Acorn: The Perfect Birthday Present

When I first decided I wanted to be a food writer it was because of my love of food. Whether it be McDonalds,  airplane food, or a five star restaurant I had a simple respect for all food. I hate to admit it but I am starting to become more picky. I find myself eating at restaurants being disappointed or thinking to myself I could have made this better. I really hate that because I feel like I have lost a part of my food innocence. Now I’m older more mature and experienced with my food trying’s and I just can’t have the same respect for all foods. It’s almost like being young and liking a boy for the first time. When you are young you’ll put up with anything, bad kisser who drools on you, someone who never calls; you get where I am going but now I have standards. Don’t worry I still love airplane food. With that said Acorn brought me back to my food youth. If you are looking for the best dinner in Denver you have to eat at Acorn. Last Thursday my sister took my brother-in-law to Acorn for his birthday dinner and I got to tag along. It was incredible.

IMG_0240

IMG_0242

IMG_0244

I was blown away. My taste buds were wowed it was that good. Let me paint you a little picture of how our meal went. It was like we ate all over the world. We ordered six small plates then one large plate. After a MOMO RiNo cocktail got me going we began with the  crispy egg and applewood smoke bacon salad. It was covered in shaved cheese which had a smoky flavor to it. Next came the ricotta gnudi. It was a more dense pillow like dumpling with the most light wild mushroom sauce. It was light then heavy then light again. Your mind was blown with every bite. Then we had the tomato braised meatballs, the lamb swarma, that had a tzatziki sauce that made me feel like I was back in Greece, and we finished out meat round with the oak smoked duck breast. Just when we thought we were full the Nantucket bay scallop crudo “new style” was put on our table. Raw scallops chopped up and topped with brown butter, chives, and radish. They were so sweet and succulent and so refreshing. As soon as you would swallow, you would immediately need another bite to get that flavor and gentle texture back in your mouth.

We ordered the tender belly pork porterhouse for our large plate and it was just as tasty as the rest. It was surrounded by Yukon gold potatoes, yellow foot mushrooms and tons of shishito peppers.

IMG_0245

IMG_0246

IMG_0247

 IMG_0248

IMG_0249

IMG_0252

IMG_0253 IMG_0255 IMG_0256

IMG_0258 IMG_0259

(I apologize for any blurry pictures, it was too good to take the time to focus the camera)

Dinner ended with a butterscotch pudding as a suggestion by our waiter. Our waiter was just as amazing. Not pretentious but very real and of course knowledgeable and was able to give real suggestions.

I don’t have one bad thing to say. If you are hungry go to Acorn now.

Follow me on Twitter @Pilots_Daughter

Happy Belated Birthday

IMG_0015

My mom turned 60 on November 29th of last year. My sister and I brought her out to Denver to stay with us for a weekend to celebrate this grand birthday. With December being busy and the New Year sneaking up on me my mom’s birthday post somehow got pushed aside. But alas it gets the glory it deserves. I of course had to make a dessert and this time I picked cream puffs. It is a recipe I’ve made before, which I try to avoid and get creative,  but I knew it was a favorite of my moms. If you want to impress a crowd with a recipe that took you no time and barely any ingredients make these. Seriously look at how fancy these look.

Cream Puff Recipe

For the filling I just whipped up some cream and then melted dark chocolate chips for the drizzle.

IMG_0016

This was what we had for our in-home birthday celebration but for our go out meal we went to Old Major. We had the winter squash soup, the squid, the ham and biscuits, smoked pork shank carbonara, the nose to tail plate, the cheesy anson mills grits, and the pork fat fries. I can barely breath just thinking about all this food. Everything was devine. The squash soup had so much flavor your taste buds screamed for more. The biscuits were light and fluffy in the ham and in biscuits and the cream eggy flavor was so rich in the carbonara. The nose to tail plate was like a treasure hunt and almost an experiment as we sat there urging each one of us to try the different kinds of meats.

We almost didn’t order the side of grits and boy oh boy I am glad we did. With out a doubt these were the best grits I have ever tasted. I am a midwest girl so that might not say much but I did live in South Carolina and tried all kinds of grits down there and the grits from Old Major are the big league. You took a bite and tasted the butter and felt the bits of grit texture and your month waits for the familiar heavy feeling that grits haveto come but wait it never does. These grits were like eating a pillow, or a cloud. Just amazing. Oh and I almost forgot about the pretzel bread and butter; so good.

The grits weren’t the only thing on the menu that was shockingly good but also the orange spice sorbet. We were so full we didn’t want to get anything heavy so my mom just ordered the sorbet to get just get “something.” It was incredible. Sweet, tart citrus flavor with an amazing sorbet crystallized texture.

Seriously just go. Run there now.

IMG_0022

IMG_0030

Winter Squash Soup

IMG_0031

Smoked Pork Shank Carbonara

IMG_0033

Squid

IMG_0032

Nose to Tail Plate

IMG_0034

Grits and Pork Fat Fries

IMG_0035

Follow me on Twitter @Pilots_Daughter

Dumpling or Dragon Egg!?!

With the celebration of the Chinese New Year yesterday, the Year of the Dragon is upon us.  This is a special year because the Dragon is one of the most powerful and lucky signs in the Chinese zodiac.  This year the Dragon is the Water Dragon so it has calming influences on the dragons temper.  There are many different traditions for the New Year but I just kept up one tradition I have… eating dumplings.

I have an intense love for dumplings.  You will rarely ever find a time when I am not craving them.  My favorite dumpling place is in downtown Sydney so I couldn’t think of a better time to plan a visit for myself and my friend who has never tried them.  I originally found this place because my favorite magazine, Time Out Sydney, rated them ‘the best dumplings’ in Sydney and I had to find out.  Let me tell you they weren’t only the best dumplings in Sydney but the best dumplings I have ever had, and my opinion didn’t change the second time around.

Din Tai Fung thinks the key difference in their dumplings versus the rest of the world is precision.  Each dumpling is exactly the same size whether you are eating it in Japan or in Sydney on George Street, which is the 41st restaurant to open.

The soup filled dumplings are simply divine.  If you successfully get the wiggly dumpling to your spoon without accidentally poking them open, you must create a little hole to let the juice slip out so it’s not too hot.  Take a little sip and let the juice slip down the back of your throat.   Add the soy sauce, vinegar and ginger mixture to your spoon and you are ready; now you eat the whole thing.  It’s hot but not too hot anymore. You taste the rich pork then the savory juice and a ping of the ginger and you taste it all the way down, sinking deeper into your chair.  The only thing that makes you ok that the bite is over is that you realize there are more.  We ordered the pork dumplings and the crab meat, crab roe and pork mixture dumplings that are both delicious.

We also tried dessert.  We got a bun that was called the Golden Lava and the steamed red bean dumplings.  The Golden lava had a sticky rice, almost cake like texture on the outside with a frothy orange sweet filling.  The steamed red bean dumplings taste exactly as they sound but sweet.  The grainy texture of the bean with a deep sweetness that is rich and earthy and unlike any other dessert I’ve had.

After dessert we realized we needed more so we got another order of the pork and soup filled dumplings.  These dumplings are too good to be anything but lucky.  I think its safe to say we started the New Year off right.

       

Crab dumplings (above)

Pork dumpling (below)

Desserts

Golden Lava

Steamed red bean dumpling (Below)

Follow me on Twitter @Coltkels

Are We In Texas or Vietnam?

Living in Dallas the past four months has been great.  It is the first major city I have ever lived in and with major city brings awesome restaurants.  I come from a small town in Michigan where there are still dirt roads and I can hear cows mooing from my house in the summer.  So I was so excited to try the food in Dallas and one evening, my sister treated me to a restaurant called Rise where they serve soufflé for their mains and desserts.  It was without a doubt one of the most heavenly delicious meal I have ever had. A restaurant with only soufflé, that screams I live in a city. I didn’t even know what a soufflé was until I left Lapeer to go to college.

Another one of my favorite parts about working in a city, as silly as this sounds, was getting lunch.  This was my first job in the corporate world so anything relating to the “work world” was super exciting for me.  I quickly found a favorite and everyone knew the restaurant I would suggest for lunch, Pho Colonial.

The first thing I ever tried were the dumplings and I was sold.  They are one of the best dumplings I have ever had.  You bite into the doughy outside and are instantly overcome with the flavorful filling of the pork and shrimp mixture.  To top the perfectly handcrafted dumpling off, it is served with the Chef’s dumpling soy dipping sauce that is amazing.  It is smooth as satin with hints of salty, spicy and sweet that lingers on your taste buds.  I dream about these dumplings, and what is a better partner to dumplings than traditional phở?

Phở originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam in a city called Hanoi.  It was created to appease the locals and the French who had migrated to the area because the area had a textile market.  The way the broth is cooked uses a French method of adding charred onion to the broth for color and flavor, making phở distinguishable amongst other Asian noodle soups. Vendors first sold it from large boxes, then the first restaurant opened in Hanoi in the1920s.

I have never been to Vietnam so I don’t have the real deal to compare to Pho Colonial in Dallas but I would have to believe it is pretty dang close.  The phở ga (chicken phở) comes just as it should with the broth noodles and chicken in a bowl and a plate with bean sprouts, Thai basil, fresh jalapeno and a lime wedge.  The broth alone is so delicious you could eat it plain.  Then you bite into the chicken that is perfectly cooked from the hot broth and you just melt.  There are flares of fresh flavors from all the toppings swirling in your mouth and your senses are taken over.  Simply put, it is delicious.

Pho Colonial has an energy that you feel as soon as you walk in.  You place your order at the counter and then find a seat at tables that you could possibly share with strangers, which is an exciting twist to lunch. Your food is then brought to you. Be prepared for a little wait if you go during the lunch rush from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., I’m not the first person to love this place.  But take out is a great option, if you order ahead you jump up to the take out line and get in and out in no time. The prices are great and the portions are good sized.  The regular sized phở ga my sister and I easily share or I would order it for myself and have leftovers for dinner.  I truly suggest this restaurant to anyone who is living in Texas or is visiting.

As you walk out you will be thinking of the next time you can come back, guaranteed. Pho Colonial is addicting.

  

 

Follow me on Twitter @Coltkels

Finally Guy Found It!

 

I love the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network channel.  I think it’s an awesome show and concept.  It’s like the American Idol for restaurants.  The restaurants that can’t get the word out about their food, in their small town kitchens, that are just as top notch as a those big guys in the city, are given their chance with this show.  We all have those few restaurants in our town or near our town, that are amazing and we love them oh so much.  The Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen, in Clarkston Michigan, is my family’s hidden gem.  It’s about a 45-minute drive from our home to get there but it is well worth the drive and wait.  This place is so good and unique that I guess somebody couldn’t keep it a secret because it received a visit from the one and only Guy Fieri this summer!

Clarkston Union is a favorite of mine for dinner but is my all time favorite place to get Sunday brunch.  They have amazing eggs benedict, maybe my favorite ever and that means a lot because I am an eggs benedict connoisseur.   I may love their breakfast but they are famous for their mac and cheese.  They like to call it the “most macked mac & cheese. Period.”  My little sister can literally not go there and not get it, it’s just not an option for her.  It has a beautiful crunchy crust and then warm ewwy goey noodle middle.  It’s not overly cheesy but perfectly savory and is served with a slice of carrot on top.  May seem weird at first but after a few visits you will begin to fight over the carrot.

Their menu is delicious, fresh traditional American cuisine.  They have amazing specials that are different depending on what is in season and fresh.  Oh and I’m forgetting the best part; the restaurant is built out of an old church steeple and all.  The booths are pews and the stove area is the alter.  They also have 30 plus selections of craft brews that are featured on a huge chalkboard posted on the wall.  Its loud and crowded, but has great character and personality and like I said before great food.

This small town joint just definitely got its big break!

(Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen will be featured on an episode within the next few months)

 

 

Follow me on Twitter @Coltkels

Wasabi Please!

Before college I had never tried sushi- I was missing out! Lucky for me I was introduced to sushi soon after I started school at Michigan State. We are very fortunate to have authentic restaurants offering fresh sushi within walking distance of campus. Sushi Ya was the closest restaurant to me and I soon became addicted- I mean obsessed. My sister and I went at least twice a week and had to work at restraining ourselves from going daily. This was the beginning of my sushi eating and my favorite roll was the MSU roll, which I would definitely recommend for first timers. This is a tempura roll, which is basically a fried roll, with crab and no raw fish.

My sophomore year of school I tried other Sushi restaurants like Sansu and Omi. Sansu has some really creative rolls to offer, and has a really cool atmosphere but is a little bit more expensive. However they offer 25% off for MSU students on Tuesday nights (bring your ID and show it when you ask for the check). At Omi I usually get traditional rolls such as the spicy tuna or spicy scallop but my roommate raves about their veggie roll. I believe Omi has the best spicy tuna roll out of the three.  Both are great Sushi restaurants but I’m still partial to Sushi Ya. As my palate has progressed I’ve chosen new favorites like the Boston Roll and the Spicy Rolls. I love the combination of crisp vegetables, avocado and fresh fish, this = so yummy.

So please go out and try these places if you haven’t before. Also remember that there are plenty of options that do not include raw fish. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sushi Ya

124 W Grand River Ave,

East Lansing, Michigan 48823

(517) 333-0804

 

Omi

210 M.A.C Avenue

East Lansing, MI 48823

(517) 337-2222

 

Sansu

4750 South Hagadorn Road

East Lansing, MI 48823

(517) 333-1933