I encourage every foodie to embark on Boulder’s pizza tour, and decide for yourself which will be your favorite. Whether its a rainy Sunday or Friday night out on the town, Pizzeria Basta is one for the short list.
by Jessica on May 1, 2012
3070 28th St./Menu
I once heard that there are three fine cuisines of the world: French, Chinese and Moroccan. When my foodie family and I ventured to Morocco a few months ago, we put this theory to the test by enjoying as much traditional cuisine as humanly possible, to the point that pizza was such a treat upon our arrival in the US. Yet four months later, my Moroccan overload had subsided, and I was craving some good couscous and tagine.
Tangier‘s location makes it easily overlooked by the typical Boulder population. Not on Pearl St. or 28th St. Mall? Does it really exist?! But the restaurant’s unassuming location in a small shopping center easily holds it own, maintaining a true Moroccan feel while perhaps sacrificing popularity.
One of my favorite things to do while trying a new ethnic restaurant is sampling a beer from that country. Though I had tried Casablanca beer before, it was just as exciting to enjoy it again.
Although my usual dinner crew has learned to be adventurous after a year of eating with me, for most of them, it was their first time trying Moroccan food. I must admit, I kind of felt like a rockstar that I knew what most of the menu meant. So they turned to me, and our gracious waiter from Casablanca, to lead them on their first Moroccan journey. So first up: eggplant salad (by no means a bowl of leafy greens, as my friends expected). Tangier made their spin on the Moroccan specialty with pureed eggplant, garlic, peppers, and plenty of spices. Its contrast from the rest of the food made it the perfect way to begin a feast.
I managed to convince my crew to share a variety of dishes, including a chicken and vegetable couscous, a chicken tajine with lemon and olives, and a vegetarian couscous tafaya with chickpeas, raisins and caramelized onions.
For the picky eater, the couscous with chicken and vegetables might be the way to go. Or even for the adventurous, I’d order this again any day. The dish was rich in flavor, combining spices like cumin, curry and turmeric, and a satisfying balance of carbs, meat and veggies. The spices are what truly make Moroccan food unique and different from any other ethnic cuisine or homemade mixed vegetable medley. Tangier hits the nail on the head and impressively balances the right spices for a wonderful dish.
No trip to a Moroccan restaurant is complete without sampling a tajine, a meat and vegetable dish slow cooked in a covered clay pot. Tonight, I stuck to a Moroccan classic: chicken tajine with olives and preserved lemon, served with peas and potatoes. While in Morocco, we constantly encountered disappointingly dry chicken. I am delighted to report that Tangier’s was far from dry, in fact it was extremely juicy and full of flavor. But beware: the tajine was served PIPING hot!
Finally, we also sampled a vegetarian couscous with chickpeas, raisins and caramelized onions. This dish was really different than anything else we ordered, and probably anything else on the menu, because of the different spices incorporated in the veggies. Instead of the standard cumin, curry and turmeric, this couscous was nutty and sweet. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, but I found it to be delicious and worth a try purely for its uniqueness.
As our upbeat waiter brought us boxes for our heaping leftover food and cleared our plates, he asked my group if any of us wanted some traditional Moroccan tea. Stuffed to the brim and eager to move on with our Friday night, each of my friends immediately replied “no” in unison. I probably would have, too, if I didn’t know how delicious and amusing Moroccan tea can be. With some minor persuasion, they gave in (they are used to my persistent, FOMO restaurant habits by now!). Delicious because of the robust yet sweet mint flavors, and amusing to watch the tea waterfall into our cups (whether on the table or on our heads) from a teapot held far above our heads. When offered tea, say yes!
Although the thought of Moroccan food may seem a little intimidating to the picky eater, Tangier’s diverse menu, wonderful staff and different yet cozy atmosphere makes it a great place to begin. Come very hungry, and leave very happy, with leftovers.
by Jessica on April 22, 2012
1221 Spruce St./Menu
Among all of Boulder’s fabulous and diverse restaurants, fine Asian cuisine is something I would never expect from this health-crazy town in the land-locked state of Colorado. Organic? No problem. Fish? Sometimes a problem. However, Amu proved me wrong one Sunday night, teaching me that Boulder does, in fact, contain this gem of an Asian restaurant, which aimed to blend traditional Asian cuisine with creative fusion dishes. (Note: if you are looking for sushi, head to their sister restaurant next door, Sushi Zanmai)
It is my belief that Amu’s complex menu, mostly in Japanese, truly aims to confuse diners. But lucky for us, our friendly and knowledgeable waitress behind the bar was ready to help us, after enjoying some brief entertainment from our confusion. We decided to order tapas style: sharing everything, and ordering one-by-one. While we waited, we enjoyed a complimentary starter of the day described as “Japanese pumpkin.” I wish I had a better explanation. It was the perfect combination of sweet and salty, soft and firm, and unlike anything else I had ever tasted.
After asking the couple sitting next to us at the bar, the waitress, and the bartender what their favorites were, the Sea Urchin Bruschetta special unanimously won every vote. I almost always order what is recommended, especially if it was recommended by multiple parties, but something about this dish freaked me out, I must admit. But after some psychological preparation, my friend convinced me that we needed it, and it was in front of us in no time. As our neighbor put it, “It tastes like the ocean, and you just can’t describe it.” To me, it was creamy, salty, rich and really unique. The warm bread was a great compliment and once I was able to move past the fact that it was orange and mushy, it really was delicious.
Next up was grilled calamari, always a favorite. I thought the presentation of this dish was beautiful and I probably could have drank the sauce alone (though my tongue might have been on fire). But for the calamari, as delicious as it was, it was a bit chewy, and perhaps could have been skipped.
Black cod to me is like red velvet cake to others: I am thrilled when I find it on a menu, and I simply can never resist this succulent treat. One thing I loved about Amu is that I wasn’t limited to tasting only the black cod, as I would be at other restaurants, because they serve their fish as small portions. And with black cod, I often find the richness to be satisfying after just a few bites. Theirs was cooked perfectly and could melt in your mouth.
Always save the best for last! Tonight, it was the jalapeño tuna with a light soy sauce. The delicately sliced and fiercely fresh fish melted in my mouth, but not before I had time to enjoy all the flavors. This dish was truly excellent, as was the beautiful and colorful presentation.
Amu is a wonderful place for both getting away from the bustle of the Pearl St. Mall (while still being close by) and treating your taste buds to something alternative. While the cuisine was eclectic, the laid back feel at the sake bar was absolutely “Boulder.” Tack this on to a foodie bar crawl, come for lunch, or take yourself out to a leisurely and luxurious dinner, this top-notch spot is not to be missed.
by Jessica on April 14, 2012
1918 Pearl St./Menu
At home, my gal pals and I are on a constant quest to discover new casual, counter-style places that deliver healthy fare at reasonable prices. Although the fairness of price is still up for dispute, Dish would absolutely be at on our lunchtime short list.
Dish’s small storefront is simple and to the point: a few tables, a case of prepared foods, and a drool-worthy chalkboard. Each line looked better than the next, from the deli basics, to gourmet creations, to clever spins on Boulder’s finest vegan and vegetarian rabbit food.
My pick of that day was the Chook, a hot sandwich stuffed with chicken breast, homemade fresh mozzarella, rosemary aioli and oven roasted tomato spread on ciabatta. When the easier asked me if I’d like to swap chips for one of their eye-candy prepared food salads, I said yes please, and chose a cold red bean salad tossed in a vinaigrette. And when asked for here or to go, I could not pass up the opportunity to take my lunch to go and enjoy it on the inviting picnic bench outside.
Everything was simply delicious. But for twelve bucks and from a store that specializes solely on sandwiches and prepared foods, I must admit that my taste buds offered a little disappointment. The lure of Dish Gourmet is a crowd-pleasing menu of lunch items and adorable little cafe on a rainy day, but the fare has room for improvement, in both price and flavor.
by Jessica on April 3, 2012
645 30th St./Menu
As my senior year is winding down and I find myself anxiously scrambling to accomplish my goal of trying every allegedly good restaurant in town (yes, it is a daunting a task), Carelli’s seemingly wound up on the top of my list.
After walking into this jam-packed, huge and noisy restaurant on a Saturday night, I was delightfully surprised by the hidden gem in a strip mall on Baseline. One look at the chandeliers and cozy fireplaces, and anyone could easily forget that they are sitting a few feet from Dairy Queen and a liquor store. And when the food came, this distinction was obvious.
I hadn’t heard much before visiting this local favorite, but the one thing that no one forgot to mention about this eatery was the homemade garlic bread, which our waitress brought over piping hot before taking our drink orders. At first my gaggle of girlfriends were wowed by the amount of crusty carbohydrates in this heaping basket of warm, buttery and garlicky bread, but it shamefully vanished within minutes.
Carelli’s vast menu undoubtedly aimed to please a range of diners, from those looking for red sauce comfort food, to those looking to broaden their culinary horizons. For an appetizer, we stuck to the basics in ordering up a large caesar salad to share. The lettuce was fresh and perfectly coated in dressing and was a great light starter to prepare our stomachs for the heavy meal to come.
Upon our waitress’ redommendation (it is impossible that anything containing pasta wouldn’t appeal to me), I struck a balance between classic and funky with the Penne Pizzaiola Mozzarella, a penne dish smothered in a light tomato broth, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and garlic, and topped with plenty (keep it comin’!) of freshly grated parmesan. The dish was simple, flavors were fresh, and pasta was al dente. However, I was disappointed by a lack of foreign flavors and in my opinion, it was one of the least traditional items on the menu. In addition, no homemade pastas in sight in this Italian eatery.
One of my friends chose to go a more basic route with the Tortellini Spinaci, tortellini baked with parmesan, romano, mozzarella and ricotta. To me, the dish resembled something to be found at Pasta Jays, a basic red sauce Italian dish laden with cheese and sauce. But of course, I’d choose Carelli’s atmosphere and reservation policy over Pasta Jays’ any day!
Although the atmosphere and solid cuisine is something to be noted, I was disappointed in the lack of creative and memorable dishes offered a lack of homemade pasta. Everything that landed on our table was surely delicious, but nothing was unique to Carelli’s, “homemade” or “farm to table” per se, or a dish that I would run back for. Yet while seeking solid Italian comfort food, Carelli’s will have a table waiting (with a reservation, or course).
by Jessica on March 20, 2012
1325 Broadway St./Menu
Regardless of what else exists in this parking lot, the strip of stores is undoubtedly referred to by most as “Cosmos.” Sure, there’s also Doozy Duds, the Hookah House and K’s China, but the spicy ranch is the king of this block. But for me, the king’s reign ended last week. until last week.
Tucked away in a small shop window, Santiago’s tiny space features no seating, a compact menu, and a trash can. Instead of fussing with table service or ambiance, this crew instead focuses their efforts on authentic burritos and breakfast burritos solely to-go. But don’t waste your energy searching the menu for avocado, hollandaise sauce or sautéed mushrooms. Instead, bask in the glory of a $2 breakfast burrito.
The only options on the breakfast menu are meat or no meat, cheese and no cheese, and one, two or three (for two bucks, my hungry pals couldn’t help but stock up). My meatless burrito was piping hot and oozing with eggs, cheese, and incredible green chili (I ordered mine medium). There wasn’t much to it, yet it managed to pack tons of flavor into a compact meal, perfect for a sunny Saturday after a night out.
My review of Santiago’s is simple, just like their food. No fuss, not snobby prices, just solid and delicious burritos to go.
by Jessica on March 11, 2012
637 A South Broadway
Just when I thought I’d conquered the Boulder fro yo scene, along comes Aspen Leaf, a lesser known joint at the intersection of Broadway and Table Mesa, begging for yogurt lovers to come enjoy its deliciousness.
It is true that often times yogurt is yogurt, and toppings are toppings, but it is then the little things that set one establishment apart from the other. At Aspen Leaf, I commend the spacious set-up, semi-creative flavors (I enjoyed the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory chocolate, watermelon, and chocolate frosted banana), unlimited samples, and gracious toppings. I especially enjoyed the big chunks of fresh fruit!
With all of CU and Boulder High frequenting Ripple on any given night of the week, Aspen Leaf presents a change of scenery and taste while guaranteeing the same satisfaction of that late night sweet tooth.
by Jessica on March 11, 2012
So much to do, so little time! For the busy foodie, it might be time to multitask with a few spots in one evening. Of course, adventurers may create any combination of Boulder’s finest hotspots, my arrangement wasn’t half bad.
Stop #1: Bacaro 921 Pearl St./ Menu
Bacaro’s variety of small plates and large cocktails was an easy pick for our first stop on the crawl. Immediately upon grabbing a stool at the bar, my partner-in-crime and I ordered up two ice cold glasses of red sangria and a little aperitif of mixed olives. Sangria is one drink that I can never resist and although Bacaro’s wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (a little on the weaker side), it is hard to pour a disappointing glass of fruity wine. Plus, this cool cocktail was ice cold and the perfect pick to be enjoyed at the bar in one of Boulder’s trendiest spots. If you can’t make it by dinner time, stop by for a lively late night bar scene, best enjoyed during summer months on their rooftop patio.
Amongst Bacaro’s large selection of tapas, pizzas, pastas, salads, etc., we boldly vowed to save our appetites by ordering two small tapas to share, the warm brie with toasted bread, and the grilled artichoke with a lemon garlic aioli. I can confidently say that Bacaro deserves props for its European-inspired carte and variety of menu items, complimented by a similarly tasteful atmosphere. Nevertheless, both dishes we sampled were good, but not great, served at a mere room temp, and not memorable.
Stop #2: Cuvee 946 Pearl St./Menu
Craving something alternative to the typical Pearl St. hangouts, a glass of wine and assortment of cheese sounded strangely refreshing. Upon entering the cozy, dimly-lit room, the overly friendly hostess (and waitress) showed us to a cozy two-person table just adjacent to the piano, which was just beginning to entice diners with some laid-back tunes.
Though, truthfully, I am easy to fool, Cuvee’s wine list and knowledgeable server seemed to be top-notch. Check plus: a wine bar that delivers! Every restaurant serves wine, but what set aside Cuvee as a wine bar to me was wine pairings for every item on the menu and a paragraph describing each glass. To the amateur wine-taster, these Spark Notes came in very handy, and allowed us to enjoy two excellent glasses of wine!
Unfortunately, it seemed to me that Cuvee’s menu sacrificed consistent quality for creativity. With items ranging from a Smoked Salmon Pizza to Sticky Apricot Bites, lucky for us a little cheese was the only thing on our minds. However at a wine bar, I would have expected more options to customize the plate, or at least be sure to delivery a superior product. Yet to our dismay, the plate was average, at best, crowded with some dried fruit and nuts, slices of bread, a mild goat cheese, Spanish manchego, brie, and something French and smelly (after living in France for 6 months, smelly cheeses rarely phase me, but this was SMELLY).
If a glass of wine and some live piano is what’s on your mind, look no further. But for the empty belly and curious eater, opt for another one of Pearl St.’s stellar selections.
Stop #3: The Bitter Bar 835 Walnut St./Menu
Often in life, the best things come last: dessert, senior year, and the Bitter Bar. Tucked away off the bustle of the Pearl St. Mall, this gem could easily go unnoticed. But once you step foot inside, unnoticed is the last thing you will become in Boulder’s newest trendy hot spot. No steezy students, hazy hippies or havoc-wreaking high schoolers in sight here. Instead, look out for designer jeans, dating youngsters, and the finest and most fabulous people watching in town. And after one of their powerful cocktails, I could have been easily convinced that this swanky social scene was in New York, Las Vegas, or Tokyo.
As a college student, I often pride myself in my ability to expertly select the ideal cocktail off any drink list. Yet after about five minutes of blankly staring at the menu (was it even English?!), the knowledgeable bartender quickly observed the panic on our faces and came to our rescue. The Bitter Bar swapped out Cosmopolitans and Mojitos for bourbon with spiced apple cider ice cubes and whiskey with cayenne-pepper infused maple syrup. So our new friend surveyed our preferences (we indicated vodka and tequila) and quickly poured, spritzed and garnished two delicious creations. Both were truly unlike any cocktail I had ever had before, and mysteriously were sinfully sweet while surprisingly strong. And I hate to say it, but each was well worth the ten+ bucks.
Because this was the last stop on our crawl, we didn’t roll into the Bitter Bar until after 11pm, leaving us with just enough time to satisfy our sweet tooth. Among all the fancy menu items on the dessert page, there was something irresistible about the foodie spin on a childhood classic: S’mores. Forget the Hershey’s and Jet Puffed, the Bitter Bar sandwiched a massive toasted vanilla bean marshmallow and plenty of organic milk chocolate between two cinnamon graham crackers. It was so good, I didn’t care when the beautiful hipsters hovering over the bar were watching the crumbs tumbling out of my mouth as I attempted to tackle this finger food.
When S’mores season rolled around during my pre-teen summers, I always solicited a buddy to build my treat for me. The best part about the Bitter Bar? A perfectly toasted marshmallow, plenty of chocolate, all made my someone else, but enjoyed by me.
With dozens of options all within blocks of each other, a restaurant/bar crawl is the ideal alternative evening for any hungry or thirsty local, tourist, or student. From small plates at Bacaro, to cheese at Cuvee, to bliss at the Bitter Bar, this itinerary made for the perfect night on the town.
by Jessica on February 20, 2012
2400 Arapahoe Ave./Menu
Move over frozen yogurt, upscale pizzerias are taking Boulder by storm! Tossa Pizza is one of Boulder’s newest additions to the pizza family, but this rookie is not to be overlooked.
Tossa seeks to create a welcoming atmosphere suitable for daters, families, and friends. On Valentine’s Day, it was just about the only spot in Boulder willing to take a last minute party of my girlfriends and I. Given that it was Valentine’s Day, my single soul sisters and I found it appropriate to indulge. Luckily, Tossa’s hefty menu (including small plates, salads, pizzas, pastas and wine) and humble prices favored our appetites and wallets.
When was the last time you saw anything on a menu for two bucks? I’m not talking a side of bread or a happy hour plate of olives, but a real dish with prominent real estate at the top of the page. Well, my friends, here it is: the Tuscan White Bean Dip, served with their signature house-baked bread and drizzled with Italian olive oil. This was the perfect way to satisfy our hunger while the real stuff bubbled in the oven. The bread was fluffy, warm and perfectly spiced, and dip was rich, creamy and yummy with the basil, tomatoes and EVOO.
We also opted to try the Warm Olives tossed with herbs, olive oil and citrus, also served with their brilliant bread. I was first introduced to olives served warm last week, so I insisted that my olive-virgin friends give them a fair shot. I quickly became very popular. Though not quite the same bargain as the dip, it was equally delicious. Yet among all the delicacies that landed on our table throughout the evening, perhaps it could have been skipped.
In an effort to balance our shameful carb intake with some greens, we also opted for a salad. We ordered one of the specials of the day, a romaine salad tossed with fresh mozzarella, garbanzo beans, parmesan cheese, roasted red and yellow peppers, olives, Tuscan roasted chicken, and their specialty scrumptious sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. It was the perfect combination of special toppings, without it taking over the salad and becoming too filling.
And finally, the big hoorah: pizza! Tossa’s menu is rather short and sweet for a pizza joint, but also allows diners to customize any pie to their liking. For the quality and size, I’d say their menu boasts knockout prices. My group settled on one of their specialty pizzas, a large Mushroom and Truffle Arugula salad pizza. Piled on top of the fluffy dough (white pizza) were mushrooms, parmesan, mozzarella, aged provolone, fresh basil, fresh arugula, truffle oil, and some more parmesan. My recent philosophy is that truffle oil makes everything better, so combined with mouth-watering dough and other fresh ingredients, this pie was sublime.
Within the niche of Boulder’s upscale pizzerias, Tossa gets my vote for takeout. The atmosphere is lacking and food is not as gourmet as Pizzeria Locale, but for a true foodie, skip Cosmos and head to Tossa (hold the spicy ranch).
by Jessica on February 18, 2012
1801 13th St. #120/Menu
Prior to seeing their ad on Groupon the other day (regretfully, I didn’t purchase it), I had never even heard of this small lunch spot in downtown Boulder. In fact, the only reason I even discovered it was because we went ice skating on the temporary rink right outside (also highly recommended!). Though I can imagine the Market being filled to the brim with lunching workers, I was surprised it was not a more popular student hangout. But for my crew, it might be from now on.
Immediately upon walking in, I loved the casual, communal-style dining. So Boulder. Ya, ya, ya. But for lunch, you’re supposed to be talking to your neighbor!
The menu was diverse in sandwiches, not in categories. One of the most shocking elements of the Boulder Creek Market was, in fact, their creative and hard-to-find sandwich options, such as ostrich and buffalo. Nevertheless, my friend and I bargained to share a chicken and a turkey. I know, kind of lame.
First up, and my personal favorite, the Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Panini, loaded with chicken breast, sun-dried tomatoes, monterrey jack cheese and basil pesto, pressed on Foccacia bread. When I think of my dream sammie, here it is. Though not the best I’ve had (I typically can’t resist when I see this combo on a menu), it was pretty damn good. And its no surprise considering they use only freshly-baked bread, quality ingredients, and made with love by the smiling man in the kitchen.
We also shared the Picante Turkey Panini, packed with gourmet turkey, pepperjack cheese, and chipotle mayo. I must admit, this sandwich achieved no where near the level of satisfaction that the above produced. But look at that oozing cheese! Nothing with that much gooey cheese could be bad. Perhaps I would have loved some more veggies or tasty ingredients, but it was still pretty delicious.
Last up, customer service. Often this goes unnoticed in busy establishments. But at the Boulder Creek Market, this is clearly a priority. Immediately upon walking in, the cashier engaged us in conversation and was ready to answer any questions we had about the menu, and I always have plenty. Upon payment, he proudly announced that they offer free drinks on Saturdays. And here’s the kicker…he offered us to help ourselves to free gummy bears while we waited. COME ON! They probably could have fed us dog food for lunch and my (21 year old) friends and I would have continued to drool over the free candy. But luckily, the food was far above par!
There are plenty of great sandwich spots in Boulder, but none of them offer stellar service, complementary drinks on Saturdays, and free gummy bears while you wait. Pair some ice skating with Boulder Creek Market, and it sounds like a pretty epic day.