FNG Launches Lunch, Eventually Brunch

Troy Guard’s rock n’ roll restaurant FNG is now opening at 11:30am Tuesday through Saturday to serve up your favorites during lunch hours. A great midday escape from your corporate job! The space is hip, edgy and full of music memorabilia and vinyl. According to their team, “FNG is the reminder of all that is genuine, pure and just f’n good. Our food is Rock n’ Roll and our drinks are Punk Rock. The staff is an over-educated, tattooed, eclectic band of experience-creating, hospitality rock stars.” 

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We sampled a few lunch favorites selected by the staff as well as a few of their cool cocktails. To start we had the Tater Tots & Salmon Salad which is just what it sounds like atop arugula with green and white aioli. This salad is apparently a guest favorite, which surprised both the staff and us, but we do give it points for originality.

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Another guest favorite is their Bologna Slider with Swiss, 1000 Island dressing, and potato chips on a King’s Hawaiian Roll (one of the only items not made in house because sometimes you can't beat a classic). A traditional burger, Mediterranean lamb, fried and rotisserie chicken sliders are also popular lunch options. We had the full size version of their buttermilk brined chicken slider which won this summer's Chicken Fight event! Each day there will be an added sandwich feature during lunch to test out chefs’ favorites and the FNG team will mold their lunch menu based on diners' favorites.  

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FNG's all-day menu features ten craft cocktails that drift from the mainstream in their unique ingredients and booze-y bite. We loved the Almost Famous that pairs ruby red flavored vodka with coconut milk and the smoky mezcal meets blackberry cocktail Bramble On. Also tasty is the "secret" dessert menu with nostalgic favorites like Banana Cream Pie and the Dirt Cup as known from childhood. 

FNG served Happy Hour weekdays 3-6pm and if you order from their special Live Nation section of the menu you'll be entered to win tickets to an upcoming Live Nation concert! And winners also receive a $50 FNG dining credit so you can come party/eat before the show!

3940 West 32nd Avenue in the Highlands. https://www.fngrestaurant.com/

Written by Tiffany Candelaria @TCDoesFnB     Photos by Samantha Bliss @RedCapturesHerBliss

Korean BarbieQ Pop Up Experience

Last weekend, the vacant restaurant space beneath Larimer Square transformed into a special pop-up experience themed around Korean BarbieQ. Odd concept, but cool creation that blended Barbie-themed decor and drinks with Korean barbecue. The pop up experience returns again this Thursday through Saturday August 25th, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at 1414 Larimer, Denver. Tickets include dinner and drinks - get tickets here:  https://www.thricepopup.com/#tickets

After this weekend, the BarbieQ will then be deconstructed to make way for another pop-up concept by OZ Architecture Associate Principal and Director of Brand Experience Design Abigale Plonkey. “I’ve always wanted to create a pop-up event, and I’ve seen them successful in New York and LA and thought this was an opportunity to bring it to Denver,” Plonkey said. "So we came up with the concept of Thrice — food, drink, design. It always has to have those three elements to make it unique. It can’t just drink, it can’t just be food and it can’t just be about design.” Chef Bill Espiricueta of Smok is preparing the food for this pop-up, and Shawn Campbell, lead bartender at El Five, curated the cocktails.

After the Korean BarbieQ wraps up this weekend, be on the lookout for the next concept — Cosmotropical, a David Bowie-inspired event where outer space meets tiki bar. The decor will focus on astronomy and have lots of neon. The third event will be Chroma, during which the room will change colors as different courses are served!

Photos by Josh Stephens

Steuben's Switches Up Some Dishes

Denver's comfort food favorite Steuben’s (in Uptown & Arvada) is known for their casual diner vibe and home cooking, serving regional comfort food at its finest. Steuben's has always evolved with the times, leading to its long life in Denver, and has recently updated their menu with some tasty, and also healthy, new offerings. We went to their "Media Mixer" last week and tried the tasty new assortment along with some summer cocktails and desserts.

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We've always loved their sandwiches, and now they have some lighter items like the Avocado Goddess Toast and the Rachel, a turkey version of a Ruben (pictured below). Both of these were fantastic and flavorful additions to their heartier standbys like Burgers, the Hot Beef Sandwich and Lobster Rolls. New entrees include a Brick Chicken (above) (brick-pressed half chicken which makes the skin extra crispy) with potatoes, veggies and chicken jus and Cayenne Etouffee (think gumbo with sausage, crawfish & shrimp) perfect for the cooler months ahead.

The cocktail menu at Steuben's has always been strong and ranges from light and summery to knock your socks off. The White Negroni looks like pure gin on ice, but it one of the staff's new favorites. Our new favorites (pictured) included That Drink which was a subtle and refreshing vodka, lemon, basil and seltzer cocktail and the No Where to Run with Bulleit Bourbon, lemon, mint, triple sec and seltzer.

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Steuben’s is also known to have delicious desserts; we recommend the lovely and light Lemon Icebox Bar or a Salter Caramel Choco-taco filled with their homemade salted caramel ice cream. The Secret Sauce team behind Steuben’s (also Ace and Vesta) are committed to using locally and/or responsibly produced ingredients and each of these locations have been certified as a green business through the EPA and Certifiably Green Denver!

Steuben’s Uptown, 523 E 17 Ave, Denver, CO 80203  https://www.steubens.com/#menus

Review by Tiffany Candelaria    Photos by Josh Stephens

The Perfect Place for Vegetarians and Carnivores to Dine Together


Cordon Bleu Sandwich

Cordon Bleu Sandwich

The Pig & The Sprout restaurant in Denver’s Union Station neighborhood embodies the dual nature of its name - featuring hearty, meat-based items and lighter, veggie and based items. The physical layout of the menu is split down the middle with meat-based, heavier ingredient dishes listed under “The Pig” side and vegetarian, even some vegan, dishes listed under “The Sprout” side. This place is perfect for those couples who each have entirely different eating habits or large groups! The same goes for the cocktails; you’ll find bold, whiskey, bourbon and beer based drinks and then light, clear spirits with fresh citrus or herbal ingredients on the other side. We can’t recall any restaurant we’ve been to with such a contrasted, and clearly divided menu as this… and we think it’s wonderful.

When Andy Ganick opened his long dreamed of The Pig & The Sprout last summer, he called it his "dream restaurant that would satisfy all." Ganick is on site most nights, but is also the owner of Stapleton’s popular Berkshire Restaurant that’s been serving “Swine, Wine and a Good Time” since 2007.

Eggplant Bruschetta

Eggplant Bruschetta

We had a good time and a great feast at The Pig & The Sprout last week and want to share our thoughts with you. We started with the Eggplant Bruschetta ($8) that was a very tasty "Sprout" starter consisting of fried eggplant, Boursin (soft, herbed) cheese, smoked tomato jam, and arugula which we really enjoyed. For our “Sprout” entree we ordered the Gnocchi, ($18) which was a wonderful vegetarian dish, but don't order it because you think it'll be lighter than something on the "Pig" side of the menu. In addition to the potato pillows (aka gnocchi), there were golden raisins, sunflower seeds, candied walnuts, butternut squash, Boursin cheese and arugula, all drizzled with browned butter sauce. This dish was decadent, filling and full of flavors.

Next, the Cordon Bleu ($14) sandwich was spectacular and is one of their most popular entree items, we get why. Every component from the toasted and mayo/fondue-slathered bun to the fantastic fried chicken made this sandwich a hit. The fried chicken is actually breaded with garbanzo beans, which gave it a more savory, nutty taste opposed to just fried crunchiness, and also makes it gluten free! In fact, you can make the whole sandwich gluten free with their special buns if you prefer.  

The Brussels Sprouts & Hogger

The Brussels Sprouts & Hogger

The final dish was over the top and was a popular item we just had to try for ourselves (and to tell you about!) It was a towering assortment of pulled pork, bacon, a kurobuta pork patty from Berkshire Farms and topped with apple slaw, pig chips, and mayo. It is aptly named The Hogger ($17) and is served with fries, but we got their Brussels Sprouts ($8) instead because we were told how great they were. We were very pleased with that suggestion and got a heaping dish full of the glazed, Parmesan dusted sprouts. These however are not on the "Sprout" side of the menu because they are cooked and served with bacon. We could barely have more than a bite of this final dish after everything that came before, but I can tell you the leftovers were just as great the next day.

We only ordered one cocktail and choose the Wild Boar, consisting of El Dorado 12 yr. rum, honey, black walnut bitters and served with a spear of Luxardo cherry and prosciutto. It was like a sweet Manhattan and tasted more like bourbon than typical rum, apparently 12 years of aging will do that. Some of the other cool cocktails are their four different Mules, a Chocolate Mint Porter, and an Apple Pie Martini and Mimosa. During Happy Hour (3-6pm & 11pm-2am), ALL drinks are 25% off!

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The space lends itself to a variety of personalities as well; climbing vines by the bar, antique books, garage door walls that open up to two outdoor patios, and sleek couches for lounging and community tables for making new friends. We thoroughly enjoyed this restaurant because it provides thoughtful, creative seasonal fare for vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free, and carnivors alike. Even the large drink menu nods to their split personality with clever, one of a kind cocktails paired to both palates.          https://www.pigandsprout.com

Words by Tiffany Candelaria        Photos by Samantha Bliss

Vesta | 20 Years Later

Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, is the inspiration for this Denver dining destination that first lit its hearth over 20 years ago. Owner Josh Wolkon shares his story with us, “Vesta opened in 1997 in Denver’s LoDo. I was 25 years old and driven by pure ambition to open my dream restaurant. Surrounded by young, energetic, passionate, and fun people, we created a destination restaurant before LoDo itself became a destination. The term ‘Vesta Vibe’ was later coined and became known for combining positive energy, genuine hospitality, philanthropy and fun.” Through deliciously cooked food in an inviting environment where friends and family can gather and connect by the warmth of the fire, Vesta continues living up to its name and its “vibe”.

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The latest menu was created by Colorado-raised Executive Chef, Nicholas Kayser, whose culinary talents enhance the Vesta menu with creative interpretations and beautiful plating. Nicholas’ culinary talents and experience have come from his time working with top chefs all over the world, in restaurants from Hong Kong to New York to Las Vegas. He eventually longed to be closer to his friends and family back here in Denver and moved back and started at Vesta a couple years ago.

Ahi Tuna Tonnato

Ahi Tuna Tonnato

The menu offers seasonal, creative American dishes, plus barrel-aged cocktails, craft beers and an award-winning wine list. To start, you can try “The Full Monty” of Vesta’s own house cured meats and artisan cheeses served with house made breads and mustards, along with pickles and truffle honey. We went a lighter route with the Ahi Tuna Tonnato, a lovely sashimi grade tuna carpaccio drizzled with olive vinaigrette, aioli, and topped with focaccia. This appetizer was incredible; it was not fishy, had an easy to eat texture, and a unique combination of Italian flavors from the focaccia and aioli paired with light, fresh tuna.

We also sampled the XO Smoked Pork Ribs garnished with a fresh cilantro salad. This too was very delicious, with great flavor of a sweet heat hoisin sauce around succulent rib meat with a slightly crisp outside. For the entrée we enjoyed the Pan Roasted Branzino, which is a mild, white fish and comes with crispy roasted red potatoes which we loved, celery salad, sorrel, and winter radishes. This is a modern take on an Israeli dish and incorporates Middle Eastern spices and ingredients which was creative, but not spicy.

Pan Roasted Branzino

Pan Roasted Branzino

To cap off our dinner we were treated to sweet potato beignets. These delightful little dumplings of sweet potato and dough are rolled in cinnamon sugar and sit atop toasted marshmallow, cranberry compote, and caramelized milk. It was a sweet treat for sure, but not too intense or heavy. They have some other tantalizing treats we’d like to try next time like the Sticky Toffee Pudding with medjool date cake and their Tiramisu with chocolate honeycomb.

In addition to the great food, the restaurant has a beautiful interior with noticeable themes of warmth, sensuality and dreams reflected in the handcrafted industrial design. Curved booths, open flames from the exposed grill, and draped fabric light fixtures soften the industrial design and bring a sensuality and warmth to the space that complements the “Vesta Vibe”. Another cool component to Wolkon’s restaurants is their certification as Green Businesses through the EPA and Certifiably Green Denver. Further, since opening Vesta in 1997, charitable giving to nonprofit organizations, particularly youth-focused organizations, has been one of the restaurant group’s top priorities.

http://www.vestadenver.com/        Words by Tiffany Candelaria          Photos by Samantha Bliss

sweet potato beignets

sweet potato beignets

Family Jones Spirit House | Unique Drinks & Surprising Eats

The Family Jones Spirit House, a distillery and tasting room featuring crafted spirits and food, opened this Saturday, Nov. 11 in LoHi next door to Root Down. The location is fitting, as one of the “family members” is Justin Cucci, chef and owner of Root Down, among other notable Denver restaurants. The rest of the “Jones Family” includes pioneering distiller Rob Masters and entrepreneurs Jack Pottle, Denielle Nadeau and Paul Tamburello, and bar manager Nick Touch creating what could be the ultimate blended family. “One of the perks of being an adult is choosing your family,” said Pottle. “Another perk is choosing your home away from home, and now we have that place: The Family Jones Spirit House.” The new venue emphasizes the relationship between distiller, chef, bartender and guest, with a focus on hospitality.

Designed and built by Tres Birds Workshop, the space was really cool, pairing industrial elements with rich wood details. The high ceiling showcases the second-floor loft where a beautiful 17-ft. copper still distills their special spirits - everything from vodka to gin, whiskey and rum. The still is a beautiful, shining focal point above the crescent concrete bar below. Guests enter the space through a large, square, wooden door made from reclaimed, on-site materials. Inside, they are met with juniper-lined concrete walls (a nod to the key flavor component in gin), low-slung seating, deep blue booths and soft lighting.

“We are making things that push the boundaries of a traditional cocktail bar; we are putting our own spin on it,” explains Masters. “This is a distiller’s dream – to create all sorts of crazy things in small batches. It’s a test kitchen: If it doesn’t work, we can try something new.” Cucci agrees and says his collaboration on The Family Jones was a no-brainer, “Getting to work with Chef Tim Dotson and Bartender Nick Touch, as well as entrepreneurs like Paul and Jack has been incredible; we are all committed to excellence. What we have come up with is a surprise, and we are excited to share it with Denver.”

Their experimentation and surprise elements extend to both the food and cocktail offerings. The menu offers 12-15 small plates, as well as a variety of cocktails made exclusively with The Family Jones spirits, which we sampled during their preview party. Both menus are designed to be clean, vibrant, accessible and had a wide range of flavor profiles and unique ingredient pairings like their classic martini that uses a house-made crème de violet and crème de cacao to add a unique twist. Their Rock-n-Rye blends Stop Gap Rye whiskey with a selection from the more than 100 botanicals and spices made in their distillation lab upstairs! Highlights from Executive Chef Tim Dotson’s menu include three-cheese fondue, served in an heirloom pumpkin with vegetable skewers, and a spin on pork and beans with house-made sausage, heirloom beans, sour cherries, pistachio, collard greens and a chorizo vinaigrette. A tableside bar-cart tasting service rounds out the eclectic, one of a kind experience at The Family Jones.

The Family Jones Spirit House is open from 4-10 p.m. Tuesday—Thursday; 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday; 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday; and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. www.TheFamilyJones.co

Words by Tiffany Candelaria          Photos by Samantha Bliss

Vesta gets a makeover & cocktails featured in Winter Warmer

Vesta first opened in 1997 and the original owner Josh Wolken still leads the team and continues to combine positive energy, genuine hospitality, philanthropy and fun in all that Vesta does. For these reasons, along with a wonderful menu, Vesta has been a mainstay in the coveted downtown area for nearly 20 years. Downtown and Denver as a whole has undergone many changes the past 20 years and Vesta has made sure to evolve with the times and trends, while keeping true to its roots to ensure longtime diners as well as new enjoy their visit to Vesta.

The most recent and notable evolution introduces Executive Chef Nicolas Kayser, coming all the way from Hong Kong! He fits in perfect actually, as he grew up here in Denver and received his degree from the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Colorado. After time in New York, Las Vegas and Hong Kong, diners can trust Kayser to continue the world cuisine concept of Vesta while bringing a new and fresh approach to the menu format and culinary style.

The new samplings we tried at their Happy Hour were really delicious and each unique in flavor and form. A couple standouts included their reimagined Tuna Poke spiced up with wasabi, jalapeno ponzu and fresh ginger. Their Tempura shrimp was tasty dipped in their house made sambal aioli containing 10 different chilies! (It’s much more flavorful than it is spicy). A Char Siu Pork Belly app was tender and decadent, topped with yuzu aioli, orange and cilantro. For dinner, the Colorado Rack of Lamb was phenomenal accompanied with crispy polenta, fennel, orange, black mission fig gastrique, and a tzatziki sauce.

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Dessert was also a creative, worldly blend of flavors created by pastry chef Nadine Donovan. We tried opposite ends of the spectrum with the Southern-inspired sweet potato beignets with toasted marshmallow and the tropical passion fruit tart with coconut macaroon crust and raspberry sauce. The beignets themselves weren’t that sweet for the dessert category, but all of the little sauces and sides made them magical. The passion fruit cake was very sweet, but in a fruity way that makes it seem light, despite its rich creaminess. Basically, I could gobble up four of these before realizing I was full, and then still might have a couple more bites because it’s delicious and something you hardly see on a menu.

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Vesta’s cuisine is complemented by a thoughtful, diverse six-page wine list, draft and bottled beer, and an upgraded cocktail menu offering both classic and contemporary variations with top local spirits. Vesta’s barrel-aged drinks provide the backbone for a new list of cocktails focused on fresh ingredients, seasonal flavors, and creative combinations. For dark spirit drinkers we recommend the Sherry Cobbler, The 7th Son, Apple Sidecar, and two of which you can find on the Passport Program’s Denver Winter Warmer - Do You Remember and Where the Buffalo Roam.

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The Winter Warmer Passport is a field guide for great winter inspired drinks in the form of a booklet with 2 for 1 drink offers at a collection of Denver’s coziest and booziest spots in town. The offers run from Dec 1st through March 15th, those bleak, frozen months you’ll need it the most. The warm, inviting vibe Vesta has always been known for got even hotter with new lighting and various design embellishments. Vesta’s Barrel-aged Do You Remember is made with Rittenhouse bonded rye, Montenegro Amaro, Leopold bros tart cherry liqueur, yellow chartreuse, and orange bitters. The Where the Buffalo Roam cocktail is Old Granddad 114 bourbon, Laird’s applejack, sage, house made grenadine, ginger beer, and peychaud’s bitters. For those who don’t splurge on fancy craft cocktails, the Winter Warmer offers the perfect excuse to finally treat yourself (or others) this holiday season! So get your Passport and head to Vesta for a cocktail, the ambience and the delightful dining.

Denver Winter Warmer 2016

Denver Winter Warmer 2016