Sunday, May 19, 2013

FDR, Pig's Feet and an Event For You

It continues to amaze me that I get asked to publicize events, attend media promotions--or really to do anything that relies on the assumption that because I have chosen to publish my thoughts about food on the internet, that people out there for some reason: a) read, b) care about, or even harder to believe, c) act upon what ends up on my blog. But I like to imagine that in the publicity business they still say, “There is no such thing as bad publicity,” in which case I suppose I can understand. And every once in a while (for the good or bad of the event I don't know), something comes along that I feel compelled to share.

June 8, Denver’s own soul food scholar, Adrian Miller, will be giving a talk called, “Black Chefs of the White House,” as a fundraiser for the Campbell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church's health and wellness ministry and the Colorado Black Health Collaborative at the Turnhalle Ballroom at the Tivoli Student Union. And there won't just be talking about food, your ticket includes a meal that represents food made by the many black chefs in the white house all the way from George Washington to our current chef to the chief.

If you have read this much blog before then you know that what I love most about the country that we live in is the blurring of cultures, traditions and authenticity. Learning that African Americans have been omnipresent in the White house kitchen staff does not surprise me, but to imagine the day FDR fell in love with pig's feet, or that LBJ used the experiences of his African American cook to lobby for the 1964 civil rights act is certainly something I want to hear more about.

So if your curiosity is piqued, too, check out the event details.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ace Eat Serve My Kids

Not too long ago I bitched and moaned about a sorry list of kid-friendly eat spots in Denver put together by someone that I can only hope wasn't really trying all that hard. I also promised I wouldn't turn this blog into a kid-centric restaurant blog-- and I won't--- but when you go out to eat with a pair of toddlers on a regular basis, places that treat your kids well and keep them happy go quickly to the top of your list. And sometimes it happens when you are least expecting it.

Such was the case with Denver's relatively new Ace Eat Serve, which has become instantly popular due to its affiliation with neighboring hipster institution Stueben's--and its ping pong tables don't hurt either. Sure ping pong sounds kid friendly I suppose, but when I think new hip restaurant in uptown, I don't immediately round up the wife and squirmy two-year olds and pile in the Wagon Queen Family Truckster.

But Ace is fully prepared to take good care of your kids. Ours were greeted with the typical coloring placemats and crayons, but also diverse menu options, of which we chose the steamed bun plate.
It came out on a brilliant red tray, the cool kind with all the dividers and shit. Besides the steamed bun, there was a pile of bright green edemame and a fruit salad of strawberries and mango. And for utensils? Tong-like kiddie chopsticks.

Ace got everything right for my kids and the adult plates that got passed were also mostly very good, but among some flashes of brilliance was some mediocrity. On the good side were the crispy beef and fried Brussels sprouts. The thin strips of honey-ginger sweet beef were wholly satisfying and crispy indeed; while the (also crispy) Brussels sprouts and chiles were simply perfect.

The soup dumplings were also good. Simple foods like this often are, and Ace did well to leave it alone.

On the not-so-good side was a fish dish that my wife ordered. So forgettable, in fact, that I don't remember anything else about it.

Also worth mentioning was the admirable though not very spicy house made kim chi. And the airy steamed buns filled with braised short ribs.

While my kids did enjoy eating with tongs (they really do, and would attempt to eat every meal with big BBQ tongs if allowed), they love little bits of ice even more. For dessert Ace offers flavored, shaved ice--for free. My boys slurped and savored in silence for the last 10 to 15 minutes of the meal. That is nothing short of miraculous.

I loved Ace. Maybe not for every single plate I ate, but for how much my kids ate, and how well we were all treated. So parents, add this one to your list, and for you fun loving single kid-less types, don't worry, we all eat dinner at like 5:30, so we will be out of your hair long before anything really fun could happen anyway.

Ace Eat Serve on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Jolly Me and Jollibee: Filipino Fast Food in Seattle

A few weeks back I was in the refreshingly rainy hamlet of Seattle to rendezvous with my Pinoy peeps and to soak in the city, as it were. And in between brief rays of sun (minutes at best), rain it did; and though we did spend some quality time outdoors, we did oft seek shelter indoors.

Besides the wet stuff that falls from the sky, Seattle is different from Denver in other ways. It is, for example, home to many, many Filipino expats and their inevitable extended families. This was equally as refreshing to me as the 4 days of more or less continuous rain showers, because as I have said before, Denver is sorely lacking Filipinos.

You may remember from my other posts that Filipinos love the mall, so it should be no surprise that in south Seattle, where the Filipino population is most concentrated, there is a fabulously Filipino mall. I am not one to take much pride or joy in the Filipino mall-loving tradition. Maybe it is because I am but 50 percent Pinoy (I don't care for boxing much either), though whatever the case I was thrilled to go to Seattle's Southcenter mall, and not just because of the pouring rain, but because it has Jollibee.

Don't know jollibee? Jollibee is the face in Filipino fast food. Well, at least the Jollibee jolly bee is.

Jollibee is a fantastic (or not-so-fantastic, depending on you taste) mix of fried chicken, burgers and a handful of Filipino-inspired bites like the spam burgers that were recently featured on Bourdain's "new" CNN show. But my family comes here for their love of fried chicken.

"Fried chicken?" you may wonder. Yes, although love of fried chicken has been stereotypically associated with other ethnic groups, the Filipino love of crispy, breaded chicken proves how stupid stereotypes really are. That being said, who doesn't love fried chicken? I mean, even if you are a vegetarian, or don't eat the stuff, I doubt it is because you don't like the taste of fried chicken skin and juicy, tender chicken flesh. Is there a stereotype for people who don't love fried chicken?

The chicken, although "crispylicious", is not entirely unlike other fast food chicken you might come across in the US (save for the side of steamed rice), and it is not as good as in other chicken hubs of the Philippines (like Max's, which I learned is in Vancouver), but it is a taste of home for many and that is likely why we waited almost 10 minutes in line just to order.

Was it worth it? Maybe. Certainly for the nostalgia and the halo halo, a uniquely Filipino dessert made up of beans, candied fruits, ice cream and many other treats that may or may not sound appealing at first all mixed together--but it is simply fantastic. You can enjoy a very good version of halo-halo at Denver's own Sunburst Grill, but this portable Jollibee version more than did the trick. My wife tore into it before I had a chance to snap a photo, and the photo is shaky as I had to literally wrest it from her hands and then dodge her loving blows as I snapped it.

This mall was so full of Filipinos that it also was home to a Filipino evangelical church and a full-on Filipino market that reeks wonderfully of freshly fried fish all day and night. Old Filipino men take over entire sections of the mall to play cards. So next time you are in Seattle and want a fun Filipino experience, head out of the rain and into the Southcenter Filipino Shopping Center.

Jollibee on Urbanspoon


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