Some of the best flavors come from the simplest of recipes and this is one of them.  Last week I shared the delicious Pan-Seared Tuna with Avocado, Soy, Ginger, & Lime Sauce.  Today, I am sharing the side dish that I made with that…a super easy Asian Cucumber Salad compliments of the Food Network. The only change I made is that I used a ginger paste (found in the produce section in your grocery store) instead of the pickled ginger and I actually mixed that in with the sauce.  It was amazing!

Asian Cucumber Salad from the Food Network
Asian Cucumber Salad from the Food Network

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Ginger Paste
  • 1 pd English Cucumbers, thinly sliced (the thinner the better)
  • 2 Scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 Cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Red Jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds

Directions

Mix rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, kosher salt, and ginger paste in a medium bowl.
Creating a tangy Asian sauce
Creating a tangy Asian sauce
Toss with sliced cucumbers, scallions, cilantro, red jalapeno and sesame seeds.
Cucumbers are added in with the sauce and it's time to marinate!
Cucumbers are added in with the sauce and it’s time to marinate!
Allow to chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour and serve!
The perfect side dish!
The perfect side dish!
Look how pretty that looks with the tuna dish!
Look how pretty that looks with the tuna dish!
Bottom Line:  This is the perfect side dish when you are craving something light on the side.  It goes well with everything from Asian cuisine to outdoor BBQ’s!  Try it out in your kitchen!  I am Chef Frankie…Always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with wild abandonment!

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/asian-cucumber-salad.html#!?oc=linkback

Yesterday, I awoke to the most beautiful fall day in East Tennessee and decided that dinner tonight needed to be just as picturesque and natural.  So, with that in mind, I called my favorite place in Knoxville to get the freshest fish in town (The Shrimp Dock),  to inquire if they had “sashimi grade” tuna.  A friendly voice told me yes and I headed off to pick it up.  Upon arriving, I saw the most beautiful tuna I had seen in a long time and was greeted by the same friendly voice I had heard on the phone.  He instantly knew it had been me by my accent and we had quite a laugh over the beauty of the southern dialect .  Although I love going to the Shrimp Dock, he made my visit extra special!  Thank you!
The Shrimp Dock in Farragut
The Shrimp Dock in Farragut
 I couldn’t wait to get home to get started on a new recipe I had seen by Tyler Florence.  I love tuna but often it comes out dry when you attempt it at home but this recipe seemed clean and simple.  It is imperative that a good piece of tuna not be overcooked, but served rare and just seared enough to give a light char on the outside.  Another appealing ingredient that leaped out at me was the use of fresh avocados…combine that with soy, ginger, and lime, you have fresh flavors at its best!  I served it with an Asian Cucumber Salad (I will share that easy recipe in a future blog) and some Jasmine Rice and Shrimp Dumplings.  It was a perfect dinner to eat outside under the stars with a glass of wine!
Pan-Seared Tuna with Avocado Soy, Ginger, and Lime...a Tyler Florence recipe
Pan-Seared Tuna with Avocado Soy, Ginger, and Lime…a Tyler Florence recipe
Ingredients
2 big handfuls fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno, sliced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, grated
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Pinch sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (6-ounce) block sushi-quality tuna
1 ripe avocado, halved, peeled, pitted, and sliced

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the cilantro, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir the ingredients together until well incorporated.

The perfect sauce for this tuna
The perfect sauce for this tuna

Place a skillet over medium-high heat and coat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the tuna generously with salt and pepper.

One beautiful piece of tuna from The Shrimp Dock in Farragut
One beautiful piece of tuna from The Shrimp Dock in Farragut

Lay the tuna in the hot oil and sear for 1 minute on each side to form a slight crust.

The perfect sizzling sear!
The perfect sizzling sear!

Pour 1/2 of the cilantro mixture into the pan to coat the fish.

Both sides are seared lightly then add that lovely sauce!
Both sides are seared lightly then add that lovely sauce!

Serve the seared tuna with the sliced avocado and the remaining cilantro sauce drizzled over the whole plate.

A perfectly seared tuna over rice with a tasty sauce...so yummy!
A perfectly seared tuna over rice with a tasty sauce…so yummy!
Dinner tonight!
Dinner tonight!
Add the wine, the stars, and some good company...this dish is a winner!
Add the wine, the stars, and some good company…this dish is a winner!

Bottom Line:  This is truly a recipe that you can’t mess up…it’s that simple!  The presentation is so beautiful that I would be proud to serve this at any dinner gathering with friends but its also easy enough that I could make it for just myself when hubby is away.  The flavors meld perfectly together and I highly recommend you try this in your kitchen!  I am Chef Frankie…Always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with wild abandonment!

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/pan-seared-tuna-with-avocado-soy-ginger-and-lime-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in October and what better way to celebrate fall than a hearty pot roast?  This recipe is one of my family’s favorites and one of the first dishes I taught my daughter, Ashleigh, to make (I actually think she makes it better than me now!) It originated from Cooking Light Magazine but over the years I have adapted it to suit our tastes and I would like to think that I have even improved upon it!  All I know for certain is that it is good and there are never leftovers!  Check out my version of this Classic Pot Roast Recipe!

Starting with some quality ingredients!
Starting with some quality ingredients!

Ingredients

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 (3-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
1/2 cup red wine
2 1/2 cups beef broth
4 thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces*
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces*
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)
*Note:  Sometimes I just use baby carrots and unpeeled baby dutch potatoes cut in half
Directions

Preheat oven to 350º.

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chuck roast with salt and pepper. Add roast to pan; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove roast from pan. Add onion to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender.

Return browned roast to pan. Add the red wine, thyme sprigs, chopped garlic, beef broth, and bay leaf to pan; bring to a simmer. Cover pan and bake at 350° for 1 1/2 hours or until the roast is almost tender.

Add carrots and potatoes to pan. Cover and bake an additional 1 hour or until vegetables are tender. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf from pan; discard. Shred meat with 2 forks. Serve roast with vegetable mixture and cooking liquid. Garnish with thyme leaves, if desired.

The Perfect Pot Roast
The Perfect Pot Roast

Tip:  If you have gravy lovers in your family like I do, just remove the meat and veggies and whisk in 2 Tablespoons of flour to make a savory gravy!

Bottom Line:  This will become a family favorite in your home and you may have a few uninvited neighbors just because of the smell alone!  Enjoy this recipe!  I am Chef Frankie…Always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with wild abandonment!

For the original recipe from Cooking Light, visit http://www.cookinglight.com/entertaining/wine/wine-pairings/wine-pairings-beef-pot-roast

Luke Bryan’s favorite casserole dish?  You may be asking yourself, “How does she even know what that is?”.  Well, recently a wonderful opportunity just landed in my lap!  One of my favorite products, Red Gold Tomatoes, contacted me and asked if I would help them out in promoting Luke’s upcoming Farm Tour stop in Greenback, Tennessee.  My job? Cook his favorite casserole using Red Gold tomatoes.  Sounds easy enough, right?  There must be a catch and yes, there was!  I had to do it on 2 live television appearances.  Cooking easy…doing it live on TV? Not so much..ha, ha!  If you want to see my live television appearances, I will be appearing on WVLT Channel 8 on Tuesday morning, September 29th at 6:15 am and then again on Fox 43 Morning Show at 8:15 on Wednesday morning, September 30.  I will tell you more about that experience in a later blog but for now, I want to share a little bit more about Luke’s 7th Annual Farm Tour.

lukebryan_farmtour2015

The Farm Tour, now in its seventh year, brings attendees to local farms, vineyards, and other local outdoor venues to enjoy music, connect with local family farms, and ultimately help support the future of farming – a portion of ticket proceeds help provide local college scholarships to the newest generation of farming families. Red Gold tomatoes knows the importance the role local farms play in communities across the country and for over 4 generations, have been working closely with their tomato growers to ensure that every family farm will be sustainably growing crops for years to come.  So, the Farm Tour and Red Gold Tomatoes is the perfect partnership.  Luke will be near Knoxville at Maple Lane Farms on Friday, October 2nd. For tickets, visit http://www.lukebryan.com/farmtourtickets.  (I will see you backstage!)  Now, let’s get to that recipe!

Chicken, Rice, and Tomato Bake
Luke Bryan’s Favorite Casserole:                    Chicken, Rice, and Tomato Bake

What I discovered in making this dish is that not only is it very tasty, but it is so easy and can be made ahead!  I now understand why it is one of Luke’s favorites!

Chicken, Rice, and Tomato Bake

Ingredients

1 – 10 oz package yellow rice mix
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups cooked cubed chicken***
1 – 15 oz can of black beans, drained
1 – 10 oz can diced Red Gold Tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, saute’ onion, green pepper and carrot in hot oil in medium skillet over medium heat 10 minutes. Combine hot cooked rice, onion mixture, chicken, beans, diced tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups cheese in large bowl.

Spoon into lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

image
Dinner is served!

Bottom Line:  This is a delicious recipe that includes many ingredients you already have in your kitchen and is one that the whole family will enjoy.  You can also switch it up a bit.  For example, I love things a bit on the spicier side so substituting jalapeno for the green pepper and adding a little hot sauce can push it up a notch on the heat chart!  For leftovers, you can always use it as a filling in burritos or stuffed peppers and have two different dinners with one easy dish!  Give it a try in your kitchen!  I am Chef Frankie…Always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with wild abandonment!

***Easy tip on the chopped chicken***

You can always purchase store bought chopped chicken but for best results just put rub two chicken breasts with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and onion powder and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Moist, juicy chicken perfect for this recipe and any others that call for chopped, cooked chicken!

On a recent trip to Mexico with Jeff, I found a new favorite cuisine…Rajas.  In Mexico, Rajas mean “strips” and that is really all it is…just a simple sauteed mixture of strips of Roasted Poblanos and Onions but the flavor it adds to just an ordinary dish for heat seekers like me is well….AMAZING!

My first taste of Rajas was at Barcelo Mayo Beach in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico in late August.  Now, you would imagine that I would have encountered it while eating some typical Mexican cuisine such as tacos or enchildas but no…It was a condiment being served next to the egg station at the breakfast buffet.  I love to try new things and it looked like something that might have a bit of heat to it so I thought, “why not”? With the first bite, I was hooked and had them everyday for the rest of the trip with some type of egg and even once on my salad for lunch.  Addicted might be an accurate description!

When I got home the first think I did was research Rajas and found the perfect recipe from Eating Well Magazine.  With an upcoming Tennessee Volunteers home opening football game on the horizon and at least 50 tailgaters, I thought the Rajas would be a perfect compliment to my main Tailgate Treat….Pulled Pork Nachos!  Needless to say it was a hit!  Now, I use this recipe for breakfast condiments and even as a topping for Mexican hamburgers.  Try this in your kitchen….the full flavor will make it seem like you cooked for hours.  Only you and I will know the truth!

Rajas courtesy of Eating Well Magazine
Rajas courtesy of Eating Well Magazine

Makes: About 3 cups (A little goes a loooooong way!)

Active Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 medium fresh poblano chiles (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime

Preparation

  1. Preheat grill to high.
  2. Grill poblanos, turning occasionally, until blistered all over and slightly charred in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for about 20 minutes to loosen the skins.
  3. Peel the peppers with your fingers. (It’s OK if a little skin is left behind. For the best flavor, don’t rinse the peppers.) Cut them open lengthwise, remove the seeds, stem and white membrane, then thinly slice.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat until it shimmers. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and beginning to brown at the edges, 8 to 12 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the poblano strips and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 5 minutes more. Stir in Worcestershire and remove from heat. Drizzle lime juice over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
My Rajas cooking over the stove
My Rajas cooking over the stove
Served over a dish of Pulled Pork Nachos at the Tennessee Volunteers Tailgate Party
Served over a dish of Pulled Pork Nachos at the Tennessee Volunteers Tailgate Party
The full Pulled Pork Nacho Bar
The full Pulled Pork Nacho Bar

For the recipe I used for my pulled pork, visit https://reciperealities.net/2014/02/03/pulled-pork-sliders-w-mustard-bbq-sauce-a-tried-and-true-recipe/

Dill Pickles and I go way back.  I don’t just have a love for them…I am self-confessed ADDICT!  It definitely runs in my mother’s side of the family because I don’t know anyone in the English clan that doesn’t love them as much as I do!  I passed this fascination onto my own daughter, Ashleigh, who discovered a new twist on dill pickles after moving to Denver…Dill Pickle Infused Vodka!

The Retro Pub with various typed of Infused Vodkas
The Retro Pub with various typed of Infused Vodkas

It was a tiny little dive bar called the Retro Pub and she knew immediately that when I came to visit, I was going to have to try this and would be very pleased.  She was right…I loved it!  Now I am not really a hard liquor kind of person…I prefer just to sip on my Chardonnay but when they served that light green juicy vodka over the rocks, I knew I would never think of Vodka in the same way.  I was hooked!

After returning home to Knoxville, I knew that this was something I had to try so I went online to search for recipes for Dill Pickle Infused Vodka.  They were all pretty much the same…2 parts vodka to 1 part pickle juice.  Using an oversized mason jar with a spicket, I mixed this concoction together cutting up a few pickles to make it look even more appealing.  Most of the recipes said to allow it to sit at room temperature for 2-5 days…I decided I would go with 5 days before I would try it.

Homemade Dill Pickle Infused Vodka
Homemade Dill Pickle Infused Vodka

I used a good brand of vodka (you really wouldn’t want to go with cheap stuff if you are drinking it straight) and Vlasic Dill Pickles…one of my favorites.image

Time to test….I took one of my husband’s bourbon tumblers and filled it with ice and poured my new creation into the glass.  It didn’t taste anything at all like what I had at the Retro Pub.  It knew exactly what it needed….more pickle juice!  I added 1 part more of pickle juice and waited another 5 days to test again.

I kept it on the counter on the kitchen and my taste buds salivated every time I looked at it.  I was so hopeful that this time it would taste close to what I had in Denver.

It was perfect!

Dill Pickle Infused Vodka...on the rocks!
Dill Pickle Infused Vodka…on the rocks!

The following weekend, I decided to try it with another English family favorite….The Bloody Mary.  I turned it into a Pickle Mary and let me just say……Yummy to the “nth” degree!

My Pickle Mary!
My Pickle Mary!

From now on, I will always have some homemade dill pickle infused vodka on hand.  My sister, Kelli, is coming to visit next weekend…She is going to love this!

So grab a jar of your favorite dill pickle and a good vodka and remember 1 part vodka to one part pickle juice and you will have yourself a unique tasty spirit!  Next time, I may add some hot peppers to it….So many possibilities!  If you are a dill pickle lover, this recipe is for you!

Making this super delicious Mexican Shrimp Tacos from last spring again tonight…this is a must try in your kitchen!

reciperealities

Shrimp Tacos topped with Tropical Guacamole Salad and a Creamy Lime Sauce…wow, doesn’t that sound delicious!  This is my personal creation made in my kitchen this week and it embodies all the “fresh flavors” that I have always wanted to include in my food.   Fresh Flavors….Those two words were my inspiration a couple of years ago when I began dabbling in the personal chef business….aka fresh flavors byfrankie was born.   Today, I am a part-time personal chef/food blogger and I always try to keep those two words in my mind when I am in my art studio:  My Kitchen!

Shrimp Tacos topped with Guacamole/Mango Salsa and a Creamy Lime Sauce Shrimp Tacos topped with Guacamole/Mango Salsa and a Creamy Lime Sauce

Shrimp and Mexican were my obvious cravings when I began developing this recipe and I wanted to keep it on the light side so adding avocados and tropical fruit such as mango and pineapple seemed to…

View original post 625 more words

Yesterday morning, in anticipation of a busy day, I was trying to figure out what to have for dinner.  I needed something quick and easy because I was going to be out and about until later in the day but I didn’t want to just order a pizza or do take out.  I had almost decided on just grilling some hot dogs, when I saw Katherine Heigl making her favorite summer pasta on Kathy Lee and Hoda (3rd hour of the Today Show)

Katherine Heigl's Brie Tomato Pasta
Katherine Heigl’s Brie Tomato Pasta

This “Brie Tomato Pasta” is what she considers her favorite pasta and it has a long tradition in her family.  It looked delicious and included all the things that I especially love such as tomato, basil, garlic, and cheese. Even better, it seemed very easy to make!  However, as I always wonder when trying a new recipe…”will it come out as good as I had hoped?”.  Read on to find out!

Brie Tomato Pasta

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe tomatoes cut into ½-inch cubes (can also use 1 28-ounce can of peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped)
  • 1 pound brie cheese (rind removed), cut into pieces
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves cut into strips
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and finely minced
  • 1 cup good quality olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds linguine, spaghetti, or any pasta you prefer

Put the brie in the freezer for about 20 minutes. (Note:  I skipped this step and just scooped cheese away from rind and it came out easily.)This makes it easier to remove the rind and cut up.

Combine tomatoes, brie, basil, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Let sit at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours at room temperature.

Ingredients marrying their flavors together
Ingredients marrying their flavors together

Cook pasta to just al dente. Strain and toss into brie tomato bowl. Fold everything together until well combined and the brie has begun to melt. (Make sure to add the pasta while it is hot to help melt the cheese.)

Fold in the hot pasta to the fresh ingredients
Fold in the hot pasta to the fresh ingredients

Serve immediately.

Served in a bowl to capture all the yummy juices alongside a crusty piece of Italian Bread
Served in a bowl to capture all the yummy juices alongside a crusty piece of Italian Bread

Bottom Line:  I loved this recipe!  It was delicious and sooooo easy!  As noted above, I think only a pound of pasta is necessary to truly let the fresh ingredients shine through.  I tried it heated as leftovers today for lunch and I liked that as well!  One note….Many comments on the actual recipe post suggests using Feta instead of the Brie.  I think that would be fine but it would be a completely different dish in that the Feta won’t melt and make a sauce like the Brie.  You should definitely try this recipe in your home!  Thank you, Katherine Heighl…this recipe will become a staple in my kitchen.  I am Chef Frankie and Always in the Kitchen Cooking with “Wild Abandon”!

In February of this year, my beautiful 24 year-old daughter, Ashleigh, moved from Knoxville, Tennessee to Denver, Colorado to start a new chapter in her life and to be closer to her incredible boyfriend, Hunter.  If you know anything about our family, you know that we are extremely close and this was going to be a hard transition for not just me but my husband, Jeff, and my son, Jarrod, as well.  However, we knew that no matter what the distance there was between us, we would always keep that bond and what better way to do than a birthday trip to Denver!

Ashleigh and Frankie
Ashleigh and Frankie

Our little adventure started off a little bumpy with the plane having mechanical problems so we had an hour delay.  After losing about 20 more minutes to avoid a thunderstorm, we landed in Denver at approximately 9:45 Mountain Time…a little late but we were so excited to see our baby girl!  (I might have shed a few tears when I saw her at the airport…ha, ha.)  Ashleigh, very much like me in this way, is a planner so she already had our first stop mapped out!

Everyone was hungry and being that it was so late and on a Thursday night, we didn’t have a lot of options to get a quick bite but Ashleigh had that all figured out.  After checking into our hotel, The Grand Hyatt Downtown Denver, we walked to a beautiful outdoor mall on 16th street and went to a very lively restaurant/bar called Appaloosa Grill.  The bar menu was our only option and primarily Mexican but it was perfect for a late night bite!

Ashleigh and I had the Roasted Poblano Quesadillas (I added chicken to mine) delish!
Ashleigh and I had the Roasted Poblano Quesadillas (I added chicken to mine) delish!
Jeff got the Carne Adobada with Pork
Jeff got the Carne Adobada
And Hunter had the most unique dish...Buffalo Empanadas
And Hunter had the most unique dish…Buffalo Empanadas

On Friday morning, my 49th birthday, we awoke to start our culinary quest!  First, we walked a few blocks to Union Station.  This was one of the coolest places I have ever seen!  It was an actual real operational train station full of the most incredible restaurants and shops set in the most beautiful historical building…It was the perfect place to start our day!

Union Station
Union Station

Ashleigh’s plan for us was to have breakfast at a popular spot called Snooze.  It was obviously very popular because there was about a 45 minute wait so after going on a stroll to an old bookstore in the station, we settled in at a little restaurant bar called Mercantile Dining and Provisions.  Jeff and I had Bloody Mary’s that included a locally made hot sauce called “Bliss” and pickled vegetables.  It was much lighter than most Bloody Mary’s and was so delicious!

Bloody Mary's at Mercantile Dining and Provisions
Bloody Mary’s at Mercantile Dining and Provisions

Finally, we got our notice that our table was ready at Snooze.  It was a sunny day and the temperature was a perfect 65 degrees so we had a nice little table on the outside patio.  First, came the drink menu and it was quite different than most in that it actually featured a Bloody Mary called “Pickled Green Tomato Bloody Mary”.  This I had to try…ummm, as much as I love pickles, this wasn’t my favorite but it was pretty!

Pickled Bloody Mary at Snooze
Pickled Bloody Mary at Snooze

Breakfast isn’t usually my favorite meal of the day but the menu at Snooze was incredible and everyone got something different.  We were all pleased and if you are ever in Denver, this is a must stop!

My spinach, swiss, and tomato omelet..perfectly cooked
My spinach, swiss, and tomato omelet..perfectly cooked
Ashleigh's Bella! Bella! Benny with prosciutto and Taleggio cheese with poached eggs
Ashleigh’s Bella! Bella! Benny with prosciutto and Taleggio cheese with poached eggs
Hunter's Benedict of 2:  Ham Benedict and Chile Verde Benedict
Hunter’s Benedict of 2: Ham Benedict and Chile Verde Benedict
Jeff's B.E.A.T Sandwich with Pork Belly Bacon, Fried Egg, on Ciabatta Bread with bacon-tomato aioli
Jeff’s B.E.A.T Sandwich with Pork Belly Bacon, Fried Egg, on Ciabatta Bread with bacon-tomato aioli

Needless to say, we were stuffed after such a huge breakfast so we headed on foot to see Ashleigh and Hunter’s new place about half a mile from Union Station. Along the way, we passed Coors Field where the Colorado Rockies play…it was such a beautiful building!

Coor's Field
Coor’s Field

Their apartment was amazing and reflected each of their personalities so well!  It was a very “industrial” look with concrete walls, open beamed ceilings, and a very open floor plan.  The best part about it was that it was all theirs and the love that was put into decorating it was very evident.

Afterwards we headed back to explore Denver’s 16th Street Mall and had a little light pub fare…it was the perfect day!

Denver's 16th Street Outdoor Mall
Denver’s 16th Street Outdoor Mall

We ended what I would call a perfect birthday at The Vesta Dipping Grill for dinner.  The atmosphere was so welcoming with its low lighting and exposed kitchen grill…very much like a “gathering place” for family and friends.  The menu focuses on grilled meats served with served alongside several varieties of sauces.  You can go with their “suggested sauces” to compliment the meat you have chosen or you can just wing it and choose a couple of your favorites.  We started out with a tray of cured meats and cheeses…Ashleigh and Jeff’s favorite appetizer of all!  The picture isn’t that great because they couldn’t keep their hands off of it before I could get the shot!

Cured meats and cheese tray with a sauce sampler
Cured meats and cheese tray with a sauce sampler

The rest of our menu choices…

Jeff and Hunter got the Madras Grilled Venison
Jeff and Hunter got the Madras Grilled Venison
Ashleigh had the Garlic Grilled Scallops
Ashleigh had the Garlic Grilled Scallops
Finally, I had the Grilled Beef Tenderloin.  It came with caramelized onion mashed potatoes, with roasted tomatoes and sautéed mushroom.  The sauce next to the steak is a veal demi glas
Finally, I had the Grilled Beef Tenderloin. It came with caramelized onion mashed potatoes, with roasted tomatoes and sautéed mushroom. The sauce next to the steak is a veal demi glas

If you thought the food was good on Friday, Saturday took it to a whole new level with a late brunch on Larimer Square.  Larimer Square an shopping and dining district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is one of the oldest blocks in Denver and now utilizes the historic buildings for distinctive shopping and dining.  It is supposedly even more beautiful at night lit up by strings of tiny lights going back and forth across the street.  2

Our brunch was at a restaurant called Tamayo which serves modern style Mexican dishes “tapas” style.  I love Tapas because you get to try so many things on the menu and share them!  They were incredible tasty and the presentation was simple and elegant.  These are the dishes that we tried (and loved)…there were more but I was too busy eating to remember to take pictures..ha, ha!

Mahi Mahi Ceviche
Mahi Mahi Ceviche
Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Tamal
Squash Blossom
Squash Blossoms
Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Enchiladas

After a visit to Denver’s Botanical Gardens (It was stunning and I can’t wait to go back), it was time to head to a place that Ashleigh could not wait for me to visit…The Retro Room!  Apparently, they serve Dill Pickle Infused Vodka and Ashleigh had recently had it and LOVED it!  Now, I will admit…I do love my dill pickles and I love to drink pickle juice straight but I’m not a huge vodka fan (I prefer my light Chardonnay) but Ashleigh convinced me I had to try it.

The Retro Pub with various typed of Infused Vodkas
The Retro Pub with various typed of Infused Vodkas

So as I stated, I’m not a huge Vodka fan but especially not of straight Vodka on the rocks and that is basically what this was…One part pickle juice to two parts vodka.  It was one of the best things that I have ever put in my mouth…Ummm, I had 3!  As soon as I got home, I got the recipe and have some brewing as we speak…blog coming soon!  I can’t wait to try it in a Bloody Mary!  Jeff had Jalapeno Infused Tequila and that was good, too!  This is a must visit place when you come to Denver (good for people watching, too!).

Dill Pickle Infused Vodka
Dill Pickle Infused Vodka

Finally, it was time to head back to the shower and get ready for our final Denver meal.  We headed back to Union Station to a very unique and innovative seafood restaurant called Stoic and Genuine.  A note on this…reservations can be difficult to come by but somehow Jeff, knowing how bad I wanted to go there, got American Express Concierge service to get us the perfect table for 4 in a quaint corner at prime time dinner hour…What an awesome husband!

Outside Stoic and Genuine waiting for our table...Ashleigh, Hunter, and Jeff
Outside Stoic and Genuine waiting for our table…Ashleigh, Hunter, and Jeff

We started off with a Fresh Uni Dish per Jeff’s request (not my favorite but a must try at some point in your life)

Fresh Uni with miso-cured and charred fatty beef, kimchi granita with a shiso emulsion!
Fresh Uni with miso-cured and charred fatty beef, kimchi granita with a shiso emulsion!

and 2 Dozen oysters that Ashleigh took out pretty quickly…(they were amazing)

Oysters on the Half Shell
Oysters on the Half Shell

For our entrees, we all chose different things; Once again, however, Ashleigh chose the most unique dish, Crispy Whole Haddock.

Ashleigh's Crispy Whole Haddock
Ashleigh’s Crispy Whole Haddock

The rest of us stayed pretty basic…

Jeff's
Jeff’s Fried Oyster Sandwich
Hunter's
Hunter’s Paella…Stoic and General style
I had Crab Legs
I had Crab Legs
with a side of Crawdads and Grits...so yummy!
with a side of Crawdads and Grits…so yummy!

Denver is a great place to visit and if you are looking for a true culinary adventure, this is your place.  I’m going back this summer so stay tuned for Part 2!

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