Gotta love side jobs–especially side jobs like guest blogging for Indie Eats on a night when I get to go to the Botanic Gardens and enjoy myself in the name of a good cause. I'm not much of a charity function guy, but this event made me want to give more of my funds to We Don't Waste. And, if I can humble-brag for a second, I did indeed open my wallet for this cause!
 
 
 
 
The "Fill a Plate for the Hungry" event, put on by non profit We Don't Waste, is one of the most enjoyable ways I can think of to give to a worthy non profit. For those of you that don't know, We Don't Waste partners with Denver area restaurants in order to take their unused foods and donate them local food shelters. Anyone who has done time (as I affectionately put it) in the restaurant world knows, there's a ton of perfectly good food that goes to waste nightly in any restaurant that could be used to benefit some of our needy Denverites. We Don't Waste endeavors, through a rather complex pick up/delivery system, to relieve restaurants of their unused food and put it to work filling bellies. So it was with gusto that I participated in this function and the food and drinks did not disappoint! 
 
 
The evening began in the Botanical gardens with bars and restaurants serving cocktails. I was delighted to see my friends from Central Bistro (insert link) serving bourbon themed cocktails and exposing the generous patrons to some free educational talks on the delicious brown liquor that Indie Eats loves so dearly. Also notable was a mystery wine purchase: basically, patrons paid $25 for a bottle of wine gift wrapped–the trick was that the bottle of wine could be a $25 dollar bottle or a $250 bottle. Kinda like Christmas but without the lame sweater. We ended up with a nice Shiraz with the proceeds going to the local shelters.
 
 
 
The main event was dinner, which both my date and I felt was impressive. Hosting the event was some big name restaurants: Tomayo, Russell's Smoke House, TAG, The Palm and Ted's Montana Grill were among those  featured. Sadly, my stomach capacity barred me from sampling everything, but my favorite dish came from Tomayo, which featured some top notch tamales. I wish I would have been able to pay more attention to the cuisine, but the presentations and auction stole the show! The attendees were treated to a powerful presentation on how We Do Waste works in the Mile High City, followed by an auction in which one prize was to have Mr. Troy Guard prepare a dinner meal for you and five guests. 
 
Sadly, my meager earnings as a free lance writer put me right out of contention for bidding on that biggy. But hey, it gives me a goal for next year!  
 
I'll be looking forward to future events put on by We Don't Waste and would definitely encourage our readers to do the same. It's a great way give to your fellow man and have a wonderful experience in the process. 
 
A servant

 

One thing I love about the Denver food community is it's willingness to come together for a great cause. As you already know, I recently attented the Denver Burger Battle, a charitable event that benefits the Kossler Foundation. Today I have the absolute pleasure of sharing the news about Fill Plate for Hunger.

This event, which is backed by Denver's Union Station project, is set to take place in the Denver Botanical Gardens. Hopefully the weather has cleared out by Wednesday, but if it hasn't, I'm sure the setting will still be nothing short of spectacular. After having been to a few events there, I can assure you that it's quite the backdrop for something like this. Not only is the location something to revel, the spread will be top notch as well. Who's chipped in to serve up small plates of Denver goodness? Well, there's a few names you might recognize on the list, including: Billy’s Inn, Bistro Vendome, Corridor 44, Cru Wine Bar, LoHi Steakbar, Marco’s Coal Fired Pizzeria, Oceanaire, Ocean Prime, The Palm, Russell’s Smokehouse, Snooze, TAG, Tamayo and Ted’s Montana Grill. On top of all that, Central Bistro is providing the event’s whiskey tasting station. You might know by now that I have quite the affinity for that brown liquor, so you can safely assume I'll be spending ample time there.

Aside from the food, the amazing silent auction, and the events other notable sponsors, this event is really about benefiting an amazing orgainzation, We Dont Waste, an innovative provider of food for the hungry. If you're not familiar with the organization, take some time to get to know them. They're doing something much more creative than canned food drives. Check the video below to learn all about their incredible vision.

Ticket to this event are still on sale, and can be purchased at  Blacktie Colorado. The event code is Plate918. Make sure to buy your tickets now, as they are close to selling out. For more info on tickets, please visit WeDontWaste.org

While you may think it's taken me this long to get over my meat-induced coma, you're actually incorrect. It did take a few days to regain normal vision from my beefy euphoria, but unfortunately, I just haven't had the time to sit down and tell you about my experience at Denver's best food event, the Denver Burger Battle. Until now.

This time around, the DBB hosted their annual bun-encased event at a new location. For this night, the founders, Jeremy and Kelly Kossler, selected the park underneath the dancing aliens. While I was slightly disappointed based on the previous year’s location (which was at Sports Authority Field), I knew it was simply because I bleed orange and blue and I shouldn't put too much thought into it. When I arrived at the park and started to experience this event at the location it was being held at, I immediately changed my mind about its vibe. Gone are the empty seats leering over me, along with the strange plastic grating that protected the field. This wasn't a downgrade from the previous location; it was an upgrade.

The closed-in location underneath the dancing aliens provided a close-knit group of burger-loving patrons, all smiling ear-to-ear, embracing the wonderful evening that laid ahead of them. This year I asked my parents to come with me and couldn't help but smirk seeing them beaming with excitement as we walked in.

I'll spare you the painful details of each meticulous bite and offer up a few awards of my own. While the judges and the attendees were the official judges for the night, I'd like to provide you with these completely made-up accolades.

The Burger I Would Drive 45 Minutes to Eat

I have to admit something. It's a bit of a shameful secret, but I'm going to let you in on it. Aside from previous Burger Battles, I have never eaten at Crave. I loved each of their selections the past three years, but the thought of driving down to Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, or Colorado Springs to grab a burger has never crossed my mind. However, this year's selection of Crave's "Sin City" burger had me wishing I had made the trip.

Spicy candied bacon flirted with the bourbon glazed onions in a way that made you miss your family's classic BBQ's where Grandpa had too much Jim Beam. However, as nostalgic as that was, the tempura fried cheese was definitely the kicker on this creation. Soft, melty white cheddar oozed all over our quarter selections of burger, enticing us to eat each and every last bite. And we did.
 

 

The Burger From the Restaurant That I Knew Nothing About, But Am Kicking Myself For Not Knowing About Earlier

Ok, that's a ridiculously long title for an award, but as you know, I'm not your cookie-cutter food reviewer. Let me just tell you this: Juicy Burgers and Dogs is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the patty-shaped ground beef game. They featured a little taste of Colorado with roasted green chiles, pepperjack cheese, sauteed mushrooms, crispy onion strings, and chipotle aioli. The end result was a perfect blend of soft, crispy, melty, and spicy. It's a burger that any Coloradan would be proud to order on any given day.
 

 

The Burger I Wish Had Been Cooked a Little Bit More Because It Tasted So Good

Park Burger had its praises sung by winning the judges' choice. I was right along with them in the choir, chiming in about the Harris Ranch beef, provolone, crispy pancetta, and truffled garlic aioli. Call me an old-school Dago at heart, but this burger had a firm grasp on my taste buds. The only thing that turned me off was the undercooked beef.

I know these restaurants are hustling out ridiculous amounts of food, and I completely understand the fact that they have to rush in order to feed hungry mouths. I just wish I could have had a section that was slightly more cooked, so I could experience the entire package of greatness that was "The Scarpone."
 

 

The Burger That Was Simple, Yet Wonderful.

I had never heard of Grind from Glenwood, but after eating some of their Crystal River beef, I was more than sold. This mountain eatery gets all of their grass-fed and finished beef from a ranch nearby in Glenwood Springs. They take the time to grind all of the beef themselves, ensuring the freshness from start to finish. Accompanying what I thought was the best-tasting patty in the competition was pure simplicity. The "All American," as they called it, had what most of us are used to: American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion, ketchup, mustard and mayo. It was a taste of Americana that truly stood out.

 

At the end of the night, bloated and blissfully content with what had just gone down, we couldn't help but talk about this event. The experience as a whole is very well orchestrated. We're not sure if the founders have any event planning experience in their past, but if they don't, they certainly have gotten themselves up to speed. Every detail was well thought out, providing each attendee with a flawless, grin-inducing, joyful experience.

Aside from what we experienced, it's hard to ignore what this is all for—not only did we have an unforgettable evening, but we also were supporting the Kosslers' foundation, which this year is focusing on Rocky Mountain youth clinics that help give kids medical care when they don't have insurance.

If you didn't make it out to the Burger Battle or you feel like this isn't really your event (which could only mean you're a vegetarian or vegan), you can still help out the foundation by donating your time or money. I highly encourage you do. Please contact them at  contact@denverburgerbattle.com

 

 

It's almost like Christmas morning. Cancel that, it's better than Christmas morning. It's the Denver Burger Battle. If you've been following my blog for the past year or two, you'll know that this is the one food event that I go to, no matter what. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of wonderful events that support amazing and deserving causes, This just happens to be my personal favorite.

If you haven't ever been to the Burger Battle, here's how it all shakes out. You get a plate, unlimited beers, and as many quarter sections of burgers as you want. Now, these aren't just any burgers. These happen to be patties of juicy goodness from Denver's best and brightest restaurants. And don't expect just any grill jockey to be manning the booth either. You'll see faces of some of Denver's most prominent chefs hustling behind a table of meaty goodness.

Each eatery has two chances to win. They can either win your affection over and take home the People's Choice, or they can take home the Judge's Choice. This years' judge panel is no joke either, being comprised of some of Denver's finest Epicureans including: Jen Jasinski, Lon Symensma, Brandon Biederman, and Biker Jim. 

What's at stake for the restaurants, you ask? Well, aside from a spot in the annals of Denver burger greatness, Frontier Airlines will be flying the People's Choice winner to Las Vegas in November to represent Colorado in the World Food Championships. Perennial heavy hitter Crave went last year and took 6th overall out of 40 contestants!

Here's who will be throwin' down in 2013:

Parkburger

Crave (2012 People's Choice Winner)

Larkburger (2012 Judge's Choice Winner)

Highland Tap & Burger

Jax (New Contestant)

TAG Burger Bar (New Contestant)

Candlelight Tavern (New Contestant)

Linger (New Contestant)

EDGE at Four Seasons (New Contestant)

Punch Bowl Social (New Contestant)

Grind Glenwood (New Contestant)

Juicy Burgers

Aside from gorging yourself on some of the best burgers in town, you'll also be taking home some pretty nifty reminders of your gluttonous evening. Each guest will receive some impressive swag with anywhere from $10-$50 gift card to Frontier airlines, a full bottle of Elevation Ketchup (made locally), and spices from Savory Spice shop.

Tickets are just $69 and net proceeds go to the  Kossler Foundation which distributes to charities in Denver helping hunger, economic development, & child welfare. So head over to DBB's site, and grab your ticket before it's too late.

We're all guilty of it. We all lead extremely busy lives and a lot of the time resort to convenience. Yes, I have purchased cheese at King Soopers. I've even bought the pre-sliced prosciutto on occasion. Is the quality there? Well, it's not the worse thing in the world, but I would much rather spend a little extra money and get something that truly impresses my taste buds, as well as those of my friends and family. With that in mind, there are a few choice places that I make a point to stop at when I can afford to spend a little extra. My favorite local purveyor of epicurean treasures is the Truffle.

 

 

This yellow awning adorned gem can easily be missed, even if you take 6th avenue on a daily basis. It's nestled in between a few other shops, so you have to be keeping a close eye out. You'll be happy you did though, once you witness the amazing foodie delights that await your eyes, nose, and palate. They have the things you can never find. Fois Gras? Yep. White and black truffles? Regularly. Duck fat for frying? They have that too. Oh, and we should probably mention the insane amounts of wonderful meats and cheeses that span the entire globe in origin.

The Truffle has been a favorite of my family for quite a few years. Every Christmas Eve we load up on one of their playfully decorated plates of salumi and cheese to snack on both before and after our Feast of the Seven Fishes. For dinner parties I often surprise my guest with the rarities that line their refrigerator shelves. For that reason, I felt like I wanted to know more about both the shop itself, and the people behind this stinky passion. So I grabbed my photographer (Shanna Nicole) and headed down for some pics and a few choice questions. 

 

IE: Thank you so much for taking some time to answer a few questions for us today. We absolutely love the Truffle! Why don’t you start by telling us how you decided to open up one of Denver’s best specialty shops?
 
The Truffle: My husband, Rob, and I purchased The Truffle Cheese Shop in January of 2007.  We both worked in restaurants for most of our lives.  Rob is an incredible cook and I worked mostly behind bars and in the front of the house.  We really wanted to own a business that kept that connection to food and restaurants because it's what we know and love.  We became one of Denver's best shops because we love and appreciate our customers. 
 
IE: What are some of the challenges with importing so many products from France, Italy, Spain, etc? 
 
The Truffle: Honestly, we don't import anything.  Importing food, like importing wine, is a very complicated process.  All of the importers are on the coast.  When we purchase cheeses from our importers and distributors, we work on a complicated order system that is 8 weeks out.  So, when we order a case of, say, Epoisses or Fleur du Maquis, that case comes across the pond special for us!  It's kind of boring to talk about but really fun to do!
 
IE: Just so everyone knows, you’re so much more than just a cheese shop. You carry black and white truffles, pastas, fois gras, and more. What are some other products that people might not know about, but probably should?
 
The Truffle: We are so proud of our fresh, farm eggs, the bread and croissants from Trompeau bakery and our selection of French butter.  But, so many people don't know about our cheese of the month club, the many trips we take throughout the year, as well as all of our classes, private and otherwise.  The events we hold are great because they give our customers a chance to really get to know our cheeses and cheese makers.
 
IE: Let’s change the pace a little bit here. What three things are always in your fridge at home?
 
The Truffle: Raw Cow's Milk from Ugly Goat Milk Company – with our two boys, we go through 4 gallons a week!
 
Amora Mustard – really just French grocery store mustard, but truly a superior product.
 
Duck Fat – it makes the crispiest potatoes!
 
IE: If you could only choose one cheese to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
 
The Truffle: As a practical matter, we would have to choose Parmigiano Reggiano.  It's so nutrient dense and has such fulfilling mouth feel as well as being super versatile.  As a more selfish act, we would probably choose Taleggio.  Again, very versatile as far as cooking goes, but Taleggio can also be very smelly, which might just ward off the zombies down the road.  
 
IE: If you could pick a country, region or city somewhere in the world to open up a second location, where would it be?
 
The Truffle: We would love to have a cheese stall in La Boqueria right next to Bar Pinotxo in Barcelona.  Spain is definitely a place where we would like to spend more time- like forever!
 
IE: What are some of your favorite restaurants to eat at here in Denver?
 
The Truffle: That's like choosing your favorite sibling!  All of the great restaurants in Denver are our customers, so we have a large selection of places to go when we do go out, which is not frequently enough.  With two young boys, we cook at home quite a bit.  If I could choose my own chefs, however, I would have Milan Doshi from the Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast, Dana Rodriguez from Bistro Vendome and Jimmy Warren from Fruition Farm be my personal chefs at home for each meal.
 
IE: Do you have a favorite chef or restaurateur locally? What about nationally or internationally?
 
The Truffle: See above answer.  Nationally, we love to hit all of the ethnic restaurants in San Francisco because they are so authentic and so incredibly tasty.  We have been traveling to France twice a year with groups from the cheese shop and always our first stop when we hit the streets of Paris is a good bakery for a Jamon sandwich, a larger than life macaron and a good coffee.  
 
IE: Do you have any advice for the timid cheese eater? Anything that might help them open up there mind to trying something new?
 
The Truffle: Trust us!  Just because the shop is a little smelly doesn't mean the cheese tastes bad!  All of the cheesemongers in the shop are total nerds about cheese and food.   We are used to only the best ingredients from around the world and locally.  When a new person comes into the shop, it's our job to help them choose cheeses that make them happy.  We know that it's overwhelming walking into the shop and seeing over 100 cheeses in the case.  We break it down and walk every customer through the cheeses and help them make the best choice for their occasion.  Life is way to short to eat bad cheese.
 
IE: Thank you so much for your time. We look forward to many more years of your amazing shop.
 
The Truffle: Thank YOU, Clayton!  We are so honored to be featured in Indie Eats.  Keep up the great work! – Karin and Rob Lawler
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

As most of you know by now, I have somewhat of a man crush on Jensen Cummings. Don't giggle. The guy represents everything that the food scene in Denver should be. Let me start by explaining how I met Jensen. A while back, I asked Troy Guard if I could spend a night staging in TAG's kitchen. Not because I wanted to work there, but simply because I love cooking. What better way to learn more about one of my biggest passions then to hang out in one of Denver's best kitchens?

Troy was nice enough to take it easy on me. I did have to work, as any eager young cook would have to, but the end of the night was pretty lax. In fact, the last hour of the night I hung out with the Chef de Cuisine of TAG, one Jensen Cummings. Instead of having a strained look on his face as I peppered him with questions, he just smiled, cooked and explained everything I wanted to know. You see, Jensen isn't a cocky, holier-than-thou chef. He's a guy who loves food and beer, and loves sharing that passion with the people in his community. He's not a part of the cool crowd, he wants you to be the cool crowd.  Hence, my man crush.

Since that night at TAG, I've hung out with Jensen a few times. I staged one night at Row 14, went to a media dinner, and had a few random run ins. The guy is always smiling, always has some new crazy food project going, and is always excited to share his passion with you. With that being said, the second Jensen mentioned his new project, an all meatball restaurant, I was more than intrigued.

The Slotted Spoon opened just a few months ago and it's already graced my belly with ball shaped goodness (stop laughing) on multiple occasions. The menu is pretty easy to understand, pick a ball, pick a vessel, pick a sauce. They also have a sandwich menu too if you panic at the site of too many choices. Both times I've been, I opted for a sandwich off their sandwich menu.

The first time I went the Chicken Picnic sandwich adorned with honey jalapeno BBQ sauce, California slaw, and some provolone (which happens to be one of my favorite sandwich cheeses). In all honesty, I ordered this sub because I thought that a chicken meatball would be the true test of Jensen's meatball chefery. I personally don't like the texture of ground chicken. In fact, if you mention chicken sausage in my presence, 9/10 we're going to be having words outside. The other one time I'll be too tipsy to care. Don't judge. However, this texture didn't offend me, in fact, I actually enjoyed it. It was moist and tender, and didn't have that poultry gaminess that comes with grinding. On top of that, it was well seasoned with Adobo seasonings. Now, when you place that in a hoagie roll with provolone, some sweet BBQ sauce, and some ranch based crunchy slaw, you're in flavor country.

 

 

In accompaniment to my meatball sammie was a small bowl of home-style goodness, better known as mac-n-cheese. Oh wait. Let me correct myself, that's bacon mac-n-cheese. Now, if you order the mac, don't go in expecting some Frank Bonanno lobster mac that runs $17 per bite. Nothing against Frank and that dish of magic at Mizuna, but sometimes you just want a taste of home. Jensen's mac is made with 100% "Our gift to the culinary world" American cheese. His words, verbatim. While this may not impress some of you finer foodies, know this: the fresh jalapeno juice adds a flavorful kick that pairs incredibly well with the smoky bacon placed neatly atop that cheesy goodness. It's the perfect balance of home and epicurio.

 

 

Food aside, The Slotted Spoon has a cool thing going. Not only does it focus on local ingredients and vendors, but the design and atmosphere is comfortable, clean, and well put together. In fact, it's so well put together, that you could easily be fooled into thinking this was a chain. They spent ample time thinking this concept time, and it shows.

It's probably meal time for you right now, and hopefully you're thinking about The Slotted Spoon. However, you may still be considering Chipotle or Pei Wei. It's quick, easy, and they care about their food. I urge you to stop though, and think about going local. These guys have a very similar set of ideals. And really, don't you need some balls in your life? Yes, you may laugh at that one, as it was intended. Happy eating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabulous photography from the ever so talented Shanna Nichole.

0

True Food Kitchen

March 10th, 2013

For those of you that know me, you're probably familiar with the fact that I'm a huge fan of Sam Fox and his restaurant group. I've spent quite a bit of time in Tucson, where he first started his empire, and I also worked at NoRTH for two years. In fact, before I got my first job in advertising, I was actually offered a position with FRC to be a corporate trainer for their service staff.

I often told people that serving at NoRTH was the most difficult service job in Denver. I had worked at enough restaurants to know that this was a different beast. You were expected to hit an extremely polished number of service points, and also turn tables at a fast pace. This provided a buzzing, electric atmosphere, and an amazing dining experience for the guests. Well, True Food Kitchen lives up to the FRC standards. While it doesn't have a "fine dining" feel to it, it does stick to it's expected standards in providing a stellar dining experience for it's guests.

Now before you get on my case about this being a chain, let me just dissolve your point. I know FRC has multiple locations of a few of it's restaurants, but I hardly feel like you can call it a chain. When I talk about eating at local spots, I'm encouraging you to avoid places like Chili's or Applebees. I would hardly place any FRC concept in that realm. On top of which, I know the chefs focus on local ingredients and vendors. 

With that being said, I recently visited the newest addition to Denver via Sam Fox, True Food Kitchen. True Food's vision is based off of Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet which provides essential nutriets without depriving you of taste. The menu is extremely healthy, but also very delicious. Check out what we had:

Thai Shrimp Dumplings – Perfectly cooked dumplings filled with tender shrimp. Honestly, I'm not much of a shrimp fan, so my word shouldn't be taken as the end-all be-all. (Nor should it ever). My guest though was rather fond of these spicy yet delicate dumplings.

 

 

Chicken Sausage Pizza – Tomato, Fennel and Fontina – Strong fresh tomatoe flabvor with a beautiful charred crust and tasty chicken sausage.

 

 

 

Seafood Caldo – Sea Bass, Shrimp, Collards, White Beans, Cilantro, Chili Lime Broth – This dish reminded me of a fish stew I had in Italy, only without the cilantro of course. It was fresh, light, and extremely flavorful.

 

 

 

Grass Fed Beef Street Tacos – Avocado, Cotija, Tomatillo Salsa served with Anasazi beans. This was hands down my favorite meal. The Anasazi beans were a cup full of smokey goodness. I could eat those things daily.

 

If you haven't been yet, head down to True Food. The atmosphere is clean, well put together, and inviting. The food is healthy, fresh, and downright tasty. Yes, it is technically a chain, but Sam Fox's roots run deep in Colorado. It's not like he's franchising Chili's or anything. When you do head down, grab a cuccumber martini or four. They're outrageously delicious.

3

Central Bistro and Bar

March 5th, 2013

By A Servant

First, I’ll thank Clayton for allowing me to guest write for Indie Eats. I work with Clayton on a variety of different projects (Music Ninja, Indie Eats, and hopefully some up and coming projects he and I are trying to manifest). Indie Eats is a blog I visit often, and I enjoy every opportunity I get to contribute to the site.

I also do my own blogging (aservant.posterous.com): my topics tend to revolve around the Lo-Hi area of Denver. So this restaurant review was a quadruple pleasure for me: I get to help out a blog a love, I get to write about a neighborhood I love, I get to help out a restaurant I love, and I get to help out a guy I love.

Call me a big softy.

 

 

 

Anyway, my first two experiences with Central Bistro, located halfway between I-25 and 15 th street on Central, were very good. I live in the neighborhood and often dine at the many establishments located within walking distance of my girlfriend and my apartment on 15th Street. My first experience with Central Bistro was in the late summer of 2012. My girlfriend and I were caught in a sudden rainstorm, looking for a place to get a drink and a snack. We ran into Central Bistro, which had just opened, and found a covered patio table. We sat and watched a rare Denver downpour while snacking on salumi plates and sipping cocktails. Our service was prompt and helpful—our overall experience very pleasant. I liked the place and looked forward to coming back.

The second time I ate at Central Bistro was under different circumstances. My girlfriend and I were looking for a place to eat after being told there was a 45 minute wait at Amado’s. We were really just looking for a quick bite—work had gone late for both of us and we were too exhausted to cook, so we tried Central Bistro again. We had a seat at the bar, ordered a bottle of wine from Mark, the very helpful bartender, and settled in for some small plates. Had I known the food was this good, I would have ordered far more than just an appetizer my first time in.

I ordered a chicken confit soup and a fried chicken small plate. I had the soup first: a delectable, slow cooked confit drenched in a meticulously reduced vegetable broth. I had tasted broth reductions of this caliber at places like Mizuna in Denver and Frasca in Boulder, but those aren’t places I go to often. I was blown away by the levels of complexity and flavor in the soup—particularly given the forgiving price tag of about 8 bucks. My girlfriend had a baby green salad with arugula, sunflower seeds, tomatoes and goat cheese. We followed this with an amazing fried chicken, served on top a Johnny cake with a heavy gravy. The portions were perfect—we both felt content after our plates. We high-fived at the bar, very thankful that we had decided to go to Central Bistro instead of waiting it out at Amado’s. We had a great conversation with Mark as we listened to Gorillaz and Portishead and finished our wine.

Needless to say we were impressed. We resolved to ask Clayton, that oracle of indie restaurants in Denver, permission to write up Central Bistro and share it’s loveliness with our fair city. He agreed!

Our third visit was a proper one. It’s amazing how much of a restaurant you will miss if you just duck in, as I had the last two times I was there. This time I noticed some of the intricate touches the restaurant designers had put into place. No detail was spared. The dining room is cast in the shadow of the neon “HOT” sign over the expo line, the white leather chairs standing in contrast to the bright red sign burning out into the street. The metal work is all adorned with the Central Bistro symbol: a fork and knife crossed with a wine bottle. The bar is more subdued; oak barrels sit on the west side of the bar next to chest high bar tables surrounded by distressed wood and metal. The tops of the room are surrounded by high end whiskey bottles and fruit preserves, reminding me a little of my college apartment—a high end version of it, that is. The bar is situated on the far Eastern extreme, stocked with high end brown liquors and a few notable light ones. The music, so necessary to the vibe of an urban (or any) restaurant, was blue grass. I recognized Led Zepplin’s Bronyur Stomp played by a bluegrass band which seemed fitting for the whiskey heavy environment I was in.

My girlfriend and I were greeted with prompt cocktails that I shared on Instagram: an Old Fashioned for me and a “Star Power” (vodka, pineapple and sage) for my lady. We were treated to a special plate: shaved salmon and caviar all on fried potato cake with dill and crème fraiche to top it. We savaged the dish, enjoying the salty, starchy blend. Our next dish was a house charcuterie: duck prosciutto, copa, mortadello and a few other shaved meats with olives and house made lavosh, crunchy and briny to the finish.

 

 

 

As we awaited the next experience, we asked a few questions about the place. We discovered that the intricate bar woodwork was made from antique boxcar flooring. We learned of the over 70 different types of whiskey were available (Seth, the GM and Mark, the lead bartender, are both enthusiasts) as well as the extensive, almost solely American wine list of the restaurant. The goal for Central Bistro is to be a “Denver restaurant first, and an American restaurant second,” we learned, and that the vast majority of the ingredients were found locally. And being that the restaurant is first and foremost a Denver establishment, the overall goal was to match the flexibility of its Denverite diners with quality and affordable items: if you wanted develed eggs, cheese curds and a stout beer, Central Bistro could accommodate you. If you wanted a delicate seafood dish, artistically garnished with a high end bottle of wine from the good old US of A, well, you could get that too. And we did.

The second plate was a lovely seared scallop, crunchy on the outside and creamy soft on the inside, drenched in sautéed cauliflower, roasted almonds, hamhock shavings and celery root. The seafood fan in me rejoiced! Over the speakers more bluegrass played. I smiled as I recognized the theme from O Brother Where Art Thou, camouflaged among lesser known bluegrass tunes.

Finally came the main course: a flank steak cooked to a perfect almost medium rare with potatoes duchesse and creamed spinach that was just heavenly. At this point, I had to know who the head chef was. I was informed only that his name was Gerrard formerly from “Z Cuisine,” another local favorite of mine, and that the su-chef hailed from Strings, another Denver heavy hitter. My girlfriend and I agreed that the pedigree of the back of the house explained a lot as we scraped the last bit of potato and creamed spinach off the plate.

 

 

I’m not a huge dessert fan, but we definitely indulged that night. We ordered the sweet potato cheesecake. I’m going to tell you this: I don’t like desserts, but I totally bogarted this one. The experience was spiritual—in a gluttonous way. It was the most fantastic bit of sweet I had ever experienced (keep in mind that my gf is an avid baker). It was the perfect balance of sweet and salty, mellow and creamy, rich and light. “Fabulous” falls short. Order this. Period. I enjoyed this dessert as a bluegrass rendition of Cold Play’s Yellow came over the speakers. I’m not a Cold Play fan, but the song sounded great on a full belly and with a banjo. I contemplated heaven.

I left feeling really good about the place. It’s a real treat to have such a versatile restaurant just a stone’s throw away from where I live. I could see going down there for a bite during the week or planning my next special event there and in both cases, come away feeling content.

Stop in for your own experience. I’m confident you’ll enjoy it!

Ciao

A Servant

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Art of Winter Cocktail Tour

February 1st, 2013

There aren't many things I like about winter. In fact, if Denver stayed sunny and 70 all year long, I'd be the last guy you'd look to for any complaints. While I can't stand not being able to rock flip flops year round, I do enjoy a few things about this below average season. Heartier meals are definitely a plus, family get together are seemingly abundant, and now I have a new joy to look forward to, the Art of Winter Cocktail Tour which is put on by the always impressive Culinary Connectors.

This last Friday, I hustled downtown after work to catch the first installment of this amazingly orchestrated cocktail tour. Unfortunately, the tour started at 4pm, so I was unable to catch the first stop, which was at Tom's Urban 24. Awkward starting times aside, I was still able to catch the next two, which happen to be at two of my favorites. The first location was TAG, which featured the Gamay Some Gin. This artfully crafted cocktail features Terroir Gin from St. George distillery, Geaujolais Syrup, and lemon garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary.  It was a clean, easy to drink cocktail that really refreshed your palate. Even my guest, who normally doesn't like gin, enjoyed this one.

 

 

 

The next stop was Corridor 44. This Denver staple is a must hit for me, especially on date nights. On this night though, we were straying away from the bubbly and delving into the delicious  Chaisaac Tea. This cocktail featured Makers 42 Bourbon, Apricot Brandy, Grand Marnier, Agave, Spiced Apple Cider, all topped with house made chai whipped cream. It was so well balanced, you couldn't even notice there was bourbon in it. It had bright notes from the cider, but was rich and full bodied with the bourbon and house made whipped cream.

 

 

After the drinks we stayed and talked with the rest of the group. Art of Winter and Culinary Connector did a top notch job of making everyone feel comfortable, and introducing everyone to one another. Sometimes these group experiences can be a little awkward, and I can assure you that this is not one of those experiences. I mean, the booze definitely helps everyone feel more comfortable, but the majority of the credit goes to the hosts.

There are two more dates on this cocktail tour, and I highly recommend getting out to one of the two. There's one tonight starting at 4pm, and there's also another one next week. You can pick up tickets on Culinary Connectors site.

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Bocadillo

November 13th, 2012

Two Aprils ago, I purchased a home in the Sunnyside neighborhood in Denver. I bought a house in this neighborhood for two reasons. The first reason being that it's in a close proximity to downtown. The second reason being that it was something I could afford in the proximity of downtown. This worked out well for me as I am now closer to the city I love, and I own something. The only problem is, Sunnyside isn't as restaurant-laiden as some of the other nearby neighborhoods. Yes there's a plethora of mom-and-pop sauce joints, tons of mexican restaurants, and a few other intriguing places. But I craved something more.

Well my foodie wishes came true with Bocadillo. Located on Tejon street just south of 41st lies a little neighborhood gem serving up tapas and sandwiches in the best ways. Bocadillo's mantra is simple. Find great local ingredients, and then plan the menu accordingly. The menu focuses on what's good and fresh, instead of what's just average and always readily available. It's organic, and locally minded, which is exactly the type of place this city needs.

When I went in I opted for the Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich. Before you say it, I know. This isn't a traditional Spanish Bocadillo. However, the restaurant never claims to serve 100% authentic sandwiches, and offers a variety that is sure to please our multi-cultural palates. Back to the sandwich. It was a mix of dark and white meat which provided plenty of rich flavor, which is often missed in a chicken sandwich. On top was a rum braised slaw, that added a great texture. I threw on an assortment of pickled items and sauces from their "Pickle and Dip" bar (which also displays a gorgeous herb garden) and went to town.

 

 

While I didn't have the appetitie to try some of the tapas, the table next to me did, and everything looked on point. I will be soon making it down there to give them a try. I highly encourage you do the same, and support someone who's not only doing the right thing, but doing it well.