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Posts posted by pepperedpalate

  1. Okay Denver Foodies,

    I know there are restaurants listed on threads but honestly, please tell me your "must" top ten recommendations where you would take out-of-towners to dine or at least tell them to eat there.


    As you probably know, choosing a top 10 "must-eat-here" list isn't an easy task. That said, when I'm pressed to choose, which is often, here's where I send people. These are also the restaurants that I eat at time and time again, not because I must, but because I want to.

    1. Frasca Food & Wine, Boulder

    2. Fruition, Denver

    3. Mizuna, Denver

    4. Deluxe, Denver

    5. Rioja, Denver

    6. Vesta Dipping Grill, Denver

    7. Z Cuisine, Denver

    8. Duo, Denver

    9. Nine 75

    10. Cafe Brazil, Denver

    As an aside, Denver also trumpets a litany of excellent ethnic joints.

  2. We're going to Aspen with 6 or 7 other people in February to stay at a friend's vacation home. My funds are meek right now, and if it weren't for this gracious offer, plus cheap airfare on Southwest, I probably wouldn't have chosen Aspen, which I understand is pretty pricey.

    But surely there must be some great (ethnic or non) places to eat for a reasonable bill. Any suggestions?

    While Aspen restaurants are notorious for their high price tags, most of the upscale dining dens offer exceptional bar rosters -- many of which mirror the dining room menu -- for a fraction of the price. Jimmy's, Mezzaluna, Pinions, Campo di Fiore, and Gusto are just a few terrific spots to eat well at the bar without buring a hole in your wallet, as is the Double Dog Pub, a shrine to all things canine. Even the J-Bar at the Hotel Jerome (you must go) slings a fantastic burger on the cheap -- and the people-watching/celebrity-spotting is worth the price of admission.

    Aspen’s centerpiece is the Popcorn Wagon, a near sacred symbol that lures tipsy late-night revelers with hangover alleviating, inexpensive, hot-off-the-griddle crepes.

    If you want to splurge on one dinner, make it the Pine Creek Cookhouse, which is not in Aspen at all, but in the nearby town of Ashcroft. Hitch a horse drawn sleigh, snowshoe or cross-country ski by miner’s light to a magnificent log cabin shrouded in majestic mountain wilderness. The cookhouse, which burnt to the ground in 2003 and was meticulously restored in 2005, boasts an expansive outdoor deck affording sweeping views of the Elk Mountains and a rustically elegant candlelit dining room helmed by executive chef Kurt Boucher, whose game-centric menu struts grilled quail, wild boar chops, porcini-dusted elk, caribou medallions and fresh fish creations. A winsome wine list adds to the magic. Warm clothes, reservations and a voracious appetite are essential.

  3. I was going to wait until we went back to eat at Frasca again before I posted, because a) that is what the true reviewers, like peppered palate do.

    I normally never visit, much less review a restaurant until it's been open at least a month -- usually longer. Frasca, I have to admit, was an exception, but only because I'm writing a story on them for Sunset, which runs in January and my copy deadline is today because my globetrotting editor is in France the whole month of September. So, I had dinner there last night, and despite tight quarters, those horrific bar stools (which are actually not the bar stools Bobby ordered, and you will see vastly new and improved stools shortly, which is a good thing because my butt was sliding all over them), curved cutlery that won't lie properly on the plates, and inexplicably bright lighting, I will go out on a limb and proffer that this was the single most extraordinary dinner I've eaten all year -- and the service was seamless. We had the salumi plate, which was, as Amy said, certainly ample enough to satiate four, although two of us quite easily devoured every last niblet. The pork pate was exquisite, the lamb, despite its Colorado origin, actually tasted of lamb, which means it was gamey (as I think lamb should be), and the shaved leg of pork literally flew me to the moon. We lingered at the bar after dinner and sipped a lovely camomile-infused grappa. Bryan Moscatello was there with his wife having dinner, as well -- as was half of Boulder.

    There are very few restaurant that I frequent because I want to (and not because I'm obligated by virtue of the written word), and undeniably, Frasca is one of those restaurants. In a word? Brilliant.

  4. I agree -- Proto's Pizzeria rocks -- especially the white clam pie, which Basil Doc's had perfected beyond reproach until the lovely couple who owned it sold to the guys who own Handlebar and Grill. Oblio's Pizzeria in Park Hill is also excellent, as is Vincenza's, especially their vegetarian slices, the width of which is only slighly smaller than the tire on a bulldozer.

  5. Empress! Empress! I vote for Empress!

    By the way, Mongo, The Golden Plate was sensational for dim sum. Before Elliott was born, Stephen and I used to go there every single weekend. Sigh...I miss it. But the Empress is convivial, chaotic, cavernous, and in my opinion, far better than King's Land or Mee Yee Lin, both of which I can take or leave. Then again, King's Land almost got its dumplings kicked right out of the car park for a fucking Walmart -- and that would have utterly and completely sucked.

    Ocean City is the real thing. So is Jay Jay's, also on Federal. I know, I know, it doesn't sound remotely Chinese, but trust me on this one.

  6. ***Side note - Anybody been to Mirepoix or Table 6 yet???***

    Yes to Table 6 -- if you read Colorado AvidGolfer, then you can find my review in the next issue, which comes out in a couple of weeks, but suffice it to say, I was less than enamored. I've also been to Mirepoix and will reserve judgment until they've gotten their sea legs, which, I believe, will take some time. I will say that the wine wall is brilliant.

  7. On my way back from inhaling a million sublime corn cups at Jack-N-Grill, I noticed a bunch of places on Federal that I haven't seen mentioned here in any detail. Anyone have the scoop on El Mercadito, La Nortena Bakery, Las Palmas, or El Padrino?


    El Mercadito is brilliant -- a taqueria/grocer with amazing soft corn tacos and a wide variety of salsas; also an excellent selection of Mexican cheeses, chiles, and really terrific beef fajitas (in the meat department, not as a menu item). Tacos Y Salsas, way the hell down East Colfax is very good, too (an ndisputable dive), as is Tacos Jalisco on 38th and Tennyson and El Azteca on Federal, a few blocks south of Hampden. I like El Tejado as well, on S. Broadway.


  8. Hmmm, their lunch must have been short-lived, because they've pulled it. I suspect they didn't get the foot traffic they needed to sustain it, which is too bad, especially now that it's summer and they have that great patio.

    Speaking of Zengo, they and several other Denver restaurants are joining together on June 19th for Surfonturf

    Sounds like it will be a wild party!

  9. I think Zengo is fantastic -- unequivically one of the best restaurants to open in Denver since January. And I love sitting at the ceviche bar and inhaling all of the scents drifting from the kitchen.

    Cool and tendy, absolutely, but on every occasion I've been, service has been nothing short of impeccable.

    They are open for lunch, by the way.


  10. I nominate Fred to speak with the folks at Dalat once we have a head count to try and negotiate an amicable (and amiable) table configuration and determining if they will accomodate BYOB?

    Actually, they have a liquor license, and Colorado is one of those stupid states where you cannot (legally, anyway) bring your own libations into a restaurant.

  11. Hi, all--

    Had an extraordinarily good lunch with friends this weekend at Dalat -- pho, papaya salad, shrimp noodle bowl, spring rolls, soft shell crab, and frog legs -- all of which impressed. They have several goat and venison dishes as well, but the group I was with had major issues with the whole "Bambi" thing and since we're all moms who take our children to petting zoos where goats are on full display, eating the animal was off limits. Next time?

    However...there's only one round table, and it only seats five, so it looks like we're going to have to do the long, rectangular table setup again (they have several of those) and play musical chairs to get to know everyone.


  12. FYI- at our house it is not used in the kitchen. It sits next to the computer and is used to keep track of children's time on computer games. Set timer at 30 minutes. Timer goes off, so does the computer.

    We use the timer to let Elliott know, in no uncertain terms, when it's time for his nap. It works far better than anything else we've tried.

  13. Sounds good to me, Mongo.

    Caveat, sort of: If we're going to order a la carte, can we all agree to split the food part of the bill down the middle? I don't want to offend anyone who's a calculator cruncher (my father is a CPA, and I love him very much), but it sounds like we're going to end up with a group of 15-20 people, in which case figuring out who ordered what down to the last penny, would be a nightmare. I assume gratuity will be included.

    Dalat does have a liquor license, so I propose that whomover drinks (like me!) pitches in for their share for alcohol, and we split everything else down the middle.

    Is this okay with everyone?

  14. but do I have a volunteer (oh, food nut and Lori) to help with some pre-ordering or do we want to figure it out when we get there this time?

    I think we should order when we get there. Dalat's menu reads like War and Peace, and while I would try to play it safe for those who have never tried vietnamese fare (or have limited exposure to it), I'm likely to order dishes that I like, and what I like most assuredly won't be to everyone's taste. Plus, I think it's far more enlightening to explore the menu as a group and allow the server to make his or her own recommendations. We can definitely order family style once we get there, but I'd also like the option of ordering something for myself that no one else may want. I'm greedy and selfish that way. :biggrin:


  15. Dalat's authentic fare draws loyal following

    By John Lehndorff, Rocky Mountain News

    April 16, 2004

    Dalat is such a captivating restaurant that I need much more space than my weekly allotment to talk about the dishes I love. So I'm going to dispense with the excess verbiage and stick to the fare facts.

    Suffice it to say that Dalat is a small South Federal eatery run by chef Ha Tran who gained fame while heading the kitchen at New Saigon Restaurant for 16 years. She and her family opened Dalat in 2001. The place is comfortable and nicely decorated but not fancy, and the service is fast and extremely helpful.

    Fans - and I count myself as one - flock here from all over for Ha's huge menu of authentic Vietnamese creations. I don't mean the usual noodle bowls, spring rolls and lettuce-wrapped appetizers, although they and every dish are well-prepared. Dalat draws devotees for delectable, un-Americanized regional dishes rarely available elsewhere.

    Consider the grilled clams ($16.95 for 10) heated until bubbly hot in the shell and cranked up with fried onion bits, fresh green onions and a mystery basil-like herb. We dislodged the plump, blissfully sand-free, fresh beauties and sipped the remarkable fresh ginger fish sauce straight from the clamshell.

    Dalat's comfy com tam bi cha ($6.95), or "broken rice with egg and meat paste," is something completely different. The plate is centered by a tall wedge of yummy, onion-flavored meatloaf accompanied by a mound of mini-grained, steamed rice. Chunks of the "paste" are dipped in a clear jalapeno-fired sauce. One creates a pleasant non-fried rice by mixing the rice with finely shredded pork dusted with rice flour.

    Although it sounds like a kitchen sink soup, there are no extraneous ingredients in the special Dalat noodle bowl ($8.95). The foundation is a broth that tastes like beefy French onion soup with a hint of heat. Along with soft rice noodles, a veritable texture fest of sea creatures swims within: thin fried fish slivers, snippets of squid, shrimp, and elusive strips of rubbery jellyfish.

    One adds fresh crunch to the soup from a plate generously laden with shredded green mango, sliced jalapeno, lime, green onion, sprouts, chopped peanut and a pointy-leafed basil relative. The result is the quintessential Vietnamese taste experience in all its spicy, salty, fishy, earthy, crispy, yummy glory.

    In fact, almost every Dalat dish seems to arrive with a bounty of profoundly fresh greens, veggies and bright herbs that seemed to have been picked that morning. They accompany the best softshell crabs ($16.96 for three) I've sampled in ages.

    The crab proved a perfect prelude to Denver's ultimate slaw, Dalat's eye-popping papaya salad ($9.95). The huge crunchy mound of shredded green papaya, carrots and cabbage was garnished with shrimp, roast pork slices, peanuts, herbs and fried onions in a tart, chili-enhanced, earthy dressing.

    The more accessible "regular" entrees are delivered with the same care, skill and generosity. I love the curry chicken ($8.95) with its plentiful slices of chicken breast meat napped in a coconut curry sauce with a bright flavor scheme. The same is true for the peppered chicken ($9.95) prepared in a sauce nuanced by fish stock, butter, garlic, onion and black pepper. I could live on Ha's grilled beef noodle bowl ($6.95) with its symphony of well-cooked beef, sauces, crunchy veggies and sauces, and feel good about it.

    Dalat's lunch ($6.95 for most dishes) is a great deal on lots of food during a lunch hour stretching from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Atkins-friendly grilled combination plate ($7.96) is piled with tasty grilled chicken, pork chop, beef, shrimp and an egg roll. My vegetarian friend, John, swears by "the No. 10," or Bun Tau Hu Xao Se Ot ($6.95). Stir-fried, lemongrass-infused tofu strips join rice noodles in broth to which you add fresh veggies. It's immensely satisfying, whether you tread the meatless path or not.

    Some adventurous menu items meant well, but didn't quite click with us. The huge Vietnamese omelet ($6.95) provided a crispy egg thing with a too-greasy flavor lightly filled with shrimp, pork, onions and bean sprouts. The roast beef salad ($10.96) was nothing like Sunday dinner. Thin slices of very rare beef are tossed in a very tart, very spicy dressing with a heavy dose of fish sauce.

    Finally, there was the dreaded goat. De xao ca ri ($18.95) was tough, boney and fatty goat meat chunks that were truly hard to eat. However, the meat was immersed in an impeccable yellow curry peanut gravy with a memorable depth of flavor. We also loved the wedges of soft, deep-fried taro in the curry.

    We crossed our final gastronomic frontier with a traditional Vietnamese dessert. The che sam bo luong ($3) fills a tall glass with sweet, smoky shreds of seaweed, white lotus seeds, large red berries and longans. After my first taste I let out a muffled yikes! By the time I had my final sip, I was hooked on the smoky sweetness and ready to spring it on friends.

    It's obvious from soup to dessert that the chef's hand, eye and taste buds were constantly involved in every Dalat dish. It's evident in the wide-eyed wonder and truly happy mouths you see around the table.

    Like I said, there's not enough room to tell you about everything I've enjoyed at Dalat, but there's so much more I want to encounter, including garlic and black pepper head-on shrimp ($9.95), grilled venison lettuce wraps ($18.95); and shrimp paste wrapped around sugar cane ($15.95).

    Wandering off the eaten track can provide unexpected and unimagined rewards for open mind and palate. Take the less-traveled road to Dalat and be delighted.

    John Lehndorff is the dining critic; lehndorffj@Rocky MountainNews.com or 303-892-5103.

  16. Amy--

    Glad you enjoyed Cafe Jordano! In Niwot, the only restaurant I've been to is Le Chantecler (Radek Cerny, who is chef/owner at L'Atelier, runs it), but it's been a while since I've been there. There is also a terrific market and deli in Niwot called Treppeda's, but I'm not sure what their hours are. Their website is Treppedas.

    As for Dalat on July 10th, that works for me.

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