DENVER
I was in Denver this past weekend for my niece’s college graduation, and while Denver might seem like a nice place, there’s not much to do unless you’re into skiing or some other outdoor sport, which I’m not. So our days were mostly going from one family meal to another, trying some of the new hot restaurants contributing to the city’s emerging dining scene.

I just got back and am still going through my photos, but before I get into the full posts on some of my favorite restaurants, I thought I’d give you a look at some of my favorites dishes that I dined on.

Shaved asparagus flatbread at Old Major.

Shaved asparagus flatbread at Old Major.

This flatbread represents the natural clean presentation at Old Major, a funky restaurant and brewpub in the Highland neighborhood that is part of the farm-to-table movement of Denver. I liked the use of the seasonal asparagus, nicely presented as shavings but tasty with Taleggio cheese, mushrooms like duxelles and wood sorrel, and a chili-lemon vinaigrette. Plus, the flatbread itself is pretty darn good.

3-lb. pork chop at Old Major

3-lb. pork chop at Old Major

Also at Old Major, which has a pig as its emblem, it’s no surprise one of the signature dishes is this 3-lb. pork chop that is presented pretty cleanly with just a pork demi-glace, but the presentation is great for a family dinner. I felt the pork was cooked perfectly and we definitely had leftovers.

Hibiscus fizz at Izakaya Den

Hibiscus fizz at Izakaya Den

This isn’t a dish, but I did love this Hibiscus Fizz cocktail at Izakaya Den, on the Old Pearl Street area of Denver. Some of you know I love foamy drinks, so this was just as enticing with Hendrick’s Gin, hibiscus syrup and egg white foam.

Kale and apple salad at Acorn

Kale and apple salad at Acorn

I must favor the farm-to-table restaurants because that’s what I’m used to in the Bay Area, and the restaurant Acorn in North Denver also fits that bill. Kale salads are also the rage in Denver, but I loved how Acorn did theirs with apple and super julienne slivers of kale. For a twist, they also add togarashi, a slight chili flavor.

Tomato braised meatballs with grits at Acorn

Tomato braised meatballs with grits at Acorn

Also at Acorn, this comfort dish of tomato-braised meatballs has all the basic ingredients of tomato sauce with burrata and basil and served on Anson Mills stone ground grits in a cast-iron skillet. But there was a lightness and interesting spice flavor to the meatballs that made them satisfying.

Soup dumplings with sweet onion and gruyere at ChoLon

Soup dumplings with sweet onion and gruyere at ChoLon

I’m not planning to do a full post on this restaurant, ChoLon. It was a nice enough restaurant but the Asian-fusion flavors at times seemed kind of predictable. Still, I found the Shanghai-style soup dumplings quite unique. They don’t make it authentic, because that’s not what they’re known for. Instead they have more a French onion soup flavor in pork dumplings with a bit of gruyere for some saltiness and silky smooth texture.

Pork belly buns with sesame honey glaze and pickles at ChoLon

Pork belly buns with sesame honey glaze and pickles at ChoLon

The other popular dish at ChoLon was this steamed buns with pork belly. Nothing especially unique, but perfectly cooked pork belly. You know I can’t resist a good pork belly, especially when served with pickled vegetables and savory hoi sin sauce.

Spanish octopus ala plancha at Mercantile Dining and Provisions

Spanish octopus ala plancha at Mercantile Dining and Provisions

Our last Denver dinner was at Mercantile Dining and Provisions, which is a beautiful restaurant inside the landmark Union Station. While my family dined on dry-aged ribeye (look for the post), I went with this amazing Spanish octopus dish with fingerling potatoes and creamy garlic aioli. The octopus was meaty but not rubbery.

I was impressed by the dining options in Denver, but apparently this is just something new in the last couple of years. I’m glad the Denver dining scene was peaking in time for this trip of mine.

4 Responses to Denver Dishes from My Weekend Trip

  1. Row says:

    Yum! I’m impressed by the dining options as well… would make for a nice food trip. Too bad I don’t know how to ski, but I guess that means more time spent eating. 😉

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    A 3-pound pork chop!?!! Wow! Did you finish it? I wonder if even my husband, aka Meat Boy, could devour every last bite of that behemoth. 😉

    • Ben Ben says:

      We ate this between six of us and my nephew still took leftovers back to our hotel (we had a microwave). I think this would be Meat Boy’s Everest. 😉

  3. Brenda Ton says:

    I am glad you did a post on this. I’ve heard from my in-laws about the growth of “farm-to-table”-like restaurants in Denver, but it isn’t convincing enough for me to go there given what you confirmed – there’s not much else to do in Denver. I’m sure there are some pretty sights, but it doesn’t come top of mind as a place I’m really excited about. That pork chop though…