5598 N. Academy Blvd., 266-1999
About a year ago we stopped into Viejo's Stetson Hills Boulevard location to sample its shrimp stir-fry. Our reviewer ultimately said the plate's meat-to-mushroom ratio "was a tad out of whack," and the dish "oily."
Well, a year later, another visit to the Colorado chain's North Academy Boulevard spot yielded culinary consistency, but to only mediocre ends. The restaurant's still aglow with pastel oranges, reds and greens, and servers who often address you as "amigo" are as friendly as they come. But the steak campestre ($12.75), and the chimichanga ($9.75) failed to impress. The former is essentially beef fajitas plated with onions, peppers and tomatoes and covered in melted cheese. Unfortunately, the beef's chewy, the vegetables anemic, the refried beans watery, and the rice pleasantly buttery, but flecked with dry bits. As well, the chimichanga just couldn't hold its crunch. — Bryce Crawford
204 N. Tejon St., 632-0984
It's the cool night air on the tiny Tejon Street patio, with passersby rudely but understandably gawking at my enormous Lamb Shank Bourguignon ($18), but I'm too content with the soft, red-wine braised meat and cheesy layered potatoes to care. It's also the La Belle Salad ($12), a shredded white cheddar-rich, house Dijon vinaigrette-creamy, organic greens mound topped in grated carrots, cucumber, tomato and avocado slices, plus semi-crisp asparagus spears — a wonderful, fresh, heaping bowl. A glass of Champagne mixed with black currant liqueur ($5) completes the classic French effect.
That's what I loved about this meal. Sure, I could gripe about no gluten-free crêpe batter for my truly allergic girlfriend who so wanted a sweet crêpe. Or the awkwardness of my waiter exclaiming, "You've gotta try my nuts!" in relation to some candied dessert topping. Instead, I'll savor what worked in the candlelight. — Matthew Schniper
Great Divide Brewing Co.
2201 Arapahoe St., Denver, 303/296-9460, greatdivide.com
Colette Farmhouse Ale ($9.69/six-pack) is one of those beers that will bring you down to the sweet morning dew and gentle breeze we all imagine farm life to be. It's brewed as a truly American take on the French Saison or "seasonal" style, characteristic of warmer fermentation temperatures and typically brewed by farmers as a means to sustain their workers during the hot summer months. This award-winning, crisp and clean ale displays a tart yet smooth finish. Well balanced between the hop and malt profiles, this is an easy-drinking ale, even at 7.3 percent ABV.
If you're looking for a local take on this imaginative style, visit Trinity Brewing Co. for the seemingly endless rotation of offerings in its Farmhouse series. In June alone, three newbies were on taps, including one made with 120 pounds of apricots and another that utilized amaranth and lemongrass. — Steve Hitchcock