In my review of Farro, I talked at great length about the meals that Matt Franklin has cooked for me that I will carry with like baggage throughout my days. I also spoke less specifically about a handful of other dinners (or individual plates) I've had that inspired memories that far outstretch my actual pleasure in eating them. These are the meals that, when I'm feeling low, I return to to bolster my flagging spirits. These are the dishes that I wield like weapons when I find myself locked in conversation with some dimwit who doesn't get just how good we've got it here in the 303.
And these are the plates that make up this week's List. It's not a canonical recitation, just the dishes that came immediately to mind. So here we go...
1) Clams and potatoes, goat toast and lobster corndogs at Wine Experience Cafe and 240 Union. Although both restaurants live on, when I ate these plates, Matt Franklin was in the kitchen. The clams and potatoes (with great bread and chorizo, in a garlic-shot, lemon-thyme broth) were at Wine Experience on a day when I was barely expecting competence, let alone simple peasant brilliance. And I got to experience both the goat toast (goat-cheese stuffed savory French toast, done as a throwaway side) and the lobster corndog during a single meal at 240 Union.
2) Cassoulet at Z Cuisine (2239 West 30th Avenue): This was the dish that sold me on the brilliance of Z Cuisine and the talent of its chef/owenr, Patrick Dupays. A little confit, a little sausage, some stiff white beans, bitter greens and cippolini onions gone soft as roasted garlic cloves -- it was all amazing. And while my first Z cassoulet was by far the most memorable, every successive bowl has been almost as good.
3) Grits at Venue (3609 West 32nd Avenue): This dish was my first taste of what the kitchen at Venue was capable of, and it was all that needed to be said. Bacon grits, rich with the pure, concentrated essence of pork, just waiting to go off like a hand grenade the minute I put the first forkful in my mouth.
4) Ravioli at Relish (137 South Main Street, Breckenridge): Kurobuta pork shoulder ravioli, fried, topped with sharp cheddar and a sauce of green pear and brown butter, eaten while we watched the first snow starting to fall on the mountains. Laura and I got one of the very first plates of this that Relish's kitchen had prepared, and it was a revelation.
5) Pave of salmon at Restaurant Kevin Taylor (1106 14th Street): This fish was so good that it actually rendered me speechless. And any of you who know me (or just anyone who's ever read one of my columns) can imagine how difficult a thing that is.
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6) Filet of salmon with leek fondue and duck in sauce moutarde at Indulge (4140 West 38th Avenue): I'm drooling a little just thinking about this pair of plates. So perfectly prepared, perfectly presented, perfectly French. I loved everything about them, from the potatoes tournee set alongside the caramel-brown filet of salmon to the coarse mustard sauce, thin as a simple syrup, that graced the duck. These were two of the best dishes I've ever had anywhere, not just in Denver.
7) Everything at Table 6 (609 Corona Street): I've never had a meal at Table 6 that wasn't memorable for one reason or another. And it's a mark of my faith in this perfect little neighborhood restaurant that I can't ever imagine a situation when I would.
And those are just the memories skimmed off the top of my head, as I realized that Franklin's meatloaf at Farro is another one to add to my list of memorable dishes. Now I'm curious to hear about yours. What's the one dish, the one meal, the single plate that you always return to when daydreaming about your best moments in Denver's dining rooms? Leave a comment, and maybe together we can create a kind of psycho-culinary map of this city's s best instants in time -- the best, most memorable, most psychologically heavy points in our s physical, temporal and culinary history.
I can't wait to see what you folks have to say.