See these guys? They were one of the star ingredients in the sauce that went over tonight's chicken. What are they, you ask? Black garlic...something I'd only previously seen on TV cooking shows but that now lives in my pantry along with aji amarillo and ground ancho chile. Now if only I could dry the poblano peppers growing in my garden thanks to Dr. Dale. Both those spices were in the sauce too...but let me start at the beginning.
One of the things we did in Colorado Springs was eat our way through take a walking food tour of the downtown area. I'd done one in Greenwich Village a few years ago with some of the editors of Creating Keepsakes and loved every minute of it so I was really looking forward to it. And this one did not disappoint. It's part area history and a whole lot of eating. Believe me, we didn't walk nearly far enough to burn off the calories we consumed but everyone is entitled to a little indulgence on vacation. Right?
Our first stop was the Savory Spice Shop where they were ready with a Dark Chocolate Truffle with Ghost Pepper. Eating dessert first...I'm so into this food tour! If you followed the link, you know that Ghost Pepper is *the* hottest pepper but there was just the right amount in the truffle to give it some subtle heat and plenty of chocolate to make it delicious. We were so intrigued by this shop that we decided we'd have to come back at the end of the tour to devote more time to it so I'll do the same and come back to it later in this post.
From there we went to Poor Richard's, a bookstore/toy store/restaurant, where we had a lucious salad full locally-grown produce, including fresh green beans, followed by New York-style pizza. We could have made our entire lunch there but we knew there was more to come.
Like cupcakes! Hmmm, let's see...three stops and we've had dessert at two of them. The store was so cute and the cupcakes were really good. We each got to pick our own and the choices in our group were Maple-Bacon, Red Velvet, Triple Chocolate and Pumpkin.
From there we were off to the Mediterranean Cafe for samples of Spanakopita and other Middle Eastern fare. The hummus was some of the best I've ever eaten. Wayne even tried it but he found the Baba Ghanouj (that's how it's spelled on the menu) more to his liking. Get a load of that, Dr. Dale; he liked eggplant! We weren't all that keen on the Falafel but loved the Gyro meat and the explanation of how it was made. And, of course, we finished with a bite of Baklava. We all agreed that if we were staying longer, we'd return for a regular meal.
And here's the group photo taken at the Mediterranean Cafe. In the "small world" category, it turned out the reddish-haired girl in green grew up in Milton, just 15 minutes down the road from us.
The next stop was P.B. and Jellies, a sandwich shop specializing in, what else, freshly-made peanut butters and custom-made jellies. It was...different, but then I'm not a peanut butter eater. They brought out several jars of each for us to try, including Bananas Foster Peanut Butter. That didn't entice me nor did the sandwich they offered...an Elvis Presley. Peanut butter, honey, bananas and bacon. The rest of the crew indulged and said they'd eat it again...but not everyday.
We finished the tour at a wine shop where the owner gave a nice presentation about what foods to pair with what wines, allowing us to sample her examples. Dark chocolate was one of the offerings with one of the reds; we'd come full circle.
The tour ended at this point but we weren't done "adventuring" so back we went to the spice shop. We knew we were going to buy; we just wanted more time to decide what. The small jars and bags are already measured and priced but you can buy even smaller amounts which are measured out from the large jars. There's a taster for everything and you're encouraged to smell and sprinkle a little in your hand to taste to get a feel for each spice. And there were lots of them. There was a whole display like this just for salt and another one for peppercorns.
And among all those displays were recipe cards suggesting ways to use the spices. We picked up several then bought the spices mentioned at the beginning to make Peach Chile Chicken with Black Garlic. The sauce was really good but the chicken was just so-so. We both agreed we'd make the sauce again but either cook the chicken in a different manner or pair it with a different meat. And because we were so impressed with the Mediterranean food, we bought some Za'atar too.
Food tours give you a different insight into a city if, like here, the restaurants and shops visited are locally owned. I'm filing this idea away for future trips...or even a little jaunt over to New Orleans. Who says all the adventures have to be on the highway?