Local Boulder Eats: Avery Brewing

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I don’t know why I’m telling anyone about this place. It’s already popular and last time I went for dinner, I had to wait over an hour for a table. Well, at least you can get a beer then hang out on the viewing platform over the brewery, enjoying that excellent beer.

I have loved Avery, a Boulder craft brewery, since I first tried the Ellie’s Brown Ale. It helps that there is a picture of Ellie, the chocolate lab, on the label. I have tried many of their beers. Ellie’s is still my favorite in the bottle. At the brewery, you can sample the wide variety of beers that never see a bottle or a can. Some, like the Liliko’i Kepolo which is available nationally in cans, tastes even better on tap. No matter what style of beer you love, Avery will have something for you at the brewery. I’m also pretty sure they’ll have styles of beer you have never heard of. They do a lot of experimenting and these wild (and often ancient) forms of beer show up in the taproom. The draft menu changes often. You can check what’s on tap now on their draft menu.

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Avery’s Taproom. Many beers on tap daily.

Avery has had a tap room in Boulder for a long time. When they moved to their brand new sparkly brewery last year, they added a restaurant kitchen. Now, they turn out food to match the beers. There is a taproom downstairs and a sit-down restaurant upstairs. The menu is the same in both, but if you have people who aren’t comfortable at a high-top table, reserve a table upstairs.

The food is mostly Southern-influenced and it matches perfectly with their beers. They smoke their own meats and do an outstanding job. The Meat, Meat, Meat platter is huge, and you get to sample a selection of the delicious meat that benefits from time in that smoker. The menu changes everyday and seasonally. The fried chicken, on the Monday menu, is crispy-crunchy goodness. There are vegetarian options on every menu; I have found all of them to be fantastic and interesting. So, if you don’t do huge platters of meat, no need to avoid Avery. These vegetarian options are not lame afterthoughts. They stand on their own and they go great with the beer.

Alas, if you don’t drink beer, there is no wine nor liquor. Just the way it is. You’ll have to make do with water. Go for the food though. It’s worthy, even if you don’t like beer.

Avery Brewing is located a few miles northeast of downtown Boulder in Gunbarrel. Not a place you’d go looking for a restaurant, but you won’t be sorry you ventured out that way.

Avery Brewing Co.
4910 Nautilus Ct.
Boulder, Colorado 80301

They take reservations online. There’s usually a wait, so strongly suggested.

Chicago: eating and other things

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Cool fountain and art installation on a hot day in Millennium Park

Chicago is a great town. I visited 2 years ago for non-food reasons: required pilgrimage to Wrigley Field (if you are a baseball fan, you must go). I was immediately impressed by the variety of dining options. That first trip, we sampled the following: Polish pierogis, Chinese dim sum, Mexican street food, deep-dish pizza, gelato. One thing is for sure, you won’t go hungry as a tourist in Chicago.

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Cubs were on the road, but we took a walk around the park to see Ernie and Harry

This summer’s visit didn’t disappoint on the food, either. But, before I get to the dining, I want to say a few things about this fantastic city. I was really impressed with the friendliness here. People help you at the El station. They offer help if you look a bit lost on the street. The drivers are incredibly responsive to pedestrians. When we needed to cross a busy street at a crosswalk, the drivers just stopped as soon as we stepped off the curb. Not like “slam on the brakes”stop. They were expecting us to cross and were obviously paying attention. If only the drivers in my own little city paid as much attention!

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Wow! A special night at the Jay Pritzker Pavillon

The parks in Chicago are a welcome respite from a city dense with housing and a skyline bristling with dramatic skyscrapers (another plug: check out the Chicago Architectural Foundation’s River Cruise for a relaxing and information packed view of a city boosting so many important buildings). We strolled through Lincoln Park on the north side, Grant Park in the middle, and Jackson Park to the south. We watched a spectacular free concert in Millennium Park – the venue there, designed by Frank Gehry, is incredible. A huge crowd of people were in attendance, just having a wonderful time picnicking and enjoying the show. Lots of kids running around – such a low-key way to introduce your children to Mozart!

There are so many reasons to visit Chicago: architecture, world-class museums, parks, sports, a beautiful lakefront. And there is food…

For All Things Italian: Eataly, at 43 E. Ohio St in the Shops at North Bridge (at the south end of the Michigan Ave. Shopping District). Two floors of food, wine, dining, housewares. There are 9 different restaurants here. We had pizza and pasta. The prices are quite reasonable and everything was delicious. I could stroll through this place for hours. Save room for gelato or their jewel-like pastries

Mexican from street food to fine dinning: Rick Bayless has 3 restaurants on N. Clark. I’ve only eaten at Frontera Grill, but I have no doubt they are all great. Xoco is breakfast and sandwiches and churros! served from a counter. Frontera is the middle ground, casual with an amazing selection of street food as well as fancier entrees. It’s all served in a beautiful dining room filled with fun art. Recommend you go with a crowd so you can share. Absolutely get a cocktail; the alcohol-free ones are great too. Topolobampo is gourmet fine-dining, a favorite of the Obamas when they lived in Chicago. You will absolutely need reservations to get in there and I strongly recommend you get them for Frontera Grill too.

Deep-Dish Pizza: It’s totally Chicago, a gutbomb of dough and cheesy goodness. And, it’s delicious. We went to Lou Malnati’s for our take-out pizza. There are lots of locations. Get the sausage. Chicago is a meat town and Lou Malnati’s sausage is a perfect addition.

Hyde Park Sandwiches: We visited the Robie House, a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie-style home built in 1909. A short walk from there, you can find wonderful sandwiches at Zaleski & Horvath MarketCafe. The choices are impossible here – so many delicious combinations. Stroll around Hyde Park and the University of Chicago campus after lunch.

Cafe Vienna: We stayed in the Lincoln Park neighborhood which is a wonderful base of operations in Chicago. We could easily walk to the Red Line, buses, the lake, shopping, and dining. A very pleasant neighborhood where you just don’t need a car to get around with so many shady streets for strolling. Cafe Vienna has a full menu as well as coffee. But, you should go for the European pastries. If you are lucky, like us, you will show up late on Sunday when they are trying to make them all disappear before they close. They are closed Monday-Wednesday and anything left on Sunday has to go. Two for one pastries and desserts! I particularly liked the apple strudel, the chocolate cream tart, and the Sacher Torte. Somehow we managed to eat them all before I could get a photo. 😉

Visiting the Adirondacks: Mountains, Lakes, and Smoked Pork!

I visited the Adirondacks, in northern New York State, recently. It’s a beautiful place, full of lakes, rushing rivers, and tree-covered mountains. The Adirondacks were the “wilderness” place to be among the moneyed set long before places like Yosemite or Yellowstone. If you love the outdoors, you should definitely visit. You can canoe and hike and fish, or just relax by a lake.

Most of the Adirondack Preserve is a sleepy place so if you don’t like those outdoorsy things, make your base the eastern side of the park, near Lake George and Lake Placid. The western side is far less commercialized and has become even less so in the last decade. I visited in 2011 for some fall hiking and the Great Recession hasn’t been kind to the little towns up there. Lots of “for lease” signs in restaurants and storefronts. If you want to spend a little money to help out a bunch of small businesses, head that way. If you like to hike, it’s a paradise.

The view of Blue Mountain Lake from the Adirondack Museum

I also highly recommend that you stop at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake and The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, but not on the same day. Each one will easily take you a full day to explore. Both are excellent museums. The Adirondack Museum covers the cultural side of Adirondack history, including Native Americans, logging, boating, recreation, and the Great Camps. The Wild Center covers the natural history side of things. The Skywalk there is a fantastic interpretive nature walk, geared to visitors of any age. And they have river otters, absolutely adorable playful otters-one of my favorite animals.

They sell maple syrup at Oscar’s too and I found that their price was quite good, after shopping around

Back on the eastern side of the preserve, on the way up from Albany, is the town of Warrensburg. It’s a short way off the Northway (I-87) at exit 23. If you love pork products, you NEED to detour to Oscar’s Smokehouse on the north end of town. They make a huge selection of smoked and cured meats. They are also a full-service butcher, so you can pick up some luscious steaks and chops there too. We tried their Irish bacon (more meat, less fat than American bacon), traditional and maple breakfast sausage (both delicious but go for the maple ones because, well, you are surrounded by some of the best maple sugaring forest around!), their fully cooked spare ribs (sauce is KC-style), their house prosciutto, and applewood smoked ham. Everything is fantastic. They don’t make sandwiches but you can get bread there, along with sliced (smoked if you like) cheese, their own sinus-clearing sweet mustard, and various salads. They will slice any of their deli meats for sandwiches. Just what you need for a first class picnic. They also sell pies, which we didn’t get to try, but they looked and smelled delicious.

The Adirondacks may not be on your vacation radar, but it should be. The area is beautiful and full of outdoors activities. Or, if you are just looking for a place to relax by a lake, you’ll have plenty of them to choose from!

If in Waterbury, Connecticut…

Grotto cavatelli with chicken, pesto, and artichoke hearts

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I traveled to Connecticut to visit my sister and her family. And see my lovely daughter who is taking an intensive year of math nearby in Massachusetts. And I got to see an old college friend too! It was wonderful visiting Ann and Michael. I need to visit them again. These people know food. As if visiting a dear old friend isn’t enough? There’s great food too!

They took us to the place for homemade cavatelli in Waterbury: Grotto. This is a treat. Ann was kind enough to purchase two pounds of it for us. We stashed it in the freezer until our daughter came home for Winter Break. Delicioso! It has the perfect bite and these wonderful crannies for holding the sauce.

If you find yourself in the neighborhood, buy some. You will not regret it!

Grotto
634 Watertown Avenue, Waterbury, CT 06708
(203)754-0295

Eating Your Way Through Chile: Part 3

 

Mote con huesillo, a local Kunstmann beer and pastel de jaiba at a big fair of local food in Niebla, near Valdivia

Last part of my series on my dining adventures in Chile. See Part 1 on seasonal produce, eating in Santiago, and oddities. Part 2 covers seafood (more oddities!). This installment will cover some of the traditional food/drink, family specialties, dessert, and the most exciting food in Chile. Hint: it’s not Chilean.

Chile has a number of traditional dishes, dishes that are seen throughout the country. Chilean food isn’t all that exciting. In most restaurants, there was no salt shaker on the table, nor will you find a pepper shaker or grinder! So, the food is a bit blah. I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s just rather homogeneous and plain.

What will you see? If it’s summer, you definitely see mote con huesillo sold everywhere. It’s a drink. It’s a snack. It’s both things in one. It’s a refreshingly cold glass of peach or apricot juice, with a scoop of cooked pearled barley and a re-hydrated dried peach. It’s quite good. Other popular drinks are wine, of course, as Chile makes barrels of the stuff (it’s well-made and inexpensive), and beer. In Valdivia, you can visit the Kunstmann brewery, one of the bigger local brewers, or just down the road, the Valtor microbrew restaurant. But, the best beer is made by my husband’s cousin, Carlos. Very small production – he brews it in his garage – but if you are in Puerto Varas, a few restaurants carry it. It’s called Cerveza Lauzirica. He makes a lager and a red ale, both delicious.

Also in the first photo, a pastel. That one contains jaiba, crab. More traditionally, it contains a stew of chicken and/or ground beef. It is often overly sweet for my taste but my husband’s family made us some and it was delicious, as was the crab one which isn’t made as sweet. The topping is ground fresh corn, called choclo. Choclo is a local version of corn with very large kernels. The kernels are ground up and made into pastel and humitas (Chilean tamales). It’s not eaten on the cob as the corn is very tough.

Pastel de choclo, a la cousin Marie-Elena

Like many central and south American cuisines, the Chileans love empanadas. They are stuffed with ground meat, seafood, or cheese.  They are usually fried (though my mother-in-law makes baked ones stuffed with potato or spinach and cheese). They are a very popular snack.

Fish stew is as popular as you would expect in a country with about 2700 miles of coastline. The most popular fish used is congrio, Chilean conger eel. The stew above is not traditional. It was a delicious bowl of French-influenced conger eel stew from La Cuisine in Punta Arenas, in the deep south of Chile. One of the best restaurants we found.

New Year’s Eve dinner. It would be many hours before we ate. But, there was plenty of delicious wine in the meantime!
Serving up the paella

As I said, some of the best food we had was produced by the family. For New Year’s Eve, we had a whole roasted pig. For New Year’s Day, we had a huge pan of paella, filled with mussels, octopus, chicken, and pork followed up by a beautiful torte. Talk about an epic holiday of eating! This isn’t really typical Chilean food (well, the torte is). The family includes some recent ties to Spain, explaining the chimichurri on the pig and the paella.

Chilean tortillas with a homemade berry kuchen in the background

Chilean bread is nothing special. They like white bread and the most popular one is called a tortilla, which is nothing like a Mexican tortilla. It’s a flattened biscuit. The family said that the best ones are homemade and contain more butter than flour. The mass-produced ones are slightly sweet biscuits.

Cousin Andrea’s homemade whole-grain German sourdough

One of the cousins is a caterer and she makes a dense, whole-grain German sourdough. It was very unusual in Chile. Germans settled much of central Chile. The mountains, forests, and lakes reminded them of Bavaria. But, their traditional bread seems to have largely disappeared. We enjoyed Andrea’s bread very much because we are not big fans of 100% white bread, all the time!

Clockwise from top left: cakes at Cafe Entrelagos in Valdivia, a snack of torte at Hotel des Torres in Torres del Paine National Park, a huge slice of torte at Los Immigrantes in Punta Arenas (we didn’t finish it!), more Cafe Entrelagos delights, a birthday torte

Now, let’s talk about cake, known as torte in Chile. Chileans have quite the sweet tooth, though to my taste, their cakes are not overly sweet. They are very serious cakes, made in a style unlike any cake I’ve had anywhere else. They combine the best of French, German, and Spanish elements. There are layers of chantilly cream (lightly sweetened real whipped cream), pastry crust, pastry cream, light cake, fruit such as raspberries and strawberries, and manjar. Manjar is the Chilean version of dulce de leche, that rich caramel-y incredibly sweet cooked milk. They adore their manjar. It is stuffed into cakes, cookies, and pastry. It works really well in the tortes because it’s only a thin layer, and the rest of the cake isn’t too sweet. When in Chile, make sure to enjoy the torte!

Beautiful Peruvian pulled pork with rice and a fried egg

Finally, I must mention Peruvian food. Why? Because we were told that the best food in Chile was Peruvian (at least according to all the relatives in Santiago). In Santiago, many of the well-to-do families have maids, who do all the cooking. The best maids are Peruvian because they are much better cooks than Chilean maids! We went out to a fancy Peruvian restaurant called Tanta in the Los Condes mall on the east side of Santiago. The food is more highly flavored than any Chilean food but uses many of the same excellent ingredients. Ceviche is very popular in Chile, probably the most universally eaten Peruvian import. Whatever you do, don’t ask if Peruvian pisco is the same as Chilean pisco. You could start a border war with that one.

Eating Your Way Through Chile: Part 2

Living picorocos. They move in a rather sinister way.

You may be asking yourself: What is that? Is that actually something related to eating? Indeed, it is. Chile has quite a few “interesting” seafood options, this being the most exotic one we tried. That’s a photo of picorocos, also known as the giant barnacle. It’s native to the coast of Peru and Chile. It appears to be a rock with an alien living inside. It tastes a bit like crab, but more savory than sweet. It is a pain in the arse to get out of the shell (the rock is not a natural rock, but a shell made by the barancle). As far as wild seafood go, this is as odd as I’ve ever eaten! Here’s a photo of the whole thing out of its shell.

Given the weight of the very thick shell, the meat to shell yield on giant barnacles is very low.

Some other shellfish, however, had exceptional yield, like these mussels at the Valdivia Feria Fluvial (River Market). The large mussels are bigger than my hands and the meat totally fills them. We cooked a bunch of them in white wine and garlic. They are meaty (as expected!) and quite delicious. My husband’s cousin treated us to a home-cooked favorite of pork, chicken and potatoes cooked with lots and lots of mussels. We barely made a dent in the pile of mussels. So much delicious food!

One popular shellfish we ate, but didn’t get to see fresh, is the Southern King Crab, centolla. Like Alaskan King Crab, it is a huge, scary-looking crustacean. It’s harvested off the coast of southern Chile. It is extremely popular in Chile and not inexpensive. However, it’s not nearly as expensive as Alaskan King Crab, so be sure to eat some if you visit southern Chile. My daughter ordered a pastel de centolla (a pastel is a savory pie with a ground corn crust) in Puerto Natales, a small city near Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. It had an amazing amount of crab in it. She also had a delicious centolla lasagna in a French restaurant called La Cuisine near the waterfront in Punta Arenas. Again loaded with crab, and a wonderful dish. Chilean food is not the most interesting and we were thrilled to find delicious French-inspired food made with traditional Chilean ingredients.

Centolla lasagne, one of the better meals we had in Chile

The big three of fish (aside from farmed salmon which is not native to Chile) are merluza, reineta, and congrio. Merluza is a type of hake, a southern version of cod. The meat is mild, white, and flaky. Reineta is pomfret, a richer, oily fish. It’s one of my favorites (I posted a recipe for Asian Pompano in Papillote; pompano is similar to pomfret), being rich and meaty. Congrio is very popular. Cadillo de congrio is a national dish, a stew made with conger. It’s a meaty, white fish. Conger is an eel but these guys look more like a fish than an eel. We were served conger cheeks (like codfish cheeks) in a creamy leek sauce. Absolutely divine. There are other finfish, seaweed, and shellfish that are unique to Chile. If you are a lover of food from the sea, Chile will not disappoint, as one would expect from a country with so much rich coastline.

The bounty of Chilean seafood for sale at Santiago’s Mercado Central. The congrio is in the back row on the left.

Another Chilean specialty: shellfish broiled with parmesan cheese. We were served these often, at family dinners and in restaurants. It is most commonly made with razor (pink) clams and called machas a la parmesana. It’s quite delicious – how would anything broiled with parmesan cheese be bad? – but the cheese does tend to overwhelm the shellfish. When in Rome, do as the Romans do (though I’m pretty sure most Romans would not eat Parmesan cheese with their clams).

Also in this photo, locos – Chilean abalone. We ate a lot of abalone. It’s savory and tender if properly made, usually served with mayonnaise and lemon, maybe a bit of onion and parsley salsa. Abalone is pretty hard to find fresh in the US. Much of it seems to be imported in cans from Mexico. You can get it fresh in Chile, and also in cans. I would have brought some home, but it’s illegal to export it out of Chile.

More locos. They don’t look like much but they are meaty and rich shellfish.

Final installment to come: odds and ends including paella, a whole pig, Peruvian food, and cake. Lots of cake!

Eating Your Way Thru Chile: Part 1

Scenes from a market in Santiago: clockwise from top left, my daughter enjoying some delicious watermelon, tomatoes and strawberries, shell beans and mature corn, massive heads of broccoli

I spent 3 weeks in Chile around Christmas time. We went to visit family; my husband was born there. From a food standpoint, that was a huge advantage. The relatives know my love of food and they pulled out all the stops, as you will see throughout this series on eating in Chile.

Fresh eggs, raspberries, cherries and gooseberries at the River Market in Valdivia

Chile, being in the Southern Hemisphere, was heading into summer. Which means that there was some gorgeous produce. The berries – strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries – were particularly delicious. Chileans love their fruit. They live in a favorable spot for fruit-growing everything from avocados to grapes. Because Chile is so long (about 3000 miles), it spans many growing regions. They don’t grow any tropical fruits, but they make up for that in sub-tropical and temperate zone produce.

Chile has an extremely long Pacific coastline which accounts for the rich and varied seafood you see in the markets. There are two large markets in downtown Santiago, one of them devoted entirely to seafood! If you visit the Mercado Central (and you should), stick to the smaller restaurants upstairs on the perimeter of the market. These restaurants cater to locals while the larger restaurants in the center cater to the tourists.

An amazing seafood platter at Richard, El Rey del Mariscal in the Mercado Central. On the left is the traditional Chilean salad, tomatoes and onions.

And, if you want a really local experience, head across the Costanera Norte to the produce market. Upstairs, you will find restaurants that specialize in Chilean as well as Columbian, Pervuian, and Ecuadorean cuisine. They are all very casual and the hosts will try to drag you into their little place. Walk around and check out the food you can see. Then, pick one that looks good! You won’t spend a whole lot of pesos and the food is tasty as well as hearty.

There are always surprises eating in a foreign country, and the completo is one of them. In Santiago, this is the fast food of choice. You can get them loaded up with all sorts of stuff (avocado, tomatoes, cheese, and more) and they are very cheap. There is a block of completo stands along one side of the Plaza de Armas, the big public square in downtown Santiago. Definitely not fancy food but if you want to eat like the man on the street in Santiago, this is the place to go.

Another surprise is Chile’s love of the avocado, which Chilenos call palta. They like to serve it at breakfast, mashed up with a little salt and pepper. They also serve them stuffed with chicken, tuna, or seafood salad, called Palta Reina. The quality of the avocados is very high. If you like avocado, be sure to try them. I adore avocado and I was never disappointed.

One interesting fruit we never saw but tasted in desserts was lucuma. The flesh is a bit like avocado but you never see it fresh. It’s sold as a puree (so we were told), and used in cake fillings and desserts. It’s a little sweet, similar to a chestnut. It is very popular in Chile, though not grown there. They import it from Peru. We were served a number of cakes with lucuma filling. If you see a dessert containing it, give it a try. You’re not likely to see it too many other places!

Next up, more detail on the varied and unusual (to Americans) seafood of Chile.