Ask The Critic: What does Colorado taste like?

"The United Plates of America." That's what Bon Appetit entitled its recent roundup of all the best flavors in our fifty weirdly diverse states, offering this explanation: "Whether it's a slice of just-baked cherry pie in Michigan, an oyster and bacon sandwich in Louisiana, or a glass of rhubarb and strawberry punch in Rhode Island, there's always something delicious just around the corner in America."

So far, so good -- I like cherry pie and I think an oyster and bacon sandwich sounds just divine. But the magazine followed with this: "Here's our definitive state-by-state list of the best dishes, drinks, and ingredients that make up our foodie nation." And I knew what would be coming for Colorado: more big-city swells talking about our balls--bull balls, that is. Rocky Mountain oysters. Because every time some list like this comes out, discussing the "tastes" or "flavors" or "traditional foods" of a city, state or region, that's what Colorado gets. Balls.

"Can you guess?" a friend of mine asked over beers, holding the issue up and almost taunting me with it. "What does Bon Appetit think Colorado tastes like?"

I'm a gambling man, so I went with the odds. "Rocky Mountain Oysters from the Buckhorn," I said, ticking it off on my finger. "Something with blueberries all over it from The Fort. A microbrew that I can't stand....Stop me when I get close."

Turns out, the Bon Appetit writers didn't do too bad a job -- but neither were they wildly original in their thinking. Every state was divided into three categories: What to Buy, What to Eat and What to Drink. And Colorado broke down like this:

What to Buy: Bison steaks from Black Forest Bison Co. in Colorado Springs.

What to Eat: Lamb chops (Colorado lamb chops, presumably) at the Buckhorn (big surprise).

What to Drink: Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues in Lyons.

My friend asked me to come up with my own picks, and I responded with these:

What to Buy: A bottle of Stranahan's Colorado whiskey, a tubesteak from Biker Jim's, some tamales off the street and (because this is still a big-steak kinda town) a couple of Charolais rib-eyes from Marczyk's for the grill.

What to Eat: A big carnitas burrito, smothered in porky green chile, that you eat on a patio carved out of the sidewalk. In December.

What to Drink: Actually, I don't think that Dale's was a bad choice. But I would've still gone with a growler of Patty's Chile Beer from the Wynkoop--mostly because you can take it home with you and then sit on the couch in your underpants watching a Rockies game and drinking it right out of the jug like some kind of old-timey Colorado prospector.

And now it's your turn...What does Colorado taste like to you?

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