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My Fellow Farmers...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I eat Denver

I apologize profusely to my very few dedicated readers, to myself and to the world that has been without my written voice for some time now. My life has been a busy one as of late: buying a house, looking for employment and lots of little ventures into the mountains in a fleeting search for snow. I have also been dedicating myself, full-time, to buying and eating as much of Denver as is humanly possible. I have spent the last ten years of my life in small towns, and while I love certain things about each one, none of them had the stuff that a city does: I have seen about twelve shows since touching down here, (some great: The Wheel, Tune-Yards, Stella Star...Some lackluster: Brett Dennen, Mason Jennings) I have officially become a member of most every museum and/or group that I have come across and I am attempting to eat the entirety of Denver. The restaurants that I have come across have run the gamut from sexy and delicious to simply a good attempt, but none have been terrible. All the chefs are trying their damnedest to carve out a little personality niche in the local food scene. There is a heaping amount of young energy in the food, decor and general mood of the restaurants, and I think it is a great lens with which to view Denver. In no particular order, I will reminisce about my chompings....

I must jump on the bandwagon a bit, and give some props to my neighborhood, the Highlands, for dropping some serious food knowledge on the 303. Sushi Hai, Vita, Venue Bistro, Duo, Felix's are doing a sincere job of pushing out great food and my two ultimate favorites are absolutely killing it: Root Down and Masterpiece Delicatessen. Root Down is arguably the hottest spot in Denver, and definitely the most talked about. I casually attempted a Tuesday reservation for two last week, not a chance. Root Down takes place in a renovated auto mechanics shop, with the backwaiters and bussers rocking the short-sleeved, polyester, rectangular name-tagged shirts. The atmosphere is mod, and nearly a bit too hip, but pulls it off, with large format paintings and colorful found art (30 or so old phones on one wall and paint/oil can lids mosaic-ing a wall in the private dining room). The food is fun, playing the neo-American, local, organic, sexied up comfort food angle quite well. I'm a sucker for the Beet 3-ways salad (pickled, fried, roasted with Etorki cheese, sheeps deliciousness) and then the small plates: the Smoked Organic Portobello Gyoza with the Soy Milk Dunk rock my world everytime without fail. Simple as can be, but ridiculous...get it. The Seared Gnocchi Cakes are crunchy and spiced just right and the Lamb Meatballs with the Herbed Chickpea Broth can be amazing as well as a bit overdone, I guess it depends on the night. Entrees have some interesting options, but I say stick with the small plates, lots of em. Croissant Bread Pudding with Sour Cream Ice Cream owns the dessert realm, believe that.

Masterpiece Deli has been my jam for around two years. A friend of mine worked there, and would bring me butcher paper wrapped sandwiches whenever he would come to Steamboat. The Deli is all business when youre there, some cute paintings but pretty utilitarian. A rockin fleet of tattooed employees keep the food moving, and the food is super gangster. Everything is around $9, and everything is worth it. I usually stick with the (12 hour) Braised Beef Brisket sandwich, dripping with meaty jus on a fresh baguette, or the Seared Ahi Tuna, with Asian slaw on an English Muffin - Morimoto meets Mary Poppins, how could it go wrong?! But, I must admit, if I'm up, (and perhaps a touch hungover) breakfast is where simplicity shines at Masterpiece. The sandwiches come on a bagel or english muffin, with an heirloom egg, cheese and killer meat/umami options: sauteed wild mushrooms (that's me baby), applewood smoked bacon, Taylor pork roll, pastrami...its all good. The heirloom egg bleeds deliciously all over the plate after the first bite, life is dandy! I suggest stopping by Living the Sweet Life bakery next door for a cupcake, the girls are cute and the chocolate is beautiful.

To venture out of my neighborhood, which Highlanders are known to do on very rare and momentous occasions, the grazing to be had is colorful and vast. Stuebens, Snooze, Fruition, Organixx, Potager (bringing that true, local flavor), Cucina Colore, Sputniks (late night sweet potato fries, SICK!), Bistro One, Marczyks (Local food, wine galore, nice fonts...) - Point is, theres lots. I have probably eaten at a bunch that aren't coming to me, or I had too much wine, lo siento amigos. For the time being, I'll talk about a place that I dug hard recently. Beatrice and Woodsleys. No sign in front. It looks kind of like an art gallery on acid from outside. There are old chainsaws murdering the liquor shelves. I love it. We bellied up to the bar, and ordered a half bottle of pinot noir from my old Cali stomping grounds. The bartender put a little "toe" tag on the neck of the bottle, ID'ing its origins, for you to pocket on departure. All small plates, we chose about five or six, the menu reading through like a kooky Grimms fairy tale. The Sheepish Beignets (truffle ricotta batter, fried, topped with a sugary/salty gremolata), the Cheeky Bastard (Braised Veal Cheek Rillette, encased in a buttery, crunchy polenta, smokey tomato/parm jam on top) and the Stewed Garbanzo Beans (w/grilled eggplant, harissa paste and a garlicky yogurt) were inventive and inspired. The food, the atmosphere, the company and probably the wine...I felt transported and as tranquil as warm jello. As I slid out of my seat to head to the bathroom, I unwittingly entered a sort of Alice and Wonderland room of installation artwork. The bathroom doors are one with the wall, you enter by pushing a round ball and the wall becomes an entryway. The sinks have medieval chains and wood handles that you pull in one direction or another (I don't think I figured it out fully) and the water comes cascading 15 feet from the ceiling, cloying to a cluster of ball-bearing strands until it hits your hands in the basin. Where the F__K am I? I DIG it...It's hard for me not to act like a kid anyways, but this just pushed me over the edge. We left with lots of giggles and perhaps a touch of skipping on the way home.

In closing...Go/Come Eat Denver with me. I'll be doing it with or without you, so giddy up kid.