Favorite Nibbles

The very best things I tasted in 2019 in Boulder County and beyond

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John Lehndorff

Nobody expects to find doughnuts dished from an Airstream trailer by the railroad tracks in Boulder. Yet, there I was enjoying an outstanding scratch-made, yeast-raised, chocolate-glazed doughnut in the parking lot of House of Motorrad (houseofmotorrad.com), a dirt bike-focused business a stone’s-throw from Google. 

Nor did I expect to be smiling over onigiri (soft rice balls filled with smoked salmon) and miso for breakfast a mile away at Kelly Whitaker’s Dry Storage (drystorageco.com). I really was there to appreciate the heirloom wheat toast and house-made preserves and butter.  

It’s been a surprisingly good year to be my taste buds. 

Every week I note the best thing I tasted recently in this column and on KGNU’s Radio Nibbles. Keeping a public food diary like that forces me to face my dietary choices annually and see patterns in the data. A year’s worth of eating reveals a distinct obsession with breakfast, fried chicken, baked goods and pizza. In my defense, a lot of it was research. 

The best thing I ate last week was a rapturous croissant pistachio chocolate ring, at Babettes Artisan Bread (babettesbakery.com) in Longmont. It was a beautifully caramelized joy down to the last buttery, nutty, roasted, crunchy crumbs and flakes.  

Now, you may ask yourself: What should I taste this week? I recommend the following local food items that I tasted and enjoyed in 2019. These are dishes I would absolutely choose to eat again.

Colorado Pastrami Sandwich: The key to the state’s best pastrami sandwich served by Folsom Foods at Boulder’s Rosetta Hall (rosettahall.com) is Chef Justin Brunson’s exceptional, locally made pastrami. The juicy, griddled pastrami and melted Swiss cheese are served on toasted marble rye with Thousand Island dressing and coleslaw.  

Buttobi Modern: I’ve always loved vegetable pancakes. Osaka’s of Boulder (osakasrestaurant.com) takes the Japanese version — cabbage okonomiyaki — and uses them as buns on a memorable sandwich with sliced pork, noodles, spicy sauce and leaf lettuce.

Funghi Pizza: Boulder’s Pizzeria Locale (localeboulder.com) still makes the best traditional pie in the state. I like the one topped with oyster mushrooms, green onions and garlic oil plus mozzarella, taleggio and pecorino romano cheeses. 

Chicken Shawarma: Comfort is defined as flame-grilled, seasoned chicken breast atop silky hummus accompanied by dippable muhamara with warm pita bread at Boulder’s Ali Baba Grill (alibabagrill.com). 

Carne Picante Empanada: I could have picked the hongos or the jamon y queso, but Boulder’s Rincon Argentina (rinconargentinoboulder.com ) fills this handsome hand-pastry-wrapped meal with steak, onions, peppers and green olives. 

Lobster Ramen: I’ll have the lobster with fresh noodles in broth with enoki, seaweed, corn and tea-marinated soft-boiled egg with a side-drawn butter at Edwin Zoe’s Chimera (chimera.restaurant) in Boulder. 

Turkish Breakfast: It’s nibbling heaven at Boulder’s Breakfast Champion (breakfastchampionboulder.com) with a platter of cheese, boiled eggs, olives, veggies, dried spiced beef, salami, walnuts, red pepper relish, cardamom sesame-seeded bread, honey, clotted cream, Nutella and jam.  

Char Sui Pork: Natascha Hess’ Ginger Pig food truck has moved indoors to Boulder’s new Rosetta Hall (rosettahall.com) to wow more taste buds with Chinese barbecue like Duroc pork shoulder with jasmine rice and smashed cucumber salad.

Carne Asada Torta: Lafayette’s Taqueria La Esperanza (taqueria-esperanza.com) layers steak, lettuce, tomato, onion and guacamole on a grilled bollilo bun sided with fried jalapeños and pico de gallo. 

Chicken Chicharrones: The Post Brewing Co. in Lafayette creates the chicken equivalent of pork chicharrones. Craveable triangles of chicken skin — fried until crispy brown — serve as chips for dip. They are very beer-friendly.    

Sunday Brunch: Simply put, Dazzle (dazzledenver.com) puts on the coolest brunch in the area, especially if you like live music and a lively crowd. The spread at Denver’s top jazz club features omelets, crepes, smoked brisket, mac n’ cheese, breakfast meats, salads and desserts with a backbeat.

White Pie: Denver’s White Pie (whitepie.com) bakes authentic New Haven-style pizza directly on the oven stone for a charred, irregularly shaped crust. The must-taste signature white pizza is crowned with mozzarella, garlic, creme fraiche, cremini, bacon and a sunny side up egg. 

Brooklyn Bridge Pizza: The square deep-dish, Detroit-style pies at Blue Pan Pizza (bluepandenver.com) in Denver have crunchy crust layered with ricotta, pepperoni, Italian sausage, garlic and Pecorino Romano and sauce on top.

Southern Fried Chicken: Julep (juleprino.com) near Coors Field slowly pan-fries bone-in chicken until it’s fall-apart juicy with a thin peppery crust. They add baked-to-order buttermilk biscuits with butter and white sausage gravy. 

Pad Kee-Mao: The “drunken noodles” at the hole-in-the-mall Dancing Noodle Thai Restaurant (dancingnoodlerestaurant.com) in Parker are the best ever. The kitchen crafts their own thick, dumpling-like rice noodles and bathes them in chile-fired sauce pan-fried with green beans, Thai basil and broccoli. 

Venison Bacon Huckleberry Sausage: Ein Prosit (einprosit.net), an odd sausage stall in Frisco (also Avon), dishes a first-class brat on a warm griddled bun with a trip through the mustard and sauerkraut bar plus warm potato salad (with ham chunks) and Austrian Stiegl beer.

Fried Chicken Appetizer: Sometimes simple is perfect. The Rose (theroseedwards.com) in Edwards cooks boneless breast sous-vide, then fries it in a thin, crispy jacket and serves it drenched in sage-infused syrup with pickled celery. That’s all.  

At the Bakeries

Orange D’amande: Tokyo Premium Bakery, Denver

Extra Sour Sourdough Loaf: Sourdough Boulangerie, Colorado Springs

Sfogliatella: Giovanni’s Italian Bakery & Cafe, Lakewood

Pumpernickel Everything Bagel: The Village Bagel, Edwards

Baklava: Istanbul Cafe and Bakery, Denver

The Amoreo Cookie: Piece, Love & Chocolate, Boulder 

Cold Brew Coffee Cream Pie: Ginger and Baker, Fort Collins

Sour Cherry Turnover: Hovey & Harrison, Edwards. 

Local Food News

At 8 p.m. Dec. 20 on KRMA, Denver’s Comal Heritage Food Incubator and head chef Vian Al Nidawi, an Iraqi-Syrian refugee, will be featured by Chef Lidia Bastianich in her special, “The Return of the Artisans.” It’s a wonderful story and a great place to get lunch in Denver. 

Words to Chew On

“First we eat. Then we do everything else.” — M.F.K Fisher    

John Lehndorff is the former dining critic of the Rocky Mountain News. Comments: nibbles@boulderweekly.com