Tag Archives: Denver restaurant

Awesome Acorn in The Source

Cool offspring of Boulder restaurant serves super food & drinks.

Acorn-logoThe fine folks who are bringing Reyka Vodka from Iceland into the US invited me to lunch and a tasting. Happily, the venue they selected was The Acorn in The Source, an urban food marketplace in Denver’s exciting RiNo district. Click here for my post on Reyka Vodka.

Acorn is the offspring of Boulder’s impressive Oak at Fourteenth, and the same team, captained by co-owners, Steve Redzikowski and ” Bryan Dayton. Chef Redzikowki gets credit for the interesting, largely locally sourced American food enhanced with international flavors, matched by Dayton’s equally interesting beverage program. The two restaurant spaces are stylistic opposites. Oak, located just off Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, is elegantly casual (or casually elegant). Acorn set in a front corner of The Source, a former foundry with a real urban vibe, a soaring ceiling, an open kitchen and graffiti art on the old brick.

Sophisticated takes on American foods from various regions are served in the cool urban of Acorn.
Sophisticated takes on American foods from various regions are served in the cool urban of Acorn.
Kale and apple salad with candied almonds, Parmesan cheese and a complex Japanese herb mix called togorashi.
Kale and apple salad with candied almonds, Parmesan cheese and a complex Japanese herb mix called togorashi.
A skillet of tomato-braised meatballs with stone-ground grits, burrata and basil.
A skillet of tomato-braised meatballs with stone-ground grits, burrata, basil leaves and grated Parmesan .
Coal-roasted beets with feta panna cotta, toasted pistachios ad harissa sauce.
Coal-roasted beets with feta panna cotta, toasted pistachios ad harissa sauce.
Grilled chicken and quinoa salad with arugula, avocado, basil pesto and saved pear.
Grilled chicken and quinoa salad with arugula, avocado, basil pesto and shaved pear.
A big oak-grilled double cheeseburger with harissa aioli, Gruyere cheese and a cup of tater tots.
A big oak-grilled double cheeseburger with harissa aioli, Gruyere cheese, arugula, a metal cup of tater tots and ketchup (of course).

Price check: At lunch, plates, $12-$15 (plus fried pickles, $5). Since I was there specifically to sample cocktails, they run $5-$6 for “booze free,” $7 for “low booze” and $9-$11 for “high booze.” Wine, beer and soda on tap round out the beverage offerings.

Acorn on Urbanspoon

Work & Class Opens Tomorrow

Upscale working class food from several traditions in unique structure 

Work&Class-logoWhenever I’ve been in the southern reaches of RiNo (or perhaps the northern end of the Ballpark neighborhood) in the last several months, I’ve seen shipping containers stacked up like building blocks that were to become “something.” It was always too dark to photograph, and until I started reading other food bloggers’ reports, I wasn’t sure what the structure was to become. I’ve now learned that it is Work & Class, a new restaurant that is officially opening today.

Reports are of an à la carte menu with dishes derived from Southern and Mexican traditions, with a hint of New England, and a $15,000 rotisserie for roasting meats and poultry. It is the brainchild of executive chef Dana Rodriguez, late of Bistro Vendôme, and the husband and wife duo of Tony Maciag and Delores Tronco, whose Justice League of Street Food brought food trucks to Denver. The trio is deviating sharply from Bistro  Vendôme’s elegant atmosphere to create an ode to the working class. Not only the shipping containers but other decorative elements are reportedly recycled and reused industrial woods and metal  — all admirable, very trendy and aggressively functional, judging by the photos I’ve seen.

I wouldn’t ordinarily post anything about a place I hadn’t visited and had only seen as a construction site, but I was really impressed by Dana’s food and enthusiasm when I ate at Vendôme (click here) that I want to add my modest boost to the enthusiastic reviews she has received from previewers.  Much is being made of the simple menu and working-class provenance of the food, but with Dana Rodriguez helming the kitchen, I have to believe that her renditions will be upscaled — in keeping with the upscaled use of industrial materials.

I haven’t seen the menu, so I can’t add a Price Check, but I’m guessing it will be in the mid-range. Urbanspoon hasn’t discovered it yet, but it is at 2500 Larimer St., Denver; 303-292-0700.

Old Major: One of America’s Best New Eateries

The Thrillist site cites LoHi restaurant as one of just 33 nationwide

OldMajor-logoI like the verbal juxtaposition of OLD Major being named one of the country’s top NEW restaurants. But that’s exactly the situation with the selection of what Thrillist cites as one of the 33 best to open this past year. Thrillist is a site devoted to food, drink, travel, 22 cities (including Denver) and buying stuff. The write-up in its entirety:

Old MajorDenver, CO
What you’re getting: Nose to Tail Plate
Denver’s LoHi neighborhood is bursting at the seams with new, popular bars and restaurants, but Old Major’s “elevated farmhouse cuisine” stands out among the pack with exceptional cocktails and decadent, inventive cuisine (think CO rib eye with bleu cheese, foie gras butter, and pork fat fries). If you’re smart and/or just understand weekly calendars, swing by on a Wednesday, where you can watch the chef/owner butcher two pigs in-house, you saucy, food-based voyeur! Then you’ll eat the fruits of his labor on the Nose to Tail Plate, which features cuts like braised belly, confit rib, schnitzel, ham, and ears, all accompanied by mustard spaetzle, sauerkraut, and a demi-glace.

I was a guest at pork-centric Old Major’s media preview last February. Click here for my thoughts. The big guy in the first photograph is Justin Brunson, who before Old Major started Masterpiece Delicatessen, a gourmet sandwich shop that pioneered the making of LoHi a local dining destination area, and later was instrumental in the launch of the Denver Bacon Company. Masterpiece Deli recently opened a second location in the Wells Fargo Center, where downtown Denver meets the Uptown neighborhood. Its Monday through Friday opening days indicate that its target is the downtown office worker rather than the Uptown brunch crowd. The address is 1710 Sherman Street.

Big Questions About The Corner House

Selby out. Restaurant closed for a week. Wassup?

CornerHouse-logoThe Corner House opened early this year with chef Matt Selby heading the kitchen and actually cooking, having left Vesta Dipping Grill, Steuben’s and Ace to do get back into the kitchen. Great reviews (Click here for mine). Accolades. Press coverage.

And now comes this surprising but unenlightening press release, which I post in its entirety:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Corner House and Chef Matt Selby have amicably parted ways.  CH’s partners say, “We respect Chef Selby’s innovative cuisine and thank him for helping get Corner House established; we’ve decided it is best to move in a different direction with our restaurant at this time, and wish Chef Selby the best in his future professional endeavors”.  The partners will be steering the restaurant back on its original course of providing a space where the food, atmosphere and prices are in line with what a community expects from their neighborhood bistro, and are looking forward to welcoming everyone back in for a comfortable, warm experience of delicious food and drinks.

Please note: Corner House is closed for the week to give new management time to look over the food and drink menus and will open again for dinner service on Tuesday, December 3rd at 4pm.  

HOURS: Tues-Fri  4-10pm & Sat-Sun: 9am-10pm  

How sudden was this split? Very sudden. Today’s “Best Bites” selection on 5280 magazine’s weekly online Table Talk featured Matt Selby’s Chicken Thigh recipe. The recipe was published around 1:30 this afternoon, and the press release appeared in my inbox about three hours later. When you go to the restaurant’s website and click on Our Team, not one name comes up. I question the veracity of the word “amicably.” Selby’s menu is still online, but that will surely change shortly. I expect that local restaurant sleuths will have more info tomorrow, but meanwhile, count me among those whose jaws dropped.

Rioja’s Winter Menu a Symphony of Tastes

Popular Larimer Square eatery’s winter menu hits another culinary high note

P1010627 Year after year, season after season, Rioja partner/chef Jennifer Jasinski and her kitchen cohorts put together dishes that remind me of a fine symphony but with tastes rather than sounds that are harmonious yet contrasting, beautiful and creative, and always pulled together from disparate elements ina way where the whole is better than the sum of its parts. The Winter 2013 menu, which I happily sampled last night, is yet another example of culinary creativity assembled by the gifted and amiable chef whom I consider the Belle of Larimer Square.

The evening's selected Libation was a Pomeginger cocktail (pomegranate puree, house-made ginger syrup, vodka, sweet and sour and a splash of soda. Served in a martini glass, it was a sweet treat in a lovely ruby red.
The evening’s selected Libation was a Pomeginger cocktail (pomegranate puree, house-made ginger syrup, vodka, sweet and sour and a splash of soda. Served in a martini glass, it was a sweet treat in a lovely ruby red.
Breads and rolls of various shapes and flavores enticingly presented.
Breads and rolls of various shapes and flavors enticingly presented.
Thick and velvety cauliflower-tahini soup with an inspired float of pickled pears, carrots and patrika yogurt. Wine: 2007 Mercat Brut Cava, Panedes.
Thick and velvety cauliflower-tahini soup with an inspired float of pickled pears, carrots and paprika yogurt. Wine: 2007 Mercat Brut Cava, Panedes.
A cold plate of Dungeness crab  tossed in creme fraiche atop cucumber gelee with paper thin cucumber slices, shaved heart of palm, piquant lime confiture and a bit of gray salt would make a refreshing summer salad, but it really works for winter as well. Wine: 2011 La Cana Albarino, Rias Baixas.
A cold plate of Dungeness crab tossed in creme fraiche surrounded by cucumber gelee and crowned with paper thin cucumber slices, shaved heart of palm, piquant lime confiture and a bit of gray salt would make a refreshing summer salad, but it really works for winter as well. Wine: 2011 La Cana Albarino, Rias Baixas.
The third course combined assorted flavors and textures of the western Mediterranean: Spanish octopus that was both sweet and tender in a medley with squid ink-piquillo pasta, Basque chiles, pilquiilo peppers, crisp preserved lemons, poached orange zest and harissa toast. Wine: 2010 Torres Vina, Penedes -- a charmed Muscatel and Gewurztraminer blend.
The third course combined assorted flavors and textures of the western Mediterranean: Spanish octopus that was both sweet and tender in a medley with squid ink-piquillo pasta, Basque chiles, pilquiilo peppers, crisp preserved lemons, poached orange zest and gremolata caper-chile emulsion. Wine: 2010 Torres Vina, Penedes — a charmed Muscatel and Gewurztraminer blend.
This saffron-rapini ravioli with bites of spicy North African lamb Merguez sausage, PEI mussels, fennel nage, poached orange zest, red wine reduction, piquillo peppers and hariissa toast. Wine:2010 Eugenio Bocchino Roccabella Nebbiolo, of course from Italy.
Delicious but difficult-to-photograph saffron-rapini ravioli with bites of spicy North African lamb Merguez sausage, PEI mussels, fennel nage, poached orange zest, red wine reduction, piquillo peppers and hariissa toast. Wine: 2010 Eugenio Bocchino Roccabella Nebbiolo.
Grilled tea-brined Snake River sturgeon, mushroom daupine potatoes, wilted spinach-watercress, grapefuit with pomegratante tea vinaigrette and pomegranate buerre rouge neatly divided into three little rows to mix-and-match or taste by themselves. Wine: 2011 Owen Rose Abotts Table Wine, Columbia Valley.
Grilled tea-brined Snake River sturgeon, mushroom dauphine potatoes, wilted spinach-watercress, grapefuit with pomegranate-tea vinaigrette and pomegranate buerre rouge neatly divided into three little rows to mix-and-match or taste by themselves. Wine: 2011 Owen Rose Abotts Table Wine, Columbia Valley.
Pan-roasted venison, cooked medium rare, fanned out atop mixed grain risotto (Carnaroli rice, pearled barlety, steel cut oats and sunflower seeds) with caramelized quince, fennel, toasted oat-juniper brown butter and red wine reduction. I believe that reduction was the only component that appeared in more than one fish. Remarkable. Wine: 2006 Finca Allende, a Temprranillo from Riojo, the restaurant's namesake.
Pan-roasted venison, cooked medium rare, fanned out atop mixed grain risotto that was on the salty side (Carnaroli rice, pearled barley, steel cut oats and sunflower seeds) with caramelized quince, fennel, toasted oat-juniper brown butter and red wine reduction. I believe that reduction was the only component that appeared in more than one fish. Remarkable. Wine: 2006 Finca Allende, a Temprranillo from Rioja, the restaurant’s namesake.
Dessert was a heavenly crispy cashew-pistachio mille-feuille ffilled with rose and strawberry swirled Bavarian cream along with crisp and differenl flavor accents provided by dried straberries, candied pistachios, crystalized rose petals and a drizzle of strawberry-Pernod honey. Wine: 2009 Banfi Rosa Regale from Italy.
Dessert was a heavenly crispy cashew-pistachio mille-feuille filled with rose and strawberry swirled Bavarian cream along with flavor and texture accents provided by dried strawberries, candied pistachios, crystallized rose petals and a drizzle of strawberry-Pernod honey. Wine: 2009 Banfi Rosa Regale from Italy.

Price Check: “Delicious Beginnings,” $7.50-$14.50 (plus $16.50 “picnic”); entrees, $18.50-$29; “Chef Jenn’s Handmade Pastas,” $9.50-$12.50 for appetizer size and $18.50-$24.50 for entree size; desserts, $8 (plus one item for $14.50).

Rioja on Urbanspoon

Testing Zengo’s ‘Test Kitchen’

Latin-Asian fusion restaurant blends two cuisines at a time for special menu

Zengo-logoZengo, which means “give and take” in Japanese takes aspects of Latin culinary traditions and gives them to Asian cuisines and vice versa. This broad cross-fertilization has been further refined by chef/restaurateur Richard Sandoval and chef de cuisine Clint Wangsnes who developed new dishes melding flavors, and preparation techniques to create new combinations — I should write, interesting new combinations. Several of these dishes are featured as Test Kitchen specials, designated as TK on the menu.

The first TK dishes offered from October through early January combined Korean and Mexican. The current menu, which is available for three months, combines Filipino and Argentine elements, and the result were unusual and delicious dishes. The large restaurant is cleverly divided into smaller spaces via different ceiling heights, partial room dividers and great colors.  I didn’t get a chance to sample the first combo, but my husband and I were invited to try the current menu. From our window table, we could have watched the passing foot traffic, but we were more focused on the food set before us.

Cocktails

  • Guava Mate. Broker’s gin, guava, yerba mate and lime. The guava flavor dominated. Yerba mate is a beverage made from a rainforest tree that grows in South America, including Argentina.
  • Calamansi-Papaya Punch. The citrus-forward cocktail is made with Castillo rum, Midori that makes it green, a citrus hybrid called calamansi and papaya.

Ceviche

  • Mahi Mahi Ceviche. Small bites of mahi mahi  and charred pineapple in cured in coconut milk, along with bonito flakes and red onion on top.

Antojitos

  • Filipino Lumpia Spring Rolls. Crisp-fried, open-ended spring rolls filled with minced, cumin-spiked shrimp and chicken, with a pile of julienned carrots and red cabbage and watercress leaves. The dipping sauce is somewhat reminiscent of Chinese duck sauce.
  • Oxtail Humitas. From Argentina, a single tamal — a corn husk overstuffed with masa, topped with boneless chunks of oxtail and served with a peanut sauce that reminded me of the Thai sauce the comes with satay and tamarind cocnut milk.

Main Dishes

  • Bacolod Filipino BBQ Chicken. Moist and tender skin-on chicken breast with a wing section attached. Chicken was marinated in a lemongrass-chile mixture then grilled as served with coconut ride, pickled papaya strips and a wonderful red chimichurri.
  • Tagalog-Style Churrasco Steak. Churrasco isn’t a cut of meat but refers to grilling. Here, thick, boneless steak was steeped in a calamansi citrus-soy marinade, served with sweet potato tostones (dense twice-fried sweet potatoes),  lemongrass mojo and green herb chimichurri.

 Dessert? No thanks, we’re full.

The pictures that follow are the first taken with a new smart phone — and some are too dark to inflict on you. We dined lavishly on items from the Test Kitchen menu, but I’m only including images that are not too painful to look at.

Continue reading Testing Zengo’s ‘Test Kitchen’

A New Restaurant in the New Year

Corner House is pioneering restaurant in Jefferson Park neighborhood

P1010580Until I found my way through the maze of small streets in one of those eclectic west-of-I-25 neighborhoods in search of a soon-to-open restaurant, I’m not sure that I’d ever even heard of Jefferson Park. My four-wheel wandering was the result of my getting off Interstate at 20th Street (Exit 212c) rather than continuing to 20th Avenue/23rd Avenue (Exit 211). Silly me!

I was eager to see what the new Corner House would be like, though in my challenge in finding it, I spaced on the fact that it was the debut of super-chef Matt Selby’s latest — one with a new set of business partners. I had eaten his dishes numerous times at Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben’s Food Service, respectively in LoDo and Uptown, but we had never met. I didn’t recognize him when he came table-hopping among invited media guests and was embarrassed, but he was gracious as he spoke about his excitement at being able to do more cooking and less organizing.

He told me “I was born to cook. I got to a point where I wasn’t cooking anymore.” He isn’t fond of such buzzwords as “seasonal” and “local,” that’s what his tight menu will be — fewer than a dozen dishes winnowed from an initial list of 30 or more. The Corner House’s first choice of sources, both for foods and beverages, is Colorado. The second is other domestic. The third is imported — include prosciutto and Manchego cheese, which are always imports.

Matt Selby.
Matt Selby.

When it opens on Friday, the 11th, The Corner House will be a breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and snacks sort of place that every emergent neighborhood really needs to continue its transition into trendiness and gentrification. The congenial space combines gleaming, stainless kitchen appliances with recycled, repurposed and reused materials for a rustic, green look. We had the opportuity to sample items from the dinner menu, a small list with interesting riffs on familiar dishes — and mostly portioned to be shareable.

Sean Kellly's addictive Roasted Almonds done with olive oil rosemary, chili and garlic are Matt Selby's homage to his role model.
Sean Kellly’s addictive Roasted Almonds done with olive oil rosemary, chili and garlic are Matt Selby’s homage to his role model.
PMP  is an assemblage of prosciutto and manchego atop Justn Vineyards Obtuse Port.. The ham and the cheese are the rare imports on this Colorado-centric menu.
PMP is an assemblage of prosciutto and manchego somehow suspended atop a glass of Justin Vineyards Obtuse Port.. The ham and the cheese are rare imports on this Colorado-centric menu.
Tuna Poke Bowl made with sushi rice, avocado and wakame -- perhaps a tribute to bar manager/
Tuna Poke Bowl made with sushi rice, avocado and wakame — perhaps a tribute to bar manager/”ocktail magician” Gerard Collier who comes from Hawaii.
Yuzu Kampachi Brule, a lovely Hawaiian fish with olives citrus slices, smoked salt and jalapenos.
Yuzu Kampachi Brule, a lovely Hawaiian fish with olives citrus slices, smoked salt and jalapenos.
The rich Chocolate Duck Egg Creme Brulee may not be especially photogenic, but it is silky/crispy and delicious.
The rich Chocolate Duck Egg Creme Brulee may not be especially photogenic, but it is silky/crispy and delicious.

Eater, a national foodie site, included Corner House in its roundup of the the country’s 40 “most anticipated restaurants” opening this year — the only Colorado restaurant the site is anticipating.

Price check: At dinner, plates and bowls, $6-$14; desserts, $6 and $7.

Urbanspoon does not yet list Corner House, but it is at 2240 Clay Street, Denver; 720-1895.