Sweet Stuff in Downtown Denver

New dessert bar & cocktail lounge fills a downtown Denver void

The team behind Organic Pizza Company are opening Crave Dessert Bar & Lounge on Monday. I jumped at the chance to preview it on Thursday evening. If you are in Colorado, you know that the snow fell hard and heavy on Thursday evening and traffic moved slowly. I took the bus from Boulder, and door-to-door travel, which under the best of circumstances is about an hour, took nearly tw0-and-a-half. I finally walked in the door just as the introductory speeches were winding down. I know that Allen Millham and and Darrell Naughton, who founded the pizzeria (which has its a location right next door), are also partners in the caloric crime called Crave, but there are a lot of other intros I missed — including the gifted pastry chef. I was there in plenty of time to try several cocktails.

If cared for rye whiskey, I would have loved this gorgeous Chocolate Kisses cocktail, made with Old Overholt rye, EVOO Chocolate Balsamic and raspberries. Even though I don't care for that kind of spirit, it liked this coctail -- but not nearly as much as Apples to Apples (Tanqueray gin, muddled apple, apple cider & Cocchi Vermouth di Torino) and the indulgent Dessert in a Glass (Absolut Vanilla, white chocolate-cinnamon suryp, espresso and a crown of cinnamon-infused whipped cream).

Crave was designed to be a sophisticated modern gathering place on the ground flour of The Spire, a sky-piercing downtown luxury apartment building a block from the Denver Performing Arts Complex and across the street from the Colorado Convention Center. I’m hoping that theater-goers and conventioneers quickly discover Crave, which plans to be seven days a week from early morning (try 6:30 a.m.) to well after the theater, it truly fills a downtown void. After one short preview visit, I’m already craving a couple of their pastries.

Thursday was a bizarre evening, bloggishly speaking. I was in such a hurry that I rushed out the door, right past my camera that was on the hall table where I couldn’t possibly forget it. Right! I walked through the near-blizzard to the bus stop, but the bus, which was late to begin with, then crawled much of the way from Boulder to Denver. Feeling and probably looking like Nanook of the North as I entered this swank place, I tried to be unobtrusive among well-dressed guests who actually heard the welcome speeches.  I arrived too late to hear them or even to learn who created those fabulous desserts. Still staying on the fringes of the crowd, I tasted and sipped and talked travel and food until it was time to trek to the bus station for the unpredictable ride home.

I started with a lovely glass of champagne, tasted three cocktails and sampled four desserts. Because I didn’t have a camera, I am relying on images professionally taken for Crave by Marc Piscotty. Problem is, what I ate and drank doesn’t match the images I have, and the images don’t match the menu. Examples? The Vanilla Dusted Donuts — donut holes, actually — are possibly the best I’ve ever eaten, with the Pomegranate Compote to dip them in being a nice extra. The 20-Layer Cake, an assemblage of architectural precision, reminds of a Viennese Doboschtorte — different flavors by improbably thin layers interspersed with luscious filling. The Pumpkin Cheesecake was interesting, but to my taste, a cheesecake filling texture and a mille-feuille texture aren’t the best combo. But that’s just me. In any case, I have images of none of the above, but I do have the cakes below, that I can’t visually match with the menu:

Simply beautiful cake -- like all that Crave offers. I didn't try it, and I can't find it on the menu, but it looks -- as the saying goes -- good enough to eat.


This is another tall, light and handsome cake that I didn't get to try, but isn't a beauty?

I only sampled a few of Crave’s offering, and I’m already craving another go at the donut holes and the 20-layer cake. We are theater-goers, so I hope to persuade my husband to stay for a bite to eat after a play….. Actually, he loves donuts, so I might be able to sell him just on the basis of those Vanilla Dusted Donuts for two. With its  charmed location, Crave plans for long hours. They intend to be open from early coffee and what I’m sure are sublime pastry choices, through a high tea-style mid-day meal through until late in the evening for decadent desserts, drinks and a selection of charcuterie and cheese plates for those who prefer savory to sweet. Since Denver tends to button down early, Crave will fill a vacant night niche. I just hope there are enough sweet-toothed night owls downtown to patronize it.

Price Check: In the evening, “Cravings” (desserts), $9 + Dessert for 2, $12; Chef’s Charcuterie Plates ($16-$20): Specialty Cocktail Menu, $7-$10; wine tasting flights, $10-$12.

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