Denver Restaurant Week well worth the drive

I’m not a really big planner, but when my friend Lauren sent me an invitation to go out to dinner with the girls for Denver Restaurant Week, I went out and bought a planner just so I could write it down.

I had always wanted to go to Restaurant Week when I lived down in Denver, but every time I actually got around to looking up reservations everything would be booked and I would end up settling for Ramen or Mac n’ Cheese.

Lucky for me, Lauren is a planner and she booked a reservation for four at one of Denver’s newest restaurant, Olivea,  about a month in advance through OpenTable.com (a pretty nifty website, if you’ve never been on there). She’s such a go-getter.

Denver Restaurant Week is a two-week celebration of Denver’s unique and diverse food scene, and from February 20 – March 5 diners can enjoy a multi-course dinner at over one hundred Denver eateries for the fixed price of $52.80 for two, or $26.40 for one.

All the participating restaurants are listed on the Restaurant Week website (http://www.denver.org/denverrestaurant/) and the set menus are also included, making it pretty easy to waste hours at a time drooling over entrée descriptions.

I couldn’t help but get excited in the days leading up to the reservation, and the idea of spending an entire evening with a group of my beautiful and intelligent female friends helped me justify ditching out of work early to beat the rush hour down to Denver.

Nestled in the 17th Avenue neighborhood, Olivea is a sister restaurant to Duo, a place I keep wanting to try because I have heard many rave reviews about their brunch menu and mimosas.

The cuisine at Olivea is Mediterranean, and I couldn’t help but get excited when I noticed not one, but two items on the menu with duck. I had never tried duck before and I vowed that this would be the meal that changed that.

Olivea was bustling last Thursday, and our group of four was lead to a table in the back of the tiny dining area to soak in the scene.

We all decided that we would each order one appetizer so we could get a taste for everything, and we agreed that we would share at least one bite of our entrée with the table.

I ordered the duck liver mousse, fig compote and pickled red onions and was delightfully surprised and how smooth and creamy the mousse was. Spread on a thick-cut baguette with some of the red onions on top created a nice crunchy, smooth, salty bite, and the sweet figs provided a nice contrast

The potato flatbread with caramelized onions and rosemary was also very good, and I’m convinced it might be a recipe I can attempt at home.

For my entrée I ordered the duck meatballs on creamy polenta with shaved pecorino, and after one bite I knew I had ordered the winner of the night.

Compared to regular meatballs, these were melt-in-your-mouth tender and the bites tasted even better after being dragged through the sweet polenta.

I tried bites of the mahi mahi with saffron couscous and the semolina gnocchi with mushrooms, but still felt I had ordered one of the best things on the menu, and I got to see just how versatile duck is as an ingredient.

For dessert, the  honey almond semifreddo with almond praline was deliciously light and decadent at the same time. Every plate I sent back to the kitchen was virtually clean, my own little silent compliment to the chef.

Three amazing courses, plus two bottles of wine, plus a nice tip for our waiter (who put up with our constant giggling), came out to $53. Not a bad price to pay for fine dining.

I am now hooked on the whole Restaurant Week thing, and even though I know I have to wait a whole year for it to come around again, I already have my eye out for new places I will add to my list of potential places for the 2nd annual girl’s night.

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One response to “Denver Restaurant Week well worth the drive

  1. Penny Dickson

    What a delightful blog from such a charming up and coming Food Critic! What a perfect occasion to expand your personal culinary repetoire!

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