‘5280’ Names Denver Area’s Best New Restaurants

Annual restaurant selections include the area’s very best.

5280-cover2015The March issue of 5280 Magazine arrived in my mailbox while I was out of the country. It is the month that the “Best New Restaurants” list comes out, and I am always eager to read it. Senior editor Amanda M. Faison had the Herculean task of winnowing the contenders down to just 10. Here’s the 2015 list:

Eater Denver’s Top 15 Right NOW

HeatMap-logoMeanwhile, Eater Denver (or is it Denver Eater?), that interesting by notoriously fickle site, has published its Heatmap, a periodic list of the hottest (!!!!!) restaurants in Denver right now, unceremoniously spurning those that were hot just a few months ago. The compulsion to name hot spots is tiresome, but what is interesting to me are the restaurants on both lists. It is gratifying somehow when the hotspots are also praised for the cuisine, ambiance and service. Here are the site’s selections:

‘Farm Fork Food’ Named IACP Finalist

FarmForkFoodOne name leapt out at me when I read the list of the 2015 International Association of Culinary Professionals’ awards finalists, and that was Eric Skokan for his wonderful book, Farm, Fork, Food: A Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm. If you don’t know the book, you might know Eric for his smiling presence at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market or for his nearby restaurants, Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare. He and his wife, Jill, remain on the forefront of Boulder’s commitment to organic foods and sustainable farming, as well as their personal idealism and open-hearted generosity. I am rooting for this book to win in the best American cookbook category, which will be given at the IACP conference in Washington, D.C., at the end of this month.

Sweetener Firm Based in Sugar Land

New brand name is Wholesome! — with a bang! at the end.

Wholesome!-Organic-Sweeteners_resizedI sometimes (make that often) have wondered by rebranding mania. It’s expensive and it runs the risk of losing loyal customers. When a big corporation, say, Esso becomes Exxon or First National City Bank becomes Citibank, changes its name and its logo, it gets a lot attention. Perhaps that’s reason enough.

But I wonder what the point is for Wholesome Sweetener to become Wholesome! with an exclamation point at the end. It is a well-respected line of organic, fair trade and non-GMO sugars and sweeteners founded by Gale Gand, well-known pastry chef, cookbook author and Food Network personality. Still, this rebranding is relative modest, and the name doesn’t really change all that much.

I am tickled that this line of gourmet sugars, syrups, molasses, stevia and honeys is based in Sugar Land, Texas, which is what drew my attention in the first place. Actually, I answered my own question by concluding that rebranding might partially be to capture the attention of bloggers like me in addition to trade and consumer publications. New packaging with its now-punctuated logo with a heart will be introduced at a trade show next month.

Iceland Eats on Show at Culinary Fest

Jaw-dropping scenery, Viking culture and centuries-old history of Iceland plus fresh fare.

IcelandFoodFest-logoI wouldn’t even mention this if I weren’t so taken with Iceland, but I am, so I am — if you get my drift. The 14th annual Food ‘n Fun Festival in Reykjavik from February 25 to March 1 brings together chefs who ply outstanding culinary skills, fresh natural ingredients, Icelandic outdoor adventure and the island nation’s famed nightlife to create the ultimate recipe for fun.  Renowned chefs  from America, Europe and specifically Scandinavia join forces with Reykjavik’s best restaurants to vie for the title of “Food & Fun Chef of the Year.” Think it’s trivial? This honor gained respect in the culinary world since Rene Redzepi, owner of Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen, won the award in 2004.

Competitors include Hussein Mustapha, chef de cuisine at Mielcke & Hurtigkarl, a conceptual gourmet restaurant also in Copenhagen; Adam Dahlberg from Adam & Albin Matstudio, a gastronomic hotspot in Stockholm; London’s Robin Gill of The Dairy and The Manor, and James Beard Award winner Douglas Rodriguez from the U.S. Each chef is assigned to one of the participating restaurants to prepare a special menu consisting only of Icelandic ingredients. The menu is then presented by the chefs to the public during the festival week.

Among the restaurants hosting festival events this year are Dill, Apotek, Kjallarinn, Lava at the Blue Lagoo, and Smurstodin. There’s a lot of serious cooking going on, so I’m not sure where the “fun”  comes in. On the last day of the festival, the chefs compete head-to-head with three courses, again all made solely with Iceland ingredients such as Arctic char, grass-fed lamb, fresh caught cod and haddock, local plum tomatoes from a geothermal greenhouse and an Icelandic yogurt called skyr. 

Novo Coffee Growth Predicted

Eater.com’s Denver pick for coffee shops that will grow greatly. 

Eater-logoDenver’s Novo Coffee is on Eater.com’s short list of “10 Coffee Shops That Will Explode in 2015” — not literally of course. The site sees coffee shops in emerging communities as the harbinger of increased neighborhood vitality, and Novo, which is vintage as such enterprises go, seems to fit that model. The slogan is “Family owned. People focused. Quality driven.” No arguing with that.

Here’s what the site wrote about Novo:


Location: 3617 W. 32nd, Denver, Colorado
Key Players: Jake, Herb, and Joseph Brodsky
Projected Opening: March 2015
Since 2002, this family-owned venture in Denver has been providing local coffee shops and restaurants with beans, which they roast themselves in a classic Vittoria machine. Currently the roastery is open to the public on Fridays for cuppings and tours, but they have two — and soon to be three — retail locations for daily drop-ins. Novo is next taking over a space formerly occupied by Yogurt Guru in West Highland. Time to trade up your sugar addiction for a caffeine habit.

Novo’s two other Denver shops are at 1600 Glenarm St and 1700 East 6th Avenue. If Eater.com is a trend prognosticator, I wonder whether the bloom is off the frozen yogurt rose, to be replaced by coffee.

Film + Food in Boulder

CineCHEF culinary event added to Boulder film fest.

ChefClipArtThe Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) adds a new culinary event to showcase Boulder’s nationally recognized chefs.  CineCHEF, as the signature event had been dubbed, challenges the town’s favorite chefs to choose a movie theme and create film-inspired dish for a fun and friendly competition on Friday, March 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Rembrandt Yard in downtown Boulder.

Participating chefs are David Query of Centro Latin Kitchen and other restaurants in the Big Red F REestaurant Group, Kyle Mendenhall of The Kitchen, Bradford Heap of Salt and Colterra, Kelly Kingsford of Brasserie TenTen and The Med, John Platt of RIFF’s Urban Fare, Radek Cerny of L’Atelier and Alec Schuler from Arugula. These chefs will set movie-themed tasting stations serving small plates based on their chosen themes. Guests will enjoy wines from Francis Ford Coppola Winery, craft beers and desserts by celebrated pastry chef Jennifer Bush of Lucky’s Bakehouse. Music by Maxwell Hughes, formerly of the Lumineers. Guests vote on their favorite offerings, with the winning chef awarded with a sculpture by the late Bill Vielehr and the title “Best CineCHEF, BIFF 2015.

Tickets ($95) are available online and benefit BIFF. If  your tastes run more to fine food than to film, know that festival attendance is not required for CineCHEF.

Visit Denver’s Restaurant Week Tips

Ready, set, go for Denver Restaurant Week.

DenverRestaurantWeek2015For ten days (February 20 to March 1), nearly 300 Denver  restaurants offer multi-course dinners for $30 per person, plus taxes and gratuities. Menus and details can be found at DenverRestaurantWeek.com. Visit Denver acknowledges the challenge of narrowing down such a wide choice spread around the greater metro area and has assembled a list of considerations:

  • Gluten-free or vegan, no problem! There are 169 restaurants offering gluten-free items, and in true Colorado fashion, a whopping 93 have vegan options.
  • The new kids on the block. It’s always exciting to try a restaurant brand new to Denver Restaurant Week! Here are a few hotspots that should make your list: Cart-Driver, Cebiche Highlands, Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Café, Chowder Room, Dorchester Social Eatery, Timberline Steakhouse DIA, Season’s 52 and Stoic & Genuine.
  • Tried and true. Many of Denver’s top restaurants participate in this culinary event year after year, offering tasty multi-course meals of signature dishes and exciting new plates. You can’t go wrong with one of these Denver Restaurant Week staples: Barolo Grill. Bistro Vendôme, The Broker Restaurant, Carmine’s on Penn, Denver Chophouse & Brewery, Elway’s Cherry Creek, The Fort; The Greenbriar Inn, Luca, Maggiano’s Little Italy, McCormick’s Fish House & Bar, Rioja and The Summit Steakhouse.
  • It’s all about the extras. A number of restaurants are offering wine, cocktails, beer or a fourth course as part of their restaurant week menu. Here are a few of the restaurants offering something extra: At Southern Hospitality, a Colorado draft beer, house wine, whiskey or Moscow Mule. A glass of house wine or house-made limoncello at Colore Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria. iFish Japanese Grill & Sushi offers both a sushi starter and large carafe of hot, cold or house-infused sake. A bottle of wine to share at Racines.  A Limon, an amuse bouche to share.
  •  The spirit of dessert. With most restaurants offering some sort of dessert in their multi-course meal offering, this is not the time to count calories. This year, several restaurants are boozin’ up their desserts with beer, wine or whiskey. Try one of these over-the-top desserts. Modena Wine Café’s selection of alcohol-infused ice creams, including Left Hand Nitro Stout and a Cosmo Sorbet. Duo’s Figgy Pudding Brandy sauce with orange ice cream.; Belgian Chocolate Torte with Housemade Porter Ice Cream at Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Café. Bourbon Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée at Charcoal Restaurant.
  • No shortage of short ribs. It’s all about the beef, ‘bout the beef…no chicken! Colorado is ranching country, and as you would suspect, beef is what’s for dinner on many Denver Restaurant Week menus. Blackbird, The Berkshire, Coohills, The Dorchester, Spruce Farm and Fish and Spuntino are among those offering short ribs, each with their own unique flavor. Randolph’s Restaurant features a buffalo short rib and  not to neglect chicken entirely, Altitude Restaurant is offering a chicken-fried short rib.
  • How would you like your mushrooms? Mushrooms are hot in 2015, and some of the tastiest offerings include: Winter Mushroom Ragu at 1515 Restaurant, Crespelle ai Funghi at Panzano, Wild Mushroom Duzelle Arancini at Charcoal Restaurant and a Cup of Morel Mushroom Soup at Bent Fork American Grill.
  • What was that again? Some of the more memorably exotice items: Bones’ Escargot Potstickers. The Nickel’s Squid Ink cavatelli. Corridor 44’s Caviar Potato Chips. Coohills’s  Wild Burgundy Snails.
  • There’s something “fishy” happening in Denver. When you realize most fish is shipped by airplanes, then airports become seaports, Denver is therefore one of the largest and busiest “seafood ports” in America. To try: Humboldt Farm Fish’s  smoked trout dip with potato chips and sweet onion jam. And perhaps arriving by truck rather than by air, Kevin Taylor, Vita and Beatrice & Woodsley all offer their own versions of Colorado Striped Bass with plenty of delicious complementary (or complimentary?) sides.

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