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Posted: April 08, 2009

Tapas, tannins & high temps — oh my!

A wine bar and sidewalk cafe trend has blossomed in Denver

Cathie Beck—The Wine Wench

In European cities — take your pick: Madrid, Paris, Milan — a glass of wine is often enjoyed on a sunny sidewalk with appetizers and sunshine and a flirtation thrown in for the hell of it.

In American cities, it’s often 7-11s with 64 ounce Slurpees and Arby’s with four roast beef sandwiches for a $1 that pack street corners. But all that may be changing.

Denver’s adopted a trend that appears to be spanning the U.S. of A.’s consumer wine drinking culture. That is, wine and tapas bars are springing up everywhere, and they’re bringing with them some excellent wines and decided dedication to small plates of very good food — all of which promote the idea of healthier (i.e. smaller portions) eating, with a nod to mental health. After all, what in this big, wide world is better for the psyche than a sunny day on a sidewalk with a syrah?

Tastes Wine Bar & Bistro, Osteria Marco and Paris on the Plate Café and Bar all have outdoor seating, terrific wine lists and tapas menus to rival just about anything found in Europe. Tastes, with two locations — one on Tennyson Street in the northwest Highlands neighborhood and the other uptown on 17th Street — opens up like a welcome sunflower on a cloudless day. Neighborhood folk stroll up, others willingly make the drive and the south-facing 17th Street bistro is often fully populated by mid-afternoon.

Its website reads, “TASTES Winebar & Bistro is a metro, organic, chic setting that mixes foods and art in a fun and inviting way. Come before or after dinner or just hang out all evening and you will leave satisfied … no TVs, no loud music …”

A personal favorite of mine is Frank Bonanno’s wonderful, Osteria Marco on Larimer Street. This guy can’t seem to fail. He owns the legendary Mizuna, recently opened Bones on Sherman Street and makes the center-of-the-universe sidewalk wine café his own in his Osteria Marco iteration. He should get a key to the city of Denver if, for no other reason (though there are plenty), for managing to overstaff with some of the best restaurant help anywhere. I’m from New Orleans. Impeccably trained garçons are the norm there. Bonanno understands this piece of the restaurant puzzle like no one else in Colorado. Lounging at Osteria Marco on a warm Colorado afternoon alters one’s DNA.

Paris on the Platte introduces the young, up-and-coming Platte River new-condo crowd to some lovely wines and to the idea of a tiny, storefront table’s ability to provide insight into a neighborhood. Though the food is forgettable, it gets kudos for also offering a sweet and secret back patio.

And there are others. A Google search brings up: Crú, Soleil Mediterranean Grille & Wine Bar and Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar, all in Denver. With over 300 days of Colorado sunshine a year, it borders on indecent to not try at least one in the upcoming warming months.
I don’t know. Some might scoff at the wine bar phenomenon, reducing it to “girls’ night out,” and comparing the experience to the fluff of a chick flick.

But I don’t agree. There are plenty o’ manly men in Europe. And they are smart men. They sit at cafe tables in the sunshine, wearing sunglasses and small smiles. They sip wonderful wine and hint of possibility, often ending up at tables populated by us womenfolk.

Scoff at that, Smart Man.

One Winning Wine Tasting

Flavors of Denver

Flavors of Denver is The American Liver Foundation’s annual fundraising event. It takes place this year on April 22 and brings twenty of the top area chefs together to offer their respective signature cuisines in a five-course meal paired with complementing wines.

The chefs also design their table setting to reflect their cuisine and personal flair using their own china, silver, crystal and centerpieces. The event will be held at the Exdo Event Center and begins at 6 p.m. Call (303) 988-4388 for further information.

Word O’ the Week

Tapas: “Tapas” means, literally, “lid”  or “cover” in Spanish. In Spanish cuisine, tapas refers to any number of appetizers served. The idea of tapas is that diners can have food and still converse without being distracted by a full meal set before them.

Coming April 24

Experiencing Wine Via Alternative Avenues

Cooking schools are increasing including “wine and spirits” classes that help would-be chefs build wine lists appropriate to their cuisine. Outdoor music festivals (and other festivals) often provide “wine booths” to go along with whatever other entertainment they offer, and even baseball parks are adding wines to their menu lists.

We’ll glance at good places — and somewhat odd venues — that are beginning to focus their fare (and/or their entertainment) with good wine.

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Cathie Beck, a/k/a The Wine Wench, can be reached at: Please forward any and all wine events, wine-related news items directly to her.

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Readers Respond

some more places to check out. By Cindy on 2009 04 09

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