Chefs are mining the bountiful world of vegetables and coming up with dishes that extend far beyond kale salad and roasted Brussels sprouts. Look for items such as the Squeaky Bean’s casserole of caramelized cauliflower, pickled shallots, and minty pesto and Beast & Bottle’s caper arancini with charred escarole.
Food halls and marketplaces
Food halls and indoor marketplaces are popping up all over the country. The Source, which is anchored by Acorn and Comida, was the Mile High City’s first. Avanti Food & Beverage’s restaurant incubator space debuted in July, and Stanley Marketplace opens in early 2016 in Aurora with GoodBird Kitchen, Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen, Sweet Cow Ice Cream, and Denver Biscuit Co.
Ramen is the “it” dish of the moment, but the Asian infusion goes further: Ingredients usually reserved for Chinese, Thai, or Japanese cuisines are boosting dishes in restaurants as diverse as Rioja (ponzu, yuzu, and shiso show up among the Mediterranean-inspired dishes) and To The Wind (Thai-inspired spot prawn lettuce wraps). Even Onefold, the Uptown breakfast spot, serves congee—a savory Asian rice porridge.
If there’s a single trend pushing dining forward in 2015, it’s the combination of casual and fine dining. If that seems incongruous, look to the quality of food and service at Work & Class, Acorn, Rebel Restaurant, and Cart-Driver.
Quinoa continues to be a darling (try Café Aion’s Colorado quinoa small plate with apricots, almonds, preserved lemon, and chiles, or Fruition Restaurant’s octopus carpaccio with Ibérico chorizo and red quinoa tabbouleh), but more choices are appearing every day. Find “dirty” farro at Old Major and smoky freekeh, a roasted green wheat, at Bittersweet.
The dominance of wood-fired ovens in kitchens at restaurants such as Oak at Fourteenth, Leña, Basta, Luca, Wild Standard, and the pending Hop Alley stems from a basic fact: Cooking food over live fire adds loads of depth and flavor.
Call it crostini if you wish, but toast has blown up. Find radish-and-avocado-topped tartines at Boulder’s Alpine Modern Café, or the seasonal selection at Lower48 Kitchen.