Category Archives: Award

The Inventing Room on Tabélog’s Dessert List

Over-the-top desserts include a Denver original.

InventingRoom-logoAnother day, another appearance by a Denver eatery on some “top” this or that list. This time, it’s The Inventing Room’s “volcanic” root beer float, devised by the clever owner/chef Ian Kleinman, that is one of Tabélog’s 10 selections for “The 10 Most Outrageous Desserts in America!” Exclamation theirs — as is the mysterious accent aigu on the “e” in Tabélog. The selections are eclectic, ranging from a Michigan sports pub to Chicago’s ethereal Alinea. As usual, The Inventing Room occupies a category of its own. The site posted:

Our next outrageous dessert literally blows up in your face. The Inventing Room in Denver, CO is known for their crazy dessert creations. Unusual flavors of ice cream, frozen honey and frozen Cheetos are just a few of the tricks up their sleeve. But The Inventing Room got serious with their signature exploding whipped cream which provides a perfect topping for their root beer float. This normally fizzy dessert drink is made downright volcanic dessert thanks to the use of liquid nitrogen. Ask for some pop rock topping for maximum eruption.

The ice cream shop is at 2020 Lawrence Street, Denver; 303-885-2802.

The Source On List of Best Food Halls

Thrillist selects 50 across the country.

Thrillist-logoDenver’s pioneering food hall, The Source, appears as #45 on Thrillist’s new list of “The 50 Best Food Halls in America 2016.” Its write-up doesn’t mention that it largely launched the RiNo phenomenon — drawing artists, creative businesses, residents and additional hospitality services (including two coming hotels) to the underused area north of the Ballpark neighborhood. Thrillist wrote:

The Source is a group of food artisans and merchants gathered into a circa-1880s brick foundry building in Denver’s River North District. Their 15 merchants include nine food-and-drink-based tenants, like Acorn (a contemporary American restaurant), Comida (a Mexican taquerEia), Babettes (a boulangerie focusing on French country-style breads), and Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project.

I’m eager to see whether next year’s list will include Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace, opening sometime in 2016 . “What’s #1?” you might ask. Seattle’s venerable Pike Place Market, founded in 1907 and still a working seafood market as well as a great visitor attraction on the waterfront.

2016 Beard Awards to Grandin, Chimayo & Miller

Temple Grandin Colorado’s sole honoree; Chimayo also cited..

BeardAwardNo Colorado chefs or restaurants were James Beard Award winners at a glittering ceremony in Chicago last night, but the remarkable Dr. Temple Grandin, an animal rights expert and advocate at  Colorado State University, was named to 2016 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America,  an honor roll of major influencers. Click here for the entire list of 2016 honorees.

Media awards are presented separately, and one Coloradan is coming home with one. Toni Tipton-Martin of Centennial was honored in the reference and scholarship category for The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African-American Cookbooks. The history of American-American food books appears to be a mini-niche in Denver. Historian Adrian Miller for his book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.

P1090352Also recognized was Rancho de Chimayó Restaurante and owner Florence Jaramillo as being one of the 2016 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics honoree as a long-running heritage. As it happens, I ate at this sprawling half-century-old restaurant just last week as part of a day tour from Santa Fe.

Chimayo is famous for its chile-centric dishes, and this restaurant uses almost the entire annual crop. It accommodates groups in a large garden extension in the back and small individual parties in the front, which is the original ranch house. Note the similarities between the settings and the chairs.

A table set for group meals.
A table set for group meals.
Restaurant in the old ranch house.
Restaurant in the old ranch house.
Classic NM combo of a protein, beans and greens.
Classic NM combo of a protein, beans and greens.
Chile relleno with customary New Mexican accompaniments.
Chile relleno with customary New Mexican accompaniments  calabacitas (squash), rice beans and greens. The chile is either a poblano or an Anaheim. Chimayo chiles are too small to be stuffed with cheese.
Silky vanilla pudding with whipped cream and a crisp cookie.
Silky vanilla pudding with whipped cream and a crisp cookie.

300 Juan Medina Rd. (Santa Fe County Road 98), Chimayo, New Mexico 87522; 505 351-4444 or 505-984-2100.

Rancho de Chimayó Restauranté Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Frasca Named One of the 101 Best Restaurants in the US, issues 2016 list.

DailyMeal-logoIt’s never a surprise when Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine appears on yet another “best of” and “top” restaurants lists. I’m again thrilled about Frasca’s inclusion, and I note that editor Colman Andrews has addressed my biggest gripe: the snooty reverse provincialism of the list. He wrote (and I liberally condense his intro to the list):

We expect to hear complaints… because we haven’t included any of the doubtless excellent restaurants in, say, Providence, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, the Twin Cities, Santa Fe, Phoenix, San Diego — or any of the hundreds of smaller towns across the U.S. …Yes, we’re food snobs who recognize only the restaurants of New York City, Chicago, the West Coast, and a few token municipalities scattered around other corners of the country…. But here’s the thing: There are more than 600,000 restaurants in America, counting fast-food outlets, dinner house chains, small places…. Our list has room for only a tiny fraction of these, and not surprisingly they tend to be concentrated in those cities that are, for reasons that are probably cultural as well as economic, our best “food towns.” Chief among these are Las Vegas (four restaurants), San Francisco (six restaurants), New Orleans (six restaurants), Chicago (seven restaurants), Los Angeles (12 restaurants), and (grumble if you wish) New York City (27 restaurants).

Given these constraints and the fact that New York is credited with more than one quarter of the allotment, it is remarkable that Frasca is not only honored but was promoted from #71 last year to #32 this year.

Here’s what The Daily Meal posted about Frasca:n the Friuli region of northeastern Italy, a frasca is a roadside farm restaurant, serving simple regional food. Frasca Food & Wine captures the spirit of these venues, while also championing the vast diversity of Colorado’s unique culinary resources. Owners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have created a warm and inviting space that can accommodate an impromptu dinner or an evening of fine dining. They offer a unique menu that includes salumi and cheeses along with entrées like Broken Arrow Ranch quail; gnocchi with Buckner Farm lamb sausage and broccolini; and raviolo of veal ossobuco, bone marrow, cipollini onion, and salsify. Just be sure that you don’t miss the frico caldo, a crispy pancake of potatoes, onions, and Piave cheese — a Friulian specialty. Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson have a new restaurant in the works, slated to open in Denver by the end of the year, and it’s one of the year’s most anticipated openings.

Daily Meal’s March Madness Foul

Coohills the most convenient good eatery to Pepsi Center.

DailyMeal-logoI don’t customarily put up gotcha posts, but IMO, The Daily Meal committed a foul with its Denver selection in “The Best Restaurant New Every NCAA March Madness Arena.

The site’s selection is one of what I call “the usual suspects,” that is restaurants that appear on many a list, even where they are arguably not the most logical selection. To wit:

Pepsi Center, Denver (Mountain West Conference)

Seafood might not be the first thing you’d think of in a city that’s a mile high, but Stoic & Genuine is fantastic, and it’s only a mile from the Pepsi Center. “Fresh is everything” is the motto of Jennifer Jasinski and Jorel Pierce, and it applies to every dish, whether it’s the scallop poke, octopus mortadella, oysters (from both coasts), crab legs, a whole Maine lobster, or the intimidating “Seafood Tower of Power.” There’s also a “Surf in Turf” option, which features New York Strip-wrapped Ahi tuna, and an extensive wine list with a surprising amount of sparkling options.

Now I like Stoic & Genuine an awful lot, but it wouldn’t be my for first pick for good eats near the Pepsi Center. I would have selected Coohills, an excellent restaurant within sight of the arena. More to the point, Coohills is doing real March Madness specials as befit its location. From the restaurant’s own website:


March Madness is coming to Denver and what better place to spend before and after the games then at Coohills – Just a short walk across the street from the Pepsi Center!

We will be opening early for the March Madness games at the Pepsi Center on Thursday, March 17, 2016 and Saturday, March 19, 2016 from 12:30 pm – 11 pm. Chef Tom has created the perfect lunch menu (click HERE to view) for you to enjoy before and after the games! This menu will be available from 12:30 – 4:00 pm on those days. Happy Hour starts at 3 pm and our regular dinner menu will begin at 4 pm. Call and make reservations: (303) 623-5700.

Any argument about that?

Colorado Finalists for Beard Awards

One restaurant, one chef and one Who’s Who inductee.

BeardAwardWhen writing about the James Beard Awards, I’ve often written that being a semifinalist (Beardspeak for “nominee”) is an honor. Being a finalist is a great honor. And winning is over-the-moon culinary recognition.

Colorado has two finalists for the 2016 awards:

  • Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine is one of five finalists in the Best Restaurant category, whose requirements are: “A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service. Eligible restaurants must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years.”
  • Alex Seidel is a finalist for the Best Chef, Southwest award. The honor comes for Fruition, his first Denver restaurant. Since then, he has been operating Fruition Farms down in Larkspur and opened Mercantile Dining & Provision, the beguiling restaurant/bar/market at Union Station.  Of the four finalists in this six-state region, Seidel is is only one not from Texas.

The third Colorado honoree is the remarkable Temple Grandin, one of five nationwide added to the list of 2016 James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America Inductees. She is described as and “Author and Animal Rights Activist” from Fort Collins. A champion of animal rights, she has pioneered research livestock behavior and implementation of humane standards in facilities design and humane slaughter. Dr. Temple Grandin is the public face of high achievements despite the challenge of autism, and as such her accomplishments reach beyond ranching and slaughterhouse practices to acceptance of those with developmental differences.

Mizuna Denver’s Top French Restauant, which I don’t normally check out, ran its selection of “The 21 Best French Restaurants in America.” I’m glad they selected Mizuna to represent Denver, but if they’d included Boulder, I would think L’Atelier should have been a worth contender. But here’s what they posted about Mizuna:

Fifteen years may be a millisecond in the history of some cities’ dining scenes, but in that of one as young as Denver’s, it’s an aeon, which makes Frank Bonanno something of an elder statesman who—after launching, on average, nearly a concept a year since 2001—could be forgiven for coasting a spell. Instead, he just keeps pushing himself and the talents he nurtures further, and his contemporary French flagship on Capitol Hill is the ultimate proof. With low-key decor that belies its high-energy atmosphere, Mizuna presents a monthly changing menu that’s as full of surprises now as it was when it opened. Think ostrich strip with confit chanterelles over Idiazabal fondue; slow-braised octopus with chorizo-poached mussels, green-cabbage marmalade and pine-nut butter. The beverage program, meanwhile, may be the best it’s ever been, thanks to the combined efforts of wine director Kelly Wooldridge and bar manager Austin Carson, both gentlemen and brilliant scholars of their craft.