100 Favorite Dishes: Pork-belly confit from Solera

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No. 92 Pork Belly Confit at Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar 5410 East Colfax Avenue 303-388-8429

Solera has been a sole outpost of fine dining on Colfax Avenue between Colorado and Monaco for at least a dozen years, with chef Goose Sorensen heading the kitchen for nearly the entire stretch. For a Denver restaurant, that's a lot of years in which to put a stamp on the dining scene. While Solera has become known for its charming, shady patio and excellent Wednesday-evening wine-tasting sessions, the menu has maintained its rock-solid consistency through a continuous ebb and flow of trendy restaurants and of-the-moment food fads. Even pork belly, the humble Southern off-cut, has seen its heyday, but Sorensen's version focuses on the meat for full effect while using global touches to enhance the experience.

See also: 100 Favorite Dishes: Kettle Chips from Amerigo Delicatus

The pork belly in question is a meaty cut with barely a trace of gelid fat. The confit preparation, which Sorensen says involves curing, pressing and slow cooking in duck fat, melts the layers of pork fat into the meat while breaking down the connective tissue, resulting in a wedge of falling-apart belly that still maintains a toothsome firmness. A quick sear crisps the exterior for an added dose of char and a hint of sweetness.

The plating changes a little depending on the season and the mood of the kitchen. You might find the belly accompanied by shredded papaya salad; pineapple cornbread and mole; or, in this case, atop a crisped polenta round with corn relish and a tangy-sweet tamarind-honey sauce.

At $9 during happy hour or $11 on the dinner menu, the only decision is whether to order your pork belly at the bar under the attentive guidance of one of Solera's excellent bartenders or spend an extra two dollars to sit out on the cool, fenced-in patio, where happy-hour prices aren't available.

In advance of the Best of Denver 2015, we're already loading our plates with contenders for the best dishes in the city. And over the next nine months, we'll be sharing many of them with you, counting down (in no particular order) one hundred of our favorite dishes before the Best of Denver 2015 hits the streets on March 26. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at cafe@westword.com.

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2014 countdown are linked below.

No. 100: Chile Relleno at La Fiesta No. 99: Gurage Kitfo at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant No. 98: Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class No. 97: The Greggers Tongue Sandwich at Olive & Finch No 96: Baum Cakes at Glaze by Sasa No. 95: Goat hot pot from Viet's No 94: Head cheese from Beast + Bottle No. 93: Kettle Chips from Amerigo Delicatus

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