Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Dish of the Week: Toast at Caffè on Esquire.com

I shared this killer panino di tre formaggi, pomodoro & prosciutto from Frasca Food and Wine’s take-out Caffè with the world via Esquire, but you, should you choose to follow me there, best not share it with anyone.

You’ll behold it in all its glory when you click the link, but what you won’t see are the housemade chips that accompany it, in bags emblazoned with a custom photo by Dave Woody, who did the prints that hang throughout Pizzeria Locale. Che adorabile!

Dish of the Week: Donut Tartare & Other Delights at D Bar Desserts

D Bar Desserts is not, frankly, my kind of place. Having a taste neither for sweets nor for the generally girlie aesthetic of specialists thereof—as exemplified here by baby-blue walls that match the frosting of the signature cupcake—

I just never bothered to put this Uptown favorite anywhere near the top of my list, Keegan Gerhard or no Keegan Gerhard.

My chocolate-crazed pal Beth, however, feels otherwise. And on the eve of her departure for a 12-month tour of as many US cities, a girl gets what a girl wants. As for me, I got far more out of the bargain than I ever dreamed.

Including my pick for Dish of the Week. Unlike Crave’s notorious Luther Burger, D Bar’s take on the doughnut sandwich is startlingly savory right down to the unsweetened yeast dough of the bomboloni (Italian-style doughnuts)—no glaze here. Instead they’re stuffed with beef tartare, topped with tomatillo jam & a serrano-chile sliver, & set atop a schmear of ultra-garlicky ”decret sauce,” much like Lebanese toum. (Whether “decret” sauce is a portmanteau of “D Bar” & “secret sauce” or just a typo, seeing as how “D” is next to “S” on the keyboard, is hard to figure. Cutesy names are a hallmark of the menu for better or worse; in the case of the apricot créme brulèe someone saw fit to call “crapricot,” I’d have to say worse.) Execution lacked a little; the pastry was too dry, the tartare underseasoned & therefore unable to stand up to the pungent sauces. But the concept tickled me enough to warrant the nod.

The pizza salad sandwich, however, knocked me out. D Bar makes, of all things, a mean salad, crisp & slicked with strong vinaigrette. It makes a pizza dough like a pastry shop (as opposed to a pie parlor) should—tender & buttery—as well as excellent, unctuous yet tangy pesto. And it doesn’t skimp on the nicely textured cheese, both gooey mozzarella & crumbled goat.

An equally good mix of four cheeses, plus meaty, spiced pepperoni & cherry tomatoes that were warm but still uncooked enough to pop, meant that Beth practically couldn’t get a bite of her own pizza in edgewise. (Sorry about that, B, sorta.)

Said mean salad—sprinkled with toasted pinenuts & shaved parmesan & flanked with lusciously, perfectly ripe sliced avocado—is a keeper as well.

I didn’t try Mo’s mac & cheese, but the fact that it comes gratinéed with panko crumbs &, right on, Cheese Nips, bodes well (maybe she’ll weigh in). I did try the lobster tempura (offered as a supplemental special), & though the breading was thick enough that aragosta fritta might have been a more accurate moniker, it wasn’t too heavy—a judicious combo of salty crunch & sea-sweet flesh.

Rebecca’s steak frites was lovely too, not least for the fact that the beef topped the fries rather than sitting beneath or next to them (as is more common). So all those umami juices mingled with the shreds of parmesan to soak the spud sticks in a way that caused joyous flashbacks to Chilean chorrillana.

Finally, yeah. I may not actively crave dessert, but that doesn’t mean I don’t rise to the freaking occasion. My chocolate-cheesecake brownie, topped with a quenelle of pure chocolate, was dense & intense & the very stuff of teen romance novels. To this day I remember the description of a kiss in one I read when I was 12, before I’d had a real kiss of my own, so it stuck: “like chocolate, slow & warm & sweet & good.”

As for Rebecca’s signature cake & shake,

Beth’s special—wherein bananas Foster collided with French toast—

& Mo’s chocolate-caramel tart with caramel ice cream & Godiva affogato

they were all, needless to say, comme il faut, so far as my overwhelmed palate could tell. Same goes for that moist cupcake—neither the génoise nor the buttercream sugary but just sweet enough—which I snarfed the second I got home. Damn you, D Bar! You’ll give me a sweet tooth yet.

P.S. Did I mention the terrific selection of wines by the glass, including this kickass, earthy Pinot Meunier? Consider it mentioned.

D Bar Desserts on Urbanspoon

This Week on Gorging Global: Dolce Sicilia Bakery & Flaming Devil’s Food

Go on, slobber all over the sweet sweet sweets at Dolce Sicilia Bakery I profiled for Denver Magazine's The Mouthful & share your thoughts on the Question of the Week—what's the most gluttonous goodie you've ever gobbled down?—for a chance to choose the cuisine I profile on September 13.

Here's mine, at least in recent memory: the dessert nachos from Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake in Boston—

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sugar-coated tortilla chips with cheesecake, whipped cream & chocolate sauce (the mixed berries are just the icing). Can you top that? 

Molto Carino Dolce Sicilia Italian Bakery

Molto carino means “super-cute.” Dolce Sicilia means “Sweet Sicily” (cf. dolci siciliani, which means “Sicilian sweets,” just FYI). Italian Bakery means panificio italiano (or panetteria italiana, or about 3 other synonymous terms. You know, like the Eskimo words for snow).

All together, it means yes oh yes, I’m home. Back in Boston, every other place within a 2-block radius of my North End apartment looked like this little stop-in at 32nd & Wadsworth—

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the cases lined with cannoli & sfogliatelle, cantuccini, amaretti & pizzelle, loaves of ciabatta & pane di semola, pan pizza & calzones; behind the counter a cooing matriarch with a thick accent, her sons & grandkids popping in & out.

And the flavors took me right back too, starting with a delicate, none-too-sweet bite of one of the petit fours (top left) among the cookie assortment pal Rebecca of From Argentina with Love got to go,

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& continuing with the spinach-ricotta calzone

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& pizza with feta, roasted tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black olives & oregano.

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Though I could’ve done without the grated parm & chips from  bag, the calzone itself was a delight—the crust thin yet firm, like a good hard roll hollowed out; stuffed more than an inch high with gobs of spinach & just enough ricotta to moisten & mellow it; & sauced with a simple, chunky marinara, all tomato & herb rather than salt & sugar: an exemplar of perfectly healthy Italian street food in contrast to the Americanized dirty bombs stateside suicide snackers are always detonating in their own guts.

Same went for the pizza, proof that “humble” & “elegant” aren’t necessarily antonyms, that there’s a happy—& arguably most authentically Italian—medium between a Domino’s MeatZZa Feast & the lobster-&-caviar-topped stuff of the rich & ridiculous. Though thin, the crust had chew enough to support its balanced layer of bubbling brown mozzarella spiked with the salty tang of crumbled feta & whole olives; tomato & artichoke added hits of sweet & sour.

I’ll need to return for a sausage calzone to be sure, but Dolce Sicilia may soon find a place right next to marzipan-crazed Maria’s & all-night shitshow Bova’s in my ragù-bleeding, pastry-wrapped heart.
Dolce Sicilia on Urbanspoon

Pajama Baking Company: not YoMama’s baking company. Heh.

First of all, your mama baked cookies from a Nestle mix & scooped DayGlo sherbet from a supermarket carton. She wasn’t assembling big fat babies like these from scratch,
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using fresh-made ice cream like this.
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& she wasn’t not doing that because she was too busy baking golden-brown, buttery brioche
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or apple galettes
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or pecan tarts
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or crusty loaves of country rye or sheets of focaccia, either.
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No. She wasn’t doing it because she didn’t really love you. Not the way the Pajama Baking Company loves you.
So comb your hair, put on a clean shirt for crying out loud, come on in & show some respect.
***Thanks to neighborly blogger Seth Rubin for the heads up.