Saturday, June 22, 2013

Biker Jim's Gourmet Hot Dogs - Down the Rabbit Hole!

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs - The Restaurant on Urbanspoon                       
The missive that had come from Scotland Yard was to investigate a small yet already highly popular foodhouse on 21st. and Larimer St. in Downtown Denver. 'Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs' was, it appeared, was purporting to be a variant of a Hot Dog Biker Bar yet had been attracting and thoroughly satisfying patrons of all demographics .... couples, college students, sports enthusiasts, even families! There was something askew with this operation, perhaps a little of the time honored ruse of the bait and switch at work we suspected, and determining this sleight of hand was what Watson and I were charged with.

So as not to draw too much attention to our investigating selves, we chose to adorn ourselves with a coterie of lowly characters to keep any suspecting eyes off-balance. For this case, in addition to Rachael, Duchess of Downing, I chose to include our little group of neighborhood charlatans, the Baker St. Irregulars, who had a healthy appetite for nearly anything served either fast or slow, hot or cold, even edible or not.... therefore it posed to be the perfect assignment for them! 

Upon learning of our case, a wave of skepticism passed over the furrowed brow of my friend Dr. Watson, whose Vegan manner has now taken on an almost mystical aire.  What could my old friend possibly find here that could help his gastronomic predisposition he wondered? And with personal experience with this 'Biker Jim' character, I too was unsure as well. 

"Fret not" I heard the Duchess forswear to the acceptability of the foodstuffs of this Denver favorite to even the Vegans among us. And so the six members of our brigade made their way separately to this downtown location to investigate.

Biker Jim's is posited in a brick storefront location with large, open air front windows that gives one an inviting temperament, a lure to the potentially unsuspecting perhaps! Yet its easy 2 block walk from Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, continually deposited a steady stream of hungry flotsam both to and fro for Biker Jim's trickery to ensue.

One's expected 'Hot Dog' familiarity ends upon arrival as you are at once struck by both the simplicity of the ordering system and the immediacy of the 'we're not in Kansas anymore' aura...... With WYSWIG simplicity one is instructed thru the A,B,C's of the ordering process......Choose a Dog from Menu 1, add a topping from Menu 2, sides from Menu 3, drinks from menu 4.......all of which will directly lead you to the counter where you pay for your choices and await your called number. It seemed simple enough. 

Until the 'Gourmet Dog' choices on Menu 1 make themselves available to you: a Rattlesnake and Pheasant Hot Dog? Alaskan Reindeer? Duck Cilantro?........ what manner of her Majesty's Royal Canteen was this? Everywhere one looked there was seemingly no escape, there was resplendent variety far exceeding even selections my morphine induced dreams could conjure up!

And there was still  more! Reindeer? Pheasant? Veal? The Weiner Wellington! It's description read 'A Steak Brat with a mushroom duxelle in a puff pastry with'........ oh save me please... 'a bordelaise drizzle!' Good Heavens this place WAS an astounding find! 

Are they serious? Wild BOAR with apricots and cranberries?? I must have been hallucinating I thought! The menus sported 13 'Basic' dogs in all, 2 'Deluxe' dogs (The Bat Dog and the Weiner Wellington) as well as two Burger choices (The 'Street Burger' with it's Poblano Crispy Onions and the 'High Mountain Burger' with Stilton Blue Cheese and Bacon Orange Marmalade). 

And STILL not complete it also included kid friendly menu choices and yes, even something for the Vegan amongst us! (Watson, come quickly!)

With the Baker St. Irregulars having raced British Mini's out on the fruited plains for the past 24 hours at High Plains Raceway, Little Mickey Bill chose the Elk JalapeƱo Chedder Dog with the Jim's Classic topping of carmelized onion and cream cheese while his partner in crime, Street Legal Harry O'Mani opted for the fairly pedestrian All Beef Dog, albeit wrapped in bacon. However, BOTH these charlatans chose a spry side dish of Deep Fried Mac N' Cheese...something usually found only in county fairs in the deep south and/or lodged into the tracheas of emergency room CPR victims. Yet 'Biker Jim' treated this like the connoisseur that he is and it's crispy yet velvety smoothness again turned convention on it's head.

Watson then predictably chose the 'Vegan Dog', mild rather than spicy, but with the 'Desert' topping of Harissa Roasted Cactus with Malaysian Jam, Scallions, Cilantro and Onions Two Ways. The Duchess took in the Alaskan Reindeer Dog, also with the Desert Topping as well while her trusted confidante Sir William Lennon also chose the Vegan....appropriately and surreptitiously 'Chopra' cooled to his own specifications.

Stepping to the counter and putting caution to the wind I decided to stretch the boundaries of acceptability and chose the 
Rattlesnake Pheasant Dog with the Sonoran Top -  Pintos, Tomatoes, Onions, and Jalapeno's with mustard and mayo and a Mixed Green salad side. And to slake a High Plains Thirst a Blue Ribbon Pabst Tall Boy, the renaissance of which has simply astounded the brewing world and is a paeon to the marketing greatness exhibited in every can (and at every Rodeo!)

Yet I was quickly outdone with the Baker St. Irregulars sequestering the day's drink special - a Lemon Napalm Margarita, with it's three levels of liquid deliverance - Lemonade for thirst, Tequila for ease of mind, and Jalapeno's for the final kick! It will be my sworn statement to my dying day that I witnessed a small mushroom cloud exit one Baker St. a very irregular fashion!

Stumbling back onto the street we were again transported back into reality and the lot of us looked back into Biker Jim's wistfully and with a fierce determination to return, and next time with a much larger entourage.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rocco's Tacos - A Splendid Boca Affair

Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar on Urbanspoon
With many of my investigations taking place in some very specific areas of this fine country (New York City, Colorado, Florida, Texas) one comes to know by the counting of the digits on one's hand the places that can be relied upon to provide a no-surprise, thoroughly enjoyable experience every single visit and Rocco's Taco's of Boca Raton (and presumably the other four Florida locations) is easily one of them.  

This Boca locale, neatly tucked away in the 'Restaurant Valley' of the Boca Town Center on S. Military Trail, underwent a name and format change a while ago from it's equally well presented 'City Grille', which was also a healthy check in the 'yes' column for its comfort and delicious reliability.

However, whence renovated and reintroduced as 'Rocco's Taco's', one was wont to ask (this one specifically!) 'Why'? What reason might there be I pondered for tinkering with a format that was seemingly performing so well and had been wonderfully received?? Well, the answer was now evident for one only needs to NOW experience the enthusiastic vitality of this new environ to see that there is a rejuvenated vigor in this delectable enterprise...and with a noticeably marked turn towards the 'young and vibrant' in the patrons now enjoying said vigor.....or just those who want to 'feel' younger! (Everyone seems 'younger' to this inspector these days! How old IS this 'Rocco' I'd like to know!)
Further evening investigations will be needed on this splendid outside bar

Placing face down on our lunch table the 200+ Tequila offerings so as not to entice my 'guests', we elected to sit at one of their splendid outside tables this being a fine spring day without the clawing humidity that Florida so graciously offers. And it was in this quiet outside that I noticed the makings of a possible future fine evening affair, a desolate Rocco's Taco's outside Bar, no doubt soon replete with the Enejo (aged), Reposada (rested), Plata (silver) and Oro (gold) Tequila's I was now savoring..... and positioning my svelte EnergelNV Fine Point, Black, a note was made in my journal to return to this geo-synchronous location and 'further investigate' these fine Tequila's when 'my wits' were not so needed to be about me!

Joining me on this particular investigation was Baron Von Russo, Lord of the Queens Land, and his Special Envoy Natasha La Plume, recently of the Georgian Empire. Additionally, an invitation was extended to Her Excellency Lady Hannah of Medina who had a particularly long-honed expertise that I felt would be called upon in this day's caper. 

Chicken Enchiladas Verde Plate

Thusly perusing the extensive menu of 'Mexican Specialties', each with a marked twist from the ordinary, Lord Russo, he so graciously accepting the lunch invite on behalf of himself and his Special Envoy.....chivalrously allowed her to order first and with aplomb and poise ventured forth - the 'Enchiladas Verde Chicken', with it's pulled chicken breast and tomatillo sauce.... a splendid selection! Now here was a true woman of adventure venturing forth without so much as a glancing skew.... 
Durango Combinacione

Then Lady Hannah, with focus unparalleled and without a seconds' hesitation, chose the Durango Combinacione...with it's offerings including a BBQ Beef Tostada, Skirt Steak Taco, and a Quesadilla Con Queso.......interesting! Even the combinaciones offered had a special twist to them for this was no ordinary 'combo plate'!

Yet it was Lord Russo who decided to truly test the Mexican integrity of this impressive menu and with the certainty and fortitude that he carried about him daily, which was found to be impressive by all he encountered daily, looked at our waiter cheerily and ordered  ..............a Cobb Salad. A Cobb Salad! (Why my good man, are you devoid of reason? Would you order a Big Mac whilst at a Dim Sum shop in Chinatown? A grilled cheese sandwich without crusts at Bar Masa in NYC (not that they would even let you!) Might you also be having the Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Milk for dessert?) 

These were the comments I could hear myself saying out loud yet, master of restraint that I've trained myself to be thru similarly unbridled occasions, I so very quietly.....leaned in and ......inquired very gingerly and discreetly of The Baron....."A COBB SALAD! My Dear LORD!! Are you serious? At Rocco's Taco's? With it's 200+ tequila's (no, I was not obsessed) you ordered a .........."
The Mexican Cobb Salad

"Uh, Mr. Holmes, it's a Mexican Cobb Salad sir, it says so right here.....see?" No, I had NOT seen and quickly grasping my magnifying glass I decided it might be wise to peruse this menu for myself in much finer detail! 

Sure enough, Rocco's had added a Tijuana twist to this Brown Derby specialty, that amalgam of leftovers from the ice cooler deftly made into a rainbow of tasty color, it's incorporation of Mexican grilled chicken, pico de gallo, grilled fresh corn kernals, guacamole, egg, cojito cheese, and a chipotle-lime vinaigrette thus transforming a mere Cobb Salad into a delightful plate of Monterrey beauty. Superb! [And for those who desire to know what the original ingredients of the creation named in 1929 for Sir R. Howard Cobb, one must simply 'EAT COBB'....Egg, Avocado, Tomato, Chicken, Olives, Bacon, and Blue Cheese! Elementary really..........)

Now faced with the choice I ponder at every meal while traveling under my alias identity: do I stay true to my vegetarian leanings or give in to the constant temptations of the flesh, allowing myself to be drawn deeper and deeper into it's intoxicating swirl?  Sorting thru all manner of pescados, tortas, mocajetes, and antojitos, with a slight twitch at the 'tres amigos' of chips with three different fresh salsa offerings, I had almost given up hope when I spied the 'Vegetarian Enchilada' entry there on the menu! Oh heavenly salvation, I was rescued at just the right moment! Trying ever so valiantly to stay on course with a plant-centric diet is certainly not easy what with flaming Mexican fajita plates and Carne Asada platters traversing the air space around you!

No sooner had we placed our orders, and elected to also partake in the house specialty of fresh table-side made guacamole, when we heard a CRASH behind us! Suddenly strewn about us was what looked to be roughly 1000 avocado's (well, surely 30 at least!) as the Guacamole Cart used to traverse the restaurant and make tableside this delicious accompaniment, lost it's healthy load in a very audible fashion! 

Looking about at the nearby diners I sensed a worrisome appearance upon many faces, many of whom surely felt that THIS was not the preferred manner in which to make guacamole, was it??Mashing avocado's by throwing them to the ground? I so soothed our guests in pointing out that with their healthy protective skins none of the fruit were any worse for the wear and might actually now be considered 'pre-mashed'....only our Guacamole Gourmand seemed to be suffering the worse fate of deep, red chile faced embarrassment!

With meals delivered and the tone and volume of conversation at a newly subdued level (occupying the vocal chord area with food is always a surefire way of decreasing the cacophany at any event) I excused myself to take in the wider suroundings and afford myself the use of the facilities.

Now kudos and kippersnacks to the chap who originally determined that the area above the men's loo might be a keen location for an ad-vertisement or other such proclamations. It started off oh so innocently enough decades ago.....a handbill here, a chalk board there, then gravitating to the newspaper posting, sporting events mostly - the latest on the rugby match or the results of a cricket tournament to preoccupy the 'reader' (I cannot say what might be placed in the ladies powder room except perhaps... powder!) 

Accompanying the expansion such promotions over the past decades came the cascading prices of electronic technology, with many 'forward thinking' establishments opting to thus put mini-screen displays in place of news pages for their gentle yet dyspeptic patrons to be calmly assuaged.

Rocco's, with it's choice menu item of freshly made tortilla chips served with three distinct salsas, takes this trend one step better for over the catch basins these color screens run continuous loops of their delicious menu item - 'The Three Amigos!', that favorite of comedic cinema with a decidely pseudo Mexican flair! Oh the deliciousness of this was already too much to absorb when I noticed a small boy standing with his father asking 'What movie is that Dad?", and listening to his father try to explain why this was playing in the men's urinal was almost more mirthful than the movie! Further adding to the tongue-in-cheek spirit throughout was a large number of humorous period piece posters running the gamut from Mexican Wrestlers to faux movie-house colorations. An Excellent Touch!

Returning to our outside seating, I noticed many tables now replete with large umbrellas or some sort of shaded protection, for in the South Florida sun many non-Floridians mistakenly believe they are visiting the surface of Venus rather than a tropical residential and commercial paradise.

The result of this visit only confirmed that Rocco's Taco's is much, nuch more than it's name implies and is a requisite stop for excellent food and spirits while in this vicinity.

So with another case drawing to a close, it is no wonder that later that evening I found it quite necessary to personally inspect the claim of 200+ varieties of Tequila on the very premises! And while I cannot vouch for the veracity of such a claim (in print!), I can tell you there are at least six that I have become personally quite acquainted with and fond of. 

The remainder? THAT will have to be left for another adventure!

Rocco's Tacos on Foodio54