Bone Broth Thukpa with Pork Belly
Mandala Infusion, 4479 N. Broadway, Boulder, mandalainfusion.com
North Boulder’s Mandala Infusion does a lot of things right. Its happy hour, with $3 momo platters and cheap, local beer is one thing to like, as is their cozy and warm dining room. We, though, would like to highlight the soups, namely the bone broth thukpa. The classic Tibetan noodle soup is put on a pedestal here, and it all starts with the house-made bone broth. It’s not too salty, and not too thick, but has a deep savory flavor that carries the whole dish. Mixed in are grilled red onions (a preparation more places should do), zucchini that comes off as sweet, punchy daikon radish, and bell peppers as ripe as strawberries. All that would be enough, but then the lily is gilded with two honking slabs of pork belly. They have a little crisp on the outside, but fall apart in the soup, and the fat row on the pork belly is heaven. If, for whatever reason, pork belly isn’t your thing, you can choose to mix in tofu, chicken, sirloin steak or salmon instead. $18.
Panaderia Sabor a Mexico, 1133 Francis St. and 926 Main St., Longmont; 2839 28th St., Boulder, saboramexicopanaderia.com
It’s hard to pick just one thing at Boulder and Longmont’s Panaderia Sabor a Mexico. That’s why they give you a tray and some tongs and let you go to town. Classic Mexican cookies, pastries, breads, doughnuts and more fill bakery trays, and our favorite are the orejas. Named for their striking resemblance to ears, they’re about as big an elephant’s but our guess is they taste a little sweeter. Puff pastry dough is rolled with sugar and then baked until crispy. What you get is a hard-shelled wafer that’s light and airy once you take a bite. Think of a sweet croissant turned into a cookie. The outside is sticky sweet and the inside provides a delicate crunch. $1.
Biscuits and Gravy
Denver Biscuit Company, 141 S. Broadway, 3237 E. Colfax Ave. and 4247 Tennyson St., Denver; 2501 Dallas St., Aurora.
Like peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly or a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, biscuits and gravy are a match made in gastronomic heaven. At altitude, making a fluffy biscuit is an art (as is baking in general, whether at sea level or in La Paz), but the Denver Biscuit Company is the well-known Picasso of biscuitry. What the Denver chain perhaps hasn’t gotten enough credit for is its mastery of vegetarian gravy, a sauce so thick and savory no meat-eater could logically turn their nose up at its glory. Smothering two perfect biscuits, this gravy replaces sausage with chunks of chewy, sautéed portobello mushroom. Sage and black pepper add depth and just the right amount of earthy spice to complement the soothingly smooth butter of the biscuits. Drop an over-easy egg on top and you’ve got an added layer of texture and umami. In a comfort dish like biscuits and gravy, simplicity is key, and this is simply delicious. $8.25.
Aviator’s Sports Bar & Bar-B-Que, Denver International Airport, Terminal B
It used to be the case that eating at airports posed a moral quandary: You know you’re going to be charged an arm and a leg to eat subpar food because you have to, so do you lower your expectations and be happy, or do you grumpily muddle through a cold chicken cordon bleu? Luckily, airport food has gotten much better, and DIA is leading the charge. But if you’re still pessimistic about airport food, then Aviator’s is going to blow your mind. Take, for instance, its sunrise burger, which goes above and beyond expectations. A hearty piece of Texas toast is topped with a fat beef patty, cheddar cheese, a fried egg, green chili, avocado and pico de gallo. It’s a pleasant mess. The egg and chili make sure that each bite is rich, tangy and savory, and the charred beef patty and Texas toast sop it all up. It’s a bit of an aggressive pre-flight choice, but you know what they say: go big or go home. At the airport, those are literally your options. $15.