BOULDER, COLO.–We were fortunate enough to take a family trip to the enlightened burg of Boulder, Colorado–land of endless outdoor recreation, marijuana dispensaries, and the just-right mix of scrumptious and diverse food experiences that you sometimes find in a university town. (Slow Food CU is the largest campus-based chapter of Slow Food in the nation.)
First stop was dinner–sans kiddies–at Happy Noodle House, which offers a Momofuku-esque emphasis on umami (pork belly, for instance), noodles, and intriguing mixes of regional ingredients (Rocky Mountain meat and veg), and a late night mixology scene branded as the Bitter Bar. This is the latest from Big Red F restaurant group, which has 7 restaurants in the Boulder-Denver area, including Jax Fish House (which we’ve supped at before) and Centro (which we almost caught this time).
Early morning coffee, we got at Vic’s in North Boulder, which opens at 6 a.m. to a crowd of regulars. It was there that we got to discover Justin’s Nut Butter, a brand of almond, cashew and peanut butter products, including peanut butter cups and Plumpy’nut-like knead and squeeze packets (very good for walks and roadtrips and on the slopes). The Justin’s stuff reminded us of New York Peanut Butter Company offerings. We got afternoon coffee at the music-venue-and-goat-milk featuring Laughing Goat on Pearl St., where we also peaked into Frasca (which we have enjoyed before) and their new, new wave pie place Pizza Locale.
But that was only the beginning. We perused the endless aisles of alcohol at Liquor Mart–including a few bottles from Ommegang and some oversized bottles of Tuthilltown white whiskey that we hadn’t seen before. We stocked up on raw milk for the kids, in half gallon Mason jars, from the nearby Windsor Dairy, which has a few thousand customers. We shopped at Ideal Market, supped at the yummy Radda nextdoor–on Brussels sprouts, chicken diablo, prosciutto-egg pizza,and other foods that reminded us of Roberta’s. We picked up Edible Front Range–and an albarino or two–at Wine Merchants; we window shopped at the Savory Spice Shop, picked up a schedule at Om Time Yoga, checked out the menu at Bradford Heap’s Salt and Colterra Restaurants, and almost hit a local cheese class at Culinary School of the Rockies. We got refills of High Country Kombucha at the bucha bar at the Boulder Whole Foods Market, one of the nation’s top volume stores, right up there with Union Square, Columbus Circle and Austin–natch.
At Zolo, another Big Red F restaurant, we ordered multiple rounds of the blue-corn crusted fried oysters. We did not have Rocky Mountain oysters–what are those again?–although we saw it on a handful of menus.
Perhaps our most memorable family meal was at Dot’s Diner, a town institution that has moved a few times and evolved. My wife, who went to school in Boulder–and once worked at the South Indian joint in town, where she learned to make the mustard seed vagar that she still often uses to start a veggie dish–has eaten at Dot’s many times. So, she noticed the conspicuous chunk of South Asian food offerings handwritten in the corner of the special’s board, and was pleasantly surprised, since she was more in the mood for uplifting veggie fare than greasy spoon.
The waitress explained those were actually Nepali dishes, courtesy of the kitchen staff who recently departed from the Nepali restaurant in town–a fine example of dishes emanating more from kitchen staff preferences than executive chef decisions. “They didn’t like the food that we were eating for staff meals,” she told us, “so they started cooking these dishes, and we added them to the menu.” Forget the naan, ya’ll. For scooping up saag paneer at Dot’s in Boulder, buttermilk biscuits are plenty good.