Denver Restaurant Week 2012

Every year in late-February, early-March, Denver does its Restaurant Week (two weeks now, since it’s so popular). I’m sure other cities do the same; various restaurants in the Denver metro area do a special menu for DRW where typically one person dines for $26.40 or two people for $52.80 (since Denver is the Mile High City and one mile is 5280 feet … we use that number a lot ’round these parts), though it can vary at normally cheaper restaurants. It’s a great way to a.) try places you’ve always wanted to try but never did because they were too expensive or b.) go to places you love but rarely eat at due to cost.

For the hubby and I, we went out twice for DRW for both of the above reasons.

Rodizio Grill was our choice for reason B above. It holds a sentimental place in our hearts as it was the location of our first date, had been our annual New Year’s Eve date place until we did D Bar this year and was where we held our rehearsal dinner. It’s a Brazilian-style churrascaria (steakhouse) with a salad bar and gauchos who walk around with giant swords of meat. It’s a food orgy to be sure and if you’re not stuffed walking out of there, you didn’t truly experience the place.

Although, one of these days, I want to not eat as they bring food just to see how much I end up eating there. I probably haven’t yet because the thought of how much I actually eat there kind of scares me …

The Oceanaire Seafood Room was our choice for reason A above. We’d always seen it while driving downtown and since both of us love seafood, we’ve been meaning to try it, but seafood gets expensive living here. Being landlocked will do that, obviously.

So, when we saw the tasting menu for 52.80 week and it looked pretty decent, we decided to make our reservations and try it out.

The actual restaurant was really cool. The theme is 1930s oceanliner – very streamlined. The actual bar is in the same location as the oyster bar and the overall aesthetic was very pleasing (go clicky the link – there are pictures).

The meal though … was disappointing. For the first course, Brandon had the creamy potato bisque which really was quite good. I had the New England Clam Chowder which was … not. There was some odd spice in it that I couldn’t quite place my finger on that gave it a funky taste. The Oceanaire Web site says its chowder is award-winning; well, not in my book. Brandon gives me a lot of crap because I very, extremely rarely order chowder away from a coast.  I went to school in Boston and ate a lot of good chowder. Therefore, my chowder palate is highly refined. This did not live up to my expectations.

Before the soup, they gave us the standard sourdough which was good, but would have been better warm. It should have been, if only for the sheer fact that our reservations were for when the place opened for dinner. The butter was also cold which a lot of restaurants do and I hate all of them for it. I don’t like destroying my bread by trying to spread cold butter on it. Places? Get on this. Along with the bread, we also got a random tray of vegetables (wrinkly grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, olives, pickles). It was underwhelming.

For the main course, Brandon got the grilled flat iron steak and shrimp. He enjoyed it, but also said that it was nothing special. I took a chance and tried the almond dusted Idaho rainbow trout. I shouldn’t have taken the chance. The fish itself wasn’t all that bad, but the accompanying items (date-bleu cheese butter, butternut squash, bacon) melded together for a not-pleasant combination of flavors. We also ordered some matchstick fries off the regular menu as my trout didn’t really come with any sides – another mistake on our part. I love French fries in general, but I did not love these.

For dessert, Brandon got the key lime pie and I got the cheesecake. I have had MUCH better cheesecake before and Brandon has had better key lime pie. Plus the tiny squares they gave us reminded us of the crappy squares of cheesecake and cake they serve at Country Buffet. Not something I want to be reminded of when we’re spending that much money on food.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend The Oceanaire … unless you’re not a seafood snob. Then, go party – you’ll probably like it.

Valentine’s Day at D Bar

Hey, I’m only getting to this post a month late.

*ahem*

As we did for New Year’s Eve, we went to D Bar Desserts for one of their special tasting menus. Compared to NYE, I thought the VDay tasting menu was worse. They did have one dish that was far and above anything served on NYE, but overall, I was ever so slightly disappointed.

The first course was oysters – fried.

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flash fried oysters * cara cara oranges * not yo mamma’s remoulade * micro salad

This was the first time I believe either of us had eaten oysters. They were … different, to say the least. Definitely a lot less scary than say, on the halfshell, but still … odd.

The second course … I did not eat. The antijitos (small bites) were unfortunately way too spicy for this girl.

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pulled chicken hand pie * guerilo * mole poblano * coctel de camarones

Brandon really enjoyed the chicken hand pie … and the rest? Not so much, unfortunately.

Because the staff at D Bar is incredibly accommodating, I got their dressed avocado instead.

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evoo * fresh lime * maldon salt & cracked pepper * small spring salad

I never thought I could eat a whole avocado just like that … but I did. Brandon also liked having it around as it was a nice counterpart (think: guac) to his Mexican-inspired dish.

Next course was probably the best thing we ate at either of the tastings – the tenderloin. I should mention that we had the choice between escolar (fish) or the tenderloin and we should have been smart and got one of each … but the tenderloin looked too good to pass up. Which it ended up being.

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wilted spinach * bacon lardons * root vegetable puree (3) * red wine demi

OMG outstanding. Also awesome: that bottom root vegetable puree was from a Peruvian purple potato … something we had just read about in Botany of Desire. Funny how that works out.

Next up were the dessert courses, which didn’t have descriptions.

The first one was a “Tasting of Citrus.”

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Brandon, being citrus boy, loved this one. For me and my sensitive (or overloaded) taste buds, it was a bit too much tartness for me. I couldn’t finish it, unfortunately. Presentation, though, was an A+. Totally cool looking.

Course two was “Madagascar Passion.”

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This set of dishes was a mix of chocolate and passion fruit stuff. The first item, the little heart tart, was good, but I was a bit taken aback about how hard the tart was. I guess I was hoping for something a little … easier to eat for lack of a better phrase. The middle souffle was my favorite – my only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it. The final bite was very similar to one of the chocolate and mango dishes from NYE and it was tasty.

The final sweet course was, once again, petit fours. This time, though, I got a picture.

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The chocolate-covered strawberries were awesome. The rest of it … well, we love Keegan and the D Bar staff, but they can get a bit too creative for our admittedly simple tastes. The majority of these were testament to that.

Regardless, it, as always, was a great time and worth what we spent for the experience and a chance to expand our food horizons, even if our palates didn’t always agree.

Dining in Denver: Blake Street Tavern

Dining or drinking, I suppose.

As a Boston University grad and Terrier hockey fan living outside of the Northeast, I need to find places to watch the Beanpot with, as the University so eloquently puts it, “people who get it.” This is obviously because the Beanpot is solely a Boston thing, as a mid-season tournament for bragging rights among the four Boston-based schools (BU, Boston College, Northeastern and Harvard).

Thus, when Beanpot time comes around, various BU alumni chapters around the nation organize watch parties for alumni in the area. They find a bar that is willing to give us a TV with sound so us BU hockey nerds can go watch our team compete for the whole pot of beans.

This year, the watch party was supposed to be at the Pour House at 14th and Market, but alas, the Pour House was undergoing renovations over the first week of the Beanpot (tourney held over the first two Mondays in Feb.), so the party got moved to Blake Street Tavern.

Blake Street Tavern, located at 23rd and Blake, is right down the street from Coors Field. I’m not going to write about its popularity, as both times I went were during very slow periods (3pm and 5pm on a Monday). However, both times I did eat there and deal with their service, so I can attest to that.

First, the positives:
– FREE PARKING. There are meters across the street, but right outside the bar are at least a good dozen spots just off the street and behind the bar is a lot with, quoth the Web site, “100 parking spots after 5:30pm & weekends.”
– Expansive menu.
– Half-way decent food. Brandon had a burger on his one trip and I ate two different types of sandwiches.
– Tons of space. With the layout, even on a crowded Friday/Saturday night (or during/after a Rockies game), I can still envision mobility within the bar which is a plus, particularly for the wait staff/anyone carrying anything that might spill.
– Huge bathrooms. I hate teeny tiny cramped bar bathrooms. Or, to be fair, teeny tiny cramped bathrooms in general.

Now, for the not so good:
– While the food was half-way decent, I wouldn’t consider it good. That, and both times I went my food order got screwed up. Brandon ordered the Tavern Burger, adding cheese, which would make it essentially your standard ol’ cheeseburger. However, what he got had a special sauce and onion rings on it (and was cooked wrong). Our waitress assured us that was the Tavern Burger, but as you can plainly see on their menu, he got the Blake Street Burger. Fail for them not getting his order correctly and DOUBLE fail for saying that no, we misunderstood them. Yeah, okay.

The first time I went, I got the BLT, which was fine. My only complaint there was that it didn’t come with mayonnaise, which I thought was standard with a BLT. Easily remedied, though.

The second time I went, I got the Blake Street Club – “Grilled chicken breast with bacon, jack cheese, avocado, and mayo on a kaiser roll.” I ordered it with fries and asked for tomato to be added to the sandwich. What came out? The club … with no fries or tomato. Instead, it came with a salad on the side. I spoke to the waitress about the mistake – no tomato slices (still), but I did get my fries. I didn’t have to pay for the salad which was nice (and it was nice to eat), but really? That’s your second strike on screwing up orders. Also, the chicken in the club was severely lacking in moisture.

– Fairly lousy service. Yes, the servers did remedy their initial screw-ups in taking our orders, but they were generally forgetful and inattentive. My second visit, I sat with other young(er) alumni and one of the girls wanted a water. She needed to remind our server two or three times about it and only when she got a bit snippy about it did she finally get our water.

I also noticed that a few other people’s orders got screwed up – one of the servers attending our group brought out a soup/sandwich combo that she thought someone ordered, but apparently no one had.

– Not really taking care of our group. The first night, we had one of the private rooms for the watch party – TV with sound, tables for all of us, etc. The second night, there was some CU function going on for a men’s basketball game so we were relegated to a TV in a corner in their game area with only high bar tables. The game was on another TV or so, including in a better location near the door and TONS of tables (that is, tons of space for us crazies), but we couldn’t get sound there. Plus they almost switched our game off a few times, lost the sound and took a while getting it back.

I get that we were a late addition to their plans and that we were supposed to be at Pour House, but I would think they would take care of the influx of money that just came in their door on a slow night. Our second wedding reception did that for Pat’s (16th and Market) on a Sunday night and they took GREAT care of us.

– Running out of a food item. This happened to a girl at a different table – she went to get one of the appetizers on the happy hour special and they didn’t have the item. At 5:45 on a Monday. Seemed a little odd to me …

– Fairly crappy happy hour specials. I ordered one of my beers before happy hour ended and the second after it ended. 50 cent price difference. Wow, I’m glad I got that one in before happy hour ended. Craptasticness right there. No incentive to come during happy hour if that’s your special.

Even with that all being said, I can’t say for sure whether I would recommend Blake Street Tavern or not. If you wanted decent bar food? Hell no, stay away – I know of better places. If you wanted a good place to drink? Well, if you want specials, I’d say no, but in terms of atmosphere/ambiance? I really can’t say. I am willing to give them another shot during a busy time say, during baseball season or on Friday and/or Saturday nights when they turn their downstairs into a country bar (The Saloon at Blake Street Tavern). At that point, I’ll make my final decision on whether I choose to ever give them my money again.

Images of Tucson

… Have I seriously not blogged in over a month here? Well, I’m about to remedy that quite a bit within the next few days. I have a lot of ideas/planned posts that I unfortunately just haven’t gotten around to putting up.

The first is right now. At the end of January/beginning of February, we took a mini-vacation to Tucson, Ariz. We mainly went to go to TriSports.com (reasons why detailed here at the ol’ tri blog) but just enjoyed some mini r and r.

Nothing too exciting from the trip, but I did have a little fun with the camera …

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Hotel at night.

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Hotel at night.

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Lucky Wishbone star light.

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Light again; slightly different angle.

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Black and white.

While this isn’t a dining post, I will take this opportunity to pimp out the ‘bone while I’m here. Lucky Wishbone is a Tucson institution, having been around since the early 1950s. My dad, having grown up in Tucson, has probably been eating there since then. The menu and overall feel of the restaurant(s – multiple locations) have hardly changed since the 1950s. I think they changed their fry recipe (or at least the oil) a few years back though – those have gotten MUCH worse. However, the Guaymas shrimp (from Mexico) that they fry up is seriously the best fried shrimp on the planet. I exaggerate not. Both my mom and my hubby love the steakfingers and the whole family adores the garlic toast that comes with every meal. So delicious.