Author: - January 18, 2013 - Updated: January 18, 2013

“As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.” — Joan Gussow

LAST WEEK THE COLORADO RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION held its annual reception at the Grand Hyatt for members of the state legislature and some that do business with those members. Colorado Statesman publisher Jody Strogoff and I were honored to be invited to the festivities. Jody took pictures and I ate. And ate and ate. Even had a Diet Pepsi or two. Fourteen restaurants provided samples of the fare they offer, and I opted to partake of most everything, and surprisingly it was all fantastic. I was asked during the event which was my favorite, and I had a tuff time picking a clear winner. The list is alphabetical. Note that websites and menus change regularly, as do restaurant hours of operation. Always call before going to any restaurant other than Casa Bonita.

Baca at the Inverness — 200 Inverness Dr. West, Englewood, 303-799-5800; Many of you will remember this as the Black Swan, but the fine dining restaurant has changed to a more moderate, family oriented dining experience. The chefs served seared sea scallops, forbidden rice and butternut squash risotto with a vanilla cream sauce. If these are on the restaurant’s regular menu, I’m gonna be down there right soon.

Pete Meersman, president of the Colorado Restaurant Association, and Christine O’Donnell, president of the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association address the reception.

Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Bonefish Grill — 8100 W. Crestline Ave., Littleton, 303-948-3474; A member of the OSI (Outback) family of eateries, this family-friendly fishery serves terrific seafood. At the event they served sesame-crusted and seared tuna sashimi served with a house made sashimi sauce, and their wondrous crab and corn chowda. When G and I dine there, whatever fish is the special of the day either G or I will have it. All their seafood can be prepared any way you like, and topped with your choice of special toppings. Service is first rate but be prepared for a wait unless you have reservs.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former restaurant owner, refers to friends in the restaurant and hospitality industry that night as “his peeps.”

Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Centerplate — 700 14th Street, 303-228-8050; The super chefs that serve great grub at the Colorado Convention Center prepared warm apple bread pudding with Stranahan’s Whiskey and sea salt caramel, candied pecans and apple confit. They were also offering an assortment of mini pastries. Anything catered by this team is terrific.

Jim Smith of Republic National Distributing Company chats with Steve Kanatzar, vice chair of communications for the Colorado Restaurant Association during the Blue Ribbon Reception on Jan. 9.

Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Charles Court at the Broadmoor — 1 Lake Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-634-7711; I’m told that Charles Court will be completely remodeled shortly, and maybe we’ll get invited for a party. There ain’t any better place for fine dining than at this lovely Colorado resort. For this event chefs prepared a truffle tuna tartar, and a veal sweetbread duo, with Caesar gnocchi. I haven’t been in a while, but The Broadmoor is still reputed to have one of the best Sunday brunches in the state.

Gov. Hickenlooper, left, chats with House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, and Senate Pro Tempore Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, at the Colorado Restaurant Association’s Blue Ribbon Reception on Jan. 9 in downtown Denver.

Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Cheyenne Mountain Resort — 3225 Broadmoor Valley Rd., Colorado Springs, 719-538-4000; With three distinctive restaurants (Mountain View Restaurant, Will Rogers Lounge, and Pineview Grille) you won’t have any trouble satisfying your dining needs and your pocketbook limits. At the CRA reception chefs prepared seared hand-picked diver scallops, Applewood smoked bacon jam, tomato conserva (home-made tomato paste) and a microgreen salad. Sure was delish.

CityGrille — 321 E. Colfax Ave., 303-861-0726; The ultra-nice folks at this wondrous eatery one block from the Capitol provided their house-made wondrous green chili to complement anything else served at the event.

Gov. Hickenlooper listens to a priceless tidbit from Westword editor Patty Calhoun, a longtime friend from the Wynkoop Brewery days.

Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Fresh Fish Company — 7800 E. Hampden Ave., 303-740-9556; This eastside eatery has been serving fine seafood since ought 6. They still serve their terrific weekend buffet with over 50 items. At the reception last year they served the most perfect salmon pate I’ve ever had. Not so this year, but they did serve seared ahi tuna as well as a ceviche.

Phil Hickey, vice chair of the National Restaurant Association, right, and his wife Reedy attend this year’s CRA Blue Ribbon Reception.

Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Lala’s Wine Bar & Pizzeria — 410 E. 7th Ave., 303-861-9463; The offering at the reception was tender belly meatball stuffed with house made mozzarella and arugula pesto in a pomedoro sauce, and a fennel and red pepper cracker topped with whipped goat cheese and leeks and topped with trout roe. It was good but I’m into their eggplant parmesan.

Mangia Bevi Cafe — 6363 S. Fiddlers Green Circle, Greenwood Village, 303-763-1980; Their street name could be sold and is subject to change without notice. I think they should call it Mangia Bevi Boulevard. This year they ser-ved red curry beef steamed dumplings with a choice of Asian peanut sauce or coconut sriracha sauce. Known for their artisan pizza, Panini sangies, burgers and house-made soups and salads, this is a place to try. I gotta try their half pound Angus burger patty melt and their new steakhouse Panini.

Metropolitan State College — Auraria Campus, 303-556-3254; This expanding program at Metro is going to be phenomenal. If you’ve noticed the ugly building on the Northwest side of campus, that’s the new hotel that the school will be operating as a training facility. The staff served crab cakes with Sriracha aioli. You should visit the school’s Hospitality, Tourism and Events program. Need a career and enjoy cooking? Check ‘em out.

Outback Steakhouse — Check them out at If you ain’t never been to Outback, you just don’t know great grub and great value. The constantly changing menu is for the entire family. My eldest granddaughters have been off the kid’s menu since they were three. Rib-eye steak, medium-rare, thank you. I’ve been cutting down on red meat so now I do a double order of tilapia. Service is always first rate. This year they fooled me and didn’t serve beef. They served ahi tuna wasabi with soy dressing and blue cheese pecan chopped salad.

Ted’s Montana Grill — I don’t know which store prepared the grub for this event, but the food was terrific. They served bison meatloaf meatballs and bison short ribs. Didn’t get a chance to try the short ribs cuz I was stuffed by the time I got to their table and never made enuf room in muh tummy to go back there. But I’ve had the short ribs at their restaurants, and they are yummy. Remember: NO Buffalo; it’s all bison. The difference? Buffalo don’t have a hump. Buffalo are domesticated water animals, and native to Asia and a few in Africa. Bison are not domesticated and native to North and South America and Europe. So now you know. You’ll never see the two playing together. Ceptin maybe at Ted’s ranch.

The Fort — 19192 Hwy 8, Morrison, 303-697-4771; Chefs prepared bison meatballs and Was-Nah. The latter is Native American corn and cherry dessert. I think they wanted to see if anyone recognized it. I don’t think the cowboys of yesteryear when Sam Arnold was a youth would have enjoyed these dishes as much as a can of bacon and beans, but I sure did. The Fort is still the place to bring your visitors who want to see something unique of Colorado. There is nothing like cocktails and munchies on the east side patio and viewing this great metropolitan city.

Wild Eggs — 300 E. Alameda Ave., 303-744-3447; Surprise, surprise. The last several years I’ve discovered a new wondrous eatery and this year is no exception. The food ain’t fancy, but it sure is yummy. I’ve not (yet) been to their restaurant, but you can bet I’ll be there soon. Simple grub, really, but it has a place on everyone’s palate. They served egg salad on toast and chicken salad on toast. Now I know that the first thing that will come into most of your minds is the line from the movie, Five Easy Pieces. Not going to get repeated today but if you ain’t heard it, call me. Egg salad. Chicken salad. Doctored up with some thingies and sooo good. I’m not overly fond of egg salad but this blew my mind.

Jay Fox covers the culinary beat for The Colorado Statesman. He can be reached at: Jay Fox

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