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.