— Denver, Colorado, is home to the restaurant Rioja (named after the Spanish wine region that produces the most recognized wines in Spain — wines that are recently catching on here in the United States). Rioja is where you can find chef Jennifer Jasinski, creator of the innovative menu at the restaurant and talented contributor of this week’s "Steal This Recipe" for sugar snap pea soup.
The menu at Rioja includes a “picnic,” “flights” of blue or sheep’s milk cheeses, house-cured salmon and house-made chorizo — and those are just some of the appetizers. Chilled organic plum soup and “candied lemon gnocchi” are some other menu items that you probably haven’t seen before. The copper-topped bar, exhibition kitchen and simple décor are the backdrop for the food in this Mediterranean-inspired restaurant. If you’re anywhere near Denver, you really should stop by for just a picnic or a sumptuous meal!
About the chef: After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Jennifer Jasinski worked at the famed Rainbow Room in New York, where a chance meeting with Wolfgang Puck would shape her future career. Drawn back to her native sunny California, she landed a job at the prestigious Hotel Bel Air and had the opportunity to reacquaint herself with Puck, who was at the time a consultant for the hotel’s restaurant. This led to a creative and fruitful ten-year association that took Jasinski around the country as she helped to develop and open restaurants, create menus, train and manage staff and, of course, don her chef’s hat for restaurants ranging from fine-dining to café cuisine.
After settling in Colorado in 2000 as executive chef at Panzano, she worked with Beth Gruitch and, in 2003, they would both leave their posts to venture into their first restaurant-owning partnership, opening Rioja in 2004. In 2006 the successful partners went on to purchase Bistro Vendome, a classic French bistro located just across the street from Rioja in Denver.
1431 Larimer Street
Denver, CO 80202