Marcella’s Kicks Off Sunday Brunch Italian Style in LoHi

My favorite Italian place in town is now doing Sunday brunch 10am to 3pm! Marcella’s (right on Central Street in LoHi) has always had fantastic Italian food, a fun atmosphere, and one of the best happy hours I’ve ever seen (50% off almost everything but the entrees, and that includes pizza). Well, they’ve finally launched a brunch menu! I had a chance to try it at a tasting event the other week — and I’ve got to tell you — it’s a must-try.

In Italy, eggs and waffles and all that are less of a thing for breakfast. Instead, you’ve got melon, prosciutto (and other meats), and cheeses. I absolutely did not complain about that when I was in Italy. Or the enormous pitchers of Sangria. (The red and white Sangria are both really good at Marcella’s, by the way. And they go fantastically with meat and cheese.)

Meats, meats, and more meats. Yes, yes, and yes. This also exists on the regular menu (and the 50% off happy hour).

You may be amazed to hear that I loved a vegan dish, but I did. The “Sicilian Caponata” with roasted eggplant and other veggies. This is an app that also exists on the regular menu (and the 50% off happy hour).

Truffle Eggs: poached eggs, toasted ciabatta, taleggio cheese. A fantastic, creamy, flavorful vegetarian breakfast dish.

As the main photo on the post might suggest, this was actually my favorite dish. Ricotta crepes with macerated strawberries and almonds. It’s all just so perfectly paired and fluffy and delicate and just sweet enough. And it reminds me of childhood breakfasts at home in Ukraine where my grandpa would make huge piles of perfectly-thin, perfectly-round crepes with a side of blended fresh strawberries (just picked from our farm) and fresh cottage cheese from the neighbor’s cow.

No brunch is complete without a Nutella option. I don’t know what it is about Nutella. Our neighbors pointed out that apparently my face looks like I’m experiencing some sort of nirvana-like moment when I eat Nutella. I am. Can you blame me?

Yes, it’s an omelette. It not may be particularly unique, other than the caprese salad on the side, but it’s delicious. And I’ve had a lot of mediocre omelettes that weren’t delicious.

Apparently, breakfast pizza is a thing. (I guess I’ve simply never discovered breakfast pizza before.) That’s burrata on there by the way — which goes so well with sunny eggs. And before you dismiss it because you don’t see meat: just know it has N’duja (a slightly spicy spreadable pork). You’re welcome.

More meat! This time, it’s the Short Rib Hash. I’ve yet to be disappointed by any slow-cooked meat at Marcella’s, and this was no exception.

I have no idea how it was possible to fit anything else into our stomachs, but we managed. Because these:

And once we walked out of this brunch, we decided to buy one of the condos in the new condo building going up a block away — so you know it was good 😉

El Five Starts Serving Brunch — Accompanied by Beautiful Rooftop Views and Amazing Mediterranean Bites

Whenever anyone asks me what new restaurant they have to visit while in Denver — or what restaurant is perfect for a date — these days, I say El Five. The views of Denver are just incomparable, the service is always top notch, and the Mediterranean-inspired food and drinks are creative and mouthwatering. So I was so excited when I found out that they have recently started doing brunch! Yes, it’s not cheap — and El Five is generally not cheap. But is it worth it? Absolutely. For $47, you get a cocktail, access to the buffet, and one main entree dish. And before you scoff, read on.

BRUNCH: SUNDAYS 10-2PM (reservations recommended)

You can see the view of downtown in the background below. You just don’t get this good of a view anymore. Not unless you’re at Linger or El Five. And the cocktail is also exceptional, — a mix of rosé, apricot purée, champagne, vodka — if I remember correctly. I could easily drink 10 of these with a smile on my face.

So when I say it’s no ordinary buffet — I mean it. This is an assortment of items from the buffet, which includes spicy mediterranean shrimp, Jamon Iberico on toasted bread, bacon-wrapped dates, tuna-stuffed peppadews, madeleines, beignets, croissants, some sort of cauliflower-in-pastry triangle of wonder, and more. Just the buffet alone would have been worth the price considering how many times I went back. And yes, I’m slightly embarrassed about that.

For my main, I had latkes topped with crab, pickles beats, and dill, eggs — and a bunch of other things I can’r remember. It was tender and flavorful and amazing — and it kind of reminded me of home in Eastern Europe. Maybe the Israeli influence?

All in all, a fantastic experience. Even if you can’t afford to do it every weekend, it’s worth checking out at least once. You’ll probably see me there 😉

Marcella’s Adds Fantastic New Dishes to the Menu, Including a Pork Osso Buco

Marcella’s in LoHi has quickly become my favorite Italian place in Denver since it opened last fall. It’s just the best mix of being hip, bright, friendly, delicious, well-located, and affordable. If nothing else, you have to come for the 4-6:30 M-F happy hour where almost the entire menu is 50% off. That includes the cocktails, beer, most wines, appetizers, meats/cheeses,  soups/salads, pizzas, and more. Basically everything but the entrees and super expensive wines! (But if you’re interested in the super expensive Italian wines, this is a great place to try them by the glass, when most places only let you do it by the bottle.)

I recently got the chance to try the new additions to their menu, and I highly recommend you try them, too! Without further ado… the new stuff:

If you’ve lived in Colorado for any amount of time, you’ve probably tried 1,000 renditions of a brussel sprout dish. In my opinion, Panzano and Marcella’s have the best ones. These come with apples, almonds, ricotta, and grainy mustard. The mustard is a new addition to the dish I haven’t had anywhere else — and I’m a sucker for spice and vinegar. The only thing that could make these better would be bacon.

Another new antipasti (appetizer) is the Spicy N’Duja — which is a paté sausage mixed with orzo, corn, and broccolini. And no, if you haven’t heard of this before, you’re not weird. I haven’t either. Honestly, I wished this was meatier and spicier. Apparently one person complained about the spiciness level and ruined it for the rest of us 😉

Sorry to interrupt the scheduled programming of “new dishes” here — but this oldie, but goodie, deserves a special mention. Don’t ever leave Marcella’s without getting the Melted Pecorino Cheese with crostini, apple, and truffle honey. (It’s also on happy hour for 50% off.)

So full disclosure: I don’t usually eat a lot of cooked fish. I’m more of a sushi fan — or a crab/crawfish fan. But this new fish entree is pretty fantastic. It’s the Barramundi with farro, broccolini, fennel, and lemon caper vinigrette. As far as Italian fish dishes go, this is definitely at the top of my list.

This is the new Chianti Braised Short Rib with radiatore pasta, capers, and horseradish. If you’re a short rib fan, you won’t be disappointed by these. They’re juicy and just-fatty-enough and tender and flavorful and all those other amazing adjectives.

Now for my favorite item of the night: the Pork Osso Buco with brussels, carrots, polenta, and sweet garlic. If you don’t know what Osso Buco is,  you need to go eat as much of it as possible — immediately. Traditionally, it’s a Milanese speciality of cross-cut veal shanks slow-braised until they’re so tender they just fall apart, and paired with some sort of vegetables. It’s an awesome meal to make at home if you have the time. There’s also a pretty fantastic pre-made boxed version of these at Costco. But nothing beats an expert restaurant preparation. I’ve never had a pork rendition before — but holy crap, was this amazing. Honestly, if nothing else on the entree menu — try this. And I am also willing to throw all the money at Marcella’s in the future if they will do the traditional veal version of these, because now I’m convinced they know what they’re doing. (The reason they’re not doing veal is because they’re trying to lower the consumer price point.) Also on the seasonal menu, the ricotta cheesecake with an almond crust, strawberry sauce, and real strawberries. If you’ve never had it, ricotta cheesecake is an amazing cheesecake.

This is on the regular menu, but the Profiteroles dessert just needs a mention. Pistachio, chocolate, and vanilla gelato — with warm chocolate ganache. Like sex on a plate. I’ll leave you with that.

 

Beautiful Views & Delicious Dishes for Date Night at El Five

This post is long overdue, but it’s been a very busy holiday season for me since Thanksgiving. I got a chance to finally visit El Five right before Thanksgiving, though, and it was absolutely Ah-Mazing. El Five opened in LoHi (right next to Linger) earlier this year, and it’s been a really cool addition to the Denver dining scene. It’s a Mediterranean tapas restaurant from Justin Cucci, featuring both traditional and modern plates inspired by all the different Mediterranean countries — from Spain, to Gibraltar, to Morocco. I rarely love every single dish I try at a restaurant, but this was exceptional. There were 6 of us here, and no one could find fault with anything — drinks and service included.

The rooftop views here also make it the perfect spot for a romantic date night. It’s right across the highway from downtown, so you get a straight shot of the downtown skyline.

As far as cocktails go, there are some really fun, creative options here. Such as the Zombie (amber, dark and overproof rums, lime, falernum, passionfruit, absinthe) — and the Pineapple Mint Collins (vodka, sekanjabin, lime, pineapple, mint, soda). The wine list is also amazing, and I highly recommend chatting with their wonderful sommelier (Kelley Pottle Graham) to find the perfect pairing, or even get something that’s not on the menu.

As a starter, we loved the Mediterranean Sea plate — I believe what’s on it changes, but we had oysters, sardines, lobster, shrimp, mussels, and seaweed salad. It’s a great variety of light seafood to get started with.

The Grilled Mackerel and the Shrimp & Calamari a La Plancha were great seafood follow-ups with bold Mediterranean flavor. And they were perfectly charred/fried on the outside, while still being incredibly tender on the inside.

The Ash Roasted Carrots look pretty much like a masterpiece. As far as vegetarian dishes go, this one was pretty fantastic — and very thoughtful about combining the right flavors and textures (as is every dish here, to be honest).

The Charred Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant) — rich and filling and awesome:

The chicken skewer dish was one of my favorites, but sadly I don’t think on the menu right now. I rarely find chicken this packed full of flavor and this juicy on the inside — which is why you don’t see me praising chicken very often.

The Shawarma Spiced Lamb Ribs pack quite a flavor punch, too. I’m not the biggest fan of lamb — and these are pretty lamb-y — but those at the table who like lamb, loved these:

A little less lamb-y, and perhaps even more delicious, is the Moroccan Lamb Sausage. My husband practically refused to share this after he got his hands on it (he’s a huge lamb fan).

The last of my favorites was the Grilled Hanger Steak. I mean just look at it. There’s clearly a trend with every single dish here: thoughtful, creative combinations; bold Mediterranean flavors; and skillful veggie and meat preparation. All in a fun atmosphere with great service. I’ll definitely be back.

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Bremen’s Wine & Tap Introduces New Seasonal Menu Under New Executive Chef

New Executive Chef Isabel Ranney has recently taken over from Matt Selby at Bremen’s Wine & Tap — which opened in the trendy LoHi neighborhood at 33rd & Tejon just this last June. I got a chance to try her new fall/winter menu, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had recently. Isabel Ranney has a background in herbalism, which gives her a unique perspective:

“I went to school for herbalism and I love to add herbs into my cooking that I know will help people at this time of year. For example, the lamb shank has elderberries and rosehips which are packed with antioxidants and are antiviral, so it helps people’s immune systems without them even realizing because it also tastes delicious.”

Set in a bright, vibrant atmosphere, Bremen’s Wine & Tap serves seasonal American fare made with local ingredients and some of the best-sourced meat in town. I thought the meat dishes were all absolutely amazing here. Bremen’s also has some delicious hand-crafted seasonal cocktails and a fantastic wine list that pairs perfectly with the food.

Specials:

  • Happy Hour daily 4-6pm
  • Set the Mood Mondays (1/2 off all bottles of wine)
  • Uncorked Tuesdays 7-8pm (free wine, beer, spirits tastings)
  • Ladies Night Wednesdays ($5 on all tap wines)

The butcher’s board pictured at the start of the post is one of the top-selling appetizers on the menu (chef’s choice of meats and cheeses, house-made grain mustard, and pickled vegetables). My favorite board was the “Lamb Lollipops” though — which consists of the most tender, delicious lamb I’ve had in Denver, paired with mint creme fraiche, flatbread, and shaved onion & parsley salad:

My husband’s favorite dish was the Steak Tartar (with capers, white anchovies, and egg yolk). It’s made with steak from the Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe down the street, and the meat quality really shows. For all the vegetarians out there, they also have an Asparagus Pear Tartar with tangerine oil and avocado that even all us carnivores loved (sorry, I don’t have a photo).

If you’re a fan of salads, the ones here are some of my favorites. The Pickled Pear Salad (almonds, bacon, arugula, goat cheese, rosemary vinaigrette) is meant to help with digestion:

And the Kale & Beet Salad (rotisserie chicken, shaved fennel, candied walnuts, manchego, charred lemon vinaigrette) makes for a great meal just in itself:

Another great vegetarian option on the menu is the Farro Bowl with roasted root vegetables, Rebel Farm’s greens, and sunnyside eggs:For the seafood lovers, the Seared Sea Scallops with bacon & charred onion risotto and a wine vinegar reduction is divine. Three huge, perfectly seared scallops with just that perfect amount of sweetness. Ask the staff to recommend an acidic wine pairing that helps with that decadent texture, trust me.

My personal favorite main dish was the Duck Breast with gnocchi and a leek and mushroom ragout.  This duck as absolutely perfect (especially with a good glass of Pinot Noir).Between the lamb, the tartar, and the duck — I’d say Bremen’s has truly perfected its meat dishes. I would eat of them again on any given day. I’m sure the Chef’s Cut Grilled Stead, the Lamb Shank, the Rotisserie Chicken, and the Bone-In Pork Chop must all also be fantastic.

The New Marcella’s Restaurant in LoHi May Just Be Your New Favorite Italian Restaurant

The other day, I got a chance to check out Marcella’s Ristorante, Pizzeria and Wine Bar that just opened on Central Street in LoHi (right down the road from Prost Brewery, with a beautiful patio facing downtown). And I have to say, this just might be my new go-to for Italian food — so if you’re a fan of Italian, you’ve got to check it out. It’s the perfect balance between some of the fancier, dimly-lit Italian restaurants around town — and the slightly-kitchy family style Italian chains. Marcella’s has a fun, lively, vibrant atmosphere that’s the perfect mix of traditional Italian with modern, trendy Colorado — making it ideal for a happy hour with coworkers, a casual date, or dinner with the family. And the food is just soooooo good!

Some timing details: The restaurant is open Monday-Thursday 4-10pm; Friday from 4pm to midnight; Saturday and Sunday for brunch 10am-3pm; Saturday for dinner from 4pm to midnight; and Sunday for dinner 4-10pm. Happy hour is Monday-Friday 4-6pm and includes 50% off many of the drink and food options from the regular menu! That’s an amazing deal if you’re a happy hour fiend like me!

I decided to try one of the specialty cocktails, the Grapefruit Basil Fizz (Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka, Italian basil, hand squeezed lemon)  — and was very impressed. I’m looking forward to trying some of the other cocktail options and seeing how they evolve their cocktail menu.

Now for the aforementioned delicious food! The #1 must-try is the Braised Veal Meatball with a simple tomato sauce. It’s bigger than the size of my fist — and it’s so incredibly flavorful that I’m salivating just thinking about it again. It’s not like any other meatball I’ve ever had: it’s not densely packed together like most meatballs I’ve tried, but literally falls apart as you touch it and melts in your mouth. I know I’m getting this again during happy hour when I come back! (The 1st photo below is mine, but the 2nd was borrowed from Marcella’s, since I think the day lighting does it much more justice.)

Next on my list of favorites are the parmesan crusted onions from Marcella’s brick oven. It’s not something I would have thought to order if they hadn’t suggested it — but I’m so glad I did. I loved this with the meatball, but they’d make a great sharing plate on their own, or a side for something else. That sharp parmesan flavor is just perfect with the slightly sweet caramelized onions.

Another highly-recommended appetizer is the melted Pecorino cheese imported from a Tuscan farm in Italy — with crostini, apple, and truffle honey. I mean, how can you go wrong with melted cheese?!

Alright, now for some main dishes. We decided to go with the chef/house recommendations for the table, and we weren’t disappointed. They were all traditional Italian dishes that were just perfectly executed and full of flavor — and exactly what you’d want from an Italian restaurant. This is the Chicken Parmesan, a classic:

My personal favorite was probably the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara with crispy pancetta and a whole egg yolk (I took the photo after I broke the yolk and swirled it around — woops). It’s just so creamy, and the salty pancetta is the perfect addition, especially for a carnivore like me!

My husband would probably say his favorite was the Gnocchi con Bolognese. It’s not what you typically imagine “bolognese” to be — since it’s made with big chunks of braised lamb. So if you’re a lamb fan like my husband, this dish is perfect for you!

You’d think we’d be way too full to eat anything by now — but thankfully we didn’t finish our entrees and took them to go, so we could leave room for dessert. And the desserts here are awesome. This is the chocolate almond cake, and I’d eat it again anytime. It’s not overpoweringly almond-flavored, but just enough to give it that unique flavor.

And we all agreed the Cannolis here were the best we’ve had outside of Italy. You may think you’ve tried a cannoli elsewhere in Denver, but these will redefine what you think of as cannolis.

 

The Best Fried Chicken & Southern Food in Denver at LOW Country Kitchen

LOW Country Kitchen opened earlier this year in the LoHi neighborhood (in the former Vita space) — and it brought some much-needed Southern food to the neighborhood. Owners Katy and Brian Vaughn are from the South, and their first LOW location was a hit in Steamboat, so I was pretty excited for them to open another one right here in Denver.

LOW describes its food and beverage menu as a combination of “time-honored Southern cuisine using only the highest quality of ingredients” — resulting in “genuine hospitality, serious drinks, and the best fried chicken you have ever sunk your teeth into.” Now that I’ve finally made my way here and stuffed my face, I have to agree. Not only is the food amazing, but the staff really tries to make you feel welcome.

(Full disclosure: the photo of the fried chicken above is from the LOW website, since my photo of the fried chicken isn’t as awesome, as you can see below.)

Pro tip: there is free valet for Mizu, Lola, and LOW right on the corner of Boulder and 16th Streets — which is a life-saver in this busy neighborhood.


THE HAPPY HOUR

LoHi is a hot neighborhood for a good happy hour, and LOW is no exception — especially if you like a good cocktail. For a refreshing option, I highly recommend the $5 Bumblebee (pictured on the left below). Although the $7 LOW Old Fashioned (pictured right) was a delicious classic. They also have a $6 Deep South Limeade, an $8 Classic Sazerac, $3-4 beers, and $5 wines. And food too: $2–7 Southern snacks such as deviled eggs and dry rub wings.


MUST-TRY FOOD

Now I’m normally not a huge dessert person, but you HAVE to leave room for dessert here. This is the most amazing pecan pie I’ve ever had. I still dream about it sometimes. It really is the perfect ending to a Southern meal.