Thursday, October 14, 2010


My parents and I headed to Denver this past weekend; it worked out perfectly as I had a long weekend off from school and they were attending a wedding in the city.  Of course meeting my parents is never as simple as that -- there's always a lot of restaurant planning included.  Not that I can complain, of course, as they will foot the bill and I'll be able to eat some delicious gluten free meals.

One such meal was at Rioja.  The restaurant is located in Larimer Square, which isn't so much a square but a street in downtown Denver that is beautifully lit with overhanging lights.  Regardless of the misnomer, it was a nice, welcoming street.  During my entire trip in Denver I was shocked by how friendly the people were.  It was such a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, where driving 3 miles can take 20 minutes (as you readers well know).

Anyway, back to Rioja.  The restaurant recently changed its menu and as such did not have a printed out gluten free menu available.  However, they are working on creating an official gluten free menu based on the new menu and I was assured it would be available soon.  Despite not having the typed out menu, my waiter was extremely helpful in guiding me through gluten free options on the menu.  The chef at Rioja, Jennifer Jasinski, was also just named Denver Chef of the Year by Denver Magazine.

I ordered the roasted organic beets salad and the grilled Tasman King Salmon.  I absolutely loved the beets salad, which was beautifully presented and had a rich, fresh flavor to it.  But writing this days later, I can really only focus on the salmon.  The salmon was fantastic, unbelievable, wonderful, over-the-top magnificent.  Living in California has made me into an avocado lover, and the chefs at Rioja did justice to the versatility of avocado.  The avocado purée which came with the salmon was not overwhelming and in no way came off as a guacamole rip-off, as other avocado purées I've sampled in the past have.  When paired with the salmon the purée was fantastic; add to that a grilled avocado on the side and you have a healthy, filling plate with robust flavor.

I couldn't resister dessert.  It was my first night in Denver and, when presented with the options, I knew I had to take advantage of my parents' generosity.  The online dessert menu has not yet been updated, but I can tell you that this dessert was breathtaking.  It was a peanut butter and jelly creation but not like you would expect.  Instead, the "jelly" of the dish came in the form of sorbet, and the "peanut butter" came in cube-shaped chunks of (frozen? chilled?) peanut butter topped with peanuts.  Whoever created this dish was a master.  It was amazing!

I'm sad that I didn't take pictures... but load the restaurant's website here and let the pictures play for you for a moment.  They may tease you, but hopefully they will convince you it's time to make a trip to Colorado!

I wholeheartedly recommend Rioja for gluten free eaters as they were very aware of our options and also very accommodating.  Just as importantly, the food is fresh, delicious, and beautifully presented.

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Rioja Restaurant
1431 Larimer Street
Denver, CO 80202 (Map)

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