DaLat

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After a failed attempt to have a late lunch or early dinner at Lao Wang Noodle House (“Come back Wednesday.” — Apparently they close earlier on Sundays than Yelp indicated. Reminder: never put too much trust in Yelp.), we ended up at a place we know would welcome us with spectacular service and delicious cuisine: DaLat Vietnamese Cuisine.

We first tried DaLat several months ago, after Eater alerted me to its existence with their list of “Denver’s Hottest Ethnic Restaurants.” And yet, despite this press, we were the only people in the restaurant during both visits. People of Denver, where are you? You are missing out! DaLat is some of the best Southeast Asian food I’ve had outside of Southeast Asia. And the ambiance is great; casual and warm. They make you feel very welcome there. Even when your toddler is dropping noodles on the floor.

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Their menu is extensive, so it’s hard to know if you’re ordering the “right thing,” but everything that comes out of the kitchen has explosive and complex flavors that perfectly complement whatever other ingredients are in the dish. Both times we ordered the Chicken Salad, which is essentially Larb, and a perfect starter. Today Dan felt a bit adventurous, ordering the Goat Curry special. I was skeptical, but was undeniably proven wrong. It was unbelievable. Hearty; with the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and spicy. It was served with rice but also had rice noodles mixed in the curry, which added a nice thickness to the sauce.

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I enjoyed the Tofu Noodle Bowl, which could have been a bit more spicy (the Siracha was missing from our table and I didn’t realize it was on others), but the tofu was well-seasoned with lemongrass and the ratio of vegetables to noodles was perfect. And the Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk hit the spot, obviously. But if you’re not there midday like we were, I highly recommend a “33” beer. Whatever you order, I’m pretty convinced you can’t go wrong. They know what they’re doing at DaLat.

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oktoberfest

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On Saturday afternoon, we hit up Local 46 for their first annual Oktoberfest. Who doesn’t like an Oktoberfest celebration? I can be a naysayer about many things, but even I can’t find anything wrong with celebrating the coming of fall with beer and brats, friends and music.

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We got there around 5:15pm, and the festivities were in full swing. There were kids everywhere. It was most definitely a “family-friendly” event, but there were several childless groups as well. The event was to benefit Centennial Elementary, so it was great to see so many local kids running around. So much great energy!

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Local 46 was serving a variety of superb fall beers, including some from Prost Brewing, a Denver microbrewery that specializes in German beers. I first tried their flagship beer, a German Pilsner, which was very drinkable and perfect for a late summer afternoon. I have to try some of their other beers at some point – looks like they have lots of good ones. To go along with the beer, they were serving Continental Sausages — we tried an elk sausage and a smoked sausage. Both were delicious, but the buns they were served on were not. Why is it, when serving food, someone decides to take a great item and put it together with a mediocre one? Not smart. But minus the buns, they were quite enjoyable.

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Willa’s favorite part of the event was the bocce court. She kept making her way over there, even if there was a game going on. And I couldn’t believe how well she lifted up those bocce balls. She’s getting strong. Someday we’ll play bocce together for real. But in the meantime, we did some dancing and work on her jumping. She’s determined to get her feet off the ground, but hasn’t had any success yet.

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If you missed Oktoberfest, just go check out Local 46’s biergarten when you have a chance. It’s a fantastic outdoor space for lounging, laughing, and enjoying a beer with family or friends.

Lastly but not least, I want to wish my Dad a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! A post about Oktoberfest is not not fitting, so I am dedicating this one to him. Love you, Dad! Cheers!

the best tortillas + chorizo seitan = great tacos

Since moving to Denver, I’ve been cooking a lot more Mexican food. For awhile, I wasn’t sure why. Is it the abundant sunshine making me crave guacamole? Or the closer geographic proximity? While those are both good guesses, they’re not the answer. The real reason is that shortly after moving here, I happened upon the best tortillas ever: La Tortilla Factory’s “Hand Made Style Corn Tortillas.”

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The packaging tells consumers that they’re made from “a unique blend of corn and wheat” and that they’re “soft, flexible, & whole grain.” They’re not lying. They are super flexible. They don’t break when you roll an enchilada. And they don’t dry out over time (make sure to store them in the cupboard, though, not the fridge). They’re relatively healthy. But most importantly, they’re delicious. They come in two sizes, and four varieties: white corn, yellow corn, green chile, and chipotle. All good.

The other night I took these tortillas’ goodness to an even higher level. I charred them over an open burner before serving them as soft tacos. I’d never done that before. It was exciting. It felt very adventurous on a Monday night; smoking tortillas over an open flame. If you haven’t done it before, you should try it.

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Combined with some fancy Upton’s chorizo seitan I’d picked up at Whole Foods, these tacos were memorable. The main component (aside from the tortillas) was eggs, but I refuse to call them breakfast tacos. First of all, we ate them for dinner. Second of all, who says eggs have to be a breakfast item? That’s just narrow-minded. So yes, these are egg tacos, but eat them anytime of day. They’d be great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or perhaps best as a midnight snack. Either way, make sure to use great tortillas and char them up!

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Egg + Chorizo Seitan Tacos
You can certainly use regular chorizo instead of chorizo seitan. I’m sure that would be equally (if not more?) delicious. But less healthy, let’s be honest. Also, I did steps 4 + 5 simultaneously, but it was a bit touch and go at moments with the tortilla charring. If you’d prefer to play it safe, you might want focus your attention on each individual step. 

2-4 tortillas
5 eggs
4oz chorizo seitan, crumbled
4oz mushrooms, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 avocado, cut into bite-sized chunks
feta or goat cheese
cilantro, roughly chopped
hot sauce
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees, for keeping ingredients warm until serving.
2. In a non-stick pan, sauté the mushrooms and onion in a dash of olive oil until softened. Place in heat proof bowl and keep warm in the oven.
3. In the same pan, sauté the chorizo until lightly browned. Place in bowl and keep in oven.
4. Prep tortillas: place each tortilla on a burner and char for 1-2 minutes per side. (I kept my burner at medium-low, and it worked pretty well. Meaning, I got charring but did not light anything on fire.) Wrap tortillas in a clean dishtowel to keep warm and soft.
5. Scramble eggs. Add some chopped cilantro when the eggs are nearly done. Move to bowl and keep warm in oven.
6. Take everything to the table and make your tacos! To the amazing tortillas, add egg, veggies, chorizo seitan, avocado  cilantro, feta, and hot sauce.

// Serves 2.5

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downpours coffee + black sheep bagel and bialy

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“Nanobatches.” That was my new word for the weekend.

On Sunday morning, it seemed the rain had subsided, so we ventured out for coffee and breakfast. We’d heard the relatively new Downpours Coffee not only had decent coffee but also carried local bagels. Turns out, not only are the Black Sheep Bagels local, but, according to the woman at Downpours, they’re baked in “nanobatches” during the night and then delivered fresh to a few coffee shops each morning.

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I like nanobatches. Nanobatch-baked bagels are good. Really good. Dan tried an everything bagel and I had cinnamon raisin. Which had golden raisins baked into it. Yep, the expensive raisins.

We both tried almond milk lattes because Downpours makes their own almond milk. I can’t stand store-bought almond milk in my coffee. The two combined the two react to make a very odd taste, typically. But this almond milk was different. It went well with espresso. Must be made in nanobatches.

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Conclusions: Downpours Coffee and Black Sheep Bagel and Bialy are both exceptionally good.

One complaint: they gave me Philadelphia cream cheese with my bagel. Call me crazy, but I just don’t think that’s quite artisan enough for a nanobatch-baked bagel.

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Read more about Black Sheep Bagel and Bialy here.

yellow stools by DIY rookies

Several months ago, Dan suggested we add a pop of yellow to our future kitchen. We knew we’d need some color, since we’d picked white cabinets and “raven” caesarstone counters set against light grey walls. Yellow stools for the counter seemed like a good way to go.

We were also inspired by our favorite restaurant in Seattle, the Walrus and the Carpenter, which sports pretty much the best interior decor ever, as far as we–and many critics–are concerned. Throughout the restaurant, they have yellow and white stools pulled up to marble hightops. Add a little oyster bar flair to our Denver kitchen? One could try at least, right?

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Once somewhat settled into our new house, we began the hunt for the yellow bar stools pictured in our heads. But, sadly, we couldn’t really find what we were looking for. All the new stools we found were either too expensive or backless. (Have you sat for long periods of time in a backless stool? For two years we had dinners at a high black table with saddle stools and my back still hasn’t forgiven me.) And the cool vintage ones were being sold as only a single stool or a pair, which wouldn’t do since we needed at least four.

Finally, more searching and pondering led me to this post, from one of my favorite home design blogs, Young House Love. The ultimate DIY-ers, they’d found cheap stools with just the industrial vibe were were wanting. They painted theirs teal, but they’d considered yellow, so it seemed like a reasonable endeavor. We could follow their instructions and have just yellow stools we wanted. Hurray!

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Fourteen cans of spray paint and who knows how many trips to Lowe’s later, we did. Yep. That’s right. Fourteen cans. It was “supposed” to take three. I will forever be indebted to my husband for his commitment to late-night spray painting.

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Here’s the main thing we learned: don’t be a copycat. It’s not cool, and it doesn’t work. Use your own brain. More specifically: to spray paint something yellow, you need to use white primer. Grey might work fine if you’re going for teal, but it’s quite hard to cover up when you’re using yellow. Therein lies the “use your brain” lesson. Whoops.

But I’m choosing not to dwell too much on the process. Instead, I’m enjoying the final product. I am, in fact, sitting on a yellow stool as I type this. And the back on it is glorious. No back pain for me. Now all I need is some oysters. Or steak tartare. Or lentil and smoked trout salad. Oh, Walrus…

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fifteen months

Willa is 15 months old today.

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Her vocabulary is growing everyday, and currently includes: “dog,” “hi,” “bye bye,” “dada,” “up,” “duck,” and sometimes “mama.”

Her walking is getting faster and faster. She’ll be running soon.

She just recently got over her fear of the bath and now loves playing in water. This week she discovered rain puddles. She thinks stomping in them is pretty great.

She loves making new friends. She often walks up to strangers, stands a few feet away, and just stares until they acknowledge her.

Her eating is a bit erratic, but she most enjoys milk, hummus, avocado, berries, banana, and pears.

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She gives a mean “high five.”

Her listening comprehension is beyond what we expect sometimes. As soon as you mention going somewhere, she goes to get her shoes and walks to the door.

Sometimes, when I pick her up, she’ll put her head on my shoulder to hug/snuggle (finally!).

She loves reading the book “Pat the Bunny” and waving “bye-bye” at the end.

When she senses it’s mealtime, she runs over to her highchair, reaches her arms up high, and says “up!”

She’s starting to get the hang of one nap, but still gets pretty sleepy right before lunch.

She loves taking heavy items for rides on her Fischer Price bus.

When we walk places, she likes to hold someone’s hand. She’s usually good about walking where we’re going, but she sometimes gets excited to be independent and explore on her own.

She’s just starting to give kisses.

She is completely obsessed with dogs. Obsessed.

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This age is really fun.

weekend waffles

I’m a stickler about family breakfast on the weekends. I sometimes take it a little too far with my emotional attachment to consuming coffee and food as a group. But I think it’s fair: on most weekdays, Dan and I get up at different times and breakfast is eaten in a more utilitarian fashion. It’s true, I now have a little buddy to keep me company, so I technically get to have group breakfast most mornings during the week, but I still insist on it on at least once over the weekend.

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This morning, I had to make waffles. I love waffles. I have probably 20 fantastic waffle recipes stashed away on Pinterest. But the urgency this morning was because, as you may also have seen, several awesome food bloggers recently threw a virtual baby shower for Melissa of The Faux Martha. They all posted recipes for waffles on the same day, based on Melissa’s Whole Wheat Waffles recipe. It was too much goodness to take!

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Just my luck, I didn’t have all the ingredients for any of the waffle recipes. Blargh. But waffles would still be had. I combined a few recipes to come up with my own version of Melissa’s waffles. And you know what? They were quite good. Definitely a keeper. So I am writing down the propotions, that way I can force these on my family again for a mandated weekend breakfast.

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Weekend Whole Wheat Waffles
makes ~6 waffles, good for 2-4 people

1/2c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2c whole wheat flour
1/2c white flour
2t baking powder
2T sugar
2T ground flax seed
1/2t sea salt
1c buttermilk
3/4c whole milk
1/3c melted coconut oil
1 egg
1t almond extract
chopped fruit, maple syrup, and butter for serving

1. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
2. Whisk together milk, coconut oil, egg, and almond extract in a measuring cup.
3. Pour liquid over the dry mixture and stir with a fork just until combined.
4. Preheat waffle maker to desired setting (higher for a crispier outside, lower if you like a softer waffle). Brush with oil if necessary.
5. Pour approximately 1/2c batter onto waffle iron and cook as desired. Keep waffles warm in oven at 200 degrees, but be sure to put them directly on the racks. If you stack them on a plate they’ll get soggy!
6. Enjoy all together at the table with fruit, maple syrup, butter, and coffee.

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