Dan and Michelle Landes, owners of WaterCourse Foods, describe their story on their website as "one of perseverance and patience." Flexibility has helped, too—when Dan was about to unlock the front door on opening day and Michelle saw that they’d forgotten to stock the register with money, she bolted home to empty their change jar.
Flexibility marks the kitchen as well, which aims to fill plates with so much homey flavor that even carnivores don’t notice there’s no room left for meat. The chefs accomplish this by way of boldly seasoned veggies such as sweet potatoes, smoky mushrooms, and fire-roasted corn, which star in some dishes and serve as accents to proteins including grilled tempeh and country-fried seitan in others. The sense of reveling in the earth’s bounty spills from the plates onto the dining-room walls, decorated with delicate murals of animals and woodland scenes that resemble the results of a collaboration between John James Audubon and Beatrix Potter.
In its journey from lunch-and-breakfast spot to full-blown restaurant complete with bakery and bar, WaterCourse Foods has won acclaim both locally as a neighborhood favorite and nationally as a must-see for vegetarian travelers passing through town. Fodor’s called the portobello Reuben and seitan-based buffalo wings “amazing,” and Westword named WaterCourse 2012’s Best Vegetarian Restaurant while noting that it still hasn’t reached its peak—the place “just keeps getting better” while it “caters to any palate.”
For WaterCourse Foods, resourcefulness means finding new ways to serve not only diners but also the environment. Old fryer oil is shipped off to be converted into biodiesel, to-go dishes come in biodegradable containers, and diners who roll up on bikes or drift in effortlessly on gusts of wind get a 10% discount. Practicing what they preach beyond the restaurant, the Landes family supports local and international causes through programs such as Nonprofit Mondays, giving up to 15% of their Monday sales to select organizations. When they leave work each evening, they go home to their urban organic permaculture farm, run largely on solar power.
When pressed for his motivations behind HBurgerCo, managing partner Pete Pflum told a reporter from Dining Out, "It's my favorite meal from childhood," before adding that the burger is "accepted as a meal unto itself—especially when you're using the best meat, baked goods, and fixings." Housed in a sleek but familiar space designed by Robin Smith Designs, the head chef conjures inventive burgers, while soda jerks also harness the combined power of local spirits and liquid nitrogen to craft inventive cocktails and milk shakes. Patties hand-formed from locally-sourced Angus beef, lamb, turkey, veggies, and buffalo arrive at tables crowned with eclectic toppings including fried eggs and asian slaw, complimented by a create-your-own-salad menu. Draft brews pour into glasses cooled with liquid nitrogen, which prevents libations from getting warm and snowmen from getting bartending gigs.
If the owner's sommelier status doesn't assure you that Black Pearl Restaurant is serious about its wine, then its multiple Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator will remove any lingering doubt. But for some, the wine list?impressive though it may be?is secondary to chef Justin Hall's menu of new American cuisine. Denver Westword mooned over its "eye-rollingly sultry duck p?t?" and bestowed Black Pearl with a Best Charcuterie Plate in Denver award in 2014. Eater praised the smoked blue-cheese souffl? as a sumptuous dish worthy of both vegetarians and meat-eaters. The weekend brunch menu keeps up the high bar set by the rest of the week with bottomless mimosas, espresso-custard French toast, and a duck-confit hash skillet.
Executive chef Justin Hall talked to us about developing a menu that both expresses his culinary style and preserves what regulars have come to love about Black Pearl.
On conscientious sourcing: ?We use nothing but locally sourced produce. Our mushrooms come from a company called Hunt & Gather?they?re all hand-foraged, straight from the source. We work with Mcdonald Family Farm, a well-known meat provider, to bring in our whole animals.?
On his current favorite dish: "Right now I'm excited about the burrata caprese salad [with house-made burrata, heirloom tomato, basil pesto, olives, arugula, and grilled ciabatta]. It?s combining a traditional Italian-style burrata with elements of the caprese salad, giving it a new twist.?
On charcuterie: ?One of the highlights of our restaurant is our charcuterie program... Everything is done in-house. We were recently recognized for Best of Denver for our charcuterie.?
When Denver Westword critic Jason Sheehan visited Cracovia Restaurant and Bar, his summation of the meal ended up sounding less like a restaurant review and more like an Alice in Wonderland?style memoir dripping with passion and faux nostalgia. At one point, he recalled a desire to tackle a waiter who had walked by with a plate of cabbage rolls, so that he could "grab the golabki with [his] teeth and drink the tomato-mushroom gravy straight from the tureen." Later in the meal, he and his wife felt so connected to the food, they almost felt Polish themselves: "If our mothers had been Polish ? this would've been what we ate growing up, " Jason said, "This tastes like home cooking in the best possible way, tastes of time and care and experience and love."
Love is probably the key word here: it's not surprising that Jason and his wife were so enamored with their meal, considering Cracovia is a labor of love for husband-wife team Lester and Marie Rodzen. They named the restaurant after a Krakow hotel where they honeymooned more than a quarter-century ago, and they pour this affection for their home country into each of the from-scratch Polish dishes they create, which is part of the reason they were named ?Best German/Eastern European Restaurant Denver 2014? by Denver Westword. The aforementioned golabki?cabbage rolls stuffed with pork and rice?is one of the Rodzens' signature dishes, as are the homemade kielbasa and pierogi stuffed with meat, cabbage, cheese, or blueberries, all purchased at local farmers markets. In the spirit of its romantic inspiration, Cracovia is a perfect date-night restaurant?every Friday and Saturday night, live singers croon as couples make their way to the dining room's dance floor or three-legged racing area.
Aromatic herbs weasel their way into almost every dish at Real Thai, where chefs add a liberal sprinkling of chilies, basil, lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaf to create their signature dishes. These can take the form of entrees such as green curry that's infused with coconut milk or drunken noodles that are free of inhibition. However, not every dish is built upon a foundation of noodles or rice. They also whip up specialties such as eggplant stuffed with ground chicken and shrimp and drizzled in eel sauce.
Walking through the front doors and taking in Pilate's Aligned's soaring ceilings, graceful curves, and exposed brick walls, clients feel rejuvenated. The sight of light spilling onto hardwood floors and Pilates Reformer equipment says everything: this is a place to reshape your body. At this traditional Pilates studio, certified instructors lead members of all skill levels through mat and reformer classes, helping them to sculpt long, lean muscles, build core strength, and move with the fluid grace of a roller blading gazelle.
Besides building a fitter body, Pilates classes can play a significant role in injury rehabilitation. No one knows this better than Pilates Aligned founder Cara Resser. The former NYU dance student first came to Pilates while recovering from a broken back. Over the course of two years, Cara practiced Pilates under the guidance of Kathy Standford Grant, a former disciple of Joseph Pilates who was once an injured dancer herself. It was through Kathy's gentle guidance that Cara regained the lost core strength and alignment she needed to continue her dance career, and ultimately inspired her to teach Pilates in addition to her work teaching dance and movement studies at Naropa University.