Colorado eating, April 2010
LA hound here, just got back from a week and a half in CO, mainly Colorado Springs and Denver, thought I'd post a review/recap since I had such a delicious time.
D-Bar: luxurious desserts, some enjoyed their "cake and a shake", I had a couple of their handmade chocolates, the PBnJ was decadent, and kind of unexpected, it was a blob of peanut butter topped with a smaller blob of Jelly, encased in a chocolate shell, what did I expect? All the desserts looked like works of art, no one was disappointed. And the fact that you can get a t-shirt that says "cupcake slut", well, bonus points for that.
HBurger: Very friendly staff, good burger (very nice about redoing it when it came out overcooked), fries were delish, thickish, not the crispy kind, well seasoned. They have sweet n spicy bacon, really tasty, but be sure to ask for it well done, it was kind of limp and fatty, which I didn't love. Didn't get to see it, but apparently they freeze their shakes tableside with liquid nitrogen, probably worth it for the show.
Vesta: I love a place that isn't afraid to season their food. Spicy lamb ribs were excellent, spicy rub with pistachios, drizzled with cooling rose yoghurt a perfect cooling foil to the spicy rub. Seared scallops cooked perfectly, although the sangria reduction was a little too soupy and sweet.
Boney's: I'd read they do great brisket, but I have to say that was the week point for me. I got the combo, and I'd say everything but the brisket was top notch in my book. The hotlink (more like a really spicy, really good, hot dog) was really juicy, with a great snap (which I love). The pulled pork was tender and juicy, and the ribs were meaty and came right off the bone good. The beans were delish, tiny, smokey, and almost like a chili (sort of), mac and cheese was creamy and good.
Marlowe's: Had to try buffalo ribs. They were described by the host as HUGE, my order was not, they were bearly bigger than your average pork rib. I thought that was odd. This is probably NOT the place to really sample them, it wasn't on "my list", but it was near my hotel. Anyway, they were pretty lean, that's how I'd describe them against, say, a regular cow/beef rib. That said, it's worth it just for their sauce. I think the ribs had a rub on them, which was tasty, but the sauce was like candy, I want to say it was an ancho chile cherry sauce. I'd go back just for this sauce, and I'd put it on EVERYTHING.
Rioja: So good I went back the next day. I can't say enough about the bread basket -- except maybe thank god it wasn't left on my table, or I would have inhaled it. The house-made goat cheese rosemary biscuits were too die for tender and delicious. The rest of the basket was just plain delicious. I also sampled the olive bread (like any other great olive bread), the lavender sourdough (a really great sourdough, very light handed with the lavender, probably a good thing, very different). Never made it around to the orange fennel roll, darn it. I first went in for dinner, and had the lamb two ways, the t-bone (chop) was surprisingly a bit tough, but tasty, it was on a bed of a good til the last drop tomato sauce (I was skeptical about this pairing, but it was a beautiful thing, and mopped up by the last bit of sourdough), there was a crispy pocket of quinoa, perfectly tender and sweet, and a patty of lamb merquez sausage, drizzled with a yogurt sauce. Spicy, rich, cooled by the yogurt, a great dish. I needed another go round with that breadbasket, and wanted to try her homemade pasta, so I made a reservation for brunch the next morning before I flew out. Never got to the orange fennel roll... Artichoke Tortelloni, freaking perfection. They came in a fresh artichoke broth with "essence" of truffle. Each flavor sparkled, the tortelloni were stuffed with burst of goat cheese/artichoke, they were tender and amazing. The artichoke broth tasted like freshly squeezed artichoke liquid, if there is such a thing, well complemented by the essence of truffle. I followed that with miniature beignet,stuffed with sweet goat cheese, and black mission fig, on top of a decorative squeeze of port wine reduction --another delectable pairing of flavors. Thank god I don't live nearby, I'd have to have that over and over and over until it hurt.
Colt and Gray: Went in for the crispy pig trotters, not exactly what I was expecting, but very good. I somehow thought these would be more rough and tumble, and a bit more flavorful. What showed up was two fried rounds of very tender shredded pork. Good, but again, not what I was expecting. What was the surprising star of the show... Bacon, cashew, caramel corn. Yep. Nuggets of meaty bacon are an excellent partner for an already sweet and salty snack. There was a dusting of something spicy in there too, which added more depth to the mix. Fantastic.
The Berkshire: Anywhere that offers something called a flight of bacon, is somewhere on "my list". The A strip of balsamic, strip of garlic, strip of curried, strip of cinnamon. Paired with a little extra. Balsamic with a strawberry, cinnamon with an almond, etc... I'm not sure how this could miss, but it fell a little flat. It felt like it wasn't cooked to order, it was so right in concept, just missed it's mark in execution. I so wanted to love this place. We also split the King (I think it was called), Bacon, Peanut Butter, Caramelized Banana, on Hawaiian Sweet Bread -- again, all the fixin's of a Hit... and it was full of bacon alright, but you could hardly taste the banana, or maybe it was just that there wasn't enough of it. Partially disappointing because if I'm going to partake of a heart attack like this, it had better be worth it, and it wasn't spectacular. I love the idea of this place. I'm kind of hoping this was just an off night, but that's my take on the place.
Argyll GastroPub: Had to try their award winning Shrimp Mac & Cheese, and the Lamb Burger. First let me say I love the "gastropub" idea, comfort favorites, made with local fresh ingredients. They start you off with (potato) chips drizzled with what I think is a malt vinegar syrup, clever and of course delicious. The Mac & Cheese was really good, the shrimp were tasteless and felt complete unnecessary, loved the crisp crumbs on top, not overly cheesy (which actually is never a problem for me), I would have liked it to be a little more "sharp", it didn't list them, but I assume the cheese's they use are just on the more mild side. Good, in a gourmet mac and cheese way, not sure this type of M&C is my fav prep. The burger was excellent, great meat, cooked perfectly, on a good soft (but full structured) bun.
Tom's Home Cookin': Read the fried chicken was cooked until a copper color... that was enough to make "my list". It did not disappoint. I was not expecting a cafeteria style chaffing dish line up, but it didn't matter, the chicken was moist, the copper colored crust was crisp and salty, a good combo for sure. The mac and cheese was non memorable, saucy. The greens were good, fresh, and not over cooked, and the cornbread exceptional, not sweet, and not fluffy, but it was also not dense. It was like cornbread made with course cornmeal or something, I've never really had cornbread like this, I loved it, it was very satisfying.
Snooze: How cute is this place, adorable retro would be how I'd capture it's style. Great homemade corned beef hash would be enough to come back for, but the super star of the show was the "pancake of the day" Are you already sensing a trend... yes it's going to involve bacon. It was a bacon, blue cheese pancake, and it was sensational. The pancake itself was more of a savory I'd say, like coffee cake masquerading as a pancake. I'm not sure how that will go over with plain pancake lovers, but for this dish, worked like a charm. Each bite got a bit of the blobs of (good) blue cheese (I was worried they might not go for the gold in the blue department), some bacon, and the cake itself -- if that wasn't enough, drizzed with maple syrup... heaven.
Kolache Factory: Have you ever had a Kolache? It's a slightly sweetened dough, and they stuff them with everything under the sun. We tried the traditional ones, that are more like a danish, with cream cheese, or poppy seed. They were tasty, kind of like a slightly more savory than sweet danish. I thought the place was going to be an adventure itself, this was more like a Czeck Donut Shop.
Casa Bonita: Well, there's cliff divers, and you definitely aren't there for the food. Enough said.
Jake & Telly: Don't order the calamari, they were the tinyest little guys I've ever seen, and over cooked. But it looks like they make their own gyro, it was more like seasoned burgers, different and tasty. Cute place, loved the fun way they "balance" their wine glasses at each place setting.
King Chef: What's not to love about eating breakfast in a little purple castle. Everything seemed fresh, which is a good sign. Great thick bacon. Huge breakfast burrito, and a flavorful, spicy, homemade Green Chile Sauce. Loved that this place really seemed like a local, friendly place where everyone knows your name. Bonus that the cook was grating real potatos over the grill for the hashbrowns.
Dale Street Bistro: Hmmm, another purple palace, this time Victorian. Homemade bread, and good, fresh food. The cream of artichoke bisque was great, you could taste the artichoke (so often disappointing when a cream soup tastes like a bowl of cream). The curried chicken salad was a treat, deep curry flavor (not the mayo heavy version you often find), nicely cooked burger also. Pizza's looked great, as did the eggs florentine which were also on our table, but I didn't get to try. Great service, this place is a gem.
Mason Jar: Ok comfort food, the chicken was moist. The Blackberry Margaritas and Cobbler both used real fruit --albeit they could have benefitted from a few less seeds. Biscuits were flavorful and fluffy. I wouldn't run back, but I wasn't sorry we tried it either.
Culvers: Home of the Buttered Bun? I guess they butter their bun. The burgers are in a completely different category than most burgers. The thinnest patty I can ever imagine someone pressing out, normally a big minus in my book, however, the patty is grilled until it's nearly crisp, which I have to say was unusual, in a good way. The complete package, I'd have to give a thumbs up. And fried cheese curds, well, they get bonus points for sure. They also offered fried Walleye (might have been a special), friends said was good, and everyone loved their custard shakes.
Vesta Dipping Grill
1822 Blake Street, Denver, CO 80202
92 Wadsworth Blvd, Lakewood, CO
2260 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202
2925 W Colorado Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Tom's Home Cookin
800 E 26th Ave, Denver, CO 80205
King's Chef Diner
110 E Costilla St, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Culver's of Colorado Springs
2925 New Center Pt, Colorado Springs, CO 80922
Dale Street Bistro Cafe
115 E Dale St, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
6715 W Colfax Ave, Lakewood, CO 80214
501 16th St, Denver, CO 80202
1512 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80202
7352 E. 29th Ave., Denver, CO 80238
Jake and Telly's Greek Cuisine & Wine Bar
2616 W Colorado Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
D Bar Desserts
1475 E 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80218
2700 E. 3rd Ave, Denver, CO 80206
Colt & Gray
1553 Platte Street, Denver, CO 80202
Thanks for the great report. I did have the orange fennel roll at Rioja and it was fantastic. My dining companion had the Artichoke Tortelloni which she enjoyed. I "sampled" it but since I have a serious aversion to artichokes, I didn't really enjoy it. I keep trying different artichoke dishes hoping it will "cure" me but to no avail (at least not yet). I got sick off of them as a young child (ironically because I ate so many I *made* myself sick) and haven't been able to recover ever since.
The texture of the pasta was great.
1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202
I will echo everyone else in saying this was a great run-down! Completely agree about the artichoke tortelloni at Rioja--that is one of the stars on a consistently top-notch menu.