Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Cool stuff in my house (Part 3, with a vigorous nod to East Europe Market)

This lawnmower,


which I’ve forbidden the Director to use ever again unless he grows a handlebar & wears one of these


(image unwitting courtesy of this blog)

& one of these;


these tractor lights we bought in a genuine 5-&-dime in Lansing, Iowa;


this shrine to St. Genesius, who protects against seizures, which the Director has been known to have, complete with several hospital ID bracelets & 4 foam monitoring electrodes;


& these wacky foodstuffs I purchased from among the dairy cases full of nothing but fresh sheep’s-milk cheese, the aisles devoted to imported biscuits & crisps, the others crammed with 1000 kinds of vegetable pickles & spreads (including, I swear, 100 kinds of avjar alone), the sausages behind the counter & all the other Bulgarian specialties at East Europe Market, which apparently not many people besides this guy & I have managed to catch a glimpse of from behind the Hooters at the corner of South Colorado & Arkansas:


In addition to the 1st 4 ingredients—pork fat, pork liver &, uh, pork, plus water—this Croatian curio also contains milk, dried onion & salt. Not sure where the tea comes in. Maybe they just tacked that word on there to make “pork” sound more civilized, like “ladies, won’t you please partake of this bobbin-lace head cheese or some string-quartet haggis?”


Okay (she squeals with glee), now this one is just too good to be true. For a buck 99, I just got me a can of lobster, whiting, tomalley—you read me, the lobster’s so-called liver (a load of crap, literally, if you ask me; livers aren’t green, unless the lobster’s had a string of especially tough nights)—butter, cream, milk, fish broth, farina (wheatmeal—think gruel), soybean oil, carrots, celery (I so did not see fresh produce coming), reconstituted onions (more like it) &, I shit you not, cognac. It says “chill before serving,” but I’m not sure I can. I’ll have to take a pill first. Heh.

Best of all, check out the bottom of the tin! I don’t even have to open it, I can just set it on the table upside down to impress all my fancy party guests. & then I can put it away til the next shindig! It’s an eternal feast in a 2 oz. package.

Photo 17

As for this, it seems to be basically a paprika-spiked tomato paste.


That or some sort of over-the-counter ointment. You know, just to spice up the old personal-hygiene routine.

Urban Pantry Overdrive

***UPDATE: Urban Pantry is now CLOSED.***

Oof. Just oof. Turns out my pit has a bottom after all; I hit it this weekend tossing in one last shovelful of that cheesecake in a jar (basically a tangy custard, or a sort of oxymoronic cream-cheese jelly), which followed chunks of those viciously but crucially chili-filled Indian rugelachs, which followed whole forklifted loads of that gently curried peanut butter, which followed the following, which was accompanied by much too much Kaiken Malbec and Emilio Bulfon Piculít Neri from Divino, which preceded much too much Amarula (a wonderfully overripe, musky cream liqueur from South Africa).
Friday’s feast, clockwise from top: morbier, finocchino, gorgonzola dolce, tortas de aceite, mimolette
While I like my mimolette a lot nuttier (this resembled cheddar in red-orange disguise, good & strong but devoid of that initial sharp-sweet tongue-twang I crave), the truly audacious morbier was probably the best I’ve ever had, as acrid as it was fatty. Imagine eating an armpit, in an excellent way. The finocchino administered an important lesson in sausage-slicing; the disks you see here were too thick relative to their firmness, such that chewing eclipsed tasting. Thin slices (pictured below), however, revealed all the paradoxical nuances of unctuousness & pungency they contained.
Saturday’s splurge, clockwise from top: idiazábal; the remaining finocchino, gorgonzola & mimolette; Jasper Hill Farm’s winnemere; the remaining morbier; The Fine Cheese Co’s charcoal crackers
Mildly smoky and fairly firm, the idiazábal—a sheep’s-milk cheese from the Basque region of Spain—was utterly lovely alongside the winnemere, ale-washed, bark-wrapped & so soft it almost squirted beneath the knife.
Remembering it, I’m half-inclined to head over to Urban Pantry & start all over again. But seeing as how I’m also half-inclined, period—my belly’s too big just now to allow me to remain upright for long—I can’t. Yet.

But wait, it gets better! peanut better! at Urban Pantry

Check this out.


Like all strokes of genius, P.B. Loco’s curried peanut butter seems at once brilliantly inventive & forehead-smackingly intuitive. Peanuts & curry go together like, well, peanuts & chocolate, peanuts & coconut, peanuts & chili, peanuts & just about everything. Peanuts & chicken. Maybe their next flavor should be chicken butter. I’d eat it.

Picked this up on my 3rd trip to Urban Pantry in less than 36 hours; the Director & I will be having our 2nd meal in as many nights composed entirely of UP cheese, sausage & crackers, the which I will be filling y’all in on right soon.

Down with dumbing it down! Up with Urban Pantry!

***UPDATE: Urban Pantry is now CLOSED.***

With a harbor on the Atlantic, a 300-year history of immigration & a monopoly on internationally renowned universities, Boston is naturally a global gourmet playground. Much as I looked forward to moving to Denver last year, I didn’t kid myself about the imminent restrictions on my shopping options, & I bid a fond adieu to the justly celebrated Formaggio Kitchen, the precious & quirky Wine Bottega, Russian deli Berezka, Harvard Square institution Cardullo’s, Asian chain Super 88 & all the other remarkable markets & boutiques I could spend hours upon hours in, checking out dried shark here & fig-leaf-wrapped buffalo whey there, artisanal bottles of mead here & macadamia oil there, big beautiful bunches of long beans here & chocolates coated in fairy dust with jellied fairy-heart centers & whatnot there.

But now that Alex Failmezger’s South Broadway gourmet shop Urban Pantry is finally open, I suddenly don’t feel quite so homesick (shopsick, rather).

First of all, it’s absolutely darling, airy & bright & lined with counters & shelves of bottles & bags & tins & bars & jars & packets that are a collective delight to behold as abstractions from a distance, never mind up close, when you can read the labels & revel in your concrete discoveries: Chardonnay-infused peanut brittle, hand-rolled couscous, chips & crisps from India & Asia, charcoal crackers, onion jam, world’s prettiest trail mix,


these things—which Failmezger says are “like rugelach but spicy” with chili, sesame seeds & fennel seeds—


this cheesecake in a jar!, which I can’t wait to spoon up making like Navin R. Johnson,


& so on & so forth. But perhaps best of all, she’s got a charcuterie & cheese case to rival any in town, including St. Kilian’s. In fact, hers wins, containing as it does big red hemispheres of the very mimolette whose local unavailability I bemoaned a while back, as well as robiola tre latte (si, non due ma tre: cow, sheep & goat), roqueforts boasting more bleu than blanc, 2 kinds of finocchino, wild boar sausage, jamón ibérico & much much more.

& that includes Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar, there being no candy wackier or cooler on this earth.

So I’m thinking I’m in the right place at the right time.

Cool stuff in my house (Part 1, apropos of nothing)

this voodoo doll


this ring


this postcard from Naples


& this raw unfiltered coffee-flower honey made, I guess, by Chiapan rebels (honestly, where do they find the time?) & sold at St. Kickass Cheese Shop, which Hugh, the Wayne Coyne lookalike (except not, as far as I know, covered in blood) who owns the place, calls “smoky,” so I’ll concur:


Adventures in ampelography! With your hosts, Denveater, The Director & a surprise guest

In cooking school I studied oenology under no less an authority than Master of Wine Sandy Block. Since then, I’ve taken course after wine-tasting course; spent hours shooting the shit with sommeliers; and lost many a poker round for caring less about whether I had a full house than whether Pinotage really offers hints of both lava & roasted marshmallow (mmm…I’m getting the slightest suggestion of S’mores assembled in the pit of a volcano…you?) or a Petit Verdot blend is in fact the ideal accompaniment to sauteed backstrap of venison with red molé (or was that star-nosed mole sauteed with blackstrap molasses? It’s all so confoundedly specific…).
The upshot: it’s entirely possible I know a thing or two about a vinous thing or two.
And yet I’ll never be able to couch a description of something made from grapes in terms of another fruit without thinking of the guy in Delillo’s Ratner’s Star calling a Cadillac the Rolls Royce of automobiles.
That said, it hit me last night, as the Director & I were sucking down yet another bottle of Emilio Bulfon’s Forgiarìn—I don’t know why we don’t just stick two straws in & make like ducktailed teenyboppers down at the 5 & dime—
that if it doesn’t taste like sour-cherry cola, I don’t know what does. (Oh, except cherry cola. See what I mean? Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally down with descriptors that function according to the logic of Hobbesian wit; there’s revelation in uncanny allusions to, say, the dash of black pepper in a Côtes du Rhône or the waft of pine needles from a Pinot Noir. But to say that grapes remind me of cherries is to pretty much shoot an air ball from metaphor’s own free throw line, no?)
That I should be launching into this monoblogue about the efficacy of the standard oenolexicon (or at least my grasp thereon) right now makes sense, I suppose, given that the most salient feature of Forgiarìn is that it was unheard of until about firthy years ago (per the English translation on the Bulfon website). While those buttery Chards go rancid & that jammy Cab reminds you to scrub between your toes, the gross clichés for a wine made from a grape that hasn’t been cultivated since the time of Pliny the Elder have yet to be established. That goes for all the varietals Bulfon makes from the vines he rescued—with the help of ampelographic experts who traced their roots (no pun intended—what a weird thing for me to say) back to the Roman Empire—from ancient obscurity. As I understand it, he was until very recently the only winemaker in the world to be growing the likes of Sciaglìn, Ucelùt and another favorite of mine, the exquisitely balanced Piculìt Neri;
as I also understand it, Colorado’s one of the only states in the nation currently importing them. I stock up at Divino; I humbly suggest you do likewise, & then we can have ourselves a description-off. Winner gets a bottle on me.
***We’ll return with our special guest after this brief intermission***
So there we were, knocking back our wine & noshing on a slapdash deli platter—slices of black pepper–coated salami, wedges of morbier & aged gouda, mixed nuts, crackers—when we heard a sort of scrabbling coming from behind the magazine rack. We pushed it aside & saw this:
No wonder the mouse in our house hadn’t touched the peanut butter we put in its trap—he was waiting for something to spread it on.