Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pellegrini Ristorante Italiano Bar

Maniacs on the Road - Bonus Edition

This last Saturday, we visited Pellegrini Ristorante in Greeley, Colorado. We were celebrating the holidays with some friends of ours and they all raved about this place.  So while this isn't a official MenuManiacs review, we did want to let you know our thoughts about this Italian restaurant.

Pellegrini's is tucked away in the Cottonwood Square shopping center on 23rd Avenue and 16th Street.  The owner, Carlo, is from the old country of Italy and is passionate about bringing authentic Italian flavors to the thriving metropolis of Greeley.  The restaurant is a moderately sized building, and it can accommodate both large and small parties.  We found it to be nicely appointed and it smelled like food!  You would be surprised how many restaurants we visit that smell like nothing.  It is a very strange phenomenon.  However, Pellegrini's is like going to a friend's house for dinner and experiencing the wonderful aroma meeting you at the door.  As usual, we were the last to arrive and the rest of our party was already seated.  Our server, Mandy, greeted us right away, let us know the specials, and took our drink order first thing.

Raspberry Italian Soda
We were fortunate enough to speak to Carlo, before placing our food order. He suggested his favorite dishes and explained that most of pasta and all the sausage is made fresh in house every day.  We ordered his suggested dishes and ordered some additional classic Italian dishes and specialty items. There were ten of us so we were able to try a variety of food.  Because of the number of dishes, we will focus on our favorites.

It is SO hard to find good gnocchi and Pellegrini's did a really good job.  The pasta was soft and creamy with a vibrant tomato cream sauce.  Boscaiola, a pappardelle pasta sauteed in white cream sauce with Cremini mushrooms, home made sausage and tomatoes was one of the stand out dishes.  This was one of Carlo's recommendations and he certainly didn't steer us wrong.  The fresh sausage and handmade pasta really gave this dish a truly unique taste. Rounding out our favorites, was a classic lasagna.  The noodles were thin and delicate between a layering of rich bolognese sauce and gooey cheeses.  Nothing fussy here, just classic deliciousness.  There were a lots of other dishes warranting an honorable mention including Ravioli, Salmon e Pesto Genovese, Risotto, Pomodoro, and grilled chicken; however, the three mentioned previously were the dishes the table enjoyed the most.

On to dessert!  We certainly could not leave without sampling the desserts.  I think it is our mutual sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) but dessert was SO good!  The highlight dessert, recommended by our amazing server Mandy, was the Tartufo al Cioccolato.  Served as a single serve ice cream bombe, this is a hazelnut lovers delight with dark chocolate gelato, zabaione cream, and caramelized hazelnut rolled in cocoa powder.  The Torta di Limoncello was another favorite.  A light lemony sponge cake layered with fluffy mascarpone filling.  It was like a slice of summertime on a cold, wintery day.  We also indulged in Spumone, Torta di Cioccolato, and Cannoli Classici.  All were good and worth the calories we added to our holiday tally.

Limoncello Martini
We had a lovely time with lovely people. Pellegrini's is most certainly a cut above the rest. Be sure to check them out when you find yourselves in the Greeley area or as a new place to celebrate the new year.

Because of their delicious food, fabulous staff, and a wonderful limoncello and basil martini, we award Pellegrini Ristorante Italiano Bar a fork!

Pellegrini Ristorante Italiano Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, December 25, 2015

Hammond's Candy Factory

Find Something Sweet And Twisted At The Annual Candy Cane Festival

Hammond's Candy Factory is something of an institution in the Denver area.  Started in 1920 by Carl T. Hammond, this factory has outlived many of it's competitors.  Carl Hammond spent only one day in high school when he decided education was not his chosen path.  His mother told him that was ok, but he needed to get a job.  He found one as an apprentice at a candy factory and the rest is history. 

December is a busy month.  So many things to do.  There's the new Star Wars movie, the whole Christmas thing, and of course, Hammond's Candy Cane Festival.

For two amazing days, Hammond's hosts a delightful extravaganza that focuses on what they do best.  CANDY CANES!!!! 

Hammond's is known for their traditional ribbon candy, and it is just out of this world.  It comes in many flavors, our favorite being clove, and is just as beautiful as it is delicious.  However, our most favorite creation of Hammond's is without a doubt - the stuffed candy cane.  Cherry stuffed with chocolate, Pecan stuffed with cream, Mango stuffed with Habanero!  The possibilities are endless.

The festival has grown so much over the years.  This year, it was actually snowing which really got people in the Christmas spirit.  Carolers sang a myriad of Christmas carols and even had the crowd joining in at times.  Kids were running around with their mouths stained from the candy and sky high on a sugar rush.  A carriage with two beautiful horses took people on rides around the neighborhood, and a tiny train ran serpentine formations throughout the parking lot as kids and adults giggled and laughed.  There were even bouncy houses for kids to play on.  A few food trucks were there and Celestial Seasonings also made an appearance serving hot tea to help the parents warm up as their children played.

Hammond's offers factory tours every day, excluding Sundays.  On the tour we got to watch the candy cane making process.  This starts with the molten candy being kneaded by hand to incorporate color.  Next the candy is moved to the puller, a three armed machine that stretches the semi-solid sugar by incorporating air, cooling the candy, and at the same time altering it from a clear candy to opaque.  It is almost magical to watch the transformation  The piece of candy we saw on the tour started out a deep red and in seconds after being placed on the puller, had beautiful raspberry colored ribbons developing in the candy.  When the candy was finally removed from the puller, it was twice the size and was a satiny pink.  Finally, we got to watch them hand cut and shape the newly formed candy canes.

Hammond's makes Christmas candy year round and they are already preparing for Valentine's Day and Easter

In the next section of the tour, we watched marshmallow hearts being dipped in chocolate.  While the enrobing machine is automated, each heart receives a personal inspection to ensure the coating is complete, and then it is hand wrapped in foil.  In fact, all candy is made by hand - hand wrapped, formed by hand, and one person will follow each batch from start to finish.

Very impressive for a company that started out with about 10 employees.  Today, they employ around 120 candy makers plus staff.  90 years and still going strong!

We attended the festival on a Saturday and according to the employees, they were expecting approximately 7000 people to walk through their door.  We love to see Colorado companies succeed.  Be sure to visit any time throughout the year.  As we said, they are open every day except for Sundays and tours are available during business hours.  In addition to candy canes and ribbon candy, Hammond's offers taffy, popcorn, fudge, chocolate bars, hot cocoa, and of course their homemade caramel wrapped marshmallows.  All of these are delicious and make wonderful, unique gifts for any occasion. 

Hammond's Candy Factory is located at 5735 N Washington Street in Denver.  You can also shop online as well and their products are sold in several stores such as King Soopers. 

On a side note, a friend of ours placed an order online to be picked up at the factory.  There was a mix up with their order which is understandable when dealing with the vast numbers of people at an event like this.  They corrected the issue and overnighted it to our friend at no additional charge to her.  Everybody makes mistakes, but a company's true value is found in how they correct those mistakes.  Excellent customer service is very important to a business and their actions explain why they have stayed in business for the last 90 years.

MenuManiac's Mascot
Please visit Hammond's.  It is important to support local Colorado businesses.  It's even more important to keep them open to support our sugar addiction.

On a side note, we would like to wish all of our Maniac's a very Merry Christmas and we thank you all for your support.  Have a wonderful holiday season, everybody!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

British Bulldog

Rashers, and Bangers, and Mashers, Oh My!

The British Bulldog is a small bar decorated with several tables, dark wood paneling, and enormous TV's that are suitable to watch a myriad of football games (both European and American style).  It is a charming little space where music fills the air from a customer fed jukebox.

The Bulldog serves both English and Pakistani food.  As some of you may know, English cuisine has a very strong Pakistani influence. 

Located  on the corner of Stout and 20th street,  they are easy to spot.  Simply look for the British flag awning.  They do not have a parking lot but there is free street parking.  Lunch specials are offered Monday through Friday at an amazing $8 a plate!  That is an incredible deal considering the generous portions of the entrees.  Happy hours are from 3pm to 7pm and 10pm until the bar closes.  Ian, the general manager, said the pub is packed during lunchtime so be sure to plan accordingly.

We took a new approach to ordering with this outing.  Instead of picking and choosing, we asked our server, who also happened to be Ian, to pick two appetizers and three entrees for us to try.  We ended up ordering Samosas - delicate pastries that are deep fried and stuffed with peas, carrots, potatoes, and spices. They are served with a tamarind sauce and a riata yogurt sauce for dipping. 

Punjabi Wings
Ian also suggested their Punjabi wings.  Holy chicken wing!  These wings are probably the best wings we have ever had.  The wings are smoked, and sautéed with ginger, garlic, onions, and chilies and served with a warm pita.  Everything, and we do mean EVERYTHING about these wings was perfection.  The smokiness of the chicken hits you with the first bite followed by a tangy, spiciness that is absolutely astounding.  It is worth a trip to the pub just to try these wings.  Ian said we have never tasted anything like them, and he was 100% correct.  Fabulous!

Chicken Masala
For dinner, we tried the Chicken Masala which is one of the staple dishes for The British Bulldog.  This is a traditional chicken and potato curry that has been simmered for hours.  It is served on rice with warm pita bread.  The masala had a spicy warm kick to it that didn't take away from the other elements of the dish.  It is also served with a side of Cilantro Chutney.

Greco Indian Sandwich
We tried one of their sandwiches as well, the Greco Indian which is peshawari chicken served in an open faced pita.  It is topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, feta, and pickled onions and served with a side of riata and cilantro chutney.  The chicken was plump and juicy and the pickled onions provided a bright note to the sandwich that added a great tang. 

Fish and Chips
One cannot go to a British Pub without trying the fish and chips.  This is simply a traditional beer battered whitefish served with fries, homemade coleslaw, tartar sauce and a chipotle mayo.  The batter was light and crispy and the fish was light and flaky.  Cooked perfectly, it was not dry and not mushy.  Fish is not one of our favorite dishes but this was a delicious entrée that we both enjoyed. Too many times we have ordered fish and chips that consisted of  a huge chunk of batter with just a tiny little chunk of dried out fish in the middle.  The Bulldog's fish is definitely NOT that.

The pub is open from 11am to 2am every day and early for matches on the weekends.  Ian, the General Manager, says that usually a restaurant is 80/20 meaning 80% of business comes from 20% of your customers; however, with this pub, he says it is more like 90/10 because of the amazing food and lunch specials.  Also, the prices are very reasonable with the most expensive item on the menu being just $13.  Very good pricing considering the portions are so generous.

Our server, Ian was incredibly kind and generous.  He knew the menu inside and out and answered all of our questions.

It is always a joy to be surprised by a restaurant.  When we draw a pub or bar, we worry that we will have to choke down fried, greasy fare that has little to no flavor.  The British Bulldog is definitely not that type of place.  The food is amazing, those wings were superb, and Ian was delightful. 

Of course, we awarded The British Bulldog the coveted golden spoon.  We'll be seeing you soon, mates!
British Bulldog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was okay. Not our favorite, but we’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Chapter 22 Is Alive And Well At Atticus...

In Chapter 22 of the Pulitzer Prize winning book, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch -the namesake of our most recent blog outing - comes downstairs to find his kitchen table "loaded with enough food to bury the family." 

For those of you who never had to read this book in high school, the food found on the table was given to Finch as a gesture of gratitude for his actions.  Atticus Finch was a lawyer who defended a black man in an act of good conscience.  Because the timeframe of the book is between the years of 1933 to 1935, the black people in his neighborhood understood and admired the courage Atticus showed to help a member of the community at great risk to himself.  Therefore, they brought him food as a sign of their appreciation. 

The website for Atticus describes itself as a place you can find comfort food, good friends, warm hospitality, laughter and libations.  Well, they aren't lying.  The staff of Atticus loves their community and really tries to convince the neighborhood to come together and congregate at this local eatery.  They sponsor community dinners for a flat fee.  During these dinners, they push the tables together and offer games and good food as a way for the locals to dine together while getting to know each other.

Atticus is a farm to tavern restaurant.  All produce is grown locally by the restaurant, and it is evident by the taste of the food.  For example, we ordered the fried green tomatoes and were not disappointed.  Heirloom tomatoes were lightly fried in a delicate batter with crispy edges, and a wonderful dipping sauce.  Instead of the typical thick, fried, soggy tomato we were treated to a slightly sweet, flavorful tomato that still had its firmness in tact.  Just excellent!

Additional appetizers included the Brie Hot Pot and Crostini with thinly sliced peaches, cherries, fresh mint, ricotta cheese, and balsamic vinegar drizzle.  However, undoubtedly the most daring choice tried that evening was the charred octopus.  It was served with a leak brodo and chimichurri.  Admittedly our server, Roman, had to bribe us into ordering this appetizer.  We agreed, only after remembering that trying new things was the one main reason for starting this blog in the first place.  The octopus was actually quite nice.  The meat was dense and briny with a heady seafood aroma.  The sauce was a nice accompaniment and helped offset the saltiness of the dish.  It would probably not be something we would order on a regular basis, but it is definitely something to try once in our lives, and we are really glad we did.  Thank you, Roman for helping us be brave.

Our dinner selections included a delicious Osso Bucco served with citrus farrotto, grilled asparagus, and roasted grape tomatoes and the Atticus Burger served with crispy onions candied bacon, roasted garlic aioli, cambozola cheese and fries.  However, the most mind blowing meal of the evening was definitely the Herb Risotto.  Roasted sweet corn, Hazel Dell Mushrooms, and a splash of pure heaven.  Those of you who follow the blog know that we are big meat eaters.  It is so rare a vegetarian dish wins the prize but Atticus' Risotto is the stuff of legends.  Absolutely amazing!

Speaking of vegetarian meals, Atticus also offers gluten free and vegan meal choices so all are welcome and can have a great meal.

Moving on to dessert we tried the Bananas Foster Cheesecake - a New York style cheesecake texture with mashed bananas and chocolate sauce.  Very light and refreshing.  We also tried the Pot of Crème with Peanut Butter Fluff.  It was dark, rich, creamy, and was a beautiful ganache.

We found Atticus to be a very cozy and family friendly restaurant.  Our server, Roman, was hilarious and well informed.  He is one of those rare people in the service industry that believes everything should be fun.  He really made our night.  Be sure to request him when making your reservations.  That being said - be sure to make reservations.  Atticus is a smaller space and fills up really fast.

Because the food was amazing, the service was terrific, and the feeling of community was so strong, we awarded Atticus the coveted golden spoon.  We met some great people during our visit both staff and guests alike and wish to thank all of them for a truly wonderful evening.

P.S.  We debated quite a bit about adding this note.  While we do not intend to sway anyone's decision to try Atticus, we think it is only fair to disclose that after dining at this restaurant, one of us suffered a bout of tummy trouble (you know the kind that keeps you near the bathroom for 24 hours).  We have never had this happen before and we cannot be completely certain that the issue lies with our dinner; however there were few other possibilities.  Although this in no way takes away from the experience, we feel we needed to mention something about it.  MenuManiacs is sure this is not a usual occurrence; however, it happened, and we need to be open and honest about it.  That being said, we hope this does not prevent anyone from trying this wonderful restaurant.  We will be sure to make a return trip in the future ourselves.

Atticus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was okay. Not our favorite, but we’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Choctoberfest 2015

Something Chocolate This Way Comes

September 19th was a busy day in MenuManiacs land.  Not only did we have our September lunch at Bushi Cubano Café, but we also attended the 2nd Annual Choctoberfest at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colorado.  We were surprised by the number of local chocolatiers from our lovely state, and thought we would tell you about some of our favorites. 

But first, a chocolate bust of number 18 and quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning.

OK, everybody still with me?  Ladies, have you recovered from the shock of a handsome dude made of chocolate?  Good.  Let's soldier on.  Oh, and also, note the all chocolate golden retriever in the background. 

We love some good toffee.  Melted Sweets makes their delicious toffee by hand and they are also based right here in the Aurora, Colorado.  They offer several varieties of toffee including white, milk, and dark chocolate.  The toffee has a great crunch followed by melty creaminess as you chew.  Still waiting to for the right store front opportunity, this adorable couple can be found at select farmers markets in both Broomfield and Littleton.  You can also order their products online as well.  Be sure to check out their website and like them on Facebook!

The lovely ladies of Chic Chocolate offer fine dark and milk chocolate bars in refined sophisticated flavors with sassy names like Drama Queen and Women Who Wine.  We snagged a little piece of each at the fest.  All of their creations can be purchased online or by calling their 800 number on their web site.  P.S.  Dudes are welcome to order as well.  Just sayin'.

Finally, a Scottish culinary creation we can support!  Stewart's "Much ADough About Muffin" LLC makes this amazing sweet treat called Tablet.  Before you say, "Tablet?"  Let us explain.  The awesome guy in the kilt at the booth explained to us that it has been named Tablet for years and years.  Possibly centuries.

Can we just say, "They can take our lives, but they will never take our Tablet!"  This stuff is amazing!  It is like brown sugar and butter, crumbly yet creamy, and comes in plain (understatement), chocolate topped, pecan topped, or bourbon.  Seriously, let that sink in...Bourbon.

They also sell toffee as well.  It has an almost smoky taste to it and is extremely smooth and soft.  It is more the consistency of caramel.  According to their website, they sell a traditional Scottish shortbread, scones, and crumpets. To be honest, we are not sure if they had their shortbread at Choctoberfest because we were so enamored with their Tablet samples.  They pride themselves on small batch recipes and also do custom cakes.  We love Tablet.  There, we've said it and feel better for it.

Satchi Fudge is an award winning company that makes an amazingly creamy, silky fudge.  We tried several samples and each was amazing. The Dark and Silky confection was just that, intense dark chocolate with a smooth texture and just enough sweetness to balance the natural bitterness of the chocolate. They sell fudge in the traditional "bar" form but also in jars which makes it easy to warm up and pour over ice cream, use as a dip for strawberries, or just eat with a spoon.  Do yourselves a favor and visit their site and like them on Facebook.

Who couldn't use just a little therapy from time to time?  The Chocolate Therapist is ready to fill your prescription for the proverbial chocolate fix stat.  They offer a wide variety of products from bars to cocoa nibs.  The Chocolate Therapist hosts chocolate and wine pairings at their Littleton store and we can't wait to schedule our first outing there.  For those of you that can't make it their store, never fear!  You can purchase their 16 piece pairing collections online and have it shipped to your home.  In addition to the wine pairing collection, we also spotted a BEER pairing collection proving that chocolate really can go with anything.

There were over 70 vendors at Choctoberfest this year and these were just a few of our favorites. There are many more exciting companies out there to explore.  We are very excited.  Let us know if you like this type of post as it isn't our typical focus.  We had a lot of fun and we hope this encourages you to get out there, find an expo or festival near you, and learn about great local businesses.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Buchi Cafe Cubano

Espresso Yourself

Wikipedia informs us that Café Cubano (also known as Cuban coffee, Cuban espresso, cafecito, Cuban pull, or Cuban shot) is a type of espresso that originated in Cuba after espresso machines were first imported there from Italy.  A Cafe Cubano is regarded as a mid-afternoon standard in places like Cuba, Miami, and Key West.

And that brings us to September's blog pick and FINALLY our first Cuban restaurant, Buchi Café Cubano.  This cozy restaurant located northwest of downtown Denver in the Sunnyside neighborhood right at the intersection of 38th and Clay seems to be thriving after seven years in business.  They have a very nice patio with a beautiful golden cover if you prefer to sit outside and food is available to eat in house or you can get it to go to enjoy at home.  The owner is originally from Key West and wanted to bring authentic Cuban cuisine to the Denver area.

Buchi is open for breakfast and lunch from 8am to 3pm from Sunday to Wednesday and 8am to 9pm from Thursday to Saturday.  They offer a happy hour where classic Mojito's and other cocktails are available for $5 each.  Speaking of Mojito's, they are our new favorite thing.  This was our first traditionally made Mojito, and it was freshly made with raw sugar, fresh mint leaves, fresh lime juice, sparkling water and rum.  What a difference fresh ingredients makes!  We will never, NEVER drink a Mojito made from a mix again.  This drink was light, refreshing, and incredible.  However, as our wonderful server, Dion stated, "These will sneak up on you.  It doesn't taste strong but you'll feel it by the time you are done."  That is very true.  Thank you Dion for the words of wisdom!  That being said, it is worth a trip to Buchi to just try the Mojito itself.

Buchi and Café Con Leche
Buchi Café Cubano is named after a Cuban espresso called the Buchi, seen here on the left, and is available as a single or double shot.  Obviously, we decided to try it since it was the restaurant's namesake.  The lesson learned about Cuban coffee is this...the Cuban people do not play around with caffeine.  Decaf is not an option and "skinny" coffee drinks are not allowed as the menu plainly states.  When you first see the shot of espresso served in a shot glass, you are a little confused.  The size of the drink is difficult to comprehend after being trained to order Grande, Venti, or gallon sizes of coffee from other java joints.  You soon realize that in about 10 - 15 minutes you will resemble a poodle on a good way, of course.   Let's just say, you will get a lot done and quickly.  Actually, the Buchi is sweetened with organic raw sugar so although it is strong, it is very tasty.  We also tried the Café Con Leche which is basically the Cuban version of a latte and is available with a single or double shot of espresso with steamed milk and sweetened with the same sugar as the Buchi.  All their coffee was very good, not bitter or burnt like the kind other establishments serve.

We tried a couple appetizers during our visit.   Empanadas are basically fried dough stuffed with spicy sauce, chicken, and black beans and served with a smooth chimichurri sauce.  We also tried the Platanos Maduros or pan fried plantains.  Plantains are a type of banana although not as sweet and fried on each side to create a crunchy, carmelized shell. Both were excellent.

Pan con Lechon
Cuban Mix
Pork plays a big role in Cuban food.  We are thinking that it is due to the fact that Cuba is such a small island and therefore does not have a lot of room for cattle to graze.  Pigs require less space and will eat basically whatever you feed them.  Therefore, pork sandwiches abound at Buchi.  They are served on Cuban bread and pressed in a pannini press.  We tried the Cuban Mix consisting of Cuban roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, onions and mustard.  The Pan con Lechon which is a Cuban roast pork sandwich with grilled onions, and also the La Bodega made up of Turkey, Swiss cheese, avocado, tomato and key lime mayonnaise.  All the sandwiches were delicious; however, we really enjoyed the Pan con Lechon due to the delicious flavor of the pork.

For dessert, we tried the Pasteles, a Cuban guava turnover.  Very flakey and light.

La Bodega
We really liked the fact that although spices, seasonings and sauces were utilized, they didn't take away from the flavor of the meat at all.  The food is very straightforward but really delicious.  The best part about our Buchi Café Cubano experience was the fact that the delicious food served there is so inexpensive!!!  The most expensive item on the menu was $8.95.  People, do you know how difficult it is to find that kind of pricing in Denver, Colorado?!

Pasteles - Guava filled turnover
Our server Dion was fantastic! He answered every question we had and was very knowledgeable and informed.  He was constantly smiling and we found him very entertaining.  If you decide to eat at this restaurant request Dion and tell him MenuManiacs sent you.

For the economical wonderful food, Mojito, and coffee (we still haven't slept, and it's been 48 hours)  we award Buchi Café Cubano a fork.  We will definitely be back!  Thank you all and as they say in Cuba...

No deje de probar Buchi Cafe Cubano . ¡Son sorprendentes!

Buchi Cafe Cubano Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was okay. Not our favorite, but we’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.