100 Favorite Dishes: chocolate caramel sea salt tart from Spuntino

Lori Midson

Suffice it to say that I eat out more than the general population, unless, of course, the general population can catalog more than 450 restaurant meals in a year -- which is about the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners that I stomached in 2012. Pathetic, isn't it? But all those food dates are worth the gluttony, because it allows us to tell you where you should eat, a little favor that we started in late 2009, when we embarked on a culinary journey that took us through our favorite dishes in the Mile High City -- 100, to be exact. Now we're back with round three, counting down (in no particular order) 100 more of our favorite dishes in Denver (and Boulder). If there's something particular that you think we need to try, reveal it in the comments section below, or shoot me an e-mail at lori.midson@westword.com.

No. 98: chocolate caramel sea salt tart from Spuntino

There are people -- lots of people -- who will swear to you, from the depths of their sinful souls, that chocolate is the nearest thing to heaven for humans. And, who knows? They may very well be right. I'm not a dessert fiend, and, when it comes to chocolate, I'm annoyingly dismissive. But there's one dessert, where chocolate is front and center, that I absolutely love, and it often makes a guest appearance in my culinary dreams. It's the devil that squats on my shoulder, reminding me, with a wicked smirk, that chocolate is worth the fanfare.

That dessert, which really needs no introduction, is the chocolate caramel sea salt tart from Spuntino, the charming restaurant in Highland that parades the prowess of pastry empress Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, whose husband, John Broening, is the equally talented chef. It's a dessert that I'm so enamored with, that I'm not ashamed to admit that it sinks me to my knees, and there have been times -- several, actually -- when I've eaten one, and ordered a second to protect for later. The tart is an irresistible showstopper, a decadent, luxurious confection that benefits from the use of high quality chocolate, a buttery, beautiful crust, the sweet eruption of creamy caramel and crunchy crystals of sea salt. This is a dessert that will never die, but when I do, I hope that wherever I go (it most definitely won't be be heaven), this is the welcoming gift at the gate.

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2013 countdown are linked below:

No. 100: Foie gras oysters from Sushi Sasa
No. 99: Porchetta from Parisi

Location Info


2639 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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Yum!  My favorite dessert!  And, I am a 100% certified chocoholic!  Everything about this dessert is perfect.  The chocolate is warm and soft, dark and delicious.  The crust is buttery and rich but delicately thin, so it's not overwhelming (how DOES she do it?!).  Yasmin's house-made gelato is creamy and lush, but not too heavy, and the sea salt caramel flavor pushes this dessert to the edge of decadence but not over the precipice into gluttonous excess.  At least, I hope not, as I order it nearly every time I'm there!


Agreed, Lori.  I'm not a dessert fiend either, but I fell in love with this dish when they were doing it at Olivea, and it's one of my absolute favorites.  

 I can't remember what has appeared on the other "100 favorite dishes" lists, but here are some of my favorites worth considering if they haven't made the cut before.

- Pot au Pho at THE SQUEAKY BEAN.  Exactly like the pot au feu and pho hybrid it sounds like.  Broth is transcendent.  They do something pretty amazing to the tendon too.

- "Pasta Carbonara" at FRUITION.  Quotes intended, as this is really a deconstructed take on the classic.  Maybe the only dish that's been a staple of their menu since day one.

- Egglplant Rolotini at THE WOODEN TABLE.  It must be a signature dish for them at this point, and rightfully so.

- "Gumbo" at BITTERSWEET.  They change their menu often, but this is my current favorite offering.  Chef really knows what he's doing here.  A different version was the highlight of his Bistro One menu too.

- Lobster Mac & Cheese at MIZUNA.  Surely this has made the list before.  Right?

- "Fresh Bacon" at RIOJA.  My favorite pork belly in town.

- Pad Thai Pig Ears at EUCLID HALL.  I've munched my way through most of the menu, and this is the dish I keep coming back to.

- Umani Ramen at SAKURA HOUSE. You turned me on to this.  The best noodle bowl I've found in Denver.

- Whatever risotto is on the menu at IL POSTO.

- French Onion Soup Dumplings or Kaya Toast at CHOLON.  I always stick to the apps there, though they were doing tasty lamb chops recently.

* Chicken Fried Steak with eggs at THE PERFECT LANDING.One of the very few truly great chicken fried steaks in town.  They use tenderloin.  Yes, this is the place at Centennial Airport.  Avoid the cheesy piano bar dinner service and go for breakfast.  Great stuff.

- The Lobster Roll at Steuben's.  Duh.

- Queso a la Plancha Tacos at PINCHE TACOS.  I ain't no vegetarian, but I always order one.

- Chicken Tikka Masala at INDIA'S CASTLE.  Call me whatever the Hindi word for "gringo" is if you must, but this stuff is addictive.

- Pho Tai (my preference) at Pho Lee.  Best broth in Denver.

- Cheesesteak from DENVER TED'S.   I don't know that you've ever featured them, and it's as good as any outside Philly.

- Tater Tots from TABLE 6.  They always have some take on them.  I liked the ones with Tasso and Sriracha aioli.

- Chilaquiles Benedict at SNOOZE. Their bennys come and go.  This one's the best. "Cheesy enchilada stack" instead of English muffin.

- Live Scallop at LAND OF SUSHI.  The best bite of seafood around.

- Any pie from A-TOWN PIZZA.  I like "The Charm."  Naples meets Brooklyn.  I used to think Brava the best.  Now, I'm not so sure.

- Lobster Ramen at BONES. Is there anything Frank Bonanno can't do to a lobster?

- Speaking of Bonanno... The Kielbasa is killer at RUSSEL'S SMOKEHOUSE.

- Flash-Seared Kampachi at TAG. The guys seems like a total prick, but it's a tasty fish.

- Coquilles St. Jacques at LE GRAND.  A classic done right.

- I'm thinking you've covered the bouillabaisse at DELUXE, right?  You definitely should have.  The fried oyster thingies too.

- Hot "Oriental" wings from PIPER INN.  Old school, crispy, salty, tangy, addictive, politically incorrect little motherfuckers.  Just don't look anybody in the eye.

- Burrata from OSTERIA MARCO.  Maybe Bonanno's signature item now?

- Beef Barley Soup from BAGEL DELI.  SImple comfort food, but stupid good.  I want a big bowl right now.

- Cheap little thin pork chops from WESTERKAMP'S, smothered in fantastic green chile. Maybe a Mexican Hamburger too.

- Jaeger Schnitzel from CHINOOK TAVERN.  One of the few great holdovers from their Cherry Creek days.

- Blue Cheese Gougères at COLT AND GREY.  I'm normally into small portions, but I want a bucket of these.

That's more than enough out of me.  Someone tell me who's doing the best carne asada in town.  Skirt steak please.

LoriMidsonCafeSociety moderator editor

@TheJeff Thanks so much for the great suggestions, Jeff! Some of these dishes have been on my previous 100 Favorite Dishes lists -- and I just had the gumbo last night at Bittersweet, which was extraordinary.

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