In late August, while on a food journey in Glenwood Springs, I had dinner at the Pullman, the newest restaurant -- a farm-to-table venture -- from chef Mark Fischer, who owns Six89 and Phat Thai in Carbondale, and soon, a second Phat Thai in Cherry Creek, slated to open later this month. Then, a few weeks later, at a farm dinner in Longmont, I ran into Fischer and mentioned that I'd had dinner at at his joint. "Did you like it?" he asked. "Yes," I told him, "I loved it" -- and I wasn't blowing smoke up his ass. "Tell me the truth," he pressed. "Did you really like it?"
Considering that Fischer's new restaurant just landed on Esquire magazine's 2011 Best New Restaurants in America list, he can probably stop asking.
The November issue, which hits shelves next week, is the annual round-up of writer John Mariani's picks for the best restaurants that opened in 2011, and among the twenty he gives shout-outs to, only one Colorado restaurant -- the Pullman -- makes the cut, which while a bit surprising, is well-deserved.
But in addition to pimping the country's twenty best new restaurants, Mariani also dishes out praise to Michael Mina, awarding him Restaurateur of the Year for his namesake restaurant in San Francisco. Back in May, I was in San Francisco for the Fancy Food Show, and while I didn't eat at Mina's eponymous restaurant, I did have dinner at Bourbon Steak, Mina's signature steakhouse and, to put it kindly, there's absolutely no reason to go back. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't good, either -- and certainly no better than our own steakhouses. In two words: Below pedestrian. Apparently, I should have had dinner at Michael Mina, where, insists Mariani, "you'll have one of the great meals of your life by an American master." If you say so.
Mariani also showers love on six new cookbooks: American Flavor, by Andrew Carmellini; Cooking My Way Back Home, by Mitch Rosenthal; Girl in the Kitchen, by Stephanie Izard, who was just in Denver, at ChoLon, as part of her book tour; Eleven Madison Park; by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara; My Family Table, by John Besh; and last, but certainly not least, Esquire: Eat Like a Man, which, in case you're not quite awake, is Esquire's own cookbook -- a cookbook that Mariani calls "the essential cookbook for men." He should have just called it "flagrant testosterone." Not that we're judging.
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In any case, here's the entire bucket of restaurants that made Mariani's list:
Congress, Austin, TX Legal Harborside, Boston, MA Tico, Boston, MA Towne Stove and Spirits, Boston, MA Chicago Cut Steakhouse, Chicago, IL The Pullman, Glenwood Springs, CO Ray's & Stark Bar, Los Angeles, CA Sotto, Los Angeles, CA 1500°, Miami Beach, FL Dominique's on Magazine, New Orleans, LA Ai Fiori, New York, NY Boulud Sud, New York, NY Lincoln Ristorante, New York, NY Millesime, New York, NY Salinas, New York, NY Cotogna, San Francisco, CA Fiola, Washington, D.C