Best South American Market 2002 | Emporio Minas From Brazil | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Have a hankering to imitate some of Café Brazil's dishes in your own kitchen? You'll quickly realize that many of the required ingredients -- from the elusive dendê, the lighthearted palm oil that lends its warm orange color and irreplaceable zesty tropical flavor to Brazilian seafood dishes, to farinha de manioca, the ground manioc meal that, toasted, becomes the essential table condiment farofa -- are harder to find than a table at the restaurant on a Saturday night. Thanks to Emporio Minas, though, there's no reason to cut your samba short. This hole-in-the-wall market, three little rooms with metal shelving that could well be found in a São Paulo garage, has all that stuff and more: coconut milk, sticky-sweet dulce de leche; the Portuguese sausages, salt-cured beef and carioca beans called for in classic feijoada; guava paste and pickled malagueta peppers, not to mention maté drinks, olives, cookies, chocolate and even nail polish. Oh, yeah, there's something else you can count on finding: every homesick Brazilian east of the Continental Divide.
Shopping at Arash Supermarket is like going on a treasure hunt: You never know what you'll find tucked away in some corner. The bustling store is bursting with Middle Eastern items, from locally baked pitas the size of pizzas to imported and domestic feta to many types of tahini to real basmati rice. Produce here is much cheaper than at the big chain grocery stores -- lemons and limes, lettuce and tomatoes are noteworthy bargains -- as are kalamatas, yogurt drinks, pickles and olive oil. A few non-Middle Eastern ingredients, including Mexican crema and Italian lunchmeats, are also on hand. Check out the unique, commercially baked goods on the shelves near the cashiers: The exotic little cookies and unusual sweets are special treats for kids.

If you can't find an Asian ingredient at the Asian Supermarket, that ingredient simply doesn't exist. This vast warehouse of a grocery store stocks forty kinds of rice noodles alone, all haphazardly jammed into one aisle. Unfamiliar cans of squishy-looking ingredients share space with forty-pound bags of rice and twenty brands of coconut milk. Several aisles are devoted to plastic and ceramic dishes, woks, utensils, chopsticks and steamers, all at bargain prices. The produce is well-priced, too, especially limes, Asian basil, daikon and ginger, and the dried-mushroom section is a delight for fungi fans. Don't forget to stop by the meat counter, which displays an impressive selection of fresh fish and meats.

Walking into Vinnola's Market is like traveling back in time to an East Coast-style deli of decades past. Everyone's friendly and yelling and laughing; deli workers are passing slices of cheese and salami over the counter for inspection by little old blue-haired Italian ladies. Those goods always pass muster: The smallish market carries all of the important imported meats and cheeses -- Asiago and mortadella, mozzarella and prosciutto -- as well as olive oil and balsamico, fresh-baked Italian bread and cookies, and fresh and dried pasta. Stop by at lunchtime, and one of Vinnola's overstuffed sandwiches will see you through the rest of your shopping.
Good things come in small packages, and European Mart proves it. This tiny store is crammed with smoked fish and sauerkraut, kasha and Danish cheeses, even Swiss specialties and Hungarian tidbits tracked down by owner Dmitry Gershengorin -- and the deli case is full of imported meats, pretty cakes and other baked items. Because Glendale boasts a sizable Russian population, the Mart also stocks Moscow's newspapers and Russian dolls. Caviar fans should ask if there's any on hand: Gershengorin often has the best price on fish eggs in town.

Fred Deligio is the quintessential neighborhood butcher, a guy who really cares about his customers, always remembering how you like your steaks cut and when you need pork butt instead of loin. At Fred's Fine Meats, he brings in Choice-grade meat and ages it for three weeks himself; he also makes his own Italian and German sausages and bratwurst. Need a specialty sausage? Give Fred the recipe and he'll custom-stuff it to your specs -- and it will taste just like what your Polish grandma used to turn out. Fred's chickens come from Red Bird Farms (he'll cook them rotisserie-style for you), and he also offers only American lamb -- none of that frozen stuff from New Zealand -- and Boar's Head deli meats. Need elk, buffalo or duck liver? He can get it. And at the end of every transaction, Fred always says, "You take care." We will, because he does.

Want a guy who knows his pesto from his prosciutto? Need a vegetarian woman? Head straight to Tony's, the best meat/meet market in town, a mecca for the lonely looking for a date (or at least dinner). Every weekend, singles converge around the ready-made soups and pasta sauces in the frozen-foods section of this massive gourmet grocery store, checking out both the culinary and cuddling options. At Tony's, it's much easier to narrow down your choices than it is in a bar: You know he likes to cook if his cart is full of spices from the extensive selection here, and you know she's a morning person if hers has plenty of upscale jams and fresh-baked pastries. Sidle up to a cutie by the free samples and ask for her number; if it's a go, you can always pick out dinner together.

Best Meat Market for Knees and Necks


Midopa is an excellent Asian market specializing in Korean and Japanese ingredients, with a killer housemade kim chee and inexpensive, fresh sushi sitting in a case near the front counter. But Midopa also stocks the best selection of hard-to-find animal parts we've ever seen. Necks, backs, feet, knees and other odds and ends from a variety of critters are available at all times, just begging to be plopped into a stock for Vietnamese pho or wrapped in rice paper and fried. No one at Midopa speaks much English, so it pays to know your parts -- because when it comes to cooking, parts isn't parts.

Fishing for an interesting dinner? Head to any Whole Foods markets and have a chat with the knowledgeable staffers in the seafood section. They'll point out a tip-top fresh specimen, perfectly cut, from their dizzying array and then tell you ten different ways to prepare it, along with what other fish might work just as well in the same dish. On any given day, Whole Foods is swimming in the town's biggest variety of sea creatures, and employees can give you the 411 on any one of them: where it came from, what it ate, how long it'll keep and what it tastes like. The seafood section also has a tempting array of ready-made delicacies, including a fabulous calamari salad and party-worthy dips and spreads. And for those who like it raw, the sushi-grade octopus, eel, salmon and tuna are a cut above anyone else's.

Roy's, which came to Cherry Creek by way of Hawaii, is once again the catch of the year for its fresh, well-prepared seafood. We're always reeled in by the menu's interesting combinations, including cassoulet made from sea scallops and filet mignon, and broadbill swordfish dusted and pan-fried with mochiko, a rice flour. This classy, elegant restaurant isn't afraid to offer seafood that landlocked Denver doesn't often see, such as butterfish (known as Pacific pompano or sablefish); the kitchen's also adept at turning the tried and true into something new, too, topping Chilean sea bass with grilled eel, for example. Get the net: We're keeping this one.

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