Friday, December 29, 2006

The Cork House

The Cork House

Where to begin? The ambiance of the Cork House could be so right, but something was just wrong…the dining area features the warm glow of an open brick fireplace, hand trawled walls in a warm clay shade. The walls are flanked with French prints and the overhangs feature antique wine bottles and corks. However, the tables were covered with a hideous overbearing busy floral print, so awful that not even a muumuu wearing grandmother would choose this print! And the number one no-no in creating the perfect ambiance – TVs!!! Yes, you read that correctly, this beautiful little wine bar and restaurant has been violated by the placing of several TV’s mounted throughout the dining room!

Luckily for the Cork House, first and foremost, I am here for the food.

It is time to admit that Tartare is not my only food crush, in fact I have another food crush, which may even be greater than my love of Tartare…I will share my main obsession with you on one condition…you don’t tell the Tartare. Ok, now that my secret is safe from the Tartare…my number one food love is cheese. I love cheese! Soft cheese, hard cheese, fresh cheese, vintage cheese, American, Italian, French, Spanish, Swiss, cow, goat, buffalo, I love it all!!! I love cheese so much that on a recent trip to Oregon I rented a car and drove over 100 miles out of my way to visit the Tillamook farm and factory! Ok enough of my obsessing, let’s eat!

We began our meal with the 3 cheese flight. The flights come in various sizes and are served with pears, apples, candied walnuts, olive oil dried bread, and a raspberry reduction. My choices included Colorado Rouge (Fort Collins, CO), Manchego (Spain) sheep; Tarino (Italy). The presentation and the cheeses were wonderful. Each unique cheese was so tantalizing that my mouth is watering just reminiscing about it.
Diva’s Dish: 9/10 Diva Stars

On to the next course: apple walnut chicken salad. This salad features sautéed chicken breast, green apples, candied walnuts, tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli, and fresh tortilla strips in a spring mix, drowning in a roasted pepper vinaigrette. I am an optimist and I believe that this salad could be very good, in fact the few bites I found that were not drowning in vinaigrette were good. This is the type of salad that greens hope to become, the type of salad that even a child would eat without dressing, the flavorful, creative, health conscious salad…but in this case the dream was cut short when it was assaulted with two pints of vinaigrette.
Diva’s Dish: 5/10 Diva Stars

For the main course I enjoyed a small plate delight, the Sesame crusted scallops. This dish features scallops crusted w/white & black sesame seeds served with flavorless watery vegetables & a sweet & spicy mae ploy sauce. The scallops were seared to perfection, warm and buttery. The sauce was a little watery and had an odd kick to it, the kind of kick that isn’t what you would call good. The vegetables were overcooked and tasted like the elementary school lunch lady prepared them, watery with all the nutrients steamed out.
Diva’s Dish: 7/10 Diva Stars

On to dessert!
Chocolate mousse tower. This decedent dessert features dark chocolate mouse, milk chocolate mouse and white chocolate mouse, artfully layered into a tower of chocolate paradise. Each mouse had a slightly unique flavor and texture which was a perfect compliment to the other flavors.
Diva’s Dish: 8/10 Diva Stars

Monday, November 27, 2006

Wash Park Grille; a Diva Delight

The latest dining delight? Wash Park Grille

The ambiance was uptown dining meets neighborhood grill. A warm glowing fireplace meets you at the door, along with a rich dark wood bar. The décor offers exposed brick, dark wood, fresh flowers and a crackling fire.

The service was superb, with the exception of a slight mix up where the table behind us ordered the exact same entrees and their server cut in line, and served them our entrees…

Enough with the page filling, on with the food!
For starters we selected the Baked Lobster Mac & Cheese. The sauce was rich & creamy with a hint of chipotle sauce. The dish featured large pieces of succulent lobster, steamed broccoli, and seasoned breadcrumbs.
Diva’s Dish: 9/10 Stars

As I am sure you are beginning to notice, I have a food crush, a new obsession that I must have, that I can’t get enough of…my crush? Tartare. So of course I had to sample the delightful offering of Tartare at the Wash Park Grille!

Tartare Wash Park Style features a perfect ahi tuna, avocado, cucumber, red onion, wasabi aioli, & hard boiled egg, served with crisp tortilla strips. The flavors of this tartare blend together in a magical way that enhances each individual flavor, as well as a fantastic overall aromatic taste. Although the tartare had a little too much cilantro for my taste, it was still a success.
Diva’s Dish: 7/10 Stars

On to the main event: Lobster & Shrimp Linguine. This dish featured sautéed lobster and seared shrimp with crisp broccoli, in a Parmesan Romano cream sauce. This sauce was a culinary masterpiece, a perfect combination of decadence and airy. I was impressed by the ability to make such a rich & creamy sauce so surprisingly light.
The linguine tasted as if it was pulled of the drying rack moments before hitting my plate.
The combination of the fresh linguine, perfectly seared seafood and the decadent sauce makes this dish a culinary delight.
Diva’s Dish: 9/10 Stars

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dining at David Paul's in Maui

My first Diva Review! Sambuca Jazz Cafe

This weekend’s dining delight?
Sambuca Jazz Café in LoDo

The atmosphere is dark and sultry. The designer Holly Forsthe’s vision is incredible. The décor melts perfectly with the smooth jazz and raspy blues floating from the stage.
Exposed brick, mustard yellow hand trawled walls, dark wood fixtures, glowing chrome light fixtures, the warm glow of candles. Rich yet funky. To add to the décor, the walls are lined with Siberian tiger print seating, rod iron sculptures and smoked mirrors.

The service definitely makes my top 10 list. If I didn’t know any better, I would think our server Carley owned the place, her warm presence and extensive knowledge of the menu made her the crème de la crème of servers.

Enough fluff, let’s eat!

We began our meal with the “Dueling Tuna” featuring ahi seared tuna & tuna Tartare
The ahi seared was in fact seared to perfection, seared in a pepper rub which made a perfect balance warm buttery tuna w/a kick of pepper. The rub embraced the fresh & tender ahi tuna like long lost friends lost in an embrace.

The tartare was well not top top, the tuna was over cooked (who cooks Tartare anyway?), minced so small it very well may have come from a can. It was overpowered with so many herbs and spices I couldn’t distinguish a single taste…well except the taste of yuck!
In this duel the ahi wins hands down.
Diva’s Dish: Ahi 8/10 Diva Stars; Tartare ½/10 Diva Stars

Next up “Shrimp & Crab Bisque”. The rich bisque rolled over the tongue, tantalizing the taste buds with a warm comfort that was somewhat new and exciting. The base was a little too crabby for my liking, but still had good depth once you got through the crab. The rich buttery base was full of large pieces of crab meat and shrimp.
The body & aroma of this rich bisque made it worth every calorie.
Diva’s Dish: 6/10 Diva Stars

On to the main event! “Seared Scallops on Risotto Coins”
The scallops were placed on 1½ inch tall risotto towers, beneath these beautiful towers were tiny rivers of smoked tomato cream sauce. Floating in the river where beautiful asparagus tips, rolled in sesame seeds.
The scallops were seared to perfection, they had that melt in your mouth buttery texture, most places keep you longing for. The risotto was warm, full bodied and rich with flavor, the smoked tomato cream sauce was rich yet surprisingly light. The asparagus tips grilled with sesame seeds were crisp and flavorful. This dish was worth every calorie & earns a
Diva’s Dish: 9/10 Diva Stars.

So the lowdown on LoDo’s Sambuca?
Smooth music & Jazzed up food make Sambuca a must eat!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Let the Picky Eating Begin!

I was born a picky eater.
In my childhood being a picky eater meant a hatred of foods and a refusal to eat a long list of items, by age 4 I had my very own black list. This black list included my hatred of condiments, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise. Also on the black list of my childhood: cauliflower, canned vegetables, canned fruit, french fries, nuts, fish, potato chips and candy with the exception of Reese peanutbutter cups and Hershey’s with almonds.

In my teens I black listed foods like peanut butter, hamburger, tuna, wild meat, such as deer, elk and moose, and pudding. Items like mayonnaise, canned fruit and canned vegetables and potato chips remained on the black list.

Thankfully, my parents did not believe in force feeding. If I didn’t want to eat it I didn’t have to, so long as I tried it (this usually invoked a reenactment of the old Life Cereal commercial “try it Mikey, you’ll like it”). All in all this sampling process has proved to be a great thing, it provided just enough tolerance to try any food “just once” and the knowledge that if food isn’t worth eating, it isn’t considered a waste if you don’t eat it.

This sampling approach to food has created many food phases, including a love of brussel sprouts through most of my teen years…(which turned into a severe aversion in adulthood)

I still have my black list (which is much to long to share here), but my pickiness has become more of a discriminating taste. Now, instead of black listing tuna, I black list canned tuna, frozen tuna, tuna casserole, tuna salad and poorly prepared tuna of all sorts. My food philosophy? If it’s not good don’t eat it. The human body can go days without food, that’s what it was made to do. So why eat bad food? I’ll never understand…

My love – hate relationship with food has made me sort of a food snob, no not snob – critic – no not critic, aficionado? no more like a diva, yes, a dining diva. So here I begin my tales of dining in Denver, Diva Style.