Alotta Burrata

One weekend.

Two sisters.

Eleven restaurants.

Eighteen dishes.

(so many dollars spent, I can not even…)

They thought it could not be done. Hell, even we knew it was grossly ambitious. Or maybe just gross. IMG_8625.jpg

There are a few things you need to know about my sister and it will all make sense at the end.

1. She loves food just as much as I do. I am not sure if it is nature versus nurture, but it runs in the family. So naturally, when little sister (me) comes into town, big sister (her) has to show what Denver is made of.

2. She is a planner. I am talking about color-coding, laminating, by-the-minute itinerary.IMG_8627.jpg With this in mind, I present to you the ridiculous, out-to-lunch (literally) whirlwind trip that took place this weekend. I know coming to the Mile High city was a big deal, considering she has lived here for over ten years and this is the first time in my grown-up life that I have visited her. The food scene here is happening and there were so many places to be that we could not possibly do them all in three days. I was wrong.

We did it. I am so unbelievably shocked, frendshäm* and impressed that we were able to pull it off. Logistics, time and money (wallet is in tears) did not stand in the way of the Condell girls.

*Frendshäm is a term we coined (based loosely) on a German word to describe second-hand humiliation. As in the, “Oh Sweetie”-kind of embarrassment. Consider it the next thing to go viral, I promise you that.

On Friday morning, my sister presented me the itinerary of what would shape our time together. Please note that there are no sightseeing locals, no shopping, nothing. All of our touristy things revolved around ensuring that it did not interfere with our food schedule. A, sort of – what silly Denver ‘must do’ should we slog through to tick down minutes in between meals? January isn’t the best time to come to Denver because a lot of things are closed for the off-season. However, we surely did not let that get in the way of our fun.

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What made this so great was that it was literally my sister’s favorite dish at each place. I wish I had a window into her genius brain when she was compiling this list.. classic You Are What You Eat.

Swiftly after a Thursday night pick-up at the airport, we arrived at Pinche Taco’s for what might be the best tacos outside of California. Even remotely thinking this means that they were out-of-this-world delicious. I dubbed these as sexy street tacos, with ingredients such as Queso a la Plancha (mmm…burnt cheese), pan roasted scallops and carnitas that Zeus himself kissed before making its way onto our plate.

(Horrible lighting, as it usually happens when food is that good). pinche.png After hearing that my sister never finished the last half-season of Breaking Bad, we hopped on that quickly and watched an episode before getting into bed.

FRIDAY

Upon waking up, we were a little nervous for what we had in store and decided to play it by ear. We ended up at The Source, which is a local food market that can be compared to a mini Chelsea Market. Lunch was consumed at Acorn and we shared the kale & apple salad (candied almonds, parmesan, togarashi) and tomato braised meatballs (anson mills stone ground grits, burrata, basil).

We high-fived after a successful start and walked around to check out the collective of food artisans and retailers that offer everything from freshly baked bread to craft cocktails. I was impressed with the place and loved the vibe; it reminded me of a less-touristy and more modern Ferry Market building.acorn.png

Our one (1) sightseeing adventure of the whole trip came after lunch, we drove to Red Rocks Amphitheater where the most legendary concert hall is. They had a pretty badass view of the city.

Of course the one picture I did take did not highlight this gorgeous view I am talking about. IMG_8619.jpg

I do not know if it is the altitude or that I am just severely out of shape, but those pesky stairs really got to me and I was embarrassingly winded after the whole thing. IMG_8620.jpg

Another episode of Breaking Bad and a cup of Café Bustelo later, we found ourselves in downtown Denver and ready to roll up our sleeves to get this food coma party started.

With itinerary in hand, our first stop was Panzano for their Crespelle ai Funghi (Hazel Dell mushroom stuffed crepes, fonduta sauce and white truffle oil) and a glass of bubbly. At this point, we realized that our trusty friend was crusty bread. Crusty Bread would make a cameo at literally every single meal. No joke. No complaints. NOT a gluten free weekend.

We walked over to Osteria for their burrata (creamy sweet center, firm edge). Bartender overheard our tactic for the night and asked to see the coveted list. To say he was thoroughly impressed was an understatement; it was at this point in time that we began to think that our crazy idea was actually straight genius. dtdenver.png

Next stop at Bistro Vendome, a quaint French bistro that uses local and seasonal ingredients. We broke our one-plate-per-restaurant rule here and ordered the mussels (garlic, herb, white wine, grilled sourdough baguette) and steak tartare (tenderloin w/ aioli, Dijon, capers, red onion). As a non-seafood kind of girl, the mussels were hand-on-knee amazing and I do not even want to count how many pieces of sourdough I went through. bistrovendon.png

Our last stop of the night was at ChoLon, a fusion restaurant with a menu that is inspired by traditional dishes found across the Asian continent. We enjoyed the soup dumplings (sweet onion, gruyere) and Brussels sprouts (ground pork & mint). We also had the pleasure of chewing the proverbial fat with the Chef Lon (Denver Cheflebrity) and shut down the restaurant as we listened to the fantastical tales of this renown all-over-the-world-and-back chef. cholon.png

Friday’s Round-Up:

Restaurants: 5

Dishes: 9

Stomachs a calorie away from exploding: 2

Saturday

Somehow, someway, we woke up not feeling like death. The only thing on our mind was a cappuccino, which worked perfectly with the next step being butternut squash pizza (walnut, smoked mozzarella, sweet onion & arugula) at True Food Kitchen. The one thing I was uneasy about on the list ended up being delightful, especially with a fried egg on top. butternutsquashpiz.png

I would like to tell you exactly what we did after; however, everything seems hazy as I am typing this post. Almost as blurry as this picture taken by my beauty of a sister. IMG_8672.jpg

Although Saturday was not as ambitious the night before, I think my favorite thing that happened was at Z Cuisine. The last time I ate a cheese plate was less than a week ago at Maialino in New York (I found the restaurant name, yay!).

This cheese plate was something else. Something where my pathetic little words would only dull how outstanding this was. My sister and I had to stop for a second and make sure what was going on was real. Whoever chose the assortment deserves a round of applause, from the apple and cheddar combo to the contrast of creamy cheese and nutty texture . We wanted to go back the next day to eat more.

As mouthwatering as the cheese plate was, the star of the whole weekend was the cassoulet. Slap-your-mom delicious and worth every penny. Although this is only January, my intuition tells me that this is going to end up on my top-ten of the year list. 100% sure. The dish, prepared for three days, included duck leg confit and a pork belly & shoulder house sausage (andouille style) baked slowly together in a heirloom white beans and bacon ragout, served with wilted chard and kale. Z Cuisine, you hit it straight out the ballpark and need to open a location in San Francisco like yesterday.

And this is where our list took a left because we hit a wall. Fried chicken wraps were next, but we just could not do anymore. We had a drink at Old Major and ended up just talking for hours. Toward the end, an order of duck-fat fries made its way in front of us and we obliged. saturday.png

Saturday’s Round-Up:

Restaurants: 3

Dishes: 4

# of times frendshäm was used: too many

SUNDAY

Three words. Pork shoulder tostada. IMG_8686.jpg

Served with charred tomatillos, sunny eggs and queso panela from Beast and Bottle for a quick brunch before heading to the airport.

There were many times during the trip where my sister and I were unbelievably disgusted with ourselves for having moments of hunger after all this food, but overall I like to think that we killed it. Game, set, match to whoever (aka nobody) doubted our motives.

I apologize for this incredibly long-winded post, I know it is a lot to consume and digest (ha). The reason I did not split this into two posts is because I did not want to drag anything on and because I think I am going to a restaurant I have been dying to try on Monday and that deserves a posts of it’s own.

1. Thank you sister for everything. You are the best you there is.

2. Do not forget to enter the GIVEAWAY that ends on Friday! I am giving away a $50 Gift Card to a grocery store/restaurant of your choice!

PS: If this was a Word document, it would have been five pages. Run and tell that to the next person who says you need to read more. You are welcome.

Have you been to Denver? If so, what was your favorite restaurant?

Who are you rooting for in the Superbowl?

Puerto Rican Thanksgiving

Ameena mentioned in my comments that she loved how international my family is. Well sister, things just got a little more global on this blog!

Why? Because today we are going to recap the celebration of Puerto Rican Thanksgiving! Only the most exciting and best post-holiday there is.

My sister goes to her godmother’s house for Thanksgiving every year, so we always plan a small get-together the night after. Her mom cooks the most amazing Thanksgiving food with a Boricua twist. (Think chorizo stuffing and tostones on the side of your turkey.)

I arrived to Lili’s house a quarter-past-six and gave a big beso to my sister who greeted me at the door. We usually see each other once a year but January will be special because I will fly to Denver to have three days of non-stop sister action. 🙂

Her home is one of my favorite decorated homes ever, it is so different then the usual stiff modern feel or empty bachelor pad. I feel like I should be in Puerto Rico. It has a tremendous amount of her personal taste and pictures of loved ones and you can not help but feel cozy at home.

I love this light switch and will find a way to sneak it out her house without noticing one year. 😉

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As tradition follows, I usually get there while Lili is running around the kitchen and help myself to one of her famous pina coladas. It makes me want to get caught in the rain for some reason. 😉

My very intelligent sister requested a floater in hers and I must admit, it was not a bad decision.

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Do we look alike? Who looks more Latina?

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Some people like spotless fridges but my future home will have a fridge like this one. I could not imagine starting a day off wrong when you see all your favorite people before leaving the house.

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The hostest-with-the-mostest herself! My second mom. Here she is finishing off the tostones, I am craving them again. This woman can cook her tail off.

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When all the guests arrived, we started to bring the plates to the table. Puerto Rican Thanksgiving was about to start and all of our hungry selves could not wait. Lili invited her best friend from the days when they ran around New York together and her two children.

The only traditional thing about this course was the turkey…and I suppose the cranberry sauce but who really cares about that.

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You would not even begin to imagine how delicious her arroz con gandulas is. It takes skill, practice and a little bit of magic to make the perfect sofrito and Lili nails it every time.

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The final things I have not mentioned is her chorizo stuffing and tostones con avocado. The salty and crispy flavors of the plantain is the perfect combination of the smooth and creamy taste of the avocado.

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The first plate of three, I wish I was kidding.

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Happy thanksgiving again! You should already know I like to extend things as long as possible. 🙂

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Tomorrow I am attending a very special event! It cost a pretty penny but will be so worth it. Cheers!

Are you feeling back into the groove of things? I am pretty much zoned out until the second week of January!

Flying Sucks

When I came back from my Asia trip, I vowed to stay away from planes for at least a year. Within a three-week period, I spent over fifty hours on seven flights. Some comfortable and others extremely sketchy. By the time I was finally flying home, I was so over the stuffy cabins and having to sit for hours on end.

I broke my pledge a week later by going cross country to New York for a wedding. On that flight back home, I was completely sure I did not want to fly for a looong time.

Now I am sitting here with two flight itineraries waiting for me in January. How did this happen?!

Well, my sister has been living in Denver for around ten years now and I have only visited her once in middle school. It was her first Thanksgiving out of California and I had what must of been the most expensive mash potatoes of all time. I’m sure Lauren will chime in the comments section if you are in for a real hum-dinging story.

We see each other every year for Puerto Rican Thanksgiving (more on that later) but I am so excited to finally hang out with her in her hood!

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This is my all-time favorite picture of her and I had to stalk her Facebook to find it. I think she is somewhere in NYC eating dim sum, but the red diner-booths confuse me. Hopefully she is as excited to see me as she was to grub down on chow mein and potstickers.

PS: Speaking of my amazing Jie Jie (what I have called her since forever), she has her own personal training business for almost a decade now in the big CO and worked on the show ‘The Doctors’ along with some seriously motivating weight loss stories. If you have any questions at all regarding anything, such as her love of spaghetti squash or how to properly do x, y, z, please e-mail me and I will have her compile a post! She is one of the best writers I know and I am slowly trying to convince her to start blogging.

Do we look alike? We are both unfortunately unphotogenic, so this is one of the few pictures we have where one person does not resemble Sloth from The Goonies.

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Segwaying with the NYC anecdote, that is where my second flight is going. SFO -> JFK. Virgin had a deal I couldn’t pass up so I am all locked in for mid-January. I am actually really nervous about the weather because I think it snowed for only 3 minutes one time in San Francisco history but hopefully everything will work out well. I am excited!

The sucky part (cue title) is that I will be in NYC from Saturday-Tuesday, stay in San Francisco for a day on Wednesday and then fly to Denver from Thursday-Sunday. It is hard to complain when I have such a fabulous week lined up for me.

My sister told me she would punch me in the throat if I came to Denver with a list of Yelp recommended restaurants. She loves food just as much as I do. It is a Condell thing.

However, I do need recommendations for NYC! Fancy, street food, hole in the walls, pastries, local dives, everything and anything would be nice.

This week has been so hard for me guys. I have not eaten out at one restaurant the whole week. I forgot what it feels like to be a functioning member of society. With that, I thought it would be nice to round up a few different eats I have remembered to take pictures of.

I have been going through hummus like a crackhead in the Tenderloin. To be honest, this container was almost finished in one sitting. I was both impressed and kind of disgusted with myself at the same time.

When this one was finished the next day, I cracked open a new one from The Hummus Guy I purchased at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday. That container is lucky I ran out of pita chips or the poor dip would not of even had a chance.

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This is kind of cheating because I just posted this on Wednesday, but I ate Sriracha broccoli with chicken and yams on Tuesday. Desert was a glass of two-buck Chuck and sweet red grapes.

Potstickers for lunch during a horrible study session. Nothing close to the real deal, but good enough for hard times.

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Can’t forget about the multiple espresso shots for the days I wake up when it is still dark outside. I do not remember life without my Gran Maestria.

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I said earlier I was going to make my jalapeno green bean stir fry, but I forgot to pick up a jalapeño and got really lazy after school. Instead, I seasoned with herbs de provence, garlic, oregano and paprika. Do not forget the crushed peanuts for texture!

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And to finish off with the saddest picture of kale chips, lighting on the second floor suuuucks.

To make up for it, I sneaked in a festive Halloween oven mitt.

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Nothing really planned for the weekend, all I want to do is get started on a new book and go to bed at 9 PM. Anyone with me?

What is the best meal you made this week? Can you recommend me a favorite book you finished lately?