Monday, September 16, 2013

Don't Be Fooled, This Post is About Food

This post is dedicated to the memory of the late Chris Hollins...

Welcome back sunshine!  After a rainy week, and a cool and cloudy start this morning, the sun is finally out this Monday afternoon in full force.  I'm sure after 3 minutes of sunshine, Colorado was back in drought conditions, because no matter where you live, you're in a drought so shut off that faucet you jerk!

I heard this morning that Estes Park was basically shut down because of all the flooding and mudslides.  The neighbors that I'm stalking are supposed to get married there in two weeks...if they weren't freaking out before I'm sure they are freaking out now.  I want to ask them what they're going to do but based on the one time we've hung out so far, I don't know if I'm friends enough to text them.  Hmm...I wonder if emotional stalking is thing.  Empasthalking?

On Saturday, prior to another round of "How Much Can We Spend at Ikea Today", I took (and passed) an exam certifying me to be in charge of certain banking institutions.  This is not important, as I've mentioned before.  What was important, is that passing the test paid me that mad landscape money that I need to have the baddest patio in Stapleton.  (That's gotta be a thing!)  While most people would want to celebrate immediately after passing a test like that, I went to Ikea, and then found shelter in my house as the torrential rain that started earlier in the week hit Stapleton in full force.  It was at the height of this storm, when much of the city was under an inch of water, that I decided to drive downtown to meet some friends for drinks.  Alcohol > Natural Disasters.

Drinks became dinner became one of the most fun nights I've had.  Six of us went to a restaurant downtown called Rioja, who's chef has won several Top Chefs (Cheves?) and is a James Beard award winner, and the restaurant is rated two tires by Michelin.  We decided among the six of us that we would all do the tasting menu, which comprised of a six course preparation of food made in God's own blender.  What came out was course after course of a sensory nirvana.  If food can evoke an emotional response, I'd say it made me wistful, mixed with elation, and nervously aroused?  I don't know.  Normally I make fun of restaurants that think their food is the greatest thing on god's green earth, but seriously, in this case, preparation beat pretense.

Anyways, I missed out on a couple pictures...mainly the amouse bouche, which was some sort of fig-chicken sausage or something.  But the rest is pictured below.

The first course was a mango salmon lomi lomi, which if I have to guess, was a Hawaiian salt cured Skuna Bay salmon, macadamia-ginger pesto, scallion, cucumber, mango coulis, and basil pudding.  Again, just guessing.

Wtf is coulis?

The second course was fresh bacon.  Pork belly is very tender, but this was like, melt in your mouth tender.  This is also the worst of 6 pictures I took.  This was my irrational, "I need to turn the flash off so people don't see how lame I am" picture.  Seriously Chris, how do you do this all the time?  The bacon was a cardamom spiced pork belly in a madras curry scented garbanzo bean puree.

The third course was the pasta course, and included an artichoke tortellini, which was a tortellini stuffed with goat cheese and artichoke mousse, with a bunch of other amazing stuff (can you tell i'm tired of looking up the ingredients from the menu yet?).  The other thing was gnocchi with mushrooms, and the smallest fruit I've ever eaten, champagne grapes.

As we headed into the entree courses, I was already full from the delicacies above as well as the tray of amazing bread that kept making the rounds...the best was a goat cheese biscuit that was a close second to Red Lobster's cheesy biscuits.  Ok, maybe not a CLOSE second.  Even the butter was amazing.  As one girl in our group said, "I just ate the butter by itself...I'm not ashamed to say that."  The first entree was a seared sea scallop with leek custard, grilled baby leeks, and black truffle vinaigrette.

The fifth course was lamb two ways.  On the far right was a grilled lamb filet.  In the middle is a lamb sausage with a lemon yogurt topping, and on the left is a pillow stuffed with lemon cous cous.  All of this was over grilled baby zucchini and a tomato coulis.  I think the grilled lamb was my favorite thing on the menu, mostly because it didn't taste at all like lamb.

Seriously, wtf is coulis?!

The final course of the evening was dessert.  I wasn't hog wild over any of it to be honest, but let's be real, once you've had wal-mart brand frozen ice pops, all other desserts pale in comparison.  Featured below, was a goat cheese and black mission fig filled beignet with a ruby port wine reduction (left), and a white chocolate cheesecake, with seseme ice cream, a sesame nougatine, and a single blackberry, for some sort of artistic statement.  The menu also described this dish to include coulis, but I've given up on that word because I now believe it was probably the name of the chef or something.

Anyways, this dinner taught me a few things.

1.  As much as I make fun of these type of places, they CAN actually live up to the hype.
2.  A three hour dinner CAN be a lot of fun.
3.  I just looked this up.  Coulis is a form of thick sauce made from pureed and strained vegetables and fruit.  Thanks Wikipedia!  So it's basically mush.  Oh here we stomped on some apples and want to charge $7 more for this pork medallion, so let's say it's pork medallion with apple coulis!  The more you know.
4.  Chris Hollins is not actually dead...I just thought the dedication would make this more meaningful.

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