Tuesday, August 20, 2013

food trucks + sriracha-spiked street corn

I'm slightly obsessed with food trucks, so it's no surprise that I'm a huge fan of Civic Center Eats. From June 4th through September 26th, two rows of food trucks serve up wonderful and flavorful dishes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. -2 p.m.

Some of the trucks have brick & mortar stores in addition to their truck(s), but some of the businesses are truck-only. And I have to tell you that I really admire the people who run these mobile restaurants. They are hard working and they operate under some pretty hot conditions...yet they always serve up great food with a smile.

I have a soft spot for the trucks, in part because I used to cook under some pretty sweltering conditions too and I would chop and sauté in a teeny-tiny galley kitchen. If you've ever lived in NYC, you know what I'm talking about- cooking quarters are often less than ample when it comes to space. I feel like there's a kindred spirit between me and these mobile chefs...and maybe, secretly, if I didn't already have a career and two boys who require lots of care and attention I would open my own food truck. Except that I'm not a chef. And I get claustrophobic at times. So I guess it's a good thing that there are lots of great chefs doing great work...

These photos were taken over the course of this summer, and while I never know what I'm going to eat for lunch, one thing is a constant. At 2 p.m., when the trucks start packing up, Theodore always insists that we stay until the very last truck has left and he's waved goodbye to everyone. And then he holds his brother's hand and leads him to the fountain at the other end of the park...

What I ate this summer...so far (there are many more trucks to try): 
Arepas: Quiero Arepas makes a Venezuelan-inspired dish by stuffing corn flatbreads. I got the hongo last week (sautéed mushroom, onion, garlic and tomato with cheese) but the domino (seasoned black bean and cheese) and the vegan option (seasoned black beans, avocado and plantains) are delicious too. 
Southwestern: Crock Spot made a delicious southwestern black bean medley over couscous with chimichurri sauce.  
Pops: Aiko Pop's Strawberry Balsamic. Oh it's good and next time I'll order two since Theodore ate most of mine. It's a great way to beat the heat.
Tacos: Pinche Taco's vegetarian options are super tasty and include hongo (mushroom) and queso al la plancha (grilled cotija, avocado, tomatillo salsa and lime).  
Ice Cream: Sweet Cow's Cookies and Cream. Heavenly.
Vietnamese: Manna From Heaven's vegetarian banh mi sandwich is wonderful. 
Panna Cotta: The Panna Cotta Peddler (on bike). The Palisade Peaches and Cream was sold out (next time!) but the dark chocolate with sea salt was mighty fine. 
Vegan: Vegan Van's Planet Rock-toffufalo wings (spicy) with ranch celery-slaw on a roll. Hit the spot! The ludacris is great too. 
Drinks: Green Giraffe has great teas and smoothies.
Cupcakes: Denver Cupcake Truck is one of my favorites. I got the pistachio and Mile Mocha High. 
Pizza: Fat Sully's- one of the best cheese slices in Denver. 

* * *

Sriracha-Spiked Street Corn 
(or Grilled Corn with Sriracha + Cilantro + Lime)
Barely adapted from Camille Styles

This corn reminds me of an elote (Mexican corn on the cob/street food), except that here the heat comes from Thai Sriracha (which is also served as a condiment for Vietnamese pho) and not adobe/chili powder. There isn't any crumbled cotija cheese, but it might be something to consider in the future! 

4 ears of corn, shucked and split in half to form 8 pieces
extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup mayonnaise (I prefer classic Hellmann’s)
1 overflowing tablespoon sriracha sauce
a bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
a couple tablespoons chili powder (I made the corn twice, once with and once without chili powder. When I made it without powder, I used a bit more sriracha.)
3 limes, each cut into 6 slices
course flake salt, like Maldon

In a small plate, pour a bit of olive oil and roll the corn in it to evenly coat. Sprinkle all over with garlic salt.
Heat a grill to high heat, and grill the corn until slightly charred, about 5 minutes. Turn every few minutes to cook on all sides.
Then combine and whisk the mayonnaise, sriracha and a squeeze of lime juice in a small bowl.
When the corn comes off the grill, slather it with the mayonnaise mixture, then sprinkle with cilantro, chili powder (if using) and some coarse salt. Serve with a few slices of lime on the side.
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Sunday, August 11, 2013

hiking mondays: aspen

I was around 14 years old when I heard someone mention Aspen for the first time. Some of my high school classmates vacationed and skied there annually over winter break, so I pretty much lumped Aspen, Vail and Telluride together as ski-towns on the other side of the country (I know, what a typical east coaster). I was never really that into winter sports, but on the rare occasion that my parents did take us skiing we went to the Catskills and usually Hunter mountain- which, as it turns out, is also where my great-grandparents vacationed during the summer months. 

It wasn't until a few years ago that Aspen starting coming up in conversation...basically me telling my husband, "When we move to Colorado we should *totally* go to the Food & Wine classic in Aspen." He nodded in agreement and we both though it sounded like a good idea. But after we moved here and I started doing a bit of investigative work, I discovered that the tickets were about $1200 per person, not including hotel. So we decided to shelve that idea for the time being...

Then I saw photos of Maroon Bells, a spectacular glacial valley in Aspen that is flanked by two 14,000 foot peaks and known for its magnificent scenery and wildlife. I knew we had to go. And so we went...
On the way to the trailhead we saw a grouse and a few beavers.  We heard a rumor that there was a moose and her young calf eating somewhere along the river, but we didn't meet their acquaintance. We did, however, stumble upon a black bear who made my heart pound a bit faster as I prefer viewing wildlife from a (far) distance. There were beaver dams, aspen groves and wildflowers galore. The lake's colors shifted constantly but it was always pristine and clear. I really can not wait to go back in the fall...
We left Aspen and decided to travel back to Denver via the Independence Pass, which is opened seasonally for about 2-3 months out of the year. On the way up to the continental divide we passed a ghost town, a relic from the time when silver mining ruled the area.

Not everyone liked the whipping winds over the continental divide (look closely, you can also see where the tree line ends).

This and That
Getting there: I-70 through the canyons, then follow directions from Glenwood Springs.
Going back: Independence Pass. The drive is gorgeous but note that the road is only open a few months out of the year and will closed once the first snow arrives. You go high above the tree line (and some times the cloud line) as you pass over the continental divide. 
To Maroon Bells: We caught the Castle/Bells bus (free) at the depot on Durant Avenue. It goes to Aspen Highlands and from there you take a designated shuttle to  Maroon Bells ($6 adults, children free). You can't drive your car into Maroon Bells after 9 a.m. or before 5 p.m. due to conservation/environmental efforts. The shuttle includes a guided tour that is incredibly informative and covers the region's history, development and wildlife.
Difficulty: Easy around the lake. Would love to hike to Crater Lake, but that is further out...
Eats: We had brunch at Poppycocks Cafe. The macadamia pancakes were delicious. Other recommendations include the oatmeal pancake. 
Overnight Accommodations: We Pricelined a hotel in Snowmass and got a great deal for the Wildwood hotel. 
An Aspen Guide you might find helpful.  Follow Me on Pinterest