Colt & Gray has been open just four months, but owner and exec Nelson Perkins had been working on the restaurant for years -- in his head, mostly, or on paper. He brought on Brad Rowell, a buddy from C-school, to stand as chef de cuisine and then the two of them rescued Ryan Leinonen, ex of the Kitchen in Boulder, who was cut adrift from his chef's post at Root Down while Colt & Gray was still going through build-out and menu design. Early on, concept drawings of the space were released that described a spare and cozy room, bar, fireplace and simple furnishings (looking very little like the finished version), and gave the impression of a carefully balanced mix of rustic vibes and polished finery (which was dead-on). And a preview of the menu sent local foodistas into paroxysms of drooling joy. Crispy pig's trotters. Marrow bones. Fried oysters. Country pate and charcuterie. Somewhere inside Perkins, Rowell or Leinonen, or all three, there lived a very tiny, very accurate archer who knew precisely how to skewer Denver's food-mad straight through their starved and fatty little hearts.
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I was no less wounded than anyone else. It was a board that brought to mind visions of the Spotted Pig in Manhattan, inspired a vague longing for butcher's blocks and Amex gold cards with unlimited lines of credit. I read that first menu release like it was porno, with a focused and frankly degrading level of single-minded concentration. Despite the fact that Colt & Gray (which was named after Perkins's two sons, something that the servers make a big deal out of any time anyone brings a child into the dining room) had been labeled a gastropub, I wanted to go to there in a real bad way. I wanted to live like a mouse in the pantry, gorging myself nightly on pig's feet and bone marrow.
Mmm... pig's feet and bone marrow. Really, I am a sucker for offal. For the strange bits and unlovely parts of all god's critters.
Anyone can burn a steak on the grill. Anyone can roast a chicken. Not just anyone can make something delicious out of trotters -- but the cooks at Colt & Gray can. They've got the magic.
And tomorrow, you can read all about it here, as well as details of my visit to Vert Kitchen and the usual spread of interviews and reports from the front lines of the food world.