Tag Archives: Jennifer Jasinski

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).

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Chef/Author Prepares Rioja Cookbook Dinner

For a pre-Valentine splurge, visit Rioja for a dinner based on Jennifer Jasinski’s new cookbook

Jennifer Jasinski receiving Denver magazine's 2010 Chef of the Year Award from food editor Stacy Brugeman.

Jennifer Jasinski is a multi-talent. She is not only an award-winning chef and partner in three popular Larimer Square restaurants (Rioja, Bistro Vendome and Euclid Hall), but she is also a cookbook author. She wrote The Perfect Bite, which came out just a couple of months ago and is 184 beautiful pages of great food photos, recipes, inside secrets and her own tips. She’s preparing a dinner from it on Wednesday, February 2, beginning at 6:00 p.m., at Rioja, the first of the restaurants that she now partners in.

This multi-course feast is pricey ($150 per person), but that does include the gratuity, tax and a copy of The Perfect Bite. Maybe she’ll even find time to autograph it for you. Jasinki’s partner Beth Gruitch is also a wine expert, and she’s picking some of her favorites to pair with each course. I think of this not as just another “dinner” but as a special occasion. How about doing it as a pre-Valentine feast with your honey?

February 2 Cookbook Dinner

• Libation – Pomeginger cocktail (pomegranate purée, house made ginger syrup, vodka, sweet and sour, splash of soda)
Amuse  –  Vodka orange salmon tartare, crispy fennel-cream cheese pillows, orange gastrique
• Soup • Cauliflower-Fuji apple soup, almond-herb salad

Salad  – Roasted beet salad, cucumber-mint vinaigrette, pickled red onion, Haystack Farms Snowdrop cheese
Risotto – Fennel and Mascarpone lobster risotto
• Fish – Seared tuna, tomato broth, house-made sausage- stuffed calamari and arugula
Entrée – Braised short ribs, parsnip purée, bacon Brussels sprout “hash”
Dessert  – Duet of Meyer lemon cheesecake and fig beignets with fig port syrup

For reservations, call Rioja at 303-820-2282. The restaurant is at 1431 Larimer Square, Denver.