100 Favorite Dishes: New England clam chowder from Bitterweet

clam chowder from Bittersweet.jpg
Lori Midson

No. 72: New England clam chowder from Bittersweet

Housed in a former auto body garage, Bittersweet, now a stone-stacked, high-ceilinged, two-room, garden-to-table food temple, is the blood, sweat and tears of chef/owner Olav Peterson, who opened in January after spending the past several years as the exec chef of Bistro One. His seasonal board is short but powerful, a direct, focused and culinarily ambitious stab at some of our favorite foods -- pork confit, rabbit sausage, foie gras, duck, veal cheeks -- bolstered by bold flavors and characterized by unexpected whims and fancies.

Take the clam chowder, for example. There are dozens of different versions of clam chowder in this town, but none like Peterson's, a stunning bowl of transcendence, a dish that, elsewhere, is often dull and deflating, a flat vat of cream and canned clams that makes us wistful for the real deal. But, here, in this bowl, all but guaranteed to dampen the lids of the most cynical sea snob, Peterson creates magic. He uses cream, to be sure, but the liquid, permeated with smoke, gets its unduplicated flavor from the liquor left by pounds and pounds of smoked mussels. He sinks a potato croquette into the chowder, tautly seasoned and specked with bacon, and crowns that with a razor clam along with a full slice of bacon, so crisp, it shatters. This is the dish that I want when I'm on my deathbed.

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our countdown are linked below:

No. 100: Italian wedding soup from the Squeaky Bean
No. 99: American Classic Burger (and fries) from Tarbell's
No. 98: E's clam linguini from Mangiamo Pronto
No. 97: Queso a la plancha taco from the Pinche Tacos wagon
No. 96: Prosciutto-wrapped jalapeño poppers from Tony's Market
No. 95: Fried chicken from the Pinyon
No. 94: Seafood soup from Farro

No. 93: Posole from The Porker
No. 92: Breakfast Burrito from the Taco Wagon in Lafayette
No. 91: Hummus from Shish Kabob Grill
No. 90: Albondigas meatballs from Solera
No. 89: Lemon-ricotta doughnuts from Olivéa
No. 88: Döner kabob from Shondiz
No. 87: Roasted cauliflower salad from Euclid Hall
No. 86: Beef cheek enchiladas from El Diablo
No. 85: Fried Brussels sprouts from Panzano
No. 84: Pork osso buco from Osteria Marco
No. 83: Cazuela Colombiana from Cafe Brazil
No. 82: Chicken potpie from Devil's Food
No. 81: Sichuan braised beef noodle soup from Zoe Ma Ma
No. 80: Larb nua from Taste of Thailand
No. 79: Pork shank from Argyll
No. 78: Truffo panino from Shangri-La Cafe
No. 77: Pig-snout tacos from Guadalajara Authentic Mexican Buffet
No. 76: Speck and maple ice cream from Pizzeria Basta
No. 75: Tom yum goong from Thai Flavor
No. 74: South African black ruff from TAG
No. 73: Gumbo from Bistro One

In late 2009, we embarked on a culinary journey that took us through our favorite dishes in the Mile High City -- one hundred, to be exact -- as a precursor to the Best of Denver 2010 issue. Now we're back with round two, counting down (in no particular order) a hundred more of our favorite Denver dishes in a list that, by our imperfect calculations, should be wrapped up by the time the Best of Denver 2011 hits the streets on March 31. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at lori.midson@westword.com.

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