Rioja…a blend of Spanish, French, Italian influences, and the recognition from the James Beard Foundation. I was unaware of what this meant before I met “The Chef”, but I quickly learned that only the best of the best are awarded with the James Beard Award. Chef Jennifer Jasinski was awarded with Best Chef of the Southwest in 2013.
It’s not often I get to visit Colorado, so why not try the best of the best?! So, how did Rioja measure up to this recognition?
Goat Cheese Biscuit. Seasoned Flatbread. Lavender Sourdough. Loved the lavender sourdough. Perfect note of lavender paired with sourdough!
Chardonnay. Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco, Rioja.
Amuse bouche: Pork belly bite.
Fresh Bacon. Pork belly. Cardamom. Curried Garbanzo Bean Pureé.
Duck Confit Flatbread. Lemon Pistachio Pesto. Gorgonzola Dolce. Cherries. Port Pickled Red Onion.
Beet Gnocchi. Strawberries. Hon-shimeji Mushrooms. Walnuts. Tarragon. Horseradish-fromage blanc.
Pacchetti. Rapini Mousse filled Saffron Pasta. Heirloom Tomato. Italian Sausage. Burrata. Basil.
Artichoke Tortelloni. Artichoke Mousse. White truffle brodo. Queso de Mano. Chervil.
Seared Sea Scallops. Arugula Risotto. Baby turnips. Artichoke. Saffron-lemon Puree.
Beignets. Sweet Goat Cheese. Black Mission Fig Filled Pastries. Ruby Port Wine Reduction.
Hand made ice creams. Left to right: Apricot Ice cream. Tangerine Sorbet. Cognac Ice Cream. Lace Cookie Plate.
**Keep in mind that “The Chef” and I like to order various menu items and create our own tasting menus so some of the dishes were split in two by the chefs in the kitchen. That’s why the portions appear a bit small, but each small bite was bursting with deliciousness.
I know this sounds super cliché, but the entire meal was like an orchestrated musical. There was never a moment that I felt I was waiting for my food. It’s almost magical how they organized it. Those who are not in the industry don’t realize how difficult food service can be and I can understand why when restaurants like Rioja make it look so easy.
Now, onto the food…
They catered to exactly towards my palate! Delicate, light, and bursting with flavor. I had so many favorites. The amuse bouche was scrumptious and I could eat a bowlful! My favorite pasta was Chef Jen’s signature pasta, the Artichoke Tortelloni. Next, would be the Fresh Bacon dish. It sat on top of a savory Curried Garbanzo Bean Pureé. Lastly, the sweets deserve some mentioning especially since my hometown is the home of the beignets (New Orleans)! The beignets were delicious and complimented the ice cream and sorbet dishes well. My favorite ice cream was the Cognac. “The Chef” jokes that I’m an alchie, but you can’t blame me for having great taste!
From top to bottom, Rioja excelled in great service, food orchestration, and flavorful execution. I can’t wait til I visit Denver again to try brunch at Rioja!