Monday, June 28, 2010

Tastes of Tut, take two

Posted By on Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 2:55 PM

A continuation of my post on Saturday, in which I discussed some of the food and drink I encountered in Denver this past weekend while previewing the Tutankhamun exhibit at the Denver Art Museum:

Saturday night, we had dinner at a fine Denver restaurant that recently received some national attention — I'm keeping that a secret for now, as we'll be placing a full review in print in the coming weeks.

But after my first glimpse of Root Down, I couldn't pass up returning for another meal, which ended up being brunch, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Even Root Down's art selection is so hip and cool that you want to just, well ... hang out under it.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Even Root Down's art selection is so hip and cool that you want to just, well ... hang out under it.

Root Down's midday menu mixes creative takes on morning classics with extra attention for the gluten-free and vegan crowds. They also cater to the party crowd with bottomless — yes, bottomless — blood-orange mimosas for $11 or classic mimosas for $9. Smart and tempting, but we who needed to drive home opted for French-pressed coffee from Denver's Novo Coffee (the "direct-trade" coffee we told you about in mid-May that's only available at Old Colorado City's Jives Coffee Lounge in the Springs).

Root Down's banana bread French toast knows few rivals.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Root Down's banana bread French toast knows few rivals.

From the organic Eggs Benedict section, we tried the Root Down Benedict ($9), comprised of a quinoa patty in place of an English muffin (for the gluten-free element), topped in an egg, Iberico cheese and oven-dried tomato Hollandaise. Fresh, peppery arugula and perfect, crispy, organic home fries completed the plate, an overall breakfast gem.

The 100 percent wind-powered outfit is located in a former service station — hence the ample light from former bay doors and pleasant summer breeze.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The 100 percent wind-powered outfit is located in a former service station — hence the ample light from former bay doors and pleasant summer breeze.

We also tried the steak and eggs ($12) and Hazel Dell Mushroom Omelette ($9). The former places a Harris Ranch skirt steak with red mole sauce next to organic scrambled eggs and a barley-plantain hash tossed in Chimichurri oil — it's as good as it sounds. The latter mixes goat cheese, sage and Mushroom Duxelle under a thick organic egg fold topped in a delicious caramelized onion creme fraiche . The topping is also lovely over the accompanying home fries.

Dig the reclaimed basketball court flooring; nearly 70 percent of the eatery was built and refurnished with recycled, reused and reclaimed materials.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Dig the reclaimed basketball court flooring; nearly 70 percent of the eatery was built and refurnished with recycled, reused and reclaimed materials.

On the sweeter side, we tried the banana bread French toast ($9; pictured above) made with organic chicory and spiced walnuts and topped in a decorative pattern of creme fraiche and the almond flour buttermilk pancakes ($8) served with maple-agave syrup and a basil-flecked fruit salad. Both were excellent and much more dynamic and interesting than sad, plain pancakes and basic French toast. I seldom go out for breakfast because only a handful of places make food that's better than home (anyone can throw a few ingredients into a pan of scrambled eggs). This food is exemplary of something unique and worth going out for — surprising, fun flavors that spike the norm. And for very reasonable prices considering the quality.

Note the bar made out of recycled bowling alley wood.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Note the bar made out of recycled bowling alley wood.

We have chef/owner Justin Cucci to thank for this interesting space, which the outfit calls "a contemporary and eclectic throwback to the 1950s." Beyond its cool factor and tight flavors, the whole focus on organic, local, sustainability and greenness, from foundation to food sources, is commendable. If more urban blight could be transformed into something so culinarily worthwhile and vibrant to its neighborhood, we'd certainly be looking at our vacant buildings in up-and-coming areas through new lenses.

One last flavor of the weekend: We stopped at MoonDance Botanicals on the way out of town, at my girlfriend's request, to pick up some loose-leaf tea specifically. While patiently waiting (read: breathing loudly and pacing like all men do in girly shops), I took advantage of an "elixir bar" featuring 4-ounce pours of herbal elixirs served with a wedge of organic dark chocolate for $3. A little sneezy after a weekend of rich foods, I went for the immune support tonic with elderberry, echinacea, ginger, cinnamon, licorice and thyme-honey in sparkling water. Considering the dose of herbs that usually taste yucky on their own, the drink was quite good, much much better than a dropper under the tongue chased by water.

The girls tried a "honey root beer" with burdock, dandelion root, cinnamon, ginger root, spearmint oil and honey in sparkling water and the "Be Here Now" drink, comprised of lavender tincture, hydrosol and oil, wild lettuce tincture, kava and an impatiens flower remedy in sparkling water. Never mind that you haven't heard of half that and don't know all the applications; a menu explains each ingredient's benefit to the mind or body. And health impact aside, the drinks are interesting and unique.

Taking medicine is rarely as pleasant as at MoonDance Botanicals. The dark chocolate certainly helps.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Taking medicine is rarely as pleasant as at MoonDance Botanicals. The dark chocolate certainly helps.

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