Mile High Highlights: Damn Delicious Denver Dining

I just returned from a paradisaical two-week long sojourn in Denver. I had never been to Colorado before and had heard good things, but wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Let me state for the record: the Rocky Mountain High makes this Western gal’s heart sing.

Not only is Denver full of beautiful weather and beautiful people, but this city takes it one step further: it has an innovative, exciting restaurant scene. Colorado is a playful, active place, and its culinary atmosphere clearly reflects this persona.

The Paramount Cafe on 16th Street, a popular tourist thoroughfare, provides what seems to be standard bar fare at first glance. Don’t be fooled – this is bar grub with a Colorado twist. The burger pictured above is not a run-of-the-mill hamburger, but a patty made from fresh Colorado elk and topped with BBQ sauce, bacon, grilled onions, and roasted garlic mayo. What is ground elk like? A bit cleaner tasting than ground beef, less greasy and a little tougher… in a good way.

Before a long day of hiking in the sunshine, it’s important to fuel up. Luckily Denver has a plethora of great breakfast options, including my personal favorite, Snooze. Featuring a creative and healthy menu, it was overwhelmingly difficult to make a decision on my brunch.

Luckily I chose wisely with the (pictured at top) Upstream Benny: honey smoked salmon on house-crafted bacon-jalapeno spoonbread, topped with two farm fresh Niman Ranch poached eggs, cream cheese hollandaise, and chives. I’m going to go ahead and call it: best benedict I’ve ever had, and I consider myself a benedict connoisseur. The bacon-jalapeno spoonbread made this dish. Word to the wise: Don’t skip the coffee. Snooze offers a damn good cup of joe, brewed exclusively for their restaurants in the volcanic hills of Guatemala.

I also made the fantastic decision to try a pancake, which Snooze is famous for. Behold their intimidatingly gigantic sweet potato pancake, topped with homemade caramel, pecans, and ginger butter. Between three ravenous girls, we couldn’t finish the whole thing. So decadent.

More of Damn Delicious Denver: lobster tacos, herb-spiked lemonade, Colombian arepas and more.

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Top 10 New Things to Put in Your Drink

We’ve certainly never been against drinking here at ES — it just traditionally takes a back seat to eating. However, in the last year we’ve found ourselves getting more and more excited about cocktails — because every time we go out we discover our favorite ingredients have migrated from the plate to the glass. From fruits and vegetables to spices and more, here are our top 10 favorite new things to mix in our drinks.

10. Saffron

A saffron ice cube anchors the Venetian, one of several new food-inspired cocktails at Tulio in Seattle.

Not just for paella anymore, the Spanish spice has started showing up in cocktail glasses, too. Saffron Restaurant and Lounge in Minneapolis has mixed the pricier-than-gold flakes into saffron-mango mojitos, saffron-blood orange martinis, and their current offering, the gin-based Saffron Rose. Tulio, an Italian restaurant in Seattle, recently introduced The Venetian — a vodka cocktail poured over an orange-y saffron ice cube. For those experimenting at home, the folks over at Video Jug have a video on how to mix a saffron vodka martini. (Tulio photo: Evan Johnson)


9. Beets

Fresh beet juice, ginger and vodka make up the Beetnik at Colorado's Dogwood Cocktail Cabin.

It’s hard to make a drink look more dramatic than when filled up with bright red beet juice, as in the beet sangria at New York’s Tailor or the Beetnik, a vodka-ginger-beet concoction served at Crested Butte, Colorado’s Dogwood Cocktail Cabin. Meanwhile, the gals at The Humble Kitchen have a recipe for their own tequila-based Beetnik. (Dogwood photo: eenwall)

8. Mole

Mole bitters liven up the Palermo Gentleman at Death + Co. in New York.

Mexico’s spicy-sweet chocolate treat is making the surprising transition from tamales to cocktails via Bittermens Bitters newest product, Xocolatl Mole Bitters. A neat way to add quite a substantial kick to any drink, the mole bitters are showing up in new cocktails like the tequila-based Chipilo at Brooklyn’s Buttermilk Channel and several options at Manhattan’s Death + Co. (Photo: Vidiot)

7. Sriracha

Every Top Chef contestant’s favorite secret ingredient can save a cocktail menu too, as in “El Scorcho,” a fiery mix of habanero infused vodka, sriracha, and jalapeno foam at Bend, Oregon’s Blacksmith restaurant. The sauce also makes a great replacement for Tabasco in bloody Marys — the blog White on Rice Couple has a great recipe, and if you want to get super-serious, check out their instructions on how to make sriracha from scratch. (Photo: White on Rice Couple)

6. Chinese Five Spice

A Chinese five spice grilled lemon garnishes the Fortune Teller at Bar Pleiades in New York.

Another ingredient Chinese chefs may be shocked to discover in American cocktails, C5S is showing up both as a garnish, as in the Fortune Teller drink served at the Surrey Hotel‘s new Bar Pleiades in New York, and as the basis of a drink, such as Imbibe magazine’s Five-Spice Fizz. (Photo: Bar Pleiades)

Next: Top 5 New Things to Put in Your Drink