Thursday

Pasta Jay's at Lone Tree

Beating the rush is an excellent endeavor, and generally well worth it! It's a grueling pain to wait in line as your stomach rumbles and you see countless others eating away. We were thus so privileged when we arrived at Pasta Jay's in Lone Tree. We arrived quarter after 5 to a "calm" Italian restaurant but left a bustling scene with a line of people waiting for food.

Another advantage of showing up early is their daily happy hour in which many of their scrumptious meals are half the price! Always a good thing. We sat down to a red and white checkered cloth and under an arch of brick, feeling as though we were no longer in a Denver suburb. Cups of water were brought along with a PITCHER of water. I always jump for joy when I discover another restaurant which brings me the pitcher. As an avid water drinker I have only found a few places that can keep my cup full, and a pitcher will definitely stay the drought.

Our waiter, Jordan, comes and tantalizes our taste buds as she describes the daily specials and lets us in on a little secret that is not on the menu. The description wins us over and Beth chooses the Jalapeno Stuffed Ravioli and I chose their Florentine Pizza.

The pizza is made with the traditional thin and crispy crust, an alfredo sauce, chicken, fresh baby spinach and black olives. I X'ed the black olives, because those do not taste good, and added some scrumptious roasted garlic. They readily accepted the change in menu and showed that they are flexible and an easy restaurant to eat at. The crust was a little too cooked on the outer edge, it being black, but surprisingly still tasted great. The pizza was good and I'm glad I got the lower price during happy hour.

The Stuffed Ravioli was exceptionally amazing. With the ravioli smothered in Pasta Jay's famous marinara sauce, multiple types of cheese and the peppers being that perfect spice with out burning your mouth off, I endorse it. Worth going back at any time, even if those lines are long.

For our dessert we ordered Tiramisu and cannoli. And for once my order was better then Beth's. I got the tiramisu which was good and light with a superb flavor. The chocolate dressing was at a slight variance to the flavor of the tiramisu but I just ate it without dip it in the excess dressing and was thoroughly "picked up". The cannoli, Beth's favorite, had an excellently deep fried crisp shell but the cream was a little too grainy due to the much added cinnamon.

Jordan, our waiter, was exceptional, truly the best of the whole lot at Pasta Jay's in Lone Tree. She was truly honest! A great quality, one sometimes lacking in waiters.

Pasta Jay's on Urbanspoon

 

Red Robin Bad Robin

It never fails, every so often I'm out with friends and it is settled to eat at Red Robin. I will admit, I am a little biased against Red Robin, due to some past stories of mine but that doesn't stop me from giving that little red bird another try, constantly. So here it goes again...

The Good: Sweet Potato Fries and that's it. They have BOTTOMLESS sweet potato fries. Whenever I go I make sure I get my moneys worth of just sweet potato fries. I'm talking 6-10 baskets full. Well now closer to the hire number and beyond since they have recently reduced the amount of fries delivered. The sweet potato fries come nice and crisp with that soft inside that is oh so delicious. Now I am constantly writing sweet potato fries as to leave no shadow of doubt to which fries I am talking about, because they do have just fries. I'm always impressed how at Red Robin getting the upgraded fries of Parmesan and garlic (which are great combinations) make the fries worse. I thought paying for upgrades were to get, well ... an upgrade. But if you like tasteless soft mushy fries go ahead and get their fries. If you like tasteless soft mushy fries with some white and green stuff thrown at them get their Parmesan and garlic fries. They don't even cook the upgrades with the fries, they just throw them on after the fact. But if you like sweet potato fires get THEM! They themselves are occasionally worth just a trip.

The Change: The Red Robin closest to our house just went through some remodeling. They REMOVED the red robin statue, a signature logo. That's like taking Ronald McDonald and X-ing him from McDonald's, oh wait, they did that too. So like the fast food chain McDonald's, Red Robin is trying to "fancify" themselves. The laid back burger joint is now prim and proper. Not only did they remodel the building they also remodeled their menu. Again trying to make themselves a higher class burger joint with three different burger options: Gourmet, Angus, and Tavern. I'm all for change and letting others change, especially for the good. And if Red Robin wants to change to a $12 burger place let it be! I might start to like them! But please serve me a $12 burger. Something that hits fast food burgers out of the park.

The Other Stuff: I don't say bad, because it's not bad, it's just not good. We ordered four different burgers at our table. I got a a chili burger which appeared to be a 1/2 can of some generic chili slapped on top of a burger all sandwiched between a bun. That's it, no other toppings or flavors: generic chili over cooked unseasoned ground beef. Umm????
We ordered a tavern burger as well to see if the change of additional options would better their standing. So we got the Red's Tavern Double, aka McDouble with a tomato.
We got two other gourmet burgers: Guacamole Bacon and Blue Ribbon. I mean guacamole and bacon, how can that not be good? Again, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't "Gourmet Burgers". They are definitely a step up from McDonald type fast food. But if you are going for a GOOD burger go to SmashBurger. Plus, it's half the price.

Lastly, our waiter was annoyed at something and didn't know the menu at all. We asked her some questions and she made up some answers that contradicted herself.


Red Robin Gourmet Burgers on Urbanspoon

Friday

Frijoles Colorado

We've never had Cuban food before. The foundation of this blog was built on the fact that we love trying new cuisines and prefer to try out new places rather than constantly visiting a favorite! Well, we were just driving around and saw "Cuban Cuisine" and had to make a stop.

Frijoles is located in a strip of maybe 3 other businesses right off Alameda. The location lead us to believe it would be a little hole in the wall (with hole in the wall pricing). When we walked in, I felt like I was in a little bakery. The atmosphere is simple and the place is on the smaller side. Just a modest little place really.

The workers greeted us cheerfully! The staff were a happy and friendly bunch and we loved that! We loved it so much we paid close to $10 for each of our sandwiches! Not that Subway is great, but I totally agree with their pricing. A sandwich should be $5! It's a simple food that is cheap to make.


This place has a focus on sandwiches it seems but they do offer plates and a daily special. All dishes are about $10 which really is a good price (especially for the quality).  When our sandwiches arived and we took our first bites, we knew this place serves you their best. The quality of the meats was outstanding. We had a Pan Con Bistec (Steak) sandwich. The steak was tender, moist and bursting with flavor. The tomatoes and onions were fresh and beautiful. The potato sticks were unique but added a load of crunch to the sandwich. It was a great sandwich.

We also tried the El Cubano (Cuban) sandwich. The owner suggested it as one of her favorites so we figured it must be great. It's served on Cuban bread which they make themselves daily! The sandwich also comes with ham, Swiss cheese, pork roast, mustard and pickles.

I don't know if I could tell you which sandwich was better. They both offered something so different. I loved the panini feel of the Cuban sandwich. It offered that comfort food feel. The steak sandwich was just as amazing but it offered a bold, almost manly meat with potato sticks that bulked the whole thing up and was served on a thicker bread. If you are hungry, I'd suggest going with the steak sandwich for sure!


Finally, we sampled the Lechon Moro y Yuca plate which 5280 featured in their magazine. This dish offers their "signature pork, rice infused with black beans and yuca and caramelized onions".  The cook (also one of the owners) told us this plate is Cuba's fancy traditional Christmas dinner!  You know it must be good then, right? It is. The pork was so juicy and tasty! I don't know that I was a fan of the Yuca but that was a texture thing more than anything. As far as the flavors it was nice. Here is the crazy part: the beans and rice were my favorite. They were cooked to perfection. The flavors were simple and I just couldn't get enough. When we go back (because we probably will) I'll be getting my hands on that rice.

We were way too full to try a dessert but they offer a great selection that they make themselves daily.

I just loved the staff and the food at Frijoles. It is obvious that they serve quality, home made products and the food is authentic to Cuba. As I said, we don't like to revisit restaurants but this one is so good, we'll be going back.

Frijoles Colorado Cuban Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday

Voodoo Doughnut

I am pretty sure that my husband is the only person I've ever met who doesn't love doughnuts. The deep fried, sickly sweet dessert is too delicious for me to not love. While I've never had a Krispy Kreme, eating a warm fresh Krispy Kreme doughnut is on my bucket list. I've heard that's as good as it gets in the doughnut world.
When I heard that Voodoo was opening a store in Denver I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. As a Portland native and Colorado transplant it was too good to be true. I actually haven't been to Voodoo in Portland but have always wanted to.  I was SO EXCITED to have the infamous Voodoo Doughnut shop come this way.
We avoid crowds so we waited till just recently to go waste time standing in line for an extremely overpriced doughnut. My husband was not thrilled to say the least but he's supportive and tagged along anyway. We parked a few blocks away as suggested. Part of the experience is to check the back lot and watch naive people's cars get towed away. If you think you are above getting towed from "the back lot" you are foolish. There were boots and tow trucks galore.
We got into line and people watched. We, in our late twenties, were the second or third oldest group in the line of about 100 people. The guy a few people ahead of us was one of the very few that was older than us and he happened to be on speaker with his teenage daughter asking her what it was she wanted. Even he was fetching doughnuts for someone younger than I. Point is, this is certainly a shop who's marketing screams at the young crowd.
I loved the duck tape wall art. The decor and environment was fun. The line took a bit more than half an hour on a random Thursday night. I was so sure that would have been the least busy time to go and yet we still had to wait a long time. My husband and I are 98% sure they contribute to the long, slow lines. Sure there are a ton of customers but the cashiers just go painfully slow. Once we got to the counter the man just folded boxes for a while before taking our order. There were already dozens and dozens of folded boxes and yet he felt the need to fold a few more before helping us. We told him what we wanted and he went and grabbed one at a time and very casually placed them in our box.
So, finally... the doughnuts! If you're like me you've heard that they are average. They are just over hyped doughnuts famous for their quirky thyme. Wrong. The Voodoo doughnut is actually really good! The raspberry filling was amazing. The dough was great. The pretzel soggy. Ew. The frosting was excellent. Overall an amazing doughnut!
The bacon maple bar is like $3. In my opinion it was dry, bland and the bacon was kind of gross. I never in my wildest dreams I'd ever put gross and bacon in the same sentence.
 If you want to have your socks knocked off, order a fritter. We tried the apple fritter. Oh. My. Word. SO GOOD! It's deep fried. the glaze is perfectly sticky while the luscious apple pieces and add a pop of flavor making it impossible to put the fritter down. This pastry is absolute perfection. It is worth standing in line for.

The cake doughnuts are average. You could might as well go get a store bought doughnut. These are what you would get if you ask for the Voodoo dozen or whatever the box deal is. It looks like a good deal but it's not. You don't get the good stuff. It's better to just order fewer of what you actually want.




Voodoo Doughnut on Urbanspoon

Wednesday

Timberline Grill at Ameristar in Black Hawk, Co


The clang of slot machines, the flipping of cards, and the low drum of hundreds of people talking permeates the air as you enter the Ameristar Casino in Blackhawk. But there is relief, a little get away, a mountain lodge of serenity built as a beautiful timber frame lodge with slated wood walls. It offers a cozy fire place to absorb warmth by and there is excellent food to enjoy. 
It is the Timberline Grill!

Chef Philippe Georges has recently upgraded the menu to incorporate the ideal of grow local. They have partnered with local dairies to bring in their expert cheeses. They use Colorado raised lamb, trout from our very own Rocky Mountains, and choice aged beef.


We had the privilege of trying a sampler of their appetizers. A plate full of Jumbo Shrimp, Smoked Trout Mousse, Crab Aspic, and Lobster Salad. The Jumbo Shrimp were too jumbo for Beth, as after three bites half was still left, but that very fact made them perfect for me. They were LARGE shrimp with just the right amount of sauce, full flavor and good texture. The Smoked Trout Mousse was smoked! It was heavily smoked, which producing a rich flavor to the mousse, complemented well with the horseradish foam, and the roasted beets made it stand out. If you love a smoked flavor, get it! If you don’t, go for the shrimp. The Crab Aspic (a gelatin) was rejected by Beth due to her years in Russia and a bad experience with Kholodets. I found it intriguing. It was of a good softness and was well presented but had a dull flavor. The Lobster Salad with an avocado base had me on edge at first. As I put it in my mouth it felt chunky but then the flavors combined into a melody of deliciousness, especially with the accompanying bread. It was a good portion and filling. 


After filling ourselves most of the way with the appetizers we began studying the menu. I concluded on getting the Rack of Colorado Lamb as I was intrigued by the combination of lavender, honey, and roasted garlic. Beth settled on the Cedar Plank Skuna Bay Salmon, again due to the combination of a whiskey maple butter sauce. The lamb was arrayed nicely in the center of the plate with the honey artistically drizzled. The salmon came served on the cedar plank with a wrapped lemon and a jar of the whiskey maple butter. Beth was delighted to see the sauce come in a jar, as it calmed her worry of having to ration the sauce. The lamb was cooked exactly as I asked and Beth (a non lamb liker) said it was the best lamb she has had and actually asked for another bite. The sauce was plentiful and good and the lamb tasty, but I wouldn’t go back solely for the lamb. The salmon on the other hand was exquisite and worth any trip. The only bad thing was that it was hard for me to get more as I was sitting on the opposite side of the table and Beth was standing guard. 


The dessert was a Chocolate Blackout Cake drizzled with raspberry flavoring and backed with a chocolate crisp. It did not look restaurant made nevertheless is was scrumptious and amply big enough to fill any chocolate lovers needs. 




The service was enjoyable. We were lead by the hostess, who's dress was much too short, to a nice booth. The moment we sat down we had a bowl of bread placed at our table and I do not think my cup of water ever reached half way before it was refilled. Well done!  Our server, April, was a delight to talk to and was very genuine. And although she is one of the newest servers (being there only a little over a year) she is one of the best! Ask for her whenever you go!




Timberline Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday

Celestial Seasonings

It may seem odd to post a "review" on a factory but trust me, I'm doing you a favor! I had heard of people touring Celestial Seasonings which is located in Boulder. I thought it sounded dumb and boring. I am a tea enthusiast and all but I just thought it would be a waste of time. It wasn't until I agreed to go on a triple date that I was talked into going.

We arrived and went into the front desk to be assigned a tour. The young lady was kind enough to let us run into the tour that was just starting. She gave us our "tickets" which were actually packages of tea. I really liked that! Each tour group gets a different flavor so if you are picky, just ask what flavor you are getting. If you don't want that flavor you can ask what the next tour flavor will be. Each tour is about 30 minutes so they start every half hour as well.

They have you watch a little video and then hand you a hair net. You head into the factory and get to see how things run. I won't go into detail here because it's hardly exciting and it certainly wouldn't be exciting to read about.

Once the tour was over the real fun began! We skipped the gift shop and went back into the café, which is where the tour starts. Here they offer FREE samples of every tea they make. I would like to add that "Free Samples" doesn't do it justice. They give you a small mug or cup. You can go to the counter and serve yourself one of the dozen teas that are hot and ready to be sipped OR you can go to the counter and ask to try any of the dozens of teas listed on their menu. They will happily serve you, answer questions, share little tid bits or spout off neat little facts. After you have yourself a glass of tea you can head over to the counter and add whatever you'd like to your cup. They have everything you can imagine! From cream to honey it's all there. Once you have yourself a drink you can sit at a table or couch. They have magazines and newspapers and they sell snacks. There is even a bathroom. They honestly want you to sit and enjoy as many cups of tea as your heart desires. It's heavenly. They won't even look at you funny if you go up for your 10th cup of tea. I know because I did it. I was starting to feel guilty and mentioned it. The lady reassured me that they are happy to give you as much tea as you want!

At the end of the day it's really a great marketing strategy. I didn't think I'd buy tea after the tour but after drinking about a dozen different varieties I had no choice but to go back to the gift shop to buy a few boxes.

Whether you are a local or are just here for a visit, I highly recommend you go check this place out!

Celestial Seasonings on Urbanspoon

Thursday

Tam's

My super awesome husband knows that good ol' Americanized Chinese food is my biggest guilty pleasure.  He went to A West for a period of time and explained that Tam's has lines out the door at lunch time because the kids love this place! He warned me that it's a major hole in the wall but with it's great Urbanspoon reviews, he thought I should give it a try. Well, like I said, I'm a sucker for Chinese so he didn't need to convince me!
 
 

We haven't ever had Hong Kong Noodles so we ordered some. It's a dish of wok fried noodles with a brown sauce topped with shrimp, beef, chicken and mixed vegetables. They weren't our favorite of the items we ordered but they were still great! In fact, just thinking about them makes me want more.
 
 
 
I think we always order orange chicken. It's a favorite in this house. When I took my first bite I wasn't sure what I was eating. This dish offers a more bitter side of orange than your typical orange chicken. I realized upon my second bite that it's because they actually cook it with real oranges. You have to pick out the rind chunks or you'll bite into a rather unpleasant surprise. I loved the natural, sweet, bitter zip that Tam's Orange Chicken has. It really is a great recipe that left craving more!
 
I wouldn't normally mention fried rice. I don't like rice and find it to be a filler to compensate for smaller sized portions. At Tam's that is far from the truth. First of all, the portions are so huge that my husband and had leftovers for days! I would estimate that one plate will feed 3 people easy. Second of all, Tam's fried rice is worth eating. It was especially delicious mixed in with the Orange chicken sauce. Oh my word, it was out of this world!
 
We thought we ordered a side of giant egg rolls but it appears we actually ordered the Vietnamese Egg Rolls. They weren't giant but they were tasty. I won't order them again though. While they weren't bad, they were the least favorite for both of us.
 
Fried wontons are an amazing Chinese appetizer that is almost always dipped in a Sweet and Sour sauce. If you order crab wontons from Tam's, you won't be dipping them. These little guys are so packed full of flavor! The crab flavor isn't too strong but it certainly isn't hidden behind the cream cheese. The wontons are hands down the best wontons I've ever had.
 
Tam's may be a hole in the wall teen age hang out but I don't care. I'll be back! This place deserves the hype and I really hope that Tam's wife (who is now a widow) keeps this place up and running. This is exactly what I imagine when I crave Chinese food.
 
 
Tam's Cantonese on Urbanspoon

Wednesday

Tommyknockers Brewery


We had my little sister fly in from the Pacific North West recently. We decided to show her around Colorado a bit and ended up at this brewery up in Idaho Springs. We've been told Tommyknockers has some awesome home made soda and we were anxious to give it a try.


We ordered one pitcher of their home made root beer. It was great!  I am a sucker for home made and unique sodas. I wouldn't drive all the way up here just to try it, but if you're in the area you should certainly stop in and give it a try.


We started off with a plate of Motherload Nachos. If you've read many of my posts you may have noticed I am a nacho lover. I often order nachos so I've tried many varieties. These nachos are seriously the greatest nachos in the world. I can guarantee you won't find better nachos in Colorado. The chips are made in house and taste like Doritos. So imagine... Doritos with cheddar cheese, chili con queso, pico de gallo, black beans and a side of guacamole (you pay extra for guac). I can't even explain to you how good these nachos are. They are worth the drive. I promise.

Now, we may as well just stopped there. We had amazing draft root beer and the best nachos on the planet. Our luck couldn't be better, right? Right! We didn't' really enjoy our meals much. Gary had a burger and I had their pesto chicken sandwich. Neither are worth mentioning really. If we go again (and we WILL go again) we'll order Nachos all around and pitcher of that home made root beer!




Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday

Alamo Drafthouse Cinama


I have a four month old baby and I don't feel comfortable leaving her with the babysitter for extended periods of time. I like to think she would miss me too much or whatever. Gary on the other hand loves date night and he enjoys an outing sans kids. He especially loves to go to dinner and a movie. I love my husband but I'm not willing to leave my baby for 4+ hours. I told him he can pick dinner OR a movie. Anyone who knows Gary knows he likes to find the loopholes. He came to me and said "We're going to The Alamo so we're eating dinner and watching a movie at the same time".   He won.

We read the Alamo's website before going and I'm glad we did! They are a little pretentious. If you don't show up before the show starts, you won't be seated. If you talk or have your cell phone out you'll get one warning before being kicked out. You better not even think about bringing your baby! They aren't allowed. Sounds extreme, right? It actually made for a really enjoyable movie experience! If you are a worried mom like me, leave the Alamo's phone number with your movie and showtime for the sitter. Then you wont worry you're missing a major catastrophe at home.

So we got there 30 minutes before our show started, just as the website states you should. We sat down and our waiter came over. He explained that you order by writing on the paper provided on your table. I suggest looking at the menu and figuring out what you want before the show starts. My husband and I knew we wanted to share a milk-shake mid show so we found the one we wanted and wrote it down on a paper and held onto it till the middle of the show. It was perfect! We ordered our dinners minutes after arriving. I think they prefer that. After reading so many reviews of people complaining that they didn't get their food till the show was ending, I was shocked to receive both our meals before the movie even started! I'm going to bet, if you show up late and order late you'll get your food really late.

We shared the Royale with Cheese. It's a burger made of 100% Angus Chuck topped with smoked bacon, red onion, lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese. The burgers all come with a side of chunky fries. I recommend asking for extra ketchup. Gary thought the burger was the best of the things we tried. I thought it was okay.

We also shared a pizza found on their special/seasonal menu. It was a ranch based pizza topped with chicken and tomatoes... I forgot all the details (sorry). I really hate to be negative but the chicken was the driest chicken I think I've ever had. I found that taking it off and eating the pizza without it made for a pretty decent dish.

We splurged and ended our night by sharing a Chocolate Chip Cookie Shake. I am so glad we did! I loved that thing. It was so creamy and the crunchy little chunks of cookie were fun. The presentation was lovely. It was topped with whipped cream and a sprinkling of the cookie crumbs. The straw was the fattest straw I've ever seen which was perfect for sucking up cookie chunks.

So. Overall we loved our experience. What I thought was just pretentious non-sense ended up making for an enjoyable movie experience. I appreciated the quiet and the lack of bright cell phone screens. I was in heaven not worrying about silly teens giggling and kicking my seat behind me. I have no doubt that we'll come here for our movies from now on. Here's what I'll do next time though: I'll order their $6 refillable popcorn. They serve it in a metal bowl and you get refills. Their soda is about $4 and it too comes with free re-fills. For $10 you get endless popcorn and soda brought right to your seat? Yes please! If you drink, they offer beers and wines. They even have "adult milkshakes"! They also have snacks and salads. The selection is perfect!

One of my favorite things about the Alamo was the pre-show "previews". They weren't your typical previews. They actually were tidbits about the actors that are staring in your movie. It's awesome.

No phones = no photos this time...

Alamo Drafthouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday

Marino's Pizzeria


I recently received an email from a reader. The reader explained that he's lived in Chicago and New York and loves both styles of pizza but after a recent trip to Italy he really appreciates a good authentic Italian pizza. As you may have noticed, there are not many authentic pizzerias here in Denver so I was excited to check this place out!



Meet Marino. He's the Italian man tossing a pizza in the picture. He's been in the US for about 9 years. He has an amazing Italian accent and can make an amazing pizza. He decided to follow his dreams by starting this pizzeria just a few short months ago.

You know each dish is made with pure love because he himself made the brick oven and makes each pizza with attention to detail. He starts by using 00 flour from Italy. He tosses his dough by hand which is necessary for it to be authentic. If you order a Le Pomodorine (also known as a pizza with tomato sauce) he uses San Marzano tomatoes. The ingredients are what make Marino's pizza exceptional. He only uses the finest.

He offered to make us a pizza he had just created! It was a white pizza (using olive oil rather than a tomato sauce) topped with brie, olives, thin sliced potato and a sprinkling of rosemary. While this pizza wasn't my favorite of the two, I am so glad we tried it. The flavors worked well together and it was truly unique. I admire his creativity and ability to create something new.

Marino suggested the Salvatore which is a pizza with San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella and sausage. We love sausage so we knew this was a good choice. It was awesome! I could instantly see that the sauce was made with quality ingredients. The simplicity of the sauce, the sweet yet savory sausage and the mozzarella made for the perfect pizza.

One of the things I am always afraid of when eating an authentic brick oven fired pizza is the crust. It's a delicate balance between burnt and crispy and being fully cooked. Marino cooks his pizza to perfection.

I urge you to go on an adventure and go try this place! It's in an odd location. We thought we were lost in the middle of a subdivision when we finally found it but I'm telling you, it's worth it! I have high hopes for Marino and his new pizzeria. I wish him the best and hope he finds success in following his dream.

Oh, and even if you aren't a pizza fan... you're sure to love the Pizzotelle (or pizza balls) that are just pizza dough topped with Nutella and powdered sugar. They also serve wings, calzones and salads.




Marino's on Urbanspoon