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RIVER AND WOODS
Many restaurants boast of their community-focused bona fides, but two-month-old River and Woods in Boulder truly embodies the mantra. When Josh and Katie Dinar and former Linger and Root Down chef Daniel Asher dreamed up the eatery, they did so with a reverence for the historic building (once home to the beloved John’s Restaurant) and the city surrounding it. Just as the space has a rich past, every item on River and Woods’ menu has a story too: Wild Chatham mussels, which taste of brine mixed with apple cider, Dijon, and shallots, are a nod to Asher’s Cape Cod hometown. The gnocchi verde is an entrée untouched from a long-ago John’s menu. The wildflower-honey drizzled cheesecake is a dessert sourced from the community through recipe submissions. Yes, River and Woods asks its patrons to submit favorite family recipes for possible inclusion on the menu. It doesn’t get any more community-focused than that. 2328 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-993-6301
Not only is Departure Restaurant & Lounge a boon to Cherry Creek North (it’s the anchor for the new Halcyon Hotel on Columbine Street), the eatery is also home to Top Chef runner-up Gregory Gourdet’s Asian-inspired cuisine. Go early and stop at the bar for an Eightfold Path, a smooth, dirty vodka martini with olive oil (trust us on this one). Take in the chic crowd and the sleek, aviation-inspired decor. Then turn your sights to the menu: Gourdet’s modern Asian dishes are worldly and deftly balance texture, color, and spice. Standouts include the rich Vietnamese duck curry, the shrimp dumplings (from the dim sum menu), and the lamb shoulder kushiyaki with coconut raita. Our last bit of advice: Don’t leave without ordering dessert, and if you must choose just one, make it the guava mousse and coconut ice with Thai basil. Gourdet has a background in pastry, and both the savory and sweet menus benefit from his meticulous skills. 249 Columbine St., 720-772-5020
If an eatery’s core mission is to revive (the word “restaurant” derives from the French verb “restaurer,” which means “to restore”), then two-month-old Avelina is right on track. Chef John Broening’s cooking has always been clean and seasonally driven (see, for example, Duo, Olivéa, and Spuntino), and it’s no different at Avelina. In fact, this is Broening’s, and his wife and pastry chef extraordinaire Yasmin Lozada-Hissom’s, re-entry into the dining scene after a one-year hiatus, and it’s good to have them back. Rejoice by ordering the mushroom ravioli with porcini broth, followed by the heavenly dulce de leche stack (below). Also exciting: With its exquisite indoor-outdoor bar, Avelina seems poised to bring life to an overlooked block of Wazee Street. 1550 17th St., 720-904-6711
Dulce de leche stack at Avelina; Photo by Sarah Boyum