Category Archives: Denver

Changing of the Guard — and the Weitzman

Major changes are afoot on the Denver restaurant scene. Troy Guard is leaving (or perhaps has already left) the Sullivan Restaurant Group, where he has been executive chef, reportedly to eventually open his own restaurant, and Rebecca Weitzman will soon pack up her knives for the last time at the Cafe Star to move to New York. At last report in a phone conversation with Westword restaurant reviewer Jason Sheehan, she wasn’t yet certain where she in the Big Apple would be cooking. Replacements have not been revealed for either.

Guard has been the culinary brains behind the Sullivan Group’s Ocean (Cherry Creek North, right), nine75 (south of downtown and also nine75 North at 120th and Federal) and Oscar’s Steaks and Cigars (downtown), each offering such different fare from the others that none feels like part of a “group.” He has appeared on the Food Network’s “The Great American Seafood Cook-Off” and at least twice cooked at James Beard House. His wife, Leigh Sullivan, is the daughter of restaurant developer Jim Sullivan. She told the Rocky Mountain News‘s John Lehndorff, “At the moment, Troy’s putting together a deal to open his very own restaurant. It’s just a matter of finding the right space.” The Cafe Star is known for upscale comfort food, as is nine75. Ocean specializes in seafood and Oscar’s in steak.

Request for a Kevin Taylor Recipe

I received the following request from a visitor to this blog from New Jersey, where I lived many years ago:

“Hello Claire. I’ve been surfing around, trying to find Kevin Taylor’s recipe for Honey Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. My 15 year old daughter was recently visiting family in Denver and went to Palettes for lunch. She adored the soup so much that she went back twice (in the four days she was in town!). Do you by any chance have access to that recipe or know where I should look? Thanks for any help you can send my way.”

I am flattered at being asked. I wish I could say, I have it, and here it is. But I don’t. Best I can do is suggest contacting Rocky Mountain News food editor Marty Meitus, who does a weekly feature called “Recipe Please,” in which she requests chefs’ recipes on behalf of readers. E-mail her at meitusm@rockymountainnews.com with your request. She has assembled 166 recipes into a cookbook called, of course, Recipe Please.

Palette’s is part of the Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group, whose website unfortunately does not exactly invite communication from patrons — except to make reservations. There is a KTRG contact form on a wedding planning website that you might try — and you might get a response. I did look for Palette’s Honey Roasted Butternut Soup on-line. I didn’t find theirs, but I did find one recipe on RecipeSource.com that might be worth trying in the meantime. Good luck.

Note from Claire:
Several days later, I was able to obtain the recipe. Here it is, with thanks to Palette’s and the Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group:

Slow Roasted Purée of Butternut Squash Soup
Cardamom Crème Fraiche and Plantain Crouton

Serves 4 to 6

2 Large White Onions
4 Cups Roasted Butternut Squash
2 Cups Water
3 Cloves Garlic – Chopped
1 Large Shallot – Chopped
1 Tsp Nutmeg
¼ Cup Brown Sugar
½ Tsp Cinnamon
½ Tsp Cumin
½ Tsp Curry
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pumpkin Seed Oil

Crème Fraiche: ½ Cup Sour Cream, 1 tsp Cardamom, 1 pinch salt and pepper

Roast a cut and seeded squash with olive oil until tender.
Sauté Onions, Garlic, Shallots for 2 minutes.
Add water and squash; simmer for 1 hour.
Puree in blender – Add additional seasonings.
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Garnish with a dollop of crème Fraîche and pumpkin seed oil (Fried plantain-optional)

Another note from Claire:
Jason Sheehen reviewed Palette’s in the September 20-26 issue of Westword. He didn’t care for the decor and was unimpressed by the stately pace of service, but once he started eating, he raved about the food. Alas, he did not mention the Butternut Squash Soup.

Parisi and ‘Pizza & Panini’

Parisi

Some years ago, while prowling Denver’s Highlands neighborhood, I stopped at Parisi and bought some imported Italian ingredients that I either couldn’t find in Boulder at the time, or that simply appealed to me at the moment. The deli reminded me of neighborhood stores in Hoboken, in Manhattan’s Little Italy and other Italian areas in New York, in Boston’s North End when I went to college there and in the Connecticut of my childhood.

In such small Italian delis, refrigerated cases and shelves are stocked with house-made mozzarella, fresh ricotta, aged cheeses, sausages of all sorts, bulk olives, salads. and canned and packaged products with gorgeous labels. The people behind the counter are knowlegeable, friendly and genuinely want to please their customers, whether regulars or first-timers. They’ll make up a sandwich on fresh Italian bread, or sell you foods that now are available at places like Whole Foods and even many many mainstream supermarkets but once seemed rare and exotic, especially here in mid-continent.

Still, it wasn’t until last week that a friend and I met at Parisi for lunch in the sit-down restaurant section (left). Order at the counter, fill your own soft drink cup, find a table and your food will be brought to you. The individual, thin-crust, wood-oven pizza was tempting, but my friend arrived before me. She had just ordered when I arrived, and I didn’t want to keep her waiting while my pizza baked. She happily devoured her panini. I ordered a fresh house salad and mushroom risotto so rich that I took half of it with me. If I hadn’t “cut” the risotto with greenery, I probably wouldn’t have gotten that far. And then, I cruised the deli section for take-home treats. Parisi looks, feels and purveys the tastes of Italy and the best of what I think of as Italia-America.

Parisi’s menu impressively includes a soup of the day, nine salads, 25 pizzas, 13 panini, seven focaccia sandwiches, six grill-pressed sandwiches, 23 pasta and gnocchi dishes, four risottos (which I think should probably be pluralized to risotti), 13 chicken, veal and beef entrees, plus assorted a la carte side dishes. In addition to the foods mentioned above, the deli counter offers pastries and a case full of Gelato d’Italia flavors. That selection far exceeds most deli-only operations and many full restaurants as well. Parisi is at 4401 Tennyson Stret, Denver; 303-561-0234. It serves continuously between 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. nightly except Sunday. I’ll be back. I still want to try their pizza.

Pizza & Panini
Or, I can just whip up more pizzas at home. Later in the week, a review copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pizza & Panini by Erik Sherman arrived. As part of the Complete Idiot’s Guide series, it does not display pages full of mouth-watering photographs, elegant typefaces or award-winning designs. The format is formulaic and frill-free, but within each book is lots of solid, well-researched yet simply presented information — and this I know first-hand, having written two such books in the past. This pizza-plus book is both informative (lots of background info and a load of recipes) and entertaining (some of that ancillary info is fun to know). Erik is a veteran writer, photographer and American Society of Journalists & Authors colleague, but as far as I’m concerned, his main qualification for writing this book is, as the jacket copy notes, that he “has worked in professional kitchens, including the prep kitchen for Bel Canto Pizza, in the greater Boston area.”

Sherman starts out with the basics. He describes ingredients for the dough: different types of flour, salt and yeast. He notes that no fat is used pizza but olive oil is an ingredient in panini dough. He describes how to work dough, and how to bake the pizza or panini. The book features a variety of traditional and non-traditional bread and flatbread dough recipes. There is no mention of altitude adjustment for these recipes, though there are some rule-of-thumb formulas that mountain bakers use. I live at 5,400 feet but was too eager to try a topping recipe or two to experiment, so unbaked pizza crusts from Nick-n-Willy’s, just around the corner, seemed the ticket.

I’m a purist when it comes to pizza, so I honed in on the simple Pomodoro Fresca Sauce (page 72), made with fresh plum tomatoes (peeled and seeded) instead of the canned called for in the recipe, because they are in season now. So is basil, which made Margherita Pizza (page 95) especially appealing. It’s one of my favorites, and the proportions in this recipe are right. Leave off the basil (or not) add a few more cheeses, and you’ve got Quattro Fromaggio (page 96). When it gets cooler and tomato/basil season is over, I expect to try the barbecue pizza (page 83) because it’s a smart way to use up some leftover meat or poultry; Hawaiian pizza (page 84) because my husband loves it; eggplant pizza (page 98) because I like eggplant and it also calls for that tasty Pomodoro Fresca, and a French pissaldiere (page 103) because it’s another classic dish that I’m very fond of. Frankly, I haven’t delved into the panini section, because I’m really not much of a sandwich gal.

What I especially like about the recipes is that each one is accompanied by a useful Complete Idiots-style box giving prep time, cook time and serving size, keeping in mind that the prep time for the dough itself and for the assembled pizza or panini are given separately, so you have to add the two together if you’re starting from scratch. Another box adds “Tips Please” (suggestions, not money) and “Secret Ingredient” information to the basic recipe.

Denver Area Food Fest & Restaurant News

Nearly 30 restaurants are expected at the third annual Denver Food & Wine Classic this Sunday, August 26 between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m., at the Pepsi Center grounds. I would be more excited about this event if there weren’t so many chains (including The Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano’s Little Italy, Nik-N-Willy’s Pizza, PF Chang’s, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Ted’s Montana Grill). These include some of the better chains, but still…

The best part will be the Steel Chef competition, between 1:15 and 4:30 — which sounds as if each chef will cook separately rather than head-to-head. Slated to compete are Jennifer Jasinski, owner/chef of Rioja and Bistro Vendome, Denver; Ian Kleinman, chef de cuisine of O’s Steak & Seafood in the Westin Westminster; and Max Mackissock of Vita Restaurant, whose location I don’t know.

At the Wine Cafe, Trinchero Family Estates and distributor W.J. Deutsch & Sons will pour. Jim Beam and other high-test booze is also sponsoring. Event tickets are $50 and are available at several area wine and liquor stores.

Meanwhile, in addition to the yesterday’s a post about Alba Ristorante debuting in Boulder and a recent one about Wolfgang Puck’s Spago coming to Beaver Creek for the start of the ski season. Here are some other happenings on the local restaurant scene. I haven’t been to any of these yet, so consider this informational only:

  • Chez Thuy reopened after a remodel. 2655 28th Street, Boulder; 303-442-1700.
  • French 250 is the latest occupant of the space that long housed the much-loved Bistro Adde Brewster; 250 Steele Street, Denver; 303-331-0250,
  • Izakaya Den has opened in one of Denver’s delightful little neighborhood commercial centers; 1518 South Pearl Street, Denver; 303-777-0691.
  • Tambien Cantina has replaced Sketch, also in Cherry Creek North and also in the same building as French 250. 250 Steele Street, Denver; 303-333-17633.
  • Table Mesa is new in Denver’s southern suburbs; 7301 South Santa Fe Drive, Littleton; 303- 962-8888.
  • Theorie is the new name for a downtown Denver restaurant that was originally (and briefly) called The Abbey; 1920 Market Street, Denver; the phone number might be 303-296-2255.

James Beard & Denver: Perfect Together

I recently posted news that two Colorado chefs — Sean Yontz, owner/chef of Chama, consulting partner/chef at Mezcal and the newly opened Tambien, and Chris Douglas, owner/chef of Tula Latin Bistro — will be cooking at New York’s James Beard House on August 22. Their theme will be Contemporary Latin Celebration. I’ve since learned that Matt Mine, executive chef at Denver’s recently opened Oceanaire Seafood Room will be joining Oceanaire chefs from six other locations to present the Ultimate Seafood Expereience at the Beard House on September 5.

If you’re in Colorado, you don’t have to fly to New York for Beard House-worthy food, because on September 28, Denver will join 19 other U.S. cities to host the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America, a national food festival celebrating the foundation’s 20th anniversary and the legacy of James Beard. Twenty cities, 20 years — catch that?

The talented chefs participating in the “Colorado Cooks for James Beard” dinner will be Frank Bonanno, chef/owner of Denver’s Mizuna and Luca d’Italia; Tim Love, James Beard Award nominee and chef/owner the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Love Shack and Duce in Fort Worth, TX; Yasmin LozadaHissom, pastry chef at Duo in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood; Thomas Salamunovich, chef/owner of Larkspur in and the soon to open Watermark in Edwards; Alex Seidel, chef/owner of Denver’s Fruition, and Elise Wiggins, executive chef at Panzano, also in Denver. If you’re wondering how Texan Tim Love muscled his way into a Denver dinner, there is a Colorado connection. He worked his way to the helm of Uptown Bistro in Frisco, CO, where he was honored several times with foth the Taste of Breckenridge Grand Award and the Taste of the Mountains Award. It will be good to have him back, cooking in Colorado. Bobby Stuckey, James Beard Award Winner, master sommelier and co-owner of Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine, will pair wines with each course.

This fabulous event on September 28 will take place at Panzano at the Hotel Monaco, with cocktails beginning at 6:00 p.m. and dinner at 7:00 p.m. Tickets cost $125 per person, and can be purchased by calling 303-395-2677 or e-mail office@heedum.com. The James Beard Foundation will donate a portion of the proceeds from the dinner to Operation Frontline Colorado, a Share Our Strength program.

On Saturday the 29th, the Williams-Sonoma store in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center will host a free Frestival Day from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with cooking demonstrations and cookbook signings by award-winning chefs, children’s educational activities and tastings of artisanal products. Tim Love will do one of the demonstration, but the time has not yet been set. If you want to see him perform his culinary magic, call 303-394-2226 closer to the date.

Chef News from C-States

Colorado

Two Denver area chefs are heading for New York to cook at the James Beard House on August 22. Sean Yontz opened Tamayo for Richard Sandoval’s restaurant group and is now the owner/chef of Chama, consulting partner/chef at Mezcal and the newly opened Tambien. Chris Douglas is owner/chef of Tula Latin Bistro. The two-chef team plans a five-course dinner paired with an extremely rare Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, a Mexican distilled spirit made from the maguey plant, blending the bold flavors of Mexico, Spain and Central America overlaid with a Colorado flair. The dinner costs $125 for Beard members, $155 for all others. BTW, the Beard House has a no-tipping policy. If you wish to reserve, call 212-627-2308. If you’re in New York, or are simply curious, you can preview the menu on-line. Yontz and Douglas follow closely on the heels of Steven Topple of Beano’s Cabin at Beaver Creek, who prepared a pinot noir dinner there on August 9.

California

One of the best events during the four-day Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival will be the annual Blazing Pans Mountain Chef Cook-Off at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, September 15 at the Village at Northstar. The cooking competition will pit current two-time champion Chris Banovich of Big Wave Burritos in the Village at Northstar against Jacques Cornelis, executive chef at the Resort at Squaw Creek at Squaw Valley. The Iron Chef format gives chefs one hour to create as many dishes as possible using a secret ingredient to be unveiled when the clock starts ticking. Passport tickets for Saturday festivities cost $45 and access a day-long program of food and wine events, including the Blazing Pans Mountain Chef Cook-Off, “Today’s American Barbeque” with chef Larks Kronmark, a Gourmet Marketplace, Big Kids’ Cooking Camp with chef Lara Ritchie and a cooking demonstration with executive chef Roy Siegel of the Ritz Carlton, San Francisco. For festival tickets (and lodging, if needed) call 888-229-2193 or go to the festival website.

Connecticut

If only I had known, I would have alerted you earlier to the Taste of Hartford. Twenty-seven restaurants in the capital of my home state have been offering $20.07 dinners since August 5 and will do so until August 11. I love these Taste of…. events, because they enable locals and visitors alike to get a good dinner deal at favorite restaurants and also try new ones. Chefs get exposure with a new clientele and restaurants build traffic during slow times, so it’s a win-win format.

Denver Lunch Recommendations

I received the following E-mail that I’ll answer here in case anyone else has a similar question:

“Hi Claire,
Since I believe you’re pretty well-versed with dining in
Denver, can you tell me of a place for lunch with seating outside that is
organic, or at least somewhat in that vein? On or near 16th street perhaps. I need
to meet someone for lunch in that area tomorrow….”

WaterCourse Foods (837 East 17th Ave, a few blocks east of downtown around Emerson; 303-832-7313) would answer your organic desires but perhaps not an optimum location. Mad Greens (1600 Stout Street; 303-464-7336) is right on the 16th Street Mall, but I can’t recall whether they have outdoor seating. Rioja (1431 Larimer Street; 303-820-2282) uses fresh, seasonal, local ingredients (though not necessarily organic) and has fine outdoor seating. Tamayo (1400 Larimer Street; 720-946-1433) uses fresh, again not necessarily organic, ingredients in its sprightly modern Mexican dishes. There’s a nice little sidewalk dining space and a dynamite rooftop deck.

Good luck.