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Rocky Mountain farmers, ranchers & artisans influence Denver dining



The term may be overused these days but the intention remains relevant. Diners want inventive dishes made with the freshest possible ingredients and the least possible impact on the environment. Chefs want to offer exactly that. One result of this synergistic aspiration is a new focus on something that had all but disappeared from the American landscape in the age of big agriculture, the small farm. Now, local organic produce, animals raised humanely, handcrafted cheese and sausage, house-made canned and preserved goods and a desire to waste nothing are priorities in trendsetting restaurants, and Denver is well ahead of the curve.

From pizza at Sazza to multi-course meals at Root Down and Acorn, there are restaurants at which farm-to-table is not a trend but a sustained passion. One of the best-known chefs in this space is Alex Seidel, who has Fruition, Mercantile Dining & Provision and his own Fruition Farms, which provides ingredients for both restaurants. Equally passionate about locally sourced items are the chefs at urban Farmer in the Oxford Hotel and fast-casual BriDer, proving that fresh ingredients and sustainability are important to all kinds of chefs. The best news is that this is no longer a trend; it's the new norm, at least here in Denver.


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10
Greenwood Village


Sazza brings local, sustainable and farm-to-table concepts to the world of pizza. "We have never felt it necessary to define our version of farm-to-table because it is a lifestyle choice, not a business decision," says Jeff Rogoff, owner of Sazza. "What does that mean? In our home, we eat only organic produce, meats and poultry and we support local purveyors whenever possible. This is the mantra that we took to Sazza and have continued to do more as Sazza evolves." Sazza also takes local beyond food, using local for necessities from ink cartridges to plates. Silverware is donated by customers. "It's all about reusing," Rogoff adds. Each season the list of specials changes based on the best products of the season, so check out what's new on offer each time you go.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: From Jeff Rogoff, owner: "Food justice is something that is a passion of ours that goes hand-in-hand with our passion of running a restaurant."

Christine's expert tip: Try the house-made margaritas and mojitos. The margarita uses a local tequila, freshly squeezed limes, lemons and oranges and a house-made simple syrup. The mojitos use a locally crafted rum, freshly squeezed limes, house-made mint-infused simple syrup and organic mint leaves (grown in the restaurant's herb boxes during warmer months).

Read more about Sazza →


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BriDer is the casual side of the restaurant group that includes Acorn in Denver and Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder. It's also the one proving casual doesn't mean lesser quality or less commitment to bringing local ingredients to the table. "Even though we're considered a fast-casual restaurant, we always emphasize the importance of seasonality and the quality of ingredients that go into our food," says Executive Chef and Partner, Chase Devitt. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, BriDer is an easy walk from LoDo. Like the other chefs in the group, BriDer chefs partner with Red Wagon Farm in Boulder to source produce for seasonal salads, sandwiches, soups and curries. Rotisseries chicken is a staple but the generous baby kale and shaved apple salad also make a perfect lunch. Kombucha, cold brew, chai? Check. Ditto well-priced beer, wine and cocktails.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: BriDer may be fast-casual but it also sources a variety of produce from local farms for sandwiches, salads, soups and curries.

Christine's expert tip: Bring the kids; BrDer is family friendly with a kids menu.

Read more about BriDer →


Acorn
Photo courtesy of Adam Larkeyt


Acorn, an anchor in The Source, one of RiNo's multivendor spaces, continually evolves and adheres to a practice of sourcing as much as possible from local farms. New menus are never disappointing. "At Acorn, we've built some really solid relationships with our favorite farms and purveyors and regularly use these ingredients on our menus," says Executive Chef Ian Palazzola. He adds that the staff also preserves ingredients for use in winter, and kitchen and bar teams cross-utilize ingredients to cut down on waste. Among the Colorado farms Acorn chefs work with are Red Wagon, Oxford and Kilt farms, all in Boulder, as well as others in Delta County and Hotchkiss. Although the design is industrial chic, Acorn exudes a welcoming, warm aesthetic. Whether you're at the bar for an after-work cocktail or seated for a full-on dinner, order the candied pecans. Warning: they're utterly addictive.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: The chefs at Acorn have close relationships with many Colorado farmers and purveyors, making the restaurant a perfect fit for farm-to-table dining.

Christine's expert tip: Ride your bike along the South Platte River from downtown Denver and reward yourself with lunch at Acorn.

Read more about Acorn →


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Alamo Placita


"At Beatrice & Woodsley, we search for and serve the best quality and most sustainable products available," says Travis Messervey, executive chef. Like other Denver chefs, he says the term farm-to-table has become mostly a marketing strategy, but he believes that exemplary practices will be noticed. "Believing that good food and sourcing methods speak quietly and confidently for themselves, we focus on proper staging, practice and craft so that nature's diverse creations are best understood and celebrated. This fosters a straightforward and honest relationship with our community, without any use for catchphrases or shortcuts." The South Broadway eatery offers a rustic-American menu featuring vegetables, fish and meat along with a compact yet lovely wine list.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: The staff here believes passionately in serving quality products that are sourced from equally passionate and responsible vendors and purveyors.

Christine's expert tip: Beatrice & Woodsley's Nosh & Tails happy hour runs Monday-Friday from 5-6:30 p.m.

Read more about Beatrice & Woodsley →


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North Denver


This restaurant is about food and community in every sense. Philanthropy is central to the philosophy of the owners and staff, as much as using local growers and food artisans. Duo lists nearly 30 Colorado food partners so diners know that much of the menu is derived from local farms and culinary artisans. It's also a highly creative menu with a comfort food bent. There might be hearty cassoulet or bison short ribs, but also satisfying vegetarian dishes such as cauliflower steak with sweet potato puree. The menu changes with each season so there's always something different but equally delicious as whatever dish you enjoyed on your previous visits. Wines by the glass are plentiful, along with a nice selection of cocktails and Colorado beers.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: Gourmet Magazine called it "One of the best 100 Farm-to-Table Restaurants in America."

Christine's expert tip: The restaurant hosts six benefits each year and gives to more than 90 organizations, most focused on education and the agricultural movement.

Read more about Duo →




Located in a chic, airy space with patio seating on Union Station's courtyard, Mercantile offers the perfect mix of sophistication and comfort in its design and menu, and it's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are plenty of veggies, meat, seafood and house-made pasta options on the dinner menu, not to mention a long list of pastries available in the adjacent market, which is stocked with goods from Fruition Farm and other local growers and artisan producers. In addition, the bar serves up creative cocktails inspired by what's available each season and offers an extensive selection of beer and wine. If you're on the run but want a quick bite, sandwich or espresso during the day, grab it to go from the market. You may even see a chef selecting herbs or spices for the evening's meal.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: Mercantile completes the farm-to-fork circle with its market where patrons can buy provisions from the chef's farm or other purveyors for their own kitchens.

Christine's expert tip: Support the restaurant's sustainability efforts by riding the light rail or bus to the Union Station stop, conveniently located a short walk from the restaurant.

Read more about Mercantile Dining & Provision →




Chef Chris Starkus brought his passion for gardening, growing and beekeeping to the heart of LoDo. "As a chef, beekeeper and farmer I understand that when you can begin from seed selection, that's really where the flavor starts," he says. "No matter if it is mushrooms from Hazel Dell or edible flowers from Lost Creek Micro Farm." Many of the menu ingredients are sourced from the chef's own farm in Lakewood and from farms and ranches across Colorado. Mushrooms, for example, appear in dishes such as Tableside Roasted Local Mushrooms, and edible flowers and local honey enhance a variety of dishes and cocktails. Urban Farmer isn't just a catchy name. It accurately describes the heart and soul of what this restaurant is about.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: The restaurant's farmer-chef is growing multiple ingredients right in the restaurant in the middle of Denver. If that's not farm-to-table what is?

Christine's expert tip: Stop in for Happy Hour Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m.

Read more about Urban Farmer →


3
Capitol Hill


Potager, which means kitchen garden in French, opened in 1997 in Denver's Capitol Hill area. The founders, a father and daughter, noted the theme of the restaurant is not about a particular type of cuisine (though there are French dishes on the menu) but about locally sourced and seasonally driven foods. "We've stitched together a network of suppliers that we know personally and whose concerns are similar to our own," they said at the start. "We buy food from farmers who know their seeds and soil, ranchers who care about their animals, fish merchants who know the fisherman and are concerned about the sea." In 2019 the founders sold Potager to a new team whose stated mission is to uphold the tradition and ideals of Potager as it has always been.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: Potager has a dedication to local farms and ranches and to purveyors who grow, raise and catch responsibly.

Christine's expert tip: All food is cooked to order; this is not the place to come if you're in a hurry.

Read more about Potager →


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Alamo Placita


Alex Seidel opened Fruition Restaurant in 2007. With its menu of upscale comfort food, it was an instant success and remains among Denver's most popular restaurants. Seidel then bought a 10-acre farm and became a hands-on farmer, producing fruits, vegetables and cheese and, at least at the start, raising animals for his restaurant and others. "I have never specifically used the term farm-to-table," he says. "I've always looked at it as a trendy label that has been given to us." What matters to him are the relationships involved, and Fruition Farms has been what he calls an education in understanding how to grow crops, make cheese and raise animals and how to harvest these foods. "Farm-to-table," Seidel says, "is all of those processes and understanding what goes into the relationship between producer and end-user. This hands-on experience has helped us create a viable, long-lasting relationship between farm and restaurant."

Recommended for Farm to Table because: At Fruition Restaurant, the chef and farmer are one and the sameĀ—; it hardly gets more farm-to-table than that.

Christine's expert tip: This is an excellent place to indulge in an after-dinner drink as the beverage menu is extensive with port, Madeira, Cognac, Grappa and more. The wine list is also excellent.

Read more about Fruition Restaurant →


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Commons Park


Root Down, in Denver's Highlands neighborhood, won't compromise on its dedication to local and sustainable goods and the philosophy that ranching, farming and fishing should be humane and not harm the planet. Almost everything is certified organic. What doesn't come from the restaurant's onsite garden is sourced from local farms, ranches and culinary artisans. "The term farm-to-table began as a small, powerful movement toward awareness of our food supply," says founding culinary director Daniel Asher. "Unfortunately, it has become diluted and casually tossed around as a clever and profitable marketing term. The foundation of the Edible Beats group (Root Down, Linger, Root Down DIA and Ophelia's) was based upon principles of environmental ethics that define every decision we make, from what type of paint to use on the walls to what we package our guest's leftovers in." As for the full-range menu, it absolutely hits the mark.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: More than 50 percent of ingredients are sourced locally. All animal proteins are certified humane. All seafood is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Christine's expert tip: All dietary needs are accommodated here including vegetarian, vegan, raw and gluten-free, and the team will work with any allergies if you notify your server.

Read more about Root Down →


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Meet Christine Loomis

Christine has written about every aspect of travel, from romance and adventure to family and wellness. She is also lucky to have had three major home states through the years: New York,...  More About Christine

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