We are from Toronto and just did a short trip to Colorado. We have been there once before in 2017 and focused our trip on places we missed the first time: Colorado Springs area, Black Canyon of the Gunnison. So we spent little time in Denver and skipped Boulder and Rocky Mountain NP this time. Being COVID-anxious, we also only ate where we could be on a patio or takeout, meaning our options were more limited and we had to skip some top places.
Our first meal was at Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar, picked also because they focus on sustainable seafood. The patio was comfortable and also sheltered from the brief spit of rain we had. Our server, with the very Old Testament name of Nehemiah, was friendly, informed, and helpful. Overall the food and drinks were very good:
- Rocky Mountain G&T - Deviation CO mountain herb gin, CO crema de violette, Spectacular tonic water - lovely, a clear bluish colour, tasted mainly of gin, no medicinal edge from the violette.
- glass of Mexican rose - 2020 Bruma from Baja - beautiful cranberry juice colour, tastes great, a little metallic, dry, really liked it.
- glass of white blend (Chardonnay, Arneis, and Cortese), Attimo bianco, Denver, 2020 - really nice, very lemony but not just acid, a bit mineral-y.
- ^Ahi tuna poke - sticky rice, spicy chili-pecan sauce, avocado, crispy shallot, ponzu, jalapeño - a very distant cousin of poke but quite delicious in its own right, also not a small portion over all that rice, but with the dark smoky chili sauce and crispy shallots it was easily devoured.
- chargrilled oysters - creole butter, grana padano, beautifully cooked.
- Seafood chowder (made to order) - mussels, chopped clams, salmon, shrimp, roasted garlic cream, potatoes, carrots, bacon, okra - chock full of veg, lightly cooked seafood, thyme flavoured cream broth, but not overwhelmingly rich.
- Bacon fat cornbread - gorgeous, light and sweet and crisp on the edges, didn’t actually taste that bacon-y.
- ^Baked lobster mac (side) - sauce is like a rich bisque, also very delicious, and cheesy crumbs on top.
- Pan-seared barramundi - pine nut caponata, crispy mason mills grits, fried basil - very nice, delicate flaky fish with crisp skin, tasty vegs, two squares of deep fried grits.
We were too full for dessert.
Lunch the next day was at the cafe atop Pikes Peak, more out of convenience than desire. The grilled cheese meatloaf sandwich with BBQ sauce was salty and had that fine pureed texture instead of standard ground meat. The green chilies with pork was also salty, but pretty tasty.
The cinnamon sugar donuts were actually quite good.
Dinner was at Four by Brother Luck. The patio was comfortable. Our server was very generous with the wine pours for our pairing. The food was mostly very good, with a few uneven moments:
- Spicy Avocado Strawberry margarita - Casamigos Blanco, Triple Sec, lime juice, jalapeño agave, strawberries, avocado (purée) - - very interesting, salty, spicy, almost savoury.
- glass of Heinz Eifel Riesling, 2020, Rheinhessen Germany - gorgeous, almost like lemonade, and ripe apples too, quite sweet.
- glass of Scaia Corvina- Veneto Italy, 2018 - supposedly like ripe apples - we also got smoke/leather. Very good with the duck child.
- glass of DuBoeuf Beaujolais Villages, Rhone, 2020 - blueberries in the nose, a little more tannins in the flavour than the Corvina, but very pleasant
- glass of Graham’s Tawny Port
- Jalapeño Poppers - cream cheese, cumin, jalapeño syrup and a bechamel underneath - lovely light batter over chopped up jalapeño in cheese with pickled onion and pickled jalapeño on top - very yummy.
- ^Pork al pastor taquito - hibiscus corn tortilla, grilled pineapple (salad underneath), cotija, pickled red onion, lime wedge - good, tasty.
- Red quinoa stuffed whole quail - spinach pistachio sauce, roasted baby carrot, gold raisin and craisin chutney, turmeric oil - strangely it was not stuffed at all but served on a bed of quinoa, sweet with the fruit, but very tasty and beautifully cooked
- Duck green chili - cotija, Pueblo chili, chives - gorgeous, super tender duck in green chili soup, with lots of melted cheese.
- ^Aji Amarillo marinated chicken - banana mole, sweet potato slices, fresh haricot verts, sesame seed crusted chicken (black and white - pretty) - lovely and you can taste the banana, but the chicken breast (bone in) was a little over cooked.
- Grilled eggplant and peach - sweet corn, refried black bean, roasted tomato - all but the tomatoes were undersalted, but it was still wonderful to have a plate of just vegetables, and the eggplant was roasted to soft perfection.
- Chocolate tres leches - coconut cream, raspberry (both purée and fresh), chocolate streusel, coconut snow, and whipped cream dollops with chocolate crisps - nice although definitely a riff on tres leches, as not really milk-soaked.
- ^Greek yogourt panna cotta - minted cucumber melon soup, summer melons, pine nuts - different! With slice of cucumber on the panna cotta - most cucumber we’ve had in dessert.
Lunch the next day was at Wines of Colorado, mainly because we wanted to try many wines and didn’t have time to visit many wineries.
The patio by the creekside is lovely and we enjoyed watching a hummingbird visit. Staff all seemed barely out of high school and were friendly. Food was straightforward and hearty.
Wines (2 tasting flights of 4 each):
- Winery at Holy Cross Abbey - wild canon harvest - blush - very sweet/syrupy and floral maybe orange blossom, strawberry, cinnamon.
- Infinite Monkey Theorem from Denver - sauvignon blanc - interesting, with a kind of mineraly aftertaste on gentle grapefruit peel.
- Plum Creek Chardonnay from Palisade - pleasant, quite oaky though a little sweet, which worked less for us.
- Elderberry from Colorado cellars, Palisade - very nice, has an earthy tang and some complexity, sweet but not too much.
- Huckleberry from Colorado Cellars, Palisade - yummy but more like juice.
- “Canned wine” Evergreen Elixirs - Snow Bunny - strawberries and lemon - like spiked strawberry lemonade, nice lemon peel flavour, not too sweet.
- Bookcliff malbec from Palisade - pleasant, minty.
- Sangre del Sol, Alfred Eames, Spanish red blend (grapes grown in Colorado) including Malbec from Paonia - pleasant, kind of minty, a bit more chocolate than the other, maybe rounder.
- ^Colorado Sausage platter - three elk sausages (“wagyu”; apple gouda - sweeter, a little thinner, more bratwursty; cherry jackalope - esp delicious), roasted peppers, sauerkraut, gherkin pickles, beer mustard.
- Zebulon Pike burger with buffalo (medium), arugula, sautéed mushrooms, red wine reduction, Gruyère and side vegs - fine but undersalted, good side veg.
- Marv’s Buffalo Chili - nice with black beans and kidney beans, a little spicy, melt cheese on top and raw onions.
By dinner, we were in Montrose and settled into the only patio table at Fiesta Guadalajara. Our server was friendly and our view was of a darkened, mostly empty parking lot. Food was in huge portions and quite tasty:
- Horchata - refreshing.
- Taco chips and salsa came automatically - lovely salsa with cilantro and a nice kick.
- ^Sides of lengua tacos (2) - tasty and tender beef tongue chopped and served over corn tortilla, with onions, cilantro, lime and a roasted ?jalapeno - hefty serving, very nice.
- Combo of one tamale (generous amount of shredded beef with some veg) and one chile relleno (soft, not crispy, seemed to be drowned in stringy mozzarella) with rice (a little crisped and with some veg) and whole beans - typical huge portion, very good.
- Side of guacamole - nice, chunky and salty.
We also took out the Machaca for the next day’s breakfast: refried beans and cheese, rice, coleslaw, over a pound of beef held together with a little egg, 4 tortillas, and chips and salsa. It was breakfast enough for 4, tasty and fun, though the beef could have used even more “delicious spices". We skipped lunch because we were so full from this dish.
We did a wine tasting at Mesa Park Vineyards.
The setting was lovely, with the Bookcliffs in the background and view of Grand Mesa.
- Rose - Provence style, lovely! dry, strawberry as well as rose petal and citrus (grapes from California as they had no white grape crop that year).
- Malbec - full cherry nose, typical peppery finish, we also get leather - very good.
- Equilibre - Bordeaux blend, award winning in the state - apparently needs to be laid down for a bit but we liked it a lot, dry and fruity; mix of 2019-2020 grapes.
- Cab sauv - 2019 - OK, tannins and a bit of leather but not much else to us, less interesting, won awards tho, probably needs to mature.
- Petit verdot - peppery and a bit of chocolate, violet aromas, gorgeous deep garnet-purple colour, lots of oak as well.
- Dessert - Finz - merlot and 5% raspberries and then fortified with brandy - she brought us Hershey’s kisses to go with which did improve it, but wasn’t that interesting.
Dinner was a few hours later at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs. Having been before, we wisely ordered only a small pizza for the two of us:
- ^Sky Hawk - Beau Jo’s pizza sauce, pepperoni, Hatch green chilies, mozzarella and feta - good, not spicy though.
- PB&J Spritzer - Skrewball peanut butter whiskey, Chambord, soda water- silly but yummy.
We were fed very well at our AirBnB, so again no need for lunch. Dinner was at The Fort in Morrison, just outside of Denver. We were expecting something kinda touristy, gimmicky, but actually it was a lovely patio setting, with excellent service, and delicious (and hefty) food.
The old-fashioned cocktails were all tasty (and strong), some coming in Mason jars.
- ^Real Georgia Mint Julep - French brandy, peach brandy, ice, sugar, sprigs of mint - served in a mason jar with lid (shaken as it came to the table) very nice.
- ^1732 Philadelphia Fish House Punch - Myer’s rum, peach brandy, brandy, sugar, lemon juice over ice with cherry and orange slice - extra delicious.
- Huckleberry lemonade - huckleberry infused vodka, splash of cranberry, lemonade - and some actual huckleberries, served in a mason jar with lid - really nice and a pretty pink, especially the boozy huckleberries.
- Prickly Pear margarita with lime - very sweet but also a pretty pink.
- Bison Eggs - pickled quail eggs in house made buffalo sausage and deep fried, with raspberry jalapeño jam - great! Really tasty even before the zingy sauce.
- Braised bison tongue - slowly braised, peeled and sliced, on crostini with horseradish caper aioli - also very good, tasty meat.
- Mountain Man Boudies Sausage Platter - wild boar with blueberry and Merlot; rattlesnake and rabbit bratwurst; bison, with beer mustard dipping sauce and sweet California red chile sauce - all sausages very tender and flavourful.
- Fort’s Game Plate:
- elk medallion, wild Montana huckleberry preserves.
- buffalo sirloin medallion - we got ours “Incorrect style” meaning topped with a blend of melted Mexican cheeses, New Mexican Dixon red chile sauce and a fried egg
- grilled teriyaki quail - nicely done. Tasted mainly of garlic
- seasonal vegetable (snap peas) - delicious.
- we asked for Mac and cheese instead of potatoes (President Jefferson’s favorite mild green chile mac ‘n’ cheese “pudding” with red chile beside) - very good!
- came with pumpkin walnut muffins with yellow raisins and dinner rolls, plus dinner salad (seven crisp greens with pickled ginger and black sesame seeds, dried jicama, toasted pepitas, with herbal Damiana house vinaigrette) - very good.
- “side” of buffalo rib in tangy Jack Daniels BBQ sauce - smokey, sweet, and delicious.
For our final dinner, we went to Terra. The staff were very friendly and accommodating, setting us up on the patio and then moving our table under the overhang when it started to rain. The menu emphasized local Colorado products and was generally excellent. Portions were on the smaller side for a change.
- Buncha Grapes: Grappa, blood orange, egg white – fun but slightly medicinal
- American Pika: Vodka, elderflower, beet, lemon – really neat and pretty, the beet flavour even came through.
- No. 9: Rye whiskey, mezcal, luxardo, fernet – also very yummy.
- ‘Three Sisters’ Corn Chowder with Summer Truffles – lovely soup with a huge pile of grated truffle on top.
- Albacore Crudo with Cucumber Three Ways – very nicely done, with the cucumber very artful as well.
- ^Butter Squash Tortellini with Black Garlic Brodo and Pickled Peppers – terrific, with a richly flavoured broth.
- ^Pork Tenderloin with Strawberry Barbecue Sauce and Roasted Endive – very nicely cooked with good tangy sauce.
- ^Goat Cheese Agnolotti with Lobster Mushroom and Summer Truffle – gorgeous. We got this as an extra course because the others were small.
- Orange Tart - Orange curd, orange marmalade, bird seed granola, Chantilly (with salt) – really excellent, like a lemon tart but orange.
- Blueberry “Pie” Panna Cotta - pie crust crumb, cream cheese crémeux, basil – very nice but not as outstanding as the orange.
Hope this is helpful for anyone coming through these areas.