Catering to my needs: Last month, while in line for the buffet at a wedding reception, I chatted with a socialite who throws many parties at her expansive Cherry Hills Village pad. She asked me which caterer I recommended, and I gave her three names: Bistro Boys (the catering sidearm to Bistro Adde Brewster), Three Tomatoes Catering and Carte D'Or Catering & Events, all of which had catered fetes I attended last year and all of which had distinguished themselves mightily. "Have you ever eaten the food from Epicurean?" the woman asked, and when I said I hadn't, she said she'd heard that they used to be good but had gone downhill.
Surprise! It turned out the twenty-year-old Epicurean Catering was catering this do--and did a pretty darn good job. The mashed potatoes were so good that I went back for a huge pile of seconds; four of us had at them while the bride and groom danced. The cake, too, was wonderful, with the kind of sugary icing that isn't too sweet and makes people swipe their fingers through it every time they walk by. And not only was the food handled with style, but it turns out that this was one of five events Epicurean did that night--the others included a little ol' thing known as the Summit.
I quickly added Epicurean to my recommended list, along with Tammy Davis, a one-woman cooking crew. Davis doesn't run an operation quite as extensive as Epicurean's, but she's a trip and she's cheap. And her food is outstanding, from the raspberry-covered Brie-in-puff-pastry appetizer to the "cake" she makes of different kinds of delectable brownies stacked to look like a cake but oh-so-easy for parties because people can just nab a brownie from the stack. Davis will cook up just about any dish from any ethnic group--she also crafts her own chocolates--and if she doesn't know how to make something you absolutely must have, she'll find out, and it'll be fantastic.
Davis also runs a groovy diner called Divine Temptations at 5820 Ogden, which is delightful--but only open for lunch. She faxes the ever-changing menu daily to her regulars, who number more than a hundred; the roster often includes such down-home faves as Swedish meatballs and meatloaf sandwiches.
The rest of the Best: No sooner did the Best of Denver 1997 hit the streets than the Augusta at the Westin Hotel stopped serving lunch and dinner. It seems the Cheesecake Factory has sucked the life out of several downtown eateries, and the Augusta, which was having problems anyway, couldn't compete. The restaurant will still offer its Best Brunch Buffet every Sunday with Central City Opera singers, thank heavens, but if you want to eat lunch or dinner in the hotel, try The Palm. And you might think the Filly Bistro had closed entirely if you went to the old Downing Street address I mistakenly gave along with the Filly's Best Chicken Soup award, but this charming restaurant is alive and well at 1585 South Pearl Street.
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Speaking of goodbye, but only sort of: In the nearly four years that I've been Westword's hired belly (this week is my last with the paper), I've eaten in around a thousand Denver restaurants--not just for reviews, but also as Best of Denver possibilities. Of those--at least, as of this column--127 have closed, 48 have changed hands and 400 of them have transmogrified into Boston Markets. Just kidding, but doesn't it feel that way?
Also in that time, "fresh Mexican grills" became bigger than the burritos they purvey, fine dining took a nosedive, and "casual New American dining" became hotter than a chicken pot pie with baby artichokes and a pate brisee crust fresh from the oven. Moving into town in 1993 could not have been more serendipitous for a food writer--since then, more than half of what I think are the top twenty restaurants in Denver opened, and while we did lose a few good ones, we're getting better at weeding out the losers.
Except for those damn chains.