Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Product-testing a go-go: Goulash Cream Hot!, East Europe Market

The opportunity DIY product testing provides of (potentially all too) rip-roaring culinary adventure for the household consumer doesn’t get its due; I hereby aim to change that by putting it in titular thigh-highs. How’m I doing so far?

Way back in May when I bought this stuff during my 1st visit to the East Europe Market (which I now visit weekly to stock up on malidjano, aka Balkan baba ghanoush—a different label each time for comparison’s sake—so I can slop gobs of it in all its eggplant-based glory on top of just about anything),


I wondered at its awkward packaging, insofar as a tube depicting flames is bound to give any sufferer of inflammation in hard-to-reach areas pause, while a tube depicting specifically the flames of a campfire while adding to the equation the portrait of a rough rider with a moustache & a wink just for you suggests uses that go far beyond the kitchen, perhaps all the way to Brokeback Mountain. At any rate it doesn’t immediately, to me, jibe with the claim on the back:

“Delicious. Use with any stew or meat. A great food enhancer in its hot or mild forms. Saves money on spices.”

Nevertheless, while making a simple tomato sauce for spaghetti squash last night, I decided to squirt some into the pot & see what came of it.

It looked as expected, catsupesque (never you mind what my finger looks like in the current context);


it tasted like paprika-spiked salt. Red, squishy paprika-spiked salt. That’s about all I can say for it, though it did give the sauce a little kick while making the addition of more salt unnecessary—sure enough saving money on spices.

Cool stuff in my house (Part 7, with a plug for Divino)

Old thrift-store cookbooks filled with the marginalia &/or inserts of former owners unknown—with the disquiet of tales told in fragments & the juxtapositions thereof.


Movies screened via projector so I can almost, say, belly up to the sausage-chomping slob behind the bar in Fritz Lang’s speakeasy in M


to order liverwurst on black bread


& a nip not unlike a fave I discovered a couple of years back & rediscovered last week at Divino—Bak’s Zubrówka bison-grass vodka, clean & meadow-redolent. Club soda only highlights its bright velvetiness, like dew on fields of green you frolic in come sunrise. When you’re drunk.


Wine Poem 4, with notes on a bottle of 2006 Qupé Marsanne from Divino

With a single whiff of this Santa Ynez Valley blend of marsanne & roussane,  the words “flowering date palm” formed in my head in swaying pastel letters. A sip, meanwhile, conjured ripe apricots.

I’m aware my newfound capacity for specificity w/r/t wine tasting  does not necessarily translate into a knack for accuracy. I do feel some vindication upon discovering that 1 critic detects notes of “hazelnut and a trace of honey. Subtle, floral-accented quince and white peach.” Close enough. But if I’m lucky this poem could be even closer.


Wine Poem 4

Perhaps happens. All it is could be.
Another word for it would be—
maybe it’ll come to me—
Granted shape is just a phase. Granted form—
goblet, tumbler, bottle in the dark,
amarone in the gloaming and a body
clad in black—just inserts itself between
to and from, from and to, abstract to
the touch, concrete as thought.
So it seems in light of these say
libationsin the
the bare flicker, the slight gyre
of their bilabials one icy eve.
Grape, grape, barbaresco, primitivo,
after such anticipation the
first sip nearly hurts,
a little bit, a touch,
like on certain liquids you could cut your lip,
the way of fluid having after all an edge

When the wine winds down,
nearly is nearby, the word is not to be.
I want everything, nothing included.


Brown-butter bread pudding with mulberries and milk jam
sounds like sculpture.
The heart is its own brain.
The heart pauses, then hesitates.
Something’s on the tip
of the heart’s tongue, the heart taps
fist to brow to jar
a memory into place. Perhaps
it’s a name, the name is not Claude Muchmore, it is not
Javier Flores, it cannot be
Soso Kokynos, maybe it’s a place
by the sea, by the wayside, over yonder.
It thinks, I’ve heard this song
for twenty-something years,
the heart knows the lyrics by heart
(one night in Iowa, he and I in a borrowed car)…
The heart has hips and sways. The heart has lips and applies
its own pressure, its own logic, its own balm.
The heart acknowledges the dichotomy
between mind and body mind and body
barely acknowledge
and in the moment
of so doing wrinkles and shrinks
into a golden raisin.
things is coming to not terms but blows.

Tidbits: Snooze, Beatrice & Woodsley, Jaya, Urban Pantry, East Europe Market

Behold some eats that slipped through the cracks of one relatively recent blogpost or another if not of my meticulous gut:


pulled piglet’s benedict at Snooze

From the neat script logo to the asterisk motif marking the two-tone vinyl, this place sometimes sets my teeth on wink-wink-retro-edge. But what soothes them like a plate full of Anbesol is this: a hot, buttered, darkly crisped but super-chewy English muffin topped with perfectly poached eggs, plump-to-bursting like bellies that you just want to tickle ’til they do, loads of slow-braised pulled pork (one associates pulling with barbecuing, but really, it just means removing the meat from the bone using something other than a knife—hands, a fork, etc.—so it’s in shreds rather than slices), sliced avocado & smoked-cheddar hollandaise that actually tastes like a hollandaise gone wild rather than cheese dip.

lamb loin with Merguez sausage & Marcona almond gazpacho at Beatrice & Woodsley

Let’s pause to eulogize this remarkable combination of morsels, which is no longer with us (though I imagine the milkfed veal loin with herbed veal sausage & roasted cauliflower that took its place on the menu as a variation on the theme). Mighty for its size, it contained thumb-length slices of seared lamb so juicily rare the blood still seemed to be circulating through them; charred crumbles of spicy housemade sausage (true to the Merguez name, I suspect—i.e., made with lamb & beef & harissa-spiked); & all of an ounce of coolly creamy gazpacho (which I likewise presume came by its creaminess the traditional Spanish way, via bread & olive oil).


sotong goreng at Jaya Asian Grill

Fried calamari, Malaysian-style: tender & light on the breading, heavy on the seasoning, from black pepper & chili pepper to fried bits of garlic & onion. (Conventional wisdom says China’s going to take over the world, but I think it should be Malaysia, because the garlic-&-tamarind-fried anchovies known as ikan bilis, sadly not available at Jaya or anywhere in Denver as far as I know, ALREADY RULE:

IkanBilis )


yet another cheese plate from Urban Pantry

Clockwise from top are Z garlic & basil crackers; Jacquin Valençay—a runny, stinky, ash-coated French goat cheese; a classic aged gouda, nutty & sharply mellow (not an oxymoron in aged gouda’s case); balls-out, pepperoniesque chorizo seco.



another jar of malidjano (eggplant dip) from East Europe Market, this one Macedonian and heavier on red peppers than the first one I sampled

As EEM devotes 1 entire aisle to veggie pickles & spreads, I aim to devote at least 1-half of 1 of my 2 hollow legs to same; therefore, more such luscious aerial shots to come.

The Old South Pearl “Farmer’s” “Market” (plus a nod toward Black Pearl)

The Old South Pearl People Selling Stuff for a Block is more like it. There are maybe 3 or 4 farm stands, definitely outnumbered by prepared food vendors and craftspeople whose booths almost but can’t quite stretch all the way from Iowa to Florida Aves. Some of the produce sounds like porn stars.

Big Jim & the Hot Hungarian

The coolest-looking farm stand is run by some weather-beaten Hmong who sell mostly leafy stuff, it seems, as well as salsa and hot veggie pickles that I didn’t purchase this time, being in between journeys (to Oklahoma & Lake Michigan, respectively, of which more soon), but will report on as soon as I do.

Nor did I purchase any of the following, but it, too, struck me as cool-looking. That’s about as articulate as I’m going to get regarding anything sight seen but taste untasted.


Dragonfly wine jellies; other flavors include pinot noir, shiraz, riesling & pink champagne, which the Director tried & said he liked. I’m holding out for the 1787 Chateau Lafite

Sweet Jayne’s Homemade Pie; below the strawberry-apricot galette is peach-cherry

wacky & wackier orzo from Pappardelle’s; I’ve been a sucker for flavor for as long as I can remember. When other kids wanted chocolate or vanilla I wanted, oh, kim-chi ripple. If my choices were Italian, French, or smoked-habanero-&-orchid double-R ranch, I’d go with the weirdo. To this day, the more exotic components the better, even if it’s worse. So when I get around to gobbling down a bowl of Pappardelle’s harissa linguine, chocolate-orange gemelli, scampi-gruyère ravioli or, as above, Southwest orzo flavored with corn, red chile & black beans, I’ll yell about it.

Speaking of yelling about it, this sight was the highlight of the trip:


Of that, too, more soon.

Wine Poem 3, with notes on a carafe (Billy’s Inn) & a bottle (Divino)

Last night I dreamt (that somebody loved me…ah, Morrissey! how you’ve colored our weltanschauung) that the Director & I were seated at the bar of a white-hot izakaya in Manhattan that only served rare, very expensive worms—I remember seeing fried worm & green bean tempura go by—& tsukemono. We stuck with the pickles, sheepishly; I felt like a rube, an unenlightened mass of 1.

But then I woke up & remembered the Cycles Gladiator pinot noir I had at Billy’s Inn the other night.

As I mentioned w/r/t Wine Poem 1, despite tasting class after tasting class—never mind my obviously ingenious way with words—I’ve yet to grasp the finer points of wine description. References to other fruits in particular have always struck me as odd—by fresh-cut pineapple or full-on durian or wild cherry just plucked from the navel of an island virgin, did you maybe just mean grape?

Something’s happening, though. Maybe it’s a result of this very project, approaching wine through the back door of poetry. Maybe it’s just a result of heavy drinking. Either way, all of a sudden, I’m detecting things I never detected before. I’m an awakening mass of 1.

Take the aforementioned California pinot, which I only ordered because another glass (which, at Billy’s, actually amounts to a quartino served in its own carafe—always a nice touch) of aglianico was beyond my present means.

At the first sip, the word lychee jumped to mind & kept jumping, like a child with ADD after a long car trip. It was definite, the hint of that velvety-sweet yet superjuicy, almost pearlike fruit.

I’ve since Googled the wine & found notes all “ripe black cola” this & “cigar box” that. Please! It’s lychee through & through.

Since then, while pouring glasses from a bottle of 2005 Alfredo Roca malbec the Director picked up at Divino the other eve, I suddenly smelled cinnamon. The scent lingered as we drank, & I knew it was time to post Wine Poem 3—the inspiration for which, however, was actually a sweet, sparkling Italian white virtually impossible to find stateside: schiacchetrà, which you roll around on your tongue along with the word—SHOCK-eh-TRAH—while lounging on a cafe terrace in Cinque Terre, sun slanting along the pink & yellow buildings to sparkle on the Mediterranean below.

Vernazza_ Italy

Wine Poem 3 (Florence/Vernazza

The day to be the sun was the one Michelangelo made a snowman on

as the icicle’s hourglass ran out

from each branch of each
tree on the grounds of the castle de Medici,

all day long the day

somewhere along a spectrum running

from cycle to continuum—

circle slipping into loop,

losing grip on curve,
loosening the grasp, curve lapsing

into line, line going off on tangent

marked at points now and never by sparkling,

coordinates glacial and

shape and phase, monument
and monument to the demise

thereof, from moment to moment losing momentum—

sun-motes sticking to vision like burrs.

Memo to self: become
someone soon. A downpour

has left this view drying
in its wake, view like a film on the surface of surrounding,

a beaded layer over it that is it

—the midst of a vineyard via a trail

as one by one the grapes
drip from their leafy faucets,

the taps leak splashing
green and black,

and one by one the grapes light up like rafter-strung bulbs,

or room after room as the sun sets,

and one
by one the grapes come out and shine like pulp from a star.

Was it
sweet of you to come?

If you were dead, the sky would hang

like a jade burial shroud sewn with gold threads,

but it’s
hung like a shade rolled up to let in breezes of light.

So let’s
vow, marry, wed. This view is a window

of time in which to act for act’s

we who are drawn here together like

folds in woven duration,

folds in dusk’s bolt, drawn

following the sun like two exclamation points in a row.

How the emphasis would taper off were you to go.

The day to be time passing

would be the one some
unsung Impressionist whiled

away tracing the shape of a cloud on,

but in lieu of your death or dying
time less ceases to exist
than it exists to cease,

and when the young Ludwig
Miës van der Rohe was out building sandcastles,

those were the days to be the surf—

getting your rivulets all tangled up in seaweed

to wriggle out of the sea’s
bruising squeezes, mottling your gilded strands and tassels

to be the moat’s fulfillment and ruin,

and they’d have been the days to sneak onto wine turf and throttle

with a vine, knot the noose with the grapes twinkling

like dots of pure green
exclamation point all around you,

dangling a modifier with
this ring
before them—

These are the grapes that make sciacchetrà

slant-rhyme with rocketry. It tastes like juice wrung from a star.

It sparkles like the
coercion of space into spaces,

like the visible on the
wane that the clear may wax.

Somewhere between the pivotal act of your life or living

and its riveting consequences, along the way 

ad astra per aspera,

there must have been a
night to be the rain,

a means of siphoning the
energy of Sisyphus

off from the myth of inertia

as it snowballed from rock fact

to refuel belief in
impetus. A way to confirm.

But the day to be a
scorcher has to coincide

with the wedding on the palace lawn

in a pavilion lined with ice sculptures of the pantheon

and must subside in

with the gods of wine
making pools

of themselves, fools for self-reflection as they melt

into figures entering the centrifuge—

as what, rotating, separates—

Let’s pledge our devotion
to perpetual motion,

let’s be the betrothed becoming


composing toasts and going into shock—

Cool stuff in my house (Part the Jillionth, with a word about Lily’s Urbanistic Tea & Bike Shop)

the slogan on this tee from my old friend Wampus’s Norman, Oklahoma gourmet shop Forward Foods, which specializes in cheeses


these bacon-flavored toothpicks (the same company also makes bacon floss & perhaps, someday, hash-scented soap & syrup-infused mouthwash—a whole line of products that conveniently combine your morning hygiene routine & breakfast)


& this roast apple–roast onion relish, which I purchased at the charmingly inexplicable Lily’s Urbanistic Tea & Bike Shop in the Highlands & which I can’t wait to try, per the maker’s website, with a wedge of sharp cheddar and a thin slice of good strong rye. & what the hell, maybe a shot of good strong rye as well. ‘Cause that’s my kind of hygienic breakfast.


Wine Poem 1, with notes on a bottle of Dominio de Eguren Protocolo 2007

The Christian Siriano ringer who runs Divino—the only wine store in Denver to replace, in all its exquisite funk, Boston’s Wine Bottega (which sold me my first bottle of Brachetto d’Acqui, a sparkling red that goes down like sheer cherry cola) in my heart of boozy hearts—told me this 8-buck Spaniard,


made entirely from Tempranillo, was as close to a red as a rosé gets. Indeed it had some body & plenty of zip, a touch of spice.


Some years back I wrote a series of poems, each generated by a different wine experience. Since wine criticism has never been my forté—since it seemed beyond me to capture in words exactly what the vintner had in the bottle—I thought perhaps I could obey Dickinson’s dictum to tell it slant. Though I don’t recall the original inspiration for this one, the Protocolo evoked it.


The pearl is merciless and fast-acting when dropped into the goblet of my exilarch.
It could as lief be aphrodisiac as poison. Once was my prophecy fair
when my object was dark. But he was born with a rare form

of profil perdu that lately obscures my success.

His countenance alters if at all
as a tortoise crosses shifting sands for as far as eye can see.
Will this creature never stumble, underbelly sunward,
would darkness offer afterimages if images left nothing
to be desired?
Motionless all afternoon
beneath the silver
at my end of the dining
hall, I feel it—
like Cleopatra in her
dotage atop the wrong barge
until sunset, the harbor
clearing of feluccas
whose unmooring moves her
so, mind bobbing
softly in its slip. And I
want to go hunting and fishing.
Other mouths fade in and
out. It’s as though I were doing
the voices, reading aloud
from some suppressed text
or other,
hidebound and bordered with
whiplash curves.
My highness doesn’t turn
around. He is so heirless,
silhouetted against an
almond-shaped glory of light. I have the scars to prove it.
Tonight the dosage of jewel
pills increases.
Wine, music! I have scars
to prove.

Tidbits: Pajama Baking Company, East Europe Market

Entering Pajama Drug Company with a homicidally maniacal case of the DTs, I might as well be filthy & twitching & covered in oozing, crusty sores—only the ooze would be tan, smooth & tasty & the crust oven-warmed; they’d be PB DTs. I’d do anything, anydamnthing, to score another peanut-butter brownie, or even just a bite, or even just a crumb, a crumb flicked at my feet for me to scramble around for, but the only thing I have to do is shell out a couple of bucks for the whole, I swear, 6 x 6 x nearly 2 ball of wax, but it isn’t a ball of wax, it’s a block of sweet jesus, and then I’m hhhhhiiiiiIIIIGGHHH for hours that turn into days.


It’s really not a baked good, it’s a baked terrific: the brownie itself is almost stickily moist & dense & absolutely smacking of pure peanut-butter flavor; a layer of the stuff itself’s beneath the icing,


which to my nut-numbed taste is a little too vanilla in every sense of the word but does offer a touch of contrast.

When I come down, I’m too addled to eat anything but condiments, the food group I turn to in times of trouble. During the East Europe Market jaunt I blogged about not long ago, I picked up a shitload (the only size available) of this eggplant-&-pepper spread from Estonia or Croatia, I believe,


so now I pop off the lid


& dig in with a spoon. I don’t know what you’re supposed to serve it on or with, & I don’t care. It’s eggplant boiled down, or rather pulped, to its essence—at once extremely creamy & sharply tangy. The bits of pepper add a touch of sweetness & salt adds salt, as well it should.

To be continued when the wooziness subsides.

Cool stuff in my house (Part 4, giving Divino its usual due)

these plates printed with 3 martians & 1 superhero


this picture of a shoe by local artist Susan Goldstein


these glasses printed with wraparound black lace


this picture of a booty by local artist Judy Anderson


& this bottle of Cynar (available at Divino), a digestivo made with, but not particularly redolent of, artichoke. Though considered an amaro, or bitter, it’s really a dolce-amaro, sort of molasses’ doppelganger—& refreshing regardless.


While sparing you the details, I’ll attest to its ability to blaze wide, long trails straight through everything from polenta con gorgonzola


to troppo, troppo lardo.


Ora questo, amici miei, `e italiano.