Someone asked me last night what my favorite restaurant is - how could I possibly choose? I have Black Pearl, India's on Pearl, Sushi Den, and Izakaya Den all about 5 minutes from my house. The wide selection in Cherry Creek - where we lean toward Italian spots like Cucina Colore, Piatti, and Campo de Fiori, but do like the occasional burger at the Cherry Cricket - are only 10 minutes from our house. And the wonderful restaurants on 6th Avenue - Barolo Grill and Fruition come to mind - are only a couple minutes further. If we get brave enough to actually venture toward downtown or further, there's Panzano, Bistro Vendome, Rioja, The 9th Door, The Capital Grille, Mizuna, Luca d'Italia, Red Square Euro Bistro, Tomayo, Rialto Cafe, Le Central, and more. You tell me, how can I choose?!
But no matter where I go, besides savoring what I eat, I learn something from dining out. Here are my photos from last night, along with my observations and learnings.
Pinot Noir pairs with food beautifully. I knew that already, but I didn't know this particular label which happened to be the cheapest (or close to it) on the wine list, but was fabulous. In the store this is about a $20 bottle, if you can find it (limited release).
Interesting ingredients can make something as boring as the bread unique - in this case, the small muffin was studded with cocoa nibs for a slight bitter kick and a crunch.
Sometimes the smallest accompaniment on the plate is the best tasting thing. The basic mixed greens salad had overnight tomatoes, which are sort of between sun dried and fresh, and instead of croutons, had small pieces of Brie which were breaded and deep fried - gooey and delicious.
The lesson here is always ask the size of the salads and appetizers. We each ordered our own, and my friend Susan's scallops could easily have been the entree.
This lovely ravioli course was compliments of the chef. Whether it was because we were seated at the table with a full view of the kitchen (a bonus for me even though they seemed apologetic about it) or because they thought I was "someone" due to my photographing each course, I love a surprise during the meal. The cheesy ravioli (mascarpone? ricotta?) was served with a couple of slices of duck breast over the top and a wonderful duck sauce studded with black truffles - need I say more?
I don't usually go for the fried type of entrees, but this preparation sounded interesting. The tuna was wrapped in a wonton wrapper then flash fried to make it crispy but keep it rare. I think you could also do this in an oven and avoid the deep frying mess. But the bigger lesson here was the wonderful coconut/curry sauce on the bottom of the plate that made the dish.
I know this looks like a family platter, not an individual plate - and the lesson is never to allow my husband, who generally eats like a bird, to order the surf and turf. It's just too much food for even me, and he barely touched it after the other courses, despite how colorful and enticing the plate was.
This is the sugar for coffee - wondering why I photographed it? I just thought it was cute...
Lesson here? There is such a thing as too much chocolate! This arrived with a hard chocolate lid across the large soup size bowl over which the waiter poured hot chocolate ganache and we got to watch the dessert melt into soup in the bowl. I couldn't really even tell what was under so much chocolate - some berries? some white chocolate? something like shortbread? - but a couple of spoons of this richness is about all anyone at our table could manage.
I much preferred the sorbet trio which was refreshing and taught me two things. One, presentation does make a difference - doesn't this dessert look cute with the little berry on top of the berry sorbet so you know what flavor it is? Two, some weird flavors are incredible - pineapple and ginger - and some just don't work for me - cucumber, honeydew melon and mint.