Favorite Dining Experiences of 2011

by Grace Boyle on December 12, 2011

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This was the year of food for me.

I started Grace(full) Plate in October of 2010, but 2011 was my first full year with the food blog and not only has my palate expanded, but I’ve tried many restaurants (new and old) around Colorado and the country.

Although I didn’t get a chance to write about all of them, I’ve listed them all here in chronological order (but no particular favorite order) as my favorite dining experiences of 2011 to round up the year.

I start here in Boulder, with an exquisite restaurant, Frasca in the first week of January.

Frasca Food & Wine. Boulder, CO. Special Event: Food & Wine Pairing with Rajat Parr of RN74.
Highlights:
The four course meal was rich and velvety, and was a gift for me. Meeting Rajat and tasting his custom wines he harvested in select vineyards in Santa Barbara.
Food:
Polenta Integrale – Anson Mills polenta, squash, brussels sprout and black truffle. Parr Selections 2008 Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict, Santa Barbara County, California.

Venue Bistro. Denver, CO. Day in Denver, date night.
Highlights:
First time in the restaurant, loved the small, intimate space and funky neighborhood in The Highlands.
Food: Favorite dish was the ricotta gnocchi with glazed fennel, winter squash, root vegetables and sage. For dessert, pumpkin bread pudding with walnuts and vanilla bean ice cream.

Pizzeria da Lupo. Boulder, CO. Pizza and mozzarella making.
Highlights:
Stretching and making mozzarella in the kitchen with the chefs and their $25,000 custom, wood-fired oven.
Food:
Favorite pizza they have is their Saliche with rapini, ricotta and house made mozzarella. House-made mozz melts in your mouth.

Flagstaff House. Boulder, CO. Dessert and wine cellar tour.
Highlights: Family owned and run for 40 years, iPad wine list with 12,000 bottles of wine includes tasting notes, vintage information and touring their wine cellar, including a bottle of Crystal that is well over $20,000.
Food: Blueberry panna cotta and their key lime tart with toasted macadamia nuts.

Aria. Denver, CO. Whimsical dishes at Michael Long’s newest restaurant.
Highlights:
A diverse, whimsical menu with unique dishes and style, Michael Long’s colorful personality, discussing his dishes, food quality and ideas as a Chef.
Food:
Bacon scented scallops with wilted spinach, caramelized cippollini and red wine caper jus and coriander grilled yellowfin tuna (medium rare) with pineapple kimchee, soy paint and a scallion pancake.

Bittersweet. Denver, CO. Newly opened in January 2011, a visit to invoke the senses.
Highlights:
Love the interior with hints of vintage, purples and steel grey with a 1800-era fireplace in the restored auto-body restaurant and their farm in the city at the restaurant.
Food: The famed New England Chowder with top neck clam, potato croquet and crispy pork. For dessert, their vanilla mascarpone tartlet with strawberry brulee and graham cracker crust.

Four Seasons Hotel Denver EDGE Restaurant. Denver, CO. A brunch to remember in a beautiful hotel.
Highlights:
Impeccable service, a game room in the dining room for kids including a Wii, the chocolate fountain.
Food: Smoked salmon with lemon mascarpone brioche and chive cream. For dessert, homemade pop-tarts and an overflowing chocolate fountain with cake and strawberries to dip into.

1515 Restaurant. Denver, CO. Creative sous vide, molecular cooking.
Highlights:
First Denver restaurant approved for sous vide cooking, Wine Spectator award for last 10 years and the historic building from the late 1800’s.
Food: Seared scallop – compressed orange tempura with tarragon pesto and Soft poached fried egg – udon pasta, truffled, asparagus, mache leafs and pickled radish.

Black Cat. Boulder, CO. Birthday celebrations, tasting menu surprise.
Highlights:
Chef’s five course tasting menu, romantic ambiance with an exciting view of the kitchen and chefs.
Food: Their menu changes daily, food coming from their own Black Cat farm. I suggest the tasting menu with wine pairings, they even make vegetarian available.

Pickled Lemon. Boulder, CO. Authentic Middle Eastern eats, in a casual environment.
Highlights:
Family owned and run from the famed Udi Bar-on family with his daughter Robin, funky interior, tables and wallpaper from an UK artist, pickled vegetable bar, fast-casual and easy to try Middle Eastern food.
Food:
Chicken Shawarma with a custom blended 21-spice mix and creamy pistachio pudding.

Omni Interlocken Resort: Meritage Restaurant. Broomfield, CO. Hidden gem outside of Boulder in a hotel.
Highlights:
Surprise warmth and accessibility in a luxury hotel, extensive wine list, special French menu bringing French ingredients and local Colorado ingredients together.
Food:
Foie gras with almond butter, preserved fruit, fresh slice of walnut on a gougeres and Local Red Bird Farm Colorado chicken filled with apricots, sun dried cherries and fallot gingerbread mustard coulis.

Linger Eatuaries. Denver, CO. International street food with the best view.
Highlights:
New to The Highlands in Denver, fun ambiance, International street-style food options around the world, incredible view of downtown Denver and it’s an old, restored mortuary.
Food:
Mongolian BBQ Duck Bun, steamed sesame buns, scallions & miso-pickled cucumbers and Chicken B’stilla, crispy pastry, almonds, apricots, golden raisins, saigon cinnamon, harissa & preserved lemon yogurt.

Zaftigs Jewish Deli. Brookline, MA. Delicatessen in Beantown.
Highlights:
Fun artwork, packed crowd and lines show its popularity, fun spin on traditional Jewish dishes gone modern.
Food:
Latke potato pancakes with housemade applesauce and sour cream and San Francisco Joe’s Special housemade ground turkey hash, mushrooms, onions, spinach and egg topped with asiago.

Ruth Tobias of Denveater recaps the 10 best things she ate in Boulder/Denver as part of her guide book she releases in the Spring. Worth a gander, as well.

Note: This reflects my year of dining specifically in 2011, not best restaurants ever and are highly tied in with my experience and the food I had.

What are your favorites in terms of restaurants and food experiences of the year? Share in the comments!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jr-Moreau/17901497 Jr Moreau

    Great list. What a year of indulgence it’s been!

  • Anonymous

    Great list, Grace. I see a few in here I’ll have to try. My favorite this year has been Pizza Republica in Greenwood VIllage. But with the kids we don’t get out very often.

    • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

      I haven’t been there yet. I love how there are many places around the area to try. Thanks for stopping by :)

  • Melanie

    If you’re a huge fan of food you should try coming to Santa Barbara. You’ve tried the wine now try all the great food! Tons of places that are well worth mentions and the revolutionary food offered is mind blowing with taste and decadence. I cannot wait to go back and get my fill. Glad you mentioned the chardonnay though-delicious. Their pinot is also really good. Wine tasting there is always a treat. I’ll have to check out COlorado-seems like they have a ton of great places to eat and by the looks of the pictures you took-delicious! Santa Barbara will always be close to my heart though-love staying at the Sandman Inn (www.thesandmaninn.com). Affordable and close to tons of great restaurants in town.

    • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

      Hi Melanie! Funny you should say so, I really love Santa Barbara. I had friends in college who went to college there so I would fly from Vermont to there, each year to spend it in the sun. I was there last year and am going again in May.

      Any favorite restaurants there? I really love it especially with the vineyards.

      Thanks for stopping by. The Sandman Inn sounds so cute!~

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