With our California girls needing to return to work…and since we were sort of already out that way…and sort of missed out on our usual journey to Denver, Colorado in April due to my roomie’s teammate…Cathy and I decided that we would take that journey to Colorado. I admit, for much of the planning stages, tacking on the Denver portion was a nightmare…but we got it all worked out. And with that, we got to spend Wednesday through Sunday in beautiful Colorado.
There is so much to do and see in Colorado…and we’ve been here enough times that we have our favorites that we wouldn’t miss out on…ever. But, we also had our sights on some new adventures, both with friends and with food.
So…here’s how a gluten-free vegetarian eats while in Colorado!
Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro – Lafayette, Colorado
It was our first day in Colorado. After landing at the Denver airport and getting our rental car (free upgrade to the Toyota Prius), we hit the road for our drive up to the Boulder, Colorado area. We were staying at the Boulder Twin Lake Inn, where many a famous runner has spent the night. I was thrilled. I was hoping maybe I was in the room Shalane Flanagan stayed in so that I could channel some of her speed. The inn is actually owned by runners, which is why it is popular with runners. Well, after getting checked in, we were starving…so Cathy and I made a short little drive to Lafayette, Colorado. Our Find Me Gluten-Free app had directed us toward a place called Zaparelli’s Italian Bistro…and it had many gluten-free options. Including…gluten-free pizza. Which, mind you, I was thrilled about, as I was doing my long run the following morning around the area the inn was located in…a full 12.5 mile run. Pizza was just the thing I needed.
Wanting to try something we couldn’t get anywhere else, we decided to get a Gluten-Free Johnny V’s Vegan Pie ($15.00). It just sounded intriguing…and, as I said, the toppings were different from anything we’d been able to get out anywhere else. Order in. At Zamparelli’s…the gluten-free crust is a $2.00 upcharge, but when you have to eat gluten-free, what are you going to do? The gluten-free pizza is a 12-inch pizza crust…and in this case…it is topped off with a garlicky white bean spread, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, sauteed spinach, roasted mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and a spicy salsa rosa. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine was just reading the description. I liked that it was vegan…no cheese to upset my delicate stomach as it sometimes does. Also important with that long run looming.
The pizza was delivered and boy…did it look and smell amazing. It tasted just as good as it looked too. The white bean spread acted as the base, instead of a tomato sauce. The roasted red peppers elevated a lot of the flavor, especially when paired with the caramelized onion. Sweet and savory. Very delicious. But the star, believe it or not, were the artichoke hearts. That just brought all the other toppings together. Fantastic. The crust was really good. Not undercooked, but done to perfection. It was a thin crust without being a cracker crust, which I appreciated. I was quite happy with this meal and my roommate and I walked out of there satisfied, full, and quite happy.
The Buff Restaurant – Boulder, Colorado
I first heard about The Buff Restaurant on Man vs. Food. They are best known for their “Saddlebags” which are pancakes that are stuffed with either bacon, sausage or ham, and then topped off with two eggs. They are massive, mind you. Like…steering wheel size. So much more of the menu now has a gluten-free option available (including the Saddlebags…except being vegetarian…not for me)…but I had just done a 12.5 mile run and I was wanting some protein.
I ended up getting one of the omelettes. In fact, I went with the Veggie Omelette ($9.50). This thing is, honestly, the size of my head. But…full of delicious veggie goodness. This particular omelette comes packed with broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach and onions, with a touch of blended cheddar. Along with this massive egg-splosion of goodness (see what I did there?), you get a side of their potatoes…or you can upgrade to the fruit for just $1.00 more. I wanted my carbs…so I stuck with the potatoes. And, with it came a slice of gluten-free toast. YUM! As I was in need of some caffeine, I ordered a Café Au Lait with almond milk ($3.50). It was just the hit I needed, especially since the cup it came out in was, again, the size of my head. I think I was wired for much the rest of the day. But it was good.
So was the food for that matter, but I already knew that. I’ve been eating at The Buff for three years now. I make a trip to Boulder specifically to eat there and go to the Celestial Seasonings factory. Honestly. I do. It’s the truth. The eggs are always done to perfection. The toast is crispy and never burned. I love it with their homemade jam. SO delicious. And the potatoes…they are my favorite way to consume carbs. Seasoned to perfection. Done with that bit of crisp on the outside and that soft center. I ate mine with hot sauce. The omelette too. HEAVEN…on a plate. Which I demolished, mind you. I ate every last piece. I was full for the rest of the day.
St. Bon’s Café – Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Around 5 p.m. after my massive breakfast, however, the tummy was starting to get a case of the rumblies. And my roommate had researched the perfect solution for said problem. We were now down in Denver for the remainder of our stay and it just so happened that Denver is the home of a 100% gluten-free deli and bakery. Seriously.
St. Bon’s Café was an absolute nightmare to get to. And we were getting hungry and cranky as we made our way through rush hour traffic on a Thursday night. Our GPS got us down to the right area, but had so much trouble actually getting us to the store. I finally looked it up on my iPhone and managed to get us there. But it was about 30 minutes before they were going to close. It was a good thing we already had an idea of what we wanted to eat…because we were cutting it close.
That being said, the owner, Kurt Fulwider, was behind the counter and ready to take our orders. He told us not to worry about it. He had a meeting he needed to get to across town and already called to say it wasn’t happening and that he would be late. So…we ordered…not just dinner…but a dessert to split. More on that after I tell you about our sandwiches.
For me…I wanted The 3 Wisemen Panini on the house made Rosemary Thyme Focaccia ($7.99). The 3 Wisemen is a basic caprese sandwich. It’s freshly sliced tomatoes, basil leaves and mozzarella. Cathy went with her favorite…something cheesy…opting for The Trinity Panini on the house made Basil Garlic Focaccia ($7.99). This sandwich is stuffed full of three different cheeses…creamy havarti, sharp white cheddar, and smooth meunster. We decided we could split a dessert and I had my heart already set on the Blasphemous Bread Pudding ($3.99), which was a gluten-free bread putting with a delicious custard and dark chocolate. With our orders now paid for, we settled at a table until they were ready.
Let me tell you…the wait wasn’t bad…and the food was fantastic. Absolutely FANTASTIC! I fell in love with the rosemary thyme focaccia. The flavors meshed so well with the fixings in my sandwich. The basil was so fresh and so fragrant. The mozarella was melt-in-your sammie good. And the tomatoes were ripe, and didn’t bleed juice all over my bread. The focaccia was toasted in the panini press to perfection, giving that nice golden crispiness to each bite. I was in love with this sandwich. Cathy tried a piece and said while she loved hers…she really loved the bread on mine.
As for that sinful dessert…oh…yeah. It was rich…creamy…and beyond blasphemous. This was a sin to eat. The custard was rich and creamy, but not overly heavy. The dark chocolate…melt my heart to pieces…so good. It paired so well with the custard. I was so happy when eating this. So very happy. I sort of want to recreate it for myself. If possible. It’s worth a try. Yep…that good. Mouth watering…sinfully…satisfyingly…perfect for when you are PMS-ing or any other time because you just need some chocolate dammit…good!! I hope I can get back here when I’m in Denver in May. It must happen.
Coquette’s Bistro and Bakery – Colorado Springs, Colorado
I love crepes. LOVE them. With the exception of my local food truck, I normally can’t have them. I don’t have a good crepe pan to do them myself…nor would they come close to what Sweet ‘N’ Savory can cook up for me in their food truck. Normally when I am in Colorado, I would go to La Creperie Cafe in Denver. But…they closed. THEY CLOSED!! I was saddened by this, but started doing some research. What I did run across though was a little cafe that does only 100% gluten-free food. The catch was…it was in Colorado Springs. The best thing is…that doesn’t phase Cathy. We hopped in the car on Friday morning and took a little drive down to Colorado Springs.
Nestled at the foot of Pike’s Peak, Coquette’s Bistro and Bakery has the perfect location to entertain visitors and locals alike. The place and the food has won numerous awards over the four years it has been open. And it claims that the food is so amazing, you’d never guess it was gluten-free. This little restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, espresso, and cocktails. There is a little bit for everyone.
But Cathy and I made the journey for…yep…crepes. None of their savory crepes are vegetarian. That was fine for Cathy, and she ended up ordering the Rise and Dine ($11.00), which is a crepe that is stuffed full (and I mean full) with two scrambled eggs, ham, red onions, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese. The crepe is then topped off with hollandaise. It came with a side of fruit or their truffled potatoes. She went potatoes. I swiped one. OMG. Amazing. I swiped more than one after that. I think she welcomed the help as her crepe was HUGE. I would have gone savory had there been a vegetarian option…but I was okay going sweet. Most of the offerings were what I could get from my local gluten-free crepe food truck…so I went with the one that I hadn’t been served by my local go-to gluten-free crepe place. And that was the Bananas Fosters Crepe ($8.50). This dessert crepe (hey…dessert for breakfast is allowed on vacation!) is a delicious crepe that is topped off with banana and a rum brown sugar flambé. The crepe is served with some house made whipped cream on the side. My crepe was definitely the size of my plate, but being a dessert crepe, it is usually dusted with cinnamon and sugar on the inside and then topped off with the goodness on the outside. Much less to navigate through. But…let me tell you…this was one fantastic crepe. I loved the rum brown sugar sauce. The whipped cream was a nice touch. And the banana, being one of my favorite fruits in this world, made it all taste a little like heaven. I devoured it. Like…completely. Cathy had a good portion of her crepe remaining. Not me. I went all vegetarian piggy on that plate. Worth it. YUM! I am making this a required stop from now on. It must happen. It is that good. And I feel safe eating there.
Baker Street Pub & Grill – Denver, Colorado
It’s no secret…my roommate and I are completely obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. For real. No…seriously. And when we discovered that just a short walk from our hotel room at the Denver DTC was one of Colorado’s four Baker Street Pub & Grill locations, well, you better believe we knew what we were doing for dinner after hiking around Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods. Hey…you work up an appetite doing that.
We walked over to Baker Street Pub & Grill from the hotel on Friday evening. I loved how you got to seat yourself. Our server, a bubbly and enthusiastic woman came over to see about drinks. I was sticking with water. But Cathy decided to take in Happy Hour and went with a Baker Street Brown Ale ($4.25). And with that…her usual pub fare…a half portion of the Fish & Chips ($7.99). As for me…I went with the Baby Spinach and Feta Cheese Salad ($9.99), which I added avocado slices to ($1.49) with a side of the Serrano Coleslaw ($1.99). Our waitress put in our order and we sort of geeked out over Sherlock Holmes until it arrived.
My salad was MASSIVE!! And it looked absolutely amazing to top it off. This salad was a blend of baby spinach, feta cheese, gala apples, red onions, candied pecans (they didn’t candy mine), and red grapes. All of this was tossed in a fantastic raspberry vinaigrette dressing. And let’s not forget my deep love of avocado…which topped off my salad nicely and gave it this rich creaminess that I truly love in a salad. The flavors really, really worked together. I loved the way the fruit played well with the vegetables and how the sweet, yet savory vinaigrette just brought it all together. The avocado…if you order a salad…always top it with avocado…trust me!! As for the coleslaw…eh…it was coleslaw. With the wording of Serrano Coleslaw, I expected something with some heat behind it…but it just tasted like your run-of-the-mill coleslaw. Probably my only disappointment. The rest…so good!
Cathy was very impressed with her fish. In fact, we both enjoyed our food so much we came back on Saturday night, our last night in town. The manager on duty rustled up some can coozies for us and let us get in the big phone booth outside and took a picture. It was epic. We ordered the same thing…minus the coleslaw and rounded out the perfect stay in Colorado at one of our new favorite places in Denver…just a short walk from our hotel. Perfection.
Udi’s Café and Bar – Denver Airport – Denver, Colorado
I had every intention of making it out of Denver without eating at the airport. I figured Cathy and I would grab something in Atlanta. It’s a good thing she talked me out of that because we had no time for food in Atlanta as it turned out. So, her plan to eat something in Denver before heading to our gate for the first leg of our journey back to Louisville was a stroke of sheer genius.
And to our delight, Terminal B at the Denver Airport has an Udi’s Café and Bar. Udi’s is one of the major names in gluten-free breads and other products on the market. And…they are based in Denver. So the fact that the airport has one of these cafés shouldn’t be a surprise. I was so happy they did.
We settled in at a table and a waitress came over to give us menus and let us look them over. We had a vague idea of what we wanted to eat…sandwiches…with fries. Filling. Which is exactly what we needed, honestly.
Cathy went with the BLTA ($9.35), which is a bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich with chipotle aioli and served on ciabatta bread. She got hers with the standard fries that come with the sandwich. As for me…I went with the Gluten-Free Caprese Sandwich ($9.95) and substituted the regular fries for Sweet Potato Fries ($2.00). Gluten-free sweet potato fries. Pardon my dance of joy and glee. This was the second time this trip I was getting sweet potato fries. This is me…being happy.
It was a little bit of a wait, but Cathy and I soon received our plates full of food. The sandwiches were huge. The fries…a big portion. But this was our meal for the day…so while we weren’t starving…we dove in.
My fries were FANTASTIC! Better than the ones I waited forever for at Disneyland. They were crispy, fried to perfection. I was in love with them. In fact, I saved them for the last bite because I wanted to remember those fries. As for the sandwich…epic win. Served on Udi’s bread (of course), this sandwich was stuffed with mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a pesto aioli. And the flavors just popped. I have been eating a lot of caprese things since going gluten-free and this was one of the best sandwiches put together. Simple flavors…executed perfectly. And served with SWEET POTATO FRIES!! I was thrilled to actually be able to eat something other than a fruit cup, a salad, or some unhealthy snack at the airport. Seriously. This was my happy that day.
So…there you have it. I find eating gluten-free in Colorado to be so easy. Both Rudi’s Gluten-Free and Udi’s Gluten-Free are based out of Colorado (one in Boulder…the other in Denver). Granted, on Saturday when we went up into the mountains to Rocky Mountain State Park…my lunch was a banana, some yogurt, and some Boulder chips…but…I’m in the mountains. I will cut them some slack.
This was one of my best foodie trips to date. Both California and Colorado offered me so many options and such delicious food. I wasn’t really disappointed with any of the restaurants that we chose to dine in. And that…is amazing!!
Colorado…see you in May. I hope my favorite places to eat will be ready for me again!