Angelo’s. A repeatable one night stand.

Tuesday, a rainy and unlikely night for Mashuguna shenanigans found me at Angelo’s Taverna. Located on 6th Ave and Washinton angelo’s presents a front that is unlikely to supply a good time. Outdated signs and a slightly dirty appearance would have hidden this experience from me as just another part of 6th Avenue’s scenery had I not been stopped on my way to one of my favorite Wash Park haunts. As we cruised down 6th Ave with thoughts of LaLa’s (a great little pizzeria on Logan) my partner in crime for the evening stopped me and exclaimed “Hey! Angelo’s, I liked that place once” as if describing a questionable and yet satisfying one night stand from long ago. Having only chosen LaLa’s as a result of lacking inspiration I asked if it was worth checking out.

 

The parking lot, although designated for Angelo’s, was full but we were able to find ample street parking close by, thus beginning and oyster experience that would leave me feeling as though I had simultaneously attended church and a pagan virgin sacrifice. As we entered the tavern we side stepped the hostess and grabbed the only two open seats at the bar. The plan was to shoot a few oysters, have a drink or two and get some pasta to go. A combination of the charm of my partner in crime and the charm of Angelo’s kept me firmly panted in my bar stool for the better part of the evening and my sobriety.

 

We were promptly greeted by a server who asked if we would like a drink. Having only one selection for bubbles by the glass I didn’t even bother listening as our server told us what it was. We simply ordered two. As I sipped my bubbles, served in a wine glass rather than a flute, something that I find distinctly preferable (huge points), I let the atmosphere sink in. Dark, dusty, loud and vibrantly energetic Angelo’s gave off the sense of a church basement coupled with a pool hall and a small Italian osteria. Perfecto!

 

A sampling of oysters arrived on the half shell. Served classically and simply. Including kumomoto’s (one of my favorites), the oysters were accompanied by mignonette, cocktail sauce, lemon and horseradish in a simple tin dish of ice. The oysters were fresh, briny and tantalizing. Exactly the way an oyster should be. My only complain is that the shucker (who stood right in front of us) had his head phones in the entire time while trying to talk to us, a small pet peeve of mine.

 

Next arrived a round of grilled oysters! Served in shell and hot, the oysters were cooked with gorgonzola, bacon and pesto. They’re are few first times still allowed to a Mashuguna such as myself. This however was one. Although I adore oysters from here to the moon an back I am a purist. I have never had a grilled oyster. This was sublime! It was also served with a large slice of garlic bread with which, like little children, we were delighted to run through the inside of our empty oyster shells soaking up every last bit of greasy goodness.

Grilled oysters were followed by caesar salad. Burnt croutons and lousy caesar dressing made this hardly worth mentioning much less writing about. The next dish, our entree, however was exactly what it was suppose to be. Squash Ravioli with bacon and brown butter was not life altering but was completely apropos. Swimming in a greasy brown butter bacon sauce they were rustically house made and delicious. Although it would have been greatly improved by a splash of pasta water, stock or another alternative to cut the fat, the sauce perfectly fit the atmosphere and situation.

 

Our oyster adventure was complete in a classic Mashuguna style by two rounds of liquid dessert. The first of which was oyster shooters. Mine was a shot of raw house oyster, jalepeno infused tequila and lime. Spicey and alcoholic as all heck it was perfect. My partner went with a sweeter option. Graham cracker stout, vanilla vodka and house oyster. BRAVO! Our evening was capped by an unexpected and unordered round. In a splendid show of hospitality our server brought us a round of fantastic house made lemon cello.

 

A fantastic evening, Angelo’s provided exactly what it promised, the good and the bad. Although not a place for fine meals of well balanced Italian food Angelo’s was delightfully satisfying. Like a questionable lover the Taverna seemed to satisfy in a home fashion and yet foreign way. Balancing well made sustenance with the pleasures of greasy sin it was the perfect choice for a rainy Tuesday night.

 

 

A Strict Diet

Larimer Square, Denver Colorado, is a mountain town version of the “main drag”. While Denver may have out grown some of its mountain town ways Larimer Square clings distinctly to the rustic charm and style that one (who does not live in Denver) would associate with the city out west. Draped in christmas lights that run over head across the streets in rows, the single block of Larimer between 15th and 16th ave glimmers and shines as if it belongs a snow globe. Home to some of Denver’s best food, drink and entertainment the lights of Larimer will forever hold a special place in my heart.

 

On this particular evening we visited a booming Gastro Pub just on the edge of the square, and slightly around the corner. Euclid Hall is the third installment of one of Denver’s most well know chef owner teams. Beginning with the award winning Rioja and followed by Vendome (both also on Larimer) Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch opened a now well known and loved pub style restaurant just around the corner.

 

I’ve visited Euclid a few times now and it is fast becoming a must take out of towers spot. Famed for their bone marrow luges (at least among mashugana’s such as myself) it is a perfect location to indulge in the souls more primal desires, namely fat and booze. A menu of playful decadence and a great bar makes Euclid hall the sometimes needed but always desired medicine for the soul.

 

The cast of the evening consisted of the Maestro and myself. A simple boys night out to celebrate a sad anniversary. Having never visited the Maestro we eager to try the fat heavy food I had been raving about. Upon arriving we found two stools at the corner of the bar bordering the service station. We were greated a very hipsteresc female bartender, not the least common thing at Euclid, and offered drink lists. After reviewing a very impressive draft and beer list, as well as cocktails I settled on a Stone GO-TO IPA and Maestro decided upon a beer cocktail. My GO-TO was a perfect and fresh as Stone beers always are. The beer cocktail, referred lovingly to as Amendment 64. contained bulleit bourbon, ginger simple syrup, lemon and Avery’s Maharaja double IPA. It was very tasty if not a little sweet for my taste.

 

The food at Euclid did not disappoint. Sticking to a very strict diet of booze and fat the Maestro and myself  ordered three things to share. We began the “chips and dip”. The classic snack inspired duck dish was absolutely delicious. A base of lemoned goat cheese was topped with a fresh pile of crispy potato chips. This mouton was completed by duck two ways, confit and thin sliced smoked duck breast. The amount of flavor in this dish fantastic. The smokiness of the duck breast combined with the saltiness of the chips and the savory confit. All of this was balanced by the zing of fresh dill and lemon (from the goat cheese). Unbelievably tasty this dish does nothing but makes you hungry for more.

IMG_5572

 

Following the duo of duck we were created by bone marrow brûlée. This is always  my favorite part of the meal at Euclid. Large trough cut bones are two halves for nine dollars. They give them a sugar coating on top before the oven and roast them off to create a beautiful brûlée on top. The sweetness of the sugar and the richness of bone marrow is truly sinful. Some of the meatier bone marrows I’ve fond as well the marrow at Euclid should not be missed, and as if this wasn’t enough of a reason to drop whatever your doing and run off to suck marrow there’s more. Once the bones are finished you can ask for a supplement of bulleit bourbon with muddle apple, which they will happily provide for you in a metal cream. The creamer allows you to luge your shot of bourbon down the fat coated bone trough. This is, needless to say an unbelievable treat for a mashugana.

Oh Dear Marrow

Oh Dear Marrow

Euclid Hall Bone Marrow Bourbon Luge

Euclid Hall Bone Marrow Bourbon Luge

 

The last nail in or coffins that night was perhaps the richest item of the night and surely will cause us to die an early death. Poutine, a French-Canadian favorite classic, of french fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy, it is both heaven and hell on a plate. With several poutines to choose for we settle on the fowl play containing duck confit, peppercorn duck gravy, a fried egg and for added sin an ounce of foie gras. Nothing more needs to be said about this dish.

Fowl Play Poutine

Fowl Play Poutine

 

Overall Euclid is certainly a Denver Classic. On the for front of the scene it provides a classic lade back Colorado atmosphere with great libations and certain to kill you dead, decadent fare. Our arteries sufficiently hardened we could take no more. A thank you to our bartender, a quick cigarette and we were off to the Polish Vodka bar, but thats another story.

Po Sho

One of my absolute favorite neighborhoods in Denver is LoHi. LoHi is a funky little neighborhood on the edge of downtown. It is a small group of just a few blocks that, like the Isle De Los Muertos of Pirates, seems to only exist if you already know that its there. Roughly between 15th street and 20th ave, and between Little Raven and I-25 it contains many great restaurants and bars.

This, one of Denver’s smallest and most beautiful gems, sets the stage for Thursday nights adventure. The combination a great restaurant and an all-star cast made for one of the Mashugana’s best meals in quite sometime. A party of three at Sushi Sasa, Mr Miyagi, Tina and myself dove head first into a pile of fish, liquor and compromised responsibility.

We began the night by meeting at Paris on the Platte. Paris is a fantastic little Euro Café complete with a Cheers(esq) cast of regulars, fantastic employees and many nights of loose morals, but that’s a different article. A round of beers and rapid friendly exchange with the bartender led to a nice buzz and the beginning of, what I was quickly realizing, would be a night to remember (at least parts of it).

A drink or two later we headed off to Sushi Sasa. Sasa is one of Denver’s premier sushi restaurants. Located on 15th and Platte it hosts two dining rooms and a downstairs bar area as well as a small patio that is available during the warmer months. Upon arriving at Sasa we were greated by a smiling hostess and a helpful manager who informed that that although there were currently no seats available at the sushi bar if we would like to wait downstairs there should be some opening soon. We proceded downstairs to find a short bar in a room containing just a few small tables. We quickly found ourselves nursing beers while doing shots of Soju with the bartender while he explained the finer points of this Asian libation. Soju is a Asain (specifically Korean by tradition) libation. A distillation of rice, potatoes or barley it is anywhere from thirty to ninety proof and tastes like a marriage of vodka and Saki.

Before long we were grabbed by the previously mentioned manager. Taking our seats the sushi bar we immediately realized we were sitting in front of a friend. Po, a great young guy and a fantastic drinking partner, was standing in front of us in full whites, a beautiful Japanese knife in his hand. Brief hellos and introductions and suddenly I found myself seated, buckling in, for a full ride with my friend Po.

Po left the gate with a quick and confident step. A flight or oysters was presented to use before we had evenly fully comprehended that the introductions were over. After a thoroughly confusing exchange of words and menus we somehow ended up with a bottle of unkown cold sake. The oysters were fantastic! Starting with a purely raw oyster garnished with mignonette and fresh chives the flight moved on to a sautéed oyster topped with decadent Uni and salmon roe. Uni is sea urchin roe. While love, family and free thought may be God’s gifts to man kind, Uni is at very least a stocking stuffer. The foie gras of the sea, it is creamy, rich and, at the same time distinctly reminiscent of the ocean in all of its briny glory. Although the first two were amazing the third and final oyster was by far the best bite of the meal. A sautéed oyster topped with quail egg and foie gras the last oyster left our heads flooded with richness and flavor.

 

Oyster Flight

Oyster Flight

Tuna, Yellowtail, Salmon Belly, Mackerel

Tuna, Yellowtail, Salmon Belly, Mackerel

 

From there we moved on to a round of Nigiri (sushi with rice). Including salmon belly, tuna, yellowtail and mackerel, the second course was the perfect shot of tradition into an other wise existential meal. Simple and perfect, the quality of the fish was able to shine through completely. This course was immediately followed by another bottle of sake (we finished the first one off handsomely) and a large plate of sea bass garnished with citrus, avocado and micro basil. Delicate and tantalizing the sea bass and avocado were perfectly cut by the zing of the citrus and the flakey sea salt.

 

Sea Bass

Sea Bass

From here the meal moved into its final and most interesting stages. As we ordered another round of sake we were instantly confronted with three small plates (one each). Tuna, of the most fantastic quality, was accompanied by fresh mozzarella, strawberry, fried shiso leaf and a sweat distinctly Japanese sauce. A genius combination, each of the items on this plate seemed to chase each other in flavor and in texture. The softness and richness of the mozzarella exemplified the softness and the richness of the tuna. The sauce and the strawberry rang out a sweet and tangy tone. The smoky and delicate shiso leaf contradicted this union wile at the same time holding the whole thing together.

W/ Fried Shisho, Strawberry and Mozzarella

W/ Fried Shisho, Strawberry and Mozzarella

Lastly came of a fiery finish. A yellow tail roll accompanied by a fire roasted jalepeno and ghost chili topping. Sweet cooling rice combined with rich soothing yellow tail to cut through smoky and spicy peppers. Delightfully playing in succession from the previous course our final plate was a further blend of smoky, spicy, rich and sweet. As we finished the final course we polished off our third bottle of sake and asked for a round of soju for the staff. With much thanking, toasting and hand shaking we were helped to the door where we turned our compasses back towards Paris, later joined by Po who, (although he didn’t pay for another drink) hung with us all night. At least until, based on my memory, I was teleported directly to my apartment where I woke up.

Raising the Steaks (Marczyk Fine Foods, Denver)

Although Friday night (Pharcyde at the Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom) was a epic success if left me with a very nasty Saturday Morning hangover. Somewhere in a haze of Advil and coffee Caity 0′ managed to talk me into running some errands with her. Thus finds me at Target wandering around the isles. It was here that I had the sudden desire to cook us some steaks and post up in front of the TV.

A quick google map search for butchers revealed a store I had never been to directly, on my route home. Marczyk Fine Foods is located at 770 E 17th Ave.  (they have a separate location at 5100 E Colfax). A quick browsing of their website left me eager to arrive and check out my new discovery.

Upon pulling up to the market I was happy to find ample parking. As soon as I stepped in the door of Marczyk I knew that I had found a great new spot. Directly in front of the door is a raised butcher counter. Including pork, beef, poultry and lamb, the selections on display soon had me salivating. Beautiful steaks sat out in the cooler sporting labels. Although the dry aged steaks continued to catch my eye I did eventually settle on some fantastic looking NY Strips. THe thought of bistecca fiorentina raged in my head and upon acquiring my steaks I quickly hurried off to explore the rest of Marczyk and find  my other ingredients. Off the the right of the butcher counter I found produce and dairy. A small but bountiful produce section provided me with fresh baby arugula and lemons. On a side note, the lemon selection was particularly special. They offered several different varieties of fresh lemons including Meyer (one of my all time favorites). After the produce section I moved off across the store in search of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Bistecca Fiorentina is a classic central Italian preparation of beef and a good EVOO is essential. As I wandered into the dry goods section I was delighted to discover a window looking into a butchery room, complete with a large butcher block table and severe large primal cuts of beef hanging on hooks around the walls. In house butchery, particularly when done in sight of guests, is one of those special things that is unfortunately rare to find these days. At the back of dry goods I found a door leading into an adjacent and affiliated liquor store. While I wasn’t purchasing and liquor I simply couldn’t help myself from looking around. I great little store I found the shelves full of great representatives from all categories, Leapolds Gin, Tin Cup Bourbon, Etc. After picking up a bottle of EVOO from dry goods and two great looking loaves of bread from the bakery area (ciabatta, and baguette) I headed to the register. Here like all stores of this quality is the painful part. While I found the prices completely reasonable for the products I was buying, quality does cost money. 1.5 lb of NY Strip Steak, 1 lemon, arugula, 750 ml of spanish EVOO and 2 loaves bread sold for $57. Not horrible but not inexpensive by either.

http://www.marczykfinefoods.com/site/

Bistecca Fiorentina is probably my favorite way of eating steak (a close second being Cote De Boeuf Bearnaise). Its name means steak in the style of Florence. Florence or Firenze is, in my humble opinion, the greatest city in the world. I have had more fun in Firenzne than should legally be allowed, but thats a story for a different time. Many people are familiar with Florence’s propensity for fine leather. Part of the reason for this is that Florence has long been a major hub for beef in Italy and giving a plentiful amount of inexpensive hide the people of this region became incredible leather workers. Bistecca Fiorentina therefore is a simple representation of good meat served in a rustic fashion. This incredible dish is simply just a steak grilled seasoned with sea salt, black pepper and EVOO, served with a lemon wedge. When made with good ingredients it is absolutely amazing.

bistecca fiorentina 2 bistecca fiortentina 1

A Few Scotch Soaked Words

2/26/14

 

I am unsure as to how lame it is to kick off The Mashugana Diaries with a piece about myself. It is certainly not conventional. But, Fuck convention, I love talking about myself. It’s my favorite subject, so here we go, I give you the very beginning of the Mashugana Diaries.

 

Bogged down by work I’ve been desperate to put some pen to paper and get this blog started. Tonight’s kick in the pants, came completely out of the blue. As I left a late work meeting I turned towards home only to receive a message from my roommate asking me to pick up a can opener. Grumbling to myself over the contents of my aforementioned meeting I wondered into a local grocery store in search of my target. Pacing the aisles aimlessly, more deep in thought, than anything I suddenly found myself with a basket full of food.

 

A Random Recipe Conceived in the Aisles of Safeway,

Thai Style, Broccoli and Pork Tacos

 

Ingredients

 

  • Pork
  • Broccoli
  • Carrot
  • Jalapeno
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Chili Flake
  • Star Anise
  • Coconut Oil
  • Honey
  • Miran
  • Tabasco
  • Corn Starch
  • Corn Tortillas

 

Arriving home a smoke and a stiff glass of scotch were immediately in order. As the I kicked on the radio and Tom Petty cut the silence I unloaded my grocery’s and started to cook.

 

Procedure

 

Break down the broccoli and pork into like size pieces. Begin to sauté. Slice thin and add jalapeno. Micro plane garlic and ginger and add to pan. Add star anise and chili flakes. Shred and add carrot. Once a nice fond has developed add honey and allow to caramelize.  Deglaze with Miran. Season with Tabasco salt and black pepper. Remove all solids from pan (only a small amount of liquid should remain). Thicken with corn starch. Quickly grill tortillas. Fill tortillas with cocked product. Drizzle with remaining liquid.

***For photo reference The Gallary

 

Some of you may have noticed how incomplete this recipe is. For instance there is a complete absence of quantities and specifics. The majority of recipes I write (at least those that I choose to post) will be this way. The beautiful thing about cooking is that there is nothing completely new or original about it. Everything is just a spin off or combination of pre-established ideas and/or techniques. Once one has mastered the basic principles of cooking they are free to mix, match and spin off of them in an endless serious of creative combinations, not unlike a musician composing with chords. My recipes are written to exemplify this.  For those of you practiced in culinary techniques, create away. For those of you who are not practiced, create away anyhow. The way to learn to cook is to cook! Riley can vouch better than anyone, that those close to me suffered through some truly terrible meals when I first entered the world of food.

 

I don’t know what it is about cooking that always has a way of soothing my angsty side. It could possibly be the stiff drink I usually nurse while doing it, or maybe the multiple smoke breaks. It could also be the loud music. I however I believe that more than anything it is the actual act of cooking. There is a great calming effect to the act of performing planned and timed tasks one after another in an continuous process towards the conclusion of a final product. Whether it’s the muscle memory and repetitiveness of knife skills, the clean as your go multi tasking or the focus (depending on my scotch level) of plating there is something truly great about the combination of food, booze and music.

 

A Few Scotch Soaked Words