Ask The Critic: What does Colorado taste like?

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"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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