Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

House Culture: Shine Restaurant & Gathering Wool

Oops, sorry, “Gathering Space.” Still, the misnomer kinda fits: some of the servers are just as hippy-dippy as you’d expect at a Boulder neo-health-food joint like this one. I hope their utter inability to do more than half a thing at a time isn’t a reflection on the effects of the gluten-free, vegetarian- & vegan-friendly cuisine Shine serves, awash in “house-cultured” this & probiotic that, sprouted this & raw that. They must be skimping on protein intake (though the menu isn’t meatless)—but they could just be high.

Or perhaps they should ease up on the fairy bubbles. While there’s a full bar (where the staff is noticeably more alert, by the way), the emphasis here is on herb-, flower-, & gem-infused elixirs. At one point in my poetry-writing life I was obsessed with the fabled properties of gemstones; ruby, for instance, is said to prevent bleeding & heart failure, while carnelian offers protection from the evil eye. (That of antsy dining guests perhaps excepted.) None of the drinks listed here contains garnet, but see below for more on that…In any case, it stands to “reason” that so-called permission sips might alter your consciousness for better or worse.

Granted, the Firewater my pal Beth tried (pictured below right) didn’t visibly ignite her passions; she seemed pretty normal. But the sip I took was exhilaratingly spicy, with ginger & chile, plus a touch of hibiscus tartness.

On a later visit, I sampled the Reset Button, which bore too much resemblance to milky root beer for my tastes, nor have I managed to access the vaguest hint of ancient wisdom via my intake of quartz. Oh well.

Beth also got the trout-salad melt with smoked gouda, pickled red onions, & sweet potato fries; said salad was a hit—flaky, zippy, bright with diced carrots and celery. I know because a healthy scoop of it also graced what I refuse to call, & don’t know why the chef bothers to call, a Caesar salad; since it’s vegan, the dressing contains no egg or anchovy-based Worcestershire sauce, which are pretty much the key characteristics of a traditional Caesar—along with parmesan & croutons, which this version also doesn’t contain. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, from the thick, creamy, garlicky dressing it does sport to its plentiful sprinkling of fried capers & dried-tomato “chips” (which, again, defy the basic definition) to the dense, almost scone-textured, chia seed-studded gluten-free “focaccia” (pictured below the salad) that’s supposed to accompany it—it was omitted from my order, so I had to wait (& wait, & wait) until our server could get around to bringing it to see whether it helped tie the room together. (It eventually did.)

To be fair, he may have thought I didn’t want it, since I’d also requested a gluten-free house roll (pictured alongside the salad) with yam butter on the side. That too, was dense, with a sort of biscuit-like crumb, & the spread airy yet intense.

Another qualified hit has been the happy-hour snack of beer-battered veggies with blue-cheese dip; though I didn’t find any of the housemade pickles the dish (pictured below right) also supposedly contained, the combo of green beans, zucchini disks & sliced mushrooms was nicely done—hot, juice-dribbly, the reasonably crisp breading not unlike savory funnel cake. I didn’t try the slider, but the vegan cauliflower mashers were fluffy & creamy for lacking dairy, & nicely spiced with just a hint of nutmeg.

And the jackfruit tacos proved fascinating. With the first few bites, I was convinced they’d actually given me chicken; I’d heretofore only tasted ripe dried jackfruit, so I wasn’t aware that when fresh & green it’s strongly reminiscent of eggplant—nor that it shreds like meat, so once liberally coated in taco seasoning, it easily gets a pass atop blue-corn tortillas heaped with greens, tomatoes, scallions & radishes alongside salsa & sour cream. If you like your frijoles soupy, Shine’s refried black beans won’t fly, but I like them in all forms; these had an appealing pan-bottom crunch. And the quinoa was downright impressive, I have to say, for its lime-brightened, grain-by-grain toastiness.

This place gets fairly (in both senses of the word) mixed reviews, but overall I got kind of a kick out of it—which is saying something, since I imagine I represent the opposite of its core audience.

Anyway, here’s a free poem.

Garnet
Used as a bullet, it inflicts a more deadly wound.

Crouched in roof shadow, filling the cylinder.
My pistol is crystal so you can see. Sometimes I pour
wine down the barrel, put the gun in my mouth
and go glug, glug. Pull the trigger,
pull the plug. The bang stuns everyone
who shatters into applause at the gala affair,
it raises the roof.
My dress is gauze, wound dressed in silk,
the night fog curdles like milk
mixed with blood down the alleyway,
a wisp of a sip goes
down my throat. I’m spitting vapor
like a pit viper in a mesh gown,
taking aim. Game. I was born game.

There’s deadly and then there’s
even more deadly, blood spreading
like bad dawn, lead-dull.
Dud if you do, dud if you don’t:
law one of tourniquetiquette.
I spray raw light, shoot up the night.

 

Shine Restaurant & Gathering Space on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Mushroom Burger at Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant

I first went to Leaf a few years back & frankly didn’t much care for it, other than the pretty, airy space, with its blond woods & waterfall sculpture & green-tea ice-cream hues.

Nor was I expecting much from this homely thing.

But talk about deceiving looks. Slathered with vegan rémoulade (essentially a pungent, red-peppery mayonnaise) on whole wheat toast, it stars a lusciously velvety, meaty, nutty patty of portobellos and walnuts topped with melted provolone; bursting with flavor, it barely needs tomato or red onion, though leaves of butter lettuce add a nice touch of greenness.

I’ve been making the veggie-burger rounds lately & this is up there with my faves, along with that of TAG Burger Bar; when in Boulder town, do give it a try.