Category Archives: Food

Food

Todd’s World of Coffee

We’ve now been living in Capitol Hill in Denver for three months. One of the things I realized when we moved here is that there are a lot of coffee shops within easy walking distance. With the help of Yelp, I made a list of all seven that are within a half mile, which I posted here.

That’s when I gave myself a little challenge – to visit each and every one of these. I guess I chose 0.5 miles as the cutoff because that’s what I think of as “an easy walk” – anything farther and it would feel more like a walk for a walk’s sake, instead of just “I’ll bop down to the corner and get a cappuccino.”

But a new place cropped up since I started my list, and that’s when I decided I better update this. And in the process, I organized it all a bit better and expanded it significantly.

Coffee Shops Within 1/2 Mile

  1. Pablo’s Coffee 0.1 mi – This is the easiest one to get to, by far. It’s a nice place with really good cappuccino and no WiFi. Nice staff, roast their own beans. My Yelp review.
  2. Buzz Cafe 0.4 mi – I just went here for the first time last week on a weekday morning. Their homemade breakfast sandwich is the best around – the tastiest coffee shop breakfast in the area. The cappuccino was good, but not outstanding. My Yelp review.
  3. Drip Denver 0.4 mi – This is my favorite of all the ones on this list. The service is great, the people really know their coffee, and they have a wide selection. The interior is also very comfortable, and they have good WiFi. They get their beans from Pablo’s and Kaladi Brothers. My Yelp review.
  4. Dazbog Coffee 0.5 mi – This is convenient for me when I’m driving to Broomfield in the morning. But the service is spotty. Sometimes they forget to make things I order. And I haven’t had any coffee drink that’s really impressed me. I rank this like Starbucks, but slightly more local.
  5. Roostercat Coffee House 0.5 mi – Nice small place downstairs on Lincoln between 10th and 11th. They use Coda coffee. Not very crowded or noisy, at least on a weekday morning. They make unusual waffle sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. But I’ve gotten turned off by my last two visits and stopped going. One time there were coffee grounds in my cappuccino. How does that even happen?

Starbucks Within 1/2 Mile

Yeah, I’m giving these a separate category. Four Starbucks within 0.5 miles of me? Talk about overkill. The bold ones are the ones I’ve personally visited, for what little that’s worth.

  1. Starbucks Coffee 0.2 mi – 300 E 6th Ave – This is the Starbucks on 6th near Moe’s Bagels. I don’t have much to say about Starbucks. When I went to this one, the service was good.
  2. Starbucks Coffee 0.3 mi – 575 Lincoln Street – This one is between Lincoln and Broadway on the south side of Speer, by Bombay Bowl. I went there once when we lived in Baker.
  3. Starbucks Coffee 0.4 mi – 560 Corona St – This is the one inside Safeway at 6th and Corona. Oh boy, supermarket Starbucks.
  4. Starbucks Coffee 0.4 mi – 931 Corona St – This is the Starbucks inside the King Soopers that people often call “Queen Soopers”. It’s a typical supermarket Starbucks.

Other Coffee-serving Businesses Within 1/2 Mile

Again, bold means “been there, done that”.

  1. Dunkin Donuts 0.5 mi – 366 N Broadway – I went there but didn’t get coffee. For some reason, people rave about the quality of the coffee at Dunkin.
  2. DJ’s 9th Avenue Cafe 0.4 mi – 865 Lincoln St – This is a great place for both breakfast and lunch. They have good service and good food, which they make with as many local ingredients as possible. I’ve never seen it very crowded, so I wonder how they can stay in business given the size of the place.
  3. City Bakery Cafe 0.3 mi – 726 Lincoln St – Pretty new. Mainly baked good, but they also have drip coffee and espresso drinks, as well a breakfast sandwiches.
  4. Racine’s Restaurant 0.2 mi – 650 Sherman St – We’ve been there a couple times. One time was for supper and it was great. One time was for breakfast and it was mediocre. The coffee was Starbucks brand. Enough said.
  5. Moe’s Broadway Bagel 0.2 mi – 550 Grant St – I love Moe’s “everything” bagel with cream cheese, and often get one to go with an iced coffee, which Moe’s makes pretty well.
  6. Martine’s Muffins 0.3 mi – 726 Lincoln St – Frankly, I’m not sure how Martine is going to stay in business now that City Bakery Cafe has opened up, not just nearby but in the same building! I just went there once for a breakfast burrito, and didn’t try her coffee. The burrito was just so-so.
  7. Einstein Bros. Bagels 0.4 mi – 1025 E 9th Ave – Why bother? There’s Moe’s nearby.
  8. Tony’s Market 0.5 mi – 950 Broadway – I’ve been to Tony’s for food, but never to get coffee. They do have a lot of interesting high end foodstuffs, at high end prices.
  9. Lé Bakery Sensual 0.2 mi – 300 E 6th Ave – They have coffee, but that’s not what they’re famous for. What they’re famous for is cupcakes shapes like penises. I bought a cake there once, but never the coffee.

So there’s my list. 18 places to get coffee within 1/2 mile. Got anything to add? Leave a comment.

a new film by Todd Bradley

A few months ago, one of my Facebook friends turned me on to a short film contest that was right up my alley. It was the Real Food Media Contest, and they had a contest to make a short documentary on one of a set of topics related to food and farming. So I took footage I shot in Missoula, Montana when Beth and I were there for a month in the summer of 2012, and edited it into a short. Unfortunately, I didn’t win a prize, but today they announced the winners. If you want to check out what won, here you go: http://realfoodmedia.org.

My buddy Chad Johnson reviewed and critiqued the film I put together. His assessment was that it was a basically good edit and interesting story. But he felt I probably wouldn’t place in the contest because my film doesn’t have the “shallow depth-of-field DSLR look” that’s so popular. Well, he was right; my film wasn’t even a finalist. And if you look at the films that got the top 5 prizes, you can see his comments about the “look” the judges wanted to see were right on the money.

The winners are also interesting stories, so I don’t mean to imply that they won only based on their look. But my traditional video camera’s small imager just can’t produce the kind of pictures that people’s eyes want to watch. It’s awesome for sports, but not for sexy documentaries. So I’m gonna get a DSLR (or something like it) and learn to fiddle obsessively with rack focus. That’s my recipe for success. Just watch me.

new home, new coffee

This week we moved into our new apartment in the Capitol Hill area of Denver. The quality of our neighborhood skyrocketed! This area actually feels and acts like a neighborhood that the residents care about, and you can see it just on the short walk from our apartment down to 6th Avenue. There, on a single block, I saw a homemade curbside little free library and then a homemade dog poop cleanup bag dispenser made from a used pop bottle zip-tied to a street sign. Someone took the time to build, install, and maintain these things, which is something we never saw in our part of Boulder.

But new digs also means new coffee, and since we’re in a much more urban area, we’ve gone from having just one coffee shop within a half mile to having several. My goal is to try them all. Here they are (results according to Yelp.com):

  1. Pablo’s Coffee 0.1 mi – This is the easiest one to get to, by far. It’s a nice place with really good cappuccino and no WiFi.
  2. Starbucks Coffee 0.2 mi – I’ve been here before, too, but not since we moved nearby. It’s the Starbucks on 6th. When I’m in the area, I’d rather go to Moe’s Broadway Bagels instead.
  3. Buzz Cafe 0.4 mi
  4. Drip Denver 0.4 mi
  5. Dazbog Coffee 0.5 mi
  6. Dunkin Donuts 0.5 mi
  7. Roostercat Coffee House 0.5 mi – Nice small place downstairs on Lincoln between 10th and 11th. They use Coda coffee. Not very crowded or noisy, at least on a weekday morning.

Sadly, Sugar Bakeshop & Coffee House is 0.6 miles away, so it just barely didn’t make the cut. And this list doesn’t include other places that have great coffee but are primarily something other than a coffee shop, like Racine’s or – better yet – DJ’s 9th Avenue Cafe.

Bento 101: Assignment 5

The way to get into a bento habit, apparently, is to have lots of pre-made items around the kitchen. Apparently there’s even a Japanese word for this bento stash: johbisai. This week’s assignment was to make or buy one of each of three categories of johbisai:

  • Something that can be ‘stashed’ in the freezer for future bentos.
  • Something that can be ‘stashed’ in the refrigerator for at least a week, for future bentos.
  • Something that can be ‘stashed’ in a kitchen cabinet/pantry (i.e. at room temperature) for future bentos.

So here’s what I bought or made this week for my stash

  • made furikake (basic topping for rice) – Mine was ground dried toasted onions, salt, and a few other spices
  • made cole slaw – red cabbage, carrots, jalapeños, apple cider vinegar, salt, and sugar
  • made sho-yu tamago (soy sauce eggs)
  • made teriyaki tofu
  • bought tiny dill pickles
  • bought grape tomatoes
I didn’t put any of these in the freezer, though. They’re all either in the fridge or the pantry. What would you freeze out of this list?

 

 

Bento 101: Assignment 4

Here’s my homework for Assignment 4. Yeah, there was no Assignment 3, as far as I can tell. We went from 2b to 4. Whatever.

The assignment was to make a bento-based lunch. My new bento boxes arrived about a week ago (see Assignment 2b) and I’ve used them to bring my lunch to work twice now. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of either lunch, being in too much of a hurry during packing and eating. And I can’t remember what I at the first time.

But yesterday I can remember what I had for lunch. One bento box was about half full of white rice, and on top of that was a crock pot chicken dish that I made earlier in the week. It was based on this recipe. But I used skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs instead of the boneless, skinless ones the recipe called for. And we didn’t have corn starch, so I thickened the sauce with some flour. (It turned out a bit greasy, but fairly tasty). In the other bento box were fresh carrot sticks and mixed nuts.

Here are the questions I’m supposed to answer for this assignment:

  • Did you enjoy your lunch? I did enjoy eating it, though I ate it at my desk at work so I didn’t fully appreciate the meal.
  • Did you enjoy making your lunch? For the most part I enjoyed it. The leftover rice and chicken were easy. All I had to do was pack it neatly into the boxes and slice some carrots. It was first thing in the morning and I was in a bad mood, so it wasn’t as enjoyable as it might have been.
  • Were there any issues with toting your lunch to work/school? Any issues at the office? No issues at all. The bento boxes fit into my messenger bag just fine, and I toted them to work with me on the bus. I microwaved the rice and chicken, and it came out tasty.
  • Is this something you see yourself doing regularly? Yes, especially if I can keep making food in advance to pack. I don’t feel like I have enough time in the morning before work to make anything complicated for lunch, so having something pre-made (leftovers) is essential for me.

Bento 101: Assignment 2b

Here’s a quick one. This assignment:

  • Go through the list you made for Assignment 1, and determine which kind of lunch you’re most likely to pack. Is it compact and grain-based? Do you want something hot or soupy? Maybe you prefer packing salads and sandwiches?
  • Choose the type of lunch container that is the best fit for you based on your preferences.
  • Now the fun part: go look for the box that’s right for you. For Japanese style bento boxes in particular, the Where to shop page is a great place to start – it lists the wonderful bento box sellers that support this site and keep it alive and kicking. Readers in the U.S. can also try looking through the ever increasing selection of bento boxes on Amazon.
  • If you can manage to get your bento/lunch box by next week, great! If not, try to have a backup/substitute box ready to go. We’ll be packing our very first bento for the next assignment.

My answers:

I want something flexible, that will securely hold soups or soupy foods. I measured how much food I had for lunch and it was about 1000 ml. Now granted, I usually don’t have dessert with lunch, so that estimate may be on the high side. But the bento boxes I currently have hold about 2000 ml of food, which is way more than I need. I found that the Monbento double-layer product is exactly 1000 ml, looks nice, and comes highly recommended by a couple of my friends. So I just ordered this one from Amazon.com.

Bento 101: Assignment 2a

This week’s assignment was to take a regular meal that you’re planning to eat, and experiment with packing it into a container wisely. The point, I believe, is to show that you can fit a “normal” amount of food into a smaller container than you think, if you stack things in three dimensions.

Since it’s Sunday, normally I try to finish off leftovers we’ve accumulated during the week. So for lunch today, I took 4 leftover meatballs and cooked them in a can of diced tomatoes. Then I put a handful of homemade croutons (that were too hard to be tasty on salad) on top. To go with that are some celery sticks and some pieces of pineapple, and a slice of cherry pie.

Here’s what all that looked like on plates:

And here’s what it all looked like in 2 levels of my 3 level bento box stack:

Here are the lessons from this exercise, all things I already knew:

  • My 3 level bento stack is too big for one person. I didn’t even use the 3rd box.
  • The bento that’s divided into 3 sections – the one on the right with the veggies, fruit, and pie – is too short. The walls need to be higher. For some reason, it’s significantly shorter than the other two 2 levels. I say this because the celery and pineapple both stuck up above the walls, even though you can’t tell from this photo.
  • The 2 levels that don’t have dividers aren’t very useful to me. They’re too big for what I consider a normal size dish. As you can see in the photo, the meatball and tomato dish I made only fills about half of it. (not to mention that the tomato juice would’ve leaked out if I’d taken this in my backpack to work with me)
  • To pack really efficiently, I need to get better at cutting things more consistently. Since I wasn’t thinking ahead that I needed to pack all this in a bento, I cut the celery stalks the way I always do, pretty haphazardly. Therefore, two of the pieces were too long to fit properly into the little section that the other pieces fit in.

Bento 101: Assignment 1

I signed up for an online course called Bento 101. Each week we’ll get a different assignment. I may have to write something, prepare something, take a photo of something, etc. For the course, we’re all supposed to have a place where we can post our “homework” – photos, writings, etc. So I decided I’ll do that right here on my blog.

I think I’m already a week behind, because our first assignment came out on February 5. Here is my homework, a list of foods I like that I could take as leftovers to work to eat for lunch.

bento101_favfoods_A4

Todd’s Great BBQ Safari, Part 1 – Oklahoma Joe’s in Leawood, Kansas

When we set out on our current grand excursion, two and a half months ago, one thing I was looking forward to was doing a thorough survey of American styles of barbecue. I’d had a lot of Q from Texas and Colorado, and some from Kansas City and other places. But There were whole genres that I hadn’t properly sampled. So, armed with Yelp, Google, and the help of people I met along the way, I’ve been trying to teach myself to appreciate the diversity of barbecue in this great land.

Oklahoma Joe’s – Good Food, Mass Produced

So, let me take you back in time a little. My first BBQ after leaving Denver was in Kansas City. The KC style, if you don’t already know, is to use a lot of a sweet sauce on the meat. On previous trips to Kansas City, I’ve been to about a half dozen barbecue joints – enough to find that my favorite is Arthur Bryant’s. On this trip, I tried a new place that has gotten great reviews. It’s called Oklahoma Joe’s. It’s a mini-chain of three restaurants. I don’t know where the name comes; as far as I know, there is no distinct Oklahoma style of BBQ. Here’s my Yelp review of Oklahoma Joe’s in Leawood, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City):

My wife and I went for dinner tonight at the Leawood Oklahoma Joe’s about 7:00pm.  Having read the reviews warning us about long lines, I expected the worst.  But we walked right in and ordered, with absolutely zero wait.  Are the crowds dying down now that the restaurant has been open a while?  Or is it just dead on a Monday night?  I’d say only about 1/3 to 1/2 of the tables were full.

I ordered the ribs and brisket plate, with a side of dirty rice, plus a cup of gumbo.  The Mrs. had the Open Face Lean ‘n’ Mean Sandwich (turkey).  I had water, she had red creme soda.  I’d give the ribs an A, the brisket an A, the dirty rice an A-, and the gumbo a B+.  I also liked the turkey sandwich.  I’m a Texan, and so I think good smoked meat needs to speak for itself, without a lot of sauce.  I appreciated that they put just a little sauce on the meat in the kitchen, so I could savor the flavor of the dead animals properly.  (I also tried two of the sauces on my brisket and liked them both)

The ribs were some of the best I had.  I got the sensation that the meat was salty all the way through, so I wonder if they brine the ribs before smoking them.  The brisket was some of the best outside of Texas, and was very respectable.  It very well may be better than Arthur Bryant’s, which is my personal favorite in KC.  The dirty rice was really good, way better than my own.  And the gumbo was tasty, though I prefer it to be made with a darker, richer roux.  This gumbo is very creamy, as if it’s been thickened up with a little too much corn starch.  I’d love a bowl of it on a cold winter day.

But as I was enjoying my meal, something seemed out of place.  It took me a while to put my finger on it, but then I realized that I didn’t smell any smoke either inside or outside the restaurant.  And none of the cooks seemed even the slightest bit dirty.  And there was no smoke coming out of the top of building.  As we left, I even drove around it, and that’s when I realized there’s no wood pile here.  How do they make real BBQ with no wood, no smoke, and apparently no fire?  It’s very mysterious, and the only explanation I came up with is almost too horrible to imagine – that they actually smoke the meat somewhere else, and then truck it in, and then just warm it up in the kitchen.  Could it be?

By the way, for the meal I mentioned above, we spent $26 for 2 people, including tax.  There was no service, so I didn’t leave a tip.

UPDATE: I got a message from someone at Oklahoma Joe’s.  He said the smokers are in the back of the building, but the city of Leawood made them build a high brick wall around them.  And that’s where the wood is, too, which explains why I didn’t see any wood.  He said the reason I didn’t smell any smoke inside is due to their great ventilation system, and the reason I didn’t smell any smoke outside was just an unfortunate breeze.  I learned they use Missouri white oak.

But something just didn’t sit right with me. So I went back a second time. This time I did some sleuthing. I peeked back through the gate to where the smokers supposedly are, and saw a tiny pile of about 6 logs, maybe 1/100 of what you’d need for a place this size. Strange.

And when I was waiting in line to order, I got a good look at how they prepare things back in the kitchen. I saw one guy pull out a tub of meat, take off some wrapping, pour some sauce on it, and put it in a microwave. After it came out, he mixed it all up. Microwaving BBQ???!!! Then I saw the big industrial-size one gallon cans from Sysco.

And that’s when it all came together for me. Given the number of people that pass through the doors to Oklahoma Joe’s in just a 90 minute lunch rush, there’s no way to feed them all without using a real large scale food service assembly line. Mass producing the product is the only way to make it work, which explains why they’ve gotta use Sysco instead of more home-style ingredients, and why they’ve gotta have the meat pre-prepared by the 10 pound tub. The food here is good – don’t get me wrong – but it’s not the BBQ experience that I like, where you can see the meat come out of the smoker, get cut up, and served right onto your plate. Oklahoma Joe’s has perfected the science of mass producing tasty barbecue, and the results are impressive.

New Biscuits at the Denver Biscuit Company

OK, this isn’t exactly news anymore, but on November 6 the Denver Biscuit Company rolled out two new biscuit meals for winter.  One is a shrimp and grits biscuit.  The other is pulled pork.  As you can guess, I was excited about both of them, so I visited the first Saturday morning they offered them.  Here were my thoughts.

Shrimp & Grits

The shrimp & grits were served, as you might imagine (but I didn’t), on a biscuit.  But they don’t need to be.  It would have been better without the biscuit, actually.  The sauce the shrimp came in plus the grits just made the biscuit soggy.

The shrimp had a great texture, though, and were very tasty.  They were small, but not too small.  The dish was nicely seasoned.  It was spicy, but after finishing the meal I decided it was just the right heat.  And I already knew the grits at DBC are good; so that part wasn’t a surprise.  Cooked in with the shrimp and grits were small pieces of pancetta.  Yum.

I’d rate this meal a 8/10, or 10/10 if you took away the biscuit and just served the shrimp and grits.

Pulled Pork

This biscuit is called The Elmer, maybe for Elmer Fudd.  It had pulled pork in a barbecue sauce.  The sauce was sweet, but not too sweet.  And when assembled as a sandwich, it was just too big.  I  had to cut it in two to eat it.

Also on the sandwich were homemade pickles and red cabbage cole slaw.  The slaw was very crispy.  But the biscuit was just too crumbly to hold together this big of a sandwich.  I had to finish it with a fork.

As I chewed and thought, I realized that everything is sweet in this sandwich – the BBQ sauce, the slaw, and the pickles.  It would be better with dill pickles instead of sweet pickles.  And adding some more vinegar to the slaw would give it some zing that it lacked.

I’d rate this meal a 6/10.  I love pulled pork, but it was just too predominantly sweet in this sandwich.  The dish deserves a better balance of tastes.