Archive for the ‘lunch’ Tag

A Bit ‘O the Blarney   Leave a comment

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The menu at McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub identifies the restaurant as “A Touch of Ireland in Colorado!” This is no delicate light-handed touch, though. It’s as if every day was meant to celebrate St. Paddy. The odd thing is that it works.

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Nearly every menu item is a spin on something Irish: from appetizers heavy on cheese, the color green and stout to the entrees, including the pizzas, also known as “Patty Cakes.” But first, back to the appetizers. We ordered the Brick Oven Brie served warm, but not gooey, so it spread easily over pieces of flatbread, slices of pears and apple. The star of the plate was the fig jam which complemented the smooth, creamy brie. We were amused, but not tempted, by the Hun Lee O’Connor: egg rolls filled with corned beef and cabbage.

Since it was lunch I didn’t want anything very heavy, the Fields of Anthenry Salad seemed a nice fit. The large plate of field greens was difficult to eat; and maybe having a second dish with brie was not the best choice, but the honey mustard vinaigrette provided a nice zip. The salad was an impressive combination of flavors and textures.

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The menu also features an array of sandwiches, several soups, the aforementioned pizza, as well as pizza pot pies.

Although we weren’t there on St. Patrick’s Day, it was close enough so we ordered Guinness with Chambord. The combination, while sublime, transported us, but not necessarily to the Emerald Isle.

McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub
Three-and-a-half Plates
11115 W. Highway 24
Divide, CO

Upscale in Uptown Denver   2 comments

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Although most of the lyrics eluded us, my friends and I sang what we remembered of Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl en route to Humboldt because it’s located in Uptown Denver. That set the mood for a thoroughly enjoyable meal.

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Humboldt Farm Fish Wine is uptown in more ways than just its geographic location. It’s contemporary, bright and offers a diverse menu while putting new spins on time-honored familiars. It also helped that our server was exceptionally well-versed in the restaurant’s offerings.

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Steak Salad usually doesn’t catch my attention, but when the ingredients include harissa, bleu cheese and chimichurri, it’s hard to resist. I’m glad I didn’t. The tender pieces of flank steak and harissa, a Middle Eastern condiment of chile, garlic, cumin and other spices, would have been satisfying on their own. The inclusion of bleu cheese, roasted red peppers, cipollini onions and peppery arugula dressed with chimichurri in vinaigratte form resulted in an exquisite combination of flavors typically not associated with one another.

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Our server recommended the Rueben which was served on artistically-marbled rye bread. Each element was perfectly balanced: corned beef, cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island Dressing. However, it was nearly overshadowed by the side of roasted cauliflower.

All I sampled from the Albacore Tuna Salad was a beet because goat cheese, of which I’m not a fan, was a main ingredient. Still, I was intrigued by the pomegranate vanilla dressing, but not enough to taste more than the red vegie.

For a little while, we were living in an “uptown world.”

Humboldt Farm Fish Wine
Nearly Five Plates
1700 Humboldt St.,
Denver, CO

Midday Repast   Leave a comment

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It’s been a while since I’ve written about dinner The Margarita at Pine Creek, one of my all-time favorite restaurants. Recently, I was there for lunch, when the choices are fewer and lighter, just right for a summer day. (Dinners are served as three or five course options.) Some things such as service, ambiance and the food are remarkable no matter when you’re there.

A good friend suggested it as the place to celebrate my birthday. He is an accomplished chef and connoisseur of fine foods. I am always happy to dine with him, not just for his good company, but also to get his take on the cuisine.

 

The lunch menu is strong on salads, with a few other selections, but I was immediately drawn to the Sesame Chicken Salad. My host was torn between that and the Duck Confit Salad, so he asked to substitute the duck for the chicken. Even though I was very pleased with my choice, I almost wish I had done the same.

A small loaf of fresh whole wheat bread with a ramekin of pimento cheese arrived at the table. Pimento-spimento you might say. Go ahead because then I could have the creamy, slightly tangy red-flecked spread all to myself.

The salads were large and overloaded with ingredients to augment the greens and roasted chicken/duck confit: fresh vegetables and a lightly-flavored sesame dressing.

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A pecan crumb topping coffee cake was served as dessert. Although it was very good, it’s better suited to breakfast or brunch, something I’ll look forward to.

The Margarita at Pine Creek
Four-and-a-half Plates
7350 Pine Creek Rd.
Colorado Springs, CO

Gourmet on the Go   Leave a comment

Beginning as a small outlet for seasonings, Garden of the Gods Gourmet has a long local history. It’s evolved as a local catering favorite and as a place to purchase upscale meals-to-go. Also, it has emerged as small, out-of-the-way lunch, and occasional dinner, spot. That latter point is precipitating an upcoming move to a larger, more visible location.

Sometime this fall, according to the market manager, it will relocate to the corner of U.S. Highway 24 and 26th Street. That will allow for longer business hours for the catering side and a bigger restaurant space. The new site should also include better ventilation.

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Although it was a hot day on a recent visit, the limited shade in the patio area was far more comfortable than the stifling temperature inside. Fortunately, the soup of the day was a cold, refreshing roasted red pepper and corn which highlighted each ingredient. Along with a cup of soup, I had half of the Beef Banh Mi. Traditionally served with thinly-sliced pork, this roast beef version also featured pickled carrots, cucumbers, radishes and fresh cilantro on a baguette baked in-house. Because of the heat, and the inability to resist, we ordered the raspberry-lemon gelato. Neither flavor overwhelmed the other.

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Garden of the Gods has successfully managed to remain a catering, epicurean market and restaurant with a cohesiveness that doesn’t make it feel like an establishment with multiple personalities. Its new locale is likely to better showcase its strengths.

Garden of the Gods Gourmet Café and Market
Four Plates
2528 W. Cucharras Ave.
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Cafe Classics   1 comment

We aren’t planning any trips to Albuquerque anytime soon, but when we do we’ll make sure to include a stop at a Flying Star Café. There are eight in the Duke City area, plus one in Santa Fe. It’s similar to Panera Bread, but with a far more ambitious menu. Dinner and breakfast are served all day, which means the lunch options are plentiful.

A recent road trip resulted in our introduction to the Flying Star. Orders are placed at the counter, but the fare is delivered to the table. The emphasis is on comfort food that can be prepared quickly without sinking to a fast food template.

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I chose the smaller portion of the Buddha Bowl (appropriately called the Baby Buddha). Featuring stir-fried vegetables in a lemongrass-ginger sauce served over brown rice. The ginger adds a nice zing to the medley, and the fried wontons provide texture.

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The Macaroni and Cheese has apparently developed a cult-like following among diners trying to discern the types of cheese included in this classic dish. A few years ago, it was the recipient of an area newspaper’s Best Mac and Cheese Award. Curly pasta is coated in a very rich, very creamy cheese sauce. It’s decadent. One of the most elevated, and least expensive, menu items is the $5.99 Grilled Cheese Sandwich: gobs of melted cheddar on toasted sourdough bread.

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The café was bustling, but the food provided a nice respite from the basic off-the-highway-for-a-quick-bite meal we’ve settled for in the past.


Flying Star Café

Three-and-a-half Plates
8000 Paseo Del Norte
Albuquerque, N.M.

A Residence of Flavors   2 comments

A simple, colorful sign on the white clapboard siding indicates Shuga’s is not a residential house. Nonetheless, it’s home to good food and comfort. Celebrating a friend’s birthday, we enjoyed a long, better-than-average lunch outside (a few tables are at the entrance, and a larger patio is in back).

The Brazilian Coconut Shrimp Soup is Shuga’s signature dish. It’s available by the bowl or cup. I wish it were sold by the potful. We each ordered soup with two bruschetta. We both had the fresh tomato and mozzarella, but took different directions with the second. She had the tomato, bacon and goat cheese, and I had smoked salmon.

The range of flavors was like sibling rivalry, each vying to top the other. Parents aren’t supposed to play favorites, but as a diner it was easy to choose: the soup. Plump shrimp, a hit of jalapeno spiciness offset by the rich, smooth coconut milk and the suggestion of peanuts completed the bisque. As my friend said, “It’s a series of flavors.”

Thick slices of hard-crusted bread were the base of the bruschetta. One was slathered with aioli then topped with a generous serving of smoked salmon, capers and red onions. The other was a version of Caprese with olive oil, substantial slices of salty cheese and taste-of-summer tomatoes topped with fresh basil. The soup may have overshadowed, but these sides were not family embarrassments.

It’s been years since I was last at Shuga’s. I won’t make the mistake of waiting so long to return.

Shuga’s
Four-and-a-half Plates
702 S. Cascade Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO.

Elevated Sandwiches   3 comments

I’ve long given up trying to get into the Butterhorn Bakery & Café (in Frisco, CO) for breakfast/brunch on the weekend. Yet, this popular eatery attracts locals and tourists in equal numbers for lunch during the week, too. The draw: this is a real bakery and the menu features baked goods. Recently, friends arrived early to get on the list for a table, so it didn’t really seem like much of a wait – for me.

I ordered the Vegie Hummer. For some reason I neglected to register the menu fact it was black bean hummus, rather than traditional chickpea. This was a surprise, not a problem. The dark, thick mash had a depth of flavor, which was nearly lost under the jungle of sprouts and shredded carrots. This, with slices of red onion, tomato and lettuce on a Jalapeno-Cheddar Baguette, made for a pretty bulky, filling sandwich. The cheese was an edible lacquer on the freshly-baked bread. The combination of all the elements was an excellent vegie hoagie.

Other items selected in our group were the Thai Chicken Wrap which inspired no order envy, and the Spicy Chicken Guacamole on a croissant which did. The latter, however, was messy to eat, but melted pepper jack with grilled chicken made it worth the need for extra napkins.

All sandwiches come with a choice of potato salad, pasta salad or chips. Be forewarned, the pasta salad is actually macaroni salad – that old-fashioned kind with a mayonnaise base. It was out of character with the otherwise trendy menu.

Butterhorn Bakery & Café
Not-quite-Four Plates
Breakfast and lunch only
408 Main St.
Frisco, Colorado