On the flip side of Denver’s more overrated culinary icons are the gifts that keep on giving. Though no longer novel, these ubiquitous food phenomenons still appeal thanks to chefs who treat them right. Here are our top five.
For years, we’ve railed against the tyranny of the roasted-beet salad. But every once in a while we encounter one that beautifully illustrates just how the earthy-sweet root veggie became a permanent fixture on so many menus in the first place.
Two to Try: Don’t miss Glaze by Sasa’s elegant goat-cheese mousse, Marcona almonds and green-garlic purée, served over beet greens and arugula (pictured top). Also exemplary: the signature salads at siblings Acorn and OAK at fourteenth, which may feature feta panna cotta (as above) or fresh mozzarella, peaches and pistachios at any given moment.
A few years back, when chefs began turning cabbage’s mini cousin into a cause célèbre, lifelong haters finally discovered the meaty, vibrant, versatile power of properly cooked sprouts — and haven't stopped clamoring for them since. No doubt some kitchens feel they’ve created a tiny green monster.
Two to Try: At Ace Eat Serve (above), Brussels sprouts are fried to a glistening crisp, then tossed with shishito peppers, togarashi and sesame seeds and served with a zesty lime mayo on the side. Panzano likewise fries them up in an apple-cider reduction before sprinkling them liberally with julienne of green apple, chopped pistachios and rosemary salt.
The leafy green’s superfood properties propelled it from stateside obscurity to stardom. Its full flavor kept it in the spotlight, where it shines in everything from smoothies to stews.
Two to Try: We’ve been snacking on the famous kale chips at all three branches of The Kitchen Next Door — Boulder, Glendale and Union Station — since day one. But we also can’t resist the super-garlicky sautéed kale served as a side at Ella, pictured above with the wild-boar lasagna.
Whether smothered in marinara on spaghetti, doused in spiced sour-cream sauce on a smorgasbord or flavored with soy beside Chinese cabbage, meatballs are beloved the world over. Since they’re cheap and easy to make as well as delicious and filling, it makes sense that shops dedicated to their preparation, like Denver’s own Slotted Spoon, would begin to pop up not long after the economic crisis of 2008.
Two to Try: Salt & Grinder’s giant meatball sub or Dorchester Social Eatery’s Belgian-style boulettes à la Liegeoise, baked in a beer-spiked gravy with onions and golden raisins (above).
After well over a decade, we wouldn’t call this dark, eye-rollingly rich, liquid-centered dessert a trend anymore: it has more than earned its place in the new American canon.
Two to Try: A hint of cocoa bitterness lends sophistication to the version at Boulder’s brand-new Spruce (above), while Guard and Grace gives the classic a twist with accents of peanut butter and marshmallow.
Photos by Ruth Tobias