Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Foodie Field Trip- Loveland, Colorado

Springtime in Colorado is wonderful. You might have warm sunny days, chilly nights, dry conditions and wildfires, or snow up to your elbows. The Chef and I recently made the trek over the vast nothingness of Nebraska to Colorado to visit family and since we were there, why not make it a Foodie Field Trip at the same time? Sounds good to us! Since the reason for our trip truly was to be with family, we had to squeak a little time out for ourselves here and there, and while we didn't hit as many restaurants and food stores as we had hoped, we still found some great spots!

Our first night in Loveland we were BEAT!! Our hotel had an indoor heated pool AND a hot tub so guess where we rested our road-weary bones? You got it- hot tub time. By the time we were unwound and ready for a late dinner we just couldn't face another minute in the car, so we began to hunt down delivery options. Chain pizza places were an option but we decided to find something local. 

We hit the jackpot with Silver Mine Subs. The sandwich spot featured a large menu of cold and hot sandwiches and great sides. The Chef immediately spotted his sandwich choice- The Mother Lode, which is a monstrously huge sub heaped with roast beef, ham, turkey, salami, Provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, oregano and dressing. I chose the Homestake, a warm sub on a soft Italian loaf with thinly sliced Angus steak cooked perfectly, pepper jack cheese, grilled peppers and onions. So so so good. Potato salad and giant crunchy dill pickles completed our dinner.

The next day was spent entirely with family, but we were still able to experience some local flavor. After a long discussion earlier in the day about where the best pizza is in Loveland- we were leaning towards Beaujo's and heard lots about other local spots. The Chef and I almost headed out to check out Beaujo's but instead the family got together and had a pizza party with pizza from Arte. This local pizza spot is owned and operated by a Naples native and makes delicious thin and crispy pizzas with a huge assortment of toppings. Dough made fresh daily in house sets this pizza apart from all the chain places and the toppings are fresh and generously piled on the pies. I think we had one of everything!

Saturday morning we were up and at 'em early! We did some driving around town, scouted out a Starbucks, drove through the FABULOUS Promenade Shops at Centerra. Wow oh wow. I kept ooohing and ahhhing and thinking "oh man, my daughters would LOOOOVE this place." It was huge and wasn't an enclosed shopping mall. The open-air stores look like a village, with lots of store-front parking and great shops. Across the interstate we found a very nice outlet mall with even more fun things- the Chef perked up when he saw the Bose outlet and of course I was dying to go in the kitchen outlet. Rather than spend the beautiful day inside the stores, we decided to head for the mountains and check out Estes Park.

Estes Park is such an adorable town. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains there is something for everyone in this town. The main drag is lined with shops and businesses. Souvenirs, clothing, household items, jewelry, wine shops, gourmet food shops, candy stores- just literally anything you can think of. We grabbed a parking spot outside of Distinctively Colorado Food and Gifts and wandered in to make them take my money. Guys.....this is exactly the kind of shop I love and wish I owned. Local husband and wife, live in town, quaint shop filled with products made in Colorado- this is why it's so important to support local businesses. Mrs. was manning the store while we were there, Mr. off doing something else, and she was a great hostess. We browsed the many food products made locally- honey from different types of flowers, Gourmet pastas and gluten free gourmet pastas line an entire shelf, with several varieties to choose from.

Row after row of small hand-mixed spice blends and mixes made it hard for me to choose what I wanted to take home to try. Another large shelf was filled with hot sauces, salsa, pasta sauces, a variety of pickles and pickled vegetables. Almost as if they knew they'd snag my heart, the shop owners tuck a variety of kitchen linens and accessories in and around the food products. Hmmmmm, elk jerky or kitchen towel........ well you know which one I'd chose!

If you were interested in checking out local beers, craft sodas, or wines, the shop has got you covered there as well. Chilled and ready to take home, or off to the hotel, they had a pretty decent selection. Because I wasn't sure how many more stores we'd hit and didn't want a heavy bag to lug along, I limited my selections to two items, Yampa Valley Sauce Company's Purple Blaze hot sauce, and Bee Squared honey.

The hot sauce is literally purple- but not in a gross food coloring way, in a blueberry and habanero sort of way. Yes, blueberries and habanero peppers- the stuff of nightmares! We still are kind of pepperhead types and still seek out interesting hot sauces and peppers and spice mixes when we're out and about. But fruit and heat, you ask? Sure! Sweet and hot is a very popular combination of flavors, touching many different cuisines, even everyday American- in pepper jelly. So Purple Blaze claims, on the label, to be a "mind-blowing infusion of blueberry and habanero." This stuff is fantastic! Real blueberries, not flavors, bring their deep purple color and sweet flavor to this vinegar-based sauce that kicks your butt with habanero. Goooooood stuff. Reminds me of Caribbean foods. Good thing they have a website! I might have to order more!

There's no heat in my other goodie but still plenty of good stuff. Bee Squared is a small scale apiary that produces award winning local honeys, in a chemical-free environment. Bee-keeping, sustainability and preservation of bee populations is critical, not just to honey production but also to maintaining a food source for humans. The jars are packed so attractively they would make a fabulous addition to a gift basket, and each one has a hangtag with the basic story of honey- very unique and important! Many people don't know that honey never expires, and never spoils. The tag tells you all about it, and what to do when your honey hardens. Plus, if you ever wondered exactly what honey is....... they got you covered too- all on that cute little tag. Bee Squared also has a website with products, info and more.

Walking out in that mountain air made us hungry. There are some really awesome restaurants in Estes Park. Even though it really isn't tourist season, the restaurants around town were bustling. Since exploring the hot sauces, we decided on Mexican for lunch and stopped at Pepper's Mexican Grill. Pepper's is a quick-serve setup where you order at the counter, and your food is made fresh right in front of you. The Chef chose a giant burrito with shredded beef and all kinds of delicious fresh veggies and salsas in there. It was HUGE! I ordered the beef and cheese enchiladas and was blown away by the huge portion. It starts with three cheese enchiladas covered in a heaping pile of carne asada, and fresh lettuce, tomato, beans, rice. Enough for two people easily. I also tried the pineapple mango salsa and it was so bright and delicious and had a decent jalapeno kick.

After returning to Loveland we toodled around town a bit more, checking out all the sights, scenes and wishing we had more time to spend here. We did compile  a fairly lengthy list of things we want to do next time, places to eat, things to see, stores to visit. We can't wait to come back!

No comments:

Post a Comment