Cafe Society

Year in review: Denver's ten biggest culinary stories of 2012

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3) Mark DeNittis hangs up his sausage — and ceases his salumi production at Il Mondo Vecchio Wait. Huh? Are you kidding me? What the sausage?! When we broke the news that Mark DeNittis, Denver's kingpin of killer artisan sausages, was closing Il Mondo Vecchio, the salumi plant he'd unleashed in 2009, this city became unhinged, especially when DeNittis pointed a finger at the USDA, claiming that the powers-that- be weren't satisfied with the ways in which he was killing the pathogens for salmonella in his products. There were questions raised about DeNittis's assertions — and his decision to cease production, including a crazy-long epistle from this guy — but the overriding sentiment was shock and despair. DeNittis, however, is still very much a part of the Denver dining scene, hosting whole-beast butchery classes around the city — and there's more news about DeNittis that we'll share shortly.

2) Daniel Kuhlman, owner of Wild Catch (and then, Roam) comes out swinging on the same day his restaurant sinks and shutters

The most bizarre story of the year, at least in the restaurant business, centers on Daniel Kuhlman, the former owner of Roam (and, before that, Wild Catch), who abruptly closed his first restaurant in 2011, after his opening chef, Justin Brunson, sauntered out the door once he realized (as did the rest of the staff) that the guy was a complete schmuck (and that's putting it kindly). Then in early January 2012, Kuhlman resurfaced, reopening Wild Catch as Roam, hiring Tony Clement, an alum of Mizuna, to cook and Clement's wife, Mandi, to oversee the front of the house. He screwed them over, too, closing his restaurant (again) without notice, locking them out of the place and calling the police to make sure they never came back. But the cops were called again, on the same day, by Tony, after Kuhlman decided to pick a fight — and came out swinging. Here's the good news: As far as we know, Kuhlman is no longer in Denver. Good riddance.

1) The rise of Upper Larimer Larimer Square has always been a neighborhood nucleus of Denver dining, its one-block stretch of restaurants and bars a destination for locals and tourists alike. But in 2012, Upper Larimer, in the grittier Ballpark 'hood, commanded attention. Chefs, restaurateurs, winemakers and pig farmers recognized the potential of this neighborhood — a long-dormant swatch of dilapidated and industrial buildings that had already given birth to the RiNo arts district — and suddenly, there was a surge of activity: Ben Parsons, the head monkey behind the Infinite Monkey Theorem, unveiled a 30,000-square-foot wine-making facility and tasting room, which he shares with Denver-based Tender Belly, the terrific pig-centric company that pimps some of the best pork (the hams are extraordinary) we've ever eaten; Noah Price and Jonathan Power, the duo behind Crema Coffee House, opened the Populist, easily one of the most exciting restaurants to emerge last year; and Iain Chisholm unveiled Amerigo, a wonderfully comfortable and cozy Italian restaurant that showcases homemade pastas and a wonderment of other scratch-made dishes that make us swoon. And there's plenty more on the horizon for Upper Larimer in 2013, including a 5,000-square-foot restaurant from one of Denver's most prolific chefs.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson