Inside this unassuming but very brightly painted, salmon-toned building, the Sierra family makes fabulous Mexican food. The pork carnitas are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and the guacamole is always freshly mashed. But the real draw at this colorful spot is the crispy chile relleno, a long poblano filled with Jack cheese and wrapped in a won ton wrapper, then deep-fried until the exterior becomes a crunchy shell. What takes Mi Cocina's relleno over the top is the topping of green chile, a medium-thick, mildly hot concoction that coats every bite. Mi Cocina is our cocina.


When this family-run restaurant first opened on South Quebec, it was very small and had no liquor license. In its new digs, La Cocina de Marcos not only has room to move, but it also serves beer and wine -- all the better for washing down the well-executed, flavorful Mexican fare made from scratch. Everything is good here: Try the chiles rellenos, the refried beans cooked down with onions and the nicely grilled carne asada. It's all even better when smothered in the great green chile, a clean-tasting mixture that's light on grease and sweeter than most versions, with a faint chile bite and tiny bits of tomato. While the red is tasty, too, the green is downright mean.


Best Green Chile That's Actually Green

Pique

In Mexico, chile verde is actually green -- not red, not orange, not gray -- which helps explain its name. Since most Denver-born green chiles include tomatoes, some Mexicans -- Guanajuatan transplants Paola and Sergio Hernandez among them -- think it should rightly be called red. The Hernandezes can call the green chile they make at Pique, their teeny little strip-mall spot, whatever they want; I call it delicious. Packed with tomatillos and jalapeños and a little pork for extra flavor, this brew is a thin, flavor-packed, truly green-colored chile that begs to soak into a tortilla. One taste, and other Mexican joints will be green with envy.


Jack Martinez, owner of Jack-n-Grill, used to sell roasted chiles from Socorro, New Mexico, on Federal Boulevard, so he knows his chile. To make red chile, he takes a variety of the New Mexican pods and purées them into a deep, rich, rojo sauce that carries the sun-kissed flavors of the earth they were grown in. Try it smothering Jack-n-Grill's cheesy, lasagne-style enchiladas, and you'll be seeing red, all right.
The sign behind the counter of colorful goodies at Panadería & Pastelería Santa Fe reads "Bienvenido a su panadería," and patrons are made to feel welcome, indeed. Baker/owner Juan Acuña always has an extra minute to explain his intricate pastries -- sugar-coated conchas, ear-shaped orejas, lemon-flavored flautas, empanadas, cream-stuffed horns -- or discuss in depth the spices he carries, many of which have medicinal properties. A refrigerator case holds other Mexican specialties, including crema and homemade chorizo. And for a really sweet deal, pick up one of Acuña's tres leches cakes, the most toothsome in town.


For nearly twenty years, Tajmahal Imports has been one-stop shopping for Aurora's large population of Indian and Pakistani natives. Don't expect a re-creation of the famous palace, though: This jam-packed store is a tidy dive offering a mix of commercial, bulk and pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods. You can create an entire Indian meal from these goods: dozens of types of dal, refrigerated chapati and naan, imported whole and ground spices and special flours, chutneys and snacks. Tajmahal also sells fascinating homemade desserts, and its extensive Indian tea selection is priced much better than the same leaves at specialty shops.


Have a hankering to imitate some of Café Brazil's dishes in your own kitchen? You'll quickly realize that many of the required ingredients -- from the elusive dendê, the lighthearted palm oil that lends its warm orange color and irreplaceable zesty tropical flavor to Brazilian seafood dishes, to farinha de manioca, the ground manioc meal that, toasted, becomes the essential table condiment farofa -- are harder to find than a table at the restaurant on a Saturday night. Thanks to Emporio Minas, though, there's no reason to cut your samba short. This hole-in-the-wall market, three little rooms with metal shelving that could well be found in a São Paulo garage, has all that stuff and more: coconut milk, sticky-sweet dulce de leche; the Portuguese sausages, salt-cured beef and carioca beans called for in classic feijoada; guava paste and pickled malagueta peppers, not to mention maté drinks, olives, cookies, chocolate and even nail polish. Oh, yeah, there's something else you can count on finding: every homesick Brazilian east of the Continental Divide.
Shopping at Arash Supermarket is like going on a treasure hunt: You never know what you'll find tucked away in some corner. The bustling store is bursting with Middle Eastern items, from locally baked pitas the size of pizzas to imported and domestic feta to many types of tahini to real basmati rice. Produce here is much cheaper than at the big chain grocery stores -- lemons and limes, lettuce and tomatoes are noteworthy bargains -- as are kalamatas, yogurt drinks, pickles and olive oil. A few non-Middle Eastern ingredients, including Mexican crema and Italian lunchmeats, are also on hand. Check out the unique, commercially baked goods on the shelves near the cashiers: The exotic little cookies and unusual sweets are special treats for kids.


If you can't find an Asian ingredient at the Asian Supermarket, that ingredient simply doesn't exist. This vast warehouse of a grocery store stocks forty kinds of rice noodles alone, all haphazardly jammed into one aisle. Unfamiliar cans of squishy-looking ingredients share space with forty-pound bags of rice and twenty brands of coconut milk. Several aisles are devoted to plastic and ceramic dishes, woks, utensils, chopsticks and steamers, all at bargain prices. The produce is well-priced, too, especially limes, Asian basil, daikon and ginger, and the dried-mushroom section is a delight for fungi fans. Don't forget to stop by the meat counter, which displays an impressive selection of fresh fish and meats.


Walking into Vinnola's Market is like traveling back in time to an East Coast-style deli of decades past. Everyone's friendly and yelling and laughing; deli workers are passing slices of cheese and salami over the counter for inspection by little old blue-haired Italian ladies. Those goods always pass muster: The smallish market carries all of the important imported meats and cheeses -- Asiago and mortadella, mozzarella and prosciutto -- as well as olive oil and balsamico, fresh-baked Italian bread and cookies, and fresh and dried pasta. Stop by at lunchtime, and one of Vinnola's overstuffed sandwiches will see you through the rest of your shopping.

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