For Harvest week, Barb and I decided to head out to Luca D’Italia and try out their Harvest Week tasting menu. Luca’s (www.lucadenver.com) chefs are Frank Bonnano and Michael Peshek. For those of you who don’t know, Harvest Week is a week where many Colorado restaurants make menu items or whole menus using Colorado grown food only and even set up local wine parings in several cases.
We entered Luca and were seated promptly by the window; the seats here are far enough apart that you do have enough privacy to hold your own conversations without having the next table being a part of it. The overall feel is very comfortable with a window into the kitchen in the back so you can see a brief glimpse of the hustle and bustle of the kitchen.
If you are curious what’s on the black board in the kitchen it was that evening's tasting menu.
The first thing that came out was this.
Halibut Salad on Semolina Cristini with Pea Sprouts and Pickled Carrots.
I have become a big fan of this sort of dish ever since our lunch at Le Bernardin in NYC ( http://milehigheater.blogspot.com/search?q=eric+ripert). The bread was nice and crisp and had a great buttery taste even though I think it was just olive oil that the bread had been drenched with before it was toasted up. The spread itself had a very nice non fishy taste and the pickled carrots gave it nice sharp vinaigrette taste that hit you right at first. I will give the starter an 8. Barb actually liked this more than I did. She enjoyed the crispy and soft mixed together, with just the right amount of seasoning. She gave it a 9. (She says: If I could have had this for another course, I would have been happy, it was truly a delicious start to the menu).
Ok, I normally don’t list bread here, even though fresh bread is a wonderful thing because in most places like this, the bread is very good without exception. Why then am I bringing it up? I am bringing it up because of the “butter”. My mind was wandering the first time the waiter described the butter, so my experience basically went like this. Hello, what is this? The bread tastes like meat. I have never had bread that tastes like meat. Wait a minute that’s not the bread, that’s the butter. Oh, I need to know more about this Mmmmmm meaty tasting butter. So, when the waiter came around again I inquired about it. Well my friends, that was not just any old butter, it was pork fat with spices. You may say ewww and honestly my first reaction was to push it slightly away from me, but you know as long as you just put a light bit on the bread it was very very good. It tasted more than anything like bread that had been used to soak up a little au jus or something like that. I won’t give this a rating as it was just bread and “butter” with a twist but I do think it shows a very high level of inventiveness going on here.
Sadly somehow we forgot to write down what each item was here I have contacted Luca about this but at this time have not received any information.
1. The shooter:
He says: Was a tomato soup which was very similar to the cold heirloom tomato soup we had a while back at Mizuna. However this was served warm and had a sharp spicy punch that hit you at then end which was very good. I give it an 8.
She says: I'm still not convinced that I like cold soup. Although it was tasty, I didn't even drink it all because I like my soup hot. I give it a 6.
2. Not sure
3. He says: This tasted like a very good macaroni and cheese with a toasted bread topping. The cheese sauce was very creamy with a great taste and the beans were cooked perfectly. Moms if you want your kids to eat beans this is the recipe you need! 8.5
She says: Jonathan is right in saying this looks like macaroni and cheese, but it sure didn't taste like mac and cheese. The beans were chewy and delicious. The topping on the cheese gave it a nice crusty taste. I would give it an 8.
4. He says: So many different flavors here the balsamic vinegar the peaches the onion I thought it would just be way too much but the flavors melted together and formed a great overall taste. I give it a 7.5
She says: Unfortunately, I don't remember this dish at all. I guess that says a lot about it. So, I feel unfair giving it a score.
Mixed Greens- Finochetta, Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese and Local Tomatoes.
He says: Finochetta is fennel salami that’s made in-house and of course haystack mountain goat cheese is wonderful. The salad had a nice balsamic dressing and the greens and everything were very fresh. The tomatoes were introduced to me as roof top tomatoes and silly me asked why he called them roof top and he said, of course, because we grow them on the roof. In the end, it was a salad. A salad with goat cheese and salami but still a salad a 7.
She says: The salad was tasty and had the right amount of ingredients to give it a fullness. The tomatoes were delicious (and again, I'm not a huge tomato fan). I give it a 7 as well.
Striped Bass- Olathe Corn Puree, Pea Shoots and Beets
He says: When this came out, I was like, "Excuse me, bass? I thought this was all Colorado food. But, as it turns out these are farmed raised here in Colorado (near Alamosa) so it stuck with the Harvest Week theme. Perfectly prepared, with very crisp outer skin and a tender and moist inside. The beets and the corn just added to the flavors I enjoyed this a lot and the beets and sauce left a very cool pattern on the plate when you finished with all the different colors. I give it a 7.5
She says: I'm becoming more of a fish fan than I ever thought I would be. This dish was truly delicious. The bass cooked to perfection and the veggies blended in nicely. I give this an 8.
Raw Cows Milk Ricotta Agnolotti and Local Herbs
He says: Here it comes, YUMMMY! This dish yanked the darn Yummm right out of my mouth. Such a fantastic cheese taste and the agnolotti melted right in your mouth I do however want to complain a little there was not near enough of it. I needed maybe 6 or 7 more plates full. :) And this now will take a 10 for me - best Agnolotti I have had.
Colorado Lamb-White bean and Bacon Ragu, Green and Yellow Zucchini.
He says: MMMMMMMM, yep, MM MM MMMMM MMM MMMMMM. Juicy and tender nice red pink in middle with the outer seared just right yanked another Mmmmmm out of my mouth and the Ragu was such a great mix of flavors that it seemed to enhance the flavor of the lamb which with how good the lamb was that’s a feat! By the end of it I was holding the bone and trying to make sure I got every last scrap off, it was just that good!. I will give this a 9 only because the lamb I had at Per Se was a bit better but not by a large margin.
She says: By the time we got to the Lamb dish, I was getting full. I also have an issue with some meat as if it's too chewy, I can't eat it. That wasn't the problem with this meat, it was very good, the flavoring was spot on, I was just stuffed from all the food before it (It did provide Jonathan with lunch the next day though). I give it a 7.5.
Palisade Peach Tart- Rhubarb Conserva
He says: Hmm, dessert was probably the only weak part of the meal. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, just not up to the standards of the rest of the meal. It seems to me it gets to be very hard to impress with a dessert that does not involve chocolate. I give it a 6.5.
She says: Even though I was stuffed by the last course, I can always find room for dessert. This dish was alright. The crust mixing in with the fruit was nice, but nothing that said to me, this is the dish I'll be telling everyone about. It was ok. I would give it a 6.
Luca was a first class meal and it topples Mizuna for me as the Best meal in Colorado to date. The staff is friendly and the service is prompt and the food will make you lick your lips for a week afterwards.
Numbers and such - the meal cost a total of $143.62 for the two of us and was well worth it! Our rating ended up being 8.74 which includes a .75 jump due to tasting menu and a .1 jump for the inventiveness of the meal Of course you can get out of there cheaper by not doing the tasting menu, but if you can try a tasting menu some time when the chef walks you up the culinary ladder, the experience can be so much better than any single course.
Thanks again for coming by if you have any questions or comments please let us know. If you know of any places we should try please do drop us a note and if you see any new restaurants opening up we would love to hear about it. Till next time take care!
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