Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jax Fish House + Panaderia Rosales + Homemade Chile = ??

Here is something I am not good at anymore: staying out late (even late-ish is pushing it) drinking, then waking up early the next day to do something. The doing something early this time around was snowshoeing. The drinking part was complicated by oysters, oh, copious amounts of oysters, Mexican pastries, three bowls of chile, and more Mexican pastries. In that order.

It all started innocently enough, with of all people, my friend Brian. You may remember Brian from such roles as the rarely-seen-former-roommate, in posts such as Happy New Year, King's Land Style. If you remember anything at all about that post, it might be that, despite our best efforts and our physical proximity, the two of us hardly ever see each other. When we last parted ways, we resigned to see each other in the year 2012, so it comes as little surprise that our reunion, a mere four weeks later, started off with a few celebratory clinking glasses.

It was Friday afternoon and we were at Jax Fish House in Denver. It was Oyster Week, and to celebrate they were running a few specials, most notably $1 oysters flown in fresh daily from places like the Chesapeake Bay. My original idea was to slam a couple dozen oysters between the two of us and make a taco run after that. Brian quickly put the stop on that, citing a recent trip to Florida where he overloaded on oysters, other food and beer only to awake with a nauseating hangover that I now remember him describing not unlike the one I would have the next day. He wanted to keep it simple. Clearly I paid this quite blatant piece of foreshadowing no heed-- but I digress.

The oysters were fantastic. The best of the bunch that we tried were the fresh Chesapeake Bay ones they had on special. They were large and sweet, wonderfully cold and fresh.

We also ordered a couple of different trios of "specialty oysters" off another menu card at the bar. To be honest I can't remember which oyster came with which presentation. One set had cream and caviar, and the other was nori-wrapped in the shell. Neither was all that fantastic, especially compared with the straight up oysters we were getting for a dollar. The cream drowned out the first oyster and the caviar was rather frugally portioned; the nori wrapping was also a little powerful for the other set. It was also served on a giant plate with painted-on sauce lines, like they seem to use liberally here. I'm all for creative and visually appealing presentations, but I expect it to be functional and integrated into the dish somehow. The crispy crab claws we had, for example, were served with an excellent dipping sauce painted in a checked pattern on the plate; running the crab through the lines was interactive and delicious. What do you do, however, with lines of sauce zig-zagging the plate containing three oysters that you are planning to eat with one slurp? You can't very well dip the shell in, or get a spoonful even (especially when you have no spoon). You just look at it, think, "That is visually pleasing and perfectly useless," and eat your oysters.

They should just buy plates with black lines on them

Despite my cynical digression, it was an excellent meal of oysters. I was also far too happy and tipsy to care about some extraneous plating. We also had some great fried calamari; it too, with palatable and useful sauce-art plating, although more of the concentric oval variety: mango chile and lime aoili to be exact. It was a tasty mix of flavors, and the calamari were perfectly chewy and moist on the inside, fried-crisp on the outside.

We wrapped up our oyster binge with an oyster shooter which was horribly unnecessary. It was vodka, bloody Mary mix and, well, an oyster served in a glass. It tasted fine, I suppose, but it was odd eating an oyster one minute and the next washing it down with an oyster-infused vodka. It did, however, inspire my wife, who had come to join in the frenzy, to order a bloody Mary, which was an interesting blend of fresh chunks of jalapeno and cucumber. And more oysters.

Upon leaving, my wife and I had a party to go to, with instructions to bring a dessert. Having nothing, we stopped at Panaderia Rosales in hopes of picking up a pastel de tres leches. They didn't have any cakes ready, so we got a tray and filled it, with among other things, carrot cake, faux Ho-Hos (or fake "Pinguinos" depending on which side of the Rio Grande you were born), and a neon-pink white sugar cake.

They also had some interesting pan dulces (sweet breads) like a flauta, which is a filo-type pastry rolled up like a cigar around a jelly filling. My old favorite, the pig-shaped anis-flavored conchinito, was stacked in impressive numbers, and also made its way onto the tray, though not all the way to the party. Yes, it goes without saying that by the time we left the store and made it the party, a mere 10 blocks or so away, I had eaten at least three pastries, and still felt just fine.

I will have to say that this bakery won't make it as one of my favorites although it was good. I found many items to be a little on the stale side, though this might have been due to the lack of evening traffic in this part of town more than anything else. My favorite place, El Paisa (now sadly my favorite former favorite place), gets a lot more traffic at all hours of the day and night, so while their display cases aren't always teeming with pastries, what is out is fresh and often still warm. 

The party, as I alluded to, was a chile potluck. I continued with some beer and ate three different types of chile. They were good, I guess that's why I ate so much, and I also helped myself to homemade mac and cheese, a few brownies and washed it all down with some more pan dulce.

It all ended happily enough that night, and it wasn't until the morning that I found any suffering. It was more of a nauseating food hangover than anything else, but I can't imagine all the beers helped any. With a double shot of espresso I managed to stumble into the car, happily surprised to see that I had stashed a bag of pastries (now semi-transparent with grease as it should be) behind the passenger seat the night before. I ate a few more on the way up to the mountains, sipped some more coffee and had a great day eventually.
Jax Fish House on Urbanspoon
Panaderia Rosales
Rosales Mexican Bakery on Urbanspoon

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