Saturday, February 25, 2012

BANH MI BATTLE!

If I ever left Denver, the foods I'd miss are (1) Santiago's breakfast burritos, (2) anything from Domo, and (3) banh mi sandwiches from Ba Le on South Federal.  I've written about them here before.  And they're better than Baker's Palace - yes, they are.

But there's a new bakery in town.  We watched an attached bakery grow onto New Saigon.  Would it be better?  The first time Will-J and I went, there was a sign on the door that they were out of bread.  Then when we went back, the line was out the door and we didn't even go in.  The third time, we waited 20 minutes in line only to have them run out of bread as we ordered.  Here's a brief Westword writeup.  

Today, we finally got our banh mi.  I got pork belly and barbecue beef.  Will-J got ham, no jalapenos.  They ran out of bread as we ate.  The verdict?  This is hard to say...not better than Ba Le, but will require additional sampling.

Ba Le is wonderfully inconsistent.  One day you get hyper-crusty bread and they decide to give you a fiery load of jalapenos.  Another day maybe the bread is better but they're out of something.  That's the way it goes, and it's always good (plus, they ended the frozen yogurt experiment, so they have tables again so you can sit and eat).

New Saigon Bakery & Deli has generally better meat.  The pork belly was excellent.  But the bread was cold and too crusty, and more importantly, the pickled daikon and carrots too bland and too coarsely cut.  Worse, the last time Will-J and I went to Ba Le, we somehow got perfection - bread right out of the oven, barbecue right off the grill, etc.  New Saigon couldn't top it, despite the wait.

Could New Saigon be better on another day?  I think so.  They apparently open at 8 AM - will the bread be better then?  Probably.  Do they have far more choices than Ba Le, including an interesting selection of bulk foods?  Yes.  Will they learn to make enough bread?  I think so.  Should Ba Le worry?  I don't think so - there's room on South Federal for both (to our overall happiness).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rattlesnake Canyon Arches

Denver got blanketed in snow, but the ski areas received very little.  What to do?  Go to the Rattlesnake Canyon Arches!









More photos here.

I just loved this place.  Despite it's relative proximity to I-70, various circumstances have conspired to keep it isolated - the trail is a little too long (14 miles round trip) for a day hike, and the road is notoriously bad when wet (and closed from February 15-April 15).

There are good descriptions of the trip online, including the BLM's fine map/directions, so I'll add only a few points: 

-The arches are on a bench about 500 feet above the floor of Rattlesnake Canyon.  The bench itself is both relatively narrow (a few hundred feet at its widest) and short (50-60 feet).  So you observe the arches from a comfortable natural amphitheater, but whenever you turn around your eyes have to adjust to this sweeping panorama out into canyon country.  The opposite wall of the canyon is itself dotted with sandstone towers, vaults, and an arch or two.  While wonderful to view in person, the forced "close up" make the arches somewhat difficult to photograph.  Even professional photos strain to "back up" enough to capture the full effect.  I'm sure someone has solved this through aerial photography (which I haven't seen). 

-The arches bench faces southwest, maximizing the winter sun.  I am confident this was one of the warmest spots in the area this weekend (although it dropped into the teens at night).

-Really you come to see the big Akiti Arch.  It's pretty stunning:


But my favorite view was from on top of the bench looking down Horsethief Canyon.  Here it is again:


For me, canyon country begins at the Loma boat ramp (although I admit this is arbitrary - if you live in Phoenix, canyon country could begin at the Mogollon Rim.  The Colorado River and I-70 rush out of the Rockies, and past Grand Mesa/Lands End.  Then it lingers in Grand Valley, bordered on one side by fine farmland and the endless Book Cliffs, and on the other by Colorado National Monument, a prelude of the canyons to come.  Then at Loma, the highway can't follow the river anymore, the river drifts into Horsethief Canyon, and a clear line between regions is drawn.  On one side of Loma is the Rockies and Colorado.  On the other side is Utah, sandstone, and the Colorado Plateau.  And I could sit at this vantage between the two - very nice.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Generous Servings (closed)


Will-J observed that the windows at Generous Servings are covered in paper.  After some discussion, he understood this to mean no more good butter-tasting poppy seed muffins – not just today but forever (!).  Despite Will-J’s love, we never quite understood that place.  It had fine coffee, but really no place to sit (inside) and enjoy it.  It had a beautiful commercial kitchen, but said kitchen was dedicated to cooking classes, and later a sideline dessert/snack après-dinner place.  But the après-dinner place was too small to be comfortable for the couples who would presumably enjoy such a place.  Service in the coffee shop used to be problematic, but improved over time


This opens the door to the ultimate Highlands coffee-snob place (catering of course to me).  First, Peaberry’s closed.  While the coffee was bad, it had a great heated outdoor seating area.  Now Generous Servings is gone, only somewhat offset by the fine biscuit/strong coffee place occupying Basil Docs (also loved by Will-J), but only in the morning, and also with no good place to sit/enjoy.  St. Marks needs to open a Denver-west place, please.  Or maybe a Denver branch for The Cup, The Laughing Goat, Café Sole, Brewing Market, Vic’s, etc. – who will take up the cause, Boulder coffee entrepreneurs?