The thing about spring menus, at least in Colorado, is that they tend to be full of verdant ambition but lack the ingredients—crisp, green veggies, freshly plucked garden herbs—to bring that vision to life. In fact, March is typically our snowiest month, and spring crops don’t exactly, well, spring for a quite awhile here. Unlike Californians, Centennial state chefs don’t yet have an array of local produce at their disposal.
Which is why the spring menu at the Art, a Hotel’s Fire Restaurant is so smart. Instead of filling the menu with asparagus and chard (both of which would likely have to be shipped in from Mexico or Peru) executive chef Chris Jakubiec takes a different tactic. Jakubiec looks to his East Coast upbringing (he hails from Connecticut) to bring another sort of spring vibrancy to Fire’s March menu.
Dishes such as diver scallop niçoise and king salmon Newburg bridge the gap between the hearty fare of winter and the lightness of spring. These dishes are not only ubiquitous in New England, both also feature light proteins that are perfect for spring’s warming temperatures. The scallops are a particular highlight, in part because the tangy green olive purée and salty anchovy that accompany them are so unexpected and intense.
For a more locally sourced option, the braised Colorado lamb pappardelle is a winner, peppered as it is with crunchy fiddlehead ferns. Fiddleheads, which grow wild in the Northeast, look like hearty green curlicues and taste like a mild asparagus. It’s not the usual lamb-with-mint preparation you’re used to seeing at this time of year, and the confit tomatoes add a nice zing.
Drinks deserve attention too, and as soon as you sip the Jackson Pollack (rosemary-infused gin, muddled strawberries, basil and balsamic reduction), you’ll understand why the bar is so happening. If you like cocktails as much as I do, try sweet talking the staff into pairing mini concoctions with your meal. I made that swap at a recent wine dinner and my dining companions thought I was a genius.
Bonus: Want to work off your meal? On Friday mornings a member of the Art team leads a guided run through the streets of Denver, resting at public art sites to regale the runners with history. The three-mile run is designed for hotel guests, but locals looking for exercise—and insider art knowledge—are encouraged to join in. Runners can meet in front of the Art Hotel at 6:30 a.m. on Fridays to participate.
1201 Broadway, 303-572-8000