100 Favorite Dishes: Squab-and-Sunchoke Tortellini at Abejas

No. 97: Squab-and-Sunchoke Tortellini at Abejas
Abejas opened last summer in Golden, tucked under a shingled awning typical of the town's old-time mining-town vibe. Inside, you'll also find references to Golden's history and location, from gas lanterns on shelves above the bar to lengths of climbing rope that act to divide the dining room into distinct sections without compromising the open feel. Despite those elements, Abejas is thoroughly modern in its approach to serving food, with a menu divided equally between small plates and entrees.

Look to the small-plates roster for inspired, seasonal cooking that combines disparate ingredients into cohesive flavors without ever seeming contrived or forced. Take the squab-and-sunchoke tortellini, based on a combination rarely seen in such close proximity outside an alphabetically arranged culinary encyclopedia. Here, pidgeon meat and soft-cooked sunchoke (the tuber of a sunflower species) form miniature pillows inside graceful curls of housemade pasta.

Squab also flavors the madeira-hued consommé, along with just enough beetroot to sweeten the deal without introducing the intense earthiness or the blood-red dye of the vegetable. Pearls of oil dot the surface, broken by a perfect brunoise of more sunchoke. And with a bartender's flair, a splash of Chartreuse adds herbal notes while balancing the sweetness of the soup.

Chef Nicholas Ames changes the menu with the seasons, so if you don't see this dish on the menu, look for other pasta samplers among the small plates — or just compose a menu from a series of what appeals to you to experience the originality and precision that makes Abejas worth the trek to Golden.

Throughout this year, we'll be counting down the best dishes in the city — from longtime classics that keep us coming back to new additions that have caught our attention. If there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section, or shoot us an e-mail at cafe@westword.com.

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2016 countdown are linked below.

No. 100: Masala Beef at Biju's Little Curry Shop
No. 99: Bacon Shrimp and Grits at Bacon Social House
No. 98: Porchetta and Kimchi Sandwich at Brider

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