Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Denveater’s Top 5 Dishes of 2011: The Vegetarian Edition

Amira Bakery’s Lebanese pie with zaatar & lebni

Linger’s raw “samosas” with curried cashew yogurt & cranberry-mint jam

Mushroom dynamite at Russell’s Smokehouse

Black Cat Bistro’s carrot terrine (right)

Thai Flavor’s omelet-topped eggplant salad

Denveater’s Top 5 Dishes of 2011: The Beefcake Edition

Crimson Canary’s veal scaloppini with fettuccine

Queen of Sheba’s kitfo

The Corner Office’s Downward Dog

Chile Verde’s chile relleno en nogada

Hayashi at Kiki’s Japanese Casual Dining

Denveater’s Top 5 Dishes of 2011: The Piggy Edition

Bacon-crusted pork chop with Srirach risotto at Satchel’s on 6th

Tacos Jalisco’s chicharrónes

Cracovia’s kiszka (blood sausage)

 

twelve restaurant’s pork belly over braised cabbage & green chile with chicharrónes

BBQ pork necks from CoraFaye’s Café

Denveater’s Top 5 Dishes of 2011: The Fishy Edition

Continued from yesterday’s plucked post. Can she cover beef, pork, veg & dessert for a total of 25 Best Dishes of the Year, before sundown tomorrow, folks? Stay tuned to find out.

Sadly, one is unpictured:
Izakaya Amu’s salmon sashimi in a yolk-based sauce. Revelatory.

Fish charcuterie from Wild Catch—RIP-ish

Pizzeria Locale’s insalata ai frutti di mare (right)

The Red Claw’s frog-leg curry (OK, not fish, only arguably seafood, but close enough—which makes The Red Claw 2 for 2, by the by)

Uni risotto at OTOTO Food and Wine

Trillium’s fried smelts (OK, that’s 6, but The Red Claw’s entry is arguable, so close enough—which means Trillium’s also 2 for 2, by the by)

 

Denveater’s Top 5 Dishes of 2011: The Chicken Edition

Since I’ve regaled you with best-of lists & highlight outtakes the past few months, I thought I’d do something different for the obligatory year-end round-up by honoring that least-appreciated of, er, workhorses, the gallus gallus. While cows & pigs get all the foodie love, conventional wisdom holds that chicken is chefs’ token capitulation to weight-watching, indecisive & other unadventurous eaters. But while 1 or 2 exceptions prove the rule, a slew of them disprove it—the following above all. Links on dish names lead to the full review.

Street Kitchen Asian Bistro’s Thai-style roast chicken

Tao Tao Noodle Bar’s 3-cup chicken: dark-meat chunks cooked Taiwanese-style with whole cloves of garlic & green in the namesake sauce of equal parts sesame oil, rice wine & soy sauce

The Red Claw’s wings in house fish sauce

Trillium’s pan-roasted chicken & brussels sprouts over egg noodles in bacon-mustard vinaigrette

Eight K’s cavatelli with chicken oysters & morels in brandied cream

cafe | bar, Coohills, District Meats: A Bar Bites Beatdown

What is it with the trend toward prison colors? Half the new restaurants in the city are gray-walled, making me feel as though I’ll have to dig my way out with a spoon. It’s true, for instance, of Bittersweet—as well as of its catty-corner rival, which goes by the equally austere & creatively inauspicious (not to mention Google-thwarting) name of cafe | bar. Suffice it to say I had my doubts.

Sure enough, over the course of a recent evening there I did feel trapped, trapped I say, but in the crush of happy-hour revelers, standing 3 or 4 deep at the bar in the tiny back room, rather than involuntary inmates (which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have speared a bitch with a fork if it came to that). Clearly it’s a neighborhood hit, & rightly so: the open kitchen slings smartly conceived & nicely executed seasonal dishes all around (think smoked-goose salad in blueberry-sage vinaigrette). Pictures aren’t always worth 1000 words, especially mine, but I think these speak pretty clearly, so I’ll keep the verbiage to a minimum: props go especially to the ham-&-cheese sweet potato fries,

the buffalo meatballs with porter & cheddar in cherry-tomato demiglace,

& the caramelized onion-&-sage bread pudding in arugula-parsley cream.

The only exception to the crowd-pleasing rule was my strozzapreti, which lacked oomph; tossed with slightly undercooked cubes of sweet potato, fennel, kale, & roasted tomato, it didn’t quite hold together, the only real glue being not enough porcini butter at the bottom of the bowl. Still, 4 out of 5, the 5th being an unpictured charcuterie & cheese platter, is as good as dentist-recommended chewing gum.

***

Like District Meats below, Coohills aims to be a glam slam; big & handsome & hustling, it’s got a Colo-Med thing going on that’s working for it so far—especially since, unlike District Meats, the chef-owner, acclaimed Atlanta transplant Tom Coohill, is actually on premises. Loved the texture of the brandade—a warm, hearty sort of salt-cod mousse emulsified with olive oil—though it could’ve been even fishier for my tastes.

Coohill’s classical French background loomed large behind this duo of chicken-liver pâté & fatback-encased pâté de campagne, parfait in every way—texture, temperature, seasoning.

Still, the “melted flatbread,” which I think is a typo for “fatbread,” warmed my cockles most: an entire focaccia-like loaf, tender in & of itself & oozing with taleggio & ricotta to boot.

 

Given the generous portions & the well-heeled target market, tabs are really pretty reasonable, especially at happy hour. Unless, that is, you happen to be a Scotch drinker; by my side, the Director experienced one of the more painful moments of sticker shock I’ve seen. The price was so out of proportion to the rest (something like $36 for 2 normal-size pours of Glenlivet 10-year, or the cost of an entire bottle at retail) that we actually wondered if it was a glitch in the system. I’m inclined to think it was; in any case, I’ll be back whether Mr. Scotchy-Scotch joins me or not.

***

UPDATE: I’m beginning to figure out what to make of District Meats, if this stellar meal was any indication.

Damned if I know quite what to make of District Meats. Looks like celeb-chef Charlie Palmer swooped in here with visions of a combination European farmhouse & sports arena. Nor was I too sure about the crispy spiced chickpeas,

which were fried so deeply they were nearly incinerated, all crunch & no flesh. Odd. But Justin’s Stuffed Peppers proved a solid bet:

sweet, sweet piquillos roasted filled with incredibly juicy, marinated pulled pork & served over a red-pepper puree that was vibrant but not cloying, as so many are. Though unusually friendly, the on-the-ball bar staff also didn’t cling too thickly. I wish them luck, because the huge place was empty at the dinner hour on a Wednesday night—don’t think I’m the only one who’s unclear on the concept, sort of a steakhouse that hedges its bets.

Cafebar on Urbanspoon

Coohills 1400 on Urbanspoon

District Meats on Urbanspoon

Recap: The 10 Best Things I Ate for the Guidebook

The project that has consumed every waking minute of my life since late August is finally behind me: The Food Lover’s Guide to Denver & Boulder will be released by Globe Pequot Press next spring. Details to follow as the pub date nears.

In the past 3-plus months I’ve made mincemeat of 100s of dishes at 100s of area eateries—and the experience only further confirmed my long-held belief that we’ve got it going on around here. Which doesn’t mean that all that face-stuffing was always fun; at times, I yearned for nothing more than a can of green beans and a daybed on which to sleep it off for the next 3 days. That some eats wowed me in even those jaded moments is all the more testament to their excellence. To commemorate my pain/your gain, behold, in no particular order, my Top 10.

Black Cat Bistro’s appetizer tasting with truffled white-radish soup, carrot terrine & pork rillettes in oven-roasted tomato “taco shell”

Trillium’s foie gras mousse with pickled chanterelles & cloudberry preserves on rieska

twelve restaurant’s puff-pastry flatbread with autumn produce

Queen of Sheba’s kitfo

CoraFaye’s Cafe’s pork necks

Satchel’s on 6th’s bacon-crusted pork chop with Sriracha risotto 

Jabo Bar-Be-Q’s honey-maple baked beans & Utah scone

À Côté’s petit boisé in walnut leaves with house accompaniments

Thai Flavor’s omelet-topped eggplant salad

Las Tortugas’ torta

Bonus entry: though I kept the camera off during an extraordinary meal at Izakaya Amu, not a one of the 10 or so I tried didn’t fill me with delight.

Denveater’s (Final) Week in Review: The Mostly Boulder Edition

Research for my upcoming guidebook, the Food Lover’s Guide to Denver/Boulder, is finally drawing to a close; my immersion in the world of wine at Sommelier Journal is just beginning. Who knows if I’ll ever again have the opportunity to eat quite this much in quite this brief a time span—part of me hopes so, part of me (the part that’s gotten bigger & bigger & bigger) doesn’t. Time will tell.

Squid scampi at Arugula Bar e Ristorante

Black Cat Bistro’s brilliant gnocchi with grilled chicken livers

Brasserie Ten Ten’s pesto chicken salad

Fried cauliflower with curried yogurt at Café Aion

Fish in numbing chili oil from Chef Liu’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine (oh. So addictive)

Brisket on onion roll from Jimmy & Drew’s 28th Street Deli

The Pinyon’s fried chicken

The Vuelta at Rueben’s Burger Bistro

Mortadella spuma at Riffs Urban Fare

Tiffin’s vada pav

Denveater’s Week(ish) in Review, 11/9-11/15: Now With More Epic

BURP.

African Grill’s meat pie

Damascus Grill’s lamb-stuffed eggplant

El Chalate’s amazing banana bread

Ribs, baked beans & a “Utah scone” from Jabo’s Bar-Be-Q

Maandeeq East African Cafe’s roast goat

Maria Empanada’s spinach-&-egg empanada

Thai Flavor’s omelet-topped eggplant salad 

Tao Tao Noodle Bar’s 3-cup chicken

Virgilio’s Dolce Diablo pizza

Denveater’s Week(-plus) in Review, 10/31-11/8

Two chapters to go, folks! And then I’ll be back with more exciting news. In the meantime, the highlights of my ongoing guidebook research.

Curried mussels with roasted apples at The Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Café

Masala dosa at Jai Ho

La Popular’s cheapo & yummo red-chile tamale

Pra lad prik at US Thai Café

Lovely tapas at Caveau Wine Bar