Colorado Trip Report (Boys Trip)
We wanted lunch in Denver on Wednesday and ended up at “Pinche Tacos”, mostly because my buddy knew where it was and recommended it. We started with a pint of Odell’s Special Limited Ale. Extremely light, bright, fresh, and fruity with more than just a hint of grapefruit. The Special Taco of the day “Pulpo” was definitely the standout, with tender yet firm bite with little crispy bits mixed in. On top were lightly pickled red onions and a nice spicy sauce.
The fish taco was a bit of a disappointment without a crisp, firm, and flavorful fish that I expect, but I’m a tough critic being from the FT capital of the US… It was just mild and rather flat taco without any umph or pizzaz… A good bright acidic white sauce would have done a lot to help. My friend kind of had the same assessment of the shrimp and scallop taco.
The Taco Estilo Abril with grilled cotija cheese, roasted chile poblano, creamed chipotle corn, sour cream, could have been great but was very soupy and heavy. It definitely needed some fresh crunch and acid. Some interesting escabeche and less crema could have done wonders for this dish IMO
The lengua cam highly recommended so I had one of those. I adore lengua tacos, but this one was a big let down. The tongue was just too tough and chewy for my liking. IMO a really good lengua taco should be soft and creamy with a few crunchy bits. Again I suppose I’m a tough critic living in a border town with some fantastic lengua tacos around.
My friend and I did love the Codero (Braised lamb shank taco) and next to the Pulpo this was the best item of the meal. The sweet and sour pork belly taco was also pretty good, but I needed to reformat the taco so that it wasn’t just an absolutely square chunk of meat on a round tortilla, but it shredded easily and ended up being pretty tasty once I added the ramekin hot sauce that was on the pulpo.
Then we headed up to Vail to meet up with another wine maker and some more of our old Vail classmates. Some parts of the trip are just a wine fueled blur. Let’s just say we cut a very wide path! I’ll just hit on some of the high lights and low lights.
Charred Octopus at “Mountain Standard” was one of the best things I ate on the trip. It was a very well thought out and composed dish. The charred octopus was tenderized by first tumbling in ice water for an extended period of time before being boiled, tossed in herbs lemon and olive oil, and then charred to perfection over a wood fire. The black eyed peas, ham-hock, and crispy garlic bread crumb concoction that they served the octopus over was sublime when all taken together. The rest of our food (Oysters, and three little pigs) was good, but overshadowed by that octopus dish. I would return over and over for that alone!
The crispy salmon skin salad and the miso black cod at “Matsuhisa” were fantastic! Although good, nothing else really impressed as it could have been from any other sushi place in the US. That salad though was so damn good and such a giant portion for just $15 that easily fed four of us.
“Root and Flower” wine bar in the heart of Vail was definitely one of everyone’s favorites. So much so, that we returned several times over the trip. They have a fantastic wine and cocktail program, with a wonderfully friendly and knowledgeable staff. We had the Salumi plate, the assorted vegetable pickles, the meatballs, and the carnitas tacos. . All the shared appetizers were hits with everybody. Not a clunker in the bunch.
Italian restaurant, “Campo de Fiori”, wasn’t great Italian, but it was by no means bad either. Everything was very well prepared, but nothing stood out either, except for perhaps the recommended arugula, artichoke, and shaved parm salad with a white balsamic dressing that was more vinegary tart than sweet. Still while nobody raved, nobody had any serious complaints either. All in all probably the best Italian in the valley.
The best meal of the trip however was at “Vin 48” in Avon/Beaver Creek. With the exception of the special (Florida Grouper), every item was spot on. The cooking was clean and classic. The house made pasta with braised beef shank was just prepared and cooked perfectly. The small bites (Olives, almonds, pate, shish to peppers, wild mushrooms, cheesy grit croquettes, prosciutto burrata salad, and Jerk chicken lollis were all just super. The yogurt marinated grilled Colorado lamb chop was F’n bloody good and cooked to medium rare perfection. The Thai chili shrimp were also a big hit with our group. I think everyone was in agreement that this is possibly the best restaurant in the valley right now.
We also had Pizza at Vendettas, various apps and cocktails at Sweet Basil, and at Boxcar in Avon. All were good, but nothing really stood out except I loved the candied Jalapeno garnish on the Margs at Boxcar.
Finished off the trip with Brunch at “Vintage”. The meal was good, but not as good as we had hoped. The shirts the staff were wearing were funny “Bitches LOVE Brunch!”, but I can see how in that could be a little off putting, especially in a higher end setting like they are. The waitress said new shirts with “Bitches, Where’s My Bloody?” were coming. We’ll see how those go ever. The vegetable benny on smashbrowns were decent as was the Swiss Forrest Galette. The “smash browns” seem to be a player in almost every breakfast dish and if deep fried mashed potatoes isn’t your thing, then perhaps try somewhere else.
All in all it was a great trip, and a lot of fantastic old grape juice was consumed. We were carousing with two nationally well known winemakers that often pour in the area, so both restaurants and wine stores set us up with some great treats. Long post I know, but perhaps some helpful info for someone going to Vail.