Dear Philadelphia, you lose. With love Stueben’s of Denver

Stueben's of Denver

Stueben's of Denver

Philadelphia is a city I love.  There is amazing food like soft pretzels and some great NYC styled pizza shops.  Until today I prized one little store that I am obsessed with for the famous Philly Cheesteak.  Unfortunately for them, from now on when I think of cheessteaks, only one place will come to mind, Stueben’s in Denver Colorado.  (This is one of the places that you could see on Diners, Drive ins and Dives).

Stueben’s is a little dinner styled restaurant with a fabulous bar full of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits for the drinks.  A great look and extremely friendly staff and more importantly, creative and intelligent food at very reasonable prices.  I did find it disappointing that what was recommended to me was a cheesesteak when I asked for the most popular or famous dish, especially when there are so many creative things on the menu, but this cheesesteak put all others to shame.   So here was my meal and here is my own variation on one incredible side that you have to try if you are ever at Stueben’s in Denver Colorado.

Stueben's Moscow Mule

Stueben's Moscow Mule

I sat down at the bar and you are immediately drawn to the ambiance of this dinner.  It has a classic 1970’s diner feel with a modern and country western styled twist.  I knew that I instantly had to try a drink and the only thing that would work is their world famous Moscow Mule in a tin or brass cup.  I don’t normally like ginger beer or some of the other ingredients, but on a hot Denver day, this drink is light, thirst quenching and perfect.  As I was enjoying this delicious drink, the bartender came over and helped me pick out some food.  I ended up with the cheesesteak with everything on it and a side of crispy brusslesprouts. The cheesesteak was amazing like I said, but the real winner were these amazing, salty and crispy baby cabbages flash fried to perfection.

Stueben's Crispy Brusselsprouts

Stueben's Crispy Brusselsprouts

Not only were they great on their own because of the salt they sprinkled on them, but when paired with a red pepper aoili, you absolutely cannot go wrong.  The problem with me eating out though is that I always want to steal the recipe and make it my own.  So as I am going crazy over these delicious crispy brusselsprouts, I instantly came up with my own variations.  Here is the Stueban’s of Denver recipe and how I would change it.

Take the brusselsprouts and flash fry them at 350 degrees in canola oil for 3o seconds.  Then sprinkle or throw them through some salt and serve.  It’s actually just that simple.  The problem for me is that I love something a little bit more, so here is how I would and will be doing it when I get home.

Take the brusselsprouts and flash fry them for 30 seconds with slab bacon chopped into cubes.  Then take it and sprinkle a little bit of coarse grain sea salt over them.  Now, instead of creating a red pepper aioli sause for dipping, I am thinking honey mixed with a little bit of a hot pepper, ancho chile or cayanne would be perfect, and also a bit of apricot preserves.  If you melt them all together you should get a spicey and sweet apricot dipping sauce that would completely taste amazing along side the salty, crispy bacon brusselsprouts.

Stueben's Denver

Stueben's Denver

Stueben's Denver Bar

Stueben's Denver Bar

Stueben’s of Denver Colorado is a must see and must eat if you are ever in Denver.  I highly recommend it!

If Bob Marley had a flavor

Ever wonder what the Reggae king would taste like? Ask for a Bob Marley the next time you’re near a well stocked liquor stash and you might find out. This stack of drinks was made in Nigril, Jamaica and was unexpectedly potent. There are a number of recipes you can find online, but none of them seem to have this combination of flavors, fruity and minty all at once.

Bob Marley shot

Bob Marley shot photo by Jen Goode

There are two versions, the safe and friendly and the pass out quickly… according to my sources anyway. Both start off with a layer of grenadine, then add banana liquor and top with a mint liquor. The more potent version has an added layer of Sambucca (or some other licorice liquor) which is hardly recognizable until the floor begins to spin. I’m no light weight, yet I found this shot to be both delicious and deadly.

Just remember, don’t over do it when you party with Bob.

Nuts and Berries

While in NYC in the middle of August for a tradeshow, a group of friends and I frequented a local pub called the “Old Castle”. It’s your average bar that stays open late with a decent bartender, a couple of tvs tuned to various sporting events, and a handful of regulars. Well, we’re all a bunch of functioning alcoholics when we go to these sorts of tradeshows, so I’m sure we completely blew their monthly sales projections to smithereens.

The second night we were there, the call went up for shots and this little glass of deliciousness was what the barkeep served up.

Nuts & Berries Shot

Nuts & Berries

1/2 oz Frangelico® hazelnut liqueur
1/2 oz Chambord® raspberry liqueur
1/2 oz cream

Pour alcohols into a stainless steel shaker over ice, and shake until completely cold. Strain into a chilled shot glass, slowly pour cream over the back of a spoon to top.

Sipping Cider, Magners Irish Cider

Magners Irish Cider

Magners Irish Cider (Yum-o!)

In the fall of the year, I always think back to harvest time as a child. Working to bring in a crop in the final heat of summer and the first cool of autumn always bring me good thoughts. I seem to recall being very thirsty at the time, too.

I opened a pint bottle of Magners Irish Cider the other day to give it a try. It came with a classy piece of glassware to drink it in, too, and I don’t mean the bottle. Magners is the same as Bulmers Cider, found in the Republic of Ireland, and both are manufactured by Bulmers Ltd. So, if you have tried one, then the other should be a familiar friend.

With the perfect glass to use, all I needed was a little ice and to pour. The cider bubbled out into the glass with a pink, peachy color that was very different from what you might expect from ordinary apple juice. The taste reminded me very much of a light blush wine, easy to sip and enjoy or take the edge off on a hot day. I suppose this isn’t surprising when you realize the production process is similar in ways to the production of wine.

Magners cider is not a pasteurized product. Instead, after the cider has matured in oak vast for a several months, it goes through several filtering processes, blending, and carbonating. The majority of apples, all 17 varieties used, are grown in the Magners’ Orchards in Clonmel with more apples coming from the Republic of Ireland and a substantial portion of Northern Ireland’s crop.

Although it is a ‘hard’ cider, the alcohol content is not overwhelming. If anything, it seemed quite light but past experience with ciders reminds me that they can hit harder than you might think. In other words, even though the cider lacks the bitter, hoppy flavor of a strong ale this delicious fruity drink can still kick your butt if you aren’t paying attention.

Not a big beer drinker? Give it a try. Enjoy fruity wines? You’d like this, too. Cheers!

Hail Caesar!

Celebrating 40 years of the Caesar Cocktail (source: Calgary Herald)


Despite my best efforts, Calgary really isn’t known as a cocktail-enabled city.  Sure, we got the same influx of variable-tinis that every other place in North America got a few years ago, but beyond the 18 year olds thinking they’re sophisticated drinking a concotion of ingredients more suited to a kool-aid pitcher than a martini glass, we’re far more oriented along a beer-axis.

The exception to this is the Caesar cocktail, a drink few outside of Canada know about, that was invented here in Calgary 40 years agot.  Sort of a bastard relation to the Bloody Mary, the drink differs from the rather staid Mary by subbing out the tomato juice for clamato… a clam and tomato juice concoction.

Stop screaming and running away. You’ve had that combination in pasta sauces, I’m sure. Sit back down, and let’s continue.

The traditional caesar recipe is stated somewhat as the article above. The actual recipe is a little short on detail,  so let us do this up with a little more description:

  • Rim an appropriate glass with celery salt, add ice.
  • 1 ounce vodka (though you’ll be hard pressed to find a bartender in this town that limits it to a measly one ounce)
  • 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes tabasco sauce
  • A little salt, a little pepper (this is really to taste. Everyone I’ve ever seen does it differently. Personally I add a little extra celery salt to the drink itself.
  • Top the glass up with clamato juice (I do know people who still make their own clam/tomato infusion for caesars, and it is glorious)
  • Add a celery stick for garnish.

Simple, tasty, good in winter or summer.

The trick, of course, is in the modifications. I am a fan of spicy food, and a spicy drink is no exception.  The addition of some ground horseradish can do wonders for this sort of drink, for instance. For the brave, the substitution of any of those “5 alarm XXX Holy #@!&^!” hot sauces can really turn the experience into something exciting (or suicidal, depending on your viewpoint). I’ve had some success with the really spicy versions by allowing some whole peppercorns to be steeped in the clamato for  awhile. Personally, though, I have found some of the most enjoyable modifications to be with the garnish.

After all, celery is boring.

Might I suggest, if you are going to make this delicious Calgary Cocktail, the addition of some spicy pickled string beans? Or a stalk of pickled asparagus? Not only does it make the drink look different, but the addition of a bit of pickle can really bring out an interesting addition to the flavour. I’ve seen green olives adorning such a drink to excellent results as well. One place I’ve known, did a garnish with banana peppers to similar effect.

In the end, no matter what you make for an addition, I recommend the Caesar at any party. They’re easy to make en masse, and few people in my experience seem to turn them down. The masses will vote you a triumph for your addition to the party!

Just remember, “memento mori”… thou art mortal. Try not to have too many of these in one sitting, and always enjoy responsibly.