Friday, October 03, 2008

Pizza: Denver Style

Okay, let's be realistic. There's no such thing as Denver-style pizza. This isn't New York, Chicago, or Naples. I think that's precisely what makes Denver a great town for a true pizza lover, though. If you're in Chicago, you're going to have a tough time finding that crispy crust you crave in a New York-style pizza. If you're in Naples, good luck hunting down a thick, stuffed pie. You're stuck with what that city has to offer, which is great if you're a purist. I'll be the first to admit, I am no pizza purist. A bit of a snob, maybe, in that I only like GOOD pizza (I'll pass on that $5 Little Caesar's crap- I'm never that desperate). If there was only "junk food" pizza on offer, I'd probably give it up for life. I like crust that's misshapen and hand-tossed, toppings with personality, and sauce that would be delicious all by itself. I won't say no if you don't cook it in a wood oven, but that's my preference.

But enough about me.

I was going to do a round-up of the best places in Denver, but I visited a place that made me stop in my tracks. Frankly, after eating Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza, I couldn’t go anywhere else.

Call me a skeptic, but I absolutely did not believe the hype about this place right after it opened. First off, I've never heard of pizza cooked over coal. Second, this place is not in a neighborhood you'd expect to find a decent restaurant. And the reviews were all far too good to be true. I had to get there as soon as possible and see for myself. It's true that Marco's neighbors aren't much to look at- a pawn shop and a bunch of empty buildings- but as soon as you glimpse into the big glass windows, you'll know it's a different world inside. The interior is warm and open, with a big bar and little pots of herbs on each table. Directly to the back are the behemoth ovens used to cook up the pizzas. The menu is split into Neapolitan style pizzas and more traditional "American" styles. I went straight for the Abruzzi Neapolitan-style, a mélange of cheeses. What arrived was simple and utterly fantastic. Every bite was pure joy, from the crispy, smoky crust to the tangy, melty toppings. Marco uses only the finest ingredients, including specially-imported flour. Don’t forget to try the crispy, baked wings either! I could eat this for the rest of my life.

Alright, so I have eaten other pizza in Denver, and man (or woman) cannot live on Marco’s alone (as much as I would love to). Here are some other places worth trying:

The Walnut Room- Everyone recommends the Walnut, but I really like the Mean Green Supreme and Bourbon BBQ also. They also serve cheap PBR, which is a major plus in my book.

Buenos Aires Pizzeria- Don’t confuse this with the much-swankier Buenos Aires restaurant just up the street. Also be sure to supplement the pizza with some of their famous empanadas- yum!

Edgewater Inn- Some people think the Edgewater Inn’s pizza is overhyped, but I love it for its simplicity. It’s good old-fashioned pizza done right, no frills.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cupcakes, Part Deuce

Lovely Confections: I stopped in here after work to pick up some dessert. The shop was clean and looked more "cozy" than the first time I was there. Perhaps it was because there were actually cupcakes in the display case! I will forgive that first time I stopped by when they were all sold out- they hadn't been open long and it was a holiday. The woman working there was very friendly. Everything on display looked gorgeous. There weren't tons of flavor choices, but that's not always a bad thing- you have to know what you do well and just do it. I can respect that. I ended up with one chocolate-chocolate for the boyfriend and one coconut for me. You can tell a lot of love goes into making these things. Mine sparkled with tiny shreds of fresh coconut, while the chocolate was generously sprinkled with bits of chocolate.

All of this aside, we know what's most important in a cupcake and that is flavor. I'm going to have to judge Lovely Confections' cakes in two separate pieces: the cakes and the frosting. Some people are cake purists, some are all about the frosting. Since I fall into the latter category, I really enjoyed my cupcake. There is no skimping on frosting with these babies- it's thick, thick, thick, but not overly sweet. For my cake lovers, you might be a bit disappointed. I found the cake fairly dry and dense without much flavor. Tasting it on it's own, I couldn't discern any particular flavor.

Overall, not a bad choice, but I don't see myself coming here repeatedly.

Pros: Beautifully presented; friendly service; clean shop; good frosting
Cons: Pricey ($3 each); not tons of flavor options; boring cake


I revisited the Shoppe the other night after the Colfax Cruise, and I wasn't in the mood for a cupcake. Say WHA?? It's true. I have been on a cereal kick, so I decided to take advantage of the cereal bar aspect. I ordered a S'mores extravaganza bowl- Golden Grahams, marshmallows, and chocolate chips all served up with a big, cold carafe of organic milk. I am in love. Delicious, sugar-coma love. (BTW, this is big enough for two, easily) Check it out:

Updates a go-go

No, I haven't disappeared off the face of the earth. But, I am trying to build a new site, cause this one is kinda ugly. So, I'll be working on that for you.

I know things have become a bit cupcake-centric around here, and I apologize, but it's going to continue for a little while longer. I have been given lots of suggestions for other places I have to try, so I'm in the process of trying them. These are going to be Lovely Confections, Tee & Cakes in Boulder, and Mulberries. Watch for those updates SOON! That's all for now, and thanks to those of you who have been emailing me and paying attention.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Denver Cupcakes

As much as I love Denver, when it comes to the cupcake revolution, we are a bit behind. Institutions such as the Magnolia Bakery in New York City have been around since the mid-90's. I hadn't given much thought to it until I took a trip to Seattle last year. While waiting for a table at the amazing Mashiko Sushi Bar, we wandered the neighborhood and ran across Cupcake Royale. All of their little cakes looked like works of art. We agreed to stop by after eating and get some to go. Unfortunately, dinner took longer than expected and Cupcake Royale was closed when we left. We never made it back, but the cupcakes came up again and again.

Why didn't we have anything like this in Colorado? Sure, there are bakeries that sell cupcakes, but I wanted a pure cupcake bakery. I decided that for my boyfriend's birthday this year, I was going on a mission. A mission to find some delicious cupcakes. Something not made as an afterthought, but as the main purpose of the bakery. I began asking around in October, and nobody could give me much information. Just as I was starting to give up, I browsed the latest edition of the Urban Eye email that had popped up in my inbox. Standing out amongst the ads for lofts and art shows was a Grand Opening announcement for Yum Yums Delights. Somebody heard my cries.

Yum Yums Delights is an adorable little shop in the Denver Pavilions. Owners Tara and Heather were incredibly helpful and friendly from my initial phone inquiry to when I picked up the drool-inducing Chocolate Dutchess dozen I had ordered. The chocolate-on-chocolate cakes were perfect. They stayed moist during their 3-day life span, and the frosting was light, fluffy and not too overwhelming. I give this place thumbs up for their convenient downtown location, being open until 8 pm on weeknighs, superb customer service and of course, wonderful cupcakes in many different flavors. Cupcakes run about $2.50 each.

The next cupcake shop to open was Happy Cakes, in the Highlands neighborhood. I drove by a few times to find them closed. The hours seemed erratic, so I gave up for awhile. Eventually, we were driving by on a Sunday and noticed they were open. Parking was convenient, with a small lot next door. The building is cute and the location is, of course, uber-trendy. We walked in to be greeted not by a "hello" but by a bit of a scowl on the face of the woman behind the counter. I almost expected to be told they weren't really open and just forgot to lock the door. But, no, we just got a quick hi finally in return to our own. The cupcakes looked jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Their decorations are really top-notch. I would have loved to have perused them longer, but the stare-down from the afore-mentioned woman began to make us nervous. I ordered a peppermint chocolate and a gingerbread. To go, as you can imagine. The gingerbread was tasty, but I found the cake too dense and the frosting completely overwhelming. It was so sweet I scraped some off, and I LOVE frosting. The peppermint chocolate was better, and I would have that one again. Happy Cakes is for the Highlands crowd. The same snotty service you get in every business in the neighborhood, with mediocre returns on your money. I would only go back in a pinch. Cupcakes were also about $2.50.

This weekend, a third cupcake bakery was bestowed upon Denver. The Shoppe is a far cry from both Yum Yums and Happy Cakes. First of all, this is not just a cupcake shop, but also a cereal bar. Which is awesome. Yes, you can order a big bowl of cereal here, with all sorts of toppings, if cupcakes aren't your thing. If you get tired of eating, browse the graphic design books and cute gifts. Or maybe show up on a Saturday night for some DIY crafting using the provided button maker. Located on East Colfax near the Bluebird Theater, these are cupcakes for the hipster-artist in you. The bright white room is reminiscent of a studio more than a restaurant or bakery. One of their specialty cupcakes is the Munny surprise, complete with a Munny zipper pull baked inside. I opted for a simple chocolate with cream cheese frosting. It was moist and the frosting was wonderful. A big mug of cold milk was the perfect side. Service was very friendly and it's a good place to people watch. You might feel a little out of place here if you're over 30, but it wouldn't stop me from getting my hands on the tasty vittles. Best thing about the shop is that it's open until 2:30 am on the weekends. Cupcake prices run from $1.25 to $3.50.

I want to thank the Cupcakes Take the Cake blog for being so awesome and up-to-date about all things cupcake, and Brandon for the pictures (top- cupcake from the Shoppe, middle- me enjoying said cupcake).