Food trending: Five favorite spaetzle dishes

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Lori Midson

I was around seven or eight when I first ate späetzle in the small, tidy kitchen of my grandmother's house in Kansas City. She was fiercely German, taught sign language in German and English, and she had shelves of vintage German cookbooks, all of which had lots of cabbage recipes, none of which particularly interested me.

But the cookbooks with chapters dedicated to hearty, starchy, oddly shaped dumplings and noodles intrigued me, and that, in turn, delighted my grandmother, because there was nothing she loved more than making späetzle, Germany's answer to the dumpling -- and that country's greatest gift to the culinary world. My grandmother passed away more than two decades ago, but I still think about her -- and her späetzle -- and over the past few weeks, I've noticed späetzle dishes on several local restaurant menus, and it's easy to see why: It's a virgin canvas of few ingredients -- flour, salt, water or milk and eggs -- that, like pasta, is the ideal vessel for sponging up whatever flavors you put with it. "I think we're seeing späetzle on menus, because there's been upsurge of interest in Northern and Eastern European food," says John Broening, executive chef of Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar, one of the restaurants that's included in the following list of my five favorite places to find späetzle.

See also: Bones leaps into spring with a new menu

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Lori Midson

TAG
Alaskan halibut with pea-and-carrot späetzle

Troy Guard's menu at TAG is always full of come hither temptations, and right now, I'm head over heels for his halibut paired with späetzle, crisp-edged teardrops mingling with fresh peas and carrots. It's a dish that's a beautifully focused testament to the bright, light flavors of spring, and Guard elevates the plate with beet chips, which add texture, as do the hazelnuts, and the fish, which flakes at the flick of a fork, arrives topped with leaves of Thai basil glossed with a lemongrass vinaigrette.

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Lori Midson

Atticus
Sweet potato späetzle

Diego Coconati, an Argentinean native and the exec chef of Atticus, always has a späetzle dish on his menu, and you never know what he's dreaming up next, but most recently, he regaled me with a plate of seared späetzle paired with cubes of sweet potatoes, coins of yellow squash, bok choy, onions and garlic in an herby vegetable broth tart with lemon.

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Lori Midson

Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar
Orange coriander späetzle

"Späetzle is a German dish by origin -- one of a whole family of dumpling dishes in German cooking -- and it's also ubiquitous on menus in Alsace-Lorraine, which is why it's on the Le Grand menu," says Broening. His terrific spaetzle, which benefits from the addition of fresh orange juice and zest, along with coriander, plays first fiddle to a ragout of duck leg crowned with black olives and hot chiles. "The dish isn't traditional -- the duck ragout is Provencal and the späetzle is Alsatian -- but it's delicious," says Broening, a declaration that I wholeheartedly agree with. Broening will only be serving his späetzle through Sunday, however, because Le Grand is shuttering after dinner service Sunday night. Still, "we're going to do a späetzle with wild mushrooms and emmental cheese when we open the upcoming Griffin," promises Broening.

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Lori Midson

Solera
Grilled pork chop with whole grain späetzle

The menu at Solera, Goose Sorensen's lovely spot on East Colfax, never fails to impress -- in fact, it just keeps getting better and better -- and his imposing, thick-cut pork chop, all char and juice, is a stunner all on its own. But its sidekicks -- branded Brussels sprouts, baked apples, nubs of bacon and a knoll of whole-grain späetzle -- levitates the dish to new heights, and the butter-bathed späetzle, especially, is a scholarly version that steals your attention.

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Lori Midson

Euclid Hall
Späetzle with housemade whiz

Not surprisingly, the späetzle at Euclid Hall, Jennifer Jaskinki's profoundly playful shrine to upscale pub grub, is the kind of späetzle that's designed to make your eyes roll backward and your arteries sputter. It's also the kind of späetzle that pairs perfectly with one of Euclid's beers. The crisp and tawny noodles, showered in butter and served in a large bowl, are sheeted with a white cheddar cheese sauce -- exec chef Jorel Pierce's diabolically delicious version of cheese whiz -- and the result is an emotional surge of ecstasy that's hard to process. Späetzle is supposed to be peasant food, but Pierce turns it into noodle crack.




Location Info

TAG

1441 Larimer St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Atticus

1115 East Evans Avenue, Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar

1512 Curtis St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Solera Restaurant & Wine Bar

5410 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen

1317 14th St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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6 comments
denvergregg
denvergregg

I'll miss Le Grand. I wonder if it will, like so many other defunct joints these days, keep the signage up so as to maximize confusion. (Palace Chinese, Ya Hala, Big Papa's, etc.)

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