like many these days, i’m aspiring to manage my budget as expertly as an Olympic hopeful springing gracefully along a narrow balance beam. clipping coupons to save on basics. strategically grocery shopping at a variety of venues to land the best deals. if i’m vigilant, i can still purchase organic meats and produce from local stores and farmers’ markets. i don’t eat out very often, not only as a measure of prudence, but because i savor the ritual of cooking at home.
that said, i just returned from a trip to Colorado, where neither horrifying holiday nor unseasonal snow storm could deter me from visiting just a few of my favorite eateries. waxing nostalgic, i wanted them to be just as i remembered: great food, great service, within my budget. i can happily report that my old haunts continue to serve simple, mouth-watering meals at reasonable prices. tonight, in the spirit of the holiday, i celebrate Phantom Canyon Brewing Company, in the heart of Colorado Springs.
Phantom Canyon’s menu goes well beyond standard pub fare, and i’ve enjoyed some dishes with southwest twists on occasion. but for a juicy, grilled, signature half-pound burger cooked to order (yes, i could actually get it medium-rare), topped with my cheese of choice (if i hadn’t shared the meal with dear Tootie, i would have selected blue cheese)
and crispy steak fries salted to perfection, Phantom Canyon delivers year after year. i can’t personally speak to the pub’s handcrafted brews—although i’ve heard accolades—but i can say its in-house root beer hits the bull’s eye.
despite the phenomenal burgers and sparkling root beer, want to know the real reason i’d hang at Phantom Canyon? the smoked gouda and blonde-ale soup. the photo at the top of this post may appear a bit pasty, but the flavor of this soup is anything but. it’s rich and smoky, with a smooth, creamy texture. in bygone days, the pub would serve the beer-cheese creation topped with a few pieces of popcorn to give it a nice, little crunch. guess that tradition fell by the wayside. the soup, however, continues to please my palate. i haven’t made it for quite a while, but i dug out the recipe originally printed in the Colorado Spring Gazette. it’s intended to feed the multitudes, so be sure to cut it back to meet your needs. i remember it’s important to use an ale that’s light bodied and low in bitterness. otherwise, the beer will overshadow the soup.
i miss the mountains and Colorado Springs. i carry the warm memories of both and of Phantom Canyon with me, wherever i go. serve this mellow ale-cheese soup on a chilly Sunday, when the Denver Broncos are playing. they will, undoubtedly, emerge victorious.
Phantom Canyon Smoked Gouda and Blonde-Ale Soup
another gentle reminder to cut the recipe back, as needed
8 cups chicken stock
6 cups Queen’s Blonde Ale
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cups heavy cream
2 pounds Gouda cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
- in a large pot, combine the stock, beer and potatoes, then bring to a boil.
- reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender.
- remove from heat, and puree the mixture. (be careful handling the hot liquid; i’ve used either a hand blender or KitchenAid blender.)
- return the mixture to the stove and add the cream, salt and pepper.
- bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 – 7 minutes.
- remove from heat, and add stir in the cheese.
- top with a few pieces of popcorn, if you’re so moved.