Olivia Dish

1 Day, 3 Meals: Denver

In Denver, Local Flavor, Restaurant on October 24, 2009 at 11:54 am
Most Important Meal?

Most Important Meal?

I can’t say it was exactly pleasant to fall into bed feeling like a stuffed turkey, but when life delivers you three good meals in a single day, what can you do?

In downtown Denver for work, I happened across The Delectable Egg, which proclaims itself a local institution.  They serve breakfast the way most of us like it–a large menu of the usual items, cheerful service, plenty of coffee, and food that was not out of this world but plenty good.  My corned beef hash and poached eggs were tasty.  Only the potatoes were lackluster.

I know some people don’t get grits.  Well, I don’t get rubbery potato cubes, fried and dusted with some orange spice that vaguely resembles paprika.

Actually, it was a good thing I didn’t care for the potatoes.  I had too much food to eat as it was.  And unbeknown to me at that early hour, a day of big eating was just getting started.

Meal #2: A Lucky Lunch Break
By 1:00, I was able to break for lunch.  I recalled seeing Panzano, a restaurant adjacent to the Hotel Monaco a few blocks over, so that’s where my colleague Adora Adeel and I went.  At once, we were glad we had.  The décor was all golden lighting and dark wood with plump-cushioned booths that overlooked the city street.  I felt more on holiday than lunch break.  At table after table, people were laughing, drinking wine, and looking as if they had not a conference call, pointless meeting, or care awaiting them in the world.

Panzano's amazing pasta

Panzano's amazing pasta

Everything on Panzano’s menu looked enticing, but the offer we couldn’t refuse was the 3-course lunch for $19.  Adora and I were torn: both of us wanted the Fettucine d’Estate and the Chicken Marsala.  Our fantastic server solved the problem by immediately offering to split the entrees, bringing each of us a half portion of both.

I wouldn’t have wanted to miss either.  The pasta, house-made, was mixed with dried blueberries, wild mushrooms, thin green beans, toasted almonds and micro greens, all in a light sauce with a touch of cream.  The sweetness of the blueberries and the crunch of the almonds really made the dish distinctive.

The chicken, topped with crispy fried prosciutto, was good in a different way—familiar, hearty, and rich.

Meal #3:  Bistro Supper
Lunch at Panzano was one of the best meals I’ve had in some time, so I worried that dinner would disappoint.  I had a reservation at what some call the most charming restaurant in Denver–Bistro Vendome in Larimer Square.

Adora and I zipped over there by way of the 16th street mall’s free public transportation.  The lights at Larimer Square were

Bistro Vendome Denver

Bistro Vendome Denver

Cafe Vendome baguette

Baguette served in a bag

twinkling as the sun faded away.  We walked through a courtyard off the square and found, yes, charm galore.

Though the outdoor tables were not in use, we were seated in a covered walkway with an outdoor feel.  Actually, it reminded me of the little passage couverts, the 19th century malls in Paris that you find between the grand boulevards.  The restaurant also had a dining room that, when filled with people as it was on this evening, is lively.

Bistro Vendome tartare

Steak Tartare topped with quail egg

The food lived up to the atmosphere.  Both Adora and I had beet salads with local goat cheese.  Adora liked hers very much; I was a little disappointed because I wanted more beets, less salad greens.  Still recovering from my large lunch, I opted for something small after that:  steak tartare topped with a quail egg.  Adora ordered trout.  Both were delicious, particularly Adora’s trout, perfectly prepared, sweet, moist and full of flavor.

I recommend any of these restaurants, though if I had to choose just one, it would be Panzano.  Adora is not so sure.  As we walked back along 16th street to our hotel debating the merits of lunch and dinner, she proclaimed: “Both were my favorite.”

PS: To escape Denver’s Zombie Crawl, Adora and I ducked into Panzano again on Saturday night.  They were very kind to find us a table, but the food was disappointing–much better at lunch the day before.

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