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Dishes We Love


Many of our favorite dishes this year found their grandeur in the essence of simplicity, taking advantage of astonishingly good seasonal ingredients. Others found fun in fusion, playing with flavors as much as preconceptions and coming out on top. Some were reimagined classic dishes, while others introduced us to entirely new taste sensations. But one thing is for certain: if 2010 was a great year for food, we can’t wait to taste what 2011 will bring.

Pizzeria Basta :: Boulder

Mizuna Pizza

We’re not sure why it’s called the mizuna pizza when it doesn’t actually have mizuna on it—but it’s so good, we don’t really care. Prosciutto and house-made smoked mozzarella are topped with fresh grape tomatoes and arugula (rather than mizuna). The result is a crash course in why the Italians are so awesome when it comes to food. Pizzeria Basta, 3601 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder —LB

Bombay Bistro :: Boulder

Shrimp Korma

The chef at Bombay Bistro is not afraid of new things, of creating his own signature dishes, which, from what we’ve tried, are all pretty fantastic. But give him a classic dish, like a korma curry, and the glory truly shines. We like the rich, mild curry sauce enhanced with coconut milk and flakes of shaved coconut with shrimp, but pick your flavor; you’re sure to be impressed no matter what. Bombay Bistro, 1214 Walnut St., Boulder —LB

Arugula :: Boulder

Gorgonzola Mushrooms

The locally grown mushrooms are wild-looking and rustic, slightly firm and the good kind of chewy. They mingle with a creamy, robust Gorgonzola sauce and fresh herbs. It’s such a simple plate of food, such easy flavors to fall in love with, but it’s also a great example of what Arugula does: balanced, simple elegance. Arugula Bar e Ristorante, 2785 Iris Ave., Boulder —AC

Martino’s :: Lafayette

Yee-Ro Pizza

We hadn’t seen this one before: a pizza crust topped with a ranch sauce, strips of flavorful gyro meat, lettuce, tomatoes and a little cheese. But one bite and we were hooked. It’s pretty much de-rigueur for our office now whenever we order pizza at Martino’s, and we never seem to tire of its flavors. Martino’s, 1389 Forest Park Circle, Lafayette —LB

Aji :: Boulder

Poblano Empanadas

I’m always on the search for the perfect chile relleno, and here, this is no mean feat. Begone with your eggroll-wrapper heresies! It’s batter-dipped or nothing—or so I thought. Then I tried the poblano empanadas at Aji, oozing with cheese, sporting a nice heat and wrapped in a flaky pastry crust. Not even attempting to be a relleno, it managed to rank right up there with the best I’ve found in this state. Aji, 1601 Pearl St., Boulder —LB

Zamparelli’s :: Lafayette

Corn & Green Chile Risotto Balls

Zamp’s risotto balls are tasty any day—fried to crispy perfection with cheesy goodness inside. But when the corn was sweet and fresh and green chiles were roasting in their parking lot, they decided to combine them. Just slightly spicy, slightly sweet, with all the golden crunch and salty cheese we’d come to expect. Makes us wish it could be summer all year long. Zamparelli’s, 2770 Arapahoe Rd., Lafayette —LB

Salt :: Boulder


A cocktail isn’t exactly a dish. But with the recent focus on mixology, beverage artists have elevated the cocktail to a culinary art. Take Salt’s new Cocktail Elements Menu, where you mix and match spirits and syrups to make your own masterpiece. (Never fear: mixologists ensure that something delicious will emerge.) The options always change, but we’ve loved the lavender martini and the blood orange and rosemary tequila sour. Flavors good enough to eat. Salt, 1047 Pearl St., Boulder —LB

Spruce Confections :: Boulder

Blueberry Cream Cheese-Filled Scone

A scone filled with ever-so-slightly sweet cream cheese and blueberries is just perfect, no matter how you reach the end result. Their scarcity makes these little gems even more precious: They aren’t available every day, and because the cheese will spoil, any not sold by noon are (blasphemy!!) thrown away. My advice? Get there around 11:55 and see if they’ll cut you a deal if you buy anything that’s left. But that might be taking a risk. On second thought, better get there as soon as they open, just to be sure. Spruce Confections, 767 Pearl St., #B, Boulder; 4684 Broadway St., Boulder —LB

Empire :: Louisville

Strawberry Shortcake

I heard a food journalist quip recently that if she had to eat at one more “New American” restaurant serving comfort food she would spit. While I certainly understand the sentiment, when it’s done well, there’s perhaps nothing better. Enter Empire’s strawberry shortcake, sampled there early in the summer of 2010. What could be more divine than a perfectly light and fluffy biscuit, with just the right amount of sweet, topped by gorgeously un-tampered-with strawberries and a dollop of mile-high chantilly cream? A reminder that when it comes to comfort food, Empire does the trend justice. Empire, 816 Main St., Louisville —LB

Magnolia :: Lafayette

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil Sorbet

As unusual as it sounds, you’re intrigued. Imagine the most perfect, saucer-sized slices of local heirloom tomatoes in rich shades of red, yellow, orange and purple arranged on a plate, almost like a work of art. Drizzled in fine olive oil and just the right dash of vinegar, sprinkled with salt and pepper and then left to their own devices to play with the scoop of—yes—basil sorbet slowly melting into a pool on the same plate. Don’t you just love it when dreams come true? Magnolia, 1831 Forest Park Circle, Lafayette —LB

The Pinyon :: Boulder

Fried Half Chicken

For years folks have asked me “Where can I find great fried chicken?” I’ve always had to sigh and send them to Denver. Now, I direct their taste buds to The Pinyon and chef Theo Adley’s profound version. He takes top quality birds, gives them a garlic-chile rub, a buttermilk soak, a dusting of potato flour and then into a frying pan with three types of fat and a stint in the oven. Nirvana is that thin crispy crust barely clinging to the super-juicy thigh meat sided with cornmeal griddle cakes and molasses-tinged syrup. Now, if someone could just open a real doughnut shop in Boulder. The Pinyon, 1710 Pearl St., Boulder —JL

Spice China :: Louisville

Caribbean Dream Roll

Our publisher never does anything half way, so when she decided to take us out for sushi recently, we weren’t surprised by the order of a dozen oysters, bowls of miso soup, another appetizer and all six sushi rolls off their new chef’s choice sushi menu—we were just surprised that the three of us managed to put it all away. The piece de la resistance was the Caribbean Dream Roll, starting with crab rolled in rice and topped with shrimp, arugula, caviar and a brown butter tamarind sauce that I might have licked right off the plate if I hadn’t been dining with my boss. Traditional? Maybe not. Tasty? A thousand times yes. Spice China, 269 McCaslin Blvd., Louisville —LB

Efrain’s :: Lafayette

Chili Verde

For many, Efrain’s chili verde is a longtime favorite. Call me late on the uptake: I just discovered it this year. And I will never be the same. There’s nothing like it. So spicy and flavorful and brothy, it’s different from the other green chilies you find smothering burritos on plates all over Colorado. Order Efrain’s chili verde bowl and be prepared for the heat: you may sweat, your eyes may water, but finding a new old treasure is totally worth the pain. Efrain’s, 451 S. Pratt Pkwy., ?Longmont, 720.494.0777; 1630 63rd St., #10,? Boulder, 303.440.4045; 101 East Cleveland St., Lafayette —AC

Cheeky Monk :: Westminster

Cheese Croquettes

Cheese may or may not be the key to a happy life, but it is the foundation of a great meal. The cheese croquettes at Cheeky Monk are silver-dollar-sized medallions of smoked Gouda, fontina and swiss—crispy on the outside and melty-gooey deliciousness on the inside. Each creamy bite is spiked with a sweet berry balsamic reduction. It’s rich and salty just the way cheese—the kind that inspires happiness—should be. Cheeky Monk, 14694 Orchard Pkwy., #700, Westminster —AC

Arabesque :: Boulder


I missed Arabesque the first two times I drove by, but finding it was worth the search. The tiny café serves up Middle Eastern food with deftness and flair. Their chicken shawarma is to die for, the tabouli salad the first I haven’t found overpowered with parsley. But the gems that haunt my dreams are the pieces of fresh, homemade baklava. Tissue paper-thin layers of pastry wrapped around rich nuts and spices and dripping in golden honey. Arabesque, 1634 Walnut St., #101, Boulder —LB

Happy :: Boulder

Griddled Pork Bun

On a small table covered with appetizers, menus, cocktails and silverware, Happy’s griddled pork bun becomes my one and only focus: A spongy, sweet bun cuddled around a tuft of juicy shredded pork served with a tangy, spicy green sriracha sauce. In fact, the noise of the busy dining room dims, and nothing else matters. Happy, 835 Walnut St., Boulder —AC

Flavor of India :: Longmont

Lamb Chops

Flavor of India’s lamb chops know how to make an entrance: a sizzling platter of these luscious morsels floats to the table, leaving a wake of mouth-watering smell in the air. Marinated in ginger, garlic and yogurt, the lamb is served simply, with a bed of sweet onions caramelizing on the skillet. Each little chop is juicy and vibrant, brimming with savory succulence. Flavor of India, 516 Main Street, Longmont —AC

Café Aion :: Boulder

Harissa Chicken Wings

Recently, after sampling the ridiculously delicious harissa chicken wings at Café Aion, I had the opportunity to chat with the chef about how they are made. It’s not an easy process: the wings are marinated, braised and broiled before they ever reach a plate. And the rich spiciness of North African harissa chili sauce gives them a flavor you won’t find anywhere near Buffalo. Café Aion, 1235 Pennsylvania Ave., #A, Boulder —LB

Spice China :: Louisville

Wood Roasted Vegetables

I love the idea of The Kitchen’s community hour, with specials on a nice regiment of small plates and beverages, and one of the standouts for me are the wood-roasted vegetables. Served in a little earthenware bowl, these colorful veggies ran the gamut, including sweet carrots, parsnips, and onions in a heavenly spiced sauce. The perfect dish to warm up with friends on a blustery afternoon. The Kitchen, 1039 Pearl St., Boulder —LB

Lucky Pie :: Louisville

Salumi & Cheese Oven Sandwich

I lucked into the best sandwich of my year. I had planned on tasting pizza at Lucky Pie but I got sidetracked by a salumi sandwich that sounded good and tasted even better. They take a warm bun made from pizza dough baked in a wood-fired oven and layer it with thin slices of quality salumi: coppa, pepperoni and salami with provolone. Elevating the whole is a tart, garlic-y relish of chiles and olives. Warmed in the oven, these tastes meld into a mouthful of comfort and joy sided by creamy white polenta lightly smoked from a stint in the wood-burning oven. Lucky Pie, 637 Front St., Louisville —JL

Sushi Tora :: Boulder

Tempura Green Chile Sushi Roll

At its worst, fusion cuisine is nothing but a science experiment gone awry with unrelated ingredients battling with one another. When it works, fusion fare can be a revelation. That’s definitely the case with Sushi Tora’s craveable Southwest-meets-Far East chile relleno in a sushi roll. The seaweed and rice are centered with a roasted peeled Anaheim green chile filled with cream cheese that’s tempura battered and lightly fried. Add a dab of wasabi and a little soy sauce and you’ve got yourself a party on your palate. It may not be authentic but it’s a flavor marriage you’ll love. Sushi Tora, 2014 10th St., Boulder —JL

Chez Thuy :: Boulder

Vit Quay Don

As in interpersonal relations, first impressions often decide if we to fall in love with a dish. With this amazing (and pretty) duck dish, one bite is an explosion of impressions from the crispy-crunchy skin and rich flesh to the crunch of brightly hued vegetables and the garlic, wine and herb nuances in the sauce. By the second and third bites I was totally enamored. I’m starting to think that this may be one of those rare culinary long-term relationships. Chez Thuy, 2655 28th St., Boulder —JL

Streat Chefs :: Various Locations

Grilled Cheese with Pork Belly & Apple Jam

There’s something about a grilled cheese sandwich that can transcend its minimalist ingredients. Combine just the right sharp cheddar with thick-cut white bread lavishly spread with butter and you’ve got a dish even the snobbiest foodie couldn’t turn up his or her nose at. Add a slab of crispy, salty pork belly and a smear of sweet-tart apple jam and suddenly you’ve elevated the grilled cheese sandwich to high art. Serve it in a paper tray out of a sleek Airstream trailer and—well, you don’t have to take our word for it. Streat Chefs, various locations, streatchefs.com —LB

Sugarbeet :: Longmont

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie

I’m not a dessert person. But when I splurge and order something sweet, I expect greatness. Nothing too fancy or over-done. It’s about flavor. So, during a recent dinner at Sugarbeet, a large slice of house-made chocolate peanut-butter ice cream pie arrived at our table, and with one bite, I was a dessert person. The flavors—salty, smooth peanut butter, awe-inspiring chocolate—and the velvety texture were beautiful, reminding me of childhood. Reminding me why dessert matters. Sugarbeet, 101 Pratt St., Longmont —AC


Lacy is an award-winning food writer and blogger. She lives in Westminster with her family. Google