Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Case of the Denver Vice-Triumvirate

While on an investigation into the recent acts of 'cabotage' at the Port of Long Beach in Southern California, a brief personal respite was taken by Watson and I into the Queen City of the West where we were fortunate enough to find ourselves amidst a swirling triangular vortex of vices; vices the likes of which I am most susceptible.... Gastronomic, Alcoholic, and Intoxicant, for my mind rebels at stagnation.

This serendipitous triple play had us first visiting the Jagged Mountain Brewery, a wonderfully industrial yet perfectly comfortable Pour House in the very center of Denver proper with a large collection of 20 (or thereabouts) proprietary craft creations. From the fruity, farmhouse style Summer Ale 'Isabella Bird', to the more robust 'Whiskey Barrel Aged Voodoo Goat' -  and with a blinder of Pale Ale betwixt and between.

Most certainly Jagged Mountain Brewery is a serious operation with a total dedication to the mead itself, all else being inferential as evidenced by their lack of any true food or other public offerings outside some locally packaged nuts for purchase. However, this enterprise also operates 'outside the triangle' by conjoining with local gourmands for a food pairing that draws in both the devoted beermeisters as well as those more gastronomically inclined. (To wit, an upcoming joining includes melding the eclectic chopped beefsteak burgers of local Colorado food denizen Troy Guard's TAG Burger Bar , a highly regarded enterprise in its own right.)


Yet on this desolate Sunday (having arrived unannounced upon its 11:00 am opening), and as delightfully wicked as it was to inhale the aromas of the finest Pale Ales and Porters our lovely attendant Ms. Rachael had to offer, our lengthy trip from the home of Gasparilla demanded that we answer the ever insistent beckoning of hunger. 

However, upon closer perusal the immediate area was digustibly bereft of anything visible save brick, glass, and asphalt until, beckoning us from it's stand-alone singular location, we spied La Popular Food Company hidden in plain sight down the opposite side of Lawrence.

La Popular, with its freestanding red brick building, gives one the impression that behind its doors lies a robust enterprise of Mexican delight, and that would prove to certainly be true in this case but not in the manner in which one might first believe.

Opening the heavily tinted front doors and expecting a large but low-scale sit down restaurant I was caught unawares by the immediate and extreme lack of seating, or any seating at all for that matter. Reminiscent of a small bakery with it's glass counter of baked goods standing proudly on the left and eliciting a dull throb in ones sweet tooth upon sight, this operation screamed both 'local dive' and 'authentic' in the same breath.

Making tamales and burritos 7 days a week for the walk-up crowd, La Popular is also a full scale wholesale operation offering their own stock in trade to passersby as well as providing for those larger enterprises wishing to offer the tried and true without reinventing the stone-ground tortilla wheel. Chips, salsas, and tortillas are for sale in 1 dozen counts to 1000 dozen counts and are also found in local markets such as King Soopers. (My investigative eye will surely one day delve into what kingdom this 'King' actually rules over!) 

Additionally, alongside the hefty sizes of the fresh core tortilla ingredient Masa, one will delight in various empanadas, cookies, and pastries that (as it did with this investigator) pull themselves from behind the glass and find there way into a rapidly filling outbound satchel. The purveyors of this popular bodega seem to just be catching on to the nuances of food enterprise for they've only been in operation for........60 years!

So quickly transacting a fully loaded deluxe burrito, along with two Mexican cookies and both an Apple and a Peach Empanada (all for less than half a crown, or I should say what you Yanks call a ten-spot) I was quickly striding back towards my new found favorite brew house when my eye was suddenly drawn askance for, intriguingly, found between La Popular and Jagged Mountain and forming the new right angle of this Vice Triangle is
"Cannabis Station", a legal marijuana dispensary well positioned in what appears to be a former Esso petrol station - and all this a mere three blocks from nearby cricket-house Coors Field - as well as the many parking lots feeding this downtown Rocky Mountain attraction.


Already fighting off the effects of the relatively mild "Isabella Bird" Pale Ale with its 6.5% ABV content I quickly reasoned the review and perusal of this enclave, one of EIGHT locations under the umbrella "Rocky Mountain High Co.", would not be served with a simply stop in and a mental note was made for a future more extensive............ investigation, for there is nothing like first hand evidence!

Returning to my bar side stool, and availing myself to further tastes of both Ms. Isabella's Ale as well as the more formidable "First Descent", a Whiskey Barrel Ale topping out at 15.5% ABV (Alcohol By Volume, or more appropriately:All Bragging Vocalized!), my La Popular Deluxe Burrito hit the spot and kept the ale's headiness from assuming total command of my faculties.


A further welcome surprise to the Jagged Mountain visit was the proliferation of available local artwork festooning the walls. From ice adventures to the nearly the surreal, it gave the atmosphere it's well deserved neighborly and adventurous ambiance.