For small restaurants that rely on the seasonal availability of meats and proteins to shape their menus, summer means a big shift in theme and ingredients. Warming winter dishes give way to lighter, brighter fare, but there are also a few surprises that don't necessarily seem summery unless you're tapped into the gradual changes of the seasons. At Spuntino and the Chowder Room, new menu items reflect the seasons. Of course summer means Denverites are out and about all day, so newcomer Max's Wine Dive is adding lunch. Keep reading for details on the changes at all three eateries.
Soft Shell Crab and a Beer Dinner at the Chowder Room
At the Chowder Room on South Broadway, chowder will obviously never come off the menu regardless of the weather, but certain seafood items are definitely seasonal. Chef/owner Matthew Stein says Chesapeake Bay soft shell crab are excellent right now, so he's bringing them in and will offer the crab as a special as long as the supply is good. Stein serves the blue crab simply: they're marinated whole in buttermilk before receiving a light Wondra dusting and a sautee in butter and lemon with parsley. But if you ask, you can also get it served as a po' boy.
The rest of the menu has also been updated with lighter summer flavors. A bright and tangy shrimp and mahi mahi ceviche has been added to the chilled seafood list, along with Alaskan snow crab claws and a platter with oysters, shrimp and snow crab. And salads with winter greens have been replaced with a summer blend that can be topped with shrimp, crab cake, salmon or tuna salad made from pole-caught American albacore. There's also blackened salmon atop a chopped salad pepped up with an apple vinaigrette.
Stein's California connections have also landed him a beer dinner with Bay Area brewery Lagunitas. The brewery will present beers paired with eight different Chowder Room dishes on Wednesday, July 29, at 6 p.m. Tickets ($65 each) can be purchased by calling 303-777-FISH or by stopping in at the restaurant.
Braised Goat and a Wine Dinner at Spuntino
Chef Cindhura Reddy recently started bringing in goat from El Regalo Ranch near Salida and as part of her summer menu will be serving braised goat on mascarpone polenta with what general manager Elliott Strathmann describes as "a really fresh and bright gremolata." The rest of the menu is dotted with sweet corn, charred peaches, zucchini blossoms and other signs of the summer growing season. To celebrate, Spuntino is hosting a wine dinner on Wednesday, July 15, featuring wines from the Alto Piemonte region of Italy, curated by John Paine of Rosenthal Wine Merchants. A full menu of the $95 a seat dinner can be found on Spuntino's website, where you can also make reservations.
Spuntino will be closed for summer vacation from July 27 through August 7. When the restaurant reopens on August 8, new hours will be in place. Spuntino will be open seven days a week from 5 pm., with happy hour from 5 to 6:30 p.m., but will no longer be open for lunch.
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New Lunch Hours and Menu at Max's Wine Dive
The Governor's Park fried chicken and wine bar that opened in April has added lunch hours and a few new midday menu items. The eatery will open at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and will offer a Nacho Mama's Po'Boy with cornmeal crusted oysters, a Tony Montana Cubano for fans of Al Pacino and Cuban sandwiches, and lighter dishes like a salmon Nicoise salad. Of course, Max's succulent fried chicken will be available on the lunch menu too. And starting Monday, July 13, Max's will offer full bar service with a range of new cocktails.