Food Lover's Guide to Denver

“Local first, sustainable second, organic third.” Celebrity chef Hugh Acheson’s simple food philosophy can, and should, be a guiding light for all of us.

September 2012




The perfect cup of coffee.

Your cup of joe is a highly personal choice, but think about this: Starbucks has perfected the art of standardization. That venti latte or grande drip will taste the same here as it will in Detroit or Beijing. That’s exactly what you won’t find at independent java huts. • Barista extraordinaire Ami Cusack (currently running the coffee program at Jake’s Brew Bar in Littleton) and I ventured across the Mile High City and surrounding areas sipping cappuccinos and espresso, talking to the baristas behind the bar, and examining microfoam, latte art, and the beans in the hopper. Our findings are below. —AMF

  1. Go to: Crema Coffee House, 2862 Larimer St., 720-284-9648, cremacoffeehouse.net
    Drink this: macchiato (two shots of espresso with a dollop of microfoam)
    Cusack says: Crema is constantly changing up its espresso. I always go with whichever espresso the barista says is pulling best that day.
  2. Go to: Pablo’s Coffee, 630 E. Sixth Ave., 303-744-3323, pabloscoffee.com
    Drink this: small latte for here
    Cusack says: Go for the latte art.
  3. Go to: Aviano Coffee, 3031 E. Second Ave., 303-399-8347, avianocoffee.blogspot.com
    Drink this: espresso
    Cusack says: This is the intellectual side of coffee. The baristas are dedicated to their craft; they are always precise, on point, and methodical.
  4. Go to: Corvus Coffee Co., 1947 S. Broadway, 303-913-8906, corvuscoffee.com
    Drink this: chicory iced toddy
    Cusack says: Owner Phil Goodlaxson is very adventurous and innovative. The roaster is right in the shop so the whole bean-to-cup process is transparent.
  5. Go to: Hooked on Colfax, 3213 E. Colfax Ave., 303-398-2665, hookedoncolfax.com
    Drink this: dirty chai (chai with two shots of espresso)
    Cusack says: I love how the shop supports local products like Sweet Action Ice Cream, Corvus espresso, Pablo’s beans, and Bhakti Chai.
  6. Go to: The Denver Bicycle Cafe, 1308 E. 17th Ave., 720-446-8029, denverbicyclecafe.com
    Drink this: cappuccino
    Cusack says: The shop uses a bottomless filter (most places use a machine with a double spout), which is impressive because it indicates how well the espresso has been tamped down.
  7. Go to: Happy Coffee, 1 S. Broadway, 720-328-8214, happycoffeeco.com
    Drink this: toddy, which is brewed via the Japanese drip system.
    Cusack says: This is a coffeeshop for hipsters and coffee geeks. I love that the largest size drink you can order is 12 ounces.
  8. Go to: Jake’s Brew Bar, 2540 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-996-1006
    Drink this: eight-ounce goat’s milk latte with a honey drizzle
    Cusack says: I make all my own syrups. Don’t miss the vanilla-clove-cinnamon.
  9. Go to: Metropolis, 300 W. 11th Ave., 303-534-1744, metropolisdenver.com
    Drink this: cortado (two shots of espresso with an equal amount of milk)
    Cusack says: Ask for either Brock Wortman or Miguel Vicuna to make your drink. Look for a second location in LoHi to open.
  10. Go to: 2914 Coffee, 2914 W. 25th Ave., 303-953-8997
    Drink this: latte for here
    Cusack says: Owner Anthony Davis worked for Amante (in Boulder), and he knows how to pour. His latte art is impressive—note the meringuelike microfoam.
  11. Go to: Boxcar Coffee Roasters, 1825 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-527-1300, boxcarcoffee.com
    Drink this: cappuccino
    Cusack says: Watch the baristas make your coffee. The brewing technique is more science lab than coffeeshop. Look for Boxcar to open an outpost in Denver.
  12. 12. Go to: Two Rivers Craft Coffee Company, 7745 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, 303-424-1313, tworiverscoffee.com
    Drink this: pour over (an individually brewed cup of coffee)
    Cusack says: Owner Eric Yochim sources excellent beans. Right now he’s using Novo and Corvus.



Time Machine

Chocolate, the old-fashioned way.

Nibble a piece of Ritual Chocolate, and it might surprise you. That’s because what you’re tasting is the cocoa bean, rather than sugar and cocoa butter. The flavor is dense and earthy, even floral—and surprisingly complex. “That’s what got us into chocolate,” says Robbie Stout, who owns the year-old Denver company with his wife, Anna Davies. “We wanted to see how far we could take the bean.”

Stout and Davies travel to Costa Rica to source their beans directly from the farmers. Back in Colorado, they make 80-pound batches of chocolate once a week on machines from the early 1900s that winnow, mix, and temper. The resulting chocolate is aged for six months, then molded into either silver dollar–size disks or solid bars. Only then are the pieces wrapped in gold foil and brown paper, and hand-stamped with the Ritual logo. It’s a lengthy process for a simple pleasure—and that’s why Ritual is worth seeking out. Find Ritual Chocolate at Cured, the Truffle Cheese Shop, and Artemisia & Rue. ritualchocolate.com —Chelsea Long