Sunday, June 24, 2012

Special: Boulder, Colorado

Nearly 1,000 miles from my comfortable desk and Apple computer lies a land unknown to many and adored by thousands more. It is a slice of a big city with a small-town feel situated just a few miles North of Denver, Colorado. This mystical region of food lore is known as Boulder. Settled as early as 1858, this city of just around 100,000 hungry citizens loves just two things: the UC Boulder Buffs and great cuisine. I had the immense fortune to be able to sample both over a four-day stop in the metro. Here's the story of the second mile-high city.

There a few greater places on Earth for a bite than this quaint college town, which was ranked by Bon Appetit magazine as the foodiest town of 2010. After my trip, I can happily corroborate the magazine's findings. From the fancy to the affordable, Boulder simply has it all. On the expensive end, there's the city's flagship restaurant, Frasca Food and Wine, which features a head chef named Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson, a culinary artist known to the world after a successful run on Bravo's popular "Top Chef" television program. Coming back down to the wallets of your average university attendee, Boulder features a stretch of restaurants on University Avenue and an open air mall on Pearl Street that boast dozens of top and affordable restaurants. One such stop is the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery, a cherished local stop for gourmet burgers and microbrews.

Unfortunately for my tastebuds, neither heavyweight establishment drooled over above were in the cards for my tour first of the city. What I did eat, though, proved an astonishing and previously inconceivable theory; Boulder, for such a small place, has immense depth when it comes to restaurants. My travels took me to only a single eatery considered among Boulder's top 100, that one being the French creperie Crepes A La Carte on Pearl Street. Even still, nearly every experience was positive on par with the finest casual eateries I have ever dined at. Geisty's Dogg House, just a short walk from the university, is my second most-loved stop for hotdogs behind Show Dogs of San Francisco. I ordered a regional specialty, bison, as my meat of choice. What I received was a buffalo sausage cooked to perfection and topped with hot mustard and jalapeƱo slaw. The whole item was nearly nine inches long and wrapped in a butter-toasted sourdough bun for only $6.

Another such stop proved to be Illegal Pete's, a gourmet chain of five establishments located throughout the Boulder-Denver metro area. With a combination of simplistic chefs and loyal customers, this restaurant has moved to the forefront of Hispanic-influenced cuisine in the college town. Chipotle style tacos and burritos are their specialty. The standard meats are all there - chicken, steak, shredded beef, and carnitas - along with a vegetarian and a primavera option. I ordered a grilled steak taco in a flour tortilla and then proceeded to unload half the condiment bar onto it. Roasted green peppers, queso fresco, sour cream, black beans, and a small helping of white rice all were carefully added to the behemoth dish. All the flavors were simply spot-on and strangely light, giving me the hard-fought urge to purchase a second and a third. It still stands as possibly the best "non-traditional" taco I have ever consumed.

From the fancy to the simplistic, Boulder, the city of Buffs, has everything any foodie could possibly desire. Whether it is world famous Frasca or the lesser known establishments, every dish here is worth eating. Typing this a back home in California makes me crave everything I miss about my favorite mile-high city. I can only hope I have the fortune of one day going back and trying all the unexplored wonders Boulder has to offer to those willing to look.

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