Sweet! Breakfast Spots Pour Creativity Into Syrup

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Lauren Monitz
A trio of pancakes at Snooze.
Since it opened its first outpost on Larimer Street almost a decade ago, Snooze has tried to take over the world, or at least the breakfast table, one pineapple-upside-down pancake at a time. But this homegrown chain isn't the only metro Denver restaurant that takes the morning meal seriously, crafting not only what's inside the batter but also what's poured on top.

See also: A Tale of Two Snoozes

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It's Showtime! When You Don't Have Much Time to Eat, Keep These Three Things in Mind

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Danielle Lirette
The Nickel is just a block from the Denver Performing Arts Complex theaters.
By the end of December, some 50,000 people will have descended on the Denver Performing Arts Complex to watch the Colorado Ballet's Sugar Plum Fairy do her stuff. Even if you're not one of them, there's a good chance you'll be drawn to the center this holiday season for one reason or another, and that you'll want to grab a bite to eat before the show.

A good option is the Nickel; my review of this new restaurant in the Hotel Teatro will be posted here tomorrow. In the meantime, here are three things to keep in mind when choosing a pre-theater destination.

See also:
The Nickel's Chris Thompson Talks Chinese Food and Wood-Fired Cooking

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Clint Wangsnes Sticks With Sous Vide, While Other Chefs Play With Fire

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Lori Midson
Chef Clint Wangsnes, without lab coat.
Not long ago it almost seemed like chefs should wear lab coats, as science held sway in the kitchen. One particularly popular technique was sous vide, a process of cooking vacuum-sealed foods in controlled-temperature water baths. Clint Wangsnes became a fan, and when he left Zengo to open Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery, the fast-casual he launched on East Colfax Avenue this summer, he decided to build his recipes around it.

See also: Clint Wangsnes, chef of Zengo, leaving to open Chop Shop

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With Menu Design, Less Can Be More

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Danielle Lirette
Pizza and beer at Cart-Driver.
At dinner recently I was handed a sushi-style menu, with a list of items to check off by the piece. The restaurant wasn't Japanese; it had simply adapted the format for its charcuterie and cheeses. We glanced at the long list and set it aside, not in the mood for the negotiating that goes into such decisions. Since then, I've been thinking about menu design. Is more always better? What is gained and what is lost when restaurants emphasize - or downplay -- choice?

See also:
Cart-Driver Now Open for Lunch

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Kobe An Closes in Lakewood, Will Resurface in Cherry Creek

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Kobe An will bring its sushi to Cherry Creek North.
Changes are afoot -- er, make that afish -- at Kobe An. This past weekend, the long-running Japanese restaurant served its last meal in Lakewood, shutting down prior to an upcoming move to Cherry Creek North early this winter. It's taking over the former home of Cherry (and Bar Luxe, the Milwaukee Grill and Bay Wolf before that) at 231 Milwaukee Street.

See also: Photos -- Dipping Into Kobe An Shabu Shabu

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Five Bakery-Cafes in Denver Where You'll Want to Sit for Hours

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Danielle Lirette
The Noshery opened this summer in northwest Denver.
When I moved here ten years ago, I had a hard time finding a bakery-cafe like the one I used to spend weekends at back in New York. My husband and I would show up at our favorite spot on the Upper West Side and order baguettes with jam and bowls of café au lait as big as the Sunday paper. After we read the news, looked through the wedding announcements for folks we might know, and decided what galleries or shows were worth a visit, we'd go back to the counter and order a bowl of soup with homemade bread or an assortment of salads to eat as we did a bit of work.

Over the past decade, Denver's bakery-cafe scene has improved considerably, though not every part of town has a place to call its own. The area around Regis University was one such neighborhood -- until The Noshery opened this summer, that is. Founded by Colorado native Andrea Knight, The Noshery is proving to be a good addition to Denver -- whether or not you live near the Regis neighborhood. Find out more about the Noshery when my review of the place is posted here tomorrow, and in the meantime, keep reading for five more bakery-cafes that are worthy of your time. (They're presented in alphabetical order, and D Bar is noticeably absent from this list -- that's because the eatery won't open in its new new location until next month.)

See also:
Best Pie 2014 -- bang!

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Four Odd-Couple Restaurants, from Glaze by Sasa to Cowbobas

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Sushi and cake? It makes deicious sense at Glaze by Sasa.
Some restaurants remind me of Queen -- not because they're champions, but because they put cuisines together in unexpected ways, like the band's melding of operatic melodies and heavy metal guitar riffs. On the surface, Glaze by Sasa, which I review this week, is one such restaurant.

But the union of Glaze: the Baum Cake Shoppe and Sushi Sasa isn't as strange as it seems. Baum cake, an elaborate, multi-layered dessert that originated in Germany, has taken on a life of its own in Japan, where it has become a popular sweet and, when wrapped in ornate packaging, a much-appreciated hostess gift. Both of Glaze by Sasa's offerings hail from the same country, then, making this eatery's pairing of sushi and baum cakes a related, if unfamiliar, duet.

But other spots around town mix and match cuisines with reckless abandon. Keep reading for three more places guaranteed to rock your expectations of what a restaurant can be.

See also:
Man Could Live on Bread Alone at Chai & Chai


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That's LYFE: How I Decided What to Review This Week

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Danielle Lirette
People might think I choose what to review based on what I feel like eating. But many factors go into my decision -- and what I want to eat is usually at the bottom of the list. With the frenetic pace of openings these days, there's an endless number of hot, new restaurants to visit, and I'm always considering those -- after the traditional three-month waiting-period, of course. But to focus on all things new doesn't provide a fair assessment of our scene, so I also like to revisit more established restaurants worthy of another look, as last week's review of Barolo Grill can attest.

See also: First look at LYFE Kitchen


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Twenty Favorite Dishes Over 100 Reviews

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Behind the scenes at The Kitchen Denver.
I've written a hundred reviews since becoming the restaurant critic at Westword. To celebrate the occasion, I wanted to give a shout-out to the kitchens and teams that have made dining out so memorable over the past two years -- not just for me, but for all of us who appreciate the quality and diversity of Denver's robust food scene.

Of the thousands of plates that have come my way, I've selected twenty that deserve a spot in the highlights reel. These are the ones I find myself thinking about when a similar dish is put before me, the ones I'd gladly eat over and again. One of them is a summery bruschetta that I enjoyed long ago, while preparing for my first review of The Kitchen Denver. Another is an appetizer that bumped another leading contender at the buzzer; you'll read more about that dish, and the restaurant it came from, in my review of Barolo Grill tomorrow. Of the twenty, most are (sadly) no longer available, a sign of seasonality and the speed at which menus change -- but at least the kitchens that made them are still open (with the exception of Twelve, which closed last month). And you can still order seven of my favorite dishes, which appear at the end of this otherwise alphabetized list. So keep reading -- and be prepared to get hungry.

See also: Five Behind-the-Scenes Takes on Being a Restaurant Critic, After 100 Reviews

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Small Is Beautiful, From Maine to Montana to East Colfax Avenue

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Danielle Lirette
Good things come in small packages at To the Wind Bistro.
This summer, while all eyes have been on the pomp and circumstance at Union Station, I've found my attention drawn more and more to tiny places, homegrown places, places with footprints as large as other restaurant's kitchens. Some of them I've reviewed, such as Kings BBQ and To the Wind Bistro. Others I've enjoyed on my own time, both here and in far-flung corners of Maine, Wyoming and Montana.

See also:
To the Wind Bistro Is a Breath of Fresh Air on East Colfax

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