Friday, August 12, 2011

Wild Eggs, Denver

Couple of weekends back I got an early morning text from my niece. She likes a proper, traditional breakfast but hadn't found many great spots in her ‘hood and was seeking suggestions. I typed back Snooze.

Haven’t heard from her since Sunday. Chances are she’s still in line.

Denver (and the ‘burbs) need more get-out-of-jammy-pants-and-into-the-kind-that-zip-worthy breakfast options. Joints like Snooze and Lucile's are A.M urban legends. I've only been to each once when strategic scheduling resulted in more sitting than queuing up time - midweek on the way to the airport and one weekend tucked away in a cozy vintage hotel in Fort Collins after a comically early Sunday walk (and quest to soak up much alcohol consumed the night before).

So when I found out Kentucky-based Wild Eggs was hatching locally, and after I got an invite to meet the Denver-based owner and peck at the menu on them (a perk of writing a blog about local food and eating it), I was game to give it a crack*.

*Promise, no more oh-so-easy chicken and egg platitudes and metaphors. Think I've been reading too many sunny foodie blogs and reviewers.

Do yourself a solid and start with a glass of OJ, squeezed fresh on the spot and so yellow and über bright it's like looking directly at the sun. The coffee is strong and solid, like good diner coffee should be. Wild Eggs picked the blend after extensive and exclusive tastings. It's good and fine if you like strong and solid coffee.

My hosts offered up plate after plate. A definite stand out, the grits. They serve them plain any time as well as an "of the day" variety. I scooped up the Five-Cheese (recall three of the five as pepper jack, havarti and cheddar), creamy and dreamy with a little kick. Plus bacon, topped and stirred in. Even took a bag of those Kentucky born and raised pearls home.

Also kicking' it KY style, the Chipotle Biscuits and Gravy, a couple of crumbly, light and perfect pucks smothered in spicy gravy with loads of cracked black pepper visible to the eye.

Even when it comes to breakfast, I'm more savory than sweet preferring bacon and bennies to waffles or sweets. But I'd reconsider for a bite of the Clementine’s Creamsicle Crepes (crepes filled with sweetened cream cheese and orange marmalade, Grand Marnier Suzette Sauce, toasted macadamia nuts, fresh orange supremes, whipped cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon). It made the saliva pockets in the back of my jaw squirt crazy.

As is my mantra, always give the local specialties a try and at Wild Eggs that's the Kelsey “KY” Brown (toasted sourdough bread, roasted turkey, applewood smoked bacon, diced tomato, white cheddar Mornay, fried egg and smoked paprika.). Sort of the Kentucky take on the St Louis slinger, a salty and chewy stack of gravy, cheese and meat over toast.

Call off the APB because the niece reappeared, again looking for breakfast recommendations. She texted after that she preferred the Wild Eggs Lox and Bagel Bennie to the similar-but-not-the-same Upstream Benny served at Snooze.

I call it a tie, but don't tell.

Because the queue at Wild Eggs is still doable.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Walnut Room, Denver

I’m with the band.

Dreamt of being that girl since I watched stovepipe-trousered Beatles flee frenzied birds with bouffants. Since Diane Lane rocked skunk hair and panties over fishnets in “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.”

Since Pamela Des Barres wrote her memoirs, one and two.

And as a girl with the band, I’m fully and first-person qualified to tell you The Walnut Room plays topnotch host to the acts booked to play there. From the elevated stage (and drum riser), to comp guest list, lights and Randall the sound guy. There’s even a green room. I had to restrain myself from running wildly down the just-as-you-imagine wide halls, burning hot white from fluorescent bulbs overhead yelling, “Hello Cleveland!!”

Okay, maybe I did.

And the joint feeds you, on them a pitcher of beer per artist (whatever you like on tap, the Stella good and cold) and share-worthy 18” pizza. Sliced Chicago style (in squares) and with a wafer-thin, crispy crust holding up inventive and inspired toppings. After a mix-up with another bands comp, the super-attentive staff brought us two (enough to feed the guys in the band, the girls and various friends). The Iron Maiden comes topped with pepperoni, sausage and smoked ham, each of the meats chopped and cut and crumbled thick and chewy, spicy and oily. Complimented by a simple and herb-aceous red sauce. 

Word of advice, always order a bars namesake. Especially if you find yourself at The Walnut Room and it’s the Walnut Special, a happy pie smeared with tomato pesto and layers of tomatoes, green olives, onion, garlic and walnuts. Walnuts! The crunchy, earthy feel and mouth taste had even the most traditional pizza eaters take notice.

Split an Antipasto Salad, fresh spring mix, ripe tomatoes, artichoke hearts and peperoncini plus what look like meat spring rolls – a slice each of ham, salami and provolone laid one on top of the other, rolled like a Cuban then cut into large pieces. A meaty mouthful, best to unroll and enjoy each layer separately.

Like to think I'd be the girl sneaking out, circa 1975 NYC, to see the Ramones play CBGB's. But I'd have been the puss at home listening to Captain & Tennille records.

And I was 10.

So boys take note, the ladies love the musicians. Singers make the "O" face and sway their hips, drummers bang hard. I bet even tuba players get some action. A guitar has the curves and nuances of a woman's body. Play that and we imagine how you'd play us.

In the good way.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hello, I'm...

I once briefly dated a guy who theorized all the ladies love true crime stories and Lifetime TV movies starring Valerie Bertinelli (pre-weight loss) as a woman in peril. The why escapes me now, but probably for the same reason so many read romance novels.

The spectacle of it all.

There’s a show I used to tune into regularly, every Monday-thru-Friday morning on A&E (as a work from home writer, buzz helps the right brain overtake the left). City Confidential told lavish and platitude-ridden* stories of crime and punishment, flooding the screen with images and Paul Winfield narration that wove a larger tale. Words so lush you could smell the green grass and desperation of small towns and touch the pulse of gritty cities.

*Like this gem, “As empty as a high school dropouts afternoon.”

I do something similar when writing this blog, building a story around the food I eat and the people I eat it with. Sharing memories invoked and Seinfeld-like daily observations. Because I’m not chef, or a critic. I didn’t go to culinary school and I most often describe red wine that tickles my palate as simply “plummy and happy to my soul.” 

My name is Jodie and I’m a food memoirist.