If you’ve lived in Denver for longer than a couple of months, then you’re likely familiar with Barolo Grill (number 23 on our annual 25 Best Restaurants list this year). But you may not be aware of two-month-old Chow Morso, Barolo’s more casual, affordable sibling, located inside LoHi’s collective eatery, Avanti Food & Beverage. Think of the menu—on which practically everything is available in full (“chow”) and half (“morso”) sizes—as the greatest hits of Barolo over the years. You’ll be dazzled by the level of care that goes into dishes like the romaine lettuce salad with dried mushrooms, figs, and truffle aïoli; savory rosemary doughnuts draped with porchetta; and hand-made pastas such as the brown-butter-sauced, beef-filled agnolotti. And the bill? You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that everything on the menu is $14 or less. Avanti Food & Beverage, 3200 N. Pecos St., 303-952-7819
Skip the mall and do your holiday shopping at the bustling three-month-old Denver Central Market instead. At the 11-vendor RiNo food hall, you can sip a daiquiri-esque Jamaican Sour from Curio as you peruse the fit-for-all-foodies gift offerings, which range from artisan chocolates at Temper (see “Dare You To Eat Just One” at right) to Italian sundries from Vero to bags of craft coffee beans from Crema Bodega. All that shopping is sure to encourage an appetite, in which case you can take your pick from ceviche and freshly shucked oysters at Silva’s Fish Market, creamy carrot-tahini dip served with freshly made pita at Izzio Artisan Bakery, or the over-the-top grilled cheese at Culture Meat & Cheese. Cap off the productive (and delicious) day with a scoop of zucchini bread ice cream from High Point Creamery. 2669 Larimer St.
MAKE, BELIEVE BAKERY
There was a time when going vegan was synonymous with forgoing pastries. But thanks to places like Make, Believe Bakery, that’s no longer the case. An offshoot of the original WaterCourse Foods, this Capitol Hill sweet shop, next door to City O’ City, offers a full spread of animal-free confections, from lemonade-flavored French macarons to dreamy cheesecake. Start with the sweet potato cinnamon rolls, long a favorite of the WaterCourse and City O’ City crowds. The sweet potato flavor is subtle and adds a sort of buttery richness that offsets the cinnamon filling. However, it’s the Hostess-inspired cupcake that best demonstrates this alternative bakery’s talent. The combination of rich chocolate cake and smooth vanilla “cream” is even better than the snack cakes you remember from childhood. Bonus: Many of the offerings in the pastry case are also gluten-free. 214 E. 13th Ave., 303-318-9843