Birthday Dinner: Rioja.

My birthday seems like forever ago, but being the foodie that I am, I had to share my AMAZING birthday dinner with you guys! (Thanks Tyty!!)

WARNING: If you do not like delicious, beautiful food OR if you do not want to eat your screen, look away now!!! 

Alright here we go…

So Tyler took me out for my birthday dinner to one of his favorite restaurants in Denver: Rioja. It’s a swanky, Spanish-inspired restaurant in Larimer Square. For years it’s been considered the Best Restaurant in Denver and even won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef Southwest 2013; I’ve been eager to try it for years! The interior is modern and chic and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable about the food and potential wine pairings.

They offer half glasses of wine, which is perfect for sampling and pairing with each course. To kick the evening off, we started with a little cava and some red.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Our server brought out an amuse bouche: salmon tartare with avocado, dressed in a ginger soy and topped with a crunchy cuke. I’m pretty sure I could have eaten only that all night. The flavors were bursting and refreshing.
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After listening to the decadent specials and some debating and pondering, we finally settled on pasta dishes for first course. I went for the house made ravioli: ricotta and English peas, topped with peashoots, rabbit sausage, and sherry braised morels.

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I’m going to go ahead and say that this one of the most exquisite dishes I’ve ever had the honor of eating. It was like springtime hopped onto my plate (haha, get it, because it was rabbit sausage? ;)) and rolled around in a delicious sherry braise.

I don’t usually jump to the ravioli dishes but I’ve never had rabbit before and I’ve always been curious. It was delicious! It was almost like a pork, but slightly sweeter. Highly recommend if you find it on a menu. Morels are a rare treat, almost like a piece of perfect meat that I wish would never end! Here’s another look for the foodies:

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Each dish we had paired with a half glass of Spanish wine to compliment the flavors. Honestly, I think every restaurant should offer that! It’s a great way to sample many wines and flavors, while complimenting your food without racking up a huge booze bill.

For the 2nd course, I went with the salmon dish (cooked medium) with reduced apple puree, squid ink, potato crisp, and braised spring onions. Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Not only was it beautiful but it was hearty and indulgent in a way that didn’t leave you feeling full to the brim. Slightly earthy (on account of the potatoes and apples) and sweet, it balanced perfectly with a Tempranillo. The potato crisp was like a gourmet Ruffle chip (something I haven’t had in ages!!).

After our plates were removed, we decided to indulge in another glass of bubbly (a great cava) and some black fig stuffed beignets with a port reduction. Actual fried perfection. I love figs and I love beignets. I met my match. To finish everything off, we nibbled on some crystalized mint to wash everything down.

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After dinner we hopped in an Uber and headed off to Saige’s show for fun night of drinks and local music!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIf you’re in Denver, do yourself a favor and head to rioja for an exceptional dinner! They also have brunch!!

Thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate! It was a great day and I’m really excited to see what 24 will bring me!

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Birthday Dinner: Rioja.

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