Denver Eats: Watercourse Foods

Remember when I told you about accidentally booking a spring break trip to Denver? Well I enjoyed the fruits of that late night mistake this past weekend. I must say, it was EVERYTHING I expected. First and foremost, it was cold. How cold? Imagine my ex-girlfriend. Now put her on ice and toss her to the bottom of Lake Michigan in December while listening to Eminem. That about sums it up. It snowed too. In fact, it was doing that before I had even gotten off the plane. I asked the stewardess about continuing on but when she told me the next stop was Fargo, I exited. At least in Denver there was stuff to do. Fargo…sheesh. All in all the trip turned out as best as it could. My idea of vacation is to go to a new city, walk a lot and eat food. Saturday and Sunday were tough with the walking piece. Monday and Tuesday cleared up a bit.

One of the food destinations (and my favorite meal of the trip) was Watercourse Foods. Since Watercourse was pretty far away from the hostel we stayed in, J-Fur and I walked most of the way and then stopped by Ace to warm our hands. We also played ping pong and socialized with some of her college pals. After a mean game of ping pong (Ace is a bar with ping pong in case you are reading this and aren’t from Denver), in which I worked up a major sweat, we walked back into the frozen streets to hike the final three blocks to Watercourse. I think, aside from my four years in Chicago, these were the longest three blocks of my life. But it was all so worth it.

The Watercourse walls are covered with some weird paintings. They have a bunch of animals that shouldn’t be hanging out together doing just that. This was the first thing I noticed upon entering the building. The second thing would be the desserts. They are cased by the door and they call to you before you have even eaten real food. The three of us, J-Fur, M (a college classmate) and myself, resisted and were hustled out of danger by a server. We were seated and given a menu. I wanted to order one of everything. The menu is largely vegan. The nice thing about most of the restaurants we went to in Denver was that even if things weren’t vegan, they had magical elixirs and shit that could easily veganize something you wanted. And I’m not talking just taking the cheese off. I’m talking taking the cheese off and replacing it with homemade vegan cheese.

My Watercourse dish of choice was the Po’ Boy. It consists of a kaiser roll (oh god, flashback to that marvelous roll) covered with polenta encrusted wild mushrooms, coleslaw and chipotle aioli. On the side you get the option of two of their various vegetables. I went with some fries and steamed chard. The Po’ Boy was, hands down, the best sandwich I’ve had in a long time. It started (and ended) with the kaiser roll baked in Watercourse’s own bakery. The roll was soft and moist, with just a bit of crispness baked in. This contrasted perfectly with the polenta mushrooms. These little balls of crunch would just appear out of nowhere. You’d take a seemingly innocent bite and then suddenly, hello Mr. Crunchipants. Where did you come from? Slightly less crunchy, but still apparent, was the cabbage in the coleslaw. I’m not a big coleslaw fan. I hate mayo (vegan or not). But Watercourse made a coleslaw that wasn’t sopping with mayo. It had just a tiny bit of vegan mayo, enough to let you know it was there. Somewhere on the sandwich there was a smidgen of spice in the form of chipotle aioli. But it wasn’t seen, nor heard. It was there. I could taste it. But that was all. There was no need to overload this sandwich with condiments because the mushrooms and bread carried it.

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The Watercourse Po’ Boy. A sandwich I could make love to. 

J-Fur ordered a spinach salad. With her pregnancy in high gear, she wanted to focus on just vegetables and fruit. The salad consisted of granny smith apples, maple roasted walnuts and gorgonzola cheese on a bed of spinach. It was then touched up ever so lightly with raspberry vinaigrette. She thoroughly enjoyed it, though I don’t think she wanted to make love to it in the same way I wanted to my sandwich (I snapped a picture with her phone, but it was even worse than the two accompanying this post so I didn’t include it).

M ordered the Dona Lee tacos which were way too much for her to handle. These tortillas were stuffed with herb encrusted seitan, tomatoes, lettuce and avocado. They were served with ranch dressing on the side. While the prices are a bit high at Watercourse, they certainly make up for it by giving you a lot of food. M wasn’t expecting that. So she took most of her meal home.

For dessert, which are all vegan and all made in house, I went with their pie of the day. On this evening it was an apple-rhubarb-berry version with crumbled topping served beneath (or beside) a scoopful of vegan ice cream. My first bite of the pie was a bit overpowering with nutmeg (or a spice similar to that). I thought I had finally found something not to like about Watercourse. But bites two thru the end were much more balanced. The pie didn’t taste fake (like some vegan desserts do). I felt like I was eating the real thing. The ice cream, which I think came from Sweet Action, was super creamy. It had the texture of real ice cream. I had to check a couple of times just to make sure they hadn’t accidentally given me the dairy version.
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My Pie. Which I was never charged for. That waiter got a huge tip to make up for my free dessert.

While we didn’t make it back to Watercourse on Monday, one of the cool things they do is hold a non-profit celebration every Monday. Each week they choose a particular non-profit group that  focuses on education, the environment, crisis relief of animal organizations. 10-15 percent of all their sales for that day goes to the organization.

WaterCourse on Urbanspoon

Since Carousel’s new track, “Another Day”, deals with the experience the band had traveling from place to place during their first tour, I figured it made sense here. “Another Day” is about crazy situations, attachment and the sadness of leaving the next morning. You wouldn’t know that from the sound though as it has an upbeat flowy 80′s feel to it.

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