A Weekend in Colorado


I met up with Chad in Colorado this weekend to attend a friend’s wedding. I love visiting different parts of the country and seeing firsthand what people are doing with food and drinks, so here’s what we came across in Loveland, Fort Collins, and Boulder (in addition to that fantastic slice of pumpkin wedding cake that I had)…

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Johnson’s Corner was named one of the ten best breakfast spots in the world by Travel + Leisure Magazine in 1998. It’s a full-service truck stop that’s been around since 1952, and has just that sort of charm. The service was very friendly, too.

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Hand-Breaded Chicken-Fried Steak, Hash Browns, Two Eggs, (the remains of) Pumpkin Pie, Biscuit and Gravy, and Pancake. This wasn’t our breakfast… This was my breakfast. As I worked my way through it, Chad said “Oh my god, I don’t know how you’re doing it… That’s awesome!” That’s pretty much how I felt about the Chicken-Fried Steak. It had the best breaded coating that I’ve encountered — thick enough to have its own uniform and slightly crunchy body, but with a good give and an addictive taste, spiked by a bit of pepper.

I also liked the pumpkin pie a lot. Not too sweet and not too custardy, it tasted of fresh pumpkin. I don’t need anything else. Of course, this place bills itself as a truck stop, so you accept the spray whipped cream as part of the territory; or you don’t, and simply scrape it off.

The pancake, eggs, and hash browns were pretty standard.

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Biscuits and Gravy, Hash Browns, Scrambled Eggs. Their biscuits were just a little flaky, but more soft on the inside — almost springy, but not tough and with a slightly crisp crust. They were different and I liked them a lot — especially with the very peppery gravy and sausage on top of it.

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Cinnamon Roll. The day before, we stopped in to get a cinnamon roll, which is their “world-famous” signature item, to go. I liked it. It was balanced — chewy and spicy-sweet, but not cloying; its bottom was just syrup-steeped, but not swimming in syrup like some cinnamon rolls. One of my pet peeves with cinnamon rolls is when the top center swirl part is tough and over-baked, but this one was uniformly baked. They sell them to go in plastic clamshell containers, and they had a microwave to heat it up a little.

A couple friends had one fresh with their breakfast that morning, and commented that it was a bit too moist. It was served still hot, so I could see that. Like most other breads, I think it needs to cool down to get to its proper consistency (and then reheating it slightly is fine), unless you want that extreme gooeyness.

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This is the Johnson’s Corner Chapel across the street.

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We also went to the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, which makes Fat Tire, Blue Paddle, Sunshine, and others. I was amazed by the strong, unusual flavors in some of their beers — like bananas, figs, and cloves (Abbey Belgian Style Ale), coffee (1554 Enlightened Black Ale), smokiness (Mothership Wit Organic Wheat Beer), steak (Lips of Faith), and citrus vinegar (La Folie, Wood Aged Sour Brown — to me, the sour patch kid of beers; no one could drink more than a few brave sips of it). The Sunshine Wheat Beer was the most neutral of my lot — smooth, with just a slight tinge of orange. And btw, the tasting of 4 beers of your choice is free. The tasting room has a groovy lodge/bar vibe.

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They had postcard/coasters that they’d mail for free for you if you filled them out there. Congratulations to those across the country whose addresses I remembered off the top of my head — my tipsy thoughts will be arriving in your mailboxes soon.

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Buffalo Ribeye with Burgundy Mushrooms and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. At Henry’s Pub in downtown Loveland.

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I just had to include this Bailey’s over ice and Stoli Blueberry with Ginger Ale at the Sports Station Bar b/c they cost only $8. And I find that almost any fruit flavored vodka is delicious with ginger ale.

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My new baker’s biceps actually hurt my shuffleboard prowess. I don’t know my own strength anymore. At least they helped me out in foosball.

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In Boulder, we walked around the Pearl St shopping area, and had lunch at the Boulder Cafe.

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Italian-Style French Dip – Garlic Toast Topped with Shaved Prime Rib, Mozzarella Cheese, Rosemary au Jus, and Fruit. I was impressed by the description on the menu, offput by the simple appearance, and then dazzled by the fantastic taste and texture. The bread was spot-on crusty and just a tad dry (so that it soaked up the jus well), the meat moist and juicy, the garlic spread pungent, the mozzarella melted, and the support from the rosemary spectacular.

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Cheddar and Colorado Ale Fondue w/ Apples, Bread, Jalapeno Chicken Sausage, and Potatoes. The fondue had a loose, saucy consistency, rather than cheesy and stringy. I just couldn’t trust it, even though the flavor was fine.

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Chocolate Guinness Cake. A wet consistency and an off flavor.

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A Powell’s Sweet Shoppe is opening in Boulder. I didn’t realize that it’s a franchise — I really like the Powell’s in Healdsburg, where you can find anything from gummy hamburgers to single origin chocolates.

There was also a very good kitchen and home store called Peppercorn. I got a bag of Goji Berries (known as wolfberries to some and “the most famous berry in the Himalayas”) to experiment with when I start baking on my own again.

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We also stopped into Belvedere Belgian Chocolate Shop, which is connected to the Bookcliff Vineyards wine tasting bar. I was surprised by the number of wine tastings available in Boulder. I didn’t get a chance to try one, but I’ll keep my eyes out for a Colorado wine in the future.

So, I was a bit torn about Belvedere. They had some interesting truffles for sale — like lavender, cayenne, etc — but their chocolates were riddled with air bubbles from improper molding. The bubbles wouldn’t affect the flavor, but I just couldn’t bring myself to buy them. So, I got a Bequet salted caramel (creamy, but needed more salt) and the chocolate bars above (with a “what I can’t see now won’t hurt me” logic and a strong hope that — surprise! they’re properly done). Too bad they both had air bubbles, but the chocolate tasted very good. I believe that Belvedere uses unsweetened Callebaut chocolate and additional ingredients to make them. The dark chocolate had notes of berry and melted quite smoothly; the milk was creamy and rich. They made me wish that I’d tried the truffles and that they didn’t have bubbles that mar their appearance.

5 Responses to “A Weekend in Colorado”

  1. Natalie Says:

    The fondue looked GREAT! I love dipping things. How was the buffalo ribeye? It looked so down-home.

  2. Nina Says:

    The ribeye was good – it didn’t taste much different from beef, but it had a texture that was slightly more velvety, which I liked with its creamy kind sauce and mushrooms.

  3. Catherine Says:

    OMG – that fondue looks fantastic! Thank God its fall – apples and cheese – yum!

  4. Claire Walter Says:

    You’ve hit some real classics. The story behind T&L’s including Johnson’s Corner as one of the world’s top breakfast spots is that the author grew up in Cheyenne. When his family drove to Denver on US 285 (or is it 287?) before Interstate 25 was built, they always stopped at Johnson’s Corner.

    I live in Boulder and have written about food and restaurants at http://www.-claire-walter.com/dining/ and http://culinary-colorado.blogspot.com.

  5. Andrea Lin Says:

    Good report – the bit on Johnson’s Corner brought back memories!

    What you said about the dessert, however: “you accept the spray whipped cream as part of the territory”, is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve had passable spray stuff – if it is REAL whipped cream. Cool-whip and the rest of the “whipped toppings”, whether in the tub or out of a can, are truly horrific.

    But real whipped cream in a spray can? Not the worst thing by a long shot. *grin*

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