November 20, 2017
Chef Paul Fishler stopped by the winery and showed us his tips and tricks to make smoked salmon, steamed mussels and turkey gumbo. Watch the video and see how easy it is to make steamed mussels at home. The recipe is posted below. Buon Appetito!
February 22, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1197" align="aligncenter" width="520" caption="Highland Tab & Burger Denver is one of the great stops on our East Highland Pub Crawl."][/caption]
Anyone who has called the east side of Highland home for more than a few years can remember a time when it wasn’t all that easy to walk and drink in the neighborhood. Sure, there were a few seedy watering holes, but they weren’t the type of places that you’d want to, say, invite Cherry Creek friends to.
Well, a little redevelopment has changed that, and now you can actually host an East Highland Bar Crawl at some of the city's best drinking establishments, so long as you don’t mind trudging a few blocks.
Williams & Graham
3126 Tejon St.
The newest addition to the ‘hood is arguably the most unique. Sean Keynon, the city’s best barman, helped build this throwback bar that fashioned after a Prohibition speakeasy. The entry way is a bookstore — with a few cocktail-related books for sale, to boot — that has a false wall that opens to the bar. Inside, it’s a simple 1920s cocktail mecca, with capable bartenders slinging handcrafted drinks from a lost era. The Smokey Mountain Cocktail is a mezcal pleasure, but it’s almost too much fun to pass up a bartender's choice. Reservations strongly suggested.
Highland Tap & Burger
2219 W. 32nd Ave.
Fancy burger joint? Yawn. Well, that’s the normal response. Then this joint opened up in 2010 and totally took over the Highland scene. It’s equal parts upscale burgers and food, sports bar, beer heaven, community gathering space and live music venue (even has a tasty wine list). On the first point, the burger named after the the restaurant is a must: It’s piled high with pulled pork and a fried egg. Crazy good. Then, there are the TVs. Flatscreens circle the place, making it easy to watch just about any game without having to do more than swivel. The beer selection is crazy good, too. Of course, none of this is worth anything if no one comes in. Highland Tap has catered to the neighborhood by having cool events like a weekly Wednesday run and women-focused beer events. Oh, and somehow it’s managed to pull acts such as Soulja Boy to preform.
3200 Tejon St.
One of the pioneers of serving the foodie crowd in the area when it opened, LoHi caters to the high-end burger aficionados or those looking for a tasty, yet affordable, steak. Try the Blue Cheese Fondue as a side to your drinks. While the menu itself is delicious, the bar scene is the draw on a Friday or Saturday night. It’s become even busier as a spillover for those who can’t get into William & Graham across the street.
Zio Romolo's Alley Bar
2400 West 32nd Ave.
Perhaps lost in the excitement of Pasquini’s opening a Highland outpost a few years back was the addition of a “separate” bar, Zio Romolo’s. It’s technically connected and serves the restaurant’s full menu, but it feels like its own bar. The bar area is dive-y in a nice way, and narrow and cozy. It’s a perfect late-night stop for a slice and a cold beer.
3400 Navajo St.
We come back here just for a tator tot binge on occasion. Beyond that, this gem on the east, east side of Highland is a quintessential neighborhood pub that is warm and inviting. It’s the type of place that simple begs you to tip back a pint with some buddies during a happy hour endeavor. With the requisite tots — or mac ‘n cheese.
If you include LoHi, which starts along Tejon Street south of 32nd, you can add Linger, Ale House at Amato's, LoLa and Vita to the jaunt.
View East Highland Pub Crawl in a larger map
February 05, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1311" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Cherry Creek location is the newest Pasquini's Pizza serving Vinny No Neck."][/caption]
Colorado may be a hotbed for rapid expansion of restaurants on both the regional and national level — see Chipotle and Noodle & Co., for example — but Tony Pasquini wants no part of playing the role of franchiser. Anymore.
In fact, he’s going in reverse. He started selling off his Pasquini’s Pizza and franchising new locations more than a decade ago. Guess what? He didn’t like how they were being run. So in the last few months, he's gone ahead and bought out the ownership of two of the locations and ended a license agreement with another one.
Pasquini’s is now a family business again.
“You know, it sounded like a good idea,” Tony says. “I figured out it wasn’t for me. When you are a small franchiser, you don’t have the wherewithal to operate the stores on the quality level needed. The spirit just wasn’t there.”
In the process of this changeover, Tony also opened up a new location in Cherry Creek, which marks three locations he now owns and operates (Highland and Lone Tree, the others). All three serve Bonacquisti Vinny No Neck on tap. A fourth location, the original on South Broadway, is still owned by his sister.
So why the change of heart? Simple. Tony has core values he believes needs to be instilled in any business carrying his last name, a mantra that should start with the choice of cheese and continue to how employees interact with customers.
[caption id="attachment_1312" align="alignleft" width="148" caption="Tony Pasquini"][/caption]
“We just got involved with people who didn't necessarily have the same values that made Pasquini’s successful,” Tony says. “Use cheaper cheese to make more money? That wasn’t the idea behind it. It was meant to be a community place.”
So now, after seven years of taking a role in an office, Tony is back to the long hours of running not one, but three pizzerias. After some reflection, the 45-year-old wouldn’t have it any other way. Pizza has been in his blood since shortly after his 10th birthday, after all.
At the time, Tony’s father ran an auto shop. He didn’t want to work with his dad.
“My dad’s best friend had a pizza place,” he says. “His son didn’t want to work for him, I didn’t want to work for my dad. When you are 10 and Italian you have to go to work.”
So he started in the pizza biz well before his teenage years. About a decade later, his parent’s divorce led to he and his mother getting a restaurant space on South Broadway.
He turned it into a pizza joint with just nine tables in 1984. “There was really not much to it,” he recalls of the original location that has been expanded and is now run by his sister. “With every dollar we made, we put it back in it. We didn’t have enough to buy supplies for more than a day.”
Well, the concept worked and by 1998 the business was growing. He licensed out a spot in Uptown in 1998, followed by a Louisville location in 2001 (since closed). Then came the crazy growth with the Highland (2007), Lone Tree (2009) and Tech Center (2010) locations popping up in succession.
That’s when Tony started noticing things weren’t up to snuff at all the locations. Since taking all of them back inhouse, Tony has instilled his work ethic and family values while upgrading the menu.
Things such as the cheeses and meats are now being sourced from top purveyors (locally when possible, such as Il Mondo Vecchio for the restaurant’s Italian meats, Bonacquisti Wine Co. for vino and Haystack Mountain for cheese, for example) and general quality control has become a top priority.
“Wherever we can, try to buy local,” Tony says. “Whatever we can do.”
The newest location, Cherry Creek, which just opened a month ago, also introduced a wood-fired oven for the first time and has 15 mostly Colorado beers on tap. Tony hopes to open an Uptown and East Colfax spot in the next year, too. But he's not going to relinquish control during this expansion burst.
“I learned that never put myself in a situation again,” he says. “My whole life I have been positive and building; franchising is more policing. You have to do this or else — that’s not what I’m about.”
Tony’s Pick: Vinny No Neck ($6 a glass) and Antipasto ($9.95)
This dish got an overhaul when Tony moved back in charge. It features a selection of meats — coppa, salami and pepperoni — from Denver’s awesome butcher Il Mondo Vecchio alongside fresh mozzarella, olives, roasted peppers and more. “It’s fabulous,” Tony says. “It’s the best stuff I’ve had. It’s perfect with Vinny. The Bonacquisti stuff is just a perfect food wine. Hes got that Italian flavor to it.”
Drink Vinny and eat pizza at these three locations:
Highland, 2400 West 32nd Ave., Denver
Lone Tree, 7431 Park Meadows Drive, Littleton
Cherry Creek, 240 Milwaukee St., Denver
January 17, 2012
[caption id="attachment_1223" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="The bar at Highland Tap & Burger in Denver is a great place for a burger and a beer (or a glass of wine!)"][/caption]
This first thing you’ll notice about Highland Tap & Burger (2219 W. 32nd Ave., Denver) is that it is not, in fact, a wine bar. Perhaps it’s the name, the endless flatscreens showcasing the Broncos, Nuggets or Avs (and Red Sox) or the 20 beers on tap that gives this little factoid away.
That hasn’t stopped co-owner Katie O’Shea from becoming quite the wine aficionado. In fact, she’s an executive sommelier and has put together a small but thoughtful wine list (that usually includes a Bonacquisti selection) at the burger joint that’s become one of the most popular spots in the Highland neighborhood since opening in the fall of 2010.
“One of the things that was really important to me about this restaurant was we didn’t want to, No. 1., alienate women,” O’Shea says. “We didn’t want to be thought of as a sports bar, that freezer-to-fire connotation. We have really fresh food here, and to go along with that … we wanted to have a nice little wine list.”
[caption id="attachment_1222" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Katie O'Shea has built a flavorful wine list at Highland Tap."][/caption]
An executive sommelier might seem like an odd partner in a business that pushes out heaping beef patties piled high with toppings (literally, the Tap Burger comes with a burger and pulled pork and a fried egg), but everything about O’Shea’s entry into the Denver restaurant business seems even more bizarre.
See, O’Shea started her career as far from food as possible. First, she was a certified financial analyst before realizing that wasn’t her desired career path. Think food was next? Not exactly. She went back to school, getting a graduate degree in mathematics and education from a little university called Harvard.
That led to a four-year stint teaching math to teenaged boys who had various run-ins with the law in the form of drugs, weapons and assault charges. The inevitable burnout came just about the time that some of her husband’s Colorado connections started talking to the couple about going into business with an upscale burger bar concept in Highlands.
They jumped at the chance to move from Boston (Highland Tap is a Boston sports gathering spot) to Denver.
“The kids [her students] drove me crazy,” O’Shea says. “I told them I was opening a bar because they drove me to drink."
Husband Juan Padro brought the restaurant experience to the table, she added her smarts and a love of wine. Instead of an obligatory red and white, Highland Tap’s boutique list features about 14 options ranging from our own [d] Red to 3 Degrees Pinot Noir, Pine Ridge Vineyards Chenin Blanc/Viognier, a summertime Riesling that goes killer with hot wings and a variety of other fun wines that pair to the menu flavors.
“We just wanted to have a nice little list to appeal to the ones who weren't necessarily the beer-guzzling type,” she says. “A nice little list that goes with the burgers and salads. That’s the fun part, picking the wine list.”
Even being an admitted cork dork hasn’t stop O’Shea from turning to the dark side. And by dark side, we mean becoming a beer geek. It comes with the territory of this restaurant. Ever the academic, she’s jumped into the world of suds with a pint glass in each hand, learning the ins and outs of the Colorado craft beer industry and passing along her new knowledge to women throughout the metro area.
She, at the urging of Juan, started a women’s beer club, dubbed Crafty Ladies. It’s become so popular that Highland Tap offers the same event twice each month to keep up with demand. “Crafty Ladies has been keeping me very, very busy,” she says.
O’Shea is even flirting with the idea of becoming a cicerone, the beer equivalent of a high-ranking sommelier. “I heard that test is really hard. I’m kind of torn right now between going further with the wine or going further with the beer.”
But wine is still her No. 1 drink, and we get behind any burger joint that has options such as CC Cabernet (a California label developed by Boulder-based Master Sommelier Richard Betts) and, of course, [d] Red or another offering from Bonacquisti.
“I have to say I have a huge appreciation for craft beer now, but my first love is still wine,” O’Shea says.
[d] Red wine pairing
($8 glass, $24 bottle at Highland Tap, 2219 W. 32nd Ave., Denver)
The Rocky Mountain lamb burger ($10) is served on a savory caramelized onion bun with goat cheese, tomato relish and arugula. The nutty, creaminess of these toppings with the rich lamb compliments its dried fruit and spice nicely.
Bonacquisti Wine around the 'hood:
December 27, 2011
If wine is the sauce to all food, then Vinny No Neck is the best friend to everything from duck ragu to beef brisket. Here are three great recipes to try next time you have a bottle of our Sangiovese/Merlot blend open.
Garganelli with Duck Ragu
by Mario Batali via the Food Network
Sangiovese is a perfect wine for the acidic properties of tomatoes, which is why it's used along side so many traditional pasta dishes in its most famous region, Chianti. Here, Mario Batali creates a wonderful ragu with duck legs that adds a gourmet feel to the course. The sauce also calls for two cups of, you guessed it, Sangiovese. When you cook with a wine, drink that wine and it's a can't fail pairing. Also note that Mario makes his own pasta, which is a fun but labor intensive way to make dinner. We don't judge if you purchase some fresh pasta from any gourmet grocer.
by Marczyk Fine Foods
Marczyk Fine Foods is one of our favorite gourmet grocers in Denver, and they offer a variety of recipes that can (and should) be made with ingredients at the quality level they offer. This beef brisket recipe is delicious and offers a variety of sweet, spicy and savory flavors that are playful and easy to consume. Just like Vinny, which can hold up to all of the above and enhance the body of the meat.
Grilled Pizza with Spicy Italian Sausage
by Bon Appetit
We love Vinny with a pizza loaded with goodies, and you really cannot go wrong with this pairing. Italian sausage has a special place with this wine though, the fruit flavors of the wine complementing the bold tastes of the sausage (the best spicy sausage in Denver is available just around the corner from us at Carbone's). Here, Bon Appetit suggests grilling your pizza, which is one of the best ways to cook a pie at home. Your BBQ can reach super high temps, which come close to mimicking the heat found at in the oven of your favorite pizza place.
December 19, 2011
We could ramble on with a million holiday cliches about family, trees, lights and a jolly ol’ fella from up north. They all make good stories, for sure. But let’s face it, we all have a one-track mind come the holiday season. We want good food and good wine to finish off the year with a glutinous feast that’ll make us prioritizing all health-related resolutions.
Still stuck on turkey
Some of us didn’t get enough tryptophan over the Thanksgiving holiday, so we like to carry over a roasted bird for one more celebration. There’s nothing wrong with that. Try a Riesling with your bird and forgo the red wine. It’s perhaps the most food-friendly wine in the world, a delightfully aromatic wine with body and balance that loves a good turkey.
A rare roast
A medium rare, juicy roast is red meat heaven around the holidays (assuming your favorite relative who’s doing the cooking doesn’t leave it in the oven too long!). That means you should reach for a Cabernet. It’s a classic pairing. Or, you can stray from the norm. We say have a little more fun, and try a Cabernet Franc (there’s just a few cases of our 2008 left!). Its green chili and pepper notes give it a fun flavor profile that will match an herb-encrusted exterior. There’s plenty of fruit too to compliment the medium rare meat.
Some like to mix it up at the Christmas table with a holiday goose. It’s not a bad idea. Turns out Zin is a nice companion to this fowl on Christmas Day. Why? Well, partly because we’re partial to Zinfandel (we get some prime fruit from Lodi for this wine). But more so because it’s a big, bold wine and goose is a bold statement at the holiday dinner table. The tangy fruits will sing with the bird, and the natural fat content of a goose calls for a bolder wine.
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