Eatin’ in Denver

October 8, 2010 at 1:14 PM Leave a comment

Jeff was in Denver to attend the Energy Star Partner’s Meeting and took the opportunity to sample some mile-high food. What a treat. He had not expected such wonderfully prepared meals using such unexpected ingredient combinations. After visiting two of the city’s finest, Jeff can’t wait for a return trip.

Rioja is the James Bead nominated restaurant that has attracted a lot of national “buzz” for the city dining scene. Chef Jennifer Jasinski has created a menu with a decided Mediterranean bend and visual punch. Jeff started with the Watermelon Salad. A combination of yellow and ruby watermelon was served over a heart-of-palms puree and shiso (Japanese mint herb) vinaigrette. Just when you thought this might be boring, slightly spicy grilled shisito peppers were arranged over the cooling watermelon for a spark of controversy and an interesting palette tease.

Dinner was an easy choice. Colorado lamb prepared two ways. First a perfectly grilled lamb “T” bone and secondly house made lamb merguez (North African style) sausage patty. Couscous was deep fried into a crispy pocket and caramelized fennel sat along side. A tomato coulis accent and lemon yogurt sauce accompanied this vivid combination of flavor and textures.

Without Michele sitting on the other side of the table, dessert did not need to be chocolate, so Jeff took the opportunity to enjoy their Meyer Lemon Sabayon Tart that was prepared with a delightful pine nut corn meal crust and a side of lemon ice granita and ice cream with pine nut brittle. Jeff really enjoys lemon desserts and this was among the best.

Fruition, the other Denver restaurant with the national reputation was booked solid, so based on a recommendation from the hotel lobby bartender, Jeff tried TAG the next evening. What a surprise! If given a choice of only one meal in Denver, he’d recommend this place. That choice is primarily because of the inventive and amazingly tasty duck. The duck was separated into a quartet of boneless pieces with the confit scattered around, both served over grilled haricot vert and shitake mushrooms. The lilikoi (a type of passion fruit) mustard sauce sealed the deal and brought the dish together in an amazing way. It took immeasurable self control to avoid lifting the plate and licking it clean!

The appetizer and dessert were equally rewarding. Mozzarella and locally grown Rocky Ford Melon was topped with a spiral of La Quercia Prosciutto and oven roasted tomatoes. Perfect! Jeff’s non-chocolate dessert was Banana Crème pie with burnt orange sauce and Tahitian vanilla whipped cream. (Shaved chocolate was sprinkled over the top – don’t tell Michele!)

When planning a trip to Denver, Jeff never expected to encounter such delightful food. Now he can’t wait to return and try some of the other local hot spots. If you’re traveling there, consider doing the same.

http://www.riojadenver.com/ 1431 Larimer Street Denver, CO 80202 303-825-2588

http://tag-restaurant.com/ 441 Larimer Street Denver, CO 80202 303-996-9985

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