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Rioja’s redesign is ready for its close-up

February 11, 2015

Rioja owners Beth Gruitch and Jennifer Jasinski threw a “coming out” party Monday night to show off the extensive remodel of the 10-year-old restaurant on Larimer Square.

Drinks flowed, bites were passed and local movers and shakers – including Larimer Square boss Jeff Hermanson – came to ogle the new digs.

“We’ve grown up,” Jasinski said about the sleeker, sparer and more sophisticated restaurant decor from Denver-based Boss Architecture.

James Beard award-winning chef Jasinski and business partner Gruitch reopened their flagship restaurant on Feb. 4 after a nearly-one month complete renovation.

“Our food, service and wine program have never been better,” Jasinski said. “Now, we’ve got a sexy new design to show off our skills. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”

Jordy Construction was assigned the task of demolishing the existing Rioja down to the raw brick and stud walls and building a brand new space, all in less than a month.

“Boss designed our newest restaurant, Stoic & Genuine at Union Station, and we love what the team did with that space,” Gruitch said. “It was an easy decision to use the Boss and Jordy combo for the Rioja remodel and they did not disappoint.”

A fully re-envisioned seating concept complete with chairs and booths covered in a sage green crushed velvet, multiple booth and banquette seating options, and a more intimate lounge area are all part of the new look.

To celebrate the robust nature of the wine program at Rioja, the wine display is the centerpiece of the new design as it moved out from the edge of the space into the center of the room.

The lighting in the space is now located primarily at the guest level to create a soft intimate atmosphere. A rich color palette reflects the history of Rioja, both the restaurant and the region for which the restaurant is named, featuring warm woods, gold and brass accents including a gold leaf style wall covering, and deep rich accent colors used on the seating and screens throughout. The distinctive brick wall that separates the two dining areas has been white-washed.

Rioja is the flagship restaurant of Crafted Concepts and is located at 1431 Larimer St. More information at www.riojadenver.com or by calling 303-820-2282. Other Crafted Concepts restaurants include Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen in Larimer Square, and Stoic & Genuine in Denver’s historic Union Station.

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Sage Hospitality expands hotel portfolio

January 28, 2015

Denver-based Sage Hospitality, one of the nation’s top hotel management, development and investment companies, has begun 2015 with a rapidly expanding portfolio in key markets in the United States.  Including the announcement of a new management contract for the Denver Marriott Tech Center, with a planned large scale renovation for the south Denver convention venue.

Sage’s growth in development began last year with the opening of the newly built SpringHill Suites Downtown Oceanside in California, followed by the renovated Westin Cleveland Downtown hotel in Ohio.  Also in Cleveland was the opening of Sage Restaurant Group’s second location of Urban Farmer, beginning an expansion of its restaurant concepts which will continue in 2015.

July 2014 marked the opening of Denver Union Station and the launch of The Crawford Hotel, ranked one of the Top 11 Business Hotels by CNN and Top 101 Best New Hotels in the world by Condé Nast Traveler.  Other Denver announcements for Sage in 2014 included a 150-room independent hotel on 245 Columbine in the former Post Office building in Denver’s high-end shopping district, Cherry Creek.  The luxury boutique hotel, developed in partnership with BMC Investments, will include Sage Restaurant Group’s second location for its highly acclaimed Departure Restaurant.

Expanding on a relationship that began with Denver Union Station, Sage has partnered with Colorado real estate developer, McWhinney, on two new projects.  The historic Windsor Dairy Block, in the LoDo District of Denver, will include another independent Sage hotel.  This duo also has plans to develop a two-acre block in Old Town, Fort Collins, which will include retail, a restaurant and a 165-room hotel associated with an undisclosed brand, set to open in 2017.

Outside of Colorado, Sage has expanded its Premier & Lifestyle division with a new management contract in another historic train station, the Union Station Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.  The Union Station Hotel is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection with 137 rooms and owned by Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, who also owns the Nines – a Luxury Collection hotel in Portland, Oregon.

Going further east, in December the Four Seasons Philadelphia announced that it would be removing the Four Seasons flag in June 2015.  Sage Hospitality has been hired by Host Hotels & Resorts to rebrand, renovate and reopen the location on One Logan Square in late 2015 with its own branding, new spa and a Sage Restaurant Group concept.  Host is also the owners of the Marriott Denver Tech Center hotel.

Kicking off the New Year, Sage also opened their first New York City hotel in Downtown Manhattan with the Residence Inn New York Manhattan/World Trade Center Area.  The hotel is a historic renovation in the famed William Barthman Jewelers building on Broadway and Marion, featuring all-suites with a look that reflects the jeweler’s history in the building.

“We’ve been going after more independent hotels coupled with unique locally inspired restaurants, in exciting urban markets, because that’s where our sweet spot is,” said Michael Everett, chief investment officer for Sage.  “We’ve seen amazing results in renovations and repositioning, and we look forward to operating these new hotels and restaurants and expanding our portfolio as both operator and owners.”

To learn more about Sage Hospitality and their expanding portfolio of hotels, visit www.sagehospitality.com.

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Twelve eateries that closed in 2014

January 5, 2015

While I much prefer to write about restaurant openings in our fair city, inevitably there are those that close. Some are big losses to our Mile High palate, others were more obviously headed for an epic fail.

Thrillist.com, the irreverent food and drink website, has compiled a list of the “12 shuttered Denver bars and restaurants that we’ll miss.” They are: Bonanno Bros. Pizzeria in the Vistas at Park Meadows, Catacombs Bar in Boulder, Corner House Neighborhood Eatery in Jefferson Park, Chef Liu’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine in Aurora, Le Grande Bistro & Oyster Bar downtown, Ondo’s Spanish Tapas Bar in Cherry Creek, Oshima Ramen in Southeast Denver, Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar downtown, Restaurant Kevin Taylor downtown, twelve restaurant in ballpark, TAG Raw Bar Larimer Square, T-Wa Inn Southwest Denver.

Read more about each closure at www.thrillist.com/eat/denver/denver-bars-and-restaurants-that-closed.


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Go out with a bang and ring in the new year at area eateries

December 29, 2014

Denver is no slouch when it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve. From the two free fireworks displays downtown to dinner, dancing and drinking at numerous area establishments, you’ll have no reason to not party hearty Wednesday night.

And, for the morning after, so many restaurants offer their versions of hefty hangover cures during brunch. Take, for example, New Year’s Eve parties at Union Station, a disco party at The Walnut Room, Neil Diamond cover band Forever in Blue Jeans and French food at Coohills, Auld Lang Five five-course tasting menu at Panzano, free oysters and half-price proseco at Cart-Driver, bingo and caviar at Squeaky Bean, an Oscar-winning meal at 1515, lobster and filet at Fleming’s, Scandinavian specialties at Trillium, thirst quenchers at Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill, 50 Shades of Silver party at the Tavern Downtown and the Third Annual Irish Family New Year’s Celebration from 2 to 7 p.m. at Celtic Tavern.

As for finding the cure for what ails you on New Year’s Day, consider brunch best bets with Bloody Mary’s and bottomless bellinis at Panzano; Los Chingones, Sugarmill and TAG Burger Bar brunches; Centro Latin Kitchen in Boulder; LoLa in LoHi; Scotch eggs and corned beef hash Argyll Whisky Beer in Uptown; Humboldt Farm, Fish & Wine; the Walk of Shame brunch at Ignite Burgers & Bar and the bottomless brunch at Zengo and La Biblioteca.

But wait, there’s more. Even if you’re a Johnny or Jenny come lately to making NYE or New Year’s Day reservations, check out available tables and times at www.opentable.com.

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NPR gives national nod to Denver’s restaurant scene

December 17, 2014

One of the nicest nods to Denver’s bustling restaurant scene came from Tuesday’s piece by National Public Radio. The reporter sought the answer to the popular question “What makes Denver so tasty?” when it comes to the dining business, which has doubled in sales over the past 10 years.

He interviewed Food Network star chef Keegan Gerhard, who rolled the proverbial dice on Denver when he opted to open D Bar, the tiny 17th Street eatery with the longest lines. Gerhard and his pastry chef wife, Lisa Bailey, quickly outgrew the original D Bar space and last month opened a spot three times larger in Uptown. The couple shunned the bright lights and big cities in favor of building a business where they wanted to live.

NPR interviewed other top chefs including Jennifer Jasinski, who with business partner Beth Gruitch, owns Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Euclid Hall, and most recently Stoic & Genuine in the redeveloped Union Station. Jasinski upped Denver’s restaurant cred by winning a James Beard Award and competing on “Top Chef Masters”.

Here’s what NPR said, “When you think of the restaurant scene, Denver probably doesn’t come to mind. But that’s just the latest change for a city whose population has ballooned in the last couple of years, thanks in part to a nearby oil and gas boom. Top chefs are beginning to take notice.”

John Imbergamo, perhaps the most trusted man in Denver’s restaurant business, was interviewed for the story on background. Here’s what NPR didn’t discuss, Imbergamo said. “The fast casual segment was ignored but Denver is a hotbed of innovation in that segment of the industry. Chipotle, Qdoba, Tokyo Joes, Noodles, Garbanzos, Pizzeria Locale. Smashburger, the list goes on.  Many of these with elevated quick food are consumer stepping stones to fine dining.”

To read or listen to the rest of the report, go to www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/12/16/371126181/top-chefs-discover-denvers-fast-growing-restaurant-scene?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social.

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Chef Guard moving his Raw Bar spot from Larimer to Lowry

May 9, 2014

Much-lauded chef Troy Guard (TAG, TAG Raw Bar, TAG Burger Bar, Los Chingones, Sugarmill, Guard and Grace) is moving his TAG Raw Bar concept from Larimer Square to Lowry, according to a story in Westword.

In its stead, Guard plans to “re-concept” the TAG Raw Bar space on Larimer Square to a less expensive yet-to-be-named restaurant. (The rap I’ve heard against Guard’s Raw Bar is that while the food is delish, the tab is tall.)

Recognizing that diners are predominantly ordering less expensive menu items such as noodle bowls, rice bowls and salad bowls, and more often eschewing pricier items such as sushi, Guard aims to appeal to more frugal folks.

The old TAG Raw Bar will close on July 1 and reopen as its reinvented self on or around July 15. Lowry’s TAG Raw Bar is slated to open in September. Meanwhile, the prolific chef/restaurateur (emulating successful chef/restaurant owner Frank Bonanno?) is opening a second TAG Burger Bar in the former Subway Tavern space in the Sunnyside neighborhood in northwest Denver.

“I think a TAG Raw Bar will do really well in Lowry, especially since there’s nothing else like it in that neighborhood,” Guard told Westword.

Larimer Associates chief operating officer Joe Vostrejs agreed. “… that kind of concept just doesn’t exist out there, and I think it fits in really well with the collection of dining options that we have in Lowry, all of which are local concepts,” Vostrejs told Westword.

Read the rest of the story at: http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2014/05/_tag_raw_bar_troy_guard_lowry.php.

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Work Options for Women event celebrates girl (chefs) power

April 30, 2014

There are still a few tickets left for the 10th annual WomenCook! benefit for Work Options for Women from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Monday, May 5, which features a walk-around style dinner by some of Denver’s most renowned, well-respected, and creative women chefs. There is also a silent auction as well as a presentation delivered by staff and students.

The tasty event takes place at Temple Emanuel, 51 Grape St. Tickets are $125 each or $1,500 for table sponsorships.

Chefs for WomenCook! 2014: Alex White, Jonesy’s Eat Bar; Aniedra Nichols, Elway’s, Cherry Creek; Carrie Blake, Table 6; Craig Dixon, Cafe Options; Crickett Burns, The Truffle Table; Dana Rodriguez, Work & Class; Elise Wiggins, Panzano; Jennifer Jasinski, Euclid Hall, Bistro Vendome, and Rioja; Kathleen Kenny Davia, Gateaux; Lisa Bailey, D Bar Desserts; Mary Nguyen, Parallel Seventeen; Rachel Kesley, WaterCourse Foods; Samm Sherman, Root Down and Linger; Sandra Adams, Grand Hyatt; Sheila Lucero, JAX; Summer Polson, Project Angel Heart and Tessa Schuler, WOW Café.

For questions, comments or seating preferences, if you would like to pay by check, or for more information about event sponsorship, please contact Daisha Versaw at daisha@workoptions.org or 720-944-1921. For more information about Work Options for Women, go to www.workoptions.org.

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20th annual Dining Out For Life raised mucho moolah for meals

April 30, 2014

Project Angel Heart, a non-profit organization that delivers nutritious meals to improve quality of life, at no cost, for those coping with life-threatening illnesses in the Denver Metro and Colorado Springs areas, raised more than$300,000 during its annual Dining Out For Life event on April 24.

More than 250 restaurants in the Denver Metro area and Boulder donated 25 percent of their food sales on April 24 to Project Angel Heart. An estimated 80,000-plus Coloradans attended the event.

“For 20 years, the restaurant community has been coming together to support Project Angel Heart’s home-delivered meals,” said Project Angel Heart CEO Erin Pulling. “On behalf of the 2,300 clients who will receive Project Angel Heart’s nutritious meals this year, Project Angel Heart thanks the community — restaurants, sponsors and diners — for their generous support.”

This year, guests had the option to enter a drawing to win a year’s worth of groceries from Whole Foods Market – a package valued at $2,500. The winner will be notified by July 1.  There is still time to enter by texting the word “meals” to 50155 and making a donation of any amount.

Project Angel Heart would also like to thank The Cherry Cricket and Racines for supporting Dining Out For Life for all 20 years. It would also like to thank its sponsors for helping to make it another successful event including Subaru of America, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Bellco, Republic National Distributing Company, Deep Eddy Vodka, Whole Foods, 5280 Magazine, The Denver Post, DreamWise Marketing Solutions, Out Front Colorado, Lamar, Sprint, Ad Focus and Westword.

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A few ideas for an Easter feast (and fun)

April 14, 2014

Looking for an Easter feast?

Here are just a few suggestions for this Easter Sunday:

Second Home Kitchen + Bar is hosting an Easter Sunday Pajama Brunch that will feature an a la carte menu with classic brunch dishes, bottomless mimosas, and Cherry Creek’s Best Bloody Mary Bar. The Easter bunny will lead egg hunts at 10 and 11 a.m. and noon. A family-style Easter Dinner of three courses will feature a choice of spiced honey and apricot-glazed Berkshire ham, Colorado lamb loin and Harris Ranch beef tenderloin. Second Home Kitchen and Bar is located at 150 Clayton Lane in Cherry Creek North. Call 303-253-3000 for more information or reservations.

Kachina Southwestern Grill in Westminster is serving a Wild Wild West Brunch with family-style breakfast dishes with a Southwestern twist from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Offerings include green chile deviled eggs, piñon-crusted French toast and chocolate chile beignets. Bottomless mimosas and a Bullseye Bloody Mary Bar will be available for $10. Kachina Southwestern Grill is located at 10600 Westminster Blvd. Call 303-410-5813 for more information.

The Fort, the Morrison landmark restaurant, is celebrating Easter with three amazing three-course, pre-fixe menu options. All pre-fixe entrées will be served with a Famous Fort salad to start and a slice of carrot cake with huckleberry cream cheese frosting for dessert. Call 303-697-4471 or visit www.thefort.com/Reservations.htm for reservations.

1515 restaurant will offer its unique ala carte menu or you can build your own prix-fixe menu starting at $30 for three courses.  Kids menu is just $5 for choice of mac & cheese, French toast or chicken fingers.  Adults can choose from Sous Vide NY Strip Steak & Eggs, Braised Leg of Lamb or Lobster Crepes, among others, including a fine choice of sweet treats. Details at www.1515restaurant.com.

Central Bistro & Bar in LoHi will have and all-you-can-eat Easter Brunch for $35 – add  $10 for bottomless mimosas.  For reservations, call 303-477-4582.  And, some of you may have noticed that this year Easter falls on 4/20 – leaving those who celebrate with the big decision to have Easter brunch with family or get their toke on.  Central is making that easy by throwing their second annual “Central Smokedown” porch party on 4/19.  $4.20 drink specials all day, $25 for unlimited roasted hog, sides and fix-ins or $9 for the pulled pork sandy.  Food served beginning at 2 p.m. and live music from The Mike Maurer Band from 3-7 p.m. Details at www.centralbistrobar.com.

Guard and Grace chef Troy Guard’s new downtown steak place, is serving its first Easter brunch from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and valet will be complimentary.  If weather permits, you might even be lucky enough to enjoy the food on their 70-seat patio.)

Panzano chef Elise Wiggins is going whole hog for Easter Brunch with a whole rotisserie pig featured at their roasted pork carving station.  Bottomless Bellini’s are $9 and their brunch selections are mouthwatering with an Upside-down French toast with banana, walnut and caramel sauce or if you don’t do sweet, try the Pastiche with layers of meatballs and cheese tortellini baked with ragu and cinnamon custard in a savory thyme crust.  Details at www.panzano-denver.com.

Lala’s, located at 7th and Logan in Capitol Hill, will feature brunch favorites with the additions of crab cake benedict, bacon and pecan waffles, Italian breakfast pizza, bottomless mimosas and Lala’s House infused Svedka Bloody Mary.  Hours are 9-2:30 p.m. Details at www.lalaswinebar.com.

Opus Fine Dining & Wine Bar, in Cherry Creek North, is offering a three-course meal for $45 per person for adults and $22 per person for children.  Choose from starters such as a waffle blt with spicy mayo, romaine, tomato jam, bacon or truffled rabbit sausage en croute with dijon shallot salad, frisée.  Entrées include pan roasted halibut and eggs, maple glaze, soft scrambled eggs, capers. Details at www.opusdine.com.

Trillium, in the Ballpark neighborhood, has a special Easter menu with smaller plates that include Beignets and Boompa’s Swedish Pancackes bigger plates that include a Scandinavian Cobb salad and a Croque Madame. Details at www.trilliumdenver.com.


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