Eating my way through Denver: the highlights

Hard Rock Cafe

We ate here out of sheer desperation. It was late; we were starving. The meal was a blur. I ordered the Hickory Barbecue Bacon Cheese Burger. It tasted alright. What can I say? I do recall they didn’t have cauliflower for the cauliflower burger a coworker ordered so they gave her salmon instead and didn’t charge her for the meal. The waiter carded me, and then made sure to tell me that he knew I was way over 21. Thanks, bud.

Casa Bonita

This place is not real life. First of all, it’s a cathedral in a strip mall–a cathedral that I am told is several stories, all of which are floors of this “entertainment destination.” Let me set the stage: We got out of our Uber and walked through the front doors. There was a super long line that eventually forked into two lines. The lines wound around kitschy and vaguely Mexican/Old-Timey decor. Around ever corner was a new smell, and none of those smells were food. Someone remarked that it was like being in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney Land. Eventually, after a 45 minute smell and sight overload, we made it to a cashier. We ordered some super expensive meals…starting at $15 a plate and going up from there. We kept walking. Walking. Smelling. Watching little kids licking hand rails. Finally, we made it to…a cafeteria-style conveyor belt. You grabbed a red or green tray, a set of silverware, and slide your tray along to where a little teenage girl was organizing plates of food under heat lamps and making sure customers got their food. I get to her. She slides a plate towards me…something covered in red sauce. “I ordered green sauce.” “That is green sauce.” Oook. Thanks. We continued walking, this time with our trays and plates of food. Uphill. Into the dining room. Where we waited to be seated. It was humid. Packed. There was a deep pool surrounded by fake rock walls and palm trees adorned with green Christmas lights. There were 15 year old actors “acting” out pirate skits. There was a diving show. And a fake waterfall. And an ancient arcade. Old-timey pictures. Oh, and the food. The reason we were there. It was awful. I am not being overly harsh when I say I would have much preferred Taco Bell.

Ted’s Montana Grill
We stumbled upon this place accidentally. We were looking for food carts, were running out of time, and so we settled on this place. Amazing. Handcut fries. Handformed burgers. Cute and clever waitstaff who gave me “diet whatever,” which is exactly what I ordered. “More diet whatever, Miss?” “Yassss!”  Everyone was happy with their food. I ordered a burger with jalapeno, blackberry jam, a fried egg, and bacon. Wow. My only suggestions would be to toast the buns and salt the patty a bit more. But wow. It was hard to go back to work after that meal. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Bayou Bob’s

And then it was Jenn’s turn to pick dinner. And I picked it soley because they had a portion of their menu named “Nibblins.”  Sold. We went all out here. Alligator, hushpuppies, crawfish etoufee, fried chicken, green beans, Bourbon Street chicken, crawfish stuffed mushrooms, fried pickles….It was an intense meal. My only complaint is that my dinner was over-salted. I couldn’t eat it all. But overall, this restaurant was a fun and delicious experience.

Civic Center Eats

This was our holy grail. It took us all week to find it. Several of us asked several people where this was and no one could tell us. When we got there and saw how packed and beautiful it was, we were shocked. Such a stellar place to eat and just enjoy the scenery. I got a wood-fired pizza. Perfection.

Russell’s Smokehouse
Our eyes were so big when we sat down at this place and looked at the menu.  Who doesn’t get the meat sweats purely out of anticipation? We ordered Frank’s Family meal with included: grits, pulled pork, coleslaw, smoked sausage, beans, brisket, ribs, chicken, spoon bread, and fries. It was ridiculous. So much so, I bought the three house bbq sauces and crammed them in my suitcase for the flight home. No joke.

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Sopa seca…or…what do I do with this leftover hamburger??

I have been in Denver the past week, which means I left my three kiddos home with Dad. It was an awesome week,  but I am so glad to be home. Before I left, I stocked the fridge and cabinets and made a meal plan for them to follow in my absence. On Taco Tuesday, I got a weird message from my husband that apparently was a question about where the taco meat was. It was weird; he is weird…so I ignored the message. Wah wah wah…lo and behold, the family was in dire need of hamburger (which was in the freezer), so they went out and bought more. With now thrice the required amount of hamburger, what is a husband to do with one packet of taco seasoning? He cooked one pound with the seasoning, and one pound with no seasonings. He used the seasoned stuff for tacos and the bland, gray crumbles for me to deal with when I got home.

Challenge accepted.

Have you heard of Sopa Seca? It’s the perfect dish for leftover hamburger, no doubt. Translated into English, it means dry soup. Have you ever cracked open a box of Rice-A-Roni? Or fussed over a pot of risotto? Sopa Seca has qualities shared by both. The first step to sopa seca is to brown your vermicelli noodles in some oil until nice and toasty. You can add veggies to saute as well, or bland, cooked hamburger, like I had on hand. Once the veggies are soft, vermicelli is toasted, add spices. I added Mexican Oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and garlic.

Next step is to add some liquid. I chose a smallish can of tomato sauce, mixed with some beef broth. The key is to add a bit of liquid at a time, let it boil and bubble, stir it around, add more liquid, boil, stir…until the pasta is the right texture. So it’s fussy in a way, like risotto, but you really don’t have to stir it as much as the rice dish. Just make sure it doesn’t burn or stick, because tomato sauce has quite a bit of natural sugar that loves to stick and burn.

To finish it off? Cilantro and feta cheese. Not fancy, not difficult. Delicious.

Huevos Rancheros, an exercise in commitment

Making huevos rancheros during the hottest part of the day, in the hottest room of the house, isn’t for the faint of heart. Or for the brightest person. Or for a person who doesn’t love sweat dripping and pooling in uncomfortable places. But it is for the stubborn person who wants to make something special and different from the normal dinner rotation for her family.  Stubborn, I am.  Committed to a plan even when the sweat torrents? Absolutely.

Huevos rancheros is one of those dishes I love to eat a bit more than I love to make, which might explain why I haven’t made it in awhile. Or why I might have completely forgotten it existed.  It’s one of those dishes that turns me into a short order cook, and that is not my favorite feeling, especially when it’s uncomfortably hot and I just want to eat without having to cook anything. It requires that you fry eggs to order, as well as tortillas, but if you’re up for the challenge, here we go…

Ingredients:

  • corn tortillas
  • shredded cheese of your preference
  • eggs for frying
  • red potatoes
  • This amazing red sauce
  • refried beans
  • oil/butter for frying
  • seasonings
  • cilantro

Method:

Dice up your potatoes into uniform cubes. Maybe 1 inch dice? You are going to parboil them until they are knife tender, and if you made uniform cuts, the potatoes will cook at the same rate, which is important.

Parboil potatoes in salted water.

Making the amazing red sauce. Make lots of it.  Freeze what you don’t use.  It’s easily one of the best sauces I have ever made.Keep it warming while you get the rest of the meal together.

Once the potatoes are soft-ish, drain them well.  Throw them into a hot skillet ( I prepped mine with lots of bacon grease), and season generously. I used cumin, onion and garlic powder, seasoned salt, and mexican oregano. Fry the homefries until they are crispy and completely soft on the inside.

homefries

Once sauce is done, potatoes are mostly done, heat up your refried beans, and fry your corn tortillas to your desired crispiness.

Keep them warm in the oven in a dish towel.

Fry however many eggs you will need. I like mine over easy.

Each huevos rancheros serving is one tortilla, layered with beans, cheese, potatoes, sauce, a fried egg, more sauce, and cilantro.

Here is the finished product.

huevosrancheros

This recipe can be changed up several different ways. You could change up the sauce, leave out the potatoes, change the potatoes to sweet potatoes, add sausage…the important thing is that you have some beans and an egg with an amazing sauce on a tortilla. The rest is up to you.