We love to eat good food. Often. Okay – all the time. So, when we go out, it’s all about good food. And we may be a bit picky when it comes to choosing a place. Not that it has to be pricey, or “fancy”; it just has to live up to what food should be. This is why for a recent outing in Denver, we called on our good friend Telly who gave us so many excellent suggestions it was almost painful to choose only one. But we were greatly rewarded. It’s not very often you have a dining experience that knocks you off your feet, course after course. But we did at Olivéa.
Olivéa was simple and modern, from the sea salt served at each table in little olivewood bowls with rounded spoons, to the cocktail menu. Rarely are we lured into something off the cocktail menu, but it was so seasonal and inventive, complete with Shakespeare references, that we had to try something. I sipped on a carrot and ginger martini, garnished with a fresh green slip of a carrot leaf. Dave went for the “Ophelia,” tragic character that she was, with rosemary (for rememberence and a hint of fall), lemon and gin — crisp and delicious.
No wonder things were looking fresh — there was a nice garden directly behind the restaurant which supplied some of the produce for the menu. Otherwise, nearby Grant Farms provided more good things to eat. So we began with an heirloom tomato salad, with purple basil and housemade black pepper ricotta crumbled over the top which was perfectly dressed and then left alone to showcase the intense flavors of the autumn harvest. And for our vegetarian friends … the next course simply made our jaws drop: house-made charcuterie. Why choose one, when you can choose three? We sampled the duck liver mousse with a fig compote and pickled onions, the lamb sausage with minted yogurt, and the boudin blanc with mustard and more onions. As if we weren’t making enough loud sighs and “mmmm” sounds already . . . .
And on to our main course! Dave chose a housemade pasta sauced with chunks of the boudin blanc and wilted greens, and I ordered the pork medallions with shaved fennel and cherries. Both were spectacular. Unfortunately (and yet fortunately), neither of these are on their current menu. Why? Because a menu should reflect the season — and the inspiration of the chef. A glance at their latest menu reveals that is exactly what’s happening at Olivéa. So, it was with very little room but great resolve that we slid on towards dessert. The chocolate and fleur de sel caramel tart and a rustic Palisade peach galette finished us off before we could finish them. Later on, we drifted off to sleep with visions of local seasonal produce, artists in the kitchen and Denver’s growing restaurant scene dancing in our heads.