Sunday, January 29, 2012

Parry's Pizzeria & Bar

My husband loves pizza, he loves beer, and he loves locally-owned restaurants that are conveniently close to our house (not always an easy thing to find in Highlands Ranch). To his absolute joy, he recently noticed "Coming Soon" signs at a shopping area near our house for Parry's Pizzeria & Bar, which advertised over 50 draft handles.

Since then, Mr.Oyster has been ridiculously excited for the restaurant to open. He has repeatedly craned his neck while driving past to see how close Parry's might be to serving thirsty, hungry patrons. He has speculated as to what beers they might offer, and how good their pizza might be.

So we were very excited to attend Parry's "Friends and Family" grand opening this past Thursday at their Highlands Ranch location.

Parry's already has two other south-suburban locations, one in Parker and one in Castle Rock. I haven't been to either of those spots, but apparently they are smaller and are less beer-centric than the new Highlands Ranch location.

We arrived to a packed and lively Parry's Pizzeria & Bar. The restaurant has a definite sports bar feel to it. There's a large, separated bar room directly in front of the main entrance, where the famous 50 taps are showcased. The main dining area is also spacious, with seating in brick booths and flat-screen TVs everywhere.

Their extensive beer list included many local Colorado favorites, and other well known-beers from across the country. I ordered a White Rascal from Avery Brewing Company, and my husband enjoyed a Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat followed by a Rotator IPA.

We talked to their manager briefly about Parry's beer selection, and they certainly offer (or plan to offer) a wide variety of well-known local and national beers. There aren't many places in the south suburbs with such a sophisticated beer menu, so they will stand out from other restaurants with their beers alone.

As for our food choices, we started off with an order of their Buffalo Wings:

Buffalo Wings

Yes, that's steam coming off the top. The wings required a little bit of a wait, but they arrived at our table piping hot and fresh out of the fryer. The wings were very large, and were coated in a thick, spicy wing sauce which I thought had the perfect amount of heat for a "hot" wing.

We also ordered their "Summer of 2010" pizza, which contained pepperoni, Fontanini Italian sausage, jalapenos, and pepperocinis.

Summer of 2010 Pizza

I loved this pizza. It was cooked perfectly, and generously covered with cheese and toppings. The pepperocinis and jalapenos tasted freshly chopped, and added a pleasant heat to the pizza. The Italian sausage was extremely thinly sliced and well seasoned.

For dessert, our meal ended with a cannoli:


This was the only thing from Parry's I wasn't crazy about. I didn't get much of a ricotta taste from the filling, and it hadn't been piped into the center of the cannoli very well, leaving much of the cannoli shell vacant.

Parry's is likely to be a crowd-pleaser in Highlands Ranch, by keeping patrons entertained with sports, pizza, and beer, while also being a completely acceptable place to bring kids.

The staff was extremely gracious and seemed very enthusiastic about the new restaurant. Parry's apparently has large expansion plans in the works, and I'm sure they'll be extremely successful.

Casual Dining


Parry's Pizzeria & Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cucina Colore

A couple weeks ago, we met up with Sizzling Cupcake and her friend for dinner at Cucina Colore in Cherry Creek. Neither of us knew much about Cucina Colore, but we had picked it from the list of Denver's restaurants.

Cucina Colore has an outstanding location at 3rd and Steele Street in the heart of Cherry Creek North. If you've never soaked in the atmosphere of Cherry Creek North before, let me just sum it all up by pointing out that there is a giant Lululemon store right across the street from Cucina Colore.

Our reservations were for a 7 pm dinner on a Thursday night. Inside, the restaurant was packed with attractive, well-dressed Cherry Creek types. It had a very lively atmosphere and certainly seemed to be a popular local spot.

Cucina Colore apparently offers "the contemporary expression of Italian cuisine." I'm not sure what that means, but the menu features an array of pizzas and homemade pasta dishes.

For an appetizer, we ordered the Baked Fonduta, which was a cheese dip including blue crab, spinach, and artichoke hearts, with mozzarella and fontina cheese. After assuring us that our appetizer would be "right out", we waited a significant fraction of an eternity for the fonduta to arrive.

Baked Fonduta

After our ridiculously long wait for the fonduta, we were faced with a bowl of baked cheese surrounded by a haphazard assortment of crackers. The fonduta was ok; I mostly just tasted lots of cheese and crab.

We ordered one of their wood-fired pizzas with Italian sausage, red onion, and red peppers.

Red onion, pepper, and sausage pizza

It's hard to go wrong with red onion, red pepper, and sausage as toppings. I particularly loved the spicy Italian sausage. The crust, however, was a disappointment. It was burnt at the edges but too soft in the middle. We actually ordered two of these pizzas at the table, and they were both unevenly cooked. 

As his entree, my husband ordered the Lobster and Shrimp Ravioli:

Lobster and Shrimp Ravioli

Like the pizza and the cheese dip before it, the ravioli was a letdown. The seafood filling was heavily pureed and lacked a noticeable lobster flavor. The pasta was covered with a cream sauce that was thin and weakly seasoned.

For dessert, we ordered tiramisu and cheesecake:

The presentation of the tiramisu was a little sloppy, and the portion a bit too big. I didn't detect much of a coffee or liquor taste, but it was basically a decent dessert.

The cheesecake, however, was extremely bland. It wasn't nearly sweet enough, and it lacked any noticeable lemon or vanilla flavor.

Even with our 30% discount, Cucina Colore felt too expensive. The tab was about $95 after our discount, including about $20 of drinks.

Cucina Colore looks and feels like a hip neighborhood spot, but tastes like a mediocre Italian chain. It also reminded me of every forgettable business lunch or dinner I've ever had. The restaurant has a great atmosphere, but service was slow and food was expensive and totally underwhelming.

Casual Dining

(3 of 10)

Pros: Great location in Cherry Creek North, lively atmosphere
Cons: Mediocre food, slow service


Cucina Colore on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

5280 Restaurant Week

Denver Restaurant Week is coming up soon. From February 25 - March 9, you can enjoy a multi-course meal at many of Denver's restaurants for only $52.80 per couple.

Menus (and restaurants) are currently available on Facebook until January 20, after which the public can view them. You can find them on Facebook at, and at their main webpage at

There are nearly 300 restaurants participating in the 2012 Denver Restaurant Week, and I've sampled a small fraction of the menu items of maybe 40 of those restaurants.

Many of Denver's top restaurants participate in Denver Restaurant Week, including 9 of 5280 Magazine's 25 Best Restaurants of 2011: Mizuna (#3), ChoLon (#5), Luca D'Italia (#6), Olivea (#15), Duo (#17), Rioja (#19), Edge (#23), Il Posto (#24), and Vesta Dipping Grill (#25) are all participating restaurants. Those restaurants, and many others, will fill up fast.

Of all the restaurants I've eaten at, ChoLon is one I'd really like to return to for Denver Restaurant Week.

You can read full reviews for the following restaurants participating in 2012 Denver Restaurant Week that I've reviewed for dinner:

ChoLon Bistro

Row 14

Root Down

Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar

Euclid Hall

Vesta Dipping Grill

Restaurant Kevin Taylor



Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria


Beatrice & Woodsley

Wooden Table

Please remember to tip generously during restaurant week!

Lamb Poutine @ Euclid Hall

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Slowly but surely we've eaten our way through many of 5280's 25 Best Restaurants of 2011. Fruition has been at the top of our list for a while, mostly because it's been near the top of the 25 Best list for a while (#2 in 2011). We finally had a chance to visit in early January with another couple.

Fruition is located at 6th and Downing, between Cheesman Park and the Denver Country Club. Our reservations were for a Wednesday night at 7:30 pm. Before even entering the restaurant, we were already irked by the upscale establishment's lack of a valet on the very cold January night. After walking in, the hostess was unavailable, and we had to wait a few minutes before being seated.

Fruition is a small, intimate space, with dark lighting and tables stuffed in very close to one another. The restaurant was full to capacity except for our reserved table when we arrived.

It was hot inside the restaurant. Really hot. Bikram yoga hot (ok, not that bad). So after griping about how cold I was during my short walk from our parking spot to Fruition, I was abruptly faced with overheating during my meal. 

We started off with drinks and complimentary bread and butter. Perusing the menu, Fruition seemed to offer many of the same foods as other well-known restaurants in Denver, including things like pork belly, duck confit, and fancy-sounding pasta topped with a runny-yolk egg.

Our waiter was very knowledgeable but disappeared for a couple very long stretches during the meal.

Between the four of us, we selected the following appetizers: Pasta Carbonara ($12), Confit Duck Leg Cassoulet ($12), and Nantucket Bay Scallops ($15).

Pasta Carbonara

The dish included house-cured pork belly, home made cavatelli noodles, and a "six minute" egg. I loved every bite. The egg had a fully cooked white and a runny yolk that melded well with the perfectly cooked pasta. The pork belly - aka bacon - was fatty, salty, and rich; coupled with the egg, it tasted like breakfast. But with pasta.

Confit Duck Leg Cassoulet

This traditional French stew included house-made duck sausage and white beans. Perfectly seasoned and filled with large chunks of savory duck sausage, it was an excellent comfort-food dish. On the side was a duck crackling salad that was less memorable.

Nantucket Bay Scallops

Yes, those are scallops, and not some kind of newfangled breakfast potatoes. The scallops were chopped into small pieces, seared, and served with veal sweetbreads, Meyer lemon gnocchi, Palisade pears and a heavy cauliflower soubise sauce. The natural flavor and texture of the scallops was completely drowned out in the searing and by the addition of so many other foods. The dish reminded me of the messy, greasy, too-much-stuff-on-the-plate gnocchi appetizer at Root Down.

We enjoyed the cassoulet and pasta carbonara appetizers, but we weren't crazy about the scallops.

As main courses, I settled on the Crock Pot Veal Cheeks ($28), and my husband ordered the Tender Belly Farms Grilled Pork Chop ($27).

Crock Pot Veal Cheeks

The slow-cooked veal cheeks were incredibly tender, and fell apart easily at the press of a fork. They were complimented by a wonderfully creamy sweet carrot crema. Atop the veal cheeks was a roasted chestnut and foraged mushroom salad with Pommery mustard vinaigrette. My only complaint about the dish was I felt the salad dressing was too liberally applied. Coupled with the fattiness of the crema and veal cheeks, it made for a very heavy taste to each bite. On the salad was a gnarled potato galette that I suppose was more for garnish than flavor.

Tender Belly Farms Grilled Pork Chop

The pork was served with a spaghetti squash rosti, and a caramelized brussel sprout and apple salad. The pork chop was very tender, but it was very weakly seasoned. The accompanying vegetables were tasty and well-prepared but not memorable. My veal cheeks were definitely better.

We finished off with one of their long-lived desserts, the Lemon Meringue Pie ($8):

Lemon Meringue Pie

The "pie" was a cylinder with a graham cracker crust, blueberry compote, and a torched whipped topping. It had a sharp lemony tartness, which I enjoyed, but I appreciated the small portion as the strong flavor made it hard to eat more than a few bites.

Everything felt like a bit of a letdown after our extremely high expectations for the restaurant. We generally liked the food, but it wasn't good enough for the price we paid. The service and atmosphere were sub-par for a fine dining experience. Fruition seems to have a loyal neighborhood following, but with our long trek to dine there, it just didn't seem worth it.

Fine Dining

(6 of 10)

Pros: Mostly very good food, high-quality ingredients
Cons: Way too hot during our visit, service sometimes inattentive


Fruition on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Left Hand Brewing Company

Left Hand Brewing Company brews up some fantastic local Colorado beer, and that should be evident by the fact that we drove all the way up from the south Denver suburbs to Longmont to check out their tasting room.

Most breweries and their respective tasting rooms are in giant, ugly industrial buildings. So I was thrown off to find Left Hand's tasting room was in this quaint, house-like abode:

Left Hand Tasting Room

We arrived just after the tasting room opened at 12 noon on a Friday. With wood paneling, a large bar area, and plenty of tables, it felt a lot like a neighborhood bar. Except for the gift shop, of course. 

It was a low-key, quiet afternoon at the tasting room. The staff filled us in on the details of the day's tap beers while we nibbled on pretzels at the bar. 

We ordered their sampler of eight beers:

Left to Right: Polestar Pilsner / Nitro Sawtooth Ale / Stranger Pale Ale / 400 Pound Monkey

Left to Right: Biere de Garde / Black Jack Cask Ale / Fade to Black / Nitro Milk Stout

Left Hand's Nitro Milk Stout is undoubtedly their most famous and well received beer, and it's one of my husband's favorites. The Sawtooth on nitro was unique to their tasting room, and Mr. Oyster loved the smooth nitrogen effervescence in Sawtooth just as much as with the Milk Stout. 

Nitro Sawtooth Amber

Left Hand's tasting room had a really laid-back, friendly vibe. We got to sample all their standard beers, plus a few gems unique to the tasting room. Coupled with Oskar Blues right down the road, it made our long trip to Longmont worthwhile. 


Sunday, January 8, 2012

I don't normally post opinions or reviews about anything you can't ingest on this website, but I had to carve out a special spot to mention my love of is a website that provides a 30% discount off the total tab (including alcohol!) at participating restaurants in exchange for paying $10 for a confirmed reservation at that particular restaurant.

So far, we have used reservations once each at Colt & Gray, ChoLon, and Sushi Sasa. Each time we've visited, we've reminded the waitstaff before ordering about the deal, and they've never had any issues processing it.

Registering at is free and very easy.

Because of the $10 charge per reservation, you're making a little bit of an investment in your dinner. The more people and the more food and drinks you order, the more the initial $10 pays off. However, be aware that maximizes party size at four people. They do offer to refund your money if your meal savings are less than the reservation fee. You also have until two hours before reservation time to cancel or make changes.

I have had one small snag with A few months ago, we made dinner reservations for four at ChoLon that overbooked and was subsequently forced to cancel. They refunded our $10 reservation fee, and awarded us $30 to use toward future reservations. Normally this would only buy us three reservations, but because of a $5 post-Thanksgiving sale, were were able to stretch that $30.

The biggest downside to Savored is probably the limited number of participating restaurants. There are only 20 restaurants in Denver to choose from, although among that number are some of the best restaurants in town.

I would strongly recommend a membership for anyone who eats out frequently.

Please note that I have no affiliation whatsoever with, and I am writing this review purely out of my own positive experiences with Savored.

Mussels at Colt & Gray
Soup Dumplings at ChoLon
Sushi Rolls at Sushi Sasa


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids

Right off the diagonal highway as you approach Longmont from Boulder lies this mecca for good beer and barbecue:

Oskar Blues Liquids & Solids

Despite the use of Oskar Blues's name, Liquids & Solids is definitely not a brewery. As the name implies, it's a restaurant with an outstanding beer selection. Patrons can choose from over 40 craft beers on tap, including the full line of Oskar Blues, a dozen or so other great Colorado brews, and well-known craft beers from across the country. The "solids" component is a menu consisting of Southern-inspired barbecue, pizza, and burgers.

Liquids & Solids lies just down the road from Oskar Blues's Longmont brewery and Tasty Weasel Tap Room.

The restaurant is giant, particularly for a smaller town like Longmont. I was impressed by its size and by how packed it was on a Friday at lunch time. We actually had to wait about ten minutes for a table for four.

The spacious interior was adorned with kitschy posters and Oskar Blues paraphernalia. Hanging from the ceiling of the bar area were an an impressive variety of beer taps.

Bar at Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids

We had their Fried Pickles ($4) as an appetizer:

Fried Pickles

These were very strongly seasoned, with a sharp peppery flavor. Serving the pickles as spears made them the perfect size for an appetizer.

We also ordered the 1/2 rack of pork spare ribs ($12). All the barbecue dishes at Liquids & Solids come with two sides, and we chose the mac 'n' cheese and corn and crab fritters.

Pork Spare Ribs with Mac 'n' Cheese and Corn and Crab Fritters

The spare ribs were decent. They had a nice smoky flavor and were coated in a thick layer of tangy barbecue sauce. The mac 'n' cheese and fritters were both very average tasting.

The main draw of Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids is really the beer and not the food. The fried pickles were great to snack on with beer, but I didn't love the pork or sides. If you come from a part of the country more renown for good barbecue than central Colorado, you probably won't be very impressed with the food. 

Everyday Dining


Pros: Beer.
Cons: Food is just ok. Isolated location.

Oskar Blues on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pierre Michel French Bakery Revisited

Rewind a couple months back, to our first visit to Pierre Michel Organic French Bakery. After reading a million rave reviews about the Highlands Ranch bakery, we were disappointed by soggy French toast and a disturbingly gargantuan baguette omelette. Not too impressed, we rated the restaurant a 6/10, and had no overwhelming urge to return.

Except their pastries did look very tasty. And Yelp was filled with such glowing Pierre Michel reviews. And it was sooo conveniently close to our house.

We went back last week looking for a break from our usual breakfast spot, and still curious about the delicious-looking pastries.

Our meal started off with a raspberry-peach pastry:

Raspberry Peach Pastry

By the time we had finished off this innocent-looking treat, our perception of breakfast had changed forever. The organic fruit sat on a bed of sweet, rich pastry cream, surrounded by flaky, light, and buttery dough. The overall flavor of the pastry was light and mildly sweet, allowing the natural flavors of the fresh berries and peaches to shine through. I'm not sure if we can ever eat pastries from anywhere else again.

After that, we tried a few of their savory dishes.

The Croque Monsieur ($7.5):
Croque Monsieur
This classic French sandwich is basically a ham and cheese with brioche toast. While the filling was very average, the brioche was perfectly light and airy.

Omelette "Hivernale" with Tomatoes, Potatoes, Pesto ($10.2):

Omelette "Hivernale"

This omelette gets no points for presentation. In fact it was more of a scramble than an omelette, and it was swimming in some sort of oily liquid. That being said, it tasted ok, although was a bit salty. Like my baguette omelette at our last visit, the portion was just too large.

Oh, and all that food was served with French bread, butter, and homemade berry jam:

French bread, butter, jam

My new-found love of Pierre Michel prompted me to show up on Christmas Eve morning to pick up pastries for Christmas lunch. Unfortunately, everyone else in Highlands Ranch had the same idea. I showed up at 8:25, just 25 minutes after their delayed opening at 8 am, and I grabbed the last four available pastries.

Clockwise from top left: Blueberry Cream / Pear, Banana, Chocolate / Blueberry / Pear, Chocolate

They were a hit. Like our previous pastry experience, these all contained a perfectly flaky pastry dough, rich cream or chocolate, and fresh fruit.

Oh, don't worry, we've been there plenty more times and sampled a good chunk of the menu.

Vegetable Omelette in Puff Pastry ($7):

Vegetable Omelette in Puff Pastry

The omelette (again, more like a scramble than omelette) that was hidden inside the pastry included asparagus and tomato. It was very tasty, and certainly a more reasonable portion than the plain omelette or omelette baguette. But the buttery, flaky puff pastry was really the best part.

The wrapped croissant ($6):
Wrapped Croissant

This croissant was filled with ham, cheese, and plenty of Dijon mustard. This seems to be a popular item, as they were sold out of it the first few times we went to Pierre Michel. Like everything else cooked in the restaurant's oven, the croissant was flaky, buttery, and perfect.

And of course, we've had more pastries:
Pear and Cream Pastry

Since discovering their pastries, I need to revise the previous 6/10 rating I gave Pierre Michel. The French bakery is an outstanding place for breads, pastries, and croissants; execution of standard savory foods is more average.

Everyday Dining

(9 of 10)

Pros: Outstanding baked goods, especially pastries. Reasonably priced for organic.
Cons: Non-baked food are average overall. Bakery runs out of items quickly. Small space.


Pierre Michel Organic French Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar, Take 2

We went back to Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar last weekend after a LivingSocial deal of $50-for-$25 was finally activated.

There seemed to be a theme to our meal of eating everything out of its original shell.

Not pictures were a zillion oysters that tasted just as fresh as the ones we had at our previous visit.

1/2 lb Crab Legs ($21)
1/2 lb Crab Legs

The crab legs were served in a traditional manner on an ice bath, with butter on the side. They were very fresh but basically tasted as expected.

Escargots ($9)

I loved the presentation in the shells. The escargot were easy to remove, so they may have been replaced into their original packaging just before being served. The snails were meaty, buttery, and garlicky. They were served with a sauce of butter, parsley, salsify (a root vegetable), and parsnip. 

Moules Marnieres avec des Frites ($16)

The mussels were served with a fragrant white wine sauce with parsley, tarragon, chives, sofrito and olive oil. They were large, fresh and mostly very tasty, except for the one I bit into that was extremely gritty. 

We wanted to try dessert this time around since we had to cut our meal at bit short at our last visit.

Le Grand's "house specialty" dessert is a Foie Gras Creme Brulee. It sounded intriguing, but we were skeptical that we could like any creme brulee more than what we had at Opus, so we opted for something different.

At our waitress's recommendation, or maybe subconsciously to stick with theme of eating everything in shelled form, we ordered the Profiteroles ($9).

Le Grand went for a definite holiday feel with this dessert, with bay leaf ice cream, egg nog anglaise, and clementine chutney. Bay leaf was an ambitious flavor for ice cream, but it worked, and it blended well with the other flavors in the dessert. However, the whole dish was dragged down by the tough, chewy, and flavorless profiterole pastry. They would have been better off to just serve a bowl of ice cream. 

Le Grand serves some very lovely French food, but I still feel service is slow and the price tag is a bit steep.


Le Grand - Bistro & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon