Rioja – Home of “The Man’s Dish” Fresh Bacon & Garbanzo Curry

Last nite my friend and I ventured into downtown to a gorgeous area in Denver to eat at Rioja – we got seated next to the pretty wall of wine in a cozy corner. The restaurant was filling up and the area [Larimer Sq] was where all the action was. — probably gonna head there this weekend to shop around and explore some :]

They try to cook as sustainably as possible :] I’m a fan.

Cheddar+Herb Biscuit & Orange+Fennel Bread

One gripe: They were cold :[ Boo. But very tasty and flavorful.

Once again we asked for wine pairings and split everything :] They were even nice enough to split our salads and entrees for us.

hand made mozzarella
wrapped in smoked prosciutto, grilled bread, oven-dried tomatoes, arugula, green olive pistou

There was an overabundance of bread so we just took off the top and ate the bottom. OMG. Amazing….. the delicious prosciutto flavor infused in the mozzarella and the tart+sweetness of the tomatoes counteracted PERFECTLY with everything. DELISH!

fresh bacon
cardamom spiced Kurobuta pork belly, Madras curry scented fresh garbanzo bean purée

Paired with: Hirsch Grüner Veltliner 2007, Austria

Pure orgasmic happiness. People have said it was too fatty or something but HELLO. BACON?! PORK BELLY?! You need that pig fat! The garbanzo green curry is BRILLIANT and soooo good… the pork belly was surprisingly light and happy. The skin wasn’t crispy but very delicate. The meat was melt in your mouth… the waitress said that this was nicknamed “The Man’s Dish” since every guy LOVED it…. I guess she’s never met a girl like me cuz I could’ve easily eaten 10 plates of this.

warm Brussels sprout salad
roasted delicata squash, pancetta apple vinaigrette, pistachio pistou

Paired with: Paul Jaboulet Parallel 45, Rhone 2007, France

LOOOVE brussels sprouts…… the salty pancetta and the crunchy pistachios added so much more to the salad. AND you know how much I love my squash. LOOOVE delicata.. and actually this was the least roast corn tasting delicata I’ve ever had. STILL tender and yummy!!!

roasted organic beets
Haystack Farms Snow Drop chèvre, micro beet greens, pickled red onion, cucumber mint vinaigrette

HUUUUGE chunk of goat cheese on the side. Not TOO goat cheesey but just way too much for me. The beets were good and I’m always a fan of pickled red onion. It wasn’t mindblowing but it was light and simple.

Muscovy duck breast
saffron manchego risotto, pistachio pine nut stuffed Medjool dates, saffron almond cracker, spiced citrus jus
Paired with: Tapiz Malbec, Mendoza 2008, Argentina

The duck was juicy and flavorful. Cooked medium rare and perfect. The salty saffron cracker and the sweet Medjool dates [mmm pistachios…] were so great together… only negative was that the risotto was overly strong on the cheese. It was too overpowering for me and it was the only thing I didn’t finish at this dinner.

braised Wagyu boneless beef shortrib
gorgonzola creamed farro, pear arugula salad, candied walnuts, Don PX sherry reduction

Paired with: Elix, Priorat 2006, Spain

BEST. FARRO. EVER. SOOOOOOO creamy and delicious. The chewiness of the farro [aka wheatberries – and ya’ll know how much I LOOOOOOVE wheatberries!!!] and just… sigh* Pure happiness. It went perfectly with the melt in your mouth shortribs. Just fatty enough and pure happiness.  This may be one of my favoirte shortrib dishes. Although my heart still goes out to Spice Market in NYC ;]

Apparently the one thing we missed out on was the chicken [recommended after we ordered entrees by our waitress….] which means only ONE thing…. we must go again, asap. Our waitress said she’s been trying to recreate it several times at home and has failed miserably… sounds like a challenge I’m willing to try ;D

sweet goat cheese and black mission fig filled pastries, ruby port wine reduction

SOOOOOO goood & fluffy. Perfect balance of fig and goat cheese. AHHH so happy!!!

chilled s’mores pot de crème
chocolate custard, house made graham crackers, brûleéd house made marshmallow

The graham crackers were sooo good… not too sweet at all and very graham-y :D The custard underneath was delicious to dip the crackers in… and of course… how can you ever go wrong with burnt marshmallow? YUM YUM YUM. We dug through this super fast.

hazelnut tortamisu
chocolate cake, hazelnut mascarpone cream, espresso dipped lady fingers, gianduja chocolate, espresso crème anglaise

This was soooooo amazing. I LOOOOVE hazelnuts [who doesn’t?] and this was just pure chocolate hazelnut [better than Nutella] heaven. I have no words for this…. speechless.

All of our desserts were paired with: Palladino Moscato d’ Asti 2007, Piedmonte which was delicious. A little bubble to it and it wasn’t overly sweet at all – very subtle. Loves it.

The night didn’t end there. We were surprised with a small plate of sugared mint leaves :] Happy happy.

sugared mint leaves

minty fresh xoxo


  1. yay for environmentally conscious vendors =]



  1. […] headed back to Larimer Sq. – right across the street from Rioja – for  Crú [a wine […]


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