Colorado Denver Hotels Restaurants: Colorado Denver Hotels Restaurants
Hmmmm, Kir Royale. Yum. I love the sensation of sweet, bubbly goodness that this cocktail produces in my mouth. Its balance of effervescence and full, ripe fruit tantalizes and satisfies like well, hmmmm, yes. I guess that’s why this is a drink for lovers.
Actually I was with my girlfriend, Mary Dawn, recently when I sipped this delicious nectar at Bistro Vendôme in Denver. (Hey, you don’t have to be with a guy to feel sexy, especially since women often do a better job than men at making other women feel attractive, wouldn’t you agree?) We were both feeling PRETT-Y perky—you know two girls out on the town in the big city feeling footloose and fancy free.
I think it was the whole French thing that brought these sentiments on and, of course, the Kir Royale, a fabulous apéritif that embodies all the lusciousness and fizz of Paree. Ours was raspberry, likely made with Chambord, which, as I explained to MD, was made with champagne (or at least sparkling wine), as indicated by the word royale. (A regular kir is made with white wine—or sometimes a chilled red in France—and a touch of crème de cassis.)
We were to be in Denver less-than twenty-four hours and in honor of the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, I insisted we make it a totally French experience. I had zeroed in on Denver’s Italian flair before (see below), however, I hadn’t explored its French side. I had visited Yves Saint Lauent: The Retrospective in the afternoon and was already feeling fantastique. We had also already checked into the Ritz-Carlton Denver, the mile-high city’s first and only AAA five-diamond hotel where I was happy to discover much of the grandeur and elegance of Paris. So the French theme was well underway.
As we approached the entrance to Bistro Vendôme, just off historic Larimer Square, it felt like I was stepping into one of my favorite nooks of Paris. Had the weather not been so uncertain, we would have opted to dine in the Bistro Vendôme courtyard, a privileged enclave that exudes the charm and country-French goodness of outdoor dining in the City of Light. Inside the ambiance felt equally Parisian and as I took in this intimate space, I was thrilled to discover familiar French bistrot elements including wooden tables, mustard-colored walls, lace curtains and mirrors touting the menu du jour in handwritten lettering.
Here Chef de Cuisine Dana Rodriguez serves up exceptional French cuisine of the sort of bistrot quality similar to what I’ve enjoyed at favorite Paris bistrots such as renowned Chef Guy Savoy’s Bouquinistes. Vraiment exceptionnel. For starters I reveled in Foie Gras à la Rhubarb composed of pan seared foie gras (from the Hudson Valley), rhubarb jam, brioche, balsamic reduction, pickled rhubarb and micro basil. This, of course, commanded a second glass of Royale. I let myself be tempted by the Confit de Canard for the main course, a traditional French dish that also surpassed my expectations. MD and I shared a berry napoleon, a heavenly assemblage of fresh fruit, cream and pastry for dessert. The meal was fabulous and served in a smooth, efficient manner since we needed to trot off to a show at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
We saw “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” and laughed hysterically for two hours. It wasn’t especially French—except for the love component—so I’ll report on that in another post.
MD and I circled back to Larimer Square for after-theater fun. We settled into Cru, a high-end wine bar and restaurant that I was most attracted to because of its name and also Mary Dawn’s recommendation. Here we were wooed by the tasting of a variety of wines, each accompanied by its perfectly paired treat. With dark chocolate-covered strawberries we sipped Veuve Clicquot, a fromage double crème cheese from Provence, served with honey-drizzled apples and pears, enhanced the crispness of a Pouilly Fuissé, spoonfuls of Dulce de Leche waltzed us through a sweet wine from California and a molten chocolate cake brought out all the complexities of a rich red. Mon dieu! That was quite a lot of tasting. Fortunately the portions were small for both the food and wine.
That’s, in fact, part of the beauty of Cru—they offer a tasting experience hard-to-find elsewhere. Flights, a taste of three, two-ounce wines that are related to one another by grape varietal, geographic region or style, are a good way to sample different wines. Names such as Patio Whites or Backpacking Through Europe make the experience all the more fun. Cru also serves half glasses of wine, so there’s no need to go overboard. This handsome establishment remains open until 2 a.m. and also serves lunch on their front patio and in their back garden.
Back at the Ritz, Mary Dawn and I enjoyed our luxurious room, decorated in a rich palette of gold. We were here just long enough to notice the handsome Colorado influences throughout the hotel including the many accents of earthy hues and artwork from Colorado. Each room boasts one of John Fielder’s impressive books. Needless-to-say, we didn’t find a minute to crack ours. We did, however, check out their incredible Forza Fitness center that spans three floors over 55,000 feet. Their basketball court, which is housed in the walkway that spans two buildings, would even impress the French.
We figured we’d save our exercising for back in Telluride and instead opted to indulge in the special Rive Gauche breakfast at Elway’s, Ritz Carlton Denver’s signature restaurant, in honor of the YSL show. Thankfully here they respect the French tradition in presenting small portions of superior quality. MD and I both regaled in Savory Local Mushroom Crêpes (crimini in this case), served with truffle frites and baby greens. Just like in France, the food was light, lovely and full of flavor. I love the vibrant, swanky decor of Elway’s, the perfect finale to our French-inspired Denver stay.
Mary Dawn and I departed with all the ease and good tidings of a checkout at a top Paris hotel. The staff seemed to express sincere regret in seeing us off, making us feel as though we had now joined the ranks of their most cherished guests. Being two single gals out on the town, that felt especially flattering.
And then it occurred to me that perhaps all the attention wasn’t so much about us two gals. Our special Yves Saint Laurent/French-inspired stay was injected with added panache by a certain handsome fella named Valentino. (Who else would we bring on a YSL weekend?) I guess when you’re two ladies gadding about it’s always good to have a dashing escort in tow.
Note that I’ll be posting a story about my travels with Valentino, Mary Dawn’s gorgeous Bernese Mountain Dog, in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, you can learn more about this alpine treasure and Mary Dawn’s Alpen Schatz, a European-styled shop located in Telluride. It’s an online boutique as well.
Read Denver Art Museum Salutes Yves Saint Laurent and More to hear my take on the YSL show and to listen to an interview with a DAM representative.
Contact Ritz-Carlton Denver (800-241-3333) to find out about their special Yves Saint Laurent package that includes two V.I.P. tickets to the YSL show, a spa treatment, brasserie-inspired Rive Gauche breakfast for two at Elway’s and other style-y amenities.
Sophisticated shoppers and travelers might also want to consult my story Cherry Creek: One of America’s Top Spots for Chic Shopping, Lodging and Dining. I also highlight Elway’s Cherry Creek in that piece.
Check out Viva Italia, Viva Italian Americans, Viva la Dolce Vita in Denver to read about an Italian-inspired trip to Denver.
Thank you to Marc Piscotty, Bistro Vendôme, Cru, Ritz-Carlton Denver and my trusty iPhone for the above images.