Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Linger - Denver

Stick a toe tag happy hour menu on me, lay me on a recycled industrial roller table, stuff me with pad thai, let me rest looking at Denver's skyline.
I've been in Portugal for 3 months, feasting my eyes on Denver's food news. My friends required gluten free, so I first want to mention Linger's descriptive online menu (happy hour and dinner). GF (gluten free), NF (nut free) and V (vegetarian). This sold my friends along with the possibility of happy hour specials. Knowing Linger came from Justin Cucci, creator of Root Down, only made the possibilities better.
Knowing Root Down's popularity, I arrived promptly at 4pm to the hostess' surprise. Linger is difficult to find depending on where you park. Here's a hint: Look Up. Let the Olinger Mortuaries sign be your guide to 2030 30th Avenue.
I was surprised when I saw the small door. Then I opened it to a cavernous space. I love the brick walls, high ceilings, recycled industrial equipment, billiard ball collection, varied seating options, lite brites on the bar.
They have a large staff. Our waitress was very attentive, informative, helpful, and patient that I was waiting for my late friends. In the meantime, I enjoyed the Lemongrass Boca Loca Caipirinha. Memories of Portugal carried through that sweet, tart, eye opening, tingly numb mouthfeel drink.
The bar looked well stocked and they have 8+ beers on tap.
Finally, my friends arrived and we dug into their happy hour and dinner menus (at 5:30 for dinner menu selections). While deciding, my friend asked about their Horchata which wasn't made yet, but our waitress suggested she try the Costa Rican Pinolilo. That sample elicited a "holy crap, wow, holy hell". Clearly, it was amazing, so she ordered the drink.
*Popper Breakdown - my first pepper lit a fire underneath me. I lucked out, selecting the one overly spiced (thought my threshold was weak). The cheese curds with blood orange jalapeno jam cooled me down.  Those curds were amazing. My second pepper was much better.
*Maple Leaf Duck Wings - tasted like jelly or apple butter on the wings. Great meat on the bone. Loved the crunchiness on the ends. Mostly ignored the dressing and went with the shaved fennel on top.
*Organic Waffle Sweet Potato Fries - You could taste the potato. You could imagine cutting open a sweet potato to eat it at Thanksgiving. Others might like their food's natural flavors masked, but I enjoy the openness of Linger's kitchen.
Next up was the dinner menu. My friends and I weren't through yet. The "food posse" required dinner menu sampling. Linger was slowly filling up. It was comfortably full by 5:15 and swelling by 5:40.
*Pad Thai - my Asian friends quizzed our waitress and she said that Cucci and a friend would travel the world sampling food and then ask for the street vendors' recipes. YES! I understand what I was missing. Subtle layers of flavors interacting with my palate. My friend thought the tamarind was a bit heavy.
*Chicken B'stilla - cinnamon, nuttiness, reminded me of Christmas and cold weather spirits like St. Elizabeth's Dram.

*Lamb Belly Tagine - the crispy top layer was best. Overall, it was an ok dish.
Oh! And our waitress informed us the Horchata was prepared and let us have a sample. That was amazing! Thick, tasting of sweet corn (where did I get that? wild rice, quinoa, cinnamon, almond), so good, so healthy. Order their drinks!

Our bill was erased, but we helped our waitress fill in the gaps. The Pinolilo was comped as a result. Linger is a fabulous restaurant I plan to frequent more. I salute the inventiveness, fresh flavors, and world cuisine.

Notes: ample parking but you're competing with Lola's and Vita. They do advertise complimentary valet parking. The cars are parked behind Linger. Show up early for Happy Hour or be prepared to stand. Quite frankly, if you're here to eat and I hope you are, sit down, bring friends and share your menu selections. It's a very young, hip crowd here, perfect for socializing. They have high chairs for young children. The servers don't blink an eye if have the billiard balls with you upstairs.
 It was slightly drizzling at Linger, so we were eventually treated to a rainbow.
Fun restroom signs.
Recycled industrial parts for tables.
The downstairs dining area around 6:45pm.
The open kitchen.
Cool art behind the building.
2030 W 30th Ave
Denver, CO 80211

Monday, June 20, 2011

Manifesto - Kansas City

To Kansas City and its cocktail gems. I've moved on from my martini happy hours at Union Station to Manifesto. I browsed the KC Yelp's Best Of lists and came upon Manifesto. The rating, the reviews all had me hooked. 4.5 I rate it, 5 I name it because I want out-of-towners to visit as I did.

My 3 month Portugal stay left me craving for cocktails and I was waiting until June 17 for satisfaction. This was when I would enter the cocktail haven of Denver/Boulder, Colorado. Never fear, Manifesto is here. June 9 delivered satisfaction in Rieger backroom fashion.

Reservations are definitely recommended, so text 816.536.1325 and include your preferred time and party number. They responded mid-afternoon and were quite prompt and accommodating when my party number changed from 2 to 5. I headed to 1924 Main, an address occupied by Rieger's. Their hostess took me to the back and we went downstairs past rock hewn walls and framed photographs. Please also note the rules stated on the website and menus (mind your manners).
 Manifesto staff did not ask for our reservation confirmation so we seated ourselves promptly in a booth. Thursday nights aren't as popular which is great. There was a large group seated with an obnoxiously loud grating voiced woman, but the detailed menu drew my attention in and drowned her out.
As we listened to the loud music, we glanced through the menu featuring 29 drinks segregated by spirit (gin, vodka, rum, tequila, brandy, bitters). Note: extra menus at the booths would be appreciated along with additional lighting. One candle did not prove sufficient especially amongst 3 different palates.
Our waitress was slightly off kilter and a bit imbalanced due to the loud group. She regained her footing, apologized, and offered free shots (more on that later). We started by ordering the Shatto Blanc, Smokin' Choke, and Jackson County Democratic Club Cocktail.
The Shatto Blanc - Tito's vodka, Shatto Root Beer Milk, Yellow Chartreuse, Angostura Bitters. You could taste the slight sweetness then the vodka and chartreuse washes over with slight bitterness. Cheers to a cocktail featuring a local product.
Jackson County Democratic Club Cocktail - Rittenhouse Rye, Luxxardo, Yellow Chartreuse Lemon, Angostura Orange Bitters. Citrus with herbal notes.
Smokin' Choke - Applewood Smoked Four Roses, Cynar, Maple Syrup, Peychaud's Bitters. Slightly sweet with bitterness. Had a smoky coat with large ice block.

This bar advertises 48 seats. The seating options range from booth to bar, to high table seating. The lighting is dim. The water is served at room temperature without ice. The menu shows the glass presentation and whether or not the drink is shaken or stirred (SH versus ST). Beau/Bo (sp?) came over so we quizzed him about potential drinks. We wanted to know about the ginger profile of their syrup and whether the flavor is featured in select drinks. We inquired about the strawberry cordial and whether it would be too sweet. We asked what local liqueurs he would recommend. All the thorough responses led to: we make it in-house, we take pride in our work, it features these spices, it's in the forefront here, background here, etc. He was amazingly thorough and I appreciate that in a bartender.
Tempest - Goslings Dark Rum, Lime, Ginger Syrup, Five Pepper Infused Tequila. Ginger advertised at the forefront and delivered. Sweet citrus with ginger spice. Also comes with house made ginger candy (ask about the process. It's interesting).
La Palabra - Milagro Silver, Strawberry Cordial, Green Chartreuse, Lime. Spicy hot, can definitely smell the tequila.
Farewell to Arms - Fernet Branca, Falernum, Lime. Their Falernum is a house infused rum. A basil leaf tops the glass. Slightly sweet with warm spices including ginger. Fellow diners agreed it tasted of dark chocolate.

Port Fonda (unpictured) - Milagro Silver, Cucumber, Tomatillo, Cilantro, Serrano Peppers, Salt, Lime. Cooling cucumber in beginning then spicy pepper finish. Recommend as Manifesto's healthiest drink similar to the Green Machine.

In the midst of these drinks, our waitress asked us if we were ready for our free shots. She apologized earlier for our delays. I wondered why she waited until now and not sooner to deliver them as were into our second drinks. Was she trying to choose the timing and not us? While there, I quizzed her again about the maraschino cherries. They don't have the Italian variety and definitely don't carry the faux sugary preserved ones. They have their own whiskey infused cherries that are mainly featured in Manhattans (tart, sweet, whiskey). She graciously provided 6 for us to sample. Made me wish I ordered a Manhattan.

The house shot I think is called Stay Moist since it's close to their Stay Wet drink, but without the egg white. The shot tasted of lime, and hit with some spicy notes. Slightly tingly mouthfeel on occasions. Red chili as part of the infusion helped with that flavor profile.

Spring Menu (not readily apparent it's clickable on their site)

$11 drinks. I will probably be back here during the July 4th weekend. Well done, Manifesto. Your cocktails are liberated. I'm telling all my Colorado friends about you.

Notes: The proper entrance is in the alleyway. There is a doorbell you can ring. Also, their staff reads Yelp reviews and remembered my brother from our visit together, so I'll include the following. Manifesto, I truly enjoyed my experience here. I thought our waitress was great. She kept checking in with us, but admitted she was frantically busy with that large group. Even then, she gave us time to answer a couple questions before we ordered. I appreciate her being up front with us. The bumps we experienced were mild and did not detract from our overall experience.

Enoteca Fuori Porta

Good views lead to good food. This panoramic was taken atop Piazzale Michelangelo. The uphill climb, brief as it was, built an appetite, so I headed down to whet it. Be wary of heading down the scenic garden path. If you're like me and go the wrong direction, you'll be looking at the road forlornly realizing that you have to backtrack. Unless you're confident in your wall descent skills even with a full backpack and camera. Go parkour!

The street wound me toward Enoteca Fuori Porta, a delightful restaurant filled with locals. That was an excellent sign. That and the cool air emanating from inside.
I peeled my backpack and took a seat inside. There were a few people inside including a man and his dog. I love dogs and it's neat to see so many dog friendly establishments in Europe. This place even had a water dish for this cute dog.
I ordered the tortelli di pecorino e pere allo zafferano e papavero (ravioli of pecorino and pears with saffron and poppy) and a 2009 Frescobaldi Chianti (€3). When in Florence, order the chianti.
Here is a grand meal. Simple, prepared well, and is filling. The tortelli (€10) arrived remarkably fast accompanied by grated parmesan cheese. It was a sun yellow pasta which reminded me of Tuscan yellow. The sauce was a lighter shade and dotted with poppy seeds. The cheese was light, slightly nutty flavor and crumbly. I couldn't taste the pear, but wonder if the pecorino and pear neutralized each other? Surcharge: €1.50.
This is where I wrote that Italian speakers sing. They really do. I enjoy the lilting rollercoaster of their language. And watching the interactions, I noticed the familiarity between guests and waitstaff. It's nice to know a restaurant has regulars. In the end, climbing down walls pays off.
This is their back dining area. Notice the color variety.
They had dense colored glassware too. A regular hides in the background.

Via del Monte alle Croci, 
10, 50125 Firenze, Italy
+39 055 234 2483  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Search for Ginger - Perchè no!

I have a passion for ginger root. I desire the spiciness, the sweet heat. At sushi restaurants, I will eat your leftover pickled ginger. My eyes light up at new ginger products especially ginger beers and ales and ice creams. I rushed to Boulder, CO once I heard about Bitter Bar's Ginger Overload. I rushed to Glacé for their Candied Ginger ice cream once I arrived in Kansas City for Christmas 2010 (they were out). I splurged at Boulder's Frasca for Fever Tree Ginger Ale ($4 for a little bottle).
I'm obsessed and particular. Typically, my search leads to disappointment. Bitter Bar nailed it by muddling ginger right there. Reed's Ginger Ale makes my favorite ginger beer and ale. I love ginger candy for capturing ginger's essence remarkably well. Manifesto makes the fiercest ginger candy I've met yet. Ginger ice cream regularly fails me. Typically it's tame, spicy heat nullified by cream, whitebread, non-daring for mass exploitation.
Fortunately my non-diagnosed ADD (yay, bright lights!) lead me to unexpected finds. By late Sunday evening, I had already eaten 14 gelato samples at the Firenze Gelato Festival. I was aimlessly wandering when randomly flashing bright lights caught me attention. Blue! Green! Red! Yellow! Welcome to Perchè no!
They had many selections including alcoholic gelato (negroni and another), sorbetti, granata, and 2 soy-based gelatos. I was close to abstaining until I spotted this:
The heavens opened and shined upon the ginger gelato. I thought of all the wonderful and strange flavors I had already tried and capitulated. One scoop of ginger gelato in a cup, please.
So, not only does the ginger gelato display feature ginger root, this €2 single scoop gets layered with a ginger reduction! Ahhhhh! The heat, the spice, the actual ginger root bits, the fragrant ginger syrup on top, I was in heaven. Perchè no! delivered where previous ice cream establishments failed.

Another image of the ginger backdropped by the sorbetti and negroni.
Reviews of this fine establishment.
Another entrance shot.
Lists the flavors at the festival. Somehow I did miss their booth and I'm very sad I did.
 Perché No!
Via dei Tavolini, 
19-red, 50122 
Firenze, Italy  
+39 055 239 8969

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bugo Art Burger - Porto, Portugal

If you desire fine or adventurous Porto dining, get to know O Porto Cool. It's an online blog dedicated to "cool" dining, fashion, art, and more. And first on the list is Eatin' Cool. This dedicated blog led me to Bugo Art Burger. O Porto Cool featured tempting pictures and a Facebook link. Further research demonstrated affordable prices (featured restaurants tend to be expensive) and a killer menu.
Bugo is located on Rua De Miguel Bombarda near the Palacio Cristal. It is walking distance from the Carolina Michaelis metro station. Tucked in this neighborhood, it attracts businessmen, couples, and groups of friends. They offer lunch and dinner menus.
My first visit, one month ago, started with their house red wine. Like most Portugal wine, it's affordable and outstanding. This picture was taken at their front bar. They have 4 or 5 seats here. You're welcome to dine there or wait for your table.
As I waited for a friend, I casually took pictures. You can see the sangria in the upper left hand corner (to be sampled later). After the bar, the room is a chunky L shape with a strip of tables to the right (pictured), and a 6 person nook to the left. The kitchen is in the back and you can see a cook reflected in the mirror. Note: I've been impressed with the amount of upscale restaurants with open kitchens.
Still waiting, I decided to sample an appetizer. Welcome the tomato confit, goat cheese, and basil bruschetta. The sliced roll was a glorious textured orb of tasty colorful goodness.
I paused my devouring for another tempting image.
Settled into the nook with my dining companion, I received my main entree, The Oriental Assortment. There were three miniburger varieties - grass fed cow, azores tuna, and free range chicken with three oriental sauces (mayowasabi, teriyaki, and sweet and sour). It was served with Asian noodles and sauteed vegetables. The burgers were well cooked, the sauces great fun to pair, and the noodles an unlikely but successful match.
Chowing down, practicing my chopstick eat-fu.
If one desires the full restaurant experience, dessert should not be skipped. This is the fruit crumble with ginger and cinnamon ice cream.
This is the port wine pannacotta with berries jam. The fruit crumble won the dessert battle. Presentation was a draw. We both decided the pannacotta was too sweet, though I still finished it. The crumble with its fruity interior, crusted exterior, topped with cinnamon ice cream won us over.
And the sangria? Well, it tasted more of fizzy fruit water than a strong red wine.
My second visit was on a blazing hot day. Thank goodness for outside umbrellas (advertised as the only spot for this on Miguel Bombarda) and the cool indoors.
Many people were inside around 2pm. It seemed to be business related inside, friend related outside. I was just here to nurture my stomach's desire for good food. If you glance at the menu again, you'll notice you can order a simple burger or one with sauce and they come with two sides.. A sauce increased the price from €.50-€2. I ordered the Grass fed meat Burger with Porto e Serra (onion confit in port wine, topped with traditional Portuguese Serra da Estrela cheese). They did not have the roasted potatoes in olive and rosemary, so I ordered the fried potatoes (like the above, only fried I was assured) and basmati rice. I was also asked if I wanted water. I responded negatively but the cute waitress said it was hot outside, the water was free, and I shouldn't get dehydrated in this weather. Free water? Surely, a lie!
 Before the burger arrived, I was teased by these delightful rolls with olive oil and balsamic (?). They use these for their bruschetta pictured above. Since I left my home without much money, I didn't chance eating these in case I was charged. Sniffle.
Darn you Bugo! Are you trying to get me addicted? You're succeeding. Crisp shelled potatoes with soft interiors, plentiful rice soaking up the meat and confit juices, half and half ketchup and mayo, and a burger topped with onions and stinky cheese. The red meat fell apart amongst sweet onions. The potatoes were covered in red and white. Mmmmm. Good food backed up by Caro Emerald playing over the speakers.
Once I was done, I was offered dessert and free coffee. Instead of accepting, I decided to pay my bill at the front register. Total cost: €7.50. The water was free, the burger less than anticipated. This place is amazing. Now, I'm curious about the rolls. Do I go back?

Rua Miguel Bombarda Nº 598
4050-379 Porto – Portugal

The front
More Caro Emerald