When the top-billed cooks in the kitchen are John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, the restaurant vaults to the front of the must-visit list. Ergo, dinner at Spuntino in Denver’s Highland neighborhood.
Broening and Lozada-Hissom took over the cooking duties at the ice cream shop-cum-restaurant on W. 32nd Ave. in March. The result, a totally charming place to have supper. (Disclosure: Broening writes for this newspaper.)
The menu is humane — just a few things to choose from, so deciding doesn’t feel like a task. You could make a meal of the starters, which include a full board of bruschette — think guanciale (cured but unsmoked pork cheeks) with stracchino cheese, salt-cod brandade with black olives and lemon — plus a country pate that’s every bit as good as you expect a country pate made by the Francophilic Broening to be: Multifaceted but cohesive, with an array of delicate textures and soul-warming flavors. Served with bread, pickled onions, mustard and, naturally, butter. Because who doesn’t want a slather butter with pate? This, before a dish of pork meatballs on polenta, or a flatiron steak with chimichurri.
Before “Uncle!” comes Lozada-Hissom’s unmissable desserts. They include gelatos and an elegant olive oil-citrus cake, but if you skip the Chocolate Crunch Bar, well, then you’ve skipped Denver’s dessert of the moment. For shame, because it is a marvel.
Click below to read Lozada-Hissom describe it for us.
That dessert is the masochist side of me. I chose that insanely labor intensive seven layer dessert because I love textures. Chewy, creamy, crispy, silky, frozen… from bottom to top: a paper thin chocolate dacquoise, then a layer of soft ganache, chocolate crunchy praline feuilletine, hazelnuts, gianduja gelato, a thin film of tempered chocolate and a cylinder of frozen torrone cream (made with honey, orange blossom and miniscule pieces of several toasted nuts).
The top layer is achieved by piping the torrone cream into a stainless steel cylinder that you have blocked from one end. Once it’s frozen you torch the metal slightly to release and push the “tube” out and cut it in pieces. Of course, I love a simple roasted pear with fresh ricotta and honey but I enjoy very much working on things like the choco-bar and that variety and freedom are the best parts of what I do go for a living.
Lozada-Hissom is not currently accepting marriage proposals.