After arriving in Denver, our first stop was WaterCourse Foods, a vegetarian restaurant with a vegan-friendly menu. The atmosphere was bright, casual, friendly, and young.
WaterCourse serves sandwiches and dinner entrées, but they are known for brunch, which is available until 5pm. Choices include vegan and vegetarian scrambles, omelets, pancakes, and pastries. All of the scrambles are gluten-free, and instead of deep-fried breakfast potatoes and toast, you can ask for brown rice and corn tortillas.
I had the Capri Scramble with tofu, Greek olives, tomatoes, grilled zucchini and carrots, and fresh basil (sheep's milk feta is optional). The flavors were good (you can't go wrong with green olives), but the scramble was wet and crumbly.
Portions were modest, so we had room after lunch for Sweet Action vanilla ice cream. It's coconut-based, which is a plus in my book, and the texture is perfectly smooth and creamy. WaterCourse offers it by the scoop, or you can enjoy it in one of their vegan milkshakes.
Almost everything at WaterCourse Foods is available vegan, and about half of it can be made gluten-free. Four chickpeas for ample choices!
For dinner, we headed to City O' City, a vegetarian coffee shop, bar, and restaurant located near the state capital building.
Operated by the folks from WaterCourse Foods, City O' City is hip, edgy, and geared toward adults. They boast an impressive selection of whiskey and Colorado microbrews; a sign above the bar endorses daytime drinking. While WaterCourse Foods feels clean and airy, City O' City is dark and graffitied, and most of the iPhone-using diners and drinkers sport self-consciously disheveled hairstyles and tattoos of literary significance.
City O' City is next door to WaterCourse Bakery, which supplies both restaurants with vegan and gluten-free breads and pastries. Many of City O' City's appetizers are gluten-free, including a Mediterranean plate with hummus, olives, and gluten-free flatbread. Salads, pizza, and the occasional entrée can be made gluten-free. Sandwiches and wraps cannot.
Thrilled at the opportunity to eat a pizza I didn't make myself, I ordered the La Chagall on WaterCourse Bakery's gluten-free crust. It comes with apricot sauce, brie (I substituted the house cashew ricotta), green olives, roasted garlic, and fresh tarragon.
It was truly, truly weird. At home I would never be brave enough to make something this bizarre, but somehow it all worked. I would order apricot pizza again. The crust, made mostly of chickpea flour, was delicious but insanely filling; I had to cry uncle after three slices.
Rod ordered a Buffalo Seitan Wrap with fries. He reports it was intensely tangy and spicy, and his mouth burned for hours after dinner (that is a good thing). It was also quite filling.
Of course the highlight of my visit to City O' City was the pastry case. According to WaterCourse Bakery's website, they strive to create gluten-free vegan baked goods that are even better than traditional pastries ("We have failed when someone comments, 'that's pretty good for vegan or gluten-free'"). I was skeptical, but wanted desperately to be proved wrong.
The evening's selection included Ho Ho Cupcakes, Hazelnut Chocolate Cupcakes, Sugar Cookies, and a giant version of Girl Scout Samoas. I was torn, but I went with a Ho Ho, because 1) it was shiny, and 2) personal experience has shown me that gluten-free cake is more difficult to pull off than gluten-free cookies.
Underneath that soft, shiny ganache was a layer of fluffy white buttercream, a layer of dark chocolate cake, more buttercream, and finally more cake.
My thoughts upon eating the Ho Ho Cupcake:1. What?!? This is so good! Not even a little bit weird! They're lying—no way this is gluten-free!
2. How did they do this?! I am so jealous.
3. This tastes exactly like the chocolate cake my mom used to make.
4. Is there a WaterCourse Bakery cookbook? (Sadly, no.)
5. Why don't I live in Denver? I can't wait to go back and try every other gluten-free thing in that case. Four chickpeas for City O' City!
More from Denver soon!