Sisters are doing it for themselves. That's always the case, but the first week of February offered a fine reminder, as Caroline Glover and Mary Nguyen put Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin's old lyrics into action with the openings of two hotly anticipated kitchens that put a clean, wholesome spin on progressive American cuisine.
The gist: It's only a matter of time before Caroline Glover is a household name around here. The CIA graduate's résumé includes sous-chef positions at The Spotted Pig in NYC as well as Denver's own acclaimed Acorn on the one hand, and extensive fieldwork, literally, at farms around the country on the other — and her relaxed yet polished debut venture, named for her great aunt, reflects both those shining credentials with her own down-to-earth style. (It's located in Aurora's Stanley Marketplace, where another superwoman restaurateur, Rayme Rossello, launched the third location of Comida late last year.)
The food: Glover's inaugural menus are nothing if not gutsy. For one thing, they're super-short, listing only about 10 items for dinner and even fewer at brunch and lunch; for another, they combine a fiercely homespun ethic with a worldly aesthetic in ways that seem designed to nudge diners out of their comfort zones. In our book, that's a good thing. Especially given the reasonable prices, why not take a chance on such funky stuff as a charred octopus sandwich with chorizo and mustard greens or wood-grilled beef tongue with pickled relish and marrow toast, followed by Meyer lemon curd parfait for dessert? The bar takes a similarly bold approach, pouring wines from lesser known appellations like Jura and Lodi; cool beers from the likes of TRVE and Odd13; and suave cocktails designed by RiNo Yacht Club's McClain Hedges, including the Creole Contentment with cognac and Madeira.
The vibe: Bone-white and pearl-gray hues, blond-wood pendant lamps, high ceilings and lots of natural light lend the 40-seat space a breezy charm enhanced by plants — both real and depicted in scattered artwork.
2501 Dallas St., Aurora; 720-710-9975
Olive & Finch Eatery and Bakery
The gist: As Mary Nguyen sees it, this fast-casual charmer in Cherry Creek is no mere satellite of the wildly popular City Park West original — it's the culmination of her vision for an all-day cafe and bakery that's "affordable and easy but also chef-driven," she explains. "It had to be bigger than the first location to accommodate all the people who want to hang out, not just grab and go. And we got a lot of feedback about people wanting to experience Olive & Finch at night," which has led to an expanded menu of composed plates, desserts and bar offerings.
The food: All your favorite hashes, skillets, salads and sandwiches are here, but they're supplemented by elaborate flatbreads — take the Otis topped with bacon, goat cheese, roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, kale and candied walnuts — as well as bistro plates such as seasonal pastas and pan-roasted salmon over farro in a red-curry bisque. Cocktails by the carafe turn a quick weeknight meal into a leisurely treat (there's a small selection of wines and local brews too). And pastry chef Amber Otis's variety of baked goods goes on and on, from quiches and breakfast breads to cakes and tarts of all sorts and sizes.
The vibe: It's as bright and cheery as the flagship, only more spacious, with a cozy back room that offers a touch of privacy. Bouquets and knickknacks add touches of home.
3390 E. 1st Ave.; 303-955-0455
Annette's "standard breakfast sammy" with bacon, romesco aïoli and a fried egg isn't so standard after all — it's served on a housemade English muffin.
Glover offers this healthful bowl of red-cabbage slaw with mixed greens, cumin-spiced black beans and goat's milk cheddar for both lunch and brunch.
Annette's tiny but light-filled dining room.
Among other dishes for two, Glover says that she and sous-chef Chelsey Maschhoff will "probably always have some sort of whole seafood" — starting with this crisp-skinned, wood-roasted Mediterranean sea bass, which comes smothered in the vibrant Moroccan herb sauce known as chermoula and sprinkled with celeriac chips and pomegranate seeds.
Pomegranate seeds also appear in this pungent salad of charred endive and radicchio, the pleasant bitterness of which is countered by rich delicata squash and brown butter.
Olive & Finch's pastry-jammed order counter doubles as a coffee bar.
Hearty new breakfast offerings at Olive & Finch include shakshuka with 140-degree eggs and house-baked ficelle...
and this three-cheese polenta with the same eggs as well as spinach and tomatoes.
Nguyen's unusually delicate house-cured salmon gets both hot and cold smokes before it's layered with citrus cream cheese, romaine, tomato, red onion and capers on rye, which is also housemade.
The roast-chicken banh mi packs a punch with plenty of jalapeño and garlic.
Perhaps our favorite new dish at Olive & Finch is this zesty entree of sous vide chicken tagine with eggplant, chickpeas and kale. Harissa and za'atar give it a kick that's softened by cucumber-dill yogurt sauce.
Mocha-almond cake, banana cream pie and mixed-berry tart are just a few of the dozens of goodies from the O&F bakery.