At their very best, dips can become a food group unto themselves.
From your basic butter or olive oil to your seven-layer Tex-Mex extravaganza, dips and spreads make even the whitest bread or the stalest chip worth a bite. In Denver, there are several examples of the transcendent dip—not the least of which are Luca D’Italia’s prosciutto di bianco (a euphemism for lardo, i.e., cured pork fat), which takes the place of butter on the table, or the electrifying salsas doled out at Los Carboncitos. Here, we highlight a few more of our local faves.
The Hall-of-Famer: Panzano’s tapenade Fragrant and practically glowing with Mediterranean warmth, the dip that accompanies Panzano’s bread basket is too addictive for its own good. The combination of sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies, capers, kalamata olives, and roasted garlic with two different oils (olive and rice), renders this dip irresistible. panzano-denver.com
The Sunday Gamer: Elway’s chorizo bean dip Every Sunday throughout football season, Elway’s chef Tyler Wiard serves up Chimayo-spiced chips and dips for Broncos fans catching the action in the bar. The bean dip is the best of the bunch. A touch smoky and richly textured with chorizo, it’s otherwise only lightly seasoned to enhance the earthy-sweet flavor of the beans. elways.com
The Bait and Switch: Vesta Dipping Grill’s pistachio-mint dip Replacing the classic pairing of pine nuts and basil with toasted pistachios and fresh mint, this sauce has the consistency of pesto but with an enlightening new flavor profile. Vesta Dipping Grill’s executive chef Matt Selby strikes a balance by using the olive oil’s fruitiness and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Request it with any lamb dish. vestagrill.com
The Vampire Slayer: Marrakech Grill’s garlic dip When poorly executed, simple Middle Eastern garlic spreads can look like plaster and taste acrid. But when done right—as it is at Marrakech Grill—the dip is still plenty garlicky while also creamy (thanks to emulsified olive oil) and bright with lemon juice. marrakechgrilldenver.com The Gourmet Cheese Ball Chèvre Spread at Lala’s Wine Bar & Pizzeria Gone are the days of those clumsy, port wine–cheddar orbs: The cheese ball has gone upscale. At Lala’s Wine Bar, you’ll find an elegant version that’s a study in delicacy. Paired with warm flatbread, bite-size pieces of sweet-tart Angelino plum dot a ramekin full of light, fresh goat cheese that’s topped with sliced almonds and balsamic glaze. lalaswinebar.com
The Asian Fusion Player: TAG’s Korean hot pepper butter Technically, this tasty hot pepper butter is a sauce—one that can be ordered alongside chef Troy Guard’s seafood pot stickers. But that doesn’t stop us from smearing our dumplings with every last drop. Guard expertly blends beurre blanc with Korean chile paste, miso, honey, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds.
- ½ pound ground pork
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- Sea salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 16-ounce can of your favorite refried beans
- ¼ to ½ cup chicken broth
- 2 scallions, minced (for garnish)
- Tortilla chips
- Heat a large sauté pan to medium-high. Add ground pork and onions; cook until the pork is halfway done. Add garlic, ancho powder, cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until spices “bloom,” approximately 2 minutes.
- Add vinegar and refried beans. Gently stir to blend beans and chorizo. If mixture seems too thick, add chicken broth to reduce thickness. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Pour bean dip into a bowl and garnish with minced scallions. Serve with tortilla chips.