It’s easy to count the ways that Coloradans are spoiled. Access to nature. World-class breweries and distilleries. Farmers markets in the summer that morph into Christmas markets in December. Music. Wildlife. Hot Springs. Unexpected events like zombie crawls, TubaChristmas concerts, turkey trots, and mountain festivals.
And, our salsas. Not all places have what we do. It’s not hard to find great, fresh examples of salsa on your restaurant table while you’re waiting for a meal or as part of the main dish. When I find one that stands out, I want to tell others about it.
My personally curated salsa trio is designed to relieve you from chip-dip boredom. There’s plenty of room to use these to expand the range of other dishes, main courses, and snacks alike. Read on and see.
Avocado jalapeño salsa
Area chef and restaurateur Fausto Felix first became known when he opened The Dugout in Erie followed by Rosa Mexican Kitchen in Thornton and Rosa Cantina in Longmont. With Rumbo 52 on Highway 52 and I-25 in Frederick, he’s converted a space that’s been both an interstate-way stop of a diner and a Pinocchio’s Italian franchise into an exciting, fresh destination for Latin food.
I like lots of things on the menu, but one of Rumbo 52’s salsas caught me off guard. When I ordered the Mama-lona, the avocado jalapeño salsa, I was delighted by a creamy texture with a balanced jalapeño spice, avocado, onion vinegar, and cilantro combined into the texture of a crema. In a world of diced tomato and onion, or fiery blender salsas, it was a refreshing change that can be enjoyed in a lot of ways. In the future, I plan to use it to replace traditional taco or burrito accompaniments but could also try it on a lighter grilled fish.
Salsa made with nuts and dates
One of my favorite things about Teocalli Cochina, in the Old Town sections of both Lafayette and Arvada, are the salsas. There’s one that I want to have by the spoonful: the Macha salsa. Made with peanuts, dates, and morita peppers, this salsa hits my sweet spot, my savory spot, and my smoky spot. All at once.
This salsa originally comes from Veracruz, Mexico and is known for being nutty and rich. It reminds me of a mole sauce, which is one of the reasons that I think I like it so much. It can be used in place of a salsa, but it also works with eggs, on sandwiches, and I think I want to try it on a tuna steak. It’s a condiment to get creative with.
Mushroom and carrot salsa
It’s likely that most Coloradans on the Front Range have had a meal at Three Margaritas. Originally a six-restaurant, single location in Seattle, the Morales family grew it to 15 locations, sold their chain, and moved to Colorado where they now have 13 restaurants in the Centennial State as well as in Nebraska and Missouri. Some of these restaurants are family owned, others are partnerships with employees.
One item on the menu is a delicious and savory fungi-based salsa called Salsa de Hongos. Mushrooms, carrots, cilantro, and jalapeño are marinated in lime juice for a chewier, toothier salsa that’s great for eggs, tacos, a different take on bruschetta, a hearty fish, and could even find its way onto the table for a steak dinner. Although Three Margaritas has to standardize their ingredient list, there’s no reason that home cooks can’t make variations with wild mushrooms and see how that stretches the flavor profile even further.