Other listees were less predictable. Bill Addison, who assembles the list, wrote, “I’ve also named a Restaurant of the Year, an of-the-moment union of breathtaking design and rooted, spectacular cooking in one of the country’s most timeless towns — Savannah.” The restaurant is The Grey, and the chef, Meshama Bailey, is an African-American woman. Addison wrote:
Everything that it takes to propel an ambitious restaurant to greatness — a coherent vision, a distaste for complacency, and singular leadership — Mashama Bailey accomplishes at the Grey in Savannah, Georgia. The restaurant synthesizes much of what’s relevant about this moment in American dining: an amalgamation of global and regional flavors; a big-city chef making a seismic impact in a smaller town; and an acute awareness of, and reckoning with, complex racial, economic, and cultural histories. The Grey doesn’t trade in tasting menu extravaganzas or modernist shenanigans. It’s an unabashed stunner of a space, staffed with kind-hearted souls. Beyond that, the cooking bursts with utter humanity. Bailey’s food — curried roast chicken, melting leeks with country ham and curls of grassy tomme, lamb shoulder braised with Senegalese spices — speaks to love of the region and devotion to the craft.
Another listee made my Connecticut-born heart beat with joy was finding Sally’s Appiza of New Haven on the list. This untrendy classic pizzeria has been turning out the same fabulous pies for nearly 80 years. Addison wrote:
Salvatore Consiglio opened his restaurant in 1938, three decades after Lombardi’s in Manhattan first began serving pizzas in America — and 13 years after Consiglio’s uncle, Frank Pepe, started his namesake operation on the next block over in New Haven’s Italian district. Even so, Sally’s feels like the nation’s ur-pizzeria. It’s gritty, cramped, and chaotically busy; a certain imperviousness drifts in the air like coal dust. It is also, without question, the finest of the town’s legendary pie shops. The crust (a definitive nexus of bready and crackery), the sauce (pure tomato tang), and the cheese (spare, and yet somehow ample) fuse into utter glory. Devouring the signature tomato pie with garlic and pecorino Romano is a sacrament. Consiglio’s children may soon sell the business, so go now while the recipes remain in the family’s practiced hands.
Here’s hoping that even if the family sells the biz, someone who knows it and loves it will be the new owner.
Most lists of the best this-or-that kind of restaurant in every state feature a Denver or perhaps Boulder restaurant. Food & Wine’s selection of Colorado’s best vegan-friendly is in Fort Collins. I haven’t been there yet, but I’d like to. Here’s what the magazine wrote:
The fact that the upcoming season of Top Chef was filmed in Colorado is just one marker of the state’s growing assertion of its culinary prowess. (Four James Beard Award semi-finalists this past year are another.) Although new, The Gold Leaf Collective illustrates how lesser known cities like Fort Collins are capitalizing on proximity to farms that cover so much of the state, while attracting culinary talent and customers from nearby Boulder and Denver. Nothing here is sourced from industrial suppliers—and if you’ve run a restaurant before, you know how hard that is to do. It’s rare to find a place with a near solid five stars on Yelp even after 100+ reviews, but The Gold Leaf Collective manages to do it. Eat here, and you’ll see why. What started as a food truck has now morphed into a brick-and-mortar location whose casual atmosphere belies its frankly sophisticated cuisine. There are beets, perfectly roasted, with coconut cream labneh, pepitas, and mustard greens; there’s a charred iceberg wedge with seitan bacon, pickled apples, and onions. The food doesn’t shun meat analogs, but really holds its own as a restaurant in the New American style. This is the direction in which plant-based dining should be moving, and we want to follow it. thegoldleafcollective.com
“Over the past five years in Boulder and Denver, I’ve noticed a big shift towards a vibrant restaurant scene with a palpable verve around sustainability,” said Toni Dash of Boulder Locavore. “Restaurants like Black Cat, Potager, and Fruition have really stepped up to the plate to deliver inspired seasonal cuisine.” Paving the farm-to-table way in Colorado is The Kitchen, which has establishments in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins and applies its strong eco-friendly philosophy—that includes everything from the locally sourced ingredients to wind power to composting—in each location. Founders Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Husk have also created a nonprofit that’s built over 200 Learning Gardens in schools in Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Memphis for 120,000 students to discover the benefits of growing and eating fresh healthy food.
Hartwell now heads culinary team at luxe resort in western Colorado.
I’ve never been to, much less dined at, the Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa, a world-class destination practically at the Utah state line. But I’m impressed at the credentials of the new executive chef. Thomas Hartwell has accepted position at the resort in the spectacular Unaweep Canyon. Its remoteness alone is a challenge, and so are the five dining facilities (Entrada, Paradox Grille, Kiva Café Cantina and Duesey’s Diner) with different styles. The combination is a challenge.
Like other leading chefs, Hartwell began his restaurant career modestly, first as a prep cook and busboy at the Stage Door Restaurant outside Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After holding several positions at various restaurants in his home state of Michigan, he moved to Santa Rosa, California to join the team at Restaurant Matisse, a French-inspired California cuisine restaurant under the guidance of Chef Michael Hirschberg. From there, he landed a coveted internship at Michelin-starred Land Hoff in Solingen, Germany.
Over the years, Hartwell also held culinary positions at The Westin Copley Place in Boston and at the historic Boston Park Plaza Hotel under Chef Roland Z. He then opened his own restaurant, The Old Stone Farm House, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Prior to joining the team at Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa, Hartwell served as chef de cuisine at the Meritage Hotel and Resort in Napa and also the popular restaurant, Zuzu, in downtown Napa for four years.
The elegant adobe-style resort, offering a whole lot more than just food and scenery, has enjoyed recognition beyond our red-rock country. Among its awards, in 2017 it was named the #3 “Best Resort in the West” in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards competition, #52 in the Top 100 Hotels in the World category and #11 in the Top 15 Resort Hotels in the Continental United States category. Seems as if Gateway Canyons and Chef Hartwell are a good match. And perhaps I will get there someday.
USA Today’s selections puts upcoming festival in the spotlight.
Just as a prelude to the upcoming Colorado Mountain Wine Festival (September 14-17) comes word that it was voted the best wine festival in the U.S. by USA Today’s 10Best website. That’s right: THE BEST in the whole country, even beating out New York and Chicago.
A panel of wine and travel experts nominated 20 of the best festivals celebrating wine, wine culture and wine tourism across the country’s top wine-making regions. The panel included Jill Barth, an internationally published wine writer and journalist; Jil Child, partner and co-owner of Wine Tours of the World; and Karen MacNeil, one of the foremost wine experts in the U.S. Readers pared the nominee list by half to come up with the 10 winners.
The Top 10
(In addition to being thrilled that a Colorado festival took the top spot, I’m happy that Charlottesville, Virginia, was voted #3 — good news for a city recently in the headlines for terrible reasons.)
Colorado Mountain Winefest – Palisade, Colo.
Vintage Ohio – Kirtland, Ohio
Virginia Wine Summit – Charlottesville, Va.
Finger Lakes Wine Festival – Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Chicago Gourmet – Chicago
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival – Honolulu
BottleRock Napa Valley – Napa, Calif.
Taste of Sonoma – Sonoma, Calif.
New York City Wine & Food Festival – New York
Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest – Rhinebeck, N.Y. Click here for a list of participating wineries and here for a schedule of events, which include wine country tours, tastings, pairings and the big “Festival in the Park” on the 16th. It is the state’s largest and oldest wine festival featuring more than 55 Colorado wineries, live music, a grape stomp, live demonstrations and seminars.
Biker Jim’s cited, but Tenderbelly is best at home.
In a feature called “America’s Best Hot Dogs,” Food & Wine tagged Biker Jim’s — the usual suspect in Colorado for interesting sausages of all sorts. Of this Denver institution that started as a cart on the 16th Street Mall and now has two restaurants (including Coors Field) and five carts, the magazine noted:
Jim Pittenger emphasizes sourcing ingredients as close to home as possible, then veers as far as he can imagine from the ballpark frank: elk and jalapeño cheddar; wild boar; rattlesnake. The franks are spilt, grilled till charred and loaded with Coca-Cola–soaked grilled onions and a drizzle of cream cheese.
For the rest, most seem to have been selected for the amount of stuff piled onto the franks — perhaps to disguise the taste. Not necessary (or desirable) with Denver-born Tenderbelly pork frankfurters, which are so good that they ought to be minimally adorned.
Pan-Latin food and dynamite drinks earn LoHi eatery honors.
Whenever Zagat lists the best restaurants in select cities, Denver is always one of them. Here’s the shout-out in the site’s “Hottest Restaurants in 15 American Cities” post about Señor Bear, the site’s choice for the Mile High City. The “powerhouse team” referred to is headlined by Max McKissock, Blake Edmunds and Juan Padro and Katie O’Shea Padro. For McKissock, it’s a bit like old home week, since he was the chef at The Squeaky Bean, when it occupied the LoHi space.
Denver: Señor Bear
Built by the powerhouse team behind Bar Dough, this bright, breezy, instant destination in LoHi showcases the flavors of Latin America — from Peru to Puerto Rico — in both food and drink.
Must-order: Start with a pisco cocktail and any of the elegantly executed dishes comprising the mariscos section of the menu, including mofongo with shrimp and crab (pictured).
Insider tip: If you’re noise-sensitive, ask to sit on the patio — the small dining room can get extra-festive.
Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.