As evidenced by the mere creation of this blog, I am a foodie in every sense of the word. My happiness is largely dependent on the meals I eat (whoever said “money can’t buy happiness” never ate a gorgonzola-stuffed burger on a pretzel roll with a side of deep-fried pickles dipped in chipotle aioli, all washed down with a thick and frothy chocolate milkshake), and when I’m not gettin’ busy cooking and baking, I go out of my way to discover restaurants that elevate the experience of dining out. From establishments boasting Michelin stars to the dingiest of dives, I’ve found Heaven as it manifests on the prongs of a fork. Thus, as much as I love dirtying up my kitchen so I can write blog posts about tried-and-true recipes I’ve worked and reworked on my own, I have decided to give my food processor the day off and instead offer a fresh perspective on some of the fantastic places I’ve dined at recently.
In honor of all things snowy and adventuresome, today’s review features a brief dining guide to Breckenridge, Colorado.
Crêpes Á La Cart: The quintessential ski town cash cow
As you make your way down Breckenridge’s slippery Main Street, the sweet aroma of fruit and sugary fried batter wafts through the air so profoundly that only a cartoon pie sitting on a window ledge could emit a scent trail more palpable. With its adorably self-aware name and intoxicating sensory presence, Crêpes Á La Cart leaves little to the imagination: delicious crêpes made fresh in an antiquated food cart. Simple. Delicious. Brilliant.
During my six-night stay in Breckenridge, not once did I not see a line outside this perfect little grub shack spanning from ordering window, down the steps, and out onto the sidewalk. Pull on your ski gear and brave the wait in the cold; it is worth every chilly, anxious moment.
Sporting an extensive menu of crêpes ranging from the sweet to the savory (and some decadent ice-cream pairings spattered in between), Crêpes Á La Cart makes the decision making process more difficult than America’s compromise to avoid the Fiscal Cliff.
After several painstaking minutes of mulling over the menu and beebopping between the Strawberry Shortcake and the Funky French Monkey, I settled on the Bananas Foster crêpe. How can you go wrong with bananas flambéed in rum, butter, brown sugar, and Chantilly cream all wrapped up in the best gift we’ve ever received from France (sorry, New York, but your Statue of Liberty is nothing more than a consolation prize and phallus)?
At about $7 – $10 a pop, these crêpes truly give you the bang for your buck. One bite and you’ll know what I mean.
Angel’s Hollow: The kitschy bar and restaurant
Who knew you could find a Chicago bar nestled in the Rocky Mountains? I’m not even a Bears fan, but the little slice of home hanging on this store front instantly drew me to Angel’s Hollow. Also, I was desperately hungry and the barbecue joint across the street looked like a tummy-ache waiting to happen.
So I walked right on in.
Upon entering this sassy establishment, you’re met with a ceiling littered with string lights and Illinois sports teams paraphernalia. Yes, even a framed Mark Prior Cubs jersey. Funny signs and tchotchkes deck the walls, a fully stocked bar claims its space in the back, and tables and chairs are crammed into every remaining square inch of the place. This is NOT the place to go for a quiet and intimate meal, nor is it a destination for five-star service, so you need to either adjust your expectations or GTFO.
Equal parts biker dive and sports bar, what Angel’s Hollow lacks in poise and refinement it makes up for with really, really good food.
My friends and I ordered the nacho appetizer to share, which ended up being the standout of the evening. The heaping plate of food the bitchy waitress presented to us redefined the experience of nacho consumption for me, and it all began with the nacho foundation: the chips. The chips at Angel’s Hollow are homemade and served hot. They are something between a pita chip and a tortilla chip that has been dusted with a light and flavorful seasoning. When you top said chips with homemade guacamole and salsa, high quality cheese, black beans, and crisp veggies, you end up with something so far beyond average nachos.
A condiment holster on the table gives you five unique hot sauce options: banana, blueberry, green, peach, and barbecue. Oh yeah, and they’re all made in house, so man up and squeeze some onto your nachos for deeper flavor complexity.
I ordered the blackened catfish as my entrée, and it did not disappoint; my only complaint is that there was waaay too much food on the plate and I couldn’t finish it all. Serving sizes on the whole at Angel’s Hollow are massive, so expect to doggy-bag part of your meal. Or not, if you’re up for Man vs. Food portions.
Le Petit Paris: The cozy date night destination
As its name suggests, Le Petit Paris truly makes you feel as though you’re dining at a quaint Parisian bistrot that pays homage in every way possible to France, its culture, and its history. The ambiance and the people are inviting while still upholding a sense of formality.
You are greeted at the door by a gentleman who takes your coats and guides you and your date to your crisp linen-covered table– this table will become an altar of worship for the next two hours as plate after plate of gastronomic perfection is set before you.
A knowledgable waitress tends to you promptly, explaining in detail the fine drink selections offered. She may linger encouragingly on the French Martini– I urge you to take the bait and order it. With raspberry vodka, Chambord, and pineapple juice, it makes for a lovely drink (though perhaps a bit strong if you’re a pansy like me).
The menu is a history book/list of offerings hybrid, featuring famous French faces and places alongside menu items as if to suggest, “Molten chocolate cake so good, even Marie Antoinette would eat it.” The menu also dons a small note requesting that cellphones not be used while dining at the restaurant. IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME. Call me old-fashioned, but I find it extremely rude and obnoxious when people have their cellphones out at the dinner table. I was raised to enjoy the food and company you keep during a meal; to aimlessly scroll through Facebook while dining with others is inexcusable… but I digress.
I tend to judge restaurants based in part on the bread that they serve. Le Petit Paris serves EXQUISITE French bread: crusty and flaky exterior, warm and soft inside, paired with lightly seasoned sweet butter. You had me at “bonjour.”
After yet another lengthy deliberation process, I chose to start with the goat cheese salad. The salad was served with two crostini slathered in green and black olive tapenades and another with goat cheese; I all but licked the plate clean, and the same can be said for my boyfriend’s French onion soup bowl.
For my main course, I selected the pan-seared trout, which included roasted tomatoes, almond beurre blanc, lemon garlic aioli, and a bed of lemon risotto. The fish was cooked perfectly through and the risotto was at once rich and refreshing. 2 for 2 in the Clean Plate Club.
My meal concluded with the molten chocolate cake. Garnished with sweet berries and side of creme Anglaise to drizzle over it, this cake makes even the poorest of peasants feel like a queen. Suffice it to say, this is the last thing I want to taste before I die. If I was from Paris, I would say “ooh-la-la.“
The restaurant is run by two sisters from Paris, one of whom is a pastry chef by training and makes all the desserts on the menu. The other sister works the floor, making polite conversation with patrons. These women are so sweet and talented, and have managed to build one of the best eateries I have EVER been to.
…and a few other hotspots worthy of mention.
Blue Moose Cafe: For a good ol’ greasy breakfast
Empire Burger: Order the BLT. For $7.00, you get half a pound of bacon on Texas toast
Breckenridge Brewery & Pub: Pulled pork sandwich. Burgers. Hell, it’s all good