Chef’s tasting menus – or prix fixe – include multiple courses, with or without wine, beer or cocktails, for one set price. Some tasting menus allow diners to select from a regular menu or a special menu, while other prix fixe dinners are created on a whim by the chef to show off unique culinary talents that lie outside the standard offerings. Here are Colorado restaurants that offer memorable tasting menus.
1400 Wewatta St
Denver, CO 80202
At Coohills, the chef’s tasting menu can be planned out ahead of time for a special event. Or, if you are there for dinner, it can be a seasonal whim decided on the spot by chef and co-owner Tom Coohills. If you decide you want to do a chef’s tasting for dinner, just let the staff know when you make your reservation. Each menu varies by the occasion, the budget, wine pairings and the season. Co-owner Diane Coohills can help you decide based on your likes, your desired budget and what ingredients Tom has on hand.
For special events, Coohills will design a menu just for your guests. A recent chef’s tasting menu for a birthday party started with shaved sunchokes with pecorino and lemon dressing with a Chateau de Sancerre (white wine). The second course was a Scottish salmon and leek terrine with roasted tomato confit and Jordan Chardonnay 2009. Next on the list was Atlantic scallops with beets, grapefruit and pistachio pesto, with Hitching Post “Hometown” Pinot Noir 2009. The following dish involved Snake River Farms wagyu strip steak with grilled white asparagus, morel mushrooms, truffles and Madeira with Fransiscan Magnificant. The lineup was concluded with a lemon tart with mascarpone sorbet and raspberry jam, served with Michele Chiarlo “Nivole” Moscato d”Asti (dessert wine). Now that sounds like a fantastic meal, or feast rather.
225 East 7th Ave
Denver, CO 80203
Chef Frank Bonanno was one of the first chefs in Denver to offer a nightly chef’s tasting menu. Guests may choose from a five-course option, where the guest builds their own tastings from the evening menu. Or spring for an eight-course option, where there are no decisions to be had because the chef will decide each course. The five-course option is $75 per person, plus $40 for wine, and the eight-course option is $125 per person, $75 for wine.
The menu changes monthly, sometimes weekly, based on what is in season. A recent visit boasted, unsurprisingly, an impressive five-course menu prepared by chef de cuisine Stephen McCary. The meal started with Chesapeake Bay soft-shell crab Thai lettuce wraps. Next came an asparagus salad with pine nuts, avalanche-fresh chèvre and mache greens. Following was Chilean sea bass en croute with grilled artichoke hearts and potato risotto in a sauce Barigoule ($6 add on). The protein came from Colorado lamb loin with sautéed brocollini, grilled king trumpet mushrooms and a celery root puree. Dessert included strawberry rhubarb mille-feuille with sweet-basil sauce and fresh strawberries. Mizuna’s sommelier is available for suggested wine pairings.
909 17th Street
Denver, CO 80202
Panzano is Italian at full tilt, with freshly made pastas, seasonal salads and Mediterranean-inspired entrees. Chef Elise Wiggins and her staff plan daily chef’s tasting menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which means the menus are always in a seasonal flux. For $55, guests are presented with five courses. Some are on the menu, some are daily specials and others are prepared on impulse. The first couple of courses could include calamari fritti with spicy chili aioli or jewel lattuga salad with jewel lettuce, gorgonzola, dried pomegranate seeds and pine nuts, olive oil and hibiscus vinegar. Heartier followings could be along the lines of bavettine di rosmarino, which is rosemary bavettine pasta sautéed with dried cranberries, pine nuts and goat cheese with a lemon basil emulsion or piccolo pollo, slow-roasted, lemon-marinated petite chicken over potato gnocchi with sun-dried tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese. To round out the meal, you could enjoy tiramisu with espresso-soaked lady fingers layered with amaretto, mascarpone and dusted with cocoa. Whatever makes it on the list, it is sure to please all diners.
Related: Top Italian Food In Denver
1 Lake Ave
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
The Summit Restaurant at the Broadmoor Hotel is a sleek cousin to the grand Penrose Room and Charles Court restaurants. It’s smaller and modern, with fare that is bright and global. The Summit offers a five-course tasting menu for $59 and an $89 menu that is paired with wine, beer or cocktails. The menu varies by season, but here is a mouth-watering example. The layout starts with escargot and meatballs, sugar snap peas, roasted poblano pepper coulis, garlic chips and parmesan shavings. The next plate served includes crispy, soft-shell crab with chermoula spices, fennel confit, a frisée salad and grilled olive bread. The third offering involves pan-seared red snapper, a corn cake, chanterelles fricassée with smoked bacon, cipollini onion rings and veal jus. Begin to feel that stomach filling up with a tasting of roasted Muscovy duck legs with dandelion and summer vegetable cassoulet, all in a sage jus. And is if those four plates weren’t enough, finish it all off with a frozen mango parfait, pineapple chutney, coconut crisp or a passion fruit cake.
1600 W 33rd Ave
Denver, CO 80211
Root Down’s tasting menu is coloring outside the lines with a first Tuesday of the month, Raw Food Night. While most restaurants use the term “raw food” to mean raw oysters, Root Down’s raw food is of an entirely different ilk: it’s vegetarian and not heated over 118 degrees. But before you say ‘not for me,’ Chef Daniel Asher, a certified raw-food chef, has raw-food devotees as well as carnivores gushing about his menu. For $39, here is what you might get on a raw food Tuesday (only the first of the month): Tom Kha Kai soup with coconut broth, Fresno chiles, mushrooms and lemon grass oil; summer rolls with carrots, Daikon radishes, red cabbage kraut, butter lettuce and ginger-chile sauce; pad thai with kelp noodles, sweet-sesame tamarind, scallions and Thai basil; and mango-lime trifle with ladyfingers, star anise syrup and starfruit. All food is organically sourced, gluten free and vegan. Although meatless, this tasting menu is sure to leave you as a satisfied customer.
Gold Hill Inn
401 Main St
Gold Hill, CO 80302
Gold Hill Inn, in the rustic-quaint town of Gold Hill (up the hill from Boulder), is a favorite for Coloradans who enjoy the good ol’ days when the state was a mining mecca. Gold Hill Inn plays up to the nostalgic with an affordable, three-course tasting menu for $25 and a six-course for $35. The menu changes nightly, but here are some items that are Gold Hill favorites. Delicious starters include salmon chowder and raspberry borscht soups with homemade bread and house salads. Meatier standouts are tournedos (beef tenderloin) with hunter sauce, roast lamb marinated in buttermilk with cloves and juniper berries, rabbit mole braised in Aztec mole sauce and broiled and smoked stuffed mountain trout. Finish up the delightful meal with sour cream apple pie, a chocolate torte or a cheese and fruit tray. Any combination will be a great one.
Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for Examiner.com, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.