Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rick and Ann's

Rick and Ann's is a restaurant on Domingo Rd in Claremont, just northwest of where Claremont meets Ashby.

Here's a bad picture of a good brunch!

Rick and Ann's serves great simple food. Their menu is big and has all the usual suspects but also has a few unique gems. For brunch, my boyfriend and fellow food-enthusiast, got the North East, a beet, onion and sweet potato hash served with a bran muffin and I got a grilled pear, goat cheese and candied pecan salad which, although not original exactly, was effortlessly delicous. This isn't a place to drive to from the city, but if you're in the neighborhood and need a bite to eat, Rick and Ann's is a solid bet and you're bound to leave happy.

I give Rick and Ann's 4 stars for being a good solid restaurant. What do YOU think? Rate Rick and Ann's here!

The Thai Temple

The Thai Temple is in Berkeley on Russell in between MLK and Adeline.

I don't know anything about the worshipping potential of the Thai Temple. But I HAVE gleaned the most imporant function of the Thai Temple: Every Sunday morning from 10am to 1pm, the temple puts on a donation-based buffet of excellent Thai food. Just in time for one hell of a breakfast. There's a vegetarian and a meat-friendly buffet and the meal is payed for in tokens. When I went, I paid for my tokens, so I'm not exactly sure where the donation-based part comes in. I'm guessing that if you can't pay for your tokens, they're not going to turn you away but I'm not sure. Either way, for 8 bucks, I got a heaping plate of really delicious food and ate it with a group of friends on a picnic bench in the temple's sunny garden courtyard.

I highly recommend brunch at the Thai Temple. Partly because the food is great, and partly because it's a cool novelty and a great place to take visitors to show them what Berkeley's all about. With enough veganism, heavily bearded new-age warriors, urban grunge, and yoga-built ladies with thyroid problems and dietary restrictions to go around, this meal will re-connect you with the inner essence of Berkeley.

I give Brunch at the Thai Temple five Recycling Wheels of Excellence! What do YOU think? Rate the Thai Temple here!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Piedmont Holiday Lights!

As of yesterday, Piedmont Ave is fully decked out for Christmas with lights on the street and a tree in the plaza on 41st!

And if you haven't checked it out, go to the Holiday Circle of Lights at Mountain View Cemetery where Piedmont dead-ends (no pun intended). The cemetery is lit up from 5-9pm every night until Jan. 1st. It's beautiful- check it out!

No star rating for this one. If you don't like Christmas lights, I don't know how to help you!

Where are the good neighborhoods for Christmas lights around here? If you know of any, post it in a comment!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Arizmendi is a bakery/lunch stop on Lakeshore just north of MacArthur.

Other locations: San Francisco on 9th between Irving and Judah Emeryville on San Pablo and 43rd

Arizmendi is an excellent, bustling and charming food-spot. Every day, there's one pizza and one soup, you order one, and it comes to you straight from the oven. And it's delicous! So what's the problem.

They also have great bread and pastries. Yum!

I give Arizmendi 5 big fat hearts for general excellence... I love this place! What do YOU think?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cato's Ale House

Cato's Ale House is a dingy pub on Piedmont just south of Monte Vista.

Here we see proof of CookieFood's presence at Cato's, nicely framed by nachos and a guiness...

Cato's in a good-ol' neighborhood pub, dank with the smell of stale beer and dark with dimmed lights and scratched wood tables. Mediocre food but a good selection of beer on tap. Nothing to write home about but a good staple.

I'm wondering if Cato's has any special nights or regular events. Karoake, trivia...? If you have any info that I don't know about, post it in the comments section! I give Cato's 4 Wrenches of Excellence. But what do you think??

Thursday, November 29, 2012

PIQ Berkeley

PIQ Berkeley is a cafe on the corner of Addison and Shattuck in downtown Berkeley.

It took me a decent amount of research to figure out what this place is actually called- the owner obviously doesn't understand the concept of marketing and instead, put up signs throughout the restaurant of random words pertaining to Italy. The cafe is big and open with a study area upstairs, free wifi, lots of outlets, pretty good food, really good looking pastries (and a great selection, I might add. This is coming from someone who- probably spending way too much time in cafes- is bored to tears by the predictable spread of doughy-looking croissants and banana breads.) AND a coffee bar.

Good for a quick bite to eat if you want better food than the subway next door, and great for meeting a bunch of people to study.

I give PIQ Berkeley 3 stars for being a good fall-back, but nothing special. BUT! what do you think...? Rate PIQ here!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yoga to the People!

Yoga to the People is not a food establishment but hell, I'm going to rate it anyway! Yoga to the People IS a yoga studio on Shattuck in between University and Addison. And right next door to Cyprus Restaurant (rated below).

Yoga to the People is an entirely donation-based one room yoga studio. They do one kind of yoga- power vinyasa flow. The crowd is young and the yoga makes you work! They have mats that they rent for 2 bucks and as soon as the class starts, they lock the doors so get there on time! Pick up a schedule at the door. There are 5 or 6 classes a day. All donation based. Pretty great.

There's also a location in SF in the mission. And every Sunday night, both locations do a candle-lit class!

I give Yoga to the People 5 thumbs up... but what do you think? Rate Yoga to the People here!

Cyprus Restaurant

Cyprus is a Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Berkeley. On Shattuck in between Addison and University.

It's good. Good food, little pretense. The people who serve the food actually know how to pronounce the names of the food, which is nice. Nothing out of this world but a good fall back. The outdoor street seeting is a nice option and next door is a glass paneled "Yoga to the People" meaning that while you're eating your dolmas, you can watch shirtless guys doing warrior one. Or sport-bra'd ladies too I suppose. So five stars for ambiance!

I give it three stars (or kisses in this case). Good but not that memorable... but what do you think? Rate Cyprus and it's ambiance here! Any expecially noteworthy yogi sitings?

Lush Gellato

Lush is a gellato stop on Piedmont and Linda.

Lush is a totally awesome stop for gellato. It's a tiny little hole-in-the-wall stop, very nicely done, owned by the guy behind the counter, the prices are good, and the gellato is awesome. You can expect flavors like Fromage Blanc (made with cream from a farm less than an hour away), Horchata and Rum, Quince sorbet. And the gellato is so incredibly good. Did I say that already?

My boyfriend and I moved here two weeks ago and already filled up our first punch card. Lush is worth it. Make the drive. Come and check it out. I love it!

I give it 5 stars... but what do you think? Rate Lush here!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fenton's Creamery

Fenton's Creamery is a restaurant/ice-cream parlour on Piedmont and Glenwood.

My boyfriend is crazy about ice cream and froyo. So naturally, when looking at Piedmont Ave as a prospective neighborhood, Fenton's Creamery- just a few blocks from our house- became a destination. When we finally went though, we were horribly disappointed. The place had an over-sized laminated menus, big portions of mediocre food vibe. And the ice-cream, not as center-stage as we were hoping, was ridiculously expensive! Something like 5 bucks for a kiddy cup. Homemade, whatever, not worth it. We didn't actually try the food... but for ice cream, go somewhere else.

I give it 2 stars... but what do you think? Rate Fenton's here!


Gaylord's is a coffee house on the corner of 41st and Piedmont.

A good solid hometown coffee house. Nothing fancy but comfortable, reliable internet, local crowd, and sometimtes they even have smoothies! Which are great. The baristas are friendly and un-snobby but still trying to be hip in their own way. I recommend it for locals, but don't go out of your way to check it out.

I give it 4 1/2 stars... but what do you think? Rate Gaylord's here!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cookie Food moves to California!

As of two weeks ago, Cookie Food has moved to the East Bay- Oakland that is. In Boulder, I wrote primarily for the food blog Eat Drink Boulder. My writing was therefore partially representative of the site so my reviews had to be somewhat filtered and, often, not nearly as scathing as I wanted to be. For instance, I praised the World Cafe (see article below) simply because World Cafe asked me to review them. But honestly, although I think the owner has good intentions, I doubt they will last more than 6 months, unless there's a secret stash of money that's indiscriminately funding the whole dream, which, given Boulder, is very possible.

So now that I'm writing entirely for myself, I can be as scathing or praising as I damn well want to be. And represent the place honestly so people know that, for instance, when passing AG Ferrari Foods on Piedmont and 40th, despite their pretty gourmet facade, their moody, imported country-Italian vibe and twinkling display cases, their deli food totally sucks. The East Bay is so eclectic and diverse. And kind of scattered. So if you're not sure where to get lunch, click on over to Cookie Food and see what I think. Had a different experience or want to write your own reviews? Comment on my post or send me an email and I'll put it up on the site! I want to make this as interactive as is possible on blogspot. Let's break bread together!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Desperate Search for a Good Chocolate Croissant

A few years ago, I took a trip around Europe visiting friends, finding myself, the basic Euro-trip. Thanks to a friend of a friend gladly taking me in, I was able to stay in Paris for two weeks. During this expanse of time, I wandered through the Musee d’Orsay, dined solo, flipped through used books on the left bank of the Seine and spoke plenty of broken french. But the main focus of my time spent in Paris was on little hole-in-the-wall cafes and patisseries and chiefly, their chocolate croissants.

Chocolate croissants have always been a passion of mine, a cafe go-to, a source of very particular, high standard snobbery, and a definite feel-good treat. This all started in LA, my hometown, with a series of early morning trips to one particular coffee shop with my dad. I would get a chocolate croissant, he would get a double espresso, and we’d play cards until he had to drop me off at school. I developed my favorite coffee shops based on their chocolate croissants and since then, I’ve been on a constant mission to taste and judge every good looking chocolate croissant that comes across my path. Well in Paris, this could have been a full time job. And during my stay there, I treated it as such. I found two sources that blew all the others out of the water.

One of them was La Duree, a pricey and extravagant Parisian pastry shop that greets its guests with wall-to-wall glass cases of pastries, bon bons and a rainbow of macaroons. The chocolate croissant was beautifully made, technically flawless, down right scrumptious and held first place for the first half of my trip. What La Duree is really known for however, are their macaroons, a little box of which I later received as a very short-lived and well-appreciated gift.

The other source was the patisserie Lenôtre on the Avenue de Victor Hugo, which was recommended to me by a fellow cafe-goer and pastry hound, and whose bounty I enjoyed on a park bench along one of the innumerable, gorgeous, tree-lined avenues of Paris. I don’t remember the details of the croissant but I do remember journaling about it and using the word “transcendent”. While meeting the necessary qualities of a superb pan au chocolat, this particular heaven-sent specimen also contained a quality, or an air about it, so ineffable and sublime that it was sky-rocketed from a mere pastry to an experience of divinity.

My journey quickly ended later in my trip when I left la belle Paris for Prague, where one peek into the pastry case of a cafe enclave cut out of one of the severe, vaulting, stone edifices customary of Prague, was enough to transfer my pursuance from chocolate croissants to pilsners, sausages and dumplings. But now, several years later, I’ve decided to re-awaken my search in Boulder, Colorado.

My first official stop in my documented search was Piece, Love and Chocolate on the west end of Pearl street, a little chocolate boutique which I had, before this stop, adamantly refused to patronize based solely on the fact that their clever punny name is confoundingly and irritatingly un-clever, and as far as I’m concerned, spelled wrong. But stepping into the shop for the first time and starting to peruse the glass cases of bon bons, I felt immediately duty-bound to try much more than just a chocolate croissant. I somehow however, sat down inside with just my pastry. It looked promising.

Shortly after biting into it, I realized that this chocolate croissant was done a little differently. Instead of being made of regular croissant dough and just being filled with chocolate, the dough itself was brown and chocolate infused. At first, the purist in me was appalled by this brazen stray from tradition, but it eventually grew on me. The dough, although chocolatey, was still a little sour, not sweet (interesting- not just exploiting sugar to make up for bad quality) and the filling inside was done perfectly; they nailed the quantity, flavor, and the dark, grainy consistency reminiscent of chocolate heated over a stove-top. Mmm! I give it a 7.

Before going on, I should probably list the qualities of what makes, in my book, a stellar pan au chocolat.

1.Flakiness- spana kopita-esque flakiness. Yet still dry, not greasy. A good chocolate croissant is nearly impossible to eat without making a huge mess- it should be a full committed experience.a) As a corollary to (1) and at the risk of stating the obvious: chocolate croissants should not be bready. With that being said, within a good chocolate croissant, consistency should vary: flaky top, tougher knotted ends (see figure 1A below) and a sturdy condensed base. 2.Just to nail home this point, bare with me whilst I rant a little longer about the ever-so-important croissant dough. Proper croissant dough is made from rolling dough out into large sheets, thinly painting the dough with butter, and folding it. This is done several times, alternating between buttering and folding the dough and chilling it in the fridge, limiting its ability to rise. The final product is let out to rise before baking for a very short time at high heat. This process makes for flaky, crispy dough, more like stacked layers of filo, than leavened bread. Cheaters however, skip this tedious process and instead opt for un-properly-processed or frozen dough, making for a pastry that is squishy with thick, leavened sacrilege, ie. bready! 3.Chocolate croissants should not be too sweet. We’re not looking for a candy bar, we’re looking for a delicate pastry, executed with mastery and confidence. I’ve had best experience with the chocolate filling formed into a little flat log with a slightly grainy, dark chocolate consistency, as opposed to a silky smooth, milky consistency.

4.Presentation. I personally am not a fan of chocolate drizzled on top, but I’ve had very good croissants which have put this practice into use successfully. I do however, have a weak spot for powdered sugar dusting, which goes beyond chocolate croissants but works very nicely for them as well. And lastly, clearly stated in its french name, a pan au chocolat is not merely a croissant drenched or filled with chocolate but a unique and beautiful pastry unto itself, so its appearance should reflect this difference: shaped more like a thick folded blanket than a crescent. Okay? Okay. Onward.

Second stop: Spruce Confections. Spruce, located on Pearl street between 7th and 8th, bakes all of their own pastries in house and has the quaint Euro vibe that would seemingly guarantee fantastic, real-deal french pastries, so it was a natural choice for this search. They were however, out of chocolate croissants at the time I went. So I got a plain croissant instead. Then, nestling in with my substituion croissant and my computer, I discovered that they don’t have wifi, so all in all, I was pretty disappointed with my stop. And the croissant itself was barely above mediocre. No flaky crunch and no variance of consistency. Pretty boring; I give it a 5. But I’m so fond of their courtyard and quiet out-of-the-bustle vibe that I’ll be returning for that elusive pastry. And, knowing they don’t have wifi, will bring some company.

Croissant number 3: Breadworks. Horribly disappointing. I stopped in on the way home from work, which was well into the afternoon, so the pastries weren’t freshly baked. But the croissant was so bad anyway that there’s no way I’m going back.

[Right: Breadworks?? More like Bread Doesn't Work!] Terrible bready consistency, no flavor, dry and they went so light on the chocolate that it seemed more like a mistake than an actual crucial ingredient. I actually didn’t even finish it, which is a first for me. I give it a straight up 1. I’m talking gas station pastry quality.

Last stop: Spruce Confections again. After many a fruitless return, I finally stumbled upon a fully-stocked pastry case and ordered my sought-after chocolate croissant. I gave it a good once-over, a few pokes and then bit into a corner. Hoping for a little flaky crunch, I was disappointed to find that this croissant too, was a bready, chocolate-drizzled waste of my time. Honestly, it was too boring to even go into detail describing it. Pastry wise, I feel like I’m in an airport terminal looking for a decent lunch during a layover and having to decide between a bag of “trail mix” and a limp anemic banana.

[Left: Regardless of technicality, this is not a bad way to spend a morning!]

The only good news of this failed search being: if you’re starting a business and are looking for an untapped niche market, the “actually half decent goddamn pastries” niche is one for you.

But, like the loyal croissant-er I am, I trudged onward in my Spruce Croissant meal, dipping the remains into my cappuccino foam, yielding optimal pastry pleasure, regardless of quality. (More on this practice in chapter 3 of my best-selling book “How to Make the Most of Your Entitled Life” by Ariana Ross).

After my long, exasperating and trying tour of mediocre croissants- made especially trying by the fact that neither sugar nor white fluffy dough gets along particularly well with my digestive system- I’m relieved to come to the end of my search. And just like how not all scientific experiments end with the hypothesized conclusions, I was never quite able to find a chocolate croissant up to my liking. Having said that, if you know of any secret stashes of great pastries, please let me know and I’ll write a special article in your honor, thoroughly reviewing it. Until then, I’ll be at home, detoxing from my butter overload.

The World Cafe

I went to the “World Cafe’s” soft opening party knowing nothing. I had never been to Cuvee, the wine bar of the same owners previously in its place and knew nothing about the new one. What I expected to find was a new chic restaurant, too hip for its own good, competing for the talkative slick-dressed tapa crowd. I was surprised however, and delighted, to find that the World Cafe has a much broader world and community outlook than I had anticipated and that their goals and passions go well beyond serving up tasty tapas in an under-lit overpriced setting. On the contrary, I was very impressed with the Cafe.

More than anything, the World Cafe is a meeting place for passionate, excited entrepreneuring people. It is a place to foster connections and make new ones. Reading their dreamy, esoteric mission statement does little justice to the Cafe’s outreach and community involvement. It is designed to encourage interaction. This is obvious when first setting foot into the World Cafe. “This is a place,” said Christine, the Cafe’s general manager, “to plug out of the wall and into the community.” The restaurant itself is aesthetically designed to encourage this kind of interaction. The tables are arranged like cocktail tables, conducive to round table discussions, groups of friends and business meetings yet intimate enough to be a great place to take your sweetie. The dinner service is entirely small-plate tapas, the perfect shared snack for a few people but a poor substitute for the dig-your-fork-in, total commitment meal I’m often seeking.

Regardless, the food itself was delicious. It was very simple and fresh tasting, with plates like their Roasted Pork in a jalapeno and orange sauce or their Dating Salad with shredded carrots, Turkish dates and mint, making it very easy to go through plate after tiny plate of food. They also have a full breakfast, lunch and happy hour service, keeping them open for the better part of the day. The food however, is mainly the vehicle for the interaction they hope to inspire and attract.

Ralph Reutimann, the owner and visionary behind the World Cafe, has a rich cultural and culinary history, all of which is integrated into the fabric of his new restaurant. Along with the obvious delicious food component, the Cafe will be hosting lectures, panel discussions and film screenings, making it more of a meeting place than just a restaurant. The World Cafe promises to be a rich addition to Boulder’s community outposts for anyone who has a philosophy group gone rampant and in need of a gathering place. Keep your eyes out for upcoming events and in the meantime, stop by for some great food! But don’t bring your laptop.

Piece, (Coffee, Beer, Spices) Love & Chocolate

Last week, I was asked, along with a few other writers from Eat Drink Boulder, to go on a local food tour on and around Pearl street. Seeing as how two of my biggest passions in life are food and writing, I was thrilled to oblige. The food tour was put on by the Denver-based start-up Culinary Connectors. Looking at the itinerary for the tour however, I was initially surprised. Instead of stops through the swath of new, chic, urban-vibe restaurants on Pearl, the four places chosen for the tour were Ozo coffeehouse, Piece, Love & Chocolate, Savory Spice, and the Walnut Brewery. These are all places, with the exception of Piece, Love & Chocolate, that are plenty established and already have solid reputations. I already frequent and are very familiar with these places so I couldn’t imagine what we would be “touring” or “tasting”. However, five minutes into the tour, I was glad I had made the decision to go.

The tour started at Ozo. After a few introductions, we were led to a corner of the counter where one of the baristas, Chris, prepared for us, slowly and meticulously, one coffee varieta brewed three different ways. With much instruction and explanation, we tasted the different coffees alongside plates of cut up pastries. What impressed me so much wasn’t the coffee itself- although it was fantastic- but was how knowledgeable and interested the barista was. Going into a coffee shop, I expect for the people behind the counter to be students or post-college wanderers who are there because they need a job, not because they have any interest whatsoever in what they’re doing. At Ozo however this is not the case. Everyone you will find behind the counter is exceptionally well experienced and trained, knowledgeable and better yet, stoked about what they’re doing and stoked about coffee! In the words of Greg Lefcourt, the store manager and a prior barista champion, “Ozo hires people who are taste bud people. Something, anything that has passion involved in it, is what we look for.” The fact that the end product is delicious is merely a perk.

From there, our lovely tour guide and the founder of Culinary Connectors, Becky Creighton, lead us a block and a half away to Piece, Love & Chocolate. Stepping into the shop, we were greeted by the intoxicating smell of chocolate and the owner Sarah Amorese, who showed us around the shop and told us a little about what they do. The store itself is very different from most chocolate shops I have been into. Instead of just selling the most popular chocolates and pastries, Piece, Love & Chocolate takes a full comprehensive tour through the world of chocolate, representing the owner’s long-standing interests. The shop sells both local and imported chocolate, representing many different styles and cultures. They make truffles and bon bons and bake cakes and pastries. They have everything from macaroons to sipping chocolate to a cake baked with locally-brewed stout. The bakers at Piece, Love & Chocolate teach baking and chocolate-making classes and the shop hosts pairing nights in which chocolate is paired with either beers or wines. I was impressed with how multi-faceted the store was and it all felt very fresh and innovative. Sarah knew so much about chocolate and chocolate-making that listening to her speak about chocolate was reminiscent of listening to a sommelier speak of wine. Each stop of the tour and each craft represented showed comparable depth and passion.

Our next stop was Savory Spice on Broadway between Spruce and Pearl, the last of the potently aromatic stops of our tour. Stepping into Savory, we were met by Dan Hayword, the owner of the Boulder store, dividing up chocolate covered candied gingers into little bags. Showing us around the shop and passing around jars of spices to smell and compare, Dan emphasized some of the purposes and benefits of a specialty spice shop alongside store-bought spices. Used to their maximum capacity, most spices’ shelf-lives are much smaller than most think and the preparation and processing of a spice is crucial.

Dan used salt as a good example of this, which has a bad reputation because of the anti-sodium craze. Salt however, is not to blame for this. Rather it’s the over-processing of table salt which takes away its health benefits. Other unrefined salts that are easy to find in specialty shops and which are becoming more and more available in grocery stores, leave the crystal intact, preserving its health benefits and varied flavors. Bigger, mass-producing spice companies on the other hand, leave no room for the individual variance of the product and expression of the plant it came from. Speaking of Savory Spice, Dan said, “we’re the micro-brewery of spices”. A good analogy for a beer-seeking crowd. And a very nice transition to our next stop: the Walnut Brewery.

We got to Walnut before the dinner rush so got the undivided attention of our waitress who met us with a dozen plates of appetizers along with our first round of beer tasters. The appetizers were tasty but definitely brew-pub food; food that goes down easy but doesn’t require too much attention paid to it. And food that it’s really easy to eat way too much of. Speaking from prior experience, they do have many dishes that go well beyond decent pub food, not to mention a ridiculously good slice of carrot cake served in caramel sauce and garnished with mint! (I’m pretty familiar with it actually). At this stop however, the emphasis was on the beer. We went through four beers: the Buffalo Gold, which was easy drinking and light but still very flavorful, the Old Elk Brown which won “best brown in the country” at the 2010 Great American Beer Fest (I won’t bother trying to top it), a Citrus Hop IPA (my personal favorite), and the GFY IPA, aka Good For You IPA. Later on we met Ron, the brew master, who is responsible for every beer that comes out of Walnut’s twelve taps. Beer in hand, his own Pelican Pilsner, and dressed in cargo shorts and flip flops, Ron showed us around the brewing facilities and explained, with deep reverence, the processes that go into each of his beers. All of their beers are Ron’s creation, brewed in house, only available on tap, and growler ready for your pick up. Although I much prefer enjoying them in house, amongst the elk-headed pubby ambiance. Bring your beer loving friends. And ask for Jeromy’s section.

Everyone's Favorite Post-Ride Watering Hole

Cafes in Boulder, unlike almost any other city in the US, enjoy the added niche market of the avid espresso-seeking sport enthusiast. While Boulder restaurants are able to cater to the post-14er wind-burnt and ravishingly hungry crowd with lots of stories to recount, only cafes are able to offer the ease of commitment-free stops either pre-, post- or even mid-sporting event.

I’m not exactly sure where the connection between espresso snobbery and ridiculously toned, tanned and sculpted bodies in brightly colored spandex lies exactly. But tying in a few of the other values that seem to also correlate with this breed- good food, an appreciation for nice wine and a general ease of life and seeming abundance of time- the connection seems to be a trendy euro vibe with a little bit of software entrepreneur thrown in there. Basically, a bunch of guys who are incredibly stylish, aren’t afraid to dispense some decent dough for a nice pair of fitted jeans, and who have an affinity for beautifully working appliances with a sleek this-year’s-model finish. This includes everything from the new apple iPhone 8G, to their custom carbon frames, to the simplistic stainless espresso machines that are proudly displayed at certain coffee shops.

These are the folk who, on any given sunny Boulder day (the limitations of a regular work schedule do not seem to factor in here) can be seen overflowing North Boulder’s Amante. Adrenaline-rushed, gadgeting, and highly caffeinated.

I however, francophillic and kit-wearing with campi components, am very much a part of this “scene”. I do love my mid-Left Hand canyon stops at the Jamestown general store for a sit down, a brag sesh, and a cytomax refill before descending.

The tendency to gather, whether to consociate or to compete, is no mystery. But why North Boulder Amante?

With a little bit of Amante research, that all becomes incredibly clear. Turns out Amante was started by three men after a wine tasting tour in Italy. Although wine was the focus of the trip, the morning espressos became a fixation and the incredible taste and preparation of the coffee overshadowed what they had tasted in the US. Inspired to discover whether it was the setting that was altering their taste buds or a difference in the coffee itself, the traveling crew located Ferderico Ghigo, a third generation Italian coffee roaster who supplied the beans for the espressos they had been enjoying. Shortly after returning to the states, they began importing the beans for sale in the US before opening Amante in 2005, the name and face given to the distinctly Italian coffee.

The goal behind Amante is to accurately represent Italy’s coffee and culture in an American setting, starting with the front range. This is easy to see upon stepping into an Amante coffee shop. The décor is simplistic, stark and stylish. The TV is playing soccer. Until, that is, any of the major cycling tours comes on, at which point cycling re-runs follow the 5 am live coverage. The cafe also features the American palate-friendly Italian staples of gelato, breakfast pastries and biscotti.

All leading to the not-too-surprising conclusion that bike-loving coffee hounds like to spend their time surrounded by slick, sexy machinery, somehow reminiscent of a European ideal. And of course, like to gather with each other to compare bike stats and to brainstorm business models. But who can blame the pre-ride cyclists from wanting a good clean pull on their adrenaline-ramping espressos? And the post-riders from wanting to bask in the icy-stark air conditioning and bite into the pillow of Amante’s dusted cappuccino foam? And when one has dropped the cost of a semester at CU for a gorgeous custom bike, why get anything less than a stellar espresso before riding the thing? And for this, North Boulder Amante is the perfect watering hole.

Good Mexican Food in Boulder?

In the midst of my everlasting search for straight up, no funny business, really good Mexican food in Colorado, I was very pleased to have stumbled upon 100% Mexicano.

Seeing as how my pallet for straight up, no funny business, really good Mexican food is not easily quenched, 100% Mexicano provided a welcomed respite from the laid back, night job service and painted bowl of tortilla chips expected by the average college town margarita-pitcher seeking cantina-goer. Being nestled in a parking lot behind the DMV took 100% from a restaurant to a hole-in-the-wall, setting it up for either disaster or down-home culinary genius. Offsetting the deli-like counter service are the City of Boulder awards and acknowledgments peppering the restaurants walls, amid colorful drapings and maps of Mexico.

Although slightly over-priced (my mole enchilada plate was $11, not $8) the food and horchatas were delicious, the salsas home-made and the tortilla chips unlimited. The woman who took our order and refilled our chip bowl twice was Lucy Arellano, the chef and co-owner. She and her partner Shawn Camden started the restaurant after the ramifications of Boulder's lack of authentic Mexican food fully and horrifyingly set in. 100% Mexicano is a no-brainer, no problem, awesome Mexican place and gives a whole new reason to hone your Spanish skills. This is made easy with 100% Mexicano's Spanish-speaking Saturday nights, open to everyone at any level of Spanish as a place to practice your language skills. You just have to show up and they provide the discounted margaritas to remove any inhibitions.

My Friend Lauren's Soup Company

Two of Boulder’s defining qualities as a town are its innovative, self-starter spirit and an avid, borderline obsessive, passion for health food. This passion combined with the sport-induced metabolism capable of taking down huge quantities of food, means that there is always a market in Boulder’s food industry for locally made, healthy, small-scale food products.

One such example is Nourish Natural Soups, created and run by New Jersey-born Boulder convert, Lauren Beno. Between her full-time day job in the natural food industry, her part-time REI job, and early morning hikes and bike rides, Lauren started Nourish, a homemade natural soup delivery service.

Her regular clients are subscribed to Nourish’s soup group and receive a mason jar of soup delivered to their doorstep once a week. Each week there are three new vegan and gluten-free soups to choose from. Favorites from the last few weeks have been Curried Carrot Ginger, which I enjoyed at a dinner party last night, Spicy Ethiopian Lentil, Vegetarian Chili, and White Bean, Kale and Tomato.

[Left: The ridiculously delicious White Bean and Kale]

The idea for Nourish Natural Soups came mainly from Lauren’s passion for health and a desire to help others realize the health she has found through quality, home-made food. Lauren, like many of us, has wrestled to find the food that best agrees with her body. This burgeoning awareness of her own body and health steered her interests into organic farming, cooking for herself, and experimenting with food to find what her body needs. The conclusion that came up again and again was her body’s need for whole, simple foods. This means avoiding refined foods and chemicals, being able to recognize and pronounce the ingredients going into a product, and shopping almost entirely in the produce section.

[Right: Asian noodle in a tamari and ginger broth]

Lauren, of all people, working three jobs, juggling several hobbies and with the self-proclaimed attention span of a hummingbird, understands that maintaining a healthy relationship with food can be difficult. The result is a business centered around making it easier for people to feed themselves and their family whole, fresh, healthy, and delicious food, delivered to their doorstep.

Starting and owning her own business is Lauren’s way of putting her vote into the food industry. “Every time we shop at the market,” Lauren said during our chat, “we are putting our own dollars into the industry, which is essentially voting on which products are going to remain on the shelves.” Another motivation for Lauren is to make quality food more accessible. “Here in Boulder, we are surrounded by good food. I mean, hey, we have three Whole Foods in less than a five mile radius. However, the moment we step outside of our bubble, all of that changes. People can’t find the same quality of food at their local grocery stores as we can here. I want that to change. I want to see my soups being affordable and easy to access.” Lauren speaks wide-eyed and dynamically, gesticulating, showing her passion for her involvement in an industry in need of new input.

[Left: Jars of Vegetable Chili eagerly awaiting delivery!]

With that in mind, she is currently focusing her attention away from delivery and on getting Nourish soups into local markets, making her soups accessible to a wider market. The soups will soon be offered alongside prepared foods in containers easy to pick up on the way back from work, or even pop into a microwave during a lunch break.

She explains that soup is so easy to buy in a can. But because canned soups are designed to be shipped and offered on a huge scale, the ingredients are mainly artificial, highly processed and dominated by preservatives. Nourish soups are a completely different story. They are all vegan and gluten-free with no additives, sugar, preservatives or food substitutes. The ingredients are organic and sourced locally whenever possible, homemade and most importantly, absolutely delicious.

Visit Nourish Natural Soups online at or email Lauren herself at Become a Soupster: email Lauren to subscribe to the Nourish mailing list!