September 24, 2011

HB Eats: A Feast For Meat Lovers, Buckhorn Exchange, Denver, CO

Walking into the Buckhorn Exchange in Denver, Colorado is like walking straight onto the set of an old western movie, if the set was decorated by an overworked and giddy taxidermist.  Yes,  the deep red walls of the Buckhorn are lined from floor to ceiling with stuffed animals of all kinds, and while that may sound a bit strange at first, there are tons of reasons why tourists and locals flock to this fun Lincoln Park establishment.  The Buckhorn was founded in 1893, making it Denver’s oldest restaurant and home to the State’s first liquor license ever. The site history is definitely worth reading about, and is celebrated everyday with the cool vintage menu and display of Old West artifacts. The Buckhorn is conveniently located right across the street from the 10th and Osago light rail station, and offers an extensive menu of exotic meats, which is why I personally had it at the top of my must-try list for Denver. 

The Buckhorn is also known for serving up the very popular appetizer of Rocky Mountain Oysters, which isn't at all what it sounds like (if you watch Chopped then you know what I mean).  I must admit I didn’t try the mysterious delicacy, but I did watch plenty of nearby visitors squirm while they did.  I focused my appetizer energy instead on the famous bean soup (a must!) and the grilled duck breast served with a raspberry, red zinfandel sauce.  For an entrée I had the special game trio of yak, quail, and elk.  The yak and elk were firsts for me, which was exciting, but I definitely liked the quail the best.  It was cooked and seasoned perfectly, and I probably could have had a dozen more because the meat was so light and flavorful.  A trip to the Buckhorn is a trip back in time worth taking!   

September 17, 2011

HB Eats: MOSAIC, St. James, NY

It’s hard to believe that I started my Hungry Bee blog almost a year ago. It seems like just yesterday when I came up with my first bee graphic and domain name. Yet so much has happened in the last ten months.  I’ve done a ton of cooking, baking, eating, and exploring, along with seemingly endless amounts of writing, contemplating, and designing.  But it wasn’t until last weekend that I found a restaurant which truly challenged all of my blog writing capabilities.  

MOSAIC, located in St. James, NY on Long Island is a great culinary find. Its cozy, elegant, and warm interior contrasts with its rather generic strip mall setting. The key to this restaurant’s uniqueness is its 5-course tasting menu that changes every night ($54 per person -- wine pairing is extra).  This innovative concept seemed rather mind-blowing to me at first, but now I think I get it.  Having only five dishes everyday lets the chefs be super creative, yet not overwhelmed with a large menu.  While the chef will gladly remove any item that you do not want or cannot eat from each course, in general, what you hear is what you get at MOSAIC. 

So why was this such a challenging blogger experience? It was because of the shear number of ingredients delivered in each dish, and the speed at which the dishes were introduced.  Since I didn’t have a tape recorder with me, intense listening and concentration was a must  (especially since wine was involved)! Thankfully the room wasn’t very big and the waiters repeat the menu items with each new table.  Just so you don’t think I am exaggerating, I’ve created a link to my extensive menu notes.  Sure, a part of me thought that the waiter might offer me a copy of his menu list, but what fun is that!?!

Overall the meal was delicious, beautiful, and filling! Each dish was crafted in a unique pattern highlighting the ingredients on the plate.  The fillet was by far my favorite part of the meal, followed by the duck breast, and the sensational dessert platter with the most delicate strawberry cheesecake panna cotta ever.  I recommend this restaurant for any special occasion or dining splurge.  I also recommend making a reservation, because space is at a premium at MOSIAC!

September 10, 2011

HB Eats (and Drinks): Titletown Brewing Company- Green Bay, WI

Before heading to Colorado on my vacation, I spent a few days further north in Green Bay, Wisconsin for my good friends’ wedding.  The quick weekend stay included a traditional Friday night Wisconsin fish fry, a glimpse at the Green Bay waterfront, and a highly anticipated and fulfilling tour of the Packers’ football stadium - Lambeau Field. 

During my first sightseeing outing, my friends and I stumbled upon a great local microbrewery and restaurant, Titletown Brewing Company.  I soon learned that "Titletown, USA" is Green Bay’s unofficial nickname based on its many championships.  However, there is way more to this City than football, including its rich railroad history.

Titletown Brewing Company is located inside the former Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Depot.  The original depot building was constructed in 1899 by architect Charles Frost, and acted as a thriving transportation hub and community gathering spot for years to come.  While the railroad use was eventually abandoned, the attraction to the site never was. In 1994 a group of investors renovated the vacated building, and the culinary destination has been serving up comfort food and spirits since 1996.  It is also a national landmark.

Titletown offers a selection of home crafted beers, as well as their delicious Sno-Cap Root Beer.   I ordered the beer sampler which was a great way to start a meal.  The ten miniature drinks complemented my flavorful pulled pork sandwich, which was doused in BBQ sauce made with the Sno-Cap root beer.  I was really impressed by Titletown’s Cheesy Mac with its creamy and luscious Asiago cheese sauce and smoky bacon!  Titletown was so much fun we returned two days in a row. Okay, we actually went back because we found out that a another local hotspot, Chili John’s, was closed on Sundays, but it was a great excuse to return for a second trip. I would definitely go back again on my next visit to Green Bay!

September 3, 2011

HB Sweets: Hammond's Candy Factory- Denver, CO

One morning during my recent trip to Colorado, I was clicking through the cable stations available in my hotel room when I happened upon a mouthwatering show on the Travel Channel about the best food factories.  The first segment that I watched was filmed at Hammond's Candy Factory in Denver.  I soon realized that this local institution was located just less than 15 minutes from downtown where I was staying!  Being the candy junkie that I am, I was psyched to find out from their website that Hammond's offers free factory tours all day long (except for Sundays when they are closed). An hour later I was in the car and on my way!

Hammond's is most famous for its hard candy treats, including its highly popular candy canes.  Every December they hold a Candy Cane Festival with a special visit from Santa himself.  The factory tour consisted of a video showcasing the company's past and present, followed by a look at the factory workers in action, and ended with a stop in the Hammond's candy shop.  Our tour guide was very animated as she described the candy making and shipping process from start to finish and answered our questions.  It was hypnotizing watching the skilled candy makers mold sugar and spin colorful lollipops in the work room.  I spent the majority of my visit in the Hammond's store, where there are tons of goodies to choose from, including lollipops, chocolates, caramels, and of course candy canes. 

If you can’t make it all the way to the factory, Hammond’s candies are available online and now at certain markets such as Whole Foods, Nordstrom’s, Dean & Deluca, Cracker Barrel, and my favorite Sur La Table.  I ended up coming all the way back to New York to try my first Mitchell’s Sweet from Sur La Table.  This unique treat combines two of my favorite candies- marshmallow and caramel - into a bite-sized confection. These sweets were created in the 1930s and are named after Hammond's friend who came up with the delicious idea.  Click here to learn more about Hammond's company history. 

Other than the Ben and Jerry's headquarters tour in Vermont, I had never really thought about adding food factories to my list of vacation attractions, but thanks to the Travel Channel and Hammond’s I definitely will in visit more in the future!