Category Archives: Happy Hour

Terrific Tabernash Tavern

Casual atmosphere & first-rate fare in tiny mountain town.

P1000270Whenever I visit the greater Winter Park area, eating at the Tabernash Tavern is high on my list . This casual restaurant in a vintage building is loaded with more vintage it — such items as beer cans, jumping skis from the Olympics, fishing memorabilia and other eclectic items decorate the walls and ceilings. Both the bar area in front ad the dining room in back exude casual fun. Five of us went there for happy hour this evening — five different dishes, decent portions and a wonderful variety of styles and tastes. The menu will change tomorrow, so don’t expect to see this exact selection.

Ahi tuna nachos with spicy tuna, wonton and nori chips, cucumbers, sriracha aioli, ponzu, wasabi crema, seaweed, avocado and queso.
Ahi tuna nachos with spicy tuna, wonton and nori chips, cucumbers, sriracha aioli, ponzu, wasabi crema, seaweed, avocado and queso.

Continue reading Terrific Tabernash Tavern

Keystone’s Upcoming Savor the Slopes

Each week features a different resort restaurant showcasing food, wine & spirits.

KeystoneResort-logoKeystone was Colorado’s first mountain resort to really emphasize its culinary side with interesting restaurants in the valley and up on the mountain. It long ago began hiring real chefs rather than short order cooks who were frying up burgers in exchange for free skiing. and began beefing up its kitchen staffs with real chefs and culinary school apprentices. As one of the early built-from-the-ground-up full-service resorts, it developed lodging and food and beverage facilities. The high bar Keystone set for itself continues.

Keystone Resort’s distinct signature restaurants are on display during this season’s Savor the Slopes, an upcoming multi-week rotating showcase featuring food, wine, beer and spirits. Each the host restaurant organizes its tasting event with its own unique theme that promises to be both informative and delicious. Award-winning, mountaintop locations, historical buildings and two distinct village settings host a combined 17 tasting events. All events begin at 4 p.m., so they are an excellent après-ski option. I love that several feature Colorado beer, wine and spirits. Resort guests might even want to ski off a little of the Savor the Slopes calories, while cay skiers can linger and avoid some of the eastbound I-70 traffic — of course, being  very conservative adult beverages.

Each event costs $25 (a tab easily reached by ordering some beer and munchies during conventional après-ski.  Reservations for individual Savor the Slopes tasting events are required, and can be made by calling 970-496-4386. Continue reading Keystone’s Upcoming Savor the Slopes

Zeal Introduces A New Chef

Former Greenbriar chef tackles & tweaks “clean” food menu.

001Zeal, a downtown Boulder restaurant catering to health-conscious food enthusiasts, opened November and developed a following from those allergic or averse to certain foods or food groups. Vegetarian? Zeal has many dishes for you, including sustainably harvested proteins of various kinds. Carnivore? They serve only pedigreed meats from grass-fed animals. Gluten-free? The only gluten is in the beer and the little spelt-flour bread that is served. Avoid processed foods or concerned about GMOs, pesticides and chemical fertilizers? Zeal is the restaurant for you. On the Paleo diet bandwagon? It’s easy at Zeal. Interested in the Conscious Cleanse? Jo Saalman and Julie Paleaz, authors of the bestselling book by the same name, are hosting a three-course, $39 Conscious Cleanse dinner at Zeal on November 11.

Zeal owner Wayde Jester at the chalkboard where the changing menu and the popular grab-and-go options are posted.
Zeal owner Wayde Jester at the chalkboard where the changing menu and the popular grab-and-go options are posted.
Leslie White, who joined Zeal after a stint at The Greenbriar. Being able to accommodate both restaurants' styles shows his versatility.
Leslie White, who joined Zeal after a stint at The Greenbriar. Being able to accommodate both restaurants’ styles shows his versatility.

From the beginning, Zeal has used whole fresh ingredients, served as simple flavorful combinations. But like many a new restaurant, Zeal has experienced some growing pains. In addition to the service glitches common to new restaurants, there has been turnover in the kitchen. It is on its third chef in less than a year. Opening chef Arik Markus had left by June, and his successor, Sean Smith, was replaced about a month ago by Leslie White (that’s a he-Leslie), who has made a rapid shift from the butter-and-cream kitchen of The Greenbriar to the “clean” ingredients used at Zeal. I don’t know any details about these changes, except to speculate that since founder/owner Wayde Jester, a prototypical Boulder endurance athlete, comes from the real estate realm and though a cooking enthusiast, didn’t have restaurant experience, the owner/chef combination has taken a few tries.

Zeal hosted a group of foodies and food bloggers to sample a few of White’s creations, plus artisanal cocktails, other adult beverages and the sensational cold-pressed juices.

Super-fresh cold-pressed juices in a rainbow of colors.
Super-fresh cold-pressed juices in a rainbow of colors. Juicing is a two-step process that can be seen through a window in a back corner of the restaurant.
Thai-style shrimp and tofu cradled in an endive leaf.
Thai-style shrimp and tofu cradled in an endive leaf.
Spicy eggplant puree in a hollowed cucumber.
Spicy eggplant puree in a hollowed cucumber with carrot and red cabbage slivers providing additional color contrasts.
It may be fall, but this is Zeal's spring mix salad with spiced pecans.
It may be fall, but this is Zeal’s spring mix salad with shredded carrots, spiced pecans and dressing on the side.
Cute bundles of sweetness, on this evening some orange-flavored and others pumpkin.
Cute bundles of sweetness, on this evening some orange-flavored and others pumpkin.

Zeal is participating in First Bite Boulder but has not yet posted its menu — perhaps to busy serving breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and recently added happy hour ($2 off beer, wine and spirits and $5 small plates). In addition to the popular bowls and sandwiches, Chef White is presenting more large and small plates and has brought dessert-making in-house. Zeal is pickling and fermenting in-house too (think kimchee and kombucha). During the warm months, the restaurant closed for two hours for Movement Mondays or Trailblazer Tuesdays so that staff and guests could go on a local hike. The concept might soon be transferred to a climbing gym or other indoor venue. And then there’s the Zeal food truck, which debuted at the Hanuman Yoga Festival and most likely dispatched to Uptown Denver, where Jester hopes to open a second restaurant. Stay tuned.

Zeal on Urbanspoon

Happy Hour at the Steamboat Grand

The Cabin’s yummy mac & cheese app

After a day on the slopes, I met some friends at the Steamboat Grand’s bar/restaurant called The Cabin. Everyone else just ordered a beer or a glass of wine, but I was hungry — and I knew that dinner was quite some time off.P1050804

Mac n Cheese Bites — a nice nibble with veggie matter alongside.

Price check: I ordered a glass or Merlot and Mac n Cheese bites, nicely presented, tasty and filling enough to hold me. At happy hour pricing, this came to $8.26, including taxes. No extra charge for the pleasant ambiance.

Oceanaire’s Pre-Theater Value

All-night happy hour is a very good deal

Oceanaire-logoWhen I’ve had dinner at Oceanaire before seeing a show at the nearby Denver Performing Arts Center, the portions have been too big and, frankly, the prices too high when added to theater tickets and increasingly expensive parking. Yesterday evening, I spotted a chalkboard sign on the sidewalk in front of t the restaurant entrance announcing, All Night Happy Hour. Bingo!

Happy hour specials are offered only at the bar — every night except Saturday.  Given the value and the fresh seafood, the bar was unsurprisingly packed, but we grabbed two seats as soon as another party vacated them. The acoustics pleased and impress both me and my husband. As I wrote, the place was packed and lively conversations were rampant, but it was possible to hear each other without straining and speak without shouting. There’s something of an ocean liner ambiance to Oceanaire, which goes with the hear-and-be-heard aspect.

We had 45 minutes to curtain — no problem at all, even on a Friday night. I’ve read unfavorable diner reviews on social media sites, but our waiter was prompt and attentive, and oh, the welcome modest size of the bill. We’ll be back.

We sat right in front of the cold bar, with lobsters and crabs poking out  from the ice and very blue back bar above.
We sat right in front of the cold bar, with lobsters and crabs poking out from the ice and very blue, very retro back bar behind.
Fish and chips served in a paper-lined metal cone. The fish was battered in Guinness beer batter and fried crisp.
Fish and chips served in a paper-lined metal cone. The fish was battered in Guinness beer batter and fried crisp.
Steamed mussels in a broth of white wine, butter and shallots topped with grilled bread.
Steamed mussels in a broth of white wine, butter and shallots topped with grilled bread.

Price check: Happy hour small plates, $5-$7; draft beer. $4; wines by the glass, $5; specialty drinks, $6; specialty martinis, $7.
Oceanaire Seafood Room on Urbanspoon

Pre-Theater Visit to Epernay

Great DCPA location & terrific food marred by slow service

P1030986I have been wanting to try Epernay ever since I learned that Duy Pham, once chef at Tante Louise who left Denver to try to make a fine dining beachhead in Pueblo, returned and was the opening chef at this stylish lounge and sushi-plus restaurant at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. People I know who were there for the opening raved. My friend Claudia and I went to Epernay on Tuesday before seeing “Peter & The Starcatcher,” but I seem to have waited too long. Duy Pham is no longer in charge of the kitchen, except sometimes on busy weekend nights.

Michael Degenhart, who was Pham’s opening sous-chef, is now top toque and appears to be continuing the sushi-heavy but not sushi-exclusive menu. We arrived in plenty of time for happy hour, which features half-price drinks and a mostly-$5 small plates menu. Asian-oriented Epernay is mysteriously named after the capital of the Champagne region of France, so I ordered some bubbly. Happy hour is only available in the bar/lounge area, which is hip looking and energetic feeling. The look is jazzy, while the adjacent dining room is an oasis of elegant tranquility.

The attractive dining room was mostly empty on a Tuesday evening, even when the lounge where we ate was busy and a private party occupied a separate room.
The attractive dining room was mostly empty on a Tuesday evening, even when the lounge where we ate was busy and a private party occupied a separate room.

Despite a great location on the 14th Street side of the DCPA garage that should have theater-goers lining up before the show, Epernay’s signage is pathetic. You can read it if you are looking straight at the front of the building, but nothing noteworthy juts out over the sidewalk. The Four Seasons, The Curtis and the Hotel Teatro occupy three close-by corners, but I’m wondering whether guests who go out of the house to dine are heading straight for Larimer Square.

The lounge features high-backed, white booths surrounding knee-high can accommodate groups of 6 or 8. This design, while encouraging guests to lean toward one another, makes it virtually impossible for the servers to glance to see whether anyone wants attention, has empty plates or anything else that they ought to notice. Maybe that was responsible for the slow service, or maybe it was just our waitress who seemed to suffer from attentiveness deficit disorder. She didn’t look, she didn’t come over to check on us and consequently, she didn’t impress. The food, however, made a positive impression.

Caesar salad, ordered without bacon, but with a fine, fresh gently cooked egg.
Caesar salad, ordered without bacon, but with a fine, fresh gently cooked egg.
Hand roll.
Hand roll.
White sushi on a white plate.
White sushi on a white plate.

Price check: At happy hour until 6:30 p.m., most small plates are $5.

Epernay Lounge on Urbanspoon

New Brew & Food Too in East Boulder

Noted Boulder chef opens BRU specializing in hand-crafted ales & food

PrintIf I wrote a blog post about every new microbrewery, brew pub or particular new beer or ale, I’d have room for nothing else on this blog. Still, I’m giving a shout-out to BRU handbuilt ales & eats, which opens today, because it is the brainchild of Ian Clark, former executive chef of Centro Latin Kitchen, who moved his base of operations from downtown to East Boulder to expand his barely one-year-old garage nano-brewery.

Clark, who was recently named one of the “Six Food and Beer Innovators” by Draft Magazine, took “handbuilt” to heart when crafting just about everything at his new “brupub” — building each table and booth by hand, pouring the concrete bar, welding the handrails, building the barn door that separates his brewery from the dining room, the list goes on. Those who saw it pre-opening say that craftsmanship shines throughout the restaurant from the food, to the beer, to the tables themselves.

Ian Clark in his brewmaster duds rather than his chef's coat. Photo courtesy BRU.
Ian Clark in his brewmaster duds rather than his chef’s coat. Photo courtesy BRU.

On tap are 11 rotating handbuilt ales including the “founding brews” that have been available at local liquor stores and restaurants for the past year. In addition to Obitus American Brown with dates and caramelized sugar and Chef’s Collaboration BRU, Clark’s libations also include such new offerings as Rigley Red IPA and Slocum Barleywine. As a gift chef himself, he is instituting a monthly collaboration beer with a local chef. Rounding out the beer selection is one handpicked beer from one of Colorado’s great craft breweries. The names are as creative as the beverages: Szechuan Cherry, a handcrafted soda, and a lineup of interesting beer cocktails like the Beer Cooler (Belux pale ale, agave nectar, lime juice and salt) or the Dark Cross (barleywine and hard apple cider) help round out the drink menu. I’m much more into wine than beer, but those cocktails sound really appealing.

What of the food? For Clark, after all, being a chef came before the beer biz. He has installed a wood-fire oven to craft a sort of cultural fusion menu that he calls “urban American cuisine.” Examples of his culinary creativity: Sumac and Cilantro Trail Mix with almonds, popcorn, and oat clusters; Crispy Pork Bahn Mi with pickled cucumber, kimchee, shaved daikon, lime aioli and rooster sauce (aka, sriracha), and Colorado Trout with a Dutch biscuit, arugula salad and celery vinaigrette are just a few of his dishes, all handbuilt from scratch, and available for lunch, happy hour and dinner.

BRU Handbuilt Ales & Eats on Urbanspoon