52 Weeks of tastes

One food critic’s top picks from char sui to sourdough toast

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Susan France

Smoked ribs and schnitzel and latkes with salsa … these are a few of my favorite tastes from 2018, along with roasted beet salad, hop-infused coffee and a sautéed mushroom pie.

Every 52 weeks, approximately 365 breakfasts, 365 lunches, 365 dinners and myriad snacks go by and most of us would be hard-pressed to recall most of those meals. You hope there will be a few dishes, drinks and foods so great you can’t forget them.

Because I name a “Taste of the Week” almost every week in Nibbles as well as every week on Radio Nibbles on KGNU, I pay attention to what goes into my mouth. Going through the list of tastes at the end of the year always makes me squirm because it exposes quite a bit publicly about my tastes, obsessions, spending habits and nutritional needs. 

In case you’ve missed some of them, here are the best of the best — my favorite taste “favorites” — including a few brand new ones.

Dishes I’d happily order again

• Succulent ribs slow-smoked over hickory dished with smoky tomato-molasses barbecue sauce, Texas toast, a pickle spear and house-pickled onions at GQue Championship BBQ, Westminster.

• The addictive fried Brussels sprouts tossed with toasted walnuts, bacon, mustard vinaigrette and ricotta at Empire Lounge and Restaurant, Louisville.

• A thoroughly satisfying bacon and garlic cheese steak — a loaf layered with beef, grilled onions, roasted red peppers, spinach, roasted garlic and provolone at D’Angelo’s Deli, Boulder.

• Thin and crisply fried chicken schnitzel with an over-easy egg plus beet salad, German potato salad and Pilsener Urquell at Bohemian Biergarten, Boulder.

A passion for Asian fare

It was a good year for me tasting foods from all over Asia in Boulder and environs. Saag paneer (aka palak paneer) from Kathmandu Restaurants in Boulder and Nederland is a happy, comfy entrée. The buttery, bright, creamy fresh spinach dotted with paneer cheese chunks is best enjoyed scooped up with warm naan. I was thrilled to encounter the authentic Chinese cooking at The Flower Pepper, a tiny Chinese eatery shoehorned into a cubbyhole in a parking structure in Boulder. The pork and leek dumplings as well as the chicken and shitake and soup dumplings are worth a visit all by themselves. I was lucky to find the Ginger Pig food truck with its pan-Asian roster of addictive crispy char sui, nine-spice fried chicken and the multi-flavored red curry.

Starting the day over easy

I do love going out to breakfast. Here’s three I’d be happy to eat again:

• Potato latkes with peach salsa and eggs over easy plus black beans and sour cream at Morning Glory Cafe, Lafayette. 

• Short ribs eggs Benedict with buttery collard greens, caramelized onions, salsa, chilies and Hollandaise at Tangerine, Lafayette.

• Scratch-made corned beef hash, eggs over easy, green chile and pancakes on the side at the Parkway Cafe, Boulder.

I’ve got a thing for bakeries

Regular Nibbles readers know that I’m happy to find any excuse to research locally made baked goods and in 2018, I found some four-star gems. I was driving past the Diaz Farm in North Boulder when I saw the sign for “artisan bread.” Besides running a small farm, store and food truck, the Diaz family bakes true artisan sourdough bread. I fell for the walnut cranberry sourdough with a toothsome crust, a moist interior and a wonderful slow-fermented flavor. 

Up in the foothills I was delighted to chomp upon a slice of Goldilocks strawberry rhubarb pie at the Gold Hill Store and Pub: Neither too tart nor too sweet, and not too much strawberry.

My faith in humanity was restored when I sampled an Aussie-style sautéed mushroom pie from Tip Top Pies. It was a mouthful of yummy umami in an all-butter pastry. Love their breakfast pies, too. Tip Top Pies will open a small retail shop soon in Lafayette.

I went to BRU in east Boulder for a Beezel Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale but walked out wowed by the simple, true sourdough bread the kitchen bakes in a wood-fired oven and serves in toasted, buttered slices. I also became enamored by the sourdough bread crafted at Louisville’s Precision Pours with its clean, tart sourdough flavor and a chewy, caramelized crust.

Finally, I toured Longmont’s bakeries and was happy to find Death by Chocolate cake bars at La Momo Maes, and pineapple-filled empanadas at Panaderia Guanajuato.

Flavors made only in Boulder County

In the past 12 months I’ve made a concerted effort to find and sample myriad food products being created in the Boulder area by artisans and natural foods companies alike.

• McCauley Family Farms near Longmont makes a miraculously good hot sauce in Boulder: Picaflor Live Culture Srirawcha Hot Sauce. Sold refrigerated, it features organic cayenne and Portugal peppers and Highland Bees honey for a silky smooth texture and heat without pain. 

• Ryder’s Red popcorn from Boulder Popcorn is the best popcorn I’ve ever tasted, with big white kernels and a big corn flavor. The popcorn is grown on Munson Farms northeast of Boulder.

• The frozen three cheese mushroom risotto bowl from Boulder-based Evol Foods is a surprisingly satisfying dish made with arborio rice, portobello and crimini mushrooms, caramelized onions, three cheeses, cream and extra virgin olive oil.

• I also got reacquainted with a longtime favorite: The dense, moist cinnamon-y Rudi’s Bakery cinnamon raisin bread made in Boulder since 1975. 

Brand new tastes of the week

For five years Boulder’s Healthy Harvest has introduced farmers’ market customers to the taste of real olive oil and other iconic goods. One taste of their craveable True Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil and you will swear off the rancid supermarket EVOO forever. Their fermented black olives changed how I thought about the taste of olives. In Boulder, the family business infuses that EVOO with roasted chilies and garlic from Boulder County’s Monroe Organic Farm. It’s great for everything from salad dressings to sauteeing hash browns.

A toast to Boulder County sips

Besides all the artisan beer, spirits and kombucha made locally, my eyes and palate were opened to three fine beverages.

• Prop’d-N-Hop’d from Erie Coffee Roasters is one cool brew. The canned nitro cold brew has a big coffee flavor smoothed by nitro’s creaminess, with the hops adding a citrus accent — like Italian espresso. 

• Silky on the palate with blackberry in the nose, Bookcliff Vineyards’ 2015 Syrah is a near perfect all-Colorado red wine. 

• For cold season, organic Boulder-made 8th Wonder Superfood Teas includes an in-your-face Yerba Mate Cayenne flavor pumped up with herbal caffeine, banana, coconut and lemon and a thermogenic dose of chile.

Words to chew on

“Any time we eat it’s holy. We should have ritual and ceremony, not just gobbling down some food to keep alive.” —MFK Fisher

On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, John Lehndorff hosts his traditional annual call-in show answering pressing cooking questions from listeners 8:30-9 a.m. on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, kgnu.org.)