Monday, February 23, 2015


Winers Welcome 

Wouldn't you know the start of Denver Restaurant Week was welcomed by the largest snow storm so far this winter.  After a foot of snow was deposited on the Front Range, we ventured out to our first restaurant week dinner when most folks where sitting cozy in their homes.

Why Denver Restaurant Week?  Because it is an excellent opportunity to try higher end, local restaurants, not to mention several chain restaurants, at a reasonable price.  However, The Meritage is not as pricey as some other restaurants and is well worth the trip even when restaurant week is over.

Getting There

The Meritage is located at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield.  It can be a little confusing to find for those who do not know the way around the Flatiron Crossing area so be sure to use your GPS.  Since the restaurant is located in the hotel, the parking is ample and free. 

The Atmosphere

The Meritage has a warm, contemporary atmosphere with earthy, natural colors and welcoming touches such as a beautiful fireplace and large, open windows that on a much less snowy day would offer a wonderful view of the front range.

The Eats

We started our meal with a warm slice of sourdough bread accompanied by fresh butter with a hint of salt and herbs.  We appreciated the fact that they served the bread by the slice and not by the whole loaf.  This was an excellent way to keep us from filling up before we even got started.

The wonderful sous chef, Steven, brought us an amuse bousche which translates to "amuse the mouth".   Traditionally, this is never something that is offered on the menu.  It is something that the chef prepares and serves to the patrons before the appetizer arrives.  It's meant to give an idea of what's to come during the meal.  Steven told us he created this dish based on a family recipe from Italy.  It was made with , pepperoni, salami, prosciutto and three types of cheese layered between bread and was served with fresh tarragon, pickled apples, pickled celery, and pickled Dijon.  This was an amazing start to an equally amazing meal. We're hoping this lovely morsel will find its way onto their menu in the near future.

We also ordered the Dungeness Crab Cakes.  This was not,an item featured on the restaurant week menu, but was too tempting to pass up.  The crab cakes were served with charred green tomato relish, lemon basil aioli and a sweet yet spicy and tangy red sauce.  The sweetness of the aioli paired perfectly with the spicy sauce and the tomato relish only added an extra zing of flavor.  The crab cake itself was fabulous.  It was almost all crab with very little filler.  Cooked perfectly and served at the perfect temperature.  Absolutely amazing!

We also tried the Garlic Potato Bisque.  A bowl of crispy potato skins, bacon, and blue cheese were placed in front of us and then the creamy soup was poured over the bowl's contents.  This was a hearty, flavorful soup but was not overly garlicky.  We always enjoy recipes that are made tableside.  Aside from adding an element of fun, it also ensures the dish to be fresh and flavorful.

For dinner we chose the 1/2 chicken and Bison tenderloin.

The chicken was served sous-vide style (the chicken is placed in a plastic bag, vacuum sealed, and then submerged in temperature controlled water that is circulated over a 36 hour period).  The meat fell off the bone and was juicy and flavorful.  This dish had no special sauce and just a small amount of seasoning but it was incredible.  It was served with heirloom carrots that had a subtle, sweet glaze and pristinely prepared mashed potatoes.

Bison tenderloin was our second choice.  This is Colorado bison served with a slightly spicy glaze, brussel sprouts and chiorizo salad, and grits served in a banana pepper.  For those who haven't tried bison before, we suggest you follow the restaurant's recommendation and order the bision medium rare.  The cut and preparation resulted in a juicy, tender meat that was similar to a Fillet Mignon.  The grits that accompanied the bison were creamy, cheesey, and spicy.  If you try this dish, be sure to try the grits with a bite of the bison.  This combination makes for the perfect bite..  The Brussel sprout salad  had a crunchy, nutty flavor.  It was shredded and was almost the texture of a slaw.

Dessert included two selections from the menu.  The Warm Chocolate cake and Panna Cotta.

The Warm Chocolate cake was a perfectly proportioned and a perfect end to our meal.  It was simply adorned with fresh berries and whipped cream.  The cake itself had a well balanced flavor, not too sweet and not too bitter and had a light, cupcake-like texture.  It wasn't a molten cake so there was no gooey chocolate center.  Also, there were no mounds of ganache or frosting.  Just a lovely, warm, and perfect cake.

The Panna Cotta was served with fresh mint, candied grapes, crisp brittle-like almond cookies, and wafer thin crunchy orange slices.  Panna Cotta is a creamy, gelatin dessert.  It had a delicate orange taste and when tried by itself tasted exactly like a creamsicle.  The fresh mint mixed with the grapes was an interesting and flavorful mixture.

The People 

Everybody at The Meritage was incredible.  Our server, Jennifer, had the good luck to have us come in on her first day out of training!  She was excellent and answered all our questions with good humor and a lot of knowledge.  Francis was her trainer and introduced Jennifer to us right off the bat.  Steven, the sous chef came out to talk to us and introduce himself.  We have blogged about a lot of restaurants, but no other chef has come out to greet us voluntarily.  He was our first chef.  That was an amazing and unexpected treat.  We also spoke to the manager, Anita, who was just delightful.  We were very impressed by how fun and pleasant everybody was.  Thank you to everybody at The Meritage for making our first trip a memorable one!

Summing Up

There is something special about The Meritage. The decor, the food, the wonderful staff, and the graciousness of Chef Steven were just a few of the reasons why we presented the golden spoon to manager Anita with pride.  Denver Restaurant Week is a great way to dicover places like The Meritage.  We look forward to visiting again in the near future.

Fun Facts

"Meritage" is a wine term that refers to Bordeaux-style red and white wines made in the United States.  Wine is a important element of The Meritage.  In fact, they have over 400 bottles of wine on hand at a time.  They offer a Wine and Cheese Happy Hour every day from 5pm to 6pm.  This includes a wine flight with chef selected cheeses. 

A wine pairing was offered as an extra option to the Denver Restaurant Week menu and was a great way to sample their vast selection of wines.

They offer an "Art of Breakfast" buffet every morning.  Fresh fruit and an omelet bar are only a few of the highlights of their breakfasts.

Another cute and quirky thing we loved were their "ergonomic" salt and pepper shakers  It's always fun to find unusual things on a table.

March's 2nd Pick - Hideaway Steakhouse

Meritage on Urbanspoon
The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was okay. Not our favorite, but we’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Giggling Grizzly

BEARy Nice

Getting There

The Giggling Grizzly is located close to Coor's Field on 20th between Larimer and Market.  There are three pay lots close to the bar and street or metered parking is available if you can find it.  We visited the Grizzly when it opened around 5pm so there was no crowd for us to contend with; however, during and after a Rockies game we're betting it can be a pretty packed place.

The Atmosphere

The Giggling Grizzly has a rustic, cabin feel with a few booths, several tables, and stools.  A small game room is in the back containing a pool table and some video games.  All the gang is there - Jose, Jim, and Jack - they have a few beers on tap, and good whiskey and tequila selections.  Rustic it may be but lacking in technology they are not.  Multiple televisions are located throughout the bar to watch the Nuggets, the Broncos, the Avalanche, or the Rockies.  Music plays in the background at a good level (not overly loud so you can still have a conversation) and you can always select your own by utilizing the jukebox.  The wagon wheel chandelier and large stuffed bear are quirky touches that made us literally giggle at the Giggling Grizzly.

The Eats

People were actually confused as to why we would be blogging about this place at all since The Giggling Grizzly is known as a bar and not a restaurant.  When we started this endeavor, it was to try all "food type places" in the glorious state of Colorado.  We draw a place from our bucket and go with no expectations and with an open mind.  With that being said, The Giggling Grizzly really surprised us.

We chose two appetizers to start our meal.

First we tried the Pouline.  This was a basket of french fries smothered in brown gravy with fresh cheese curds.  This was a straight forward dish with crispy, tasty fries and a simple brown gravy.  It was not overly salty and had a really good flavor.  The cheese curds were not fried but were fresh pieces of cheese that were slightly melted from the gravy.  The fries stayed crispy even though they were smothered.  That's a rarity with this type of dish.

We also tried the Famous Grizzly Wings with the original sauce.  There were several sauces available including a Ghost Chili sauce that, according to our server, would allow a woman to see her man's feminine side.  Hot enough to make a man cry?  For those of you that enjoy spice, the gauntlet is thrown.  If you try it, please let us know how it goes.  We'll even supply the Kleenex.  As far as the wings themselves, they were not over cooked so they were not dried out.  They were juicy and had excellent flavor.  Both blue cheese and ranch dressing were offered as dips.  We chose the blue cheese and as always, it was an excellent match to the classic buffalo sauce.

The Grizzly does not have a large menu because it is first and foremost a bar, but they have a decent selection.  We chose three entrees to get a good understanding of what they had to offer.

They were running a $2 taco special so we tried the Beef Barbacoa 20th Street Tacos.  The tacos had good seasoning, good portion size, and excellent flavor.  Tacos are served with a side of salsa and fresh lettuce and tomatoes.

We also chose a grilled cheese with freshly made onion rings.  Grilled cheese seems like a simple choice; however, you would be surprised how many places mess up this sandwich.  The Giggling Grizzly did an excellent job.  The bread was crispy without being oily or burnt and the cheese was perfectly melted and creamy without being clumpy and stringy.  The onion rings were breaded and seasoned perfectly.  The issue we typically have with onion rings is that when you bite into them, nine times out of ten the whole onion is pulled out in one piece leaving only the breading behind.  That was not the case with these rings.  With each bite, we had a flavorful breading and piece of tender onion.  That was a good find.

The final choice was a Bacon Cheesburger with Sweet Tots.  It was obvious that this was a hand made patty and not frozen.  It wasn't the largest patty but it was very thick and well cooked.  We chose American cheese although they have other choices such as pepper jack and cheddar.  The bacon was not burnt to a crisp and the lettuce, tomato, and onion were fresh and not wilted.  The bun was also grilled making it buttery, crispy, and a little chewy.  Perfection.  The sign of a good burger is a grilled bun.  Excellent choice!

There is no dessert menu at The Grizzly; however, if you are wanting something a little sweet, we suggest the Sweet Tots.  These are tater tots made from sweet potato and had the slight hint of brown sugar.  This was the first time we have come across sweet potato tots and we were impressed.  They were very tasty.

The People 

There are no servers at The Giggling Grizzly, only bar tenders.  In fact, there was a very small crew on staff while we were there, only the bar tender and the cooks.  We imagine the busier it gets and the later it gets, there would be more staff but the skeleton crew did an excellent job of helping us out and answering questions.  Erik was amazing.  He knew everything about the bar and answered all our questions without hesitation.  Thanks for a great time, Erik.

Summing Up

The Giggling Grizzly is well known throughout the city.  It is a great place to have fun with a group of friends.  The large, table top Jenga game is very popular with patrons and it is an excellent place for friends to come together to cheer for their favorite sports teams.  According to Erik, the bar is a sponsor of the Nebraska alumni organization.  One of the coolest things we discovered about The Grizzly is that they are moving towards using local spirits such as Elevate Vodka which is distilled by Mile High Spirits here in Denver.  We love it when local establishments use local Colorado companies.  Their food is excellent and they offer good service, good prices, and drinks that are a good size and not watered down.  We give The Giggling Grizzly a fork.  We had so much fun and look forward to returning with our friends to try out that Jenga game.

March Lunch Pick - JaJa Bistro

Giggling Grizzly on Urbanspoon
The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was okay. Not our favorite, but we’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


From Farm To Table

Fruition is one of the premiere restaurants in the Denver metro area with good reason.  Their passion for fresh ingredients and precision in execution is evident from the first bite to the last delicious morsel.  One of our dearest friends celebrated his birthday on our blog weekend so he selected the restaurant.  We were thankful for his selection because Fruition is always found on several of the "Top Restaurant" lists in the city.

Getting There

Finding Fruition is not difficult.  The sign was easily spotted outside; however, parking was a slightly different matter.  It is limited to street parking and a few pay meters a block or so down so when you make your reservations, pick a nice night and enjoy a short stroll to one of our favorite restaurants thus far.

The Atmosphere

Large windows allow a full view of the restaurant from the street which is a wonderful way to showcase the beautiful post colonial, earthy accents that adorn the walls of the restaurant.  It is a place for everybody - families, couples on date night, and groups celebrating special occasions.  Once again, as with many of the restaurants in the area, it is not a large space but beautifully appointed.

The Eats

Our meal began with a slice of  fresh, rustic, country bread baked locally at Grateful Bread in Golden, Colorado.  It was accompanied by farm made butter finished with sea salt and thyme.  The addition of the salt and herbs gave the butter a burst of flavor that had us fighting over the butter dish.

After much discussion and debate of the items on the menu, we settled on a group of appetizers.

Our first selection was the Split Pea and Ham soup.  When we think of split pea soup, visions of thick, gelatinous, green goo with slivers of ham floating around enters our mind.  This is not that type of soup.  Instead, it was light and flavorful.  The ingredients of smashed garden peas and ham hock are placed in the bowl and then a delicate broth is poured over them tableside.  The broth could have been served alone and would have been perfectly lovely.  Truly a tasty and satisfying starter.

We tackled the Root Vegetable Salad next. Whole beets, turnips, and carrots sat atop a smooth, velvety, slightly peppery cauliflower pudding with crunchy red sprouted quinoa.  If you've never tried turnips or beets in the raw before, this is the way to eat it!  The quinoa adds sweetness to each bite and brings out the natural sweetness of the carrots and beets.  This was definitely the surprise dish of the evening.

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts was the next choice.  As a group, we had mixed feelings about this one.  Some of us were looking forward to trying this dish and some of us were scarred from years of mushy, boiled, tasteless sprouts.  We were delighted to see the beautifully assembled presentation.  Perfectly roasted sprouts were served warm with a butternut squash puree, crisp water chestnuts, and pickled squash.  A poached pear vinaigrette added brightness and sweetness to an already well assembled dish.

Our final appetizer was a suggestion from our server, Eric.  He suggested the Pasta Carbonara and we're so glad we listened to him.  Hand made pasta and pork are the center pieces of this dish. Flavorful and luxuriant, this bowl of deliciousness would be a great start to any meal.

We selected three entrees from their ever changing dinner menu.

The Grilled Bavette Steak is an exquisitely prepared braised short rib dressed with a light and creamy stroganoff.  It is served with crisp onions and delectable mushroom filled pillows called agnolotti.  Incredibly tender and juicy with a multitude of flavors and textures, this was our favorite dish of the evening.

We took our servers advice again and ordered the Maple Leaf Farms Duck. If you're not a duck fan, this dish can change your thinking.  It was just incredible.  The entree offered two preparations, crispy skinned, medium rare roasted duck and duck confit served with brown butter gnocchi.  We found it was satisfying and sophisticated.

To round out our entree choices, we opted for the Grilled Tender Belly Farms Pork Chop.  Exquisitely prepared and served with a fresh, light, and creamy waldorf salad.  There was an amazing port pear butter that we considered to be more of a sauce to go with the pork.  It added a mildly sweet and intense wine flavor to the dish and complemented the pork very well.

Last but not least, we were given the near impossible task of choosing desserts from their impressive menu.

The first choice was, of course, the Flourless Chocolate Cake.  This consisted of spiced chocolate, orange mousse, slices of blood oranges, and marcona almond brittle.  Once again, the final touch was added tableside via a thick, rich chocolate sauce poured over the cake.  We were glad we had people to split this one because of the incredible richness of the dessert.  Fantastic.  A chocaholic's dream.

We also tried the banana walnut bread.  A dense but very moist slice of bread with dark rum caramel, banana pudding, and vanilla wafer ice cream.  We were a little hesitant to order this dessert because in the past, we have found banana bread to be a big chunk of bread with no personality.  This was far from that.  This was a wonderful, flavorful dessert.  We loved it!

The Lemon Meringue Pie was light, fluffy, tart, and sweet all at the same time.  The graham cracker crust maintained it's texture without becoming soggy and the fresh blueberry compote was a wonderful choice and matched perfectly with the lemon.

The People 

We would like to thank our server, Eric for a wonderful evening.  Besides being an expert in all things related to wine, he was simply phenomenal in regards to helping us navigate the menu.  Eric knew the menu inside and out and answered all of our questions without blinking an eye.  He was attentive and engaging and knew exactly what the ingredients were in each dish and exactly where they came from.   The staff at Fruition is a well oiled machine with great synergy.

Summing Up

Fruition utilizes it's own farm for a multitude of fresh ingredients that they incorporate into their seasonal menu.  The menu is changed approximately 2 to 3 times a year.

They support local businesses by providing body sprays, lotions, and soaps in the restrooms from a local apothecary named Moondance Botanicals

The owner, Alex, was selected as one of Food and Wine Magazine's top ten new chefs of 2008.

During our visit, we noticed they were playing nothing but Frank Sinatra which was a little unusual.  Eric explained that a most adorable older couple who was seated by the front window eats at Fruition every Saturday after Mass and explained that they love Frank Sinatra.  The restaurant accommodates the couple by playing Sinatra at each of their visits.  By the way, the week after we visited Fruition, this cute little couple celebrated their 200th visit to the restaurant.  This is proof that both the restaurant and the couple are doing something right!

Without hesitation and without a second thought, we awarded Eric, Alex, and the entire staff of Fruition the coveted Golden Spoon. 

This is an amazing restaurant.  Beautiful and welcoming without being stuffy or pretentious.  We will definitely be back...probably multiple times.

February Dinner Pick - Meritage at the Omni Interlocken Resort

Fruition on Urbanspoon
The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was okay. Not our favorite, but we’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Le Central

Oui Love This Place!

Getting There

As with any destination in downtown Denver, it is always best to bring some change and some good walking shoes.  Le Central is located at the busy downtown intersection of Lincoln and 8th Avenue.  We circled a couple times before noticing the parking lot behind the building, and there is metered parking on the street.  However, Le Central's popularity keeps those spots occupied most of the time.

The Atmosphere

When people hear the term, "French Restaurant", they often think of pretentious people, high prices, and high end décor.  Le Central has all the elements of these types of places; however, they are reasonable, friendly, and they have a country type décor that is both welcoming and homey.  Cute framed pictures and mismatched furniture add to it's quaintness. 

The Eats

Once again, we had a third person join us to help expand our menu choices. We chose to visit Le Central on a weekend afternoon to check out their Brunch menu; however, the restaurant does serve lunch and dinner as well.

In place of the traditional bread basket, we were each given our own individual french baguettes with butter.

It was a chilly and snowy morning so we also sampled the hot chocolate.  This was a beautiful presentation and very rich. It was made with pure melted chocolate and milk and as we have said in the past, chocolate can save the world.

We felt it was fitting to begin our experience with cheese.  Selecting the Assiette de Fromage (aka. cheese plate) we were presented with an array of cheese, walnuts, cranberries, and melon. The cheese (Camembert, Montrachet Chevre, Port Salut, and Bleu Cheese) was served at room temperature which allowed us to taste the subtle nuances of each type offered.  The Camembert and Blue Cheese seemed to be the table favorites and all blended nicely with one or all of the accompaniments.

The brunch menu had options that where clearly labeled as breakfast and clearly labeled as lunch so we picked a few from each area to get a good sampling of the menu.

Our first choice was the Pain Perdu Farci.  For those of you unfamiliar with Pain Perdu, it is basically french toast.  Le Central's version was definitely a step up from your typical Saturday morning, egg soaked bread.  Their version is a cinnamon brioche stuffed with chocolate chips, pecans and cream cheese.  It is topped with Chantilly cream and served with pure maple syrup.  Talk about a sweet and rich treat!  The cinnamon and the chocolate chips created an amazing flavor combination.  The addition of the Chantilly only created a trifecta of deliciousness.

The Monte Cristo was our "lunch" pick for the day.  It consisted of brioche layered with ham and Swiss cheese.  Le Central takes the lighter road on Monte Cristo preparation by grilling their sandwich rather than deep frying as we've seen in other preparations.  The grilling brings out the flavors in the sandwich without the thick, greasy breading that a Monte Cristo typically has.  The sandwich is then dressed with a dusting of powdered sugar and served with a very smooth raspberry coulis, and pommes frites (yep, you guessed it... french fries).

We were at a French restaurant so we just HAD to order some kind of crepe.  We took a leap and chose the Crepe aux Lardons.  That's a pancake with bacon, people!  How could we go wrong.  I mean, come on!  The Crepe aux Lardons is made with grilled marinated steak, mushrooms, and smoked bacon with a fire roasted chipotle mustard cream sauce.  It is then gratineed with Swiss cheese.  This dish was the complete opposite of the Pain Perdu and the Monte Cristo.  It was savory, smoky and just a tiny bit spicy.  The crepe was perfectly cooked - soft with a slight crispy edge.  The fire roasted chipotle and mustard cream sauce paired wonderfully and gave the dish a good, spicy kick.

Our final pick was the Omelette de Denver Le Central Style.  This was a unique presentation for a typical three egg omelette.  It still contained bacon, ham, cheddar cheese, and herb spiked roasted peppers and onions, but instead of mixing the eggs with the rest of the ingredients, Le Central "pocketed" the ingredients in the middle of the omelette.  They cooked the eggs, placed the remaining ingredients in the middle and simply folded the egg around them.  It was an interesting and creative take on another typical breakfast dish.

As a side note, the potatoes (both fries and breakfast potatoes) were AMAZING!  We found them to be perfectly cooked - tender, and well seasoned. Be sure to try these tasty spuds.

If you have read our previous posts, you know that no meal is complete without dessert.  We ordered three:  Îles Flottantes, Crème Brûlée, and Le Central (their signature dessert).

The Îles Flottantes (floating islands) is an homage to the egg foam desserts of the 1890's, but updated for the 21st Century.  Delicate, airy meringue floats atop a pool of crème anglaise and is drizzled with caramel sauce and sprinkled with almonds. Excellent dessert!

Crème Brûlée.  We have had this dessert served a million times in a million different ways.  That being said, Le Central's version will not disappoint you.  A Crème Brûlée doesn't have to be fancy or dressed up in any way.  Just crack, scoop... devour.  Boom.  Perfection.

Our final dessert was the Le Central - the restaurant's signature dessert.  Julia Child is famous for coining the phrase, "Is there anything better than butter?"  Our response is, "Yes.  Yes, there is.  And that thing would in fact, be chocolate!"  Deal with it J. Child.

The Le Central is a soft almond and pistachio biscuit, although it is more like a cake than a cookie or biscuit.  It is topped with two kinds of mousse, dark chocolate ganache, and served with caramel sauce.  This is a very sweet, very rich dessert and is absolutely divine.

The People 

Our waitress, Lydia was friendly and not snooty like some servers at other French restaurants (they shall remain nameless, of course).  She didn't laugh at us or seem upset that we didn't know how to pronounce some of the words on the menu.  According to Lydia, the fact that Le Central is easy going and non pretentious is one of her favorite things about working there.  She even asked if we wanted to speak to the manager.  We love when restaurants do that.  Billy, the manager came over to speak to us, answer questions, and give us information about events and classes taught at the restaurant.  By the way, there are cooking classes at Le Central each month so be sure to check their web site for details.

Summing Up

Le Central is a great place for families, birthdays, and reunions.  They have been open for 34 years, and their prices are incredibly reasonable.  We ordered a lot of food for under $100.  That is an amazing deal!  Friday through Sunday they offer a happy hour from 2:30pm to 5:30pm, they offer a new daily menu, and every Thursday is Souffle night.

Because of their wonderful food and excellent atmosphere, we give Le Central a Fork.

We would like to thank Lydia, Billy, and the staff of Le Central for a wonderful Brunch!  We will definitely be back.

February's Lunch Pick:  The Giggling Grizzly

Le Central on Urbanspoon
The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was okay. Not our favorite, but we’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.