The Raw Deal at Vital Root

Vegetarians aren’t messing around these days. Owner of Edible Beats, Justin Cucci, opened up vegetarian restaurant Vital Root on Tennyson Street a year and a half ago and it has been a hit ever since.  Whether you’re on the run or able to stay awhile, there’s an open seat inside or on their two patios and heaping flavors waiting for you in this fast-casual dining concept.

Using only the freshest organic ingredients in each dish, you are sure to leave feeling revitalized and satisfied, and ninety-nine percent of the menu can be prepared vegan and/or gluten free upon request. Not a vegan or gluten intolerant? Try ‘em out anyway - your body will thank you later.

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Vital Root also places a huge focus on sustainability from the front of the house to the back. Supporting over 55 growers, farmers and food artisans, 50% of the ingredients are sourced within Colorado. Edible Beats’ homegrown produce comprises 40% of the produce used in all dishes across the six restaurants. It also supports local wind and solar projects through national clean energy provider, Arcadia Power, to help reduce America’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

We were cordially invited to their monthly Raw Pop Up Dinner held on the first Monday of every month. Why raw vegan cuisine? Vital Root’s chef says, “Raw food has not been heated over 118 degrees, leaving all natural enzyme and nutrient activity of the ingredients completely in-tact and maximizing bio-availability. The raw diet encourages harmony with nature, a nonviolent lifestyle, boundless energy, a healthy relationship to food-as-fuel, and is a remarkable way to experience the beautiful ingredients.”

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Upon being greeted at the door, the hostess kindly led us to our seats where we anxiously awaited diving into the raw experience.

The first course presented before our eyes and our salivating palates was the Giardiniera, served on a spoon and ready to be devoured. Simple yet refreshing, the dish was comprised of eggplant relish, basil tomato and daikon thread. It set the tone for the rest of the meal and left our taste buds wanting more…which is exactly what we got.

The second course came in an array of multi-color roots. It was almost too pretty to eat, but that didn’t stop us. Served in a beautiful radicchio leaf, the Radicchio Beet Hummus executed on presentation and texture by utilizing the ingredient in two ways. We were given a variety of organic vegetables including carrots, bell peppers and cucumbers to enjoy with the hummus. To add a hint of sweetness to the dish, dates were also included.

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The third course was the one I was most intrigued by, and that was the Squash Lasagna. I asked myself, “How are they going to serve warm cooked lasagna that resembled lasagna without the power of a hot oven?” Let’s just say, I was absolutely blown away. First off, the presentation was beautiful. Secondly, cutting into it felt just like eating momma’s homemade lasagna. It was dense yet light, and didn’t come with the typical sluggish aftermath, even after eating the entire plate. What made this dish even more unique was the vegan spin on the cheese. From ‘rawmesan’ and macadamia ‘ricotta’ to walnut pesto and a winter salad—it had me more than convinced.

And for the final course: the Blood Orange Granita, a Sicily-inspired shaved ice bursting with flavor. The dessert melted in my mouth like cotton candy, and refreshed my palate at the same time with the addition of the fresh basil.

If you’re sitting there living vicariously through my words, stop. You can reserve your spot for the next raw dinner through the Vital Roots website. What makes this experience even more thrilling is that the menu is a total surprise! You won’t know what’s coming to your table until it’s presented before you. Get your palate ready and imagination going for the eccentric yet inviting meal at next month’s raw dinner.

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If raw food isn’t your cup of tea, no worries. Vital Root offers a wide array of options and is open Tuesday-Thursday from 10am-9pm and Friday-Sunday from 9am-9pm. Additionally, Happy Hour is Tuesday-Sunday from 3pm-6pm with specials including $1 off beer, $5 wine and cocktails, $2 Banh MI or Avocado Tacos, and $3 Korean BBQ Veggie Wings.

Don’t wait any longer—see what these vegetarians are raving about! http://www.vitalrootdenver.com/

Written and Photographed by Samantha Bliss-Red Follows Her Bliss Photography

Brider | Fine Food, Casual Setting

Executive Chef Steven Redzikowski is known for his restaurants OAK at Fourteenth and Acorn, which regularly appear on the list of best restaurants in Denver/CO. He now leads Brider, a casual rotisserie and seasonal market concept on Platte Street that doesn’t require reservations or a special occasion to fine dine. “Our new restaurant Brider is about delivering a more casual environment, but still delivering what our guests at Acorn and Oak expect from us,” says GM Jason Isch. Brider’s passionate team delivers a level of quality and craftsmanship that is unmatched in casual dining, promising only made-from-scratch, ingredient-driven offerings prepared with the utmost care and attention. “At Brider, we'll be sourcing the same great products but simplifying them, that also makes them easy to package for take-out, which has been popular here” explains Isch

Brider offers breakfast, lunch and dinner menus focusing on a selection of composed, rotisserie-centric dishes straight from Brider’s state-of-the-art Rotisol oven along with seasonal soups, salads, and sandwiches. We ordered the OAK meatball sandwich and the rotisserie porchetta dinner plate with a side of sweet potato tots. The OAK meatball was delicious and very hearty making it worth the $12. The meatballs were seasoned and juicy, surrounded by melted provolone, pesto and fresh marinara. Overall it was one of the best meatball sandwiches we’ve eaten.

The rotisserie porchetta dinner was wonderful as well, very succulent with an herb-laden, crunchy crust. The dinner plates offer a selection of “styles” for your dish, which gives the diner different flavors and sides to choose from. We chose the lemon and chili wilted kale “style” which was a delicious accompaniment of greens with zest. Speaking of zest, Brider even makes their own dips and hot sauces which we tried a few of. There was a cilantro jalapeno aioli that came with our order of tots that was an elevated alternative to the normal ketchup or ranch dressing and an amazing hot sauce they compare to Chalula, but is much better. It has really prominent smoked/roasted chili flavors, a mild to moderate amount of heat and the right amount of thickness so it wasn’t as runny or vinegar laden as some popular hot sauces. We loved it and apparently so do many other patrons as Brider has decided to bottle and sell it!

The drink menu, led by Beverage Director Bryan Dayton is just as impressive, with as much attention to ingredients and craftsmanship going into their lineup of beer, cocktails, coffee and wine on tap. “It’s Brian’s thing, being a former ‘Bartender of the Year’, to come up with a selection of craft cocktails and homemade drinks, which then led to doing everything in house, from sodas to coffee syrups,” explained GM Jason Isch. “He’s also gotten the staff involved in the fun by teaching them all how to make homemade Kombucha and letting them get creative with flavors that change regularly.” The taps also change, with 6 for beer and 4 for wine, and the other 8 are cocktails, Boxcar Roasters nitro-tap coffee, and house made ginger beer and root beer. We ordered the root beer and it tasted like the old-fashioned, less-sugary version of todays typical can and their Chai Latte, which we were surprised to learn (we hadn’t caught on yet apparently), they also make themselves! The Chai was robust but the right blend of sweet and spicy, and would be a great complement to one of their homemade pastries.

We were told their Fritter was actually an award winner and a must try. We of course did try and fell in love with the flaky, sugar coated, treat that was somewhat reminiscent of a funnel cake but with more flavor.  Their lemon meringue cake and coconut cream pie was also featured that day and they were too delicious not to finish. As you walk into Brider you are presented with their beautiful array of desserts and specials for the day. It makes it really hard to pass up on the desserts and we recommend you take one to go.

Our dining experience was just how GM Isch described it: laid back, top-quality, delicious and easy. We were very impressed with all of the flavors, homemade drinks and desserts, attention to detail, diverse menu options, and price point. They even have free parking and fun music! We will be back~

Open daily 8:00am - 9:00pm - Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Carryout.Happy hour specials 3-6 p.m. featuring $3.50 beers, $1 off all drinks, and $2 pizza slices.  http://www.denverbrider.com/