Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cherry Creek Fresh Market, Take Two

Back at the Cherry Creek Fresh Market this weekend, where the number of produce options (and the number of produce stands) had expanded greatly since my last visit.

Lots and lots of summer squash and other veggies...

... along with plums, peaches, apricots, cantalope, cherries...

... and dog after dog, just waiting for some food to drop.

Cherry Creek Fresh Market
Saturdays May 3 through October 25, 8:00 am - 1:00 pm
Wednesdays June 4 through September 24, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
North Cherry Creek Dr. & University

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ask Before Ordering at Rocky Mountain Diner

Rocky Mountain Diner promises food just like Grandma's. Apparently, "Grandma" used a lot of meat in her cooking. Enchiladas? Stuffed with roast duck. Tacos? Filled with steak. Each sandwich and plate listed on the menu is meat-based (Buffalo Meatloaf, Chicken Fried Steak, Vaquero Cheese Steak...), and even the salads (apart from the house salad and, depending on how you interpret "vegetarian," the caesar salad) have some type of meat component.

The only two dishes on the lunch menu which do not list meat among their ingredients are the chili rellenos and the huevos rancheros. I ordered the chili rellenos during a recent visit. While, in retrospect, the meat-heavy menu should have been a warning, I didn't bother to ask whether the green chili atop the chili rellenos (and huevos rancheros) contains meat. However, a few bites in, it became clear that the green chili does contain meat - giant chunks of pork which seemed to permeate the entire dish.

Although it may be a meat-lover's delight, Rocky Mountain Diner is a difficult place to eat as a vegetarian. It's a shame, because the restaurant appears to use fresh ingredients and to prepare its dishes from scratch. It's been a long time since I've been to a restaurant which didn't include any vegetarian options on its menu - even in meat-intensive south Texas, I was able to order cheese enchiladas or a grilled cheese sandwich. Although it has a great location (in the historic Ghost building downtown) and a nice patio, I will probably not return to the Diner in the future. For vegetarians who do find themselves at the Diner, I recommend telling the server that you don't eat meat, and then asking what items on the menu can be prepared without meat.

Rocky Mountain Diner
800 18th Street
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 293-8383

From Claire at Culinary Colorado: News that the Asian restaurants and markets at Alameda Square are slated to be replaced by yet another modern shopping mall.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Behind the Apron: Beatrice Revealed!

Beatrice, before becoming vegetarian...

This week, Ginger Beat is participating in "Behind the Apron 2," organized by Fiber at 28 Cooks. "Behind the Apron" is intended to help readers learn a little bit more about food blog authors. Participants are instructed to "post a picture of yourself on your blog, revealing as much (tastefully, of course) or as little as you want. Introduce yourself, show us your family, do whatever you want."

A Recent Portrait of "Beatrice"

As you can see, I cheated and didn't include a current photo of myself, although I am posting a recent portrait of "Beatrice." Also, the joke about eating pigeons as a youth might not meet the "tasteful" requirement. Oh, well.

As for the story behind this blog: I've been vegetarian for about 15 years. During that time, my eating pattern has developed from simply "not eating meat" to being fairly vegetable-focused. Apart from the occasional veggie brat, I don't eat a lot of mock-meat. I would generally rather enjoy an interesting vegetable dish than attempt to re-create a traditional meal without the meat.

This spring, I decided to start a blog about options for vegetarians in the Denver area. While Denver is generally pretty vegetarian friendly, it can be hard to determine which restaurants, apart from mainstays like Watercourse, will have decent meatless menu offerings. The blog also chronicles my adventures (or, more often, mis-adventures) in the kitchen.

Questions? Suggestions? Hot tip about great veggie dim sum in the Denver area? Feel free to shoot me an e-mail at beatriceroot at yahoo dot com.

Food blogging will resume shortly. Thank you for reading!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Daifuku Manju (Rice Cakes)

The phrase "rice cake" conjurs up images of a dry, crunchy cracker made of puffed rice. But, "rice cake" can also refer to a soft, round cake of glutinous rice flour, filled with a sweet paste.

I tend to buy daifuku manju (大福まんじゅう) with a plain cake and a sweet red bean paste filling (pictured above, sometimes the rice gluten cake is white instead of pink so read the label!).

However, the rice cakes also come in other flavors, including macadamia nut (white, below at left) and mango (orange, below at right).

The macadamia nut cake was unexpectedly crunchy, due to chunks of macadamia nut in the cake's exterior. The filling was my favorite - red bean paste. The mango cake, with a mango-esque filling, was a bit cloying for my taste.

A Japanese confection, rice cakes can be found at Asian groceries. In Denver, I've found them at the Pacific Mercantile and at H-Mart. Sometimes they are in a refrigerated section (Pacific Mercantile), sometimes in the freezer (H-Mart), and other times they are on the shelf, or even by the cash register. I'm not aware of any reason why the rice cakes need to be refrigerated or frozen; they don't last long in my home, anyway.

Thanks to Deb in Denver for the Japanese translation.

Pacific Mercantile Company
1925 Lawrence
Denver, CO 80202

2751 South Parker Road (Parker & Yale)
Aurora, CO 80014

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chilled Blueberry Lemon Soup

From Mark Bittman, and his blog "Bitten," a recipe for chilled blueberry soup.

One pint (two cups) blueberries are combined with a half cup of sugar and two cups of water, and simmered until the blueberries fall apart. The recipe contemplates that cinnamon will be simmered along with the blueberries and sugar. Because I love the combination of blueberry and lemon, I omitted the cinnamon and stirred in the grated rind of one organic lemon after removing the blueberry syrup from the heat.

The blueberry-lemon mixture then went into the refrigerator to chill for a half-hour, before being blended with 1 cup of plain yogurt, and then returning to the refrigerator to chill some more.
The resulting "soup" makes for a cool and refreshing mid-summer treat. I suspect that it would also be killer served atop vanilla ice cream.

Friday, July 18, 2008


What's better than ice cream on a hot summer day? Dark chocolate ice cream!

While the flavors change daily, Liks always seems to be scooping least one dark chocolate option. The difference isn't clear from the photo at left, but the dark chocolate is truly darker than regular chocolate ice cream. Whether "plain" dark chocolate, or a flavor like Black Gold or Billionaire that has goodies such as caramel and nuts blended in, the ice cream has a delightfully rich, creamy dark chocolate flavor.

I can't comment on any of the other flavors because I am never able to resist the dark chocolate...

Enjoy your ice cream on the patio adjacent to the restaurant, or in nearby Cheeseman Park.

2039 East 13th Ave (13th and Vine)
Denver, CO 80206

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

La Casita Tamales

Regular readers will know that I've been on the hunt for a decent veg tamale. I was hearing good things about the green chili and cheese tamales at La Casita: that their tamales are truly vegetarian because they are made with vegetable oil, that the tamales are really really good, and that everyone in Denver goes to 44th and Tennyson for tamales...

With great anticipation, I traveled to 44th and Tennyson, only to find this:

Luckily, there is another La Casita location at 36th & Tejon.

The Tejon location appears to be relatively new. During my visit, soul music played from speakers inside the restaurant and on the patio, where seating is also available. The decor inside is minimal, but the space is clean and comfortable.

I ordered three green chili and cheese tamales, with vegetarian red sauce on the side. And what tamales! The proportion of masa dough-to-filling was perfect, and the masa itself had a fabulous taste and texture.

I was puzzled when the cashier/server asked whether I would like tomato and lettuce with my tamales, but when I bit into them, I understood: the chilies in these tamales are hot! Not so hot that the tamales weren't enjoyable, but hot enough that tomatoes and lettuce could provide a welcome contrast.

The tamales are $1.20 apiece; three tamales plus a side order of red sauce came to $4.90 and made for a satisfying meal.

Service was quick and friendly. The tamales are also available to go.

La Casita
3561 Tejon St
Denver, CO 80211
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. M-F and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sat, closed Sunday

Monday, July 14, 2008

Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta

There's a pasta machine with my name on it. It's in storage at my parents' house, along with the table that it goes with. (Pasta machines don't usually require special tables, but this is an old one, with a clamp on it, and the clamp fits neither my table nor the one my parents currently have in their kitchen.)

My mom made homemade pasta with that pasta machine when I was growing up. My role was to catch the noodles as they came out of the pasta machine, and carry them over to a rack to dry. I had assumed that I would not make my own pasta again until I lived in a place large enough for the table that fits the pasta machine's clamp. But, after reading about making homemade pasta without a machine at Sugarlaws and in Cooking Light, I decided to attempt machine-less pasta.

I followed the Cooking Light recipe this time, because I liked the idea of a whole wheat blend and the idea of using olive oil in the dough. My only "stray" was to assemble the dough by hand (or, by whisk and wooden spoon) -- it didn't seem necessary to fire up (or clean) the food processor for this one.

After the dough has set for a bit, it is rolled out, folded and cut by hand with a knife. While I like the chunkiness of hand-cut noodles, it is a bit tricky to keep the noodles separate. With a pasta machine, it's easy to keep the noodles from clumping because the ribbons of dough are caught as they come of of the machine, and can easily be kept separate after that. When using the hand-cut method, the noodles must be unfolded after they are cut - a task which is trickier than it sounds because the noodles are very very sticky.

Partway through the process, I started sprinkling flour on top of each layer of dough as I folded it to be cut, which helped a lot. In the end, I had half clumpy and poorly separated noodles, and half lovely ribbons. (See the photo up top!)

No matter how it looks, homemade pasta tastes great. It's also amazing how much more quickly it cooks than the dry stuff (less than two minutes)!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bananas & Chocolate

Do you ever notice an unintended theme in your eating pattern? The theme for me this week has been chocolate and bananas.

It began innocently enough, with a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. Ben and Jerry's happens to be on sale at King Soopers this week, perhaps in connection with National Ice Cream Month.

Then, when I stopped into the Watercourse for a snack, I noticed chocolate-banana cupcakes in the baker's case. The cupcakes are chocolate with banana frosting layered between the base and the cap, and a banana chip on top. (For more on Watercourse's baked goods, including gluten-free options, click here.)

Finally, I decided to give in to the trend and make a banana-chocolate smoothie - vanilla yogurt blended with cocoa and a little sugar,* and a banana added to the mix. Excellent with peanut butter toast.

*Chocolate syrup could also be used, or else just start with chocolate milk or chocolate soy milk.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

July 4 in the Park

We took our visiting relatives up to Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park on July 4, where we saw some awesome scenery and some wildlife.
(Click the photo to enlarge if you want a better view of the elk/wapiti)

There's just nothing like getting out of the city...

After our communion with the great outdoors, we stopped in Estes Park, and had dinner at Mama Rose's. There were a number of vegetarian options on the menu. Diners seeking gluten-free or vegan fare can substitute shredded zucchini for pasta in several of the dishes.

I tried the portobello mushroom ravioli which, although the restaurant purports to serve "homemade Italian" fare, were not made in house. In fact, they seemed strikingly similar to the frozen portobello mushroom ravioli sold at Safeway. The best part of the dish was the pesto atop the ravioli, which did appear to be freshly made. (The red wine tomato sauce, which also topped the ravioli, was average.)

While not exceptional, the fare at Mama Rose's was decent and reasonably priced for a resort town, and the restaurant was vegetarian friendly. If we were to return, I would order the basil pesto fettuccine, and perhaps substitute shredded zucchini for the pasta.

Mama Rose's
338 East Elkhorn Avenue (on the Riverwalk)
Estes Park, Colorado 80517

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hibiscus Mint Granita With Rum

I love hibiscus iced tea, whether served plain or infused with mint, ginger or lime. So, it should come as no surprised that I was interested in Diana Kuan's recipe for hibiscus mint granita with rum (or hibiscus mojito granita), posted at her fabulous Appetite for China website. Not only does the recipe include hibiscus, mint and lime, but a granita sounded like a great way to cool off on a hot summer day.

I started by boiling 1/2 cup of dried hibiscus flowers and a handful of crushed mint leaves in two cups of water. After 10 minutes, I removed the saucepan from the heat, stirred in one cup of sugar until it dissolved, and let the mixture cool for about a half hour.

The hibiscus syrup was then strained into a large bowl or baking dish, and the hibiscus flowers removed, before adding the juice of one lime and 1/4 cup rum. In retrospect, it would have been better to add the mint at this stage; instead, I stood over the baking dish and picked out the hibiscus flowers with a fork, while doing my best to leave the damp mint leaves in.

The baking dish then went into the freezer, to be removed and stirred with a fork every half hour until an ice slush had formed. I dutifully followed these instructions, but because of the presence of the rum, ice did not even begin to form until three hours had passed. (As Kaun notes, the freezing stage will go more quickly if you omit the rum and make a virgin granita.)

While the recipe is simple, it ultimately took me seven hours to complete the granita, even though I divided the mixture between two baking dishes so that it would freeze faster. It's true that much of the seven hours was spent doing other things, while making sure that I could get to the freezer to stir the granita from time to time. However, there were points when I was tempted to just drink the partly-frozen hibiscus mojito, and forget about the granita part.

This recipe might be quicker you have a gelato or ice cream maker. If you are using the freeze-and-scrape method, and are including rum, you might want to give the granita several hours to freeze before scraping it.

Edited to add: Another method for getting around the rum-freezing problem: make the granita without the alcohol, then pour the rum over it before serving.