Monday, February 8, 2016


From Farm To Table...Act II

We love it when friends have birthdays.  Not only do we get to celebrate a special occasion and spend valuable time with them, but we also get an opportunity to try the higher end restaurants that we have been drooling over for the past year or so. 

Last year, we took our friend to Fruition and it was an excellent experience. This year, we took the same friend to Fruition's sister location, Mercantile Dining & Provision.  Alex Seidel is the executive chef and proprietor of both locations so we knew our group would love the Mercantile.

The Mercantile is located inside the Union Station building in downtown Denver at 1701 Wynkoop Street.  First of all, it is a beautiful setting.  Especially right in the middle of a successful Denver Broncos run.  Union Station was lit up with orange and blue lights and were highlighted with white motion lights.  The Mercantile has a subtle sign outside and it does have a large sized patio space that would be wonderful in warmer months.

Inside you will find tall ceilings with grand chandeliers and the low lighting adds to the ambiance.  They have an open kitchen and a marketplace where you can purchase most of the ingredients found in the dishes they serve.  In fact, our server Jim explained to us that if you absolutely love a certain entrée, you can get a list of ingredients and the recipe so you can recreate the meal yourself at home.

You can request to be seated at the bar in front of the chef's line.  That way you can ask questions, watch the preparation, and enjoy a more interactive dining experience.

We began our meal with starters suggested by our server.  First, we tried the Market Provisions which showcased cured meats and cheeses from the Fruition farms and local artisans.  This also included wonderful pickles, rillette, jardinière, homemade mustard, and two wonderful preserves - a berry kumquat jam as well as a blood orange jelly that was absolutely delicious.  We also tried the Canadian Mussels with toasted fregola, garlic, fennel sausage, and tomato butter.  These were tasty; however, the tomato butter sauce was the best part of the whole dish.
It was garlicky, slightly spicy, and very tasty.  The Hamachi Crudo was their newest starter on the menu so we decided to give it a try.  It consisted of Hamachi fish sliced very thin and served over a black olive sherry emulsion, pickled turnips, sheepskyr, pistachio vinaigrette, and brown butter.  Honestly, we aren't really fish people so the texture of the fish (Hamachi is served in certain Japanese sushi) was a textural challenge for a few of us; however the rest of the dish was delicious.

Mercantile has their menu  broken up into four areas:  pastas, vegetables, seafood, and meat/poultry.  They change their menu often based on what items are ready from the Fruition farm so you could possibly have a different meal each time you go which makes it exciting and interesting.
Adel, the service director, came by the table to chat with us about our experience and suggested a few dishes for the main course.  We went with the Acquerello Mushroom Risotto served with a truffle brined egg yolk and parmesan truffle sabayon.  This was very rich and creamy and the truffle sauce added a great flavor boost.
We also opted for the Creamed Kale Agnolotti with white beans, roasted pepper, and preserved tomato.  This was a type of kale stuffed ravioli with a really delicate, slightly spicy red sauce.  We were surprised how much we liked this meal.  Kale is an acquired taste, but all the flavors meshed so wonderfully in this dish that we actually didn't notice the tough, bitter taste of the Kale.  Good job, Mercantile!   You surprised us. 
The Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast was a pan seared breast served with confit root vegetable cassoulet, duck leg sausage, crispy lentil vinaigrette, and cracklin' bread crumbs.  Simple and straightforward, although a little rarer than we had ordered.  It was a good presentation and had a great flavor.  Probably the most underwhelming dish of the evening, but it wasn't bad at all.  The best and most unique dinner option was the Boulder Natural Crispy Half Chicken.  Adel basically told us to order this or nothing.  The lady knows her stuff.  A crispy half chicken served over heirloom grain porridge, foraged mushrooms,
parsnip emulsion, and a chestnut vinaigrette.  This is a roulade style chicken wrapped in the crispy skin.  Served in three parts or "rolls", it contained both white breast meat and dark thigh meat.  The porridge was amazing and the emulsion and vinaigrette were savory with just a hint of sweetness.  This was without a doubt our favorite dish of the evening.  Amazing and so incredibly delicious!
As a side note, The Mercantile does offer family dinners for larger groups of people.  They do ask to allow at least up to an hour to prepare them but it is an interesting idea.
The dessert menu includes varied options and includes after dinner cocktails and digestif options like port, Laguvulin, and Underberg as well as espresso & milk, coffee & tea.  They also offer a unique coffee tasting & pairing option.  We have seen wine pairings, whisky pairings, and even beer pairing but this is the first ever coffee pairing.  We are already planning a visit simply for the coffee pairing.
We decided on four desserts which was so incredibly difficult.  People, you don't even know how hard this was to choose.  We went with the Carrot Cake served with a valrhona dulcey ganache, cream cheese mousse, rum raisin compote, and candied walnuts.  Also, the mil chocolate Pot de Crème with salted cardamom caramel, chocolate sable, vanilla chantilly, and topped with fudge covered tapioca.  The winner of the most unique dessert goes to the Shepherds Halo.  This is a cocoa beet cake served with pickled beets, navel orange, walnuts, and a triple cream cow's milk cheese.  If you got the perfect bite of cake, orange, cheese, beets, and walnuts it truly was an amazing combination. We are so glad we tried this one!

However, our favorite dessert of the evening was the palisade Apple Fritters.  These were lightly battered fritters served with vanilla bavarios, a toasted almond cookie, and crème fraiche sorbet.  Our usual experience with apple fritters includes a very crispy, deep fried pile of dough with gooey, super sweet apples that are mushy and overcooked.  This is the complete opposite.  The apples and fritters were lightly battered preserving the texture of the apple and the cookie and sorbet were light and refreshing.  Very tasty!
They allowed us to go down the chef line to take pictures and ask as many questions as we could think of.  Our server Jim, was attentive and very knowledgeable.  The thing we like about both the Mercantile and Fruition is the fact that although they are higher scale restaurants, the people are not pretentious or snooty.  Because of the delicious food, wonderful atmosphere, and friendly staff we award The Mercantile Dining & Provision the golden spoon.
Thank you to all for a wonderful birthday celebration dinner.

Also, happy birthday to Bob, the unofficial third member of MenuManiacs.

Mercantile Dining & Provision Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.