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What we ate in Boulder: part 2

Whew! The wedding was this past weekend and now I can finally say that I’m done with cake decorating for a while (I have another one to do in September.) I’ll show you the week-long process I went through to make it next time, but for now let’s wrap up our Boulder vacation with more delicious food!

If you know me, you know that I love Japanese food. Every time we go on vacation I try to find the best sushi restaurant in the area for us to try. This time, I found two that I could not choose between, so we went to both!

First up was Amu Izakaya. An izakaya is a casual restaurant that focuses on sake and beer with an extensive menu of small dishes, few of them being what most people would consider sushi.

Amu Izakaya

We started off with a small bottle of sake which was served to us in this gorgeous earthenware pottery. Now I really want one of these for the house!

Sake at Amu

We ordered lots of small dishes to share, starting with a fluke sashimi and snapper carpaccio in yuzu cream with salmon roe. I’d never had fluke before but loved the clean lemony flavor. The snapper was soft and bright-tasting.

Fluke sashimi at AmuRed snapper carpaccio at Amu

We had two kinds of Pacific oysters, one was Kumamoto but I can’t remember the name of the other. Both were excellent and still chilly on their bed of ice. We also shared some grilled eel with the skin still on. It was fatty and soft and delicious.

Oysters at AmuGrilled eel at Amu

Then our favorites of the night, gindara misoyaki and a green tea soba with duck soup for dipping. Gindara (black cod) is my very favorite fish but I can rarely find it anywhere to prepare at home, so it’s become a treat I just have to have anytime we see it on the menu. This one was fall-apart perfect with it’s little ribbon of crispy skin and thin salty miso glaze.

The duck soup was out of this world with big chunks of duck floating in the rich broth. The soba were cold and springy, chewy and sweet. Easily the best soba dish I’ve ever had.

Black cod misoyaki at AmuDuck soba at Amu

Finally, dessert. I’ve had mochi ice cream once before and didn’t care for it. Apparently I just had a bad one, because these little mochi ice creams were so addictingly good! There was only a thin skin of mochi incasing the creamy, not-too-cold ice cream in flavors of green tea, red bean, and pistachio. The pistachio was the clear winner for both of us.

green tea, sakura blossom, and pistachio mochi ice creams

Amu is the kind of authentic izakaya experience I wish we had in Atlanta. There are a few very good ones in Atlanta, but none as classy and traditional as Amu. Definitely check this one out if you have the chance.

Before I show you yet more Japanese food, here’s a few shots of one of the best lunches we had on the trip at a Latin restaurant called Aji.

duck taquitos, ceviche, and pork empanadas

We decided to share a bunch stuff because there were too many yummy things on the menu to choose from. We had a snapper ceviche with pickled red onions, a pork empanada with a corn masa crust, and duck taquitos with a spicy slaw. All of these were excellent and we had a hard time deciding wether to order something else or just get more of these!

We did eventually decide to split the enchiladas though, and it was definitely the right choice. They were filled with crisp grilled vegetables and topped with the freshest guacamole, salsa, and thin tomatoey enchilada sauce. I could have eaten ten of these if I weren’t so stuffed.

Enchiladas at Aji

And onward to our sushi dinner! We hit up Sushi Tora after reading many reviews claiming that it’s the best sushi in Boulder

We started with the tempura mushrooms that were amazing. There were shiitakes, oyster, and a few enoki mushrooms, all lightly fried and served with bitter green tea for dipping. I could not stop eating them. Usually mushrooms soak up too much oil when fried, but these were still fresh and springy with a deep earthy flavor.

Mushroom tempura with green tea at Tora

We got two snapper nigiri in a yuzu pepper vinaigrette that were outstanding. And any time monkfish liver (ankimo) is on the menu we have to have some. This was a particularly good bit of it too, firm but creamy with a slight peanut butter flavor.

snapper with yuzu at ToraMonkfish liver at Sushi Tora

Various maki rolls that were all really tasty and cut to the correct size. I have a pet peeve about sushi that is prepared too large to be eaten in one bite. Very happy to be able to inhale these as intended. 😉

Maki rolls and yellowtail nigiri at Tora

Jeff got an uni gunkan. I can’t stand the stuff. I used to try it every time we went out for sushi hoping that I just hadn’t had the good stuff yet, but it always makes me gag. Tastes like ice cold runny peanut butter and fish flavored snot if you ask me.

Uni at Tora

And because why not, more mochi ice creams! This time we got blueberry and salted cherry blossom. The blueberry was crazy good, and the cherry blossom tasted mostly like vanilla but with a faint almost rose-like aroma in the back of the throat.

Blueberry and sakura blossom mochi ice creams

Sushi Tora definitely lived up to the hype. So glad we were able to find two excellent Japanese restaurants in Boulder.

Well that wraps up the trip. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves a ton and really liked Boulder, but we didn’t quite fall in love with it the way we did with the Pacific Northwest. I happen to love rainy gloomy weather, so a city like Seattle is actually a good match for me. It’s kinda funny to say that I would miss the rain in such a sunny and beautiful place as Boulder, but that’s just what I like.

Ok! I cannot wait to show you the wedding cake process from last week. I’m still editing the photos from the wedding, but I should be able to show it all to you soon.

If you had to pack up your life and move to another city of your choosing, where would you go?


Seattle: Food! (part 2)

Time to wrap this vacation up!

On the day that we visited Pike Place Market, we stopped into an adorable little hole in the wall Japanese restaurant for lunch. Mmmm…beer and miso soup.

Japanese restaurant near Pike Place

We both wanted big bowls of hot food rather than sushi, so I got an oyakodon and Jeff had pork katsudon. Love those daikon pickles!

Seattle oyakodonSeattle katsudon

That night we were craving Mexican food. Something I noticed about Seattle was that there are a ton of high-end Mexican restaurants. Really cool, something we don’t have too much of in Atlanta. We headed to Barrio to get our margarita fix…

Barrio restaurant SeattleBarrio salsa and guac

This margarita was insane. I got the fresh jalapeno margarita and it was probably the single spiciest thing I’ve ever had! I’ve had jalapeno margaritas before too, but none in the past were as crazy-hot as this one. This was like something you would only drink on a dare, I had a hard time getting through it.

Barrio jalapeno margarita of doom

The food was wonderful. Jeff got some braised chicken tacos with hand-made corn tortillas that were fantastic. I had pork enchiladas with golden raisins and almonds. Really unusual and really good. You could tell that all the sauces were made in house and simmered for a long time.

Barrio chicken tacosBarrio pork enchiladas

I think one of the most fun meals we had was at Anthony’s on the pier. As we were walking along the waterfront towards downtown we were stopped in our tracks by the delicious smell of golden fried fish.

Seattle Anthony's seafood

Now, I almost never eat fried food, so when Jeff suggested we stop I wasn’t really feeling it. I am so glad I shut up and let him choose lunch because it was great! I got the fried clam strips and fries and he got fresh fried cod. It was such a nostalgic type of flavor, reminding me of family vacations to Florida as a kid.

Anthony's clams and cod

The sun was shining bright and the breeze was cool and crisp as we munched on our lunch on the patio by the marina. This little guy was begging hard for scraps!

Seagull at Anthony's

On the way back to the hotel, we passed by a tea shop that looked interesting. I am so glad we stopped in, Jeff was losing his mind over all the walls and walls of teaware! He was like a kid in a candy store, and we did end up picking up a few new pieces for the house.

Vibrancy tea shop Seattle

We also got to enjoy a tea tasting…

Tea tasting in Seattle

I could not believe they were willing to let us sample this 12 year old pu-erh! It was dark and earthy, just how I like it.

Pu-erh tasting in Seattle

Speaking of tea…..we headed to Miro Tea in Ballard that night on the hunt for dessert. This place was so cool, somewhere I could imagine working from and hanging out at all the time. We really wanted to purchase some of the art on the walls but it was pricey.

Miro tea Seattle

This is the greenest most grassy matcha latte I’ve ever had! And we were both swooning over the light-as-air vanilla cheesecake.

Miro matcha latte and vanilla cheesecake

We even came back two days later for breakfast. I had been eyeing this lemon poppyseed butter crepe from the last time we were there. It did not disappoint!

Miro tea pot of teaLemon poppyseed crepe

While in Ballard that evening we were wanting to stop in somewhere for just one drink before catching the bus home. We spotted this bar called Hazelwood that specializes in pre-prohibition era cocktails which I adore. Apparently several bars in Seattle are all about these types of hand-crafted specialty cocktails. I liked that.

Hazelwood bar

I had the fresh ginger bourbon, gingery and boozy! What was only going to be one drink each turned into two. We were having so much fun at Hazelwood listening to the DJs hilarious selection of 90’s classics and dancing it up with the locals in the small space, that we actually missed our bus home…..several times. When we finally cashed out of there we caught the last bus of the evening. Just in time!

Hazelwood fresh ginger bourbon

Little bit fuzzy the next morning. You know what that means… and donuts! The perfect mini-hangover cure.

I got the unglazed old-fashioned this time which was possibly even better than the glazed one. Jeff got a very pillowy chocolate frosted. I was too dehydrated for coffee so I stuck to juice.

Top Pot plain and chocolate frosted

And we headed to lunch almost immediately afterward. We checked out Homegrown, a sandwich shop that specializes in fresh ingredients and a “sustainable” ethic. All of their packaging is recyclable and they even compost! The turkey and avocado sandwich was wonderful. I wish we had a Homegrown in Atlanta, I’d be there all the time.

Homegrown menu boardHomegrown turkey avocado sandwich

And then the dinner I had been looking forward to all week: Umi Sake House.

Outside Umi Sake House

Umi’s sake list is intimidating. We ended up going with a flight of five so that we could try more without spending $$$. We both pretty much agreed on which were our favorites.

Umi sake flight

For an appetizer we got the gindara kasuzuke. Gindara is black cod, a very prized fish in Japanese cuisine. Kasuzuke is a type of curing process done with kasu, which is the rice mash byproduct of making sake. The flavor was so unusual! It was a really special dish, something I’d like to try to make at home sometime if I can get my hands on some kasu.

Umi gindara kasuzuke

And two maki rolls, a super crazy spicy one and one with a creamy scallop salad inside. Both were amazing. I normally don’t like these types of fancy Americanized maki rolls but the fish was just so unbelievably fresh that there was nothing to not like about em’!

Umi spicy rollUmi signature roll with scallop salad

And agedashi tofu, fried tofu in a salty dashi broth with toppings. So good! I loved the grated daikon with it the best.

Umi agedashi tofu

It was hard to choose dessert, I wanted several things on the menu. We settled on a scoop of black sesame ice cream. I was not expecting to get anything this fancy!

OMG it was so good! The caramel sauce had a toasted sesame flavor too. Incredible.

Umi black sesame ice cream

More thai food the next day for lunch, at Thaiku in Ballard. My pad thai was a little weird with raw sugar in it that you had to mix in. Jeff’s basil pork with fried egg was outstanding though. Thaiku had a really interesting cocktail menu that featured a couple of Chinese medicinal herb ingredients. Their bar wasn’t open during lunch though, so we missed out on that one.

Thaiku pad thaiThaiku basil pork with egg

Our last meal in Seattle was at Serious Pie, an upscale pizza joint. We started with these absolutely killer fava bean crostini with crispy guanciale bacon.

Fava bean crostini at Serious Pie

Sorry the picture of this pizza is so blurry, I really wanted to eat it and barely got a shot at all! It was the guanciale and soft egg pizza. Super thin slices of guanciale (I think that’s bacon from the jowl area rather than the belly) and two eggs cracked on top and barely set in the brick oven. Best…pizza…ever. I could just the crust and be blissfully happy.

Guanciale and soft egg at Serious Pie

And dessert. A vanilla panna cotta topped with rhubarb compote and crushed pistachios. Delicious and not too sweet.

Vanilla panna cotta with rhubarb

We were so well fed by Seattle. We didn’t have a single “blah” meal while we were there. I haven’t had so many outstanding meals in a row since Japan.

I’m so glad we chose to spend our anniversary in Seattle. That city is now one of my favorite places in the world (that I’ve seen at least.)

What is the best dish you’ve had in another city and where?


Seattle: Food! (part 1)

The very first night we were in Seattle we trudged sleepily to a bar a few blocks away called Cyclops. That place set the tone for the whole trip.

Cyclops bar Seattle

This is my kind of bar. Funky, friendly, dimly-lit, good music, and good food. I love weird places like this. There were two cases on the wall full of panther statues. WTF?

Cyclops panther collectionCyclops bar topCyclops sweet potato fries

The sweet potato fries with chipotle jalapeno dipping sauce were incredible, as was the beer!

We chatted with a couple of locals for a few hours and were given so many great recommendations for how to spend our trip. We ended up using a couple of their tips and found a lot of fun things that we wouldn’t have otherwise. Everyone in that town is so nice! People seemed genuinely interested in making sure we had a good time.

The next day, when we took a break for lunch during our walk through the Japanese gardens and Arboretum, we headed to a unique little vegetarian restaurant called Cafe Flora.

Cafe Flora restaurant Seattle

Jeff and I were losing our minds over these rosemary biscuits topped with mushroom miso gravy that we shared for an appetizer.

Cafe Flora mushroom miso gravy over biscuits

OMG I cannot wait to recreate this at home! We were scraping every last drop off the plate!

Jeff got an omelet filled with sweet potatoes and beans and topped with a spicy chipotle sauce. It was killer! I got an open-faced brie and baked apple sandwich with pistachio pesto. Crazy good even if it was a little heavy.

Cafe Flora omelet with sweet potatoCafe Flora brie and apple sandwich

If we lived in Seattle, I’d wanna go to Cafe Flora all the time. Their cocktail and dessert menu was calling my name but we had gardens to go see.

That night was to be our anniversary dinner. I got dressed up in my wedding dress and we headed to Shiro’s for what was to be some amazing sushi.

Dressed up to go to Shiro's

We started off with a bottle of sake and some kumamoto oysters. I thought I didn’t like oysters, so when the chef presented us with these, I was a little wary. They were “holy crap” awesome though. I am officially an oyster convert!

Shiro's kumamoto oysters

The chef started cranking out pairings of nigiri starting with two kinds of tuna and a duo of salmon, one with sea salt and one with onion and sweet sauce. The fish was really fresh, you could tell it was caught recently. I loved the salmon pairing, I’d never had it prepared that way and was really surprised.

Shiro's two kinds of tuna nigiriShiro's salmon nigiri two ways

We also had geoduck and scallop, then fresh raw shrimp.

Shiro's geoduck and scallopShiro's ebi nigiri

And where there’s shrimp there are shrimp heads! They chef introduced us to our next course before frying them up right in front of us. I love crunchy shrimp heads!

Shiro's shrimp headsShiro's fried shrimp heads

He talked to us about our honeymoon a bit and let us know that the head chef and owner, Shiro, was from Kyoto. We got to chat with Shiro for a minute about how lovely Kyoto was which was really nice. While we were talking, the chef was busy making this…

Shiro's kyoto-style maki roll

I recognized immediately that this was a very Kyoto-style piece of maki sushi. It had fresh cucumber and shiso on the inside and mackerel covered in a thin slice of daikon with a tiny shiso leaf in between. The ingredients and the level of detail all signified Kyoto-style sushi. I thought it was really cool that he made that special roll when he heard us talking about Kyoto!

Jeff got his wish for incredibly fresh uni. You almost never see it presented nigiri-style like this, the uni has to be of perfect quality to pull it off or it will just look messy. And I’ve never seen octopus presented like this either, kinda creepy but also really pretty.

Shiro's uni nigiriShiro's tako nigiri

It was a fantastic anniversary dinner. We knocked back two bottles of sake and a glass each of shochu too!

The next morning, I could feel the after-effects of all the food and drink we had the night before. This would require caffeine and sugar to cure!

We hit up the famous Top Pot donuts.

Top Pot donuts Seattle

I had already done my research ahead of time to know exactly what I wanted. I got the glazed old-fashioned donut and a latte, Jeff got a huge creme-filled one and regular drip.

Top Pot glazed old fashioned and cream filled

Oh… Easily the best donut I’ve ever had. Perfect texture and the icing was sweet but not too sweet and kind of milky-flavored. Amazing.

That was a pretty meager breakfast though, so we were ready for lunch shortly thereafter. We ducked out of the drizzling rain and into a cute little Thai restaurant.

Jeff poured us some hot tea to warm up.

Jeff pouring tea in Seattle

I got a really tasty green curry with pillowy fried tofu. Perfect food to warm us up from the cold rain.

Green curry in Seattle

That night we ventured to Capitol Hill to a bar and restaurant called Smith. It was an unusual place with old portraits and taxidermy hanging from the walls.

Smith bar Seattle

They specialize in old prohibition-era cocktails. I got a rye manhattan and Jeff had a local red ale. That was a very boozy manhattan, and I was needing food to counteract the buzz.

Smith rye manhattanRed ale at Smith in Seattle

Jeff got a cuban sandwich and I got the charcuterie plate with local honey, spicy mustard, cornichons, buttered marcona almonds, two kinds of cheese, and two cured meats. It was fantastic!

Smith sandwichSmith charcuterie plate

Stay tuned for the last of my Seattle recap….more food!