Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

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.

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.