Snooze

by Jessica on October 19, 2012

1617 Pearl St./Menu

★★★★★

There is irony in the idea that a space called “Snooze” was beyond jam-packed on a Saturday morning before noon (Note: arrive early!). Of all the adjectives to describe a restaurant, “a snooze” would be the last one I would pick to describe this hip eatery on Pearl’s East End.

Snooze’s trendy but retro vibe is unlike any other breakfast, lunch or dinner joint in the town. Much of the menu features traditional items such as Niman Ranch Cage Free eggs or pancakes, but throws in an unexpected kick like stuffing eggs into tacos or topping the pancakes with frosting. And when you see the pancake menu, it is a guarantee that you won’t be able to resist.

Allow me to introduce you to the Pancake Flight, Snooze’s brilliant option to allow salivating diners to sample a variety of creative pancakes. My friends and I decided to share a flight as an appetizer (yes, we ordered an appetizer at breakfast) because we simply couldn’t resist. We crafted our flight with a red velvet (red velvet buttermilk batter topped with espresso infused maple syrup, a touch of cream cheese frosting and chopped pecans), a pumpkin pancake of the day (pumpkin batter topped with pumpkin maple cream, drizzles caramel and toasted pumpkin seeds), and a sweet potato (their signature sweet potato buttermilk pancakes topped with homemade caramel, pecans and ginger butter). Each one was equally as succulent and rich, and the concept was truly unique.

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Now on to the real stuff. With every single item on the menu jumping out at me, my impeccable waitress made up my mind for me: the Sandwich I Am, an Udi’s soft pretzel roll filled with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and a sausage/chicken sausage patty, served with a side of smoked cheddar hollandaise & house hash browns. Forget the typically flavorless breakfast sandwiches stuffed between a dry english muffin. This one packed extreme flavor from the smokiness of the fluffy roll and the spices loaded into the chicken sausage patty. To make it even better, I chose to add portabellas from the extensive list of menu add-ons. To me, this dish wad just about perfect.

Along with the crazy pancakes, Snooze also specializes in benedicts. Though this dish never seems to appeal to me, I was able to get up close and personal with my friend’s open-faced sandwich. Lindsey opted for the Ham Benedict III, their classic benedict starting with an English muffin, then topped with shaved hickory smoked ham, perfectly poached Niman Ranch Cage Free Eggs and smoked cheddar hollandaise. If you’re a benedict person, I’d bet it is hard to go wrong with any of their concoctions. She devoured hers in minutes.

And finally, the last creation that we got to sample: the breakfast tacos. Natalie chose to have hers in corn tortillas, stuffed with scrambled eggs, shredded hash browns, jack cheese, and ranchero sauce and served with a side of arugula salad. Imagine untraditional Mexican meets classic breakfast. Perhaps it was because she selected corn as opposed to flour tortillas, but this dish was not something I would shout from the treetops about. Despite my disappointment in the flavors and consistency, Snooze still has my vote on creativity and quality.

I visited Snooze nearly six weeks ago and I am still dreaming about the mouth-watering pancakes, satisfying flavor-blasted breakfast sandwich, flawless service and upbeat yet laid-back vibe (music: check plus). As soon as I was convinced that this place belonged far from Boulder, our check arrived.

Carelli’s

by Jessica on October 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.

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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).

Gondolier

by Hayley Hudson on November 21, 2011

1600 Pearl St / menu

Last Monday was Valentine’s Day. By mid-week, it was time for me to sit down for a real meal at a nice restaurant since 1) I failed to do so on the holiday itself and 2) My fridge could only offer me a stalk of broccoli and some leftover chocolate hearts.

I went to Gondolier envisioning what I was going to order. I first tried the restaurant last year and ate pasta so memorable that I knew I wanted to go back specifically for that dish. It took me a year to get around to it, but still. During that first dinner, our server had asked my three female friends and I if it was prom night. I think our general youthful zest for life and maybe the dresses we were all wearing led her to draw that conclusion.

This time around, I dined with a guy. We dressed down to avoid confusion and started our meal with a beer.

Left Hand Sawtooth Ale

This beer reminded me of Fat Tire, which is also an amber ale, but with a more pronounced bitterness. I’m not a beer expert, but in the Sawtooth the flavor was definitely noticeable. If you like your beer bitter, you should try this one. If you aren’t sure if you like your beer bitter, you could try this, see if you do, and start using beer terms like “bitter” to impress a girl, guy, future employer, prom date, etc.

Our entrées were next.

Chicken Frittura Picatta

The chicken was breaded then sautéed in white wine and butter with capers, tomatoes, artichokes, red onions, and lemon. Hiding underneath all that was a bed of capellini with a side of fresh steamed vegetables, served just how I remembered.

I always appreciate creative pasta dishes that have more going on than just noodles, sauce, and cheese, and this one included interesting flavors thanks to the lemon and capers (Capers are those little green balls that come on lox bagels and taste like vinegar. My friend had never heard of them.)

Classic can certainly be delicious, but Gondolier doesn’t limit their guests to the usual suspects. They have pizza, pasta, and paninis, but they can also cook up spinach gnocchi, slow-cooked pork with mashed potatoes, and lots and lots of seafood–options that dig a little deeper than your standard Fettuccine Alfredo.

Someone ordered that anyway.

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Comida

by Hayley Hudson on November 13, 2011

We descend from hunters and gatherers, and nothing awakens the ancestral urge to forage for food quite like a food cart (or a bright pink food truck).

Where can I find it? Will I be able to find it? A fight-or-flight surge of adrenaline accompanies the search for Comida, which serves up Mexican street-style delicacies to those who seek them.

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They don’t actually make you hunt it down in the true sense of the word since their Facebook, Twitter, and website clearly list when and where to find the colorful, taco-dispensing vehicle. Even so, their limited hours and the fact that they could drive away at any second adds a danger element missing from stationary restaurants.

You can spot Comida founder Rayme there in the window. She’s friendly, ready to assist in menu choices, happy to customize orders, and now has a picture of me taking a picture of her truck somewhere on her camera.

I followed her ordering advice to a T and wound up with this stash.

Carnitas taco, Fish taco, Steak taco, Horchata

A smoky sweet potato mash and juicy pineapple salsa accompanied the carnitas, the fish taco contained the traditional cabbage garnish as well as orange slices, cilantro, and a creamy sauce, and the steak paired itself with crunchy pico de gallo. Every combination just tasted right.

Second only to the happy marriages of flavors within each taco were the seemingly unbreakable tortillas. It’s not an easy feat for the corn-based variety to refrain from drying out, but no amount of filling could cause these to crumble.

Comida also makes their own horchata, a rice-based drink spiced with cinnamon and served iced. It’s slightly sweet but not overly so, and it provided me with some liquid refreshment as I inhaled my meal on a bench near the food source. My one regret is failing to savor more, but every good scavenger quickly removes traces of any edibles acquired. After all, there’s no telling where your next meal might come from.

Unless you check Facebook.

Alfalfa’s

by Jessica on November 10, 2011

1651 Broadway St.

★★★★★

When neighborhood favorite Whole Foods went out on this busy corner, perfectly situated between downtown and the Hill, I thought my depression might last forever. But alas, Alfalfa’s swooped in to save the day! As an almost identical substitute, boasting similar prepared foods, grocery, etc., Alfalfa’s demonstrates a similar replacement to beloved Whole Foods, just a mildly lesser selection.

On a cold day, look no further than Alfalfa’s cozy living room, but be sure to snag the table in front of the fire. Contrasted with several other of Boulder’s most cozy study/snack environments, Alfalfa’s was nearly empty and without a student in sight. Nowadays, that seems almost impossible.

Similar to Whole Foods, Alfalfa’s provides a great selection of meal options, including soups, salad bar, creative Asian/sushi counter, pizzas, coffee bar, gelato, bakery and more. But on this snowy day, I headed right for the soups, and ladled myself a heaping bowl of bean chili with a soft roll.

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After requesting a paper cup from the coffee counter, I helped myself to samples of all the different soups before making my decision. They advertise customer service, right? That day, the soup counter included options such as chicken tortilla, chicken noodle, butternut squash, kale/quinoa/butternut squash, turkey chili, and more. The bean and corn chili that I selected really was more like a salad than a soup, which on a cold day, was the perfect thing to warm up. The flavor balance was great while still maintaining a fresh and healthy feel. Better yet, my rosemary fluffy roll was perfect for dunking.

Though the quality of food at Alfalfa’s is undoubtedly superior, they draw loyal customers because of variety, a welcoming environment, and guaranteed satisfaction with their products. Diners could visit the market daily and never try the same thing twice, perhaps that is how they keep the crowds steady. But if for nothing more, be sure to check out Alfalfa’s delicious soups, best enjoyed next to the gas fire.

Mateo

by Emily Kane on October 24, 2011

1837 Pearl Street

★★★★

After opening in 2001 Mateo has quickly become one of Boulder’s most popular upscale restaurants. Based on Provencal French food, Mateo brings a little bit of France to Boulder. And with an extensive French and Italian wine list it has something for every self proclaimed sommelier.

To begin, I ordered the mussels (moules). Like Radda, Chef Matthew Jansen’s other restaurant, the mussels are served in a tomato garlic wine sauce, as opposed to the traditional white wine butter sauce. I really love this alternative sauce and the subtle spice adds an unexpected element to the dish. With plenty of mussels to be shared, this was a perfect appetizer to warm up the palate (and the sauce is perfect for dipping!).

Next, I ordered the salade verte. A simple plate of butter lettuce arrived topped with walnuts and a dijon viangrette. After the mussels, the simplicity was a nice break between larger courses.

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For my main entree I ordered the Mateo Burger. The thick patty arrived smothered in caramelized onions, gruyère cheese, and tucked between two large buns. The gruyère cheese and onions were a wonderful mix and a really nice alternative to the traditional cheddar. Although not a traditionally French dish, the aioli sauce (a French garlic mayonnaise) turned the American burger into Provencal fare. The burger patty itself was heartily sized and packed with juicy flavor. It was most definitely one of my favorite burgers I’ve had in Boulder.

Although titled “pot de creme,” this desert was more reminiscent of chocolate lava cake. Underneath the warm layer of chocolate cake, the interior was bursting with a liquid fudge and topped with cold crème anglaise. This dessert was rich enough for a king!

The upscale atmosphere at Mateo caters to an older clientele and is a perfect location for business dinners or casual get-togethers. With impeccable service and fantastic food, I highly suggestive Mateo the next time you’re feeling a longing for the French countryside!

Rueben’s

by Hayley Hudson on October 11, 2011

1800 Broadway

My Rueben’s burger strayed a bit from the restaurant’s norm. When I visited last night and read the menu’s selection of burger after gourmet burger, I somehow ended up choosing the most basic thing on the menu. After completing my undergraduate college career last week, maybe I felt overwhelmed at the thought of even more choices.

It was back to basics for me, and the “Training Wheels” (how embarrassing) came with the simple garnishes of red onion, pickles, lettuce, and tomato.

Maybe it wasn’t the most impressive choice, but Rueben’s take on the traditional burger hit the spot. The toppings were crisp and the meat juicy, and the spinach and beet side salad added refreshing crunch.

Since we came on a Tuesday, every burger on the menu was $3 off. They are a bit pricey, so I highly recommend taking advantage of this deal. My burger was the cheapest on the menu and cost $9 without the discount. It is worth noting that they’re priced as such because they are high-quality–the beef is all locally grown in Colorado.

Here’s a shot of one  of the fancier burgers. The Mont Ventoux came with french fries stuffed inside the bun and topped with a fried egg.

Most of the menu is more in line with this choice as far as the crazy toppings go. One comes with pancetta, oven-roasted beets, pepperjack cheese, and avocado ranch sauce, and all of them have cute names, which I always appreciate.

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What’s more, Rueben’s serves a wide variety of Belgian beers, both imported and local, and they even offer three gluten-free brews. The interior is decorated to appeal to cyclists, and I imagine that a beer and a burger would be especially satisfying after a long bike ride. It tasted good after a day of sitting, too, in case you were wondering.

No matter where your taste lies on the spectrum of burger adventure, you will definitely find something to please your palate at Rueben’s.

Lollicup

by Emily Kane on September 17, 2011

1142 13th Street

★★★

Bubble tea, traditionally known as Pearl Milk Tea, originated in Taiwan in the 80′s and has become increasingly popular in the US.

The “bubbles” in bubble tea are small balls of tapioca starch, referred to as “boba,” and can be added to any of the teas sold at Lollicup. Boba adds a little excitement, and burst of flavor, to your tea. On my last visit, I ordered a thai milk tea, sometimes called thai iced tea, with boba for a bit of a sugar buzz. The tea is a strong black tea, reminiscent of chai, and the addition of milk adds a rich creamy element. My tea was fantastic but after a while the overwhelming number of boba seemed to get in the way of my tea experience. Next time I will be sure to ask them to go a little lighter on the boba.

In addition to their myriad teas, Lollicup also has a small menu of dim-sum options. This time around I tried the chicken pot stickers and shrimp dumplings. The chicken pot stickers were piping hot and full of flavor. I was also excited to discover the dipping sauce that accompanied them was filled with chopped chives and bits of ginger! While I thoroughly enjoyed my pot stickers, in all their deep fried goodness, I was not particularly fond of the shrimp dumplings. Oddly sticky and a little too fishy for my taste, I was disappointed by the lack of flavor in such a promising item.

 

 

 

 

 

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With countless tea options, both with milk and without, and a variety of blended smoothies and coffee drinks, Lollicup is perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up!

Modmarket

by Andrew Woodman on September 3, 2011

1600 28th Street
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 440-0476
Modmarket’s menu

Modmarket has a salad bar that could make even the most carnivorous of animals weak in the knees.

It’s better in person, too…and it’s not even the most impressive part about their salad department. After I ordered a small Thai Coconut Salad [$6.50 small, $8.75 large], the first question that the girl preparing my salad asked was, “light, medium or heavy dressing?” What a genius question. I chose medium, and indeed, she dressed it to those exact specification. As I was about to pay I picked up an organic, Austin, TX-made sweet tea made by Sweet Leaf [link:http://www.sweetleaftea.com/] just because the label was so awesome. It was so good I had to prevent myself from slurping down the entire bottle in one gulp just so I could enjoy it for more than a few seconds.

The salad took 3-4 minutes to prepare, and was incredibly refreshing. And although the title implies that “Thai” inherently means “involving peanuts,” the peanut & mango dressing was pure perfection. It was the ideal mix between an oriental flavor and the ability to keep my daily sodium intake below 500%. Modmarket added some salad treasures to a mixed green base: chicken, shredded sweet potato, grated coconut—and best of all—peeled, perfectly crunchy cucumbers. I can’t even emphasize how good the cucumbers are at Modmarket without devoting an entire post to them. Another time (probably not). Also, keep in mind: I got the small salad… That makes the large size seem like it would be suitable for a man looking to win a salad eating contest, for only $8.75!

Modmarket’s open kitchen extends beyond a salad bar and into the realm of the typical cafe food items: gourmet sandwiches, brick oven pizzas and homemade soups. Let’s not forget the copious amounts IZZE (amongst other naturally sweetened sodas), craft beer and wine bottles displayed on the back wall. To their convenience, it perfectly fits into their simple, modern decor.

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Oh and check out the most indie fountain drink dispenser of all time. A hyperbole? Yes, but close enough to truth that it’s okay. I mean, look at it:

One more thing before I wrap this awesome experience up. My roommate Matt pointed out to me that the receipt shows the nutritional content of the food you order. Whether or not you actually care about this, it’s some pretty awesome cutting-edge receipt technology. My Japanese friend Hiro would label this an example of “American hi-tech.”

I love open kitchens, and I love cafe food. If you do too, you’ll love Modmarket.

 

 

Aji

by Hayley Hudson on September 2, 2011

1601 Pearl Street / menu

Life is full of surprises. On Sunday night, I quickly showered and threw on whatever clothes I could find first so I could go meet a male friend for a quick bite to eat at Modmarket. I thought a casual atmosphere, a crisp salad, and some conversation would make for a lovely evening.

He showed up at my house and we started walking to his car… or so I thought. After a few blocks of silently cursing my neighborhood’s awful parking situation, he opened a door. I looked up, saw a sign that said Aji, and realized he was leading me into a restaurant. Somehow communication had broken down and it became apparent that my Modmarket dreams would remain just dreams.

When we sat down, our server brought us a banana bread and cornbread appetizer compliments of the chef.

Two flavored butters accompanied them; the one in front had a spicy kick and went well with the cornbread. I was a little unsure about eating banana bread as a first course, but this one had a drier texture and tasted less sweet than the traditional dessert or breakfast bread.

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Even though I had entertained (really serious) thoughts of a salad earlier, I couldn’t pass up tamales, especially zucchini and bell pepper tamales served with red quinoa and butternut squash puree.

Vegans, this dish is for you. Although finding vegan choices in Boulder isn’t necessarily challenging, I’m still impressed by a meatless and cheeseless dish at a Latin American place. Although that region of the world loves its cheese, I didn’t detect any compromise in taste as a result of its omission. I did, however, want more squash puree. It seemed as though it had been included mainly as a decoration, but it might have been my favorite part.

My friend ordered a chicken and gnocchi dish. He also paid for my dinner. I guess Modmarket wasn’t an appropriate choice for this event, which transformed from a  casual get-together into a date right before my eyes. Our meal was great, though, so I can’t complain. Besides my wet hair that I had slicked back with a workout headband, something borderline inappropriate at a sit-down restaurant that serves fancy butter, I have no regrets following this unexpected trip to Aji.

Pizzeria Basta

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.

Tangier Moroccan Cuisine

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.

Amu

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.

Dish Gourmet

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.

Santiago’s

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.

Aspen Leaf Yogurt

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.

The Ultimate Bar Crawl

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.

Tossa Pizza

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).