Whatever your heart desires at Tour de Central Market
2669 Larimer St., Denver. Visit denvercentralmarket.com.
To limit yourself to a single meal or item at Denver’s shiny new Central Market on Larimer Street is to wave a centrally-located finger-bird at the entire field of culinary arts. Opened just this fall, Central Market is a foodie’s orgasmic paradise. Craving fresh baguettes? Hop over to Izzio Artisan Bakery. Need to satisfy that hankering for fresh cod? Look no further than Silva’s Fish Market. Feeling like you need to wash it all down with a dram of something sweet and stiff? Make an about face and head to Curio Bar. Conjured up by renowned Denver chef Jeff Osaka and partner Ken Wolf, Central Market offers enough hedonistic options for dining out to fill this entire list. But it’s much more fun to let you take the reigns and nom your own way into a caloric coma. Plus, it’s not looking like Aurora’s fabled Stanley Marketplace — which has long-been slated to emulate Central’s mystique with dozens of local food vendors and suds slangers — is going to be fully open during the Obama Administration. So, get a taste of the action in Denver before committing to never, ever dining outside of Aurora/Stanley again. Just don’t tell any Aurora politicos you’re cheating on their native burg — they’re prone to getting a little green about that type’a thing.
— Quincy Snowdon
Elk Meatloaf at the Golden Eagle Inn in Beaver Creek
118 Beaver Creek Plaza, Beaver Creek. Call 970 -949-1940 or visit thegoldeneagleinn.com.
Located in the heart of Beaver Creek Village near the ski slopes at the east end of the ice rink, the Golden Eagle Inn is a foodie and game meat-lover’s delight. Though their meals are not necessarily holiday-specific, the $27 Rocky Mountain Elk Meatloaf will make you feel like a child on Christmas morning, if said child were starving and ready to devour some lean, ground big game. The dish is served with an apricot-bacon-chipotle glazed, chayote squash, roasted poblano and sweet corn casserole. End the night on a sweet note with a pavlova meringue, replete with fresh berries, whipped cream and strawberry sauce. Or end the night with a horchata Alexander Martini consisting of rum chata, coffee liquor, Tia Maria cream and nutmeg. Reservations are recommended.
— Rachel Sapin
Crispy Duck Confit at Potager’s
1109 Ogden St., Denver. Call 303-832-5788 or visit potagerrestaurant.com.
Everyone needs a restaurant where they can take wealthy out-of-towners who can front the bill — culinary angel investors, if you will. Elways is amateur. The Kitchen is too main stream. You can disagree all you’d like, but we’re wont to favor a ‘spensive, special-occasion-only spot in Capitol Hill. It holds particular clout because, as far as we’re concerned, the caveat “we occasionally run out of items on our menu” is the best disclaimer a restaurant can make. It’s reassurance that ingredients are not purchased in Costco-sized dump truck loads, but instead, necessary bundles. Or, in the case of Potager, however much nearby farms have on hand, or how much the restaurant’s on-site garden is currently yielding. Translated to “small, kitchen-side vegetable garden” in English, Potager has been a nearly 20-year labor of love for owner Teri Ripetto, and one definitely worthy of a longer-than-usual trip down Colfax. This season, Potager’s crispy duck confit, accompanied by sautéed turnips, spinach, tamari, butter, truffle oil and pickled apple radish, is the dish that can’t be missed. And if you’re going to indulge in an annual dose of duck, November and December are easily the most socially acceptable months in which to do so. But don’t hesitate, the seasonal menu only lasts a few months, and the joint’s latest list of culinary creations was released on Oct. 20.
— Quincy Snowdon
Sugar Steak at Bastien’s
3503 E. Colfax Ave., Denver. Call 303-322-0363 or visit bastiensrestaurant.com.
There’s hardly a Colfax staple on par with long-time steakhouse, Bastien’s, which has distinguished itself over the years by not doing a whole helluva lot. With a retro but hipster-chic style that belies the palate-pleasing carnivorous dishes they serve up daily, Bastien’s became a staple by offering consistently classic, high-end meals made for your average stereotypical Mafioso — or wannabe gangster with a Fat Tony appetite. There’s no lack of meaty menu items available, from perfectly prepared filet mignon to veal marsala, crispy roast duck or weiner schnitzel — after all, when’s the last time you’ve had a good schnitzel? But if you’re, somehow, just now discovering Bastien’s, the best bet is the house favorite “Sugar Steak,” coated in their signature sugar and spice rub. And while it’s a free country and you shouldn’t generally let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do, at Bastien’s, there are certain rules that are not made to be broken: Don’t bother with the Sugar Steak if you’re afraid of red meat — they’re prepared up to medium rare, at the most. House rules. And after nearly eight decades, who are you to argue, tough guy?
— Jeremy Johnson
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Truffle Dinner Menu at Element 47 in Aspen
675 E. Durant Ave., Aspen. Call 970-920-6330 or visit thelittlenell.com.
A true way to have a decadent, unforgettable meal on Christmas Eve is to visit Element 47 in Aspen. Executive Chef Matt Zubrod prepares a prix fixe menu, featuring Caviar to start, roasted duck for the main entrée, savory sides and an optional truffle tasting. The four-course holiday dinner features shades of truffles — white and burgundy — and is served with fine wines. The restaurant’s name pays tribute to silver, the precious metal that first put Aspen on the map, and to the finest silver service cuisine: After all, it holds a rare 5-star, 5-diamond ranking from Forbes Travel Guide. The restaurant is part of The Little Nell, Aspen’s ski-close luxury hotel. According to Forbes, the fine-dining restaurant’s wine collection is outstanding, with more than 20,000 bottles on hand.
— Rachel Sapin
Four-pound Steak Dinner at the Buckhorn Exchange (feeds five)
1000 Osage St., Denver. Call 303-534-9505 or visit buckhornexchange.com.
If you’ve ever heard of this venerable Denver eatery, you probably know it’s known in large part for one thing, usually found by the pair: balls. That’s right, Rocky Mountain Oysters (battered and fried cattle testicles, for the uninitiated) await you at the Buckhorn Exchange — if you so choose. But there are plenty of other reasons to visit the Lincoln Park neighborhood restaurant, housed in a building that dates back to the early 1800s at the corner of 10th and Osage, overlooking a network of city and commercial rail lines. With an Old West, museum-type feel — complete with the heads of a whole host of animals mounted on the walls — every experience is wholly unique and memorable. Certain menu items particularly stand out, if the figure on your check at the end of the night is not matter to you. Bring a party of five and bring them hungry for the restaurant’s four-pound steak dinner special, which includes sautéed mushrooms and onions, plus soup or salad and a side dish. Steaks — which the restaurant touts as the finest New York strip loin — are cooked to order and carved tableside. Split the $215 for the four-pound dinner five ways — or pick up the whole thing if you’re really feeling the holiday spirit.
— Courtney Oakes