Sunflower's kitchen can cook, there's no doubt about that. Almost everything this crew touches turns to pure culinary gold. So who would suspect a pastry to be the dish that truly shines? Sunflower does a dessert -- a fresh berry shortcake swimming in sweetened tofu cream, of all things -- that's so good it takes our breath away. The berries are fresh, the shortcake sweet and spongy -- and the tofu cream? A true treasure, even if tofu itself is a joke, made from curdled soy milk and therefore a food to be laughed at. It certainly has no business being turned into something this decadently delicious. But when we order the berry shortcake, we're so busy eating that we don't let a snicker escape our lips.
What makes Sunflower a winner? It's not only a vegetarian restaurant. Although chef Jon Pell has been immersed in the nuts-and-sprouts scene for more than a decade and his restaurant is known nationwide as a destination for itinerant veggie-heads, this bright, cozy cafe does its thing with no politics attached. And while Sunflower may be fawned over by every meatless, wheatless, smoothie-sucking, twig-and-berry devotee who's ever visited Boulder, this is not a vegetarian restaurant. It's a great goddamn regular restaurant that -- along with everything else it does with talent and dedication -- also serves wonderful vegetarian and full-on vegan fare. All of the food is fresh, not frozen; the produce is organic, the meats drug- and hormone-free. And that's all fine, but what matters most is that Sunflower's veggie cuisine is so good, you'll forget halfway through that it's supposed to be good for you, too.
On the outside, fresh, hot flatbread, crisp and golden and rich with clarified butter. On the inside, sweet caramelized onions and mashed potatoes, smooth and gently flavored like a warm breeze over the spice market. Sitting at a table at Kabul Kabob with a plain, white plate of bulanee kachalu before you, you can't help but think that this is not just the best starter in town, but the best starter ever. And you can't help but order more. The dish is so basic, so plain, so expertly handled and so delicious that you occasionally wonder if man could live on Afghan turnovers alone.
The best way to treat the humble soybean is to leave it pretty much alone, and that's just what Moongate Asian Grill does with its edamame. The pods are steamed, lightly salted, then served hot, sans fuss. You can eat a whole bowl of these addictive little buggers -- nutty in flavor and green as nuclear beer nuts -- and know that you're filling up with one of nature's most perfect foods, packed with all those vitamins, nutrients, oils and good stuff that's so sadly lacking in our drive-thru, fast-food culture. So dig in.
Chef John Broening loves charcuterie. He left his last executive-chef gig because that menu was too dainty, too precious. And now he's at Brasserie Rouge, LoDo's hot new French bistro, where he turns out big, lusty flavors night after night. The biggest can be found on the assiettes de charcuterie platter, the town's

best way to start off a meal without firing up the oven. Each platter includes fragrant, cold lamb sausage spiced with fennel on rounds of baguette spread with spicy Dijon mustard; duck-liver pâté beaten into a smooth, airy mousse just waiting to be smeared onto chunks of French bread torn from loaves made by the restaurant's in-house bakery; chilled slabs of gamey rabbit pâté buried under a fall of baby greens and touched with a compote of sweet apples, delicate herbs and sharp autumnal spice. All of it is lovely, all of it is delicious, and paired with a smooth glass of anything from the Brasserie bar, it's a meal in itself.

Sunflower's kitchen can cook, there's no doubt about that. Almost everything this crew touches turns to pure culinary gold. So who would suspect a pastry to be the dish that truly shines? Sunflower does a dessert -- a fresh berry shortcake swimming in sweetened tofu cream, of all things -- that's so good it takes our breath away. The berries are fresh, the shortcake sweet and spongy -- and the tofu cream? A true treasure, even if tofu itself is a joke, made from curdled soy milk and therefore a food to be laughed at. It certainly has no business being turned into something this decadently delicious. But when we order the berry shortcake, we're so busy eating that we don't let a snicker escape our lips.
You've just eaten one of the great meals of your life at Vega. You've been charmed by the beautiful surroundings, coddled by the staff, well fed from the kitchen's upscale but approachable nuevo-Latino menu, and left with a tiny plate of amuse geules -- sweet bites like handmade chocolate-truffle and fruit gelées brought out gratis. But you've still got a little room left between larynx and trachea that hasn't yet been stuffed full of good eats. So it's a good thing that in defiance of all the pomp and swank of the dinner menu and dining room, Vega offers a guilty-pleasure dessert: hand-spun cotton candy made in-house and served like smoke rising from the charred, crackly top of a true crme brlée. Go ahead and order it -- you know you want to. And don't worry about what that table full of stuffed shirts behind you will think when they see you licking spun sugar off your fingers. Because soon enough, they'll be doing it, too.
On the outside, fresh, hot flatbread, crisp and golden and rich with clarified butter. On the inside, sweet caramelized onions and mashed potatoes, smooth and gently flavored like a warm breeze over the spice market. Sitting at a table at Kabul Kabob with a plain, white plate of bulanee kachalu before you, you can't help but think that this is not just the best starter in town, but the best starter ever. And you can't help but order more. The dish is so basic, so plain, so expertly handled and so delicious that you occasionally wonder if man could live on Afghan turnovers alone.
There's only one way to improve on dessert, and that's to find a way to sneak some alcohol into it. Sure, this tactic has left us with a world full of rum balls, rum cakes and rum tarts, but don't blame Mel's. Here, pâtissire Robert McCarthy has come up with the coolest, most boozerific dessert we've found: the Cosmopolitan. Served in a sugared martini glass, this beauty combines apricot sorbet, dried lime and tiny, clear cubes of vodka gelée. Put a spoonful in your mouth, and the melting sorbet immediately alters the liquid balance of the gelée, causing it to melt across your tongue like a high-end Jell-O shot. Cool.
Chef John Broening loves charcuterie. He left his last executive-chef gig because that menu was too dainty, too precious. And now he's at Brasserie Rouge, LoDo's hot new French bistro, where he turns out big, lusty flavors night after night. The biggest can be found on the assiettes de charcuterie platter, the town's

best way to start off a meal without firing up the oven. Each platter includes fragrant, cold lamb sausage spiced with fennel on rounds of baguette spread with spicy Dijon mustard; duck-liver pté beaten into a smooth, airy mousse just waiting to be smeared onto chunks of French bread torn from loaves made by the restaurant's in-house bakery; chilled slabs of gamey rabbit pté buried under a fall of baby greens and touched with a compote of sweet apples, delicate herbs and sharp autumnal spice. All of it is lovely, all of it is delicious, and paired with a smooth glass of anything from the Brasserie bar, it's a meal in itself.

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