While attending The Broadmoor's Salute to Escoffier in February, I met the Summit's mixologists, who I quickly realized were making some of the most elegant and lively cocktails in the city. Robert Leavey, who created the Saffron Blaze that I tasted for this week's column, says good cocktails are all about fresh ingredients and good spirits. But the Summit's team elevates the craft higher, with creative infusions like hibiscus syrup and Pernod foam.
Meanwhile, Monika sampled from a Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group outfit that's home to some excellent craftsmanship of its own, and Bryce tried a new spot that's, unfortunately, lacking in just about everything but affordability.
Summit at The Broadmoor
19 Lake Circle, 577-5896, broadmoor.com
I've long been a fan of Caspian Café's orange and saffron caramel cream custard. It was my first experience trying the world's most pricey spice — usually seen in savory dishes — in a sweet format. Then I found the Saffron Blaze ($10.75): the gorgeous, sunburst-orange concoction is made by steeping saffron for 30 minutes in heated Royal Tokaji, the sweet Hungarian dessert wine. To that infusion, Grand Marnier and Absolut Apeach are added with fresh-squeezed orange and lemon juice and a candied orange garnish.
The Tokaji's honey-like sweetness leads, amplified by the orange and peach liqueurs, and the fresh citrus balances everything out. The saffron shows up as a subtle aftertaste that's just plain sexy. It kinda whispers, "Pssst ... I'm classy and delicious." — Matthew Schniper
9420 Briar Village Point, 955-6650, rockymtnrg.com
The dining room was jammed with a crowd at the door: Salsa Brava's Briargate location wasn't exactly hurting for weekday business.
So I grabbed a high-top at the bar and ordered the colorful seared ahi-tuna salad ($12.50) with mixed greens, vibrantly sweet mango, chili-candied pecans, lusciously ripe avocado and perfectly rare sliced tuna. The habañero ginger vinaigrette popped on my palate, bringing all the fresh ingredients together. I missed the promised crunch of julienned jicama — turned out the kitchen had none — so my waiter gifted me fluffy, warm, cinnamon-laced sopapillas as a consolation.
Good service is something the outfit seems to have maintained at this and the Rockrimmon locations, now open five and seven years respectively. — Monika Mitchell Randall
Diane's Restaurant and Coffee Shop
3125 Sinton Road, 287-3113, dianes.co
Jim and Diane Krug, owners of the city's Bargain Marts, opened Diane's with a plan to include a drink and salad with each entrée, keep it all in the $5 range and not allow tipping. But two months after opening, they were forced by rising food costs and restaurant reality to scrap all that. In the process, they killed the novelty — and, I'd say after a wide sampling of the food, the only real draw to the restaurant.
For example, the cafeteria-quality baked chicken ($5) was overcooked and under-seasoned and came with a side of mushy carrots. It was indicative of the entire menu, which features a standard variety of "home style" items, as well as a thin salad bar and day-specific, fried fish and prime rib specials. — Bryce Crawford