Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Dish of the Week: Crispy Sofrito Chicken at Corner House

The Corner House couldn’t have picked a better time to host a media preview of the new fall menu: gray & chilly as it was outside yesterday, the warm & woody space, with moody jazz playing the background, felt like shelter of a distinctly New Wave-cinema sort. I wished I’d been dressed like this, gazing dreamily out the window with a Norman Mailer novel to finish or something.

And of course the food completed the cozy picture, darkened only by the realization that I’d only been here once before, for the opening preview. So many times I’ve looked at the online menu with lunch plans—what has stopped me? Partly the sense that it’s way over there in isolated Jefferson Park. Apparently I’m not alone in that impression, because chef-partner Matt Selby told us that he’s started to put maps on all his press materials. Truth is it’s a few-minute drive from Uptown, and I need to make it more often.

This terrific “play on arroz con pollo,” as Selby termed it, is as good a reason as any to do so. The crackling, juicy chicken thigh sits atop a mound of chorizo-studded rice in a generous smear of saffron aioli, garnished with sangria-marinated onions & queso fresco. It’s earthy & comforting &, in short, a keeper.

In fact, earthy comforts abound on the new menu, which reflects Selby’s current motto, “Keep it simple—that’s what the neighborhood wants. Just a few ingredients; nothing should take longer than 10 or 15 minutes to plate.” But he’s not budging on foie gras, bless him. The seared lobe below accompanies a veritable spring mattress of pumpkin bread pudding, plus the last of the season’s figs & a charred fig-rum reduction that, mingling with sage oil, is a light, bright rejoinder to its cloying, jammy counterparts. (As winter sets in, kumquats will feature here instead.) Loved that bracingly citrusy, capsicum-laced cocktail too, called When Doves Cry, made simply with tequila blanco, grapefruit, lime & Fresno chiles.

And PEI mussels bathed in white wine, tomatoes & butter, served alongside City Bakery ciabatta brushed with chive aioli & grilled. Could have made a cocktail out of that broth, actually.

And seared Alamosa striped bass, topped with braised frisée, over criminally & eternally underrated lima beans plus brandade (salt-cod emulsion) that incorporates parsnips instead of potatoes for a touch of sweetness echoed in the sherry reduction.

And an ultra-meaty though wholly vegetarian dish of lentils with duxelles, grilled apple slices & sautéed broccolini.

The peach cobbler à la mode pictured in back will disappear soon; Selby’s considering a berry buckle in its stead. As for the mighty fine, tapioca-like banana pudding, he seemed worried about guests who are taken aback by its hue. Anyone schooled in the art of Italian gelato, though, should know that bright yellow means Stop—artificial flavoring ahead.

Yes, Corner House is the ultimate neighborhood place. But it’s also proof that expanding our own sense of neighborliness never hurts.

Corner House on Urbanspoon

CapRock Farm Bar Set to Roll

At the center of The Source—which continues to shape up in ways that suggest the reality will match the ambitious vision for this urban marketplace (see also my report on the opening of Cantina Comida)—is an island bar, flanked by a handful of cafe tables, called CapRock Farm Bar.

(Can you spot the rock-star chef in this snap? Here’s a hint. Here’s another)

Behind the venture is Lance Hanson, owner of organic/biodynamic Hotchkiss winery Jack Rabbit Hill as well as Peak Spirits Farm Distillery, whose list of nips & nibbles (click to enlarge)

is as neat & clean as his grappas, of which I’ve long been a huge fan—though it’s his celebrated gin, whose key botanicals make for a nifty display on 1 corner of the bar,

that stars in the majority of the libations.

Like a good neighbor, Mondo Market is there

to provide the edibles—

& sell me a bottle of the locally, organically made Elevation Ketchup in the process, which I first fell for at Punch Bowl Social—as is Babette’s Artisan Breads.

The grand opening’s Tuesday; to whet your thirst, here’s the text of an article I wrote about Hanson’s grappa a couple of years ago for the now-defunct Denver Magazine.

Grappa. Even the word is hard to swallow; it sounds like something that’s going to grab hold of your gullet and wring it out with gusto. Admittedly, that’s a fairly accurate description of the role grappa has played in the Italian diet for centuries. Distilled from the pomace of skins, stems, and seeds left behind in a wine press, this grape-based spirit has historically amounted to firewater — good for digestion but rough on the palate. Since the 1970s, however, its reputation has improved markedly, thanks to the efforts of Italian producers who began incorporating single varietals and small-batch techniques to yield sipping grappas every bit as fine as France’s great marcs, or clear brandies (which is essentially what they are).

Here in the States, where the European tradition of after-dinner digestifs is finally catching on, grappa is slowly but surely earning its place among the liqueurs, cognacs, and dessert wines with which we’re already familiar. It’s even being produced domestically nowadays; in fact, Peak Spirits, the acclaimed Colorado distiller behind CapRock, makes five — one of which, distilled from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (two of the three varietals used in Champagne), has become my nightcap of choice.

“Grappa was a slam dunk for us,” says Lance Hanson, who, with his wife, Anna, owns Peak Spirits and Jack Rabbit Hill Winery in Hotchkiss. “Here we were making wine; we had the material. And I have a soft spot for grappa, because it’s a fun challenge — what you get is totally different” than the wine of which it’s a byproduct. Like his Chardonnay and Riesling grappas, Hanson’s Pinot blend is made in a pot still using only estate-grown grapes. “While we wanted to preserve some of the cherry and dark-berry aromas that are in the wine, we were hoping for a woodsy spiciness” from the distillation process, he says. The result “is very true to the character of the fruit.” Remarkable smoothness is its hallmark, along with a hint of herbs and flowers on the nose; you can drink it neat in copitas (sherry glasses), or add a splash to espresso to yield what Italians call caffè corretto—“coffee the correct way.”

Root25 Taphouse & Kitchen Breaks Ground in the DTC

I rarely have cause to be sniffing around the DTC, but after an invite to the media preview for this brewcentric newcomer in the Hyatt Regency, I took a glance at the goods & liked what I saw—not only a serious collection of local beers, both on tap & in bottle, but also a gastropubby menu that’s itself drenched in booze. I counted some 17 alcohol-infused dishes, from the chocolate malt-honey butter on the buttermilk pancakes for breakfast & the Avery White Rascal salad dressing to the chorizo-IPA consommé, beef-cheek pastrami sandwich slapped with Vodka 14 aioli, & hops-smoked pork shortrib with malted cranberry-bean puree & apple-mustard marmalade. And I liked it all no less when I saw it for myself; hotel director of food & beverage Ben Hardaway admitted to me that he’d had to make some noise to realize his vision in the face of corporate hesitation, but he did it. Good on him.

For this casual premiere, the team graciously put the spotlight on their purveyors above all—take this salad bar courtesy of Grower’s Organic, featuring some of the prettiest black radishes, baby carrots & teardrop tomatoes I do believe I’ve ever seen.

Or this spread of locally produced salumi & cheeses (think Continental Sausage, Avalanche, etc.), plus housemade accompaniments. That pan-fried pancetta in the foreground? I want some more RIGHT NOW. I want to wrap this apple I’m eating in it. I’m not even one of those bacon freaks who won’t give it a rest already, but the pancetta-apple scale definitely tips in favor of crispy pork product.

I didn’t manage to get around to the prime-rib carving station (but the Director, who adores the stuff—RIP Rodney’s—raved about it). Why not? Because I was too busy snarfing up the sandwiches: BLTs with house-cured bacon, green tomatoes, smoked cheddar, & cipollina aioli; grilled cheddar-&-swiss with roasted tomatoes, onions, arugula, & amber ale-infused Dijon mustard;

& the RIGHT ON whiskey barrel-smoked beef brisket with rutabaga sauerkraut & Hazel Dell mushroom ketchup on jalapeño-cheddar bread. One of those surprises that makes your pupils dilate—you think you’re biting into one standard thing that turns out to be a whole other rainbow thing. (It didn’t hurt that the delish cocktail I’d paired with it was whipped up by none other than that old smoothie Sean Kenyon, on hand to guest bartend.)

I was also loading up on wings & drumettes, for which the kitchen goes to town. The chicken itself is malt-roasted; then it’s coated in 3 different sauces—Wynkoop Black Lager buffalo, Left Hand Milk Stout BBQ, & spicy Dry Dock Apricot Blonde; finally, it’s served with housemade ranch & ridiculously chunky, good-quality blue-cheese dressing.

Dessert was a charm offensive of assorted Mason-jar pies, eclairs, & truffles.

And while the bartenders kept the flow of suds from Funkwerks, Elevation, Odell, Avery, Great Divide, Upslope & other beloved locals going, I was tickled to see their investment in a barrel-aged cocktail program—there must’ve been 8 or 10 of these on the counter for sampling (click to read the labels).

It goes without saying that you wouldn’t expect such passionate, community-conscious effort from a hotel oriented toward business travelers. Here’s hoping these guys get the crowd they aim to cater to.

Root 25 Taphouse & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Jackpot: Punch Bowl Social

Being shudderingly antisocial & unplayful by nature, I recognize I’m not the target market for the bananas hyperspace that is Robert Thompson’s Baker District bowling alley-pool hall-video arcade-watering hole-retro diner, especially given the strongly mixed reviews the latter, i.e. the only part I care about, has been receiving.

But as a big fan of Thompson & his exec chef Sergio Romero in general, I meant to give it a go eventually; a recent snowy weeknight seemed just the time to skirt the chaos inherent in all the parts I don’t care about. Maybe it’s the case that on a Friday night, the kitchen gets lost in the wild weeds of birthday & bachelorette bashes; I dunno. My experience, though, was totally satisfying; no reason I can see thus far that a neighborhood institution shouldn’t be in the making.

Because pickled eggs! The old-school pub staple ain’t fancy or subtle, just creamy, sharp & meaty by turns.

And housemade beef jerky with horseradish foam for dipping! Way barklike to be sure—I’m partial to jerky that’s a little more steaklike, as at Doug Born’s Smoke House & Sausage Kitchen in Montague, Michigan. Still, that doesn’t mean I kick this chewier style to the curb—so long as it brings such full-throated flavor.

And complimentary biscuits with herbed butter!

But nothing topped my pastrami sandwich. Layers of lovingly cured, pepper-crusted, shred-tender meat are slathered with sauerkraut, melted gruyère, & gribiche—a dressing of mayo, chopped eggs & pickles—then griddled on rye; the effect is warm & hearty & sepia-toned, an ode to delis gone by. Actually, one thing topped it—the baked beans it came with, richly textured & chock full of pancetta & cayenne. And get this—you’ll find the recipe in the Denver & Boulder Chef’s Table, edited by moi, when it comes out this summer!

Before you say you’re over chicken & waffles, listen up—PBS serves the soul-food classic with syrup &, not or, sausage gravy. The 1st time I ever had it, some 15 years ago just south of Harlem, that’s how it was done—but I’ve never seen it that way again until now. Kew-dohs. Not that that would matter if all the appropriate descriptors—hot, crispy, greaseless, juicy—didn’t apply to the bird, but they did.

You can’t hardly tell this is a Frito pie. Yet it is—an especially fresh, thoughtful twist on the trashy original.

Though this was my 1st meal at PBS, I’d been in previously for drinks—& every time I walked by the dessert case, something managed to catch my fancy: huge brownies, sticky cinnamon rolls, etc. Gotta love the effort to revive the pure Americana of daily-made, sky-high cakes & tarts à la Wayne Thiebaud—& the banana-cream pie was heartfelt, actually tasting of fresh fruit.

How ’bout that? Perhaps I just got lucky—but I don’t think so. Perhaps, rather, an operation of this size just needed some time to gel, & things will only get better from here. I for one am giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink on Urbanspoon

Welcome Mat(ty) at Corner House Neighborhood Eatery

The Jefferson Park space, already weathered amid recycled woods of all stripes (pine, cedar, hickory), is tiny. The menus are tiny, at least at present, listing only a handful of items for both daytime & evening. But Corner House feels big—filled with light & personality, above all that of big-hearted chef Matt Selby (“Matty” to many).

Prior to the opening on 1/11, the original Steuben’s & Vesta Dipping Grill vet has pared the original list of about 40 dishes down to just a few unanimous staff favorites; he’ll gradually expand it over time, but until then you’ll be privy to such nibbles & sips as:

Sean Kelly’s roasted almonds—named for the fellow longtimer Selby calls one of his heroes, they’re tossed with olive oil, garlic, rosemary & chilies, & I couldn’t keep my grubby mitts off them—& the PCP, whereby a glass of Port-style wine from Paso Robles’ Justin Vineyards is topped with shaved prosciutto San Daniele & Manchego, which you’re invited to dip into the drink or eat separately.

A sunny little snack of kampachi (a type of yellowtail) dotted with supremes of orange & yuzu, slivered Manzanilla olives & jalapeños, & a pinch of smoked salt; this is the kind of precise arrangement that bids you include a touch of each element in every bite for the full effect, which is much bolder than the sum of its seemingly delicate parts.

The tuna-poke bowl: poke is essentially Hawaiian ceviche, here served over a small mound of sushi rice & topped with sliced avocado & a sprinkling of roasted seaweed. The flavors are clean, clear, a touch herbal & fruity—instant classic. I could eat this for breakfast on a daily basis.

Chocolate duck-egg crème brûlée. Pal Tyler Wiard of Elway’s, Selby told me, “loves duck eggs. We were talking all the dishes he’s used them in & I asked, ‘What about crème brûlée?’ He thought about it & shook his head. So I feel like I beat Tyler to the punch with this.”

As someone who craves neither chocolate nor custard, I have to confess I was crazy about it—so toasty & smooth & mellow.

Speaking of brûlee, the Clay Street Collins was distinguished for me by its garnish, a torched lemon wheel that added a ray of warmth to the blend of gin, herbal liqueur, IPA (in this case from Avery, though it may vary), & simple syrup; between the citrus, the herb-&-barley tones, & the Ball jar it was served in, it possessed a rather soothing, tea-like quality.

Though the whiskey-based Three-Oh-Three contained both chai liqueur & apple cider, it proved surprisingly light & none too sweet, illustrating bar manager Gerard Collier’s knack for the balance so key to cocktailery.

About 10 wines & microbrews round out the beverage list, along with Novo coffee drinks for the morning shift. As for the rest of the repertoire, think deceptive simplicity: a panino of curry-smoked chicken-thigh meat with Brie, pickled onion & scallion mayo; roasted squash soup with lobster & mushrooms; foie gras cured in truffle salt, drizzled in pear gastrique & accompanied by pickled cauliflower & brioche.

Culinary theatricality, in short, is not the raison d’être of Corner House; low-key, comfy conviviality matters most. It all goes back to the origin of the word restaurant—to restore. To revive. To replenish. I foresee many an hour slipping by unmarked here.

Dish of the Week: “Spaghetti & Meatballs” at Euclid Hall

Though what I really wanted was the “fries with eyes”—fried smelts with malt vinegar aioli & bottarga (dried, cured, pressed roe)—I was trying to behave when I stopped by Euclid Hall yesterday afternoon. A side of roasted spaghetti squash with mushroom croquettes, blistered tomatoes, fresh oregano & Pecorino croutons sounded relatively benign.

So it was, from a dietary perspective; flavorwise, though, it was fierce, spraying rounds of ammo in the form of chopped garlic & chili flakes. Granted, those juicy, earthy, whole-wheaty croquettes softened each blow. What a perfect light lunch.

First Impressions: Chowdown at TAG Burger Bar

Neon graffiti murals & chalkboards in the bathroom lend a lively, DIY community vibe to the burger joint formerly known as Madison Street—one that’s underscored by Troy Guard’s mix-&-match menu of 6 patties & 15 topping combos, plus 17 à la carte toppings, from goldfish crackers to Cheez Whiz to what I suspect is a frico-like “parmesan chip.” (You can also opt for butter lettuce instead of a bun, or even skip the burger altogether & load a baked potato instead—now that’s using your noggin, Guard. Love me a good spud.)

So, for instance, you could order a turkey patty Ménage à Trois style, topped with Grey Poupon, Gruyère & French onion-soup style onions. Or a salmon patty à la Lady Gaga, with burrata, tomato, basil & balsamic-vinegar glaze. Or daily-ground beef done Colorado Proud—smothered in local goat cheese, wildflower honey & green chiles. Looking forward to all those—not to mention a baked potato Andrew Jackson (for a $20 premium, as the name suggests): house-cured pork belly, fried-chicken skin, fried egg, truffle aioli, bone-marrow salt & mustard-vinegar slaw. Holy moly.

After all, what pal Adrian Miller (@soulfoodscholar) & I actually ordered at the preview dinner on Monday night showed the crew is ready to bring it, starting with kimchi laced with scallions & carrots that wasn’t overpoweringly spicy but did show funky fermented depth. (That cheapo Nicaraguan lager, by the way, hit the spot with its creamy tones.)

Potato bites let us have our brunch-style fare (which TAG Burger Bar will also be serving, complete with a spin on Hawaiian staple loco moco! awesome) & eat dinner too: a mess of cubed, browned potatoes smothered in cheese, smoked bacon bits, scallions & spicy ranch. A no-brainer: junky, gooey, fun.

Truth be told, I’m not a huge burger buff, so tend to gravitate toward the sideshows more than the main event at venues like this; in fact, I was half-tempted to throw in some BBQ brisket nachos, fried pickles & an order of mac-&-cheese topped with Cheez-Its & call it a night. But I’m glad I didn’t, because the stars earned their top billing, from Bluepoint Bakery‘s sesame-seed buns—chewy & flavorful in themselves—onward.

If I do say so myself, my pick—the Godzilla burger with an edamame-based veggie patty—was an umami-rich natural, the latter’s fresh green notes brightening the smoked Japanese mayo, teriyaki sauce, meaty shiitakes & “tempura crispies” (basically fried-dough bits, so what’s not to dig?).

I also loved what I took home for the sickly Director: the Los Chingones buffalo burger packed a KO punch with griddled cotija cheese, black bean purée, Cholula aioli, Baja-style coleslaw—& the kicker of chiccharónes. Come on, you can’t fight that.

Adrian’s Dock of the Bay lamb burger with classic rémoulade looked pretty plain, so I skipped the pic, but in its relative simplicity it proved that, beneath all the bells & whistles I’m a sucker for, Guard has the fundamentals down pat: the lamb patty, tinged pink & dripping juice, was perfect, its smear of creamy caper sauce just icing on the cake.

Speaking of cake, we also split a couple of desserts: deep-fried Oreos

& the ubiquitous molten chocolate with raspberry sauce.

Both were fine; I tried the latter only to humor Adrian’s sweet tooth, having been sick unto death of the thing for years. But I get that I’m outnumbered by the world’s chocoholics; so long as it’s adequately prepared, then, a bite or 2 every now & then is okay by me. This was. The batter on the cookies was a little thick & doughy, but that’s a quibble that sounds ridiculous even to me—it’s hard to complain about such a blatantly guilty pleasure.

Besides, this is a burger bar, not a dessert bar, & I think Guard was right to transform the old neighborhood watering hole according to a more focused concept. The results are better in quality than those of HBurgerCO, the choices more delightfully elaborate than those of Park Burger or Larkburger (both of which I like, mind you). So yeah, looks like he’s done it again.

Tag Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Porchetta di testa at Colt & Gray

True confessions: a) I actually shared this charcuterie platter with pals at Colt & Gray a couple of weeks ago, & b) the porchetta di testa wasn’t even my favorite thing on it—that honor goes to ‘nduja, the vicious-red slab towering somewhat obscenely over the octopus terrine, rye-cured steelhead trout, housemade condiments (including an intriguing escarole chutney, of all things) & etc. It’s a spicy Calabrian sausage whose almost unnervingly creamy texture is due, I understand, to a ridiculous amount of fatback.

But I haven’t grown so jaded as to shrug at the fact that something as in-your-face (so to speak) as head cheese could become a staple on an American restaurant menu. Nor would it ever, if it weren’t for brave chefs like Nelson Perkins—whose thinly sliced version is so gorgeous it looks like it should be behind glass in a natural-history museum display case & labeled “pink-limb-cast petrified wood”:

If you’ve still never sampled his pâtés, puddings, pastrami, prosciutto, etc., etc., it’s past-high time you did.

Corridor 44’s Adorability Issue

Just as really, really ridiculously good looks can be both a blessing & a curse for humans (or so I hear), striking décor can render a restaurant either a promised land or a prison for its own staff. If culinary kudos are sufficient to excite serious-minded skeptics, all is extra-golden. But if style is largely perceived to trump substance, then return customers are bound to be surface-dwellers—scenesters rather than gastronomes. And once you’re stuck with ’em, you’ve gotta cater to ’em, like it or not.

Such is the trap in which this LoDo wine bar seems to find itself. With its creamy white leather booths, zebra-print accents & chandeliers as sparkling as the wines it specializes in, it’s been virtually empty every time I’ve arrived there for dinner—only to fill up much later with a depressingly obvious bevy of singles on the pre-club prowl, be they fedora- & hot pants-clad chickies & the dapper gents who pat their bottoms or darting-eyed cougars & their eternal frat-boy prey.

It’s a bit of a shame, because both the kitchen & the bar have real potential they’re constrained from fully realizing. On a recent girl’s night out—my 1st visit in a couple of years—pal @MO_242 ordered us a bottle of Pierre Gimonnet et Fils, & the beverage manager actually came over to compliment her on her taste & do the cork-popping honors, so clearly starved for enophilic attention among the flavored-vodka-&-schnapps swillers was he.

I can only suspect the chef is similarly frustrated by underappreciation (this is why we can’t have nice things, as the kids are quipping these days). Much of the menu is actually rather elegant, but what percentage goes out on any given night? I’m betting it’s pretty small. As a result, execution seems a bit half-hearted—& yet all the flavor’s there, just waiting to be taken to the next level, as with these escargots gratinés. Meaty & drenched in garlic-herb butter, they were really well done; with the addition of crustier, better-quality bread & a touch of color to the presentation, the dish as a whole would’ve been a solid-gold hit.

Likewise, a smartly conceived sandwich of hearty sliced short rib, melted gruyère & caramelized onion was left hanging by mediocre, flimsy sourdough; perfectly decent mixed-potato fries & sharply tangy aioli added enough support to leave me thinking, damn, so close!

A couple of oysters, a bite of foie gras, a few glasses of red, & all was pretty well right with the world; maybe these guys just need a little more encouragement to rise to the occasion.

Corridor 44 on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Smoked Mulefoot Pork Rib at Bramble & Hare (soft opening alert!)

Five stars for a place that hasn’t even officially opened yet is a giddy amateur move on my part. But if the sheer skill & savvy Black Cat Bistro’s Eric Skokan & crew showed throughout their friends & family kickoff is indeed a sign of things to come—& one imagines it is—then Bramble & Hare is gonna see my bet & raise it twofold.

It’s all about the little things here: tiny rustic space, small plates (supplemented by a daily-changing 3-course prix-fixe), innumerable background details—like the fact that the clay on the walls is mixed with hay from Skokan’s barn or that his wife stuffed the pillows lining the banquette with wool from their own-raised lambs. (As if “chef-restaurateur-farmer” weren’t enough of a hyphenate for Skokan, he added “general contractor” to the mix while building out the new space.) You also can’t quite tell by looking that the “all-star team” he’s hand-picked to cook here hail from all over—Atlanta, Chicago, Maine. But you can definitely tell by tasting that it all adds up to something special.

I mean, this is just ridiculous.

The rib is cut from a heritage breed Skokan’s helping to breed back from near-disappearance, with good reason—its rare flesh simply melts away. (Perhaps the pigs spontaneously deliquesced.) Of course, it first fills your mouth with such complex, smoky richness that I told Skokan I don’t think I’ve ever had a better rib—not at a barbecue joint, not at a Korean eatery, nowhere. And I wasn’t just kissing his ass, I meant it—notwithstanding the fact that what originally sold me on the dish were the pressure-cooked pork-skin “noodles” bathed in Sichuan-spiced jus. A dab of them pure-fat apples’ll do you.

Of course, Skokan’s commitment to not just whole-animal but whole-vegetable sustainability is evident at every turn. Take the farm chips: last night’s beet & turnip crisps were just the tip of a bowl that may, at any given time, include fried kale, Jerusalem artichokes, chicken skin, or pig’s ears: “Whatever we have that’s in season, we’ll turn into chips,” he promises.

Pictured in back is yet another winner: chilled, roasted turnips tossed with broccolini & cabbage in a star-anise vinaigrette—such a smart touch, bringing out a whole new side of the earthy veggies.

Granted, the veggies alone had a way of bringing out a whole new side of themselves: a cold soup special of carrots & the whey leftover from housemade ricotta, though seasoned only with S&P & lemon juice, possessed a distinct, almost cinnamony spiciness. Skokan surmised that the recent heat spike may have concentrated certain flavor compounds in the carrot patch.

So the list of hits—most fully realized, a few potential—went on, & on, & on, from the steamed bun filled with chopped beets alongside a dollop of beet-dusted chèvre mousse that called to mind my beloved gnocchi di prugne

to gorgeous, giant Hama Hamas on the half-shell with kimchi vinaigrette

to duck liver mousse-filled sourdoughnuts with grapefruit marmalade

to a killer special of perfectly cooked pork shoulder over the silkiest, poppiest little pearls of couscous ever (plus yet more turnips! Can’t get enough of those)

to, finally, a juicy, fruity as opposed to sugary yet heartily streuseled wedge of cherry tart.

That’s still not all: while the craft beer & cocktails flow, Dev’s carefully curated wine list is not to be dismissed—chock-full of all the Zweigelts & Teroldegos & boutique Lambruscos to stir an oenophile’s cockles. Nor is the keen service (courtesy last night of on-the-ball Tyler).

Sure, this is one of those occasional googly-eyed Dear Diary accounts wherein I suddenly pull back to add a steely disclaimer: I came as a guest, not an anonymous reviewer. My experience can’t be separated from my familiarity with the staff or my prior admiration for Skokan’s work—at least not by me. It’s up to you to validate my vote of confidence (or not, for that matter). Keep me posted.

Bramble & Hare on Urbanspoon