Los Tarascos

Got together with some friends to celebrate a birthday (not mine) recently and got to check out another new (to me) place in Ft. Collins. This time it was Los Tarascos.

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Love Mexican food so I was quite excited about this. We were meeting at 6pm, but I was told to get there a little early to make sure to get some Happy Hour specials. Well, I got there at 5:45pm and I happened to be the only one to arrive early. I easily chose a Classic Margarita and dang, that thing was good. Since I knew there would be several more people coming, I ordered a few pitchers of the amazing drink. When the other attendees arrived, they were quite pleased.

At this place, they bring you chip baskets…of course. I surveyed the table and was wondering about salsa. Then I found out they have a salsa bar. You get to pick what you get to dip those addictive pieces of corn in. Dang, talk about trouble. Now, the only problem is, the containers they give you for the salsa are small. But, you can make do. They have many choices and I liked how I saw one person use a menu as a tray to carry several cups of salsa back to their table.

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Somebody at the table ordered some guac and I grabbed a bite — very good. Excellent consistency and nice spice.

As I looked through the menu I found what I love at this type of establishment — ceviche. This one was Ceviche a la Tequila — Shrimp cured in lime juice and tequila mixed with tomato, onion, and jalapeno. And for a few more dollars, you could add Octopus, which I totally went for.

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This stuff was good, with the different texture of the octopus. The only downside was that the jalapenos made it very spicy for me. I don’t have a huge heat tolerance. I picked as many pieces of it out as I could. But, I will totally go back and get more of this.

So, between the delicious margaritas, tons of salsa, good guac and octopus ceviche, this place is definitely one I’m checking out again.

Salud!

St. Vrain Cidery

Visited a friend in Longmont, CO not only to catch up with her, but so that we could check out St. Vrain Cidery.

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This place opened in 2014 by Dean and Ciny Landi with cidermaker Dan Daugherty.

Based on their site, ‘the St. Vrain Apple was last seen in 1891 by a farmer taking inventory of Colorado fruits. The name St. Vrain runs deep in the city of Longmont’s history, and our cidery’s name honors this regional apple and our city.’

They have a large variety of ciders on tap from the state, five of which are their own. While there enjoying the adult apple juice, you can order sampler flights, 4oz, 8oz or 12oz pours.

My friend and I each went with the samplers, which had four 4oz pours.

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I sampled these (ordered one more after the initial tasting, too):

St. Vrain Cidery Dry Apple (Longmont, CO) This refreshing cider starts with baked apple and a hint of tea on the nose. Fresh, dry apple flavors combine with white wine-like minerality from the Winesap apples in the blend. All followed by a clean, crisp finish. Dry. 6.6% ABV

  • Very dry, a bit too much for me. But they definitely didn’t add anything unnecessary to this cider. It’s all apple!

St.  Vrain Cidery Ironface Infusion (Longmont, CO) We infuse our Dry Apple cider with gin botanicals from Anvil Distillery’s Ironface Gin (Longmont), resulting in our first in a series of botanical ciders. Dry. 6.9% ABV

  • You definitely got that hint of gin/juniper. Subtle, unique, nice. Still very dry. I (personally) don’t like sweet cider, but I don’t like it beyond dry.

Summit Hard Cider Pineapple (Fort Collins, CO) Fresh pineapple flavors blend well with apple. Semi-Sweet. 5% ABV

  • Had to try this because I love pineapple and did have my doubts. This ranked #1 for me. I didn’t expect the semi-sweet. I was expecting it to be candy. Delicious!

C Squared Ciders Ella IPC (Denver, CO) India Pale Cider with dry hop aromas of tropical fruit. Melds into green apple flavors with clean, bitter finish. Off-Dry. 6.0% ABV

  • Just a nice basic off-dry cider. Mild on the hops but gave it a nice taste!

Wild Cider Bee Hoppy (Firestone, CO) Refreshing, crisp, dry hopped cider with citrus undertones. Finishes with a kiss of honey. Off-Dry. 5.0% ABV

  • This is the one I got after my initial tasting. Subtle citrus with very mild hop. Then the sweet at the end was awesome. Totally maintained the off-dry level though. Another one that I had my doubts about but it came in strong.

 

Was very glad that I got to check this place out. And, my friend and I happened to get there during happy hour and I think my bill was $8-$10 for all this, with tip. So, next time you’re in Longmont, check this out. Or, if you’re a cider fan, plan a trip there, you won’t be disappointed. Take your growler, too. You can get it filled with one of their five ciders.

Cheers!

Homemade Chicken Soup – from a bag

Had just been on one of the deadly shopping trips to Costco. You know, where you have a list of a few things and then your cart ends up being oddly full. Well one of the things that ended up as part of the cart contents was some (Israeli) pearl couscous. I happened to actually read the recipe on the back of the bag and it sounded really good. I was in the mood for some soup that day so figured I’d give it a try.

Couscous Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup each chopped onion, carrots and celery
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves (or more, of course) garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp lemongrass paste, optional
  • 2 cups cubed rotisserie chicken
  • 1 cup pearl couscous
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • S&P
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

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Directions:

In large stock port, add onions, carrots and celery with 2 tablespoons broth. Saute 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Stir in ginger, garlic and lemongrass. Add remaining broth, chicken and couscous; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add lemon juice, S&P; garnish with parsley before serving.

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This soup was great! And so easy. Since you buy a rotisserie chicken, that work is done. The taste from the lemongrass and ginger just give it such a nice twist from traditional chicken soup and I love pearl couscous. Great recipe to have on hand for winter. I also had lots of leftover so froze them. Oh, also added more chicken broth and some water when I had leftovers the next day (before freezing the rest). The couscous soaked up some of the broth, but to me that just meant more soup!

Chocolate, Raspberry…& Beer

Chocolate, Raspberry…& Beer. Oh yes, you read that right. And it’s good. Was roaming around New Belgium Brewery during a local vendor event and they had a seasonal release on tap — Imperial Frambozen with Cocoa.

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It’s one of those brews that you just have to try. Very unique — you taste the fruit, you get that heaven of chocolate. It flows so smooth. And a warning — 8.5% ABV. It’s sold in 22oz. bottles, so you have a good amount to enjoy on your own or share with friends.

Hope you can get it near you.

Cheers!

Jax Fish House

Slowly but surely checking out more restaurants in Fort Collins, CO. One of them was Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar. It’s a cozy place where you can sit at the bar for happy hour and watch the oyster get shucked or get a table.

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Went on a Thursday night and though we had a reservation, we had a high top-like table facing the bar. It was quite loud and in one of those areas that was sort of ignored because it was almost invisible. It was between support beams/dividers and almost seems like it was more used for people to lean on while socializing during happy hour, but would be used to maximize table space.

We did get some service eventually and chose to start with some drinks while looking over the menu. I chose to go with some bubbles.

When the waitress came to take food orders, I decided to go totally hard core on fish that night for both courses. Started with the Fruit De Mer ($9) – Squid, shrimp, mussels, octopus, basil, jalapeño, red wine vinaigrette.

It was similar to a ceviche. And, there were green olives in there. Bring it on! Good amount for the two of us at the table.

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For the main course, I opted for the Seared Scallops ($32.50) – parsnip hummus, balsamic roasted beets, belgian enive, carrots, bourbon pecans.

Overall, each component tasted fine, but the bourbon pecans did not fit with the scallops. They just went against their taste and texture. The sweet didn’t work. The pecans go with the thought/taste of fall roasted veggies, but not scallops. I was pretty disappointed.

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The other entree ordered at the table was the Cast Iron Seared Salmon ($28.25) –
brown butter cappelini, roasted celeriac, butternut squash puree, crushed hazelnuts, roasted root vegetables, sage.

I was told it tasted quite good. The celeriac was a unique twist on traditional tastes.

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I took quite awhile for these entrees to come out — maybe 40+ minutes. It didn’t appear to be that busy of a night. And just getting our water refilled was a challenge. I was happy to go to the restaurant, there was nothing wrong, cooking-wise, with my food, but it’s not a place I am putting at the top of my list to return to.

 

Thai Pavilion

Was at National Harbor, MD and checked out Thai Pavilion. They have quite nice decor and just the doors to get in the restaurant are intricate — thick and metal with much design. You need to use both hands to open them. Couldn’t wait to get to the food!

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The menu blew me away. So many choices! It was very traditional Thai food, too. I flipped through the menu for quite awhile before finally deciding what to get. Went with a soup/salad meal:

AmNat ChaRoen or TOM YUM. Fresh mushrooms in lemon grass soup, galangal and Thai spices with chili paste. Your choice of chicken or mixed vegetables.

This was such a good soup. Just everything the description says. I got it with the veggies. Could easily have enjoyed more.

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PatTaYa orSOM TUM MA LA GORE. The most popular Som Tom. Julienned green papaya, roasted peanuts, tomatoes, and string beans tossed with spicy lime dressing.

This was so interesting because the papaya was crunchy. It wasn’t the taste I was expecting (which the waiter warned me of). It was all quite good and was brought together nicely with the lime dressing.

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Also enjoyed some Sauvignon Blanc with this. A very nice Thai dinner and this is definitely a place to return to so that more (of the many) menu items can be tasted.

Elevation 5003 in FC

After a day on the links in Colorado in late November…

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and seeing a beautiful sunset…

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one must cap off the night. Recently checked out Elevation 5003 Distillery in Fort Collins, CO. They make a few spirits, including gin, vodka and whiskey. If you visit the tasting room, there is nice selection of drinks they concoct on site. One that I enjoyed, that is not on the menu anymore, but my friends had the bartender make, was the Timber Ridge Ramble. I just know it had gin, blackberries and great taste. If you live in, or are visiting Fort Collins, check this place out. Or, pick up a bottle of their stuff up or order a drink with it from the restaurant or bar you’re visiting.

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I Am the Walrus

Well, actually, I just went to a restaurant called The Walrus. National Harbor, MD.

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First great/fun/cool thing about them – they have wine on tap. This perhaps used to be looked upon as an odd thing, but it’s great. Makes the wine last longer, it won’t go bad, and keeps it at the right temp. Cheers to that! I opted for the Rose (non-Moscato, of course). Nice and dry, light berry taste and perfect temp. And during happy hour, $2 off per glass.

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After looking over the menu, food-wise I went with the Butternut Squash Soup – Fresh Maryland lump crab, local butternut squash, chives and JO Spiced pepitas.  Very nice size for the dish, perfect thickness. It cooled down quickly, but nonetheless, with the crab it was even more delicious!
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Wanted more veggies and a soup/salad theme, so opted for the Roasted Beet Salad –
Roasted golden beets, goat cheese, baby greens, candied pecans, honey balsamic vinaigrette with sautéed shrimp. Good flavor and it came with both thinly sliced beets and cubed beets. The shrimp were also very nicely cooked.
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Liked the place and the service at the bar was pretty good. The initial bartender we had was perfect, then the amount of staff in the bar dropped so it was harder to get service, but it was not the end of the world. Check this place out if you’re at National Harbor.

Seconds Favorites

You love it, you make it. Even it’s seconds. So I was cruising around the Farmer’s Market (yes, this is a few months back based on the ingredients) and trying to decide what to make for a Supper Club dinner coming up. I realized that a couple of my favorites were in high quantity because of the season — (beefsteak) tomatoes and peaches/nectarines. Now, while I love supporting the locals, sometimes those produce items can get up to $4-6/lb. And those beefsteaks can weight 1lb+ each!

So I noticed somebody who worked for one of the stands I usually buy from tossing stuff to the side and I asked her what they were and what was wrong with them. She said they were just a bit bruised, had torn/broken skin, etc, so couldn’t be sold a regular price. They all cost $1/lb! Just takes a little digging to find the one they aren’t totally bad, which isn’t hard. SOLD!

So, while digging, I came up with a good combo idea of tomatoes and peaches then remembered I had some Hearts of Palm at home.

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I just cubed all of them, added some spices (I think it was garlic, S&P) and tossed them together. Heaven! The only thing I had to do was drain it a bit because of the juiciness. Leftovers = zero. Too bad I didn’t get seconds from the seconds.

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WY, oh, WY

Simple highlights from a trip to Wyoming earlier this year. From cowboy, bars, or cowboy bars, to moose, mountains and beautiful scenery. This was when there were fires in MT, ID and elsewhere, around Labor Day and some of these picture don’t capture what exactly the sky looked like (in a bad sense). Some days it was opaque, others it was hazy. Regardless, love this state, summer or winter.

 

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