Rocky Mountain Pho

Simply put, it doesn’t take much to make me find a reason to party. According to the enneagram personality types, for me to be a peaceful, balanced person, I need to play with the happy abandon of a puppy.

So, when my cousin L. called to tell me to mark her wedding day on my calendar, my party planning self went into overdrive. The sacred ceremony was to take place outside of Boulder, Colorado, which then triggered my chronic travel fever. I was a joyous mess.

After numerous emails, texts and phone calls, plans came together. I would fly to Denver with my mum, my cousin C. would drive from Salt Lake City, and we three gals would share a vacation rental in the exciting town of Gunbarrel, Colorado. The centerpiece of the weekend would be the wedding ceremony, and orbiting around it would be our ladies’ slumber party, mountain drives, family dinners and dining adventures in the quintessential food town of Boulder.

Fortunately, my cousin C. is a foodie and did her homework–she came prepared with a list of restaurants voted Best of Boulder. Unfortunately, free time was limited and so were our opportunities for foodie exploration.

The day before we arrived, a cold front swept down the Rockies and across the Great Plains. Our first day in Colorado was overcast, wet and cold, and upon arriving at the rental house I discovered I’d misplaced the number to the lock box, and my cell phone was dead, precluding me from getting to the email with the number (but that’s another story for another day). My party-like-a-puppy plans weren’t go well so far.

On Day Two, as we watched sleet accumulate on the deck behind our cozy vacation house, we searched the restaurant list for something hot and spicy to warm our chilled bones. Voted Best of Boulder since 1993 was Chez Thuy (pronounced Twee), which happened to be less than ten minutes away. My mom whimpered at the thought of a cuisine she knew nothing about. We told her to trust us.

As we walked around the restaurant from the back parking lot, leaning into a brisk wind, the aroma of pho made C. and me walk even faster. My mom whimpered a little louder.

We ordered fresh spring rolls (one order of shrimp, one of roasted pork) and two orders of pho (one beef, one vegetarian). We convinced Mom to try just a little of everything.

I have to say that what I think sets Chez Thuy apart is the art of subtly. The spring rolls had less rice noodles in the filling and more beef and lettuce, making the textures much more stimulating. The balance of star anise, ginger, black cardamom, coriander, fennel, and clove in the broth seemed just a little more intense, resulting in a heady, flavorful soup.

The pho was served with the usual garnishes of Thai basil, bean sprouts, jalapeno slices and lime wedges. When we noticed the stark absence of cilantro, we mentioned it to our waitress, and she returned promptly with a generous plate of fresh greens. I went to work picking basil and cilantro leaves, tossing in bean sprouts and jalapenos, and stirring in a good portion of sriracha. On a cold autumn day, there is absolutely nothing as wonderful as hanging your head over a bowl of steamy pho, armed with a spoon in one hand and chop sticks in the other.

As for my finicky Korean mum, she learned she really could trust us and fell in love with pho at one of Boulder’s best foodie spots.

Chez Thuy on Urbanspoon

© Sherry Burns and, 2012.


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