Given the size of the locale, it’s pretty amazing that Vert Kitchen produces the wonderful food that it does. I planned to meet Anna at Overt (the adjoining coffee shop) for some New Year planning, only to realize that there wasn’t just limited seating, but zero seating. Perhaps we should have known since the address is 712 ½? At any rate, we happily went next door to Vert, which I hadn’t eaten at for years and was eager to revisit.
Only slightly larger than Overt, Vert Kitchen has limited seating which is supplemented by the patio on warmer days. We sat by the window and caught up over tea while we waited for our food. Squeezed into the adorable restaurant sipping my latte while I gazed at Pearl street, I almost felt like I was back in a big(ger) city!
While the table was small, the portions were mighty. We were both pleasantly surprised when our food came with full salads (and mine even included a side – I chose the quinoa salad and had to take it home in a box). Since I have zero dietary restrictions (I wish I had the willpower), I had the Fried Eggs and Bacon on Toast. Such a simple name does not accurately describe the meal though. Yes there were fried eggs. Yes there was extremely thick bacon. And yes toast. But this wasn’t your typical fare. Vert touts fresh ingredients and there was no arguing on this meal. The toast, intimidating in color at first, was delightfully covered in tomato butter. I had never tried, or heard of, tomato butter but now I can’t stop thinking about it.
Anna had the butternut squash, kale and brie frittata (and had to remove the butternut squash because she has willpower and exercises it with the Keto diet). When the frittata came on a full bed of salad, Anna was disappointed by the cucumbers. She has such a distaste for them she declared she wasn’t eating the salad. A few bites later after pushing some cucumbers aside, she declared it the best salad she has ever tasted. Ever. Pretty sure it trumped the butternut squash/kale/brie minus butternut squash frittata.
By this point the small eatery was packed and there was a wait for the few coveted tables. After another cup of expensive tea (total pet peeve here, but tea should be free refills like coffee!), we decided we could not monopolize the table anymore with our laptops and packed up our work and leftovers. Really though, I think Anna needed to remove herself from watching me sip the delicious, and free, cucumber water.
Vert Kitchen and Overt are open daily 8am- 8pm. Menus are seasonal and can be found here.
Another not so particular dining review by Anna Palmer
"How's that jew fruit?" Steve asks me from his saddle leather bar stool. We are seated side by side at the U shaped bar surrounding Beckon's open kitchen. I guess the gift for the 16th anniversary is being allowed to make fun of your partner's heritage.
Joe is the juice guy and he is combing creative ingredients in weird and wonderful ways. None of the juices are too sweet and lots of them include ingredients in our dishes.
When each plate it dropped we try to find the juice ingredient. Steve is a bit flummoxed by the fennel (probably my favorite juice ingredient of all) "I would have pushed these fennel fronds aside but I saw what care he took in tweezing them." A moment later he is coughing...and not from his cold. "They fennel fronds are stuck in my throat." I think he likes to say fennel fronds. "Live by the fennel fronds, die by the fennel fronds." He tells me. I am pretty sure I know what to get him for our 17th anniversary.
This is what it looked like when we walked in. And because of the ridiculously good service it looked a lot like this when we rolled out. Just add happy diners. And clusters of glasses. Below: Parker rolls, black cod with cucumber melon things, Halibut with some sort of foam, tweezed greens and my favorite mushroom, Beets with other delicious things, Half quail- which is ridiculous- and pickled qumquat ( guess which ingredient was in the juice). Colorado lamb, I forget but it was an icy palate cleanser with FENNEL FRONDS, Something something over incredible chocolate, Salted chocolate shortbread cookies.
I tried to get a photo of them tweezing food onto plates but the tweezing happens at about the same rate as the wine glasses are filled (quickly) so it is all a bit of a blur.
There was only one sad note of the evening.
Beckon's partner restaurant "Call"is closed until April. On the upside though,
Joe tells me there will be lots of juice upon re-opening.
And I can only assume the glassware to match it.
I moved to Denver over 15 years ago via New York, circa Chicago. At the time, I remember telling my then boyfriend (now husband), I wanted to look downtown for an apartment. Being a Colorado native, he assured me no one lived downtown, a sentiment that was true at the time. We settled in Platt Park and I traded city for cute neighborhood business districts that I began to explore. The first time I went to South Broadway/Baker, I was shopping for a very specific diaper bag and had seen a store online that had an adorable baby section in the back with the bag I wanted. Anyone who knows the South Broadway/Baker district understands that it’s likely not the first place you would think of to find a diaper bag. At any rate, I immediately feel in love with the area and felt instantly at home, it’s edginess reminding me of some of our favorite haunts in Chicago and New York. Over the years, we have enjoyed so many restaurants there and were sad to see a favorite of ours, Deluxe (and its dessert partner Delite), close some years back. Luckily a new restauranteur took over and opened Gozo which has fast become a new favorite.
Gozo, named after an island off Sicily, serves predominately Italian food and the wood oven pizzas are a longstanding favorite. The décor is stylish and rustic, with a white-washed brick wall, an open kitchen with a prominent wood oven, and a large bar surrounded by seating. We recently visited with three kids in tow- usually our South Broadway dining experiences are sans kids unless its Punchbowl, but since they are finally of age to sit and eat without being absolute nightmares and they love Italian, we figured it was worth a shot so mom and dad could get a decent meal. We knew we made the right choice when we ordered cocktails and mocktails and everyone was feeling very grown up. I enjoyed my Last Summer cocktail but couldn’t decide if it was a tribute to the recent summer ending, or a previous time when summer was a magical break from life versus just a hotter, sweatier version of being a grown up. At any rate, it was delicious. My husband, Seth, went with their take on an old favorite- the Smoked Old Fashioned featuring a hickory smoked orange, and our kids enjoyed the Cucumber Spritzer and “Up & Up” mocktails.
Fearing unrest amongst the unfed, we started with truffle fries for the kids and the burrata for the adults. Of course, Seth and I ate half the fries and the kids ventured out a bit, mostly to eat the toasted bread with a bit of marmalade like Paddington (which tasted delightful with the actual burrata but that was lost on them). While I had eaten enough of the delicious sweet, creamy, in-house made burrata to last until morning, we decided to plow ahead and order mains. The boys were happy to find that while there is no “kids” menu, they could order a plain pizza or pasta any way they wanted. Seth and I stuck to the menu and I ordered the Butternut Squash Risotto (fully embracing the present fall season now that my cocktail was finished) and Seth ordered his favorite, a pepperoni pizza.
Fresh out of the wood oven, the pepperoni pizza was not your average slice. Featuring sliced pepperoni, roasted pancetta, and fresh cheeses, the pizza was hearty and flavorful. Having eaten my weight in burrata, I was instantly both jealous and relieved to have passed on pizza for the risotto. I love a good risotto and Gozo’s is no exception. Featuring fire-roasted butternut squash with a sage brown butter, each bite was creamy and delicious.
My only regret was wearing high-waisted jeans and sadly we were all too stuffed for dessert. Instead, we wandered around South Broadway a bit, enjoying the window shopping and diversity of shops, food and entertainment the area has to offer. We have heard Gozo has a great brunch too and vow to come back and spend a morning brunching and shopping (as soon as our boys can tolerate that).
Despite it being 5:00 the host looked at us with arched eyes. "You have a reservation of course." "Of course." Of course we did. It was Saturday night (if you can call 5:00 night) and dining in Denver requires a reservation. Obviously.
Perhaps it was Steve's liquid but despite wanting to order all of the meats and carbs we did begin with a lovely baby squash dish. We were particularly interested in the
masa crunchies and we were right to be. I think more veggies need Masa crunchies.
Here you see chicken and waffles with burnt orange syrup, orecchiette with
roasted mushrooms, confit garlic, hazelnuts, manchego cheese, and a deconstructed french dip. Or you would have seen the deconstructed French Dip but Steve ate it before I photographed it. The big winner was the orecchiette, or more specifically the orecchiette sauce. I didn't think I liked hazelnuts outside of a Nutella tub, but apparently I do.
Do I recommend 12 @ Madison? Oh yes. Just make sure you have a reservation, an order of the sauce that comes with pasta, and a double order of rolls.
First there was the hype. A good friend of mine had bought the Safta cookbook. She swore she would only eat Safta 7 days a week, 3 meals a day, for the rest of her life. It was that good. We decided to check it out for our anniversary the following week. The entire week before going, everyone, friends, coworkers, strangers on the street were talking about Safta it seemed.
“Have you tried Safta?” “You have to try Safta,” “Blah, blah, blah, blah, SAFTA, blah, blah, blah.” The night before our anniversary, I woke up to a soft whisper…SSSssaafta…. Riding into my very own bedroom on a unicorn was a handsome bartender, shirtless in his Safta signature apron with a Crystal’s Light on a silver tray…..Ssssaaafftaaa.
Could it be this good? Our expectations were high needless to say. We went, we drank, we ate, (too much of both) and pretty much loved it. I must admit though that it took one more visit to love, love it. The second time we even ate the bar, something I generally don't prefer; but well, as you can tell I love their bar and bartenders so it was amazing.
I did have the Crystal’s Light and while the bartender was fully clothed and no unicorns were present, it was still magical. It has many of my favorites (vodka) and things I didn’t even know I like (elderflower). Putting our faith in said bartender, we let him direct us on how much and what food to order. One mistake of our first experience was filling up on too many sides (salatim section of menu) and hummus dishes, both served with their infamous pita bread. The pita…. it’s easily the best I have ever had. With no willpower when it comes to carbs, I learned however, we needed to pace ourselves to enjoy some of the larger dishes too. The staff is generous with the perfectly cooked pita and it’s easy to accept their never-ending offering of the warm bread.
This time around, we started with the muhammara and the lamb ragu hummus, served of course with generous pita. The lamb ragu hummus is arguably the most popular and its easy to see why - the velvety, smooth hummus mixed with the flavorful lamb topping can only be described as delightful. I could easily have eaten this for my meal, but I would have missed out enjoying the larger dishes. Pacing ourselves with our pita this time, we next enjoyed the crispy eggplant (the only time I have ever seen my husband eat eggplant), and then ended with the Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shank. Considering that the man behind Safta named his parent company Pomegranate Hospitality, you just know this dish is going to be good. Paired with a whipped feta and fresh peaches, what could go wrong? Nothing. Sadly, on both visits we did not save room for dessert, but vow to return with a larger group to expand our culinary experience.
Safta in Hebrew means grandmother – you can see the touch of an older generation in the water glasses adorned with pink flowers, plates that would have worked in the 1950’s and even a portrait of the owner’s grandmother can be found hanging in the bar. Many of the recipes are inspired by his grandmother- someone all of us in Denver owe a thank you.
I am not the best traveller. I don't like cars or planes. I don't like boats or trains. I don't like strange beds or slowly dripping showers. I don't like friends having fun and staying up all hours. I don't like hiking or biking. There is not much to my liking. But I like Aspen. And channeling Dr. Seuss.
I also like eating and drinking.
I woke up early on day two to buy pastries. I bought all the pastries. They cost a billion dollars and were sickeningly good. Maybe the place was Paradise bakery? If not it should have been. I was not the only carb-obsessed traveller. We each brought snacks to share. Not many of these bags made the trip home. Particularly because they paired so well with the Green Chili cheddar dip.
In addition to carbohydrates day two featured the one hike I managed: Maroon Bells. Short and spectacular. Lets ignore the fact that we got there by shuttle and a large portion of the "hike" was navigated with ease by octogenarians. I didn't include the iconic lake shot because I am not one to follow the herd.
Except literally as I followed the herd around the lake.
After the hike we needed hydration so we headed the W hotel bar. We are attending to our hero, enjoying his Australian accent as much as our drink orders. Our priorities changed however when he dropped our drinks in the pool. It was a rescue mission befitting the great Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin. But luckily less deadly. It had a happy ending:
The next morning those of us who were sane skipped the hours long almost pure vertical hike. We hit a local coffee shop. Shop local people. Just check the cup if you need a reminder. Which you might before your caffeine.
Then we headed to the art market/farmer's market, the John Denver Botanic Garden, and a walk to look at billion dollar houses.
One of our group calls the Hotel Jerome her happy place. Or something more soulful. That said we decided to pop in around lunchtime. You can do some deep reading about the architecture and amenities on their website. We walked through the excellent lobby, checked out the closed bar and then settled in for burgers at the J Bar. Although I don't remember prohibition I have decided to add the word fiasco to my life. It is a fiasco that I have been ignoring it for so long. Was that as forced as me at Maroon Bells. Maybe.
That night (our last one) found us at Monarch Steakhouse. Eat local. Here I followed the martini rule. Martinis are like breasts. One is two few. Three are too many. Except that I didn't actually follow the rule and had three. Hence the un-fun drive home.
Another highlight of Aspen? The bathrooms! I am not talking about posh bar bathrooms. I am talking about outdoor bathrooms.
Here's to Aspen: full of hikes, bites, drinks and billionaires. And snark.
We were seated in a booth next to the bar. Behind the bar was a man in the same denim apron that all the servers sported...but his seemed to have a purpose. He was reshaping large ice cubes (the clear kind that only places with mixologists seem to be able to produce) with a cleaver. It was an Edward scissor hands kind of moment but with ice shavings flying at his chest rather than branchlets.
At this point our dinner dates arrived. After removing their helmets (because they biked...duh) they were ready to join us in a deep dive of the menu. First drinks.
Steve had ordered the Bierstadt Pilsner because it is hard to find. So he says and its better just to believe him. We spent some time talking to our server about the Toki-Hi. Evidently it is blended Japanese Whiskey that is evervesed by a device that looks like a soda stream but has some sort of rock in it. Either the whiskey or the machine are the only one in Denver. That particular hi-bol got earmarked for next time.
It was at this point that Steve and I tried to share the excitement of the ice shaving with our companions. "They weren't making cubes!" (that was me, perhaps too excited) They were making..."Dodecohedrons" (that was Steve and me in thrilling unison.) D + J laughed at us as I explained that dedecohedron was our safe word. "Really?" "Well it is now." Also- dedecohedron is spelled dodecahedron.
So normally we would go for the tasting menu. Here it is called Entrust which is a great name...except I kept reading it as encrust. and outside of pies and earths I don't like the word crust. Instead we opted for one small dish, three sticks, one pasta, and one large dish. Want to guess which ones?
Next up were the sticks. Chicken Meatball, giant mushroom leg, and prawn. The prawn was the major winner. A great hit of spice, perfect texture, some other description that a real foodie would give.
For our large plate we devoured the wagyu flank steak. Perfect texture. Sauce wasn't salty enough for me but I am a freak about salt. It came with Chickory in some sort of delicious aioli. I didn't think I liked chickory. I was wrong. I was also wrong about the spelling of Chicory. K? Also porridge with herb pesto from their outdoor herb walled dining area. For someone who would rather be a carnivore than an omnivore the chicory was a shocker.
Then there was dessert.
The menu called it Buckwheat Chocolate Tart. Featuring winter citrus caramel and cofe corretto cream. It did not look like a tart. That did not matter. Smooth and crisp, salty and sweet, warm and cool. This was study in contrasts that came together perfectly. It is tomorrow now (assuming you agree that time is non-linear) and I want it again. Dodecahedron.
You might have noticed the lead photo on this post. Why? Because you have eyes and a soul.
Wolf's Tailor details:
Magical Ice show
Fancy Japanese stoned whisky thing
Pasta with great mouth feel
Opened by Basta Chef Kelly Whitaker