Chile Today, Hot Tomorrow

“When the Democrats finally get around to staging their national convention here next summer, they’ll discover an emerging dining scene long on diversity, short on superstar candidates and eager to shed its reputation as a culinary backwater.” That’s how Jerry Shriver starts his piece “Denver scales new epicurean heights” that ran in USA Today on July 20. “Increasingly, the national chain restaurants, the beloved brewpubs and the old-guard fine-dining temples such as Flagstaff House and Kevin Taylor are being joined by small-scale, ambitious places that embrace such national trends as seasonal/local/sustainable formats and regional ethnic cuisines.”

From there, he offers up snapshots of two Boulder restaurants – Frasca and Radda Trattoria – and three in Denver: Fruition, Deluxe and Sushi Sasa. All good choices, but when the Democrats descend next summer, the Denver trio are hardly going to serve as headquarters for the New York delegation. For starters, they’re tiny. Sushi Sasa is the largest of the bunch, and on Monday night the hip joint at 15th and Platte streets was overflowing with fans of chef/owner Wayne Conwell’s sushi creations; there wasn’t room for a single CNN camera or funny hat. And while Sushi Sasa and other sushi palaces like Sushi Den have given this region raw power, sushi hardly screams Denver.

No, when the Democrats arrive exactly a year from now, they’ll find there’s only one true regional cuisine, and it’s not the cheeseburger allegedly invented here. It’s green chile, Colorado style, that sometimes gooey, sometimes thin, sometimes green, sometimes orange, sometimes sweet, sometimes hot concoction that morphed from the roasted, chopped green chiles of New Mexico into this state’s unofficial food.

Every variation has its fan, and there are more promising candidates for the best green chile in town than there are for the Democratic presidential nomination. We’ll be rounding them up in the months to come; in the meantime, send in your nominations. Unlike in the last election, every vote counts! -- Patricia Calhoun

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun