My mom never made us Brussels sprouts when I was growing up. I’m pretty sure this is because she came from that era when those bitter little balls were blanched flavorless and forced down gagging kids’ throats along with liver and onions. Since she didn’t want to have to set a good example by finishing her veggies, our plates remained blissfully sprout-free.
Maybe that’s why I never even flinched when Brussels sprouts suddenly began enjoying a culinary fashion heyday on menus around town and the country. I’ve got no negative associations, so I was eager to try the many manifestations, particularly because a lot of those manifestations also involved bacon or some other form of pork product. I’ve eaten my way through a number of dishes that include the vegetable at many of Boulder’s restaurants, and I’ve decided on a couple of favorites that highlight this D-student of the produce aisle.
Mateo Restaurant: Brussels Sprouts Gratin. I’m not sure it still counts as a vegetable when that much gruyere is involved, but the Brussels Sprouts Gratin is the highlight of Mateo’s impressively-priced happy hour menu. The whole sprout is used here, presumably blanched, and then coated in gruyere rue and baked until a cheesy layer on top is crispy and delicious. It’s so good I end up dragging bread through the remnants, being stared at awkwardly by my group of fellow diners. (Mateo, 1837 Pearl St, 303.443.7766)
Happy Noodle: Fried Brussels Sprouts Leaves. Admittedly, I’m usually only drinking at the Bitter Bar when I’m at Happy Noodle. But if I am ordering food, it’s a heaping pile of these little leaves, which are fried crispy and salted to the point of bar-snack perfection. It’s beyond me why no other place has thought to do this. Lighter than peanuts but salty enough to make me thirsty, there’s no drinking nibble I’d rather have. And Happy Noodle fries those babies particularly well. (Happy Noodle, 835 Walnut St, 303.442.3050)
So, eat ‘cher sprouts. Thanks, don’t mind if I do.