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FAD CHANCE

Something's brewing. Denver has become the brewpub capital of the country, and beer is only part of the reason why. The city's brewpubs have gotten serious about their grub as well as their brews--and none more so than the Denver ChopHouse & Brewery (1735 19th St.). The atmosphere at this converted Union Pacific headhouse is classy yet comfortable, and the menu offers something for everyone. I'll drink to the mussels in a vermouth-touched tomato broth, the pancetta-wrapped shrimp and any of the big, floppy pizzas.

Man does not live by beer alone. While microbrews are Denver's drink of choice, the city is making significant inroads in wine country, too. A number of specialty wine boutiques opened in the past year, as did a few restaurants touting their devotion to the grape. The one that really pops my cork is Napa Cafe (2033 E. Colfax), a smartly appointed space seemingly overflowing with vino, if the incredibly extensive (several hundred names strong) cellared-wine list is any indication. A quaint wine bar smashed against the kitchen offers interesting insights into just how chaotic running a kitchen the size of a two-quart stockpot can be. And it can be particularly chaotic when the chef, kitchen magician Tyler Wiard, combines strikingly odd ingredient pairings (bold flavors, with lots of fusiony marinades and crusts) for lean but magical results. Wiard's complex food is the wave of the future, and it takes fusion to a higher level--one where cuisine is no longer identified with a single country.

Grease is still the word. But the simpler foods in life continue to enthrall us--and no better example can be found than in the vittles at the venerable Yorkshire Fish & Chips (7275 Pecos St.), which qualifies not as a new restaurant but as a recent rediscovery. This is grease at its finest--peanut oil oozing from cheap cod sheathed in crisp waves of batter, or meaty oysters the size of your fist, covered in the same great, greasy batter, deep-fried and shipped out in thin cardboard rectangles that barely contain the sopping stuff inside. Along with two fellow food writers, I shoveled an unspeakable amount of this heart-attack material into my mouth during one recent lunch. Despite all the wonderful, sophisticated fare we've sampled this year, Yorkshire's fried fish and oysters are what we talk about the most and what we dream of the most.

I guess it was the Year of the Pig, after all.

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